99 and Counting . . .

My Grandfather on his 99th birthday.

Last Friday, I was able to accomplish another first in my life.  This first, however, wasn’t accomplished as a result of my effort, ingenuity, or courage.  Rather, my Grandfather did the hard work.  As a result, our family was able to wish him a Happy 99th Birthday. 

Before today I’ve never had the opportunity to wish anyone a happy 99th birthday.  The significance of the words hit me shortly after we hung up the phone with him.  He was born during World War I.  He knew life without television, computers, and mobile phones.  He served as an officer in the United States Navy during World War II.  He was married to my Grandmother for 66 years.  He worked as an engineer for Bell Labs.  He raised two children.  He oversaw the growth of four grandchildren.  And he has five great grandchildren, ages ranging from almost 17 to nearly three. 

Friday, we weren’t able to speak for long.  We rang at an inconvenient time.  But what struck me most about our conversation was my Grandfather’s consistency.  Ever since I became an adult, he showed an interest in me, my desires, and my life, even when it was his time, his day, his celebration.  I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised.  He’s grown accustomed to the seeing the big picture and playing the long game.  Indeed, he’s contributed to the growth of technology.  He’s seen history made and repeated.  He knows that nothing is ever as bad as it seems (unless, of course, it is).  And he’s done so while celebrating life.  My Grandfather enjoys the simple pleasures of a good meal, a strong drink, an intriguing read, and the company of family and friends. 

Happy birthday, Grandfather. 


Christo’s Statement Piece

For more than 20 years, the artist Christo has worked tirelessly and spent $15 million of his own money to create a vast public artwork in Colorado that would draw thousands of tourists and rival the ambition of “The Gates,” the saffron transformation of Central Park that made him and Jeanne-Claude, his collaborator and wife, two of the most talked-about artists of their generation.

But Christo said this week that he had decided to walk away from the Colorado project — a silvery canopy suspended temporarily over 42 miles of the Arkansas River — because the terrain, federally owned, has a new landlord he refuses to have anything to do with: President Trump.

Christo, Trump and the Art World’s Biggest Protest Yet, The New York Times (January 25, 2016). 


Had I been in the United States, I would have made a (clever) sign, put on my walking shoes, grabbed my daughter and husband, and joined the millions of women, men, and children who spoke up for–and on behalf of–women, families, and children. 

I have great pride that my friends, be they from college, law-school, or beyond, joined the conversation by marching in Los Angeles, New York, Boston, and Washington, D.C.  To them, I say thank you.  Thank you for letting the world know that we are disgusted that a man who speaks about grabbing women by the pussy is the President of the United States.  Thank you for letting the new administration know that women will continue to champion reproductive rights and affordable access to healthcare.  Thank you for setting an example for our children, be they boys or girls, that there is a time to stand-up and speak-out for what is right.

Indeed, if there were ever a time to stand up and speak out, it is now.


Go, Daddy, Go!


Already 2017 has had its challenges.  After recovering from a nasty bug that affected our entire family, [S] and I managed to catch colds.  While the little one has recovered, I’m continuing the fight.  The good news is that the discomfort of a cold can be cured by DayQuil and a good attitude.  And that is how we came to have the best weekend of the year yet. 

Saturday morning we awoke, packed, and headed north to Nago, Okinawa.  Packet pick-up for the 58th Annual Nago Half Marathon started at 2 p.m.  Everything relating to the race has been in Japanese, including the registration card informing us of the location of the start and packet pick-up.  After checking into our hotel, we aimlessly drove around the area in an attempt to locate the race venue.  We were close, that was certain.  Road signs instructed vehicles that delays were to be expected on Sunday and the hotel lobby featured a map of the course (in Japanese).  But the desk employee did not speak English and seemed disinterested when we showed him our race card.  After a bit of online searching, we found a pin to the venue from years ago.  As we pulled up to the stadium, we watched people of all ages get out of their cars to collect their shirt, timing chip, and race bib. 

The day before the race.

After we dropped a pin for the venue, we headed for a late lunch and early dinner.  Ufuya, an Okinawan restaurant specializing in Okinawa soba (buckwheat noodles) was our destination.  More on that experience to come.  After our meal, we headed to the hotel room.  This was our first experience at a traditional Japanese hotel.  The rooms do not have carpeting and slippers are provided; aside from the sleeping area there were two small rooms, one with a toilet and one with a bath and a sink.  Our accommodations were simple, immaculately clean, and comfortable. 

This morning, we awoke to temperatures in the high-50s and partially cloudy skies.  In other words, a great day for a run.  We ate the free hotel breakfast consisting of bread, croissants, biscuits, buns, and coffee, and left for the race.  As a family we walked to the stadium, which was a five minute walk for most people.  For us, with a sleepy child, it took a bit longer.  As we turned into the stadium, the atmosphere was charged with anticipation.  Old and young walked the track, warming up for their run.  The Orion beer tent already was set up, awaiting post-race business.  And young children could be found everywhere. 

As the 10k runners were called to start, the drummers began a rhythmic beat.  Ten minutes later, the half-marathon runners started along with the beating of the drums.  Last, the fun run with children began. 

My Husband allowed our family to watch his progress via his Garmin.  As I monitored his progress, I observed he was running better than expected given his recently disrupted exercise schedule.  As he ran, [S] and I returned to the hotel–or at least we tried.  We followed the last group of runners, cheering them on, with me keeping the eye on our hotel sign.  Yes, we were that close.  As I turned left, we walked through a residential street.  [S], tired from staying up too late the night before, began trying to lay down in the middle of the road.  As I picked her up and carried her, she began screaming.  Finally, we reached where the hotel should have been by my calculations and saw a fence.  As I looked down, I saw our hotel beneath us. 

Finally, I got out my phone and asked for walking directions to the hotel from Google maps.  A few minutes later, we were at the hotel with just enough time to pack, take two trips to the car, and check-out.  An entire ordeal in and of itself.

Once checked-out of the hotel, we were on track to see Russell on the course before he finished the race.  We headed to the street before the stadium and waited, tracking him on the Garmin app.  [S], who had refused to clap for other runners, saw him and started clapping loudly, calling “Daddy.”  This prompted a handful of locals to clap loudly as well, for which I was grateful.

I’m very proud of my husband.  I’m proud of his dedication.  I’m proud of his modeling healthy exercising habits to his daughter (and wife).  And I’m proud that he finished. 

Well done, Russell. 


The New Year Pause

It started Wednesday night.  [S] awoke in the middle of the night after getting sick in bed.  As Russell cleaned, I did my best to bathe and comfort our daughter.  Sleep eluded us for the remainder of the night, as [S] continued getting ill until early morning.  Thursday was spent cleaning and cuddling.  Friday, we stayed home, looking forward to the holiday weekend.  Russell arrived home early to cheers of glee from his fan club.  Unfortunately, he was unwell and went straight to bed at 4 p.m.  Shortly thereafter, he became ill.  And just after I put [S] to sleep, I suffered the same fate. 

Two strains of the norovirus are making the rounds on Okinawa.  Truthfully, I cannot recall ever being so ill or so miserable.  Research indicates that the average person will befall the norovirus five times throughout his or her life.  That is five times too many.  Trust me.  Currently, Russell is nearing a full recovery and I’m a day away from doing so if I can just get rid of this massive headache. 

The good news?  I’m within striking distance of my target weight. 

52 Places to Go in 2017: The New York Times

List lovers rejoice!  It’s that time of year when lists reign supreme.  Prognosticators tell us what we have to look forward to in the New Year, be it relating to restaurant trends, gadgets and gizmos, or fashion.  For those inside the Beltway, The Washington Post’s annual In/Out List has been a must-read for decades, even if only for amusement. 

Yesterday, I read The New York Times’ Travel Section’s 52 Places to Go in 2017 with curiosity.  No, I don’t need to be told where to travel.  But, yes, I do find a list of suggestions useful.  After all, ours is a big world to explore.  

As to be expected, The New York Times’ list is at once diverse and inclusive, suggesting well-known and easy-to-reach destinations, as well as hard(er)-to-reach and little-known locales.  While I dream of one day traveling to Agra, India or Botswana with my Husband, now, I am looking for closer-to-home destinations.  And the list didn’t fail me. 

15. Osaka, Japan

The ultimate Japanese feast awaits.

If Kyoto represents Japan’s spirit, and Tokyo its heart, Osaka is the country’s insatiable appetite. The city’s culinary legacy is alive and at work in the neighborhoods of Tsuruhashi and Fukushima, and in the 91 Michelin-starred restaurants spread throughout the city — like Ajikitcho, specializing in traditional Japanese cooking, and Taian, with a chargrilled focus. On April 28, it will all come together at the International Festival Utage (“feast”), a 10-day food festival, celebrating flavors from Japan’s 47 prefectures.

China’s beach destination of choice.

With its stunning white sand beaches and shimmering blue waters, Sanya on Hainan Island, China’s southernmost province, is known as the Hawaii of China. The destination is in the midst of a resort boom, and these eye-catching properties are reason enough to visit. There are already a Park Hyatt, a St. Regis and a Shangri-La. And late last year, Ian Schrager’s luxe Edition — a 500-room resort with a long list of amenities — made its debut. Next up, in March, is the tony One & Only Sanya, set amid 28 acres of coconut palms.

An avalanche of art in Thailand’s second city.

January’s second annual Galleries Night Chiang Mai and February’s Documentary Arts Festival, a weeklong biennial, provide opportunities to discover the proliferating art spaces in the historic northern city. Last year’s crop included Chiang Mai’s first contemporary art museum, MAIIAM; the multidisciplinary Asian Culture Station; and Thapae East, an art and performance venue, among others. Art pilgrims can crash at the chic X2 Chiang Mai Riverside hotel, opening this year, or the Art Mai Gallery hotel, decorated by Thai artists.

48. Busan, South Korea

An underrated second city becomes a design hot spot.

Busan is known as a film town, but the city’s independent design scene is taking off, too. The Jeonpo Cafe District, a once-gritty industrial area, has recently been transformed into a creative hub packed with boutiques like Object, selling handcrafted items by locals. Nearby, a 1920s former hospital reopened in 2016 as Brown Hands Cafe, an atmospheric art space. There are new ventures to showcase local design, too: the annual Busan Design Festival and Busan Design Spot, a guide to local attractions.

 What surprised me most about the list?  It included our current home.

52.Ryukyu Islands, Japan

The Japan you’ve never heard of.

This rarely visited archipelago of 160 islands, with multiple endangered dialects and cultures, stretches from the southern tip of Japan’s mainland to 70 miles off the east coast of Taiwan. Expect Unesco heritage sites, 1,000-year-old cedars, the “living fossil” Amami rabbit, ancient temples and castles, white sand beaches, crystal-clear diving spots and a tug of war festival. There’s a new (albeit expensive) way to see them: on an Abercrombie and Kent cruise, with rates starting at $15,495.

Think about a visit.

Happy travels.

511 New Year Resolutions.

By now, many people have put pen to paper to record their New Year resolutions.  Typically, losing weight, getting out of debt, and being a better person are high on the list of resolutions for the New Year.  And, yes, most resolutions are broken within the first six weeks of the year.  Regardless of the odds being against me, I find it helpful–and inspiring–to make a list of things I should be undertaking. 

While experts suggest that no more than three goals should be set each year, I’ve decided to take a different approach in 2017–a much different approach.  Last weekend, I began the New Year by sorting out our closets and drawers.  As I did so, I emptied my nightstand drawer and found a book my Father gave me many years ago.  I seem to recall him giving all four of his children the same book one Christmas, but of this I can’t be certain.  Inside its cover is a handwritten note, “For Kim, Love Dad.” 

It’s a book that I’ve relied upon over the years, reading it cover to cover at least once a year, if not more often.  The book is small and has never been far away from reach.  After one of his visits, I might find the book laying on the coffee table with a note in his handwriting, “#511 Love, Dad.” (#511 Call your mother.)  Indeed, I still have his last note written in 2009 on a yellow post-it note stuck inside the book, “#2, #336, #347 Love, Dad.” He wrote it after I told him I was gong to adopt a dog.  (#2 Have a dog; #336 Get your next pet from the animal shelter; #347 Never waste an opportunity to tell someone you love them.)

After having re-read the book this evening, I think it worthy to try to incorporate its contents into my life this year.  After all, it incorporates health goals (#104 Take a brisk thirty-minute walk every day; #194 Eat less red meat), financial goals (#17 Live beneath your means; #288 Discipline yourself to save money.  It’s essential to success), and tips on how to be a better person (#33 Treat everyone you meet like you want to be treated; #81 Avoid sarcastic remarks).

It also provides sound advice for every day matters, such as #362 Know when to keep silent; #363 Know when to speak up.  It provides advice on how to live better, such as #274 Leave everything a little better than you found it, #428 Do more than is expected, and #460 Look for opportunities to make people feel important.  It gives big picture advice, such as #48 Keep a tight rein on your temper, #210 Commit yourself to constant self-improvement, and #180 Do battle against prejudice and discrimination wherever you find it.  It gives small picture advice, such as #50 Put the cap back on the toothpaste, #119 Put a lot of little marshmallows in your hot chocolate, and #90 Refill ice cube trays.  And it gives marriage advice, such as #364 Every day look for some small way to improve your marriage.

My favorites?  #24 Drink Champagne for no reason at all; #84 Forget the Joneses; #413 Don’t flaunt your success, but don’t apologize for it either; #448 Don’t be afraid to say, “I don’t know”; and #510 Count your blessings.

Thank you Dad.