A Trip of a Lifetime.

Our bags are packed.  The number of gifts carefully tucked away between clothes is too numerous to recall.  A gift for the translator.  A gift for the executive team.  A gift for the social worker.  Ties have been painstakingly chosen and high heel shoes have made their way into shoe bags.  A few items remain outstanding.  Toiletries, of course.  Dresses.  And a couple of pairs of footwear.  (I can’t help it.)  At once, I’m exhausted and excited.  I’m hopeful that sleep will come tonight. 

This week, I’ve found myself lying awake staring at the clock in the early hours of the morning far more often than I would like.  If all goes as planned, tomorrow we will board a flight to Seoul.  The purpose of trip is personal, but it’s also business.  We will meet our son for the first time.  Our initial meeting will be for an hour.  Just one hour.  The following afternoon, we will meet with him, again, also for an hour.  On Friday, we will appear before a judge who will decide, definitively, whether our family of three will become a family of four. 

When we began this path, the 18- to 24-month timeline seemed incredible.  And, yes, it is a long time to wait for someone–anyone–you love.  But the process has also allowed our family time to prepare.  We’ve prepared [S] as much as possible.  She knows his names (both English and Korean).  She can speak a few key Korean words.  She knows her baby brother is no longer a baby. 

Despite the time, I’m not sure how much Russell and I have prepared for meeting our son.  In many ways, I suspect it will be like giving birth.  I knew I loved my daughter before she was born.  But it wasn’t until after she was born that the emotions flowed freely.  There were tears of joy.  There were hints of sadness.  There was fear.  But, by far, the overwhelming emotion I felt was love.  It was raw.  It was real.  And it was awesome in its scope. 

I know that I’m not the first adoptive parent to wonder how the first meeting with his or her to-be-child will progress.  Will I be liked?  Will I be shunned?  Will I make a fool of myself?  Will I get a smile.  Will there be a bond?  Knowing children, I take great comfort that I will not be alone.  [S] is sure to be hit, as is my Husband.  But I take greater comfort knowing that our initial meeting is but the beginning of our journey together. 


Progress: The Appointment of Special Counsel.

WASHINGTON — The Justice Department has appointed Robert S. Mueller III, the former F.B.I. director, to serve as a special counsel to oversee its investigation into Russian meddling in the election, Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein announced on Wednesday.

The appointment of Mr. Mueller dramatically raises the stakes for President Trump in the multiple investigations into his campaign’s ties to the Russians. It follows a swiftly moving series of developments that have roiled Washington, including Mr. Trump’s abrupt dismissal of the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, and the disclosure that the president urged Mr. Comey to drop the bureau’s investigation into his former national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn.

“I determined that it is in the public interest for me to exercise my authorities and appoint a special counsel to assume responsibility for this matter,” Mr. Rosenstein said in a statement. “My decision is not a finding that crimes have been committed or that any prosecution is warranted. I have made no such determination.”

Robert Mueller, Former F.B.I. Director, Named Special Counsel for Russia Investigation, The New York Times (May 17, 2017).

I stand with the Deputy Attorney General.  Appointing special counsel is an important step to being able to determine whether Russia interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.  Were I POTUS, assured that there was no meddling in the election by Russia, I would welcome this–as well as any other non-partisan investigation–into the 2016 election.  Good investigators are trained to separate the wheat from the chaff, unearthing relevant facts and revealing the narrative that remains.


The Burger King.

In the era of “better burgers,” two chains have polled as offering the nation’s best: Five Guys and In-N-Out. Both are regional restaurants that have in recent years expanded their presence across the country. In-N-Out, from California, features palm trees and crisp white uniforms on its employees, while Five Guys, from Virginia, has more of a blue collar feel, its locations famously stocked with boxes of peanuts (and its fries fried in their oil).

Burger lovers typically align themselves with one brand or the other, and in 2017, for the first time, more Americans have pledged their allegiance to Five Guys, according to the annual Harris Poll, which was released Tuesday morning. In-N-Out came in second, after topping the poll in both 2015 and 2016.

In-N-Out vs. Five Guys Burgers: America Has a New Favorite Destination, Newsweek (May 16, 2017). 

Now, all is as it should be.  Indeed, my top burger joints remain in the top 10.  An honorable mention goes to Culver’s, where the butter burgers (yes, it is an appropriate description) are tasty and the custard toothsome.   How does your favorite stack up?  The results for America’s favorite burger are as follows:

1. Five Guys
2. In-N-Out
3. Shake Shack
4. Wendy’s
5. Culver’s
6. Whataburger
7. McDonald’s
8. Sonic America’s Drive-In
9. Smashburger
10. Steak ‘N Shake

Mr. November and My Aunt

NEW YORK (AP) — Derek Jeter held a microphone and spoke without notes to the crowd that filled sold-out Yankee Stadium. His No. 2, the last of the single digit pinstripes, had been retired and a plaque in his honor dedicated that will be placed in Monument Park alongside tributes to Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio, Mantle, Berra and the rest of the team’s greats.

“There isn’t a person or player I would trade places with that’s playing now or ever,” he told the fans.

Derek Jeter’s Number Retired in a Ceremony at Yankee Stadium, Time/AP (May 15, 2017).

Seeing photos of Derek Jeter at Yankee Stadium reminded me of a time many, many years ago.  Yes, it was a different Yankee Stadium than where I watched him play.  Yes, he is a different man now than he was then.  Regardless, he is a modern day legend, who deserves to be feted.  He donned No. 2 for 20 seasons, during which he excelled at what mattered:  hitting, baserunning, fielding, and leading.  The result?  Five World Series championships. 

As I read about Derek Jeter’s accomplishments, I couldn’t get my late Aunt Joan’s voice out of my head.  “Oh, Kim, he’s so much more than a fabulous shortstop, he’s a leader–on an off the field.  He teammates respect him.  And his charitable organization Turn 2 speaks volumes of his character.”  My Aunt, who had an opinion on anything and everything she knew–and she knew a lot about a lot–didn’t let it go at that.  “I think you and Derek would be a power couple,” she proudly opined.  “He hasn’t found anyone, really,” she continued.  Her hopes were fueled by me casually mentioning that I had run into him at a bar–one which, it would turn out, we both frequented.  But that was years ago. 

My Aunt was a bright woman.  She knew it was against all odds for Derek Jeter and her niece to date, just like she knew that she would not see another Derek Jeter in her lifetime. 


Remembering America’s Values.

WASHINGTON — In dramatically casting aside James B. Comey, President Trump fired the man who may have helped make him president — and the man who potentially most threatened the future of his presidency.

Not since Watergate has a president dismissed the person leading an investigation bearing on him, and Mr. Trump’s decision late Tuesday afternoon drew instant comparisons to the “Saturday Night Massacre” in October 1973, when President Richard M. Nixon ordered the firing of Archibald Cox, the special prosecutor looking into the so-called third-rate burglary that would eventually bring Nixon down.

In his letter firing Mr. Comey, the F.B.I. director, Mr. Trump made a point of noting that Mr. Comey had three times told the president that he was not under investigation, Mr. Trump’s way of pre-emptively denying that his action was self-interested. But in fact, he had plenty at stake, given that Mr. Comey had said publicly that the bureau was investigating Russia’s meddling in last year’s presidential election and whether any associates of Mr. Trump’s campaign were coordinating with Moscow.

The decision stunned members of both parties, who saw it as a brazen act sure to inflame an already politically explosive investigation. For all his unconventional actions in his nearly four months as president, Mr. Trump still has the capacity to shock, and the notion of firing an F.B.I. director in the middle of such an investigation crossed all the normal lines.

In Trump’s Firing of James Comey, Echoes of Watergate, The New York Times (May 9, 2017).

I’ve been concerned about many, many issues impacting our government.  My concerns relate directly to our sitting president and his administration.  Most concerning, to me, are ethical issues.  After all, if one cannot trust POTUS to do the right thing, who will?  You know, lead by example, and all that.  Personally profiting from his current role as President; purposefully misstating facts; and shielding his financial interests from disclosure, are deeply troubling–just to name a few. 

Perhaps, then, it should come as no surprise that POTUS summarily dismissed Mr. Comey from his position.  He did so without informing Mr. Comey.  And, likely, without following proper protocol.  Indeed, it is unlikely Mr. Comey was debriefed considering he learned of his termination of employment by way of breaking news.

But how Mr. Comey was dismissed is not the issue that should make Americans shake with anger and shudder with fear.  Those emotions should be reserved for the question, why was he fired?  To be expected, the stated reason for Mr. Comey’s termination appears facially neutral (and, even, lawful).  But, based upon the facts known, it would not be a reach (of any measure) to assume that it was a pretext for the real reason he was fired–to disrupt, delay, and/or derail current FBI investigations into the 2016 U.S. presidential election. 

For those who consider themselves patriots, this is the moment to question, “What can I do?” and, then, act accordingly.

What side are you on?  Me, I’m fighting for the integrity of our country.

One’s Best Life. Imagined.

IT is now official. Scholars have analyzed the data and confirmed what we already knew in our hearts. Social media is making us miserable.

We are all dimly aware that everybody else can’t possibly be as successful, rich, attractive, relaxed, intellectual and joyous as they appear to be on Facebook. Yet we can’t help comparing our inner lives with the curated lives of our friends.

Just how different is the real world from the world on social media? In the real world, The National Enquirer, a weekly, sells nearly three times as many copies as The Atlantic, a monthly, every year. On Facebook, The Atlantic is 45 times more popular.

Don’t Let Facebook Make You Miserable, The New York Times (May 6, 2017).

Words Matter.

From a young age, parents explain to children that words matter.  And they do.  Words set expectations.  Words express love.  Words describe one’s day and explain one’s actions.  Words also can cut like a knife, pierce the soul, and cause a lifetime of regret. 

As anyone who has studied a foreign language knows, mere words are insufficient to communicate effectively.  One must understand the meaning(s) of the words being used and then engage in proper syntax–the arranging of words and phrases to create a well structured sentence. 

Since arriving in Okinawa, I hear (and read) the phrase, “Need(s) gone” to communicate that a person would like to sell or give something away quickly.  (Written, it is often, “Need(s) gone, ASAP.”  Yes Facebook Yard Sales users, I’m referring to you.)  I also hear people say, “The restaurant accepts card,” to communicate that an establishment accepts payment by credit card.  Both phrases showcase improper grammar.  But both phrases are able to be understood by others.  The problem?  Lazy and/or ignorant communicators and their enablers. 

As an English major, attorney, and want-to-be-author, I appreciate my heightened sensitivity to proper grammar (and, conversely, my utter disdain for improper grammatical usage).  But when I was in elementary school, it was my Mother who first impressed upon me that how I communicate is just as important as the content of my communication. 


* * *

As New York Times C.E.O. Mark Thompson noted about one of Trump’s speeches in his 2016 book, “Enough Said: What’s Gone Wrong with the Language of Politics?”: “The super-short sentences emphasize certainty and determination, build up layer upon layer, like bricks in a wall themselves, toward a conclusion and an emotional climax. It’s a style that students of rhetoric call parataxis. This is the way generals and dictators have always spoken to distinguish themselves from the caviling civilians they mean to sweep aside.”

Thompson also notes that “Trump’s appeal as a presidential candidate depends significantly on the belief that he is a truth-teller who will have nothing to do with the conventional language of politics,” warning that:

“We shouldn’t confuse anti-rhetorical ‘truth telling’ with actually telling the truth. One of the advantages of this positioning is that once listeners are convinced that you’re not trying to deceive them in the manner of a regular politician, they may switch off the critical faculties they usually apply to political speech and forgive you any amount of exaggeration, contradiction, or offensiveness. And if establishment rivals or the media criticize you, your supporters may dismiss that as spin.”

Here is the great danger: Many people expect a political lie to sound slick, to be delivered by intellectual elites spouting $5 words. A clumsy, folksy lie delivered by a shyster using broken English reads as truth.

It is an upside-down world in which easy lies sound more true than hard facts.

But this is what comes from a man who is more watcher than reader, a man more driven by the limelight than by literature.

In January, Vanity Fair attempted to answer the question: “Exactly How Much TV Does Donald Trump Watch in a Day?” They did so by producing this utterly frightening roundup:

“Early on in the campaign, Trump told Chuck Todd on “Meet the Press” that he gets military advice from TV pundits. He couldn’t get through a 50-minute Washington Post interview without repeatedly looking at the TV and commenting about what was on it. In November, during the transition, The Post noted that, based on his biography, ‘He watches enormous amounts of television all through the night.’ And just this week, a source told Politico that Trump’s aides are being forced to try and curb some of his ‘worst impulses’ — including TV-watching, apparently: ‘He gets bored and likes to watch TV … so it is important to minimize that.’”

A piece in The New York Times in the first week of Trump’s presidency noted: “Still, Mr. Trump, who does not read books, is able to end his evenings with plenty of television.”

Trump has the intellectual depth of a coat of paint.

At no time is this more devastatingly obvious than when he grants interviews to print reporters, when he is not protected by the comfort of a script and is not animated by the dazzling glare of television lights. In these moments, all he has is language, and his absolute ineptitude and possibly even lack of comprehension is enormously obvious.

In the last month, Trump has given interviews to print reporters at The Times, The Associated Press, Reuters and The Wall Street Journal. Read together, the transcripts paint a terrifying portrait of a man who is simultaneously unintelligible in his delivery, self-assured in his ignorance and consciously bathing in his narcissism.

In Trump world, facts don’t matter, truth doesn’t matter, language doesn’t matter. Passionate performance is the only ideal. A lie forcefully told and often repeated is better than truth — it is accepted as an act of faith, which is better than a point of fact.

This is one of the most heinous acts of this man: the mugging of the meaning, the disassembling of rhetoric until certainty is stripped away from truth like flesh from a carcass.

Degradation of the language is one of Trump’s most grievous sins.

* * *