Our Voice

Once upon a time … long, long ago …. America had but one voice — whether we faced outwardly — toward the world stage in alliance with our neighbors and friends — or whether we faced an internal challenge among our own countrymen.

It was a voice that was truthful, measured and compassionate, and yet firm in its conviction.  Most of all, it was all-encompassing.  No one was excluded.  No one was left out. Democracy is about strength — and it’s about courage.  And it’s about having guts.

Since the era of George Washington, we chose one person to speak and be that voice for us … even when we didn’t agree … because, after all, we were one, with one collective voice.  It was important that we faced our allies with strength and understanding and were able and willing to lend a helping hand.  To those who were adverse to us, we offered to listen.  We offered to negotiate our differences.

On that very foundation, we began to shape our collective identity as Americans. Able to rise, ready to roll up our sleeves every morning, and get our jobs done.

Since January, we have seen and experienced divisiveness, deception, turmoil and near-chaos from our President and and his so-called administration.  The very fabric of our country — our beliefs, goals and ideals — are systematically being dismantled — each one held up like a trophy before being gleefully shattered on the ground before our very eyes.

It makes me sad and it makes me mad.  I am one of those people who have for more years than I care to share, gotten up every morning and put my best foot forward.  “Not On My Watch” has always been my motto.  And, believe me, I know there are plenty of us out there — currently working or not — that gladly contributed to that great fabric and provided some of the strength behind that great voice we have.  I am angry that our President and his self-serving, billionaire Wall Street appointees have such little respect for what we contributed — and in some cases, what we continue to contribute — every day.

And for those great, self-less men and women of America, who put their husband or wives, families and careers on hold while they served our country — what an affront to those people!  Do they not know that thousands upon thousands of people have died protecting that fabric — that belief system?  What more could a country ask?

I feel as though I need to write a letter of apology to Japan, who was the first to extend its hand in friendship to this nightmare of an administration.  And to China who has generously offered to mediate in relations regarding North Korea. To Germany for being willing to meet our President in spite of her personally being the subject of his hostile, tweeting rants in the past.  And to Great Britain, whom we just outright insulted because our President just makes things up because it might make a good headline and it’s always a good diversionary tactic.

Yes, we do have to ride this ugly, old, bumpy, paint-peeling, wheels-falling-off wagon until the bitter end for whatever the future holds for our country.  It is what it is.

But if you have the opportunity to speak out — to add your voice to ours — speak out loudly with strength and conviction.  Let us all be The Voice that doesn’t stop speaking about truth <a concept our President has yet to acknowledge>, our compassion and lack of sectarianism <obviously towards a religion that scares the Be-Jesus out of him>, and our American honor <instead of proving to the world that he has none and never will have>.

Yes, please join Our Voice — the Voice of America — who speaks the truth — even in the darkest of days.  Our Voice can be the beacon of what’s right with America.

Shalom …

Comments Welcome!

Now that we’ve closed the book on Serenity: Full Circle by publishing its final two chapters last week, please use the Comments feature here on the blog if you would like to give the author some feedback.  Good feedback tells the author where he or she could have done it better and, without that, it is always more difficult to hone the craft.

For those of you who have written, you know that it’s a labor of love — something that comes from your spirit and demands nothing short of being set on the page — to become finally free.

It will keep you up at night if you have wandered too far from its course and — likewise — it will give you immense joy when you know you’ve hit it right-on for the character or story line.

It’s when you see, hear and feel the characters and their emotions that you know that you are simply the scribe in the process.  It’s the characters who really tell their story — through you.

Until we meet again … shalom!

 

Great Times!

The weekend started out with our family members joining us from out of town.  We enjoyed a great dinner with more laughs than we’ve had in some time. Later, we enjoyed a balmy desert evening with a hearty discussion on world events.

The next day was earmarked for outdoor activity — our favorite activity!  We headed out in a fully-packed truck to find our spot at an outdoor shooting area not too far from the city.  As we stepped out of the truck, the stillness of the desert wrapped its lovely arms around us.  It made us smile.

My nephew, Mitch, had shot a few revolvers in his life, but his wife, Julie, had never fired a weapon.  Watching her interaction turned out to be an equal mixture of apprehension and exhilaration — but nothing beat the big smile she gave us after her first shot!

Our targets were varied at a distance of about 23 feet in front of us.  The unofficial “rules” say that you have to call out which target you are aiming for.  Once the shooting commenced, so did the running commentary!  “High, left!”  “Over the target!” “Great shot!”

Too soon, it was time to go.  After bringing in the target cluster it was time for some long distance shots, just for fun.

 

Using up the last ammo for some distance shooting
Using up the last ammo for some distance shooting

We packed it all up, including our blue tarp that was now filled with brass bullet casings.  (Pack it in/pack it out!)

Packing up
Packing up

 

 

 

 

 

And so, you might ask, how did we do?  We’ll let Mitch and Julie finish the story:

The score
The score

 

 

 

 

Until we meet again ……..

Honoring Great Dads!

This goes out as a heartfelt thank you to all of you Dads out there that have always “been there” for their children and who do, have, and continue to, love them unconditionally.

In both my mother’s and father’s side of the family — and in my husband’s family — I have seen many, many examples of fathers who truly take pride in their children.  It is so wonderful.  And Dads — you can see your impact — every time that child lights up with a smile and sends it your way!  You earned that!

And with my Forever Friends — I remember their Dads as if it were yesterday: George Buscaglia, Jim Cavalieri and Mike Bauer.  Three great men who loved their daughters with all their hearts — I saw that so many times with them.

On this day, I miss my wonderful father-in-law, too, who always endearingly called me “Little Lady.”

Most of all — I miss my Dad — a guy who never was to busy to listen (even if it was stuff he could care less about) and who was there for every step of the way in my life.  All I had to do was turn around.

So, this post is dedicated to all these great men — and to my Dad, of which there could never be another like him.  Happy Father’s Day, Dad — until we meet again …

Robert H. Blunt July 1921 - January 2005
Robert H. Blunt
July 1921 – January 2005

 

It’s About Equality — And It’s About Leadership

Women, rejoice!  We now have a woman as the Democratic Nominee for the Presidency.  Whether or not you support Hillary Clinton, really isn’t the point here.  We all know she has supporters, and she has detractors.

What IS the point is that, finally, America has demonstrated that the right person to be the President of the United States, is the most qualified person to hold that office.

Why has it taken America so long to see the light?  Look at Britain:  Margaret Thatcher served as the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1979 to 1990; Indira Gandhi served as Prime Minister of India from 1980 to 1984; and Golda Meir served as Minister of Israel from 1969 to 1974.

If other countries broke this barrier as long as 47 years ago, what is it that has held us back?

CNN recently ran an article entitled, “Breaking the Glass Ceiling” (http://www.cnn.com/2016/06/07/opinions/womens-voices-on-hillary-clinton-clinching-nomination-roundup/) in which 13 prominent women commented on Hillary Clinton achieving this historic event.  While all of the women had interesting insights, Sahar Aziz, associate professor at Texas A&M School of Law (teaching national security and Middle East law), perhaps shed the most light on this subject:

All too often I and my female colleagues in the legal profession have experienced the harmful effects of gender stereotypes.  Having a strong personality,, taking the lead, and offering constructive criticism makes us abrasive, unprofessional, or worse. 

Meanwhile, our male colleagues with similar personality traits are recognized as leaders and rewarded accordingly.  Indeed, men are disproportionately over-represented in leadership positions as managing partners, judges and law school deans.

To be sure, just having a woman as president is not good enough to advance women’s equality.  America needs a woman who is not ashamed of her strength of personality and confidently takes on the reins of leadership.”

Having worked within the legal profession for 48 years, I feel eminently qualified to comment on Ms. Aziz’s viewpoint — I believe she has cut to the very heart of the matter.

Women can, are and always have been, able to take on the “reins of leadership.”  Women should not be held back by their accomplishments; rather celebrated for what the can and do bring to the table.

At the end of the day, it is the male culture that needs to reshape its paradigm and refocus their sights … without feeling uncomfortably threatened in the process.

If elected, Hillary will clearly make this America’s “litmus test” … one with one decisive factor.

And I am betting that she is most able — and most qualified — to grab those leadership reins and continue to make America the greatest place on the planet to live.

A Country Flexing Its Muscles

Approximately 870 miles from Hong Kong lies the Spratly Islands — a series of reefs and shoals — claimed by nearby countries like Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and the Philippines.  The area is known for its commercial fishing grounds and has the potential for undersea natural resources.

Two years ago, China began a land reclamation project that was, when completed last October, responsible for adding 3,200 acres of land to three sites; Fiery Cross Reef, Hugh Reef and Gaven Reef.  Each of the projects began with a single structure, but now have been expanded to contain an artificial island and a dredged channel.  According to a statement by James Hardy, Jane’s Asia Pacific editor, each now has “helipads, airstrips, harbors, and facilities to support large numbers of troops.” (CNN, Katie Hunt reporting, February 17, 2015)  Even the Pentagon has gone on record, stating that they believe the structures also contain surveillance systems.  Looking at each project, they bear such a similarity to each other, that it appears that there is some standardization involved.  If that is so, it begs the question of whether there will be more projects such as these in the future?

So, why are these countries allowing China to simply invade and develop what is considered their land?

Answers to this question can vary.  Some, like Vietnam, for example, have filed mild legal protests with the United Nations citing maritime and other international law, but have become mired down in the legal hair-splitting world of definitions: What legally constitutes a “reef?”  What is the definition of a “shoal?,” further bogging down the process without resolution.  Others, like the Philippines, have protested the loudest (and perhaps the longest), as they suggest the strategic value of the reefs and shoals lie in the fact that they are adjacent to major shipping channels and trade routes in the South China Sea, which could heavily influence their country’s economics.

A recent report from the Pentagon also warned that China was committed to sustaining a growth pattern, even if it meant doing so on distant shores.  (Reuters, Phil Stewart David Brunnstrom reporting, May 14, 2016).  This seems to correspond to recent economic reports which state that China has recently cut its interest rates in order to stimulate their economy because their rising debt levels have had the effect of limiting their fiscal expansion plans.  So much so, that now regulators have now forbidden the practice of buying stocks with borrowed funds.  Also reported, $300 billion dollars have left China in the last six months, in part due to the strength of the U.S. dollar, but also because the confidence in the Chinese economy is waning.  (The Wall Street Journal, Lingling Wei reporting, May 11, 2016)

So, with the possible motivational aspects that China may have in an economic sense, are they also positioning themselves militarily in the sense that each of these three Reefs are now considered by the Pentagon to be long-term civil-military bases, each having a 9,800 foot airstrip, capable of accommodating advanced fighter jets?  More chilling, are the reports that China intends to establish naval “hubs” in countries with which they have shared interests — as they do in Pakistan.

In an effort to continue to sail in international waters, and possibly to show our support of the Philippines with whom we have had a long-standing relationship, the U.S. Navy recently deployed the USS Fort Worth, a littoral combat ship (able to patrol in coastal waters) to the South China Sea on a route that took it near the Spratly Islands.  The Fort Worth was immediately shadowed by a Chinese guided-missile frigate, the Yancheng.  In spite of Commander Matt Kawas’ official statement that “Our interactions with the Chinese ships continue to be professional,” China issued a stern warning in response against the U.S. “taking any actions that might be considered provocative.” (CNN, Brad Landon and Jim Sciutto reporting, May 14, 2016).

All of this rhetoric has prompted Secretary of State, John Kerry, to travel to Beijing to meet with Chinese leaders which he did so today and will continue to do so tomorrow.  The State Department has released a statement suggesting that Secretary Kerry will leave no doubt in China’s mind that the U.S. will continue to have a presence in international waters — and fly in international airways — even if they are in the South China Sea.

Move over, Mr. Trump.  There’s a new bully in town … and it’s called China.

A Prince … And A Vision

He’s Second Deputy Prime Minister, the youngest Minister of Defense in the world, Chief of the House Royal Court, and Chairman of the Council for Economic and Development Affairs.  If you don’t know who this is — you should!

He is 30-year old Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman — also referred to as the “Face of the Future.”

Undoubtedly, he earned that reputation after having devised and presented to the Council of Ministers on April 26, 2016, a plan for Saudi Arabia’s future — adeptly called “Vision 2030.”

It is a somewhat lengthy plan which you can read in its entirety at the link provided below, but in reading through it, several things resonated with me.  The clarity and focus of the plan is indisputable.  The perspective of which he sees Saudi Arabia’s future as a global citizen is well-balanced and meaningful, inclusive of all its citizens.  It is a bold plan to reshape Saudi Arabia’s economic focus away from oil exports to a larger, broader and more encompassing vision — that which includes tourism, sporting events, entertainment, education through arts, museums and libraries, just to name a few.  In his words, “A vibrant society with fulfilling lives.”

Here are a few proposals from Vision 2030 that particularly stood out to me — and perhaps they will for you, too:

Among our commitments:

A flourishing retail sector

A developed digital infrastructure

Increasing direct investment from 3.8% to international level of 5.7% of GDP

Raise share of non-oil exports from 16% to 50%

Embrace transparency and, to that end, zero tolerance for all levels of corruption

Publish plans and performance indicators for public monitoring

Engage everyone so that “the government can serve them better and meet their aspirations …”

Efficient spending and balanced finances

Be sure that Saudi services “are performing well in accordance with global best practices”

Establishment of HR centers of excellence in every government agency

“Working with our economic partners around the world to build new strategic partnerships for the 21st century”

Given that more than one-half of Saudi Arabia’s population is under 25, I believe he has a wide and malleable audience.  His leadership skills were evident with the following assertions:

[Be] an ambitious nation — responsibly enabled

Be responsible for our lives

Be responsible to society

Remember our lifelong obligations to our families

Become independent and active members of society

We are each personally responsible for our own futures

And perhaps the most provocative statement of all:

“We all have the means to achieve our dreams and ambitions. There are no excuses for us to stand still or move backwards. Our vision is a strong, thriving, and stable Saudi Arabia that provides opportunity for all.”

A Deputy Crown Prince today — but a King tomorrow.

As-Salaam-Alaikum …… Peace Be Unto You

 

http://saudigazette.com.sa/saudi-arabia/full-text-saudi-arabias-vision-2030/

 

More On Great Wines!

It seems like Saturday night is as good a night as any other night to experiment with a new wine to see if it makes the “Let’s Buy This One Again” distinguished category!

As usual, we are featuring both a red and a white here, as my husband prefers red and I prefer white, except in this instance — well, keep reading …

First, the red:

Carnivor
Carnivor

This is a 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon produced by Carnivor Wines, Modesto, California.  It’s a $12 bottle of wine that has earned 90 points and a “Best Buy” nod from Wine Enthusiast in July of 2013.

This is such a great red wine that even I can’t resist its great flavors — blackberry, caramel and roast coffee.  Truly a “statement wine!”  Its label also boasts of  a toasted oak flavor, but, thankfully, I don’t taste it.  (Oaks are better left to the unimaginative Chardonnay’s.)

Go to http://www.carnivorcabernet.com for more info – or #devourlife. Be sure to buy more than one — store shelves empty out quickly on this one!

And for my white:

Dellatorri
Dellatorri

 

 

Oh, and was this a great surprise!

 

 

 

 

A $9 purchase that earned a Best Buy nod from the World Value Wine Competition – 2013.  It’s an Italian wine from the House of Torri produced by the descendants of Mario Torri.

The label will tell you it’s “crisp and fruity,” but my immediate taste from this wine was a combination that I had never had before — chilled pears and almonds!  And it was a taste that continued without being cumulative and overpowering itself.  This, quite frankly, was a superb Pinot Grigio that I would never hesitate to serve!

So, there you have it, folks, a couple of new ones to add to your shopping lists.

Be sure to get back to me with your comments — for that matter, with any great wines you have tried and that you would like to mention.  They will be happily shared here!

To Life — L’Chayim!

 

Christmas Eve

Just a few more days left until Christmas Eve.  Traditionally, we spend it with just the two of us, sipping some good wine (more on that later), listening to Christmas music and reflecting on how great it is to spend the majority of your life with the only person you could imagine spending it with!  A joyous time.

It’s also a time that I reflect on my family and friends and know in my heart I wouldn’t be the person I am today without each and every one of them.  They know who they are.

Looking forward, it’s a time of renewed interest, as we say goodbye to 2015 and “Hello” (yes, Adele’s new hit just showcases how incredibly talented and gifted she is!) to the New Year of 2016.  It reverberates with hope and excitement.

And, along those lines, I’d also like to take a moment to congratulate my family member, Eric, who, with his lovely finance, Lisa, will likely not forget today — ever.

Eric and Lisa December 20, 2016
Eric and Lisa December 20, 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A picture can speak a thousand words …..

And now may be the appropriate time to hoist a glass to them!  Here’s a couple of new ones to add to your collection:

For my red lovers — here’s one my husband loves:

 

Cabernet Sauvignon
Cabernet Sauvignon

And for those white lovers like me, either of these are excellent.  Both are the same winery, but one is a Pinot and the other (equally as good) is an Umbria.

Santa Christina

 

And you know where to find them – TJ’s – of course!

Have a very Merry Christmas and cherish your family and friends ….

 

A Shower And A Sip!

Are you ready?  Tonight is the start of the Geminid Meteor Shower!

Courtesy of space.com
Courtesy of space.com

This shower was first discovered in the early 19th Century and actually lasts for two weeks, so if you don’t have a chance to view it tonight, get back out there the first chance you can!

It is named “Geminid” because it appears that the meteors emanate from the constellation of Gemini (get your Google Sky Map going, or simply look to the North).  It will be “viewable” in both the Northern and the Southern hemispheres.

The meteors themselves can be multi-colored, depending on their chemical composition.  Here’s a quick look at what those colors signify:

Sodium – orange or yellow

Iron – yellow

Magnesium – blue or green

Calcium – violet

Silicate – red

Adding a little more “color” here, there is some Greek mythology also associated with the event.  Gemini is the astrological sign for the twins — Castor, a mortal, and his brother, Pollux.  When Castor died during the Trojan War, Pollux grieved so deeply that his father, Zeus, decided to make Castor immortal as was his son, Pollux, and they now reside — forever together — in the constellation of Gemini as the twins.

And so, back to the title of this post — “A Shower And A Sip.”  A sip of what you might ask?  While I’ll out there enjoying nature’s show, I will also be sipping my all-time favorite wine:

Contadino Pinot Grigio
Contadino Pinot Grigio

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A light, bubbly and delightful Pinot Grigio that knocks it out of the ballpark each and every time!  Look for it at one of my favorite places — Trader Joe’s.  You’ll be surprised at the price.

So, Happy Meteor-Gazing, everyone!  Until we meet again……