As we say above, this is mainly for friends and family. Michael's blog on the Middle East can be found here. Most of our other links can be found below on the right, but be sure to keep up as well with our family website, here. We also have discussion groups for genealogy, links to genealogical information on us, and our (semi-private) Flickr and YouTube accounts for those who are invited. You can also get a quick-navigation guide here.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Weekend Catching Up

I've been terribly lax about posting to the family blog, mostly but not exclusively because I've been involved with my work blog, which has hit some high traffic days and seems to be getting noticed, at least by some of the other Middle East blogs.

Last weekend we went to Winchester, somewhat old hat admittedly. The day got off to a bad start as we couldn't find some membership cards for the Mueseum of the Shenandoah Valley and I got into a grumpy mood and we got bogtge3de down. Finally we visited the gardens at the Museum, then took Sarah to the Harry Potter movie (at least a little cheaper out there than in DC), had a decent dinner and the next day went back to the Museum and did some other fun things before coming home.

Now we're at another weekend. Today we saw G-Force, which okay as talking guinea pig spy movies goes, if you like that sort of thing.

On August 4 we'll be going to Colorado. Hopefully I'll blog more before then and regularly out there. I never even posted on the moon landing anniversary although Tam, who rarely posts here, did (see below).

Monday, July 20, 2009

A Memory of the Apollo 11 Moon Landing

Before the evening passes, I want to set down a strong family memory I have of the wonderful Moon landing, and the first two men to walk on it: Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin. Michael Collins was the command pilot, orbiting above the lunar surface.

It was July 20, 1969. My family and I were gathered in our TV room at the back of the house in Ralston, Nebraska, watching the drama with my grandmother. She later died in 1975, at 93 years of age. So she would have been 86 that night of 1969. It was most incredible for her to watch the two men land on the surface, then slowly walk down the ladder and jump off onto the lunar surface. We all watched the whole thing, it was truly amazing.

But the most amazing thing that struck me then, was the realization that my grandmother, like Julius Caesar, read by candlelight in an earlier time. And then my grandmother, in her lifetime, watched men walk on the surface of the moon. The memory is still strong with me today, forty years after the event.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Road Trip!

We're doing a weekend overnight. Just Winchester, where we've been way too many times. But maybe I can get some posts up. I've been lax lately, I know.

Remembering Walter Cronkite: A Cross-Posting

I don't normally cross-post from my work-blog, but this will be of interest to family and friends of my generation at least. The original post is here and the original title is "Walter Cronkite and the Middle East."

Oh my. Ask and it shall be answered. In my immediately previous post I noted that everybody I've posted under the "obituaries" label so far has been pretty ambiguous in their historical legacy but that perhaps I'll have a chance to offer some unreserved praise. Then I heard from my wife, who was watching TV while I blogged, that Walter Cronkite had died. And he had a major role in one particular event in Middle Eastern history. And if you've got something bad to say about him, please say it somewhere else.

My generation needs no introduction to Uncle Walter. Before I got here he was dropping with the paratroops in Market Garden, the disastrous Arnhem operation of World War II. He was the newsman of my youth, and his You Are There introduced me to the history of my parents' generation. And that moment in November 1963 when he took off those black horn-rims, looked up at the clock, and announced that John F. Kennedy was dead, with a catch in his voice, will live forever. He helped us through it. And he got us to the moon. And when Uncle Walter turned against the Vietnam war, it was the beginning of the endgame. Even Lyndon Johnson famously said, "If I've lost Cronkite, I've lost Middle America." (Google it. It's Friday night. I don't want to take the time. It'll be in all the morning papers, anyway.)

And he died in the midst of the 40th Anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, a day after the anniversary of the launch, three days before the anniversary of the landing. (Historical irony? Synchronicity? Interesting anyway.) We could not have gone to the moon without Walter Cronkite, could we have? When he retired, the space program got boring. He made things official, somehow. When he said "That's the way it is," we knew that that was the way it was.

There will be a lot of memories of Walter Cronkite over the next few days (though it won't match Michael Jackson), so I'll limit myself to remembering why Uncle Walter was important to the Middle East: in 1977 he cornered first Sadat, then Begin, in TV interviews to agree to a direct meeting. Oh, sure, the Egyptians had been working through Moroccan back-channels for a long time, but the fact that Cronkite asked Sadat directly, on US TV, if he would actually go to Israel, and he said yes, and then Cronkite asked Begin, who didn't have much of an out . . . the point is, the process was already afoot, but Cronkite pushed the leaders in public, and Sadat's native showmanship was such that he accepted the challenge. It would have happened anyway, but Cronkite made it happen sooner. (Be patient, when I can find a YouTube of it I'll link.)

I'm not immediately remembering other major Cronkite involvement in Middle Eastern history, but what more do you need? He pushed Sadat and Begin together. And my generation hasn't really watched network news that much since Uncle Walter retired. No one in the Internet era has that authority, that solid grandfatherly reassurance.

Any young folk who don't understand my signoff, ask your elders:

And that's the way it is, Friday, July 17, 2009.


Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Catching Up Again: July 4 and Since

Okay, time to catch up again. Things have been crazy — busy with work, allergies bad, a couple of sick days — and I still haven't briefed on the Fourth of July, let alone other stuff.

On the fourth, we went down to the Fredericksburg area; there's a video up on our YouTube site. We did Chancellorsville, Massaponax Church, Guinea Station (where Stonewall Jackson died — "Let us Cross Over the River and Rest Under the Shade of the Trees" —) then back to DC, set off some snakes in the driveway (pictured), and planned to set off some fountains, do sparklers etc. later. But Sarah's good friend across the street, Katherine, was moving (though not too far) and they invited Sarah to join them for a Chinese dinner, and she wanted to.

The next day we took a tour of the George Washington Masonic Memorial in Alexandria, a somewhat weird place. There's a multiple part video up at YouTube.

I offered to set off the fountains and sparklers on Sunday, but Sarah was worried we'd get in trouble for setting them off after the fourth (though others were), so I acceeded to her concerns that we'd be hauled off to the hoosegow, and we'll save them till next year I guess.

The following weekend we did the Dr. Samuel Mudd House as part of her continuing education in the Lincoln bicentennial, and on Sunday attended a grownup party (which Sarah attended with her Nintendo DS and tolerated because of chocolate cake and the presence of a dog, though she was born) for old friends who've just returned from a tour with USAID in Kosovo, before the husband goes off to Baghdad. (All the prime vacation spots!)

Next weekend: Winchester. Maybe I can blog more then.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Fourth of July Weekend

A busy and somewhat chaotic fourth. I need to post more and will fill this in at a later date.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

The Second of July: "Gotcha Day" and the Return of Lamby

"The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more. You will think me transported with Enthusiasm but I am not. I am well aware of the Toil and Blood and Treasure, that it will cost Us to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States. Yet through all the Gloom I can see the Rays of ravishing Light and Glory. I can see that the End is more than worth all the Means. And that Posterity will tryumph in that Days Transaction, even altho We should rue it, which I trust in God We shall not."
— John Adams to Abigail, July 3, 1776

John Adams — who is actually Sarah's second cousin, six times removed, by adoption — got the date of independence day celebrations slightly wrong; July 2 was the day they voted for independence: they only published the thing on the fourth (and I think only Hancock put his John Hancock on it that day: the others signed later).

But July 2 remains "the great anniversary festival" in our family, because it's the day that we were united with Sarah, in Changsha, China, at about 1 pm on July 2, 2001, in the Grand Sun City Hotel. It's what is known in adoptive circles as "Gotcha Day": the next day, the third, was the formal, legal adoption.

Our log — a sort of proto-blog — of our trip to China is still available online; and so are some pages of photos of our first meeting; again, this is pre-Flickr and was posted to tamandmichael.com.

We told Sarah she could decide where to have dinner for her anniversary: she chose home. Okay.

A bit of serendipity though: her earliest two toys were two we took to China and gave her on the first day, eight years ago today: a rattle and a little stuffed lamb. The stuffed lamb, now rather gray with dirt and age, is her oldest toy that we can locate, and is affectionately known as Lamby. (I had to ask Tam if it was to be spelled "Lamby" or "Lambie" and she opted for the y.) The first meeting with Lamby is shown in the photo to the left. Below, Lamby today.

Somewhere around about the time we went to Gettysburg in March, Lamby disappeared. Tam and Sarah both said he hadn't been with us on the trip, but after we'd searched high and low I actually called the Gettysburg hotel twice, but they didn't have it.

Serendipity and synchronicity however: tonight, Sarah and her friend Katherine were playing and dumped out a tall green toychest on the floor and voila, though we'd looked there before, there was Lamby.

So on this important family anniversary, the First Toy resurfaced. That has to mean something.

Eight of Sarah's nine years have been with us now, and this is a great day. It's an anniversary for the whole family, marking our becoming a family.