September 27, 2003


I am thrilled to report that Taney & I have started the process of adopting from China, hence the recent reference to the red thread. We are deeply involved in the information gathering, selecting our agency to facilitate the process and the necessary documentation to move forward.

We are researching how we can make our adoption plan work for us, from having papers notarized in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, a trip to the British Consulate in Washington DC to using our Amex Reward points toward the travel costs to China and how others can donate their points to help us, through to fundraising events.

After five long years of avoiding stores like Babies R Us. Last week, we located our local Babies R Us store and head off on a fact-finding mission. Four hours later we left the store, both physically exhausted from looking at everything, with the exception of clothes that this store offered. I am certain we would have looked at clothes, but four hours is the limit.

I had never been in one of these mega-stores before, it was a big store by British standards, but not as big as I am certain they can get. As we walked aisle by aisle, we made notes of the things we thought were important to us, not just the larger items but the smaller ones too. From angled bottles to reduce the effects of gas, a snip at $7.99 to strollers, high chairs and car seats this was a new learning experience for this expecting Dad.

The staff I have to report were very, very helpful, as we would explain our story and ask for their advice. The chap who talked us through strollers was excellent in explaining the different car seats too. The guys in the bedroom department were helpful in explaining the cribs that converted to beds and so on. It is probably company policy, but on explaining our story to the staff, they responded immediately with “Congratulations to you both”, standing in the middle of a baby store it was wonderful to have a stranger congratulate us as expectant parents.

Taney & I devised a stroller test. If we could not work out how to collapse the thing in less than thirty seconds, it probably was not for us. There were more than a couple that lost this test, and one in particular try as we might, neither of us could solve the mystery of the collapsing stroller.

Over the weekend, we also visited the local Zany-Brainy store and the Baby store within our local Burlington Coat Factory. We must have spent close to seven hours in two days just looking at baby stuff! While there is so much available, we were looking with an eye on that which is a necessity not wished.

We have provisionally selected a stroller (British made) that is lightweight and strong, that we can use overseas and in the US, a high chair, a car seat, have a pretty good idea on the nursery furniture the nursery colors, a “daddy bag” a changing bag just for Dad’s and food and drink utensils.

So perhaps LC readers you will understand why the postings have been light of late, I have been up to other more important stuff, including sitting down with Taney each night putting together a plan “B” if the home we have so patiently been waiting for in Bryn Athyn falls through, from an emotional standpoint we need to have a Plan B safety net that will allow us to make this adoption happen – and happen it will, as I tell Taney every day.

But what of the red thread?

Taney & I have visited a number of adoption agencies that have programs to adopt from China, we have watch the presentations and the films of parents that have made the journey to China to bring home their son or daughter to America. We have seen the tears that have built up for months of waiting hidden behind a dam of paperwork processing until the moment within 48 hours of arriving in China, they are presented with their new child. A family of two become three, three become four, families are created families transformed. That we will find the child to complete our family in China, we attribute only to the wonders of God and the mysteries of the matching room, the magic room as many call it of the Chinese bureaucracy.

The Chinese have a wonderful way of explaining how people come together, all people. In their culture, long before we meet the people who will be the most important in our lives, we are linked with lengths of invisible red thread. A red thread they will tell us, joins us to our child, just as a red thread crossed the Atlantic to join Taney to me. For my family the red thread that started in London, England, ran just north of Philadelphia, PA, will run further to the eastern provinces of China. The Chinese will tell us that we were meant to be the Mommy and Daddy.

Our decision to adopt has not been an easy one. We are not childless by choice, and despite a comfort level with our lives, we knew someone was missing. Dealing with infertility is difficult for any couple to work through. From the first day, my tests returned we treated the issue as our problem, not mine alone. Providence had another plan, as we all know that providence / destiny is what is planned since our birth and that who we meet and what we will do has already been written down in the sand.

The Chinese have a very old tale no matter where the person travels in the world, no matter what age they may be, they each are tied to together by an invisible red thread. The red thread may become tangled or knotted but it will never break. This belief means that our baby will be born in China. No matter how much we may have thought about infertility treatments and thoughts on adopting domestically or internationally, our baby will be born in China and more importantly born in our hearts.

Ours will be a blended family, American on one side, British on the other, and one day soon Chinese. The three of us will all have one thing in common, at one time we would all have immigrated to another country. We will add to the holidays we already celebrate, not least a Birthday, “Gotcha” Day, Chinese New Year and other Chinese festivals. We are very lucky to have a Chinatown in Philly, and one “up the road” in New York that we have others in our town who have also adopted from China and collectively will allow us to more easily maintain the Chinese heritage in our new family.
We both think about how our family has mentally increase already, given the timeline for adoption, this is before birth. As experienced by many other parents who adopt internationally, some people have been less than thoughtful and considerate in their questions to both of us. “Why China and not a Caucasian baby, why don't you adopt from America or Britain?” Thankfully we both have great families who are very supportive of our plans and we love them all, these are the people who really matter to us, those who will see our family grow-up over the years.

I am proud of my British roots, as is Taney of her ancestry. But our hearts our prayers, our hopes and dreams and an invisible red thread are leading us to China.
Feedback always invited, please email me.

September 17, 2003

Three subjects in one posting

John Street and the amazing vote loosing maneuver.

A couple of nights ago there was a gathering of all that is good in Philadelphia at “Williamson’s” a banquet facility in my neighborhood. The Scouts were being honored, one report mentioned that in that room on that night there could have easily been a future mayor, lawyers and doctors, and despite the frequent poor press about the young generation, this was an event that made you feel great about the future of Philadelphia. Thanks in no small part to the spirit and experience of being a member of the scouting organization.

Personally I was never a scout, I was a member of another faith based youth organization in the UK, nevertheless what was reported from this meeting made me steam with anger as the John Street administration is playing politics with the Boy Scouts in Philadelphia, I for one am furious.

The local Boy Scout council, which has enjoyed the free use of city property for its offices since 1929, may lose that benefit because of its policy of banning gays from scouting, city officials confirmed yesterday. The administration had informed the Mayor's Office that the city's fair practices ordinance was in direct conflict with the policy of allowing the Boy Scouts to use the land at 22d and Winter Streets rent-free for offices. The reason for the conflict is the Boy Scouts' policy of excluding against gays and atheists, dictated by the national organization, said Barbara Grant, the mayor's spokeswoman. In 1928, City Council passed a resolution allowing the Boy Scouts free use of land at 22d and Winter Streets near the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. The Boy Scouts was allowed to build a headquarters a grand Beaux Arts stone building designed by Charles Z. Klauder there at its own expense that cost in excess of $200,000 at that time, with a proviso that the building would immediately become the property of the city and must be turned over to the city with a year's notice, should the city want it. This meeting is to serve notice to the scouts because they are considered to be discriminating against gays.

The city's decades-long deal with the Boy Scouts became an issue in May when the Cradle of Liberty Council tried to liberalize an intractable national policy regarding the acceptance of gays. The local council, in defiance of the Boy Scouts of America's policy of not allowing gays to join, voted that it would not discriminate based on sexual orientation and religion, among many other things.

Now John Street is making a political standpoint against the scouting community and scouting supporting voters in a most public fashion.

The wider community is rallying at grassroots level I understand to consider raising the money to purchase the land from the city to give as a gift to the Scouts. But at this time it is not clear if the city will even consider such a move. Given that the agreement was signed off some seventy-odd years ago, lawyers are researching any possible maneuvering position to help the scouts.

With news of another union stepping up to endorse Sam Katz for mayor in the elections this November yesterday, I can only wonder what kind of self-destruct policy the Street campaign have initiated to alienate an even wider voting group and loose rather than rally votes.

Alternatively, John Street could be simply laying mousetraps for Katz to have to deal with once he becomes mayor, only for these wounds to reopen at the feet of the new mayor.

This is a dirty campaign, the kids of Philadelphia, members of the scouts and the future powerbrokers in the city are being used as political pawns in this mayoral race by the current incumbent. Truly I am sickened at the depths John Street and his administration will sink.

London Chimes is keeping a watching brief on this developing story.

Between jobs? Volunteer with a non-profit!
Yesterday, I had the great pleasure to present a certificate to a volunteer at the Multiple Sclerosis Association of America HQ before she starts a new job in Mount Laurel today. We offer our heartfelt thanks for her contribution this summer and wish her good luck in her new job.

This volunteer had recently been laid-off as part of a downsizing at her company. With time on her hands looking for a job she also wanted to give something back by volunteering and contacted MSAA. We were delighted to accept her kind offer of time and support and for up to eight hours each week, came into our offices to help not just my department, but also the North East regional office staff.

Yesterday, this volunteer mentioned to me that in the time she was looking for work, the time spent volunteering helped her “get up in the morning and give her reason and purpose”. She asked that through London Chimes I advertise that persons in similar situations should offer to volunteer some of their week as this not only helps to step back into a business environment, but is great to mention at interviews that “while I have been job seeking, I have been volunteering with the XYZ charity”.

This lady was a pleasure to have volunteering at our offices, since her departure I have since posted a volunteer opportunity on volunteer match to replace her and ask for additional help.

Volunteers are truly valued by MSAA. (contact me mfriend@msaa.com)

Batten down the hatches!

Hurricane Isabelle is heading towards the east coast of the US, a ways to our south but we are expecting to feel her forceful winds and what ever else she throws in our general direction. All the garden furniture has been brought into our basement, if it can fly around it has been removed or secured as a matter of common sense.

TV images along the coastline from the Jersey shore to the Carolina’s are a fair report on how serious everyone is taking this storm that has been tracked for several days. We are eighty miles inland from the Jersey shoreline, although the punch we will feel will be less than the coastline, this household for one has our emergency plan in operation, - just in case.

Feedback always invited, please email me.

September 15, 2003

"Throwing a wobbly!”

That’s what it was on Saturday, though only my wife witnessed the event and giving her full credit forecast that it had to happen sooner or later.

Two days ago a threw something of a major wobbly, a not so quaint but highly descriptive British term more conservatively defined has having a confidence crisis.

I have the pleasure of experiencing a major life change sometime soon, possibly sooner or later, but a major change to my life and lifestyle that I am totally excited about. Saturday morning took me one more step to sooner, rather than later and on the journey home I not so much started to doubt this course of action, more like can I actually fill the shoes, hit the mark, make a great job of this?

The more I pondered this question, the more unstable my wobbly became, to the point I called it a crisis.

Oh heck! I needed to consult the oracle, I needed to understand was I going crazy or simply reacting as any other chap would do in the same situation.

The world wide web is not called that for nothing, and with access to all nodes in America and beyond, I logged in, defined my problem as something other that a wobbly to Google and waited for the results. – No results.

I tried dogpile, crazy name but a real good gateway for searching the web. “Wobbly” defined again and waited for the results. – Again not the results I was looking for.

I redefined the wobbly in the search box and despite several attempts despite the resources available on the web came up little relevant information on my search topic.

At this point my “wobble” was increasing.

Taney is a member of the APC listserve managed through a Yahoo group, and through peer support must help me with my wobble.

So I sat and posted my wobble in some detail to this list serve, not certain of the response.

Access to the internet from the first time I used it in the mid nineties has never ceased to amaze me how easy it is to communicate to complete strangers who can be miles, tens of miles, hundred even thousands of miles away. In recent years I have limited my personal communication to family and friends, but this weekend my wobble was resolved by a large group of people who responded with kind words, thoughfulness and respect. Many had themselves wobbled in just the same way I had on Saturday, and lived to tell the tale. Others were grateful that I had announced my wobble as they themselves were going through something very similar. One kind gentleman even sent me a copy of his published book in a PDF format to read for me to wobble from laughter as it was evident I was not going mad and my wobble was a normal reaction to my approaching life change.

Sunday was another day, my confidence crisis, my wobble was behind me and I had moved on. Again, I had found the answers I was seeking and that the world wide web the oracle that sits in a corner of my home, provided me with answers that I sought.

Over the remained of the weekend and today, others have responded through the APC list serve. I am glad that they are there, offering a friendship that is bound by a single red thread.

Feedback always invited, please email me.

September 12, 2003

September 12.

Before I post the original posting for yesterday, not the one below, I want to extend my heartiest congratulations to my sister in law Tabitha, her husband and my very dear friend and brother in law Chris, on the birth of Laif Brighton Judson this morning. To receive a call informing me that I was an Uncle again this morning filled me with a joyful spirit and has added a a bounce to my step all day. My nephew Theo from today is a big brother to Laif.

Thank you for letting me share that piece of family news with you.

Returning to the subject of 9/11, the following is the posting I wrote earlier this week. I ask that you follow the links through to the images and stores on the other web pages.

Two years on, “The Fireboats of 9/11”

This week the History Channel has been airing a special program called the Fireboats of 9/11. It makes for captivating viewing. Until this week I had no knowledge of the significant part the fireboats played that day under the operation of the marine division of FDNY of any understanding of the proud history and long service the fireboats had performed to the harbor and waterside of New York and New Jersey

Given the volume of stories that have been told about that day, I had no knowledge that one of the fireboats, previously consigned to the scrap heap and rescued by a group of enthusiasts, was recalled into active service. With orders to perform the duty that it was designed, rather than supporting a group of privately operated boats voluntarily rescuing people from Battery Park and taking them across the river to the Jersey shore to safety.

The images of the towers collapsing will haunt those of us who witnessed the sight, the water mains in the area collapsed and the only source of water for firefighting was from the river.

The “enthusiasts” had little knowledge of the emergency operations of their fireboat, and using ingenuity, with the help of the crews of the other FDNY fireboats, pumped water from the river through the removal the nozzles of the high pressure jets with valves seized in the open position, connected to hoses which supplied water to Ground Zero.

The fireboats in New York come in varying sizes. It is the largest in the fleet with the multiple nozzles able to direct water under great pressure that we are all familiar with. Without the small fleet of the large fireboats and their powerful pumping ability, with the loss of many engines and men at Ground Zero, the emergency services would have had a far more difficult time in dealing with the effects of 9/11.

Despite their proud history of extinguishing pier fires and chemical fires on boats in many years, their role on 9/11 was their finest hour.

The program focused not only on 9/11 but the history of the fleet including the development of the fireboats over the years. Using skilful animated sequences a number of emergencies were recreated to emphasis the importance of the fleet. Despite the number of emergencies reported compared with calls answered by the land-based engines, the importance of New York as a world center of waterborne commerce continues. Certainly the number of boats using the harbor have reduced, but the size and complexity of the cargos have increased.

In conclusion, the fireboats and their crews provide a necessary emergency service. Their future in New York and in other harbors around the world are assured.

Feedback always invited, please email me.

Feedback always invited, please email me.

September 11, 2003

September 11.

This is not the posting I wrote earlier this week to mark 9/11. That will be posted tomorrow or soon after as the subject matter deserves to be read.

Instead, I write this with my head heavy and my heart open as despite two years passing, it is not a matter of forgetting as putting to one side for most of the year. Today though the memories flood back, one of the few days of my life I can remember where I was how I felt and what I did.

Had the fates conspired, I would have been managing a medical conference in the Marriott Hotel at the foot of the World Trade Center in New York that morning. Instead, budgetary restrictions relocated the conference in Secaucus a decision that probably saved my life. I was close enough to New York to see the clearly see the smoke cloud without the need for a television. For me 9/11 was a very personal experience a day I experienced an indescribable terror surrounded by three of the busiest airports in the world with planes falling out of the sky and a mountain of misinformation in the first few hours.

This morning I stood outside looking up to a beautiful, blue sky beyond the flagpoles that sit in front of my office building. The morning was as beautiful as that September day two years ago. I walked outside at 8.46am to have a minute or two to myself in quiet contemplation and silence in memory of those who lost their lives in New York, Pennsylvania and Washington. The time that the first of the planes hit the World Trade Center in New York.

For a moment the traffic on Haddonfield Road in Cherry Hill was quiet, the birds stopped their noise, the did not seem to be a plane in the blue sky. I then turned and walked back to my office to continue my work. A morning full of meetings kept my attention, yet as the afternoon progressed distractions came more easily. Before lunch, the news of a bomb threat at a local school this morning in Cherry Hill Township New Jersey made me feel sick to my stomach.

While the rest of the world remembers 9/11/01, there is an individual or perhaps more who were impelled to call a school and issue a bomb threat to a school. Local reports of fumes from a chemistry lab were enough to evacuate the school with bags, coats and house keys being left by their owners as the building was evacuated with speed. I truly hope that the party responsible for this act is caught, read the riot act and detained behind bars long enough to consider their foolish act.

I have read that as a country we all are at different levels of expressing grief. There are many who have taken this opportunity to express their opinions about rebuilding the towers in New York and that ground zero this is sacred ground and should not be built upon, others want towers to redevelop the land. I am certain that the images on the television screens today from PA, NY, and DC will show that it takes time to heal deep wounds. September 11, is Patriot Day by Presidential decree. For the near future, it will not be like any other day of the year, nor should it be for those who live long enough to remember.

To cite the example of Pearl Harbor, while the significance of December 1941 has paled since 2001, it has not been forgotten over sixty years on. There is no reason why the attacks on 9/11/01 should not be remembered so clearly for the next sixty years, remembering that this was not an act of war, against the military during global armed conflict, but an act of terror against the citizens of a country and other countries including the UK, on a normal workday.

My mother asked me if I had changed after 9/11 last year. The answer has to be yes in an indefinably way. Not only me, but to everyone that I know. Every citizen in America and from the reports I read the entire population of the western civilized world has changed since 9/11.

I do support the course of action in Afghanistan and Iraq that has followed since, and that journey is yet to be completed. International borders as we now all know do not restrict terrorists. They quietly go about their business of terror and we should all stand by those men and women who are charged with the responsibility of finding them, routing them out and serving justice.

9/11/01 – We shall not forget.

Feedback always invited, please email me.

Check back later for my 9/11 posting please.
Feedback always invited, please email me.

September 06, 2003

Routine? The weeks, weekend posting.

This last week millions of schoolchildren headed back to school. In this neighborhood at least, the armada of yellow school buses did not start cruising the streets until Thursday. Driving to work through the residential areas looked like something from a clothing commercial for kids clothes. Everyone was wearing new clothes, the white socks were new not bleached, the backpacks were new and probably contained new folders, pens and pencils in anticipation of the studies ahead.

Except for one young chap about nine or ten who was sat on the kerbstone with his head resting on his fists and a frown that was longer than the M1 or I95.

With vacation season behind us, the shore businesses now closed up until next spring, despite the good weather expected along the seaside through to October, everyone had returned to restart their weekday routines and the roads were back to routine. My journey now back to an hour rather than the forty five minutes I had become used to for the last couple of months.

Yet I cannot understand where the volume of traffic comes from, I don’t see the school-run, yet the length of the traffic jams at the traffic lights have noticeably increased.

From a business perspective, with everyone back to routine, the pace of business has stepped up, everyone is at their desks and productivity is up. Not that I could report that I have personally had a slow summer, as it seems that my phone, email and fax has not paused and I expect the late summer early fall to get busier.

The price of petrol seemed to spiral upwards peaking at surprising enough the holiday weekend last weekend. An increase of over 25 cents within seven days seemed steep despite the assurances that it had nothing to do with the peak holiday season week. Yet surprise, surprise when the prices tumbled first thing on Tuesday morning and have yet to reduce to their earlier levels, although my regular Texaco station is within 9 cents a gallon of what I have considered a reasonable price from most of the summer.

In relative terms and allowing for the fact that a Gallon US in not as much in volume as a Gallon Imperial, I cannot baulk at my weekly tank costing something in the region of ten pounds (or less).

Certainly in the UK I would never have been able to run two cars, one of which is a 4.0L Jeep Cherokee, that my wife is head-over-heels with, and thankfully passed its annual inspection and emissions test on Friday with flying colors. To fill the Jeep at a the BP garage at the bottom of Barnet Hill in Barnet I am sure would turn me a number of shades of green while watching the cost spiral to crazy figures for a weekly fill-up.

Short and sweet this weekend, a writers block on Friday evening has taken its toll on discussing weightier matters, but I am sure we will be back to a normal service soon, especially as the second anniversary of 9/11 is marked later this week.

Feedback always invited, please email me.

September 03, 2003

President ELMO?

The silly season of soft fluffy news stories over the summer may be drawing to an end, with the exception of a great story on the BBC News web pages under a graphic of President George W. Bush and Elmo the fluffy character from Sesame Street.

Given a recent posting about America have a bad PR problem to the wider world; this news story caught my attention.

* Images of heavily armed Marines patrolling Iraq may not be winning the US many friends in the Islamic world. So it could be time to enlist the soft and fluffy inhabitants of Sesame Street in the battle against anti-Americanism.
Is Sesame Street really brought to you by the letters U, S and A? *

The educational benefit of Sesame Street worldwide is not in question. I am certain that the demographics of the readership of London Chimes would know instantly who Kermit, Fozzie, Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch are, and could probably rattle off a dozen other Muppet names and probably an imitation or two.

The news stories that Iraqi prisoners were treated to repeated playing of Muppet-music by allied psychological operations officers intent on encouraging those incarcerated to answer their questions is of some amusement to fans of the Muppets. There is of course the now fabled story or “Ernie” defecting and posing on banners next to Saddam a year or so ago.

Yet, Muppets and the mission of the Children’s Television Workshop that brought Sesame Street to the screens in 1969 is required pre-school learning for millions of children worldwide. CTW deny that they are actively promoting American values overseas; indeed since 1969 the licensing arrangement stipulated that non-US versions of the show reflect the morals and traditions of the host nation.

"We don't set out in any way to push American or western values. That's not our mission at all," says Beatrice Chow, spokeswoman for Sesame Street's foreign co-productions. “There are universal values that we encourage, such as sharing, co-operation, respect and understanding. But we see what the needs are of the specific country where the show is being broadcast - such as in South Africa where we introduced an HIV-positive character because of the Aids problem there." *

One of the recent countries to open the doors to the Cookie Monster and his furry friends was Egypt in 2000. Children in Egypt are captivated by the program that helps them learn English as well as western values.

In over thirty years, Big bird and the cast now air in more than one hundred and twenty countries and has been praised by US State Department Officials who are signing up the Sesame Street team to reverse the tide of anti-Americanism.

*Charlotte Beers, the former ad executive made undersecretary of State for public diplomacy in 2001, warned a Senate committee that the "people we need to talk to do not even know the basics about us. They are taught to distrust our every motive. Such distortions, married to a lack of knowledge, is a deadly cocktail. Engaging, teaching common values are preventive medicine". *

The challenge of combating global anti-Americanism is not one to be fought with weapons of mass destruction, but fluffy Muppets carrying nothing more harmful than a tune and letters of the alphabet.

*The government's Agency for International Development (USAID) is now giving $6.26m for Sesame Street to produce a show for viewers in Bangladesh - a nation with a considerable Muslim population. *

For a truly international show, portraying values from one of the biggest multi-cultural countries in the world, offers more than a benchmark to other nations in educating them about American values, including capitalism.

Since I stopped watching the show in the seventies, Elmo to the younger generation is arguably the King character in Sesame Street today. Certainly one of the most recognizable. I was surprised to read that Elmo has just been recruited by Merrill Lynch to teach business to American pre-schoolers. Overseas, the Ulitsa Sezam character in Sesame Street (Russia) has a storyline about a lemonade stall to teach that not all businesses flourish through corruption, but that someone "can make a profit and be a nice person".

We finish with a question in conclusion and a personal comment. Are US government officials mistaken in promoting the virtues of Elmo and his friends, their spirit, and fairness as exclusively American virtues?

In final comment, the silent majority from every corner of the earth equally believes in sharing, equality and fairness. The reported statement that Sesame Street is the longest street in the world, as it winds from continent to continent, the “rainbow connection” passes through very different neighborhoods, it would seem that we are all not just on the same page, but on the same global street. Nevertheless, Sesame Street was born in America and as a global icon, one that promotes education of speech and values; there can be no better ambassador to promote America. Can there?

Thanks to the BBC story for bring this to my attention.

Comments welcome!

Feedback always invited, please email me.

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