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Eventful 2021 So Far

The past few months have been very eventful. The 2020 election is over. We have a new president-elect and we know who will control congress after runoff elections in Georgia On Monday, Megan will get her COVID-19 vaccination. While the number of infections is soaring and the death rate is higher than it has ever been, this scientific miracle could make life return to normal again. All the conditions will be ripe for a more scientific, systematic approach to tackling the virus.

However, four days ago, our Capitol building was attacked by domestic terrorists who were redirected from a political rally. In the capitol, the members of the House and the Senate were counting electoral votes for the presidential election. With the exception of some political theatre, this is a largely inconsequential event. The domestic terrorists overwhelmed the capitol police and threatened to violently overthrow our democracy. It was terrifying and we’re still trying to figure out what happened. Lawmakers were forced to go into hiding. The terrorists flew the Confederate flag within the building. Some lawmakers were exposed to the virus while they were sequestered. One terrorist and two officers are dead. It felt like something out of Keifer Sutherland’s 24 show, except the terrorists were angry Americans instead of jihadists.

The last four years of life in America have felt chaotic and this event was shocking even though it wasn’t surprising. There are less than two weeks left before the next president and congress take over. As our country determines the consequences of the 1/6/21 insurrection, 12 days seems like a very long time to wait for sanity and stability. It certainly exposed challenges and fragility that can’t be fixed anytime soon.

COVID-19 strikes the Family

Over the last few months, we’ve celebrated birthdays, I’ve changed roles at work, we’ve gone to restaurants, we’ve found reliable babysitters, we purchased a new car, and next week Megan returns to work after a 6 year break. As the United States still suffers from the worst pandemic outcomes in the world, there is still a degree of normalcy that is returning. Our country is having a very bipolar recovery – the stock market is returning to pre-pandemic levels while unemployment hangs around 12%; we can’t leave our homes without a mask. I’m still working at home and this may not change until next February. I’m just happy to have a job.

Until last week, we felt safe and relatively unscathed. In India, my relatives have not been as lucky. My grandmother passed away last week; we’re not sure whether it was COVID related. However, my aunt passed away soon after with COVID and my uncles and close relatives have tested positive. They are all well-educated – doctors and engineers. We suspect that they trusted each other enough to let down their guard and it spread among them. We hope that they recover in the hospital soon. It’s scary to think that we may soon lose all our ties to India.

The Democratic National Convention was this week. It was a virtual four-day event capped off with a speech by Joe Biden. It was very good. Everyone has had to make big adjustments to maintain social distancing; I think they made great compromises and in some ways, improved upon the physical format for the convention. Surprisingly, there were moments that were more intimate. There were speakers who shared deeply personal stories. The Republican Convention is next week. I don’t know what to expect, or whether I have enough of an open mind to watch any part of it.

Election Day 2020 (November 3rd) is coming. Mail-in voting will be popular to but it has become a political issue in this stupid culture war. 5,000,000 are infected and 170,000 are dead. Instead of controlling a public health crisis, we’re fighting over whether wearing a mask is an invasion of constitutional rights. The country has had major protests around racial inequality. The last three years have wrecked our reputation around the world and our state department has lost most of its talent. We need to get people to vote!

Three Months In

Ten days ago, protests began in the United States over the killing of George Floyd by a police officer in Minneapolis. It was captured on video. For nine brutal minutes, George Floyd kept telling the officer he could not breathe with the officer’s knee on his neck. The officer never budged. It was chilling. While I am not African American, I do worry about any encounter with the police and I also worry about what could happen to my children in those scenarios. If the video represents the tip of the iceberg when it comes to racism, those fears are not unfounded. Not all police officers are racist, and not all protestors are peaceful. There has been looting in several major cities.

It’s also incredible that these protests are happening during the COVID-19 crisis. Over 100,000 people have died so far. The protests put people in close quarters with each other and the police have responded with force. Recently, the military was deployed to tear gas peaceful protestors so that the White House could have a photo op in front of a church. I’m shocked that so many people think that police brutality and racism are a bigger problem than a pandemic. It’s possible that they are right.

Things are peaceful where we are. Police departments are working hand in hand with citizens to coordinate on safe marches in the city. A lot of people are furloughed or unemployed right now while we wait for the pandemic to die down. This might actually give people time to work together on societal change and public policies. For people who are working, many are learning how to be effective at their jobs while working remotely. I am certainly surprised at how efficient I can be without a commute while working in my basement. It’s nice to have more family time and watch my kids grow up. However, I think we are all eager to return to life as normal without social distancing and isolation.

COVID-19 and the Koorse Family

The Koorse family is one week into a self-quarantine due to the COVID-19 public health crisis. 10 days ago, life was normal. We knew there were COVID-19 cases in the United States and that it was wrecking havoc in Italy and China. However, we felt safe and secure. Since then, the reality of the crisis has really hit us hard. The CDC has recommended social distancing and staying at home. People are stocking up on goods and hospitals are running out of medical supplies to protect nurses and doctors on the front lines. The stock market has dropped by a third and all businesses have ground to a halt. It isn’t clear when the economy will start back up again. If Italy is guidance for what comes next in the US, then this crisis is just beginning.

It has impacted our family in many ways. I have to work remotely. Daycares and schools have closed up, so Megan and I spend more time keeping Dahlia engaged. My parents went to India to help with my grandmother before the virus was a pandemic; they are now stuck there with no clear approach to getting home since flights are being cancelled and countries are closing borders. My in-laws have several rental properties; they’re not clear when/if their renters will pay rent. The illness targets people who are elderly which leaves our parents and grandparents especially vulnerable. Megan’s friends who are nurses are having a hard time keeping in touch because they are overwhelmed with work in this call to action. Our family takes walks twice a day to stay fit and get fresh air. Megan and I occasionally make grocery runs to get supplies. Leaving home feels more dangerous now since everyone is processing the pandemic in different ways. Some people act like nothing has changed and move in for handshakes. Some people wear medical masks and do not make eye contact.

It has been nice to get rid of the commute. I love having lunch with the family and watching Arin do new things every day. It’s amazing to see how much new technologies can deliver on a virtual office that feels more connected than co-location in shared spaces at work. I’m lucky to work in a company that prioritizes family over profit but it makes me feel sad for the explosion in unemployment that is coming. I knew that my wife is the true MVP of our family in raising our kids. Being home, I have more visibility into the multitudes of roles this requires – being a good role model, an amazing project manager, and a patient teacher. Instead of shutting down screen time, we’ve found better tools to help Dahlia learn. She uses Khan Academy for kids on her tablet to learn about counting and reading.

The community also provides many reasons to be optimistic. Artists and instructors have started up online sessions where families can listen to music and practice yoga. Local restaurants have switched to delivery pick up. Even if this is the new normal, no one is giving up. We are all in this crisis together. We’ll find new ways to cope and this too will pass.

What a difference an year makes!

A year ago, the Koorse family was hanging on by a thread. We had just had baby Arin. My workplace was awesome enough to grant me paternity leave and we had come to Florida to spend our first months with our son in a sunny climate instead of the brutal cold of Maryland. However, the first few months with a baby are challenging – even if you’ve been through it before and you think you know what to expect. The entire family was feeling sick, the baby was colic, and his big sister had no idea what was going on.

Fast forward one year. Dahlia, Arin, Megan, and I are partying on the beach in Cape Canaveral. We’re mostly healthy and we are all very happy. My son is cruising around on two legs and my daughter is swimming in pools and sharing her toys. While work-life balance was rough, we’ve made it through this crucial period for our family. Life is good.

I’ve been thinking about this blog very frequently recently. When I first set it up in 1998, I used it to win a business school representative election. In 2001, I started using it to communicate about my Peace Corps experience. In 2005, it became a forum for showing how challenging it can be to transition back to life in the United States after living abroad. In 2008, it became an infrequently updated collection of ideas about the non-profit world. In 2015, it was all about my first baby. In 2019, it’s been all about my second child. What is it about now?

I stay away from most social media. However, I am passionate about politics around the world and group dynamics. I do think I want a forum to express my opinions and collect feedback. 2020 is going to be about finding a new way to share my interests on the blog and to participate in the rich online communities that sponsor activities that align with my values.

Few Years Later… ARIN

Time passes so slowly if you are unaware of it and so quickly if you are aware of it.     Marc Bolan

It’s been a long time since my last post on the blog. Dahlia is nearly four years old. Our son, Arin, was born in late November of last year. We purchased our home in Frederick, MD. We feel settled and we have a mortgage to prove it!

Megan and I have amazing siblings. Her brother Dave and my sister Sneha are our best friends. Dahlia and Arin are having a splendid start to their relationship! She held his hand during a difficult car ride today and he calmed down immediately. We know they will take care of each other regardless of where life takes them.

Two children is exponentially harder than one child. You have to master time management and also adjust your expectations on how long it will take to do anything. It’s a minor miracle when everything goes according to plan. I tell my teams at work that plans don’t reflect reality; they exist to help us make adjustments so that you can still achieve your goals. Parenting feels this way to me.

Family Vacation – Beach Time

We’re in Florida for a family vacation. After a rough few months of work, I’ve sorely needed this time with my family. Our daughter is making gigantic leaps in terms of personality and comprehension.

She has an incredible sense of humor. Although she’s been sick for the last two nights and we haven’t been sleeping much, during the day she finds interesting ways to keep up our spirits. Yesterday, she walked around with her baby doll on her head. When she saw me, she would point at the doll, call it a “hat”, and then break down in giggles. When she was younger, I would do that with every piece of her clothing. I would stick it on my head, ask her if she liked my “hat”, and then laugh when she said no. She does this to me now, and it’s clearly the funniest joke I have ever shared with anyone.

She loves spending time in water. We’ve gotten her two pairs of decent boots because she loves to stomp in every puddle. She’s a natural in our condo pool in Florida and has no fear about jumping right in. I learned swimming when I was eight during a family trip to Cyprus. I wouldn’t be surprised if she would pick it up naturally over the next year.

She’s currently 20 months old. Outside of watching a few TV Shows when she’s been sick, we’ve stayed true to our goal of keeping her screen-free for two years. As the two year mark approaches, we’ll need to make a careful choice about how she approaches all the media consumption devices.

Farewell to 2016!

When we look back at 2016, we might consider it the year where political systems and democratic ideals faltered against the pressures of populism, intolerance, and class conflict.  I should feel glad that it is over.  However, it was easily one of the best years of my life!  I made a successful transition to a new job in another state. We also got to experiences hundreds of unique experiences with our daughter, DJ.

Over the past few months, Dahlia’s personality is really starting to emerge.  She is outgoing, creative, and fearless.  That has encouraged us to take many trips to various farms and hikes.  We’ve dressed her up as an owl for Halloween and found many, many toys to play with.  We’ve read hundreds of kids books at home and in Story Time at our local libraries.

It’s not all positive though.  She got a broken wrist after a short fall on some stairs because she was so aggressive with her climbing tactics; she spent most of December with a pink cast.  Her first experience with Santa Claus was traumatic; she’s never cried so hard.

Right now, our family is with Jean Browe who is Dahlia Jean’s namesake and great grandmother.  Christmas in Murrells Inlet, South Carolina is a lot warmer than our last few months in Frederick, Maryland.  We’re having a terrific time at Brookgreen Gardens and we are eager for more adventures in 2017.

 

 

 

Settling In

Dahlia celebrated her first birthday on August 10th. The prior weekend, we were surrounded by family at Brookgreen Gardens in South Carolina. The signature image of this blog post is a recreation of a photo we took when Megan was still pregnant: Dahlia and Megan in front of “Frog Baby”. This time, Dahlia is sitting next to Megan instead of being in the womb.

We are getting very comfortable in Maryland. Even though we haven’t spent much time exploring the DC area, we love what we have seen so far. It’s perfect for Dahlia’s early development because of all the available services for new parents. As we start thinking about where to live, it’s no longer a question of which state we will live in; we just need to figure out which part of Maryland is right for us. Our time here has been in Urbana so far which is 30 minutes to an hour away from work.

We have a few trips planned for the rest of the year. Megan and Dahlia are on a short trip to Florida right now. We will be heading to Seattle for a wedding in September. Megan and Dahlia will be in Texas in October. We may head to Michigan for Thanksgiving. We will probably go back to South Carolina in December for Christmas.

Being close to the capital during an election season is very interesting.  With Dahlia here, I definitely see how having a child can adjust the way parents perceive various issues.  How the economy performs is directly connected to how we can pay for her education. The way people talk about immigration and other hot topics makes me wonder about the world she will grow up in.  Will there still be an American dream like the one that brought my parents to this country or will there be a giant wall?

Almost a Year!

Dahlia will be a year old soon. She just started “toddling” – walking around with authority. It’s not as mind blowing as I thought it would be. The real shock came a month ago when she determined how to get more play time with her walker by moving to the other side when she had pushed it all the way to a wall. I can see her study things every day. This is going to be fun!

The whole process has made me realize how challenging most day to day activities are. Things we take for granted probably took many centuries to develop. They get passed down from generation to generation without a second thought. Reading, talking, eating with utensils, exercising, climbing up and down stairs, using the bathroom – the list goes on and on. If you break each activity into its component parts, there are so many steps and scenarios to consider. Over time, they become effortless. Eventually, we learn to master complex things like architecture, engineering, and even good parenting (I hope). The Internet became part of our world over my lifetime; will DJ even understand a world where it didn’t exist?

She’s become a frequent traveler over the past year: 8 flights, 3 long road trips. She has moved cross country. She knows a few words. She can sign when she wants milk or wants to be held. Her smile is effortless. She has a favorite song – the Gayatri Manta – which we use whenever she gets stressed out. She dances to Beyoncé.

I love my new job and the DC Area. Megan is an amazing mother and doing extremely well as a student. While we are working on balance, we have a strong foundation to work with and community connections that are growing.

I’ve included a lot of photos in this blog post including our first trip to Megan’s hometown as a family. We went there to spread the ashes of our favorite grandfather – Walter Browe. I am reminded of him whenever Dahlia smiles. Next month, we should have many more pictures when we celebrate DJ’s first birthday at Brookegreen Gardens in South Carolina.