Still Diving

Still Diving
With A Tight Streamline!

Monday, July 9, 2018

The Big Terribleness

"No one wanted to leave and go out into the world, which had changed so stunningly. Even now, years in, no one could get used to it; and conversation at parties still centered around the ways that no one had seen it coming. They just could not believe what had happened to the country. "The big terribleness," said a tall, spindly, and intense woman."
- Meg Wolitzer, The Female Persuasion (p 437) penguinrandomhouse.com/the-female-persuasion

The air conditioner labors to exhale air of seventy-six or fewer degrees as the sun beats down on our porch and west-facing walls. The cat sleeps curled up in the box-top of "The Game of Life," which I won against Daniel earlier this afternoon. As he snores away and I type, Aden and Daniel swim at Willow Way pool, where William works today from 2 - 8. It touches me that Daniel wants to go swim wherever his big brother or sister are working, and that he's willing to bring them cold drinks, snacks and a neck-cooling towel when he goes.  Wanting to avoid the baking temperatures, I hide in the house.

In the blessed silence, I just finished Wolitzer's book, The Female Persuasion, an excellent and thought-provoking read that dwells not on the politics of today but on a loose history of the women's movement and excellent characters who find their place in this confusing world. The quote I borrowed comes at the very end, when Greer and Cory, two protagonists, arrive in the present.

Though it wasn't the theme of the book, this phrase, "The big terribleness," shot me off my seat and to my computer, its resonant meaning driving me to say something about this time, when the ever-hotter days of summer collide with omnipresent, strident headlines to weigh on us all. Or not on us all, which is even more confusing.

The separation makes me think about an evening when I met two lovely couples at one of Rob's work dinners. Over the course of the evening, they asked what I did, and this blog and my book of blogs surfaced and were examined. I gave little away about the content, self-conscious to growing strident or political with new acquaintances, but when one of the women contacted me later, via LinkedIn, she mentioned that she was off to read my blog and I wondered, will I ever hear from her again?  Re-reading the past few entries leaves nothing to the imagination about where I stand with this government and its actions.  Readers of The Post editorial page are also clear on my positions, and I have, in the past, received hate mail because of it.

At the advanced age of forty-seven, I don't need to be liked  - would not want to be universally liked - and yet it makes me sad that such great differences divide us. Wolitzer and I and many of my friends agree on "the great terribleness," but others do not, and that alone seems terrible.

On the plus side, life has amazingly shifted arranged itself to enable me and some of my close friends to go on a mission trip to McAllen, Texas, where many of the separated immigrant families are detained. We will be volunteering at a location that provides aid to families who have been released from detention, and it's been arranged by a lovely women who works at our church.  The fact that my three children will be on a different mission trip at the same time - also through our church - seems not merely providential but ordained.  And so we rest, and we gear up to go out into the big terribleness, in the hopes that we might make it for a time less terrible.

Monday, July 2, 2018

Updates, Links and Opportunities Re: Keeping Families Together

I participated in a Rally to Keep Families Together over the weekend with two friends and staunch rally companions from the neighborhood. We knew a few of the excellent speakers and our hearts were warmed by the large crowd raising up the sanctity of families, the brotherhood of all peoples, and the need for love and compassion in all situations. A twelve-year-old girl introduced herself in English and Spanish and belted out "Imagine" in ringing tones, leaving me, Paula and Heidi to wipe our sleeves across our faces and draw deep, shuddering breaths. 

Today the Denver Post printed my letter objecting to senseless injury, illness and death in private, for-profit immigrant detention centers. Here's the text:

"What are we paying for?
When I volunteered as an (English as a Second Languate) teacher in a for-profit detention center, I met a man who lost the use of his legs from a bad fall. He was provided with a wheelchair but not appropriate treatment that would have enabled him to walk out when he was ultimately released — innocent. (Kate) Morrissey’s article tells the sad truth — our tax dollars are going to the companies that run these detention centers and ruin lives. They charge the U.S. government $165 per person per day to “care for” people in their charge, while saving pennies for profit by withholding proper medical care from detainees.
I do not consent to my tax dollars lining the pockets of private prison companies while people suffer. We must stand up to the egregious abuse of human rights done in our name and with our money. Call and write your elected officials and let them know that they will be replaced if they cannot reform this system."
Other people and organizations continue to fight for sane policies and family reunification. Sarah Jackson at Casa de Paz (casadepazcolorado.org) raised enough money to reunite a Guatemalan woman with her six-year-old son, and will host a Family Reunification Happy Hour Fundraiser on Friday, July 13, from 4 - 9 at Cerverceria Colorado. 
Jennifer Piper and many wonderful friends are working on circulating the People's Resolution (http://peoplesresolution.org) to help Coloradans understand the legal plight of four women who are in sanctuary in this state: Rosa, Ingrid, Sandra, and Araceli. Because of changes made to immigration law in 1996, legal channels that used to be open to these wives and mothers have either closed or become impossibly long and difficult pathways. We, the people, can make changes to the law to make a path to legal citizenship more attainable, and we can help all families stay together and contribute to this country that they love and have sacrificed so much to join.

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Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Hard to Approach the Fourth

This is what we know for sure:

- The United States withdrew from the United Nations Human Rights Council six days ago
- The United States has separated more than 2300 children from their parents in the past two months
- The United States has lost 1500 young people - had them in custody and now has no idea where they are - in the past two years
- The President of the United States has recommended that the Justice Department violate the Constitution and deport immigrants and asylum applicants without a trial
- The Congress is deadlocked in partisan wrangling and inflamed rhetoric


It's hard to be a citizen of this country as our birthday approaches and we no longer stand for liberty,  justice and freedom. People Magazine ran an article giving 100 reasons to love America and I could only skim it with the five facts above foremost in my mind, wondering when the schism between our historical values and our reality grew so deep and wide.

There's only one thing to do - stand up and fight for the country we love. Write letters to the editor of your local paper, call your Members of Congress, donate to good causes, go to the Rally to Keep Families Together this Saturday (10am here in Denver, look for it in a city near you). Talk with folks at your church, listen to those who need to talk (about any point of view), and don't give up.



Sunday, June 17, 2018

Father's Day at the Border

"It's horrendous." The words of a foster parent in Michigan after taking in a five-year-old boy from Honduras. The little boy, Jose, spent his first sleepless nights in his foster home crying or moaning, and every day would ask for his papa in Spanish.  The father was arrested at the border when he presented himself to authorities seeking asylum, arrested  under the new Trump administration policy of prosecuting parents for "trafficking their children" and then separating the young boys and girls from the parents and disappearing them into camps or foster homes where the family members can not reach one another.

According to the NY Times article that describe's Jose's plight, "In just the first two weeks under President Trump's new policy, 638 parents who arrived with 658 children had been prosecuted." https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/07/us/children-immigration-borders-family-separation.html.  Yesterday, an NPR report announced that the number of separated children was closer to 2,000. 

The American Council of (Catholic) Bishops denounced this policy last week, calling it "immoral" and suggesting that Catholics involved in implementing policies could face 'penalties' (https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/trump-immigration-catholic-bishops-moral-us-mexico-border-a8399016.html).

Politicians have started to denounce the policy as pictures of exhausted and traumatized young people hit the internet. Rep Paul Ryan introduced new policy measures to end this separation as did Sen Dianne Feinstein and Sen Michael Bennet.  Two bills will hit the House floor this coming week and if you are interested in contacting your Representative about voting on the bills, you can visit the American Friends Service Committee here (https://www.afsc.org/actioncenter) or contact me to receive an action email and checklist from Americans of Conscience.

Let's be clear: though President Trump blamed separation of families on a "Democrat law" this is not a law, it's a policy that is being implemented by Jeff Sessions and the Department of Justice. It's being used as a cruel and heartless disincentive to immigration and as a bargaining chip in the ongoing battle over immigration policy. Democrats are not in control of either the House or the Senate and so this is the Trump Administration and Republican Congress decision.

Applying for asylum at the border is a LEGAL way to immigrate. Asylum applicants are supposed to remain free and responsive to court decisions while their cases are being decided, as ruled by international human rights agreements that the United States has signed. 

In my mind, everything about this policy is wrong. It's not truthful, it's not logical, and it's immoral. I have called members of Congress over the ongoing travesty of separating families but I am embarrassed to say that I have not done nearly enough. The horror of being ripped away from my children is one that, frankly, my mother's heart shies away from contemplating. It brings to mind photos of persecuted Gypsies and Jews being torn from their children as they board trains to concentration camps. In our country, now, parents are being placed in for-profit detention centers as they wait penniless and often without representation or means to contact their children. It's a difference of degrees, and the similarities make me ill.

We must take back our country and show the world that we have not descended into wholesale mean-spiritedness and cruelty. On this Father's Day, as we celebrate our fathers and our children spend playtime and meals with them, let's try to remember the fathers who languish in detention and the children who cry the night away missing them, and then let's do something about it.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Smoky Haze

It's hard to breathe today as smoke from a grass fire east of Denver infiltrates our mountain desert air, obscuring visibility and generating coughing fits. Other fires burn south in Durango and west in the mountains, as our state is already in a drought situation and temps have been high.  Today's paper shouts that Antarctica melts away at unprecedented rates and our president blithely assures the world that everyone should sleep better at night because he had a photo op with the leader of North Korea.

In the face of momentous events such as climate change and imminent nuclear conflicts, I bury my head in the proverbial sand - or smoke, in this case - get an iced coffee from Starbucks (the small iced coffee is the cheapest thing going), and hustle through my rounds of grocery shopping, cat sitting, and cleaning while guzzling caffeine and wasting plastic that will undoubtedly fill the rising oceans. I am Nero, fiddling while Rome burns.

With summer heat my resolve to write, work, make political phone calls, and be environmentally friendly seems to ooze away as I shuttle kids to and from appointments and camps.  When I compiled blog entries for my book last fall, I noticed this trend appeared every year without exception, a sad commentary on my ability to multi-task and on my lack of discipline. It must be cellular memory retained from childhood and young adulthood, worrying only about swim sets, lessons and lifeguarding hours - the same stuff that Aden does now.

I'm off to run another errand now, Starbucks cup in hand. Just thought I would issue my mea culpa before I disappear in another whirlwind of who-knows-what non-essential, non-world-saving activity. More interesting commentary to come at some point in the not-so-distant future regarding William's rebuilding efforts, Jennifer Weiner's new autobiography, and / or crazy goings-on in the US Department of Justice. Til soon.


Thursday, June 7, 2018

As the Cottonwood Blows

As the cotton filters through ninety-degree air to light between grass blades, car grills and the spokes on Daniel's bike wheel, I finally feel as if we might have the tip of summer's tail in our grasp. Not the whole animal, but a few hairs and vertebrae caught in our sweaty palms.

William should manage to finish lifeguard training today and even won a red mesh swim bag for completing an activity in yesterday's class. He's feeling a little better, though tired and overwhelmed at all the tasks he has to complete - even after we took swimming off his list.  Health class for the high school (which will free up a period during spring semester, helpful if he swims or does another sport), the aforementioned lifeguard training and any sub shifts he picks up at local pools, and driver's training next week.  It's a boatload, but hopefully not physically taxing and certainly worthwhile. The money from sub shifts and the freedom to start driving should be incentive enough to get through a few more days.

Unfortunately for his concerned parents, William is also headed off to Mountain Zone Champs in Mesa, Arizona, tomorrow, to play in a water polo tournament where temps will hit 108 degrees Fahrenheit.  Rob is banned from flying due to a bad ear infection and I have to work, so we're sending prayers and admonitions with our too-stressed middle child. We would have canceled the trip except for his strong desire to go and be with his teammates, and his friends' parents will keep an eye on him whenever possible.

Worry over William riddles my stomach as Rob and I try to determine next steps to get him healthy and happy. I've received excellent advice from friends and fellow swim coaches, and need to talk to his new coach next week about taking the summer off. My mind keeps spinning off on "what ifs" and landing with dread on the possibility that he  might not be able to swim again.... before I remember lessons from my own illness regarding mindfulness, gratitude and deep breathing.

Fortunately, Daniel has loved summer camp and happily leaves early each morning, and Aden is getting the hang of being on deck at the pool from 7 am to noon and is even adding lessons to her roster. I just keep thinking "one day at a time . . ." and hoping that everyone gets the love, attention and rest that they need.

Monday, June 4, 2018

Alexa, Take Over

While shopping at King Sooper's (for those of you outside Colorado, yes, this is a terrible name for a grocery store), I pulled out my phone and saw that Alexa had completed 75% of the steps necessary for buying a bedside lamp.  After consulting my grocery list and happily checking off the items I had in my cart, I had slipped the phone into my purse with the Alexa app open. It somehow drilled down on the "desk lamp" on my list, then onto a website about desk lamps, then onto Amazon to purchase said lamp.  I swear that my finger was one mis-click away from purchasing furniture sight unseen, a fate I narrowly escaped by wildly fumbling my phone and then dropping it on the hard tile floor.

Alexa might as well take over my whole life, since I'm fumbling just about everything regarding the start of summer.  Jumping into the lack of routine after our trip to Boston, I must have communicated my stress and discombobulation to the kids, who promptly manifested it back. Daniel complained bitterly about going to summer swim practices, then reverted two days later to loving summer swim and complaining bitterly about going to day camp.  Aden had to juggle her coaching job with the college boot camp I enrolled her in (way back in January, not realizing), and William struggled to regain his composure after the stress of  high school swimming.

The last point breaks my heart. While sad that Daniel's day camp is primarily for younger kids and he's missing days of swim practice, I am fairly desolate over William, who now associates swimming with anxiety to such an extent that he can't go to a practice (let alone a meet) without feeling nauseous. Club swim is out, summer swim may be out, everything may be out.  After doing so well and seemingly loving the sport this spring, the dual dark sides of overtraining and pressure have reared their heads. I'm passionate about the sport but I'm infinitely more passionate about my child, and a trifecta of  emotions roils in my own gut: guilt, anxiety over a loss of control, and anger that something that was supposed to be fun has turned into something hard and painful.

It's not too late to turn it all over to Alexa. Maybe she can generate some upward momentum for a summer that's staggered off to a rough start.