Family Moab

Family Moab
In Arches National Park

Monday, October 19, 2020

Escape to Moab and Arches

 "Life's the movie. God's the director. The history books are the camera. It's live. Be you. Press record. It's on. Go."

- Matthew McConaughey in People, October 26, 2020


We escaped Colorado's Front Range to the magical valley and city of Moab, Utah, last week during the high schoolers' fall break. Leaving later than anticipated due to William's swim meet, we braved 50 - 60 mph winds and a freak snowstorm to drive through the Rockies west on I-70. By the time we arrived in Moab, the temperature had risen from 28 to 54 and we had left gale-force winds, forest fire smoke and daily routines far behind.

Waking up the next morning to a desert landscape we had driven through in the dark, it felt like Christmas. Blue skies, bright sunshine and startling red and pink rock formations met us on our hikes leading up from the Colorado River. Hikers are a friendly bunch, and I marveled over how easily I could interact with strangers on a trail when politics stayed behind at home. Despite the expected complaints about hiking from our 14-year-old, we had a terrific day outside as Aden finished a final and a presentation online at the rented condo.

Aden's presence was a blessing as we never know how many family vacations we have left in the bank. She needed to escape the smoky air and draconian COVID-19 restrictions in Boulder, and we were delighted to scoop her up from the apartment and bring her with us, especially since she drove at least half of the trip.

Seeing a new place for the first time always strikes the note of adventure and freedom for me. That's why I put McConaughey's quote above this entry. While the movie star and I might disagree on who directs the picture, I do believe that being "live" means to be true to yourself and tackle the things you want to do, the efforts you want to be your legacy. I hope that road trips have become a part of our family's DNA, that new adventures and places always call to the children, reminding them that even in a pandemic in the strange year of 2020 we can see beautiful rock structures like Moab's arches, drive through uncharted territory, and find new sources of joy and contentment.
 

Monday, October 5, 2020

We've Lost the Plot

Humans tell stories to make meaning of the random, serpentine twists of life. I always wanted my storyline to read “Naïve public school girl graduates from Ivy League School, joins business consulting firm, travels world, becomes famous exec and philanthropist (or maybe college professor). Instead, events swerved from business consultant to mom of three small children has complete autoimmune breakdown, writes her way back to sanity and health, self-publishes two books, builds strong family life with great kids but has no career to speak of.

That second set of plot points is harder to work into a coherent narrative. Until I could craft a positive, meaningful story out of those obstacles I felt lost. I recognize the same lost feeling in our poor, drifting country. What happened to the “greatest country on earth, the land of the free and home of the brave?” Does anyone think that storyline describes our descent into COVID madness, our White House hot-spot of infection or our snarling, divided populace? Lady Liberty’s light has gone out, and we have lost the plot.

Experts agree – there is no going back to “normal.” Until we construct a new narrative we’ll all feel a bit at sea. We don’t yet know the ending, of course; this year alone holds a pandemic, roiled campaigns and already-contested election. But perhaps we can envision the story we want to write. We need a timeout from headlines and deadlines to expand our imagination and write the resolution we want to read.

Mira Ptacin provided a great example of replotting her story in “I am Not a Housewife. I’m a Prepper,” her Op Ed in the New York Times (Ptacin).  Ptacin describes giving up her career for the pandemic as – not returning to the 1950’s housewife era – but evolving into a 21st century goddess teaching her children how to grow a garden and raise chickens, buy generators and prepare for any possible calamity.

So if we’ve lost the familiar plot as individuals and/or as a nation. we are free to imagine a new storyline. As a nation we may require new heroes and supporting characters, new tools to triumph at the climax of the action (which I pray is coming soon). As individuals we are the heroes of our own stories, able to vanquish the villain or the inner demon and claim our reward in triumph. We can do the same collectively for our country, imagining a new and better future where the good guys win, at least until the sequel.

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Hope on a Post-debate Morning

 " 'Hope' is the thing with feathers -

That perches in the soul -

And sings the tune without the words -

And never stops - at all - "

- Emily Dickinson, "'Hope' is the Thing with Feathers"


Waking up this morning after a night spent tossing and turning, trying to banish thoughts of the cataclysmically awful presidential debate, I reached desperately for poetry or prayer to hold onto. Dickinson's wonderful lines on hope swam into focus and I repeated them fervently for a few moments as I poured my coffee. A good thing, too, because the morning dealt me two quick kid-crises. First William somehow inhaled a probiotic into his sinus cavity, an activity which resulted in copious amounts of water and snot on floor, counter and ceiling. Second, Aden called in a panic from her apartment in Boulder because she woke up from a deep sleep and "couldn't remember anything."

Overcoming the panic I felt at a 7:15am call from my college student who is under a stay-at-home order in virus-swamped Boulder, I reassured her that her wake-up experience was normal and wished for myself that I had that same experience, especially this morning. Now sitting at my computer, I scan headlines and try to quell my heartburn with more coffee as I review the piteous landscape that is American politics. On the BBC website, headlines read "Trump and Biden duel in chaotic, bitter debate" and "'The loser is us, the American people" and "Childish, grueling and an 'unwatchable fever dream' - how the world saw Tuesday's debate.'"

I can't bear to comment or to analyze more deeply. My one fervent wish is that such a debate never happen again. I pray that Biden's campaign decides to skip on the next two presidential debates. They would be the same, if not worse, and no one needs to re-live that torture.

Turning away from that scarring experience, I have to reach for hope, that elusive winged creature that  "never stops - at all-". Dickinson's poem shows her sympathy for those - like me - who wrestle with their demons and strain to find and cling to hope, but also throws down the gauntlet. We can't stop holding on to hope.  My family needs me to provide sinus spray and answer early morning phone calls (and who knows what the next crisis will be?) and without those fantastic wings of hope to lift me skyward, I would be flat on the floor this morning.  






Thursday, September 24, 2020

Vote

 Vote - formal expression of one's wish or choice with regard to a proposal, candidate, etc., from Latin votum "a vow, wish, promise to a god, solemn, pledge, dedication" (https://www.etymonline.com/word/vote)

The President will not commit to a peaceful transition if Joe Biden wins. Yesterday he said that the way to ensure peace is to throw the ballots out and have a "continuation" instead of a transition. (CNN)  He weighed in with the same sentiments today, saying he wasn't sure the election could be "honest." (nytimes.com). This should ring alarm bells loudly for every American who dissents. But don't let his empty threats discourage you; we need to turn our worries into solemn vows -  to vote.

Every vote counts and every electoral representative gathered provides another layer of protection for our democracy. We are in grave danger of losing our beloved democratic experiment to an autocrat and a tyrant who is using fascist tactics straight out of Nazi Germany to discourage his naysayers and incite his followers. 

But never think that we're stuck here, because we're certainly not. Trump is not strong, but weak. As Michelle Goldman said in the NY Times, "his strongman threats are scary" (Goldman, NYT) but never forget that he makes these threats because he wants to discourage us from voting.  He knows that we can remove him from office, legally and permanently. 

Your vote matters! Make a plan as to how and when you will vote, tell at least three other people about your plan and hold yourself to it. In this most important election of our lifetime, you must take a position or forever regret your silence.  Consider how close the word "silence" is to "science" - just one letter, an "l" vs a "c" -  transforms clarity into confusion, truth into lies. In the same just a few hundred votes can lose an elector, a county, a state.

We are all living on the knife edge between truth and lies, clarity and a muddy future. It will take all of us to tip the election towards the truth. Envision winning in a landslide, envision a year without Trump dominating the airwaves, the Twitterverse, the headlines - then make it happen. You don't need to argue, debate or coerce. We're not trying to win anyone over, we're just trying to win. So vote as if it's your last time, because if you don't make the effort, it may be.


Monday, September 21, 2020

And When My Time Is Up, Have I Done Enough?

"And when my time is up, have I done enough?

Will they tell your story?"

- "Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story" from Hamilton, Lyrics by Lin-manuel Miranda 

"Fight for the things that you  care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you."

- Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Supreme Court Justice


The news of Ruth Bader Ginsburg's death was a body blow to me and many others across the United States. On Friday, I sobbed into my spaghetti sauce at the news, received via text from my politically active friends. Reactions ranged from the terribly sad to shocked to horrified at the implications her passing will have for the Supreme Court and for our country. For a brief moment it seemed that all would be lost and visions of Senator McConnell and President Trump gleefully celebrating in some remote office danced in my head.

Sorrow, anger, loss, admiration and envy swam around in my chest. Admiration for an amazing life well-lived and envy that no one could doubt that Madame Ginsburg had done enough with her life. She adjudicated well and fought until the end, until the first day of early voting in four states, the blessed first day of Rosh Hashanah, before she succumbed to the persistent cancer that has dogged her last years. Now, finally, she can rest. Across the country, good people mourned the loss of a civil rights icon and role model, and I mourned along with them, feeling not only the loss of an amazing woman but sorrow and frustration at my lack of agency in this fight. 

One grief has the ability to bring back others and, like a magnet, her loss drew feelings of sorrow related to the pandemic as well as to losses of careers and opportunities that have accumulated in my life. If there's no one left to save us but us, will that be enough? When this fight ends, if indeed it ever does, will people be able to say that I did enough?  What stories will they tell, what verdict will they render?  

It's time to rise to the example set by Ruth Bader Ginsberg, to fight with calm determination and dogged persistence for the rights of all people now and into the future. We are now the leaders and have no time yet to rest or to mourn. I'm grateful for the time for do more and will try to make the most of it, as she did.