Family Moab

Family Moab
In Arches National Park

Sunday, February 28, 2016

The Law 2

I didn't get to visit my friend in detention today because he has been moved. I was not aware of his move until I arrived at the detention center, presented my ID, and was told that I could not visit today. When an individual moves from pod to pod within the center, his or her visiting hours change, and I missed the new window by several hours.

Prior to my aborted visit I attended a meeting at the First Unitarian Society in downtown Denver. A wonderful group of folks met to discuss the Metro Denver Sanctuary Coalition, and First Unitarian's participation in the new Sanctuary movement. They have many lessons to share on education, legality, and communication as they recently hosted Arturo Hernandez Garcia for nine months while he waited for US ICE to grant a stay of deportation.

I had to plot a new course from the church to the detention center, one which took me right by the Denver Women's Correctional Facility and the Denver County Jail. These edifices are three minutes from the detention center, but you would never know where to find any of the buildings, hidden as they are in industrial areas with front doors on small streets. I have visited the Women's Correctional Facility before, so between that visit and the signs on I70 warning motorists not to pick up hitchhikers, I could piece together the incarceration focus of the area, but I was still horrified to drive by three large buildings holding thousands.

Did you know that the US has over 2.2 million people incarcerated - the highest number of any country in the world? Here's a quote:


The United States is the world's leader in incarceration with 2.2 million people currently in the nation's prisons or jails -- a 500% increase over the past thirty years. These trends have resulted in prison overcrowding and state governments being overwhelmed by the burden of funding a rapidly expanding penal system, despite increasing evidence that large-scale incarceration is not the most effective means of achieving public safety.

What do we think about this? What do we do about this? How do we explain this to our children?

Monday, February 22, 2016

The Law

Immigration laws are confusing.

I met with someone yesterday who has been waiting for asylum in the US for over a year. He's been detained during that time and watched individuals from other countries come and go while he waits for his appeal to be decided.

He said to me yesterday how disturbed he was that the US admits individuals based on their country of origin instead of by their individual need. He, for example, seeks asylum from dangerous and possibly deadly conditions in his home country, which is not allowed to send many immigrants to the US (based on our quotas).

He was extremely frustrated by news reports of Cuban refugees being allowed to walk into our country without delay or process, just by showing their Cuban identity card. He saw on the news that a group of Cubans sailed or floated to Central America and got stuck there, so the US sent a plane to get them and bring them to our country.

I didn't research this claim, but I am aware that we welcome certain types of immigrants and refugees and not others. I'm also aware that our immigration system is backlogged to the nth degree and that it's difficult to process each and every case on an individual basis. Yet, when confronted by the profound disappointment and confusion of one individual I can't help but wish for better from our country.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Ghosts on the Beach

We just returned from a five-day trip to Southern California, where William played in a water polo tournament and we went to cheer him on and visit my sister, Karen, who lives in the San Pedro / Palos Verdes Peninsula area. Karen and I (and our brothers) went to high school in PV, and I spent every summer there from age 17 to 22.

The boys had not seen PV before, and we drove them around, pointing out the schools, our old house, our favorite restaurant (The Red Onion), the hill above Lunada Bay where I stalled my first car - a manual - practicing driving with my father. We went down to Redondo Beach so the kids could scamper in and out of the freezing water, watching the higher-than-usual surf pound the shore. I pointed out the gorgeous pool at the base of the cliffs, closed now, where I had taken lifesaving class.

I went for a walk down to the pier and back - the old four-mile route that John and I used to jog/limp and where friends and I roller-bladed. I walked briskly along with Panic! at the Disco in my ears and a ginormous grin on my face as I took in the scene: seagulls pestering the hundreds of folks picnicking on a warm February day, families skateboarding and scootering down the path, groups of folks playing volleyball at Avenue K, where we used to play in the evenings before grabbing dessert at The Cheesecake Factory.

Through the misty haze I could almost see the ghost of myself - clad in favorite Rolling Hills High School sweatshirt and bright yellow leggings - crouched to receive a volleyball. I peered into the face of every forty-five year old I encountered as if I knew them, as if we would possibly recognize each other after all this time.

Joy spilled over at my ability to share such a fun part of my life with the kids, to see the boys dancing in the spumey surf and Aden snapping photos right and left. It serves me right that both older kids are ready to move to CA tomorrow despite our warnings about high costs and earthquakes. If they head there for college, be sure that I will visit regularly to visit both the old ghosts and the new.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Super Bowl Surprises

Several big surprises in the Denver Broncos' Super Bowl victory. First is that I was so quickly and easily swept up in the football mayhem of our schools, neighborhood and city. Though still averting my eyes at vicious tackles, worrying about concussions, and booing unsportsmanlike conduct, I vigorously participated in game-watching with forty or fifty of my raucously cheering neighbors.

The second surprise was the amount of family bonding that took place on game day. Daniel wanted to create a gluten-free, dairy-free Broncos cake for the party and though he at first insisted that neither sibling could help him, he later shared graciously in both the cake-making and frosting process. With all three collaborating, the cake evolved into a green gridiron masterpiece.

The third and perhaps biggest surprise was the amount of Broncos mania I encountered at the immigration detention center, where I went earlier in the afternoon to interview a detainee. While waiting for my turn at the visiting windows I watched the lobby fill up with people of all ages, races and backgrounds. The common denominator among them - aside from the fact that they had to visit a loved one through a window and phone - was the Broncos paraphernalia. Jerseys in orange and blue predominated but there were also T-shirts, scarves, and even a small girl in a pink Denver uniform.

As the guards shuffled out on the shift change there were fist bumps and glances toward the TV and muttered exhortations to the team. When we left after a one-hour visit, the game was just starting and Denver had lost the coin toss. Perfect strangers exchanged worried glances, then we got swept up in commiserating with a young lady over the fact that her father had been detained though he was legally in the country. With a worried frown she said that they "hoped for the best," then her frown cleared and she departed with a hearty "Go Broncos!"

It's a bit confusing that we needed a football team for so much bonding. I'm grateful for it, but just wish I could find a way to replicate it during the off-season - both in my house and in the Denver area. We'll enjoy the rosy glow through the victory parade tomorrow and then I suppose it will be back to business as usual.

Monday, February 1, 2016

What's in your name?

"A human being's name is a principal component in his person, perhaps a piece of his soul."
 - Sigmund Freud

Rev. Mark's sermon yesterday was about the question "What is your name?" Our Sunday school lesson for the middle and high scholars was focused around the same question, and it's variant, "who are you?"  As Freud observed, a name can be an integral part of self-identity, can perhaps dictate your outlook on life.  What happens if your outlook on life changes due to a near-death or other catastrophic experience?

Yesterday's biblical text was Jacob's dark night of the soul struggle with God, or one of God's representatives. The holy-ish antagonist asked Jacob, "What's your name?"  Turns out that Jacob came out with a new moniker -  Israel. Israel means "the one who has striven with God and prevailed."

I thought about that. What does my name mean, and does it represent who I am now after many dark nights of the soul?  I looked up "Laura" on and found that it was derived from the latin Laurus, meaning 'laurel', from the laurel tree and laurel leaves which were made into crowns for victors in Roman times.

Characteristics of Lauras include: authoritative, powerful, tough, tenacious, wealthy, problem-solver and achiever.  Perhaps those used to apply to me, but now I would prefer to keep 'tenacious' and 'problem-solver' and ditch the rest.The idea of picking a second name for the second half of life / post apocalyptic night of the soul seems freeing. Laura is a part of me, but I need space for something else now, something new.

After some research I came up with a short list for my new name / alter ego / nom de plum:
Viviana, ('alive' or 'living'), Skelly, ('storyteller'), and Cuentista ('storyteller' in Spanish). I'm leaning toward Skelly, which goes well with my preferred alias surname of "Keys".  If you see anything published by Skelly Keys in the future you  might drop me a line.

In other naming news, we learned over the weekend that the next niece or nephew born in my family will actually be .. . . .  a niece! My brother Michael and his lovely wife Pam are the proud parents of three gorgeous  boys - and now they get to go PINK (or yellow, or neutral, or whatever!)  We are thrilled for them and for ourselves, that we get to welcome a new baby in the summer. Now good luck finding the right names . . . .