Family Moab

Family Moab
In Arches National Park

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

From Heartbroken to Hurricane

I haven't had the heart to write this week because that organ feels alternately numb and wrung out. The latest executive order by 45 rolls back protections on our air, water and climate, jeopardizing the health and well-being of my sons and daughter, of everyone's sons and daughters.  After the hottest year on record, where Denver's March temperatures were nearly 10 degrees above normal, to see our putative leaders backpedal on such important standards boggles the mind, breaks my heart.

National Resources Defense Council president Rhea Suh said  the rollback was "A senseless betrayal of our national interests" (Denver Post, 2A, 3/29/17). In the same article, Colorado Senator Michael Bennet said "this anti-climate Executive Order is a direct assault o the health of our children and on the clean energy economy." I believe them both. The planet is moving forward to renewables, and the next economic wave will benefit countries like Germany and China, who are making giant leaps in the production and installation of technologies that harness the power of sun and wind. Our country will fall behind, desperately scrambling to bring back jobs in obsolete industries such as coal.

How much money did the fossil fuels industry give to 45? How much to his Cabinet? How can they morally justify the destruction of our planet and mortgage our children's future to a dying industry?
I have to believe that these actions are the last throes, a final paroxysm, a death rattle of both fossil fuel dependence and denial of the real science of climate change. I have to believe that the scientists, the forward-thinking populace, the new industry leaders will eventually triumph.

And so I turn my attention to what my friend, poet and Pastor Dale Fredrickson, calls "a hurricane of resistance." I'm leaving this blog entry to pledge more money and support to  NRDC, the Sierra Club, Greenpeace, and lawmakers who support true forward movement and progress as opposed to outdated dependencies. We don't need to experience the smog of Beijing, the polluted water of Bangkok, to recognize the dangers inherent in removing our protections. We remember, and we will resist.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Meeting with the Sheriff

Found myself at the Sheriff's office on Wednesday. Fortunately in the conference room instead of the jail - hadn't planned on arrest, at least not quite yet. A group of folks loosely allied with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and their People Power movement met with Sheriff David Walcher of the Arapahoe County Government pursuant to the ACLU's "Freedom Cities" initiative.

Sheriff Walcher was exceedingly generous with his time and his explanations. Law enforcement in our sprawling county of 630,000 people isn't simple, but the Sheriff and his patrol officers have a straightforward mission, which is to maintain the public safety. In response to our concerns about racial or religious profiling, the Sheriff noted that his officers look only for behavior that is outside of the law and/or endangers public safety. Officers on the street are not interested in a person's immigration status unless it is relevant to a criminal investigation. Furthermore, the Sheriff does not want people to feel uncomfortable reporting crime or providing witness, which they do if they feel their status in the country is in jeopardy. The Sheriff also noted that complaints about racial, religious or gender profiling are taken seriously and deputies have been relieved of duties when that has proven true.

His explanations were a relief to me, since Daniel is Guatemalan and in some counties in North Carolina, for instance, would be in danger of being pulled over and asked about his legal status just for "driving Latino." In my thank - you note to Sheriff Walcher, I mentioned my personal concerns and told him that during my last visit to the Sheriff's office nine years ago, when I was fingerprinted for the adoption, I could never have guessed that our youngest might have different issues with the law than our older two children.

The Sheriff did note that all arrest information went into the Colorado database, which communicates with federal databases, including ICE. Therefore, ICE officers can see if an undocumented person has been brought in on other charges, and they can and often do issue detainer requests, which seek to put a "hold" on the undocumented person.  Though Arapahoe County cooperates fully with its federal partners, they cannot legally hold a person on an ICE detainer. A judge in Oregon ruled several years ago that because an ICE detainer does not undergo judicial review, it does not allow officials to hold an individual past the 48 hours allowed by the writ of habeas corpus.

So it was a surprise to see that Colorado Sheriffs are on the new "Trump Immigration Shaming List" ( The list includes jails and jurisdictions that it says have not cooperated with detainer requests. However, as Sheriff Walcher explained, local jails and jurisdictions cannot - under the constitution - hold individuals under an ICE detainer requests. Also, local police are not paid to do federal work, nor do they wish do to the job of the federal agencies. Local police (at least in Boulder, Denver, and Arapahoe Counties) wish to maintain the trust of people living in their communities in order to better maintain public safety. Shame on the administration for attempting to shame the good sheriffs and deputies of Colorado as they work to keep all people safe.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Mood Lifter - Masters Swim

Think of master’s swimming as a support group for aging athletes. Before each practice we stand on deck in suits skimpier than our age would suggest, feeling the cold of the concrete seep up through the plantar fascia, swinging our arms in slow circles and bemoaning the stiff back (sleeping), tight calves (high heels), tormented quads (rare day of skiing), or just overall malaise (life). Then we take turns diving into the pool, or jumping in if the shoulders aren’t up to snuff, and venturing tentatively down the pool while exploring our aches and pains and determining our approach to the day’s workout.

At a master’s practice the sets are open to interpretation. Depending on the swimmer, a pull set may become kick or swim with fins, stroke (especially fly) is likely to be rejected in favor of freestyle, and words like “fast” or “sprint” may be heeded or willfully misinterpreted. Swimmers in a lane communicate at length before embarking on each set, which achieves dual goals of increased amounts of rest and establishing the order of swimmers. The coach will look on with mock patience until a certain line has been crossed, in which case negotiations are over and the order comes “At the top!”

Cruising along in the wake of a much bigger person (for example the gentleman who swims mornings, stands 6’3’’ and generates a huge wake), one can succumb to the illusion of easy speed, a resurgence of abilities. On good days we choose the faster interval, blast through the set despite reduced rest, thundering heart rates, raspy breath. We take turns leading and following, joke at the wall about our better days at such-and-such college, show vulnerability by acknowledging year of graduation, or previous favorite stroke.

On the bad days we sit out a fifty, discretely pull on the fins, or call it a day and head for the showers.  On those days we erase all memories of previous glory, focus on the now, on how the competition drops out over time, on the one stroke that we can still do, the turn that works. We admire the seventy-plus-year-old a few lanes over who just returned from swim camp in California, who still achieves best times. We marvel that she started in her fifties, and wonder how our shoulders would be if we had started then, instead of in our teens or even before.

Some of us hold out for the summer races, consisting of open water swims, wanting to banish the black line and flip turns in favor of open sky and circuitous routes. Some keep winter/spring meet schedules on the computer, waiting until the last minute to sign up, waiting to see if the body will be ready for a 100 IM or a 50 fly or a 200 free. The coach urges us to form relays, to show up for just one day so we can beat the neighboring team, prove our competitive edge. Some meets come together, and others get crossed off the list in favor of a rest or a cross-training workout on the bike.

Teammates email extra workouts, drum up support for the Sunday morning swim that I never make due to Sunday school duties. The man in the lane next to mine buys holiday caps for the women so that we sport matching hearts at Valentine’s day, fireworks for the Fourth, candy canes at the holidays. On warm summer days we come early to absorb the vitamin D and heat, pushing us to a boiling discomfort that forces us into the pool. On winter days we sprint from the building to the pool, leaving our towels in the hallway and praying that someone left the covers on last night, and took them off in the morning.

A benefit of swimming in Colorado is the opportunity to swim outdoors year-round. Not unless the temperature drops below freezing (or the age groupers have the pool) do we surrender and go inside. Outdoor workouts at noon mean that my dermatologist cringes when I walk in the door, but everyone else says, “Wow, you’re so tan! Have you been traveling?” Swimming backstroke, looking at small planes taking off from the Centennial airport, staring down the fake fox our coach installed to keep away the geese, life couldn’t get better. As long as my frayed shoulders and stiff back allow me to keep moving, I will swim.  

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

The Ides of March, 2017

For the Ides of March (March 15), 2017, I decided to participate in a letter-writing campaign to our current president. As suggested, I addressed my five postcards (one for every member of my family) to the following:

President (for now) Donald J Trump
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW
Washington, DC

The campaign suggested writing something that I was passionate about on the left side of the card and mentioned the following possibilities: Health Care, Education, Environmental Justice, Human Rights, Immigration.  How to choose?  Fortunately, I had five cards so I could write several messages. I'm including them below in case you feel inspired to drop your own postcard in the mail tomorrow. It's a national movement so the slow-down in the DC mail should make elected officials take notice.

Here are my (slightly edited) comments:

- Every human being is valuable! Stop separating families by deporting moms and dads.
- Stop deporting harmless men, women and children. Breaking up families - not an American value.
- Stop dismantling public education by mandating taxpayer support of vouchers and charter schools. I will not pay for a religious private school! Separation of church and state, remember?
- Keep our air and water clean and preserve our planet for our (and your) children!
- Preserve the EPA or history will blast you for being a short-sighted, selfish fool.

The impact may be nil but the action sure felt good. #RESIST.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Stop Catastrophizing

I'm coming apart at the seams, as my mother would say, and dreading Daylight Savings Time's theft of a much-needed hour of sleep.  Two days ago I forgot the word "bookshelf" and stared desperately at my youngest son before stammering that the book he needed was in "those tall things at the end of my room."  If my brain reached top form two decades ago, is this rate of decline expected or slightly ahead of schedule?

The day after I searched dusty mental cupboards for simple vocabulary and found them empty, I opened a real cupboard into my face. I missed vital protrusions like nose and brow ridge but did manage a solid whack to my eyeglasses. Praise be for CostCo, for providing a quick fix (and a cleaning) as well as skorts (on sale) $200 worth of food, and a good price for my son's medicine. What does it say about my personal style that clothes purchased at Costco are taking over my closet and the lawn furniture looks so good that I want to move in?

Adding to the annals of my clumsiness I must confess that I shaved three inches of skin off my shinbone last week and had to go to work at Swimlabs looking like a twelve-year-old who had just learned to shave (at least from the knee down). And a new zit popped out at the very tip of my nose, giving it a shiny red aspect that does not improve my profile and reinforces the image of awkward pre-teen. And please don't tell anyone, but silver hairs have started emerging in my eyebrows and other environs, previously innocuous features that now seem like Benedict Arnold, betraying my true age to the world.

My therapist used to say that I was prone to "catastrophizing" - spinning mentally into the future and predicting dire outcomes based on the trials of today. I plead guilty, but assure you that I'm learning to manage the trait. It helps that I'm not entirely sure how long my brain and body will function correctly, thus limiting my speculation and providing gratitude for the day.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017


The members of my writing group had a write-in this weekend at the home of my former Regis University instructor. We started the day by responding to prompts in five-minute intervals. One of the prompts was "Dreamer."  Here's my response:


You came as a child - not an anchor baby but a projectile
Launching your family into stratospheres of
New country, language, culture
All for you.
The education! they said.
The opportunity! they said.
The safety (lack of guns, independent local police)! they said.
Study hard, speak the language, strive for
Higher education, schools of suburban elite with
Their laptops, BMW's, shiny blue passports.
Aim high, earn in-state tuition, work odd jobs for cash,
Dare the American dream.
When did the glowing facade dissolve?
When scholarship money was denied or
When your job offers disappeared or
When your parents hid from the threat of deportation?
When the information you volunteered for one president,
A dreamer himself,
Formed a dragnet for the next,
Who put the ceiling on your stratosphere.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Handling the Truth

“‘Beauty is truth; truth, beauty’–that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.”
- John Keats, "Ode on a Grecian Urn"

Col Jessep: I'll answer the question. You want answers?
LTJG Kaffee: I think I'm entitled to them.
Col Jessep: You want answers?!
LTJG Kaffee: I want the truth!
Col Jessep: You can't handle the truth!
- from the 1992 film,  "A Few Good Men"

“The truth." Dumbledore sighed. "It is a beautiful and terrible thing, and should therefore be treated with great caution.”― J.K. RowlingHarry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

We went to see the Cherry Creek High School production of "Titanic" on Friday night. It was an exceptional show and the high school students performed brilliantly. Throughout the musical I was struck by Titanic's nickname, "the unsinkable ship."  People believed fervently that the Titanic was infallible, the best the world had to offer. The wealthiest, most entitled folk of Europe and America sailed in luxury, convinced that their biggest issue lay with the time of arrival. Even as the ship succumbed to the icy Atlantic, some refused to believe that it would sink.

The truth was visible to the engineer who urged caution with regard to the ship's speed. It was visible to those who sent warnings about the icebergs, and to the architect who saw flaws in design and the absence of adequate lifeboats. Denying the truth cost over a thousand lives, the majority of which were less-advantaged passengers of the third class.

We believe the United States of America is the greatest country on earth. We believe that our beautiful earth, which supports such a wide and glamorous diversity of life, could never really fail us. We believe that America's peaceful transition of power could not be interrupted by one narcissistic individual.  But what, really, is the truth?

Truth is beautiful and terrible and difficult to handle. Human minds often create their own unique version of the truth and stubbornly cling to that definition despite all evidence to the contrary.  Can we handle the truth? Will we be given the chance?  In recent weeks I have felt like a passenger on the Titanic. As funding for science and the arts (both pathways to truth) has been cut, as alternative facts have gained popularity, I'm convinced that we are on a slippery slope, sliding like passengers on the Titanic decks towards an icy ocean. 

Who will save us? How will we save ourselves? Will only the first class passengers make it out, or will we open the doors to everyone?  Treat the truth with caution, but let it out. We can - we have to - handle it.