Family Moab

Family Moab
In Arches National Park

Thursday, April 27, 2017

So Soon? Hope Tested Again

I opened my computer while drinking my lunch smoothie, to be confronted by an urgent Facebook post from my dear friend. It read "Arturo was arrested by ICE this morning at work. If you can, please come to the ICE agency at XXXX address."  Arturo Hernandez Garcia was the first person in Sanctuary in Denver. He stayed with the First Unitarian Society for nine months and left under pressure to rejoin his family and resume his work. At the time of his leaving sanctuary, he was reassured by ICE that he was not a priority for deportation.

But now Trump is in office, and according to ICE, "There are no priorities, or rather, everyone is a priority." ICE agents spent time and money to trail Arturo, planning to arrest him while he picked up tile for his current job (he has his own business). They spent additional time and money processing him at headquarters and then moving him to detention at the GEO Corp. - run facility in Aurora.  A devoted husband and father of two daughters, Arturo has never committed a crime, only a civil offense in overstaying his original visa.

Arturo and his wife Ana have tried every means of staying in our country legally. They had her parents, a legal permanent resident and citizen, petition the courts. They petitioned directly through Congressman Ed Perlmutter, through Congresswoman Diana DeGette. They built community through their churches and neighbors. Our broken immigration system did not relent, did not allow for a legal process that would keep Arturo with his family, business and community. The fault is ours.

As I perused news articles online yesterday, I scanned the comments for words of support. I didn't find any positive sentiments, however, only this: "Good! Send back his wife and kids, too." or "It's about time our laws meant something."  What if our laws are broken? What if net immigration from Mexico is at zero (which it is)? What if jobs go without applicants because of our backwards system? Why do I never hear about white people being deported, even though Canadians overstay their visas more than any other group? Why can't we keep families together, instead of ripping good men and women from their jobs, their homes, their daily routines?

These questions paralyzed me for a few minutes until I jumped in the car to join a group of a dozen or so protesters. We swapped names, picked up posters, began chanting. Some tears trickled down faces, but laughter also emerged at our poor singing voices, our rusty Spanish. Hugs exchanged all around led to instant community. Ana, Arturo's wife, was supported, even as she took a call from her daughter and had to explain the awful news. Can you imagine saying "Dad was arrested, He's going to jail and then leaving the country forever.?" 

I'm thankful at least for good people, standing up to combat injustice.  My hope assaulted and faith renewed in the same afternoon. We cannot allow our neighborhoods to be terrorized, accept that law-abiding families will be broken in the name of misplaced fear and ignorant anger. Please join us, and if you feel moved, please support the Metro Denver Sanctuary Coalition in their work to protect Arturo, Jeanette and Ingrid (

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

You Must Have Hope

My friends and I went to see Bryan Stevenson at the Paramount Theater on Monday night. The author of Just Mercy, ( an award-winning account of his labors to save death-row inmates from their sentences (in many cases, unjust), rallied a full house of law students, professors, and middle-aged activists. When asked how he remained hopeful in the face of overwhelming need, he responded "You must have hope. It is your fuel. You're either hopeful or you are a part of the problem."  Stevenson reminded us that generations have suffered through far worse times, and that our opportunities to fight and achieve justice are greater now than ever before.

Those fighting words found a home in my ear and resonated in my heart. The many injustices piling up at the feet of our new administration (against Muslims, immigrants, the earth) have daunted my purpose and blighted my spirit. On one track in my mind I see a train rushing right to the end of the world, on another, parallel track I plan the week or my children's bright futures. The tracks diverge slowly, and it's hazardous to keep my mental train on the rails.

Yet I keep encountering words to lift me up, push me forward.  In my copy of Reflections, a publication of the Yale Divinity School (,  I read this in an article titled "From Dread to Generosity": "The Bible dares to suggest that those who claim to be God's people but fail to show God's concern for justice for the needy are not really God's people at all."

The gauntlet thrown down.  As I decide what to do when I grow up, plot an uncertain career path from now until retirement, I constantly face reminders that work for justice takes priority over prestige and titles - and salary. I struggle inside the cage of my  mind, beat metaphorical fists against the confinement of this mandate, but encounter a version of Stevenson's words every time I pick up a book or magazine. The message, for better or worse, is clear.

PS - Speaking of "for better or worse," we just returned from a beautiful wedding in the Los Gatos foothills. Congratulations to Scott Himmelberger and Cyndi Barmore, a lovely couple now treading their honeymoon path in New Zealand. Thank you both for the occasion to be happy, to rejoice in a strong new bond that will bring light and life to the world. The young people definitely bolster my hope in the world.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

A Botched Day

Daniel was kind enough to pass his stomach bug along to both parents. Starting with Rob on Sunday night and moving via hurricane force winds to  me on Monday evening, when I inconveniently drove water polo carpool to Aurora. After forcing a hit and run at the bathroom at Target, the nausea's second wave rolled me over in the high school parking lot. Fortunately, I moved quickly enough to avoid damaging Rob's car, but my sandals took a hit. The kids were already at the pool and avoided both viewing and contagion.

After sleeping most of Tuesday away, I rallied to do some laundry, discovering a million shreds of tissue paper in the dryer, along with candy wrappers, loose coins and sunflower seeds. Daniel's pants are booby traps.  I should know by now to purge his pockets prior to loading the wash. He also loads his room with surprises; oranges roll out from under the pillow, granola bars hide under the dresser, and the omnipresent sunflower seeds hop out of the holes in the laundry basket. One day, I tell myself, I will miss this.

The kids were flustered by the lack of snacks and dinner, the cats disgruntled because I ran out of wet food, and Rob unsettled because I overpaid the junk removal men when they came to take away the old swing set. "Is there a new version coming to take its place?" asked one of the young guys. "No!" I responded, "the kids have outgrown it all," and had to withdraw, weepy and sentimental.

So generally a botched day, but now magically disappearing in our rear-view mirror. The only constant in life - change - can be the best possible news when dealing with a stomach bug. Not so easy to digest when removing the children's swing set, but impossible to resist in any case.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Cats to the Rescue

Every family needs a scapegoat. In our family, it's the young cat with a freakishly long wiener-dog body named Blackjack who gets blamed for rips in the leather couch, upturned lamps and missing pillows. When I say blamed, I mean we find him hiding under a box or bedframe and tell him how cute he looks, and how adorable we find his home-wrecking habits. The older, more responsible cat, Rex, looks on with barely concealed hurt and disdain.  He's thinking "I bring them socks all day long, come whenever I'm called, and only dig my claws into the cat tree. This is how I'm repaid?"

And you see that I have become a cat person against all odds and probabilities.  I feel guilty sometimes that we don't give all of our extra money to charity instead of to PetCo /PetSmart for the cats' dry food, wet food, litter, toys, etc., but our family couldn't exist without the laughter, distraction and daily reminders to be present that Rex and Jack provide.

Just tonight, our youngest son wandered by the kitchen counter where we store and recharge all of our electronic devices. They inhabit a good two-foot length of granite countertop and light up periodically as news alerts and calendar reminders fight to be recognized. Daniel saw his father's phone light up with a CNN headline about our president's threat to use force against North Korea and instantly his anxious little mind spun off into scenarios of nuclear war, bombs, and annihilation. Not what I had hoped for our Thursday evening.

But then the little cat ran by, skidded on the hall rug, crashed into a moving box and galloped upstairs. In the commotion I shouted for Daniel to go see if the cat was OK, while I pocketed the phone and redirected all of the kids' attention to the stockpile of William's socks that Rex had collected that day, and the new secret hiding place of our scapegoat, under our bed near Rob's slippers.

Stockpiles of socks, not weapons. Secret hiding places of cats instead of terrorists. Laughter as opposed to spiraling anxiety.  I think the animals are worth it - we'll just donate a little more to human causes in their name.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Middle-Aged Emo

"And if you don't know now you know
I'm taking back the crown
I'm all dressed up and naked
I see what's mine and take it
(Finders keepers, losers weepers)

The crown...
So close I can taste it
I see what's mine and take it
(Finders keepers, losers weepers)"
- Lyrics from "Emperor's New Clothes" by Panic! at the Disco, Brendon Urie Lyricist
I've listened to a lot of emo/rock group Panic! at the Disco lately. The group is thirteen years old but I was just turned on to them when they released "Hallelujah" last year: "All you sinners stand up, sing Hallelujah (Hallelujah)/Show praise with your body/Stand up, sing Hallelujah." Sinners, song, praise, bodies - what's not to like? At Panic's outdoor concert on Fiddler's Green, Rob and I watched them perform the song as the sun set over the Rocky Mountains, over the stage. Wonderful.
But I've tuned back in recently because the anger, outrage and progressive stance of Urie and the band match my current mood. It doesn't hurt that Aden and I went to another of their concerts on St. Patty's Day. The crowd at the Pepsi Center was passionate and younger. Sure, there were a few fogies my age - mostly chaperoning teens and tweens - but the vast majority of the crowd was young and energetic, focused on freedom and dance (and Urie).  
Urie is famous for proclaiming that sexual fluidity and freedom should be the right of all people. In his lyrics to Girls/Girls/Boys, he writes "But girls love girls and boys/And love is not a choice."  The fans created a new ritual for the last leg of his tour in which they cut out colored hearts and stuck them in front of the light on their iPhones during this song. When thousands did this, it created a rainbow of light in the crowd. Light and love.
With the terrible events of the past week, the nerve gas and the bombing in Syria, I've latched onto lyrics from another Panic! song, "Emperor's New Clothes." The words aptly describe 45 and the sudden, possessive, selfish manner of his actions. I'm deeply concerned for our country, for all of our sons and daughters and  for the women and children in countries where we take an aggressive stance. Fiifty-nine tomahawk missiles in sixty seconds?  That's aggression like I've never seen, the result of an abrupt about-face in policy, in choice of allies, in strategy. In the words of Urie, "If you don't know, now you know," people. Be wary, be watchful, be passionate and angry, be brave. The young people of the world need us on their side.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

A Movement Moment

Over the years I've struggled to reconcile my progressive stance on many issues with the Ivory Tower education I received at Harvard. My experience there prioritized the Top Dog over the Underdog, and introduced me to hosts of prep-school educated, famous-name folk. Public school kids were the minority and progressive values a subtle thread, a subtext, of the vibe and message.

But with the launch of the Resistance School by students at Harvard's Kennedy School, I am poised to reclaim my alma mater and at least one segment of its teaching / learning population. Though the movement burst on the scene only a week ago, the first lecture, "How to Communicate our Values in Political Advocacy," ( had garnered over 36,000 views by the time my friends and I watched last night. The presenter - my former Quincy House suitemate and Harvard Professor Timothy Patrick McCarthy - gave a stirring lecture in which he described this time as "A Movement Moment,"  further explaining that he meant not just the Resistance School, but the overall arc of rallies, marches, phone calls, letters and social media postings that arose in lieu of the November 8, 2016 election.

Tim's lecture was inspirational and instructional, describing America's roots as a protest nation in which "dissent is the engine," and also the tension between the values expressed in our Declaration of Independence and our nation's imperfect  record of expressing these values in public and private life. He noted the "paradox of progress and prejudice" in our history, and how each progressive movement built on those preceding it to "fill in the gaps" of our imperfect practice, to strive more fully to realize the life, liberty and happiness of all our people.

I commend the lecture vigorously to everyone, particularly those who have felt adrift in the last seventy-seven days. As Tim noted in his lecture, we all have the right and responsibility to partake in public discourse, to tell our stories, and to listen to the stories of others. He urged us to be "fierce and generous" as we move  to further evolve this nation, to share and to understand, to practice and make connections. Amen, brother, and thank you for the welcome home.