Family Moab

Family Moab
In Arches National Park

Thursday, May 25, 2017

In the Shelter of Each Other

I belong to a group that issues their invitations with the following phrase, "In the shelter of each other . . .."  The events that they stage include potlucks, prayer, salsa and singing. The most recent invite was for a singalong. On my Facebook Messenger app it read, "In the shelter of each other, the people karaoke!"  Quirky, funny, heartwarming.

While I hurriedly painted the bathroom this week (it was on my list of things to accomplish before summer break, which starts tomorrow), that invitation ran through my head like a meditation. Each time I picked up the brush, dampened the roller, or paper-toweled my mistakes, I heard the refrain "In the shelter of each other." It reassured me, brought a smile to my face, made me wish I had been able to go to karaoke.

The beloved community, "everyday's Most quiet need," as per Elizabeth Barrett Browning. The bonds between us grow stronger when we let ourselves be vulnerable in community. We share joys, and heartaches, we salsa and we karaoke. The common theme among these activities? We are face-to-face, we pay attention, we let go our reserve.

Upon reflection, the group's invitations do not read "in the shelter of each other, the people watch TV, see a movie, play video games, look at their phones."  We can do those activities in large groups and still feel alone, but I challenge you to feel alone while attempting the salsa, or delivering "Take me home, country road" via karaoke machine. I am no expert, but I think many of the world's ills could be solved by acting "in the shelter of each other."

Monday, May 22, 2017

Homecoming and Homeleaving

My friend Ingrid, who has been in Sanctuary at a Friends Meeting since late October, 2016, was granted a temporary stay of deportation so that she could pursue her court case safely. She went home joyfully with her two sons and partner last Saturday. Though the stay only extends through early August, it enables the family to spend their summer together, and allows the boys to play outside with their mother.

It's wonderful that Ingrid has the opportunity to pursue her constitutional and human rights, that she will be allowed to follow legal channels to appeal her immigration case. Many thousands of individuals locked in immigrant detention do not have that opportunity, and it is a blemish on our nation. To remind us of why people risk their lives to come here, I copied Warsan Shire's incredible poem below. Shire is a Syrian refugee and the words speak for the plight of those fleeing poverty, war, abuse, danger of any kind.

no one leaves home unless
home is the mouth of a shark
you only run for the border
when you see the whole city running as well
your neighbors running faster than you
breath bloody in their throats
the boy you went to school with
who kissed you dizzy behind the old tin factory
is holding a gun bigger than his body
you only leave home
when home won’t let you stay.
no one leaves home unless home chases you
fire under feet
hot blood in your belly
it’s not something you ever thought of doing
until the blade burnt threats into
your neck
and even then you carried the anthem under
your breath
only tearing up your passport in an airport toilets
sobbing as each mouthful of paper
made it clear that you wouldn’t be going back.
you have to understand,
that no one puts their children in a boat
unless the water is safer than the land
no one burns their palms
under trains
beneath carriages
no one spends days and nights in the stomach of a truck
feeding on newspaper unless the miles travelled
means something more than journey.
no one crawls under fences
no one wants to be beaten
no one chooses refugee camps
or strip searches where your
body is left aching
or prison,
because prison is safer
than a city of fire
and one prison guard
in the night
is better than a truckload
of men who look like your father
no one could take it
no one could stomach it
no one skin would be tough enough
go home blacks
dirty immigrants
asylum seekers
sucking our country dry
niggers with their hands out
they smell strange
messed up their country and now they want
to mess ours up
how do the words
the dirty looks
roll off your backs
maybe because the blow is softer
than a limb torn off
or the words are more tender
than fourteen men between
your legs
or the insults are easier
to swallow
than rubble
than bone
than your child body
in pieces.
i want to go home,
but home is the mouth of a shark
home is the barrel of the gun
and no one would leave home
unless home chased you to the shore
unless home told you
to quicken your legs
leave your clothes behind
crawl through the desert
wade through the oceans
be hunger
forget pride
your survival is more important
no one leaves home until home is a sweaty voice in your ear
run away from me now
i dont know what i’ve become
but i know that anywhere
is safer than here
--Warsan Shire
(About the Syrian refugee crisis)

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Happy Birthday to William

May 18 dawned with snow falling and spring flowers freezing in their roots. My newly minted fourteen-year-old stumbled downstairs, grumbling a response to my cheery birthday wishes. After a minute or two on the phone registering Snapchat HBD's from friends, however,  his smile lit the room. Ah, teenagers.

The kids had five different activities between 3:45 and 6:30 last night, and the pressure to rally for a good birthday weighed heavily on me. Good thing Aden likes to bake - and procrastinate. While putting off a final English essay, she decided to construct the leaning tower of Pisa. I had purchased both chocolate and a vanilla (gluten free) cake mixes, thinking to give William a choice of flavors. In his absence and in favor of both surprise and overwhelm, Aden decided to use both to create an alternating vanilla-chocolate, four-layer masterpiece.

Relegating to sous-chef, I watched in amusement as she skillfully constructed her tribute to a teenage brother. We ran out of frosting, so the cake looks like it put a hat on but went naked from the neck down.  I was grateful for the enthusiasm and help, the brightly colored gift bags I found in a basement closet, and the friend support this morning. Parents can't do it alone, nor would we want to. Developing community for our children is a privilege and a responsibility, and one that we start to hand over to them as they grow. Happy birthday to William, may it be both memorable and delicious.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Jeanette and Arturo Go Free

Jeanette Vizguerra left sanctuary this morning and will spend Mother's Day with her four children. She has been granted a stay of deportation, until March, 2019, by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Arturo Hernandez Garcia, who was arrested and held for several days in the beginning of this month and who has also spent time in sanctuary, has also been granted a stay of deportation until 2019.  Grateful, relieved, amazed, joyful, words can't express the emotions brought about by this turn of events. Two short weeks ago the Denver community was terrorized by the unprovoked arrest of Arturo, and now both he and Jeanette are free to work and be with their families and communities.

(Here's the link to the Denver Post article:

Mother's Day feels momentous this year, possibly because it's one thing that folks of both parties can agree on - Moms are important. If we're lucky, as I have been, they're both nurturer and Mama bear, cheerleader and champion, forever worrying and yet brave as can been in times of actual trial. My mom taught me how to be a mother, and I'm still trying to live up to her example. (Failure is a part of progress, right?)

On this Mother's Day weekend I'm grateful that more families will be together because of the release of Jeanette and Arturo and I pray that we find a way to unite even more hard-working parents with their loved ones in the months ahead.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Need a News Fast

All that comes to mind this morning is a list of topics I don't want to write about: Trump firing James Comey, Director of the FBI, with Nixonian undertones of a power grab; undercover ICE agents wrestling with / arresting undocumented immigrants inside the Denver courthouse; thunder and hailstorms wreaking havoc on the Denver area (keeping kids, cats and parents awake at 1:00am); my failure to abstain from chocolate after only a week of self-denial.

Sometimes it's all too much. At book club on Monday night, our group discussed the novel Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel (, which deals with a mysterious virus that wipes out over 90% of humankind. I recommend the book, though the vaguely realistic-feeling tragedy and resulting dystopia unsettled me. One of the questions asked by our hostess: "Does the situation in the book feel realistic? If so, how does it affect you?" My response was yes, and it would be worrisome if I didn't try to block it out, along with 95% of what passes for news these days.

In the book, people seem most affected by the inability to travel further than their feet can carry them, and by the lack of communication with humans outside of a 2-mile radius. The book club wondered what it would be like to be without any knowledge of what was happening in the world, to be isolated and removed.  Part of my brain thought that sounded heavenly. Let me focus on my little kingdom of home/garden/family, don't tell me that Mexico is now the second most dangerous country in the world (behind Syria), or email me the list of natural disasters from Canada.

Laura Ingalls and her family, living less than 150 years ago, would only get newspapers days or weeks after printing, would have outdated news at best, and nothing to worry them beyond weather, crops, and local gossip. I don't think those were "good old days," and don't want to go back to that time, but a fast from news - especially those dire headlines - would be most welcome.

Friday, May 5, 2017

A Slight Upturn

The Denver area experienced a slight upturn in events and outlook for its undocumented community. First, Arturo Hernandez Garcia was released after several days in detention. In an unusual move, ICE officials released Arturo for 30 days so that he could attend the high school graduation of his 17-year-old daughter. His lawyers are working furiously to appeal the deportation order, while Arturo himself walked out of detention and asked to go to work. He said that his daughter was going to college in the fall, and he needed to pay for it.

Arturo's wife, Ana Sauzameda, prevailed upon him to take one day off to enjoy family and to support his friends in Sanctuary, Jeanette Vizguerra and Ingrid Encalada. Ingrid was in court on Wednesday in the hopes of finding her earlier attorneys negligent in their representation. She won that case, and it was the first step in amending a guilty plea from 2010 that makes staying in the U.S. impossible. Her eight-year-old son, Bryant, was there along with eighty well-wishers.  It was shocking to listen to testimony about her con-artist lawyers, who took $3,500 of her money and then failed to appear in court. The judge cited one of them - still missing - for contempt.

And later that same day, I had the opportunity to read my poem, Las Mujeres (The Women) at the launch party of the 2017 Progenitor, a local literary and art journal. I wrote the piece for my Regis Capstone and was both thrilled and extremely nervous to read it for an audience. Prior to reading, I sat with two writing group buddies who were also published in the issue, tracing "Lazy 8's" on my thigh and deep breathing.  "Lazy 8-ing" myself to some semblance of calm, I was privileged to share some of the experiences of women in detention.

If interested, here is the link: and here is the text:

Las Mujeres (The Women)

Serve them cold beans, government-required protein, save money for the shareholders. Commissary candy bars for those with cash, it won’t make them less hungry for the touch of a loved one, a breath of fresh air. Feed the hungry? The snarling guard says “get up you pigs, you won’t eat for free!”

Before prison the women trekked through dark deserts, siphoned poisons off old cow puddles. Hid from rabid coyotes, drug-runner guns, border patrol. Crossed the river, swam the ocean, climbed the wall: Ana, Angela, Alba, Brenda, Esmeralda, Jeanette, Josseline, Luz, My-wei, Toni, Wendy, Yanira, Zelda.

Can’t help them cross (crosses line the roads running north). No aiding and abetting, no drink for the thirsty.  Dying of dehydration and exposure, they tore off their clothes. Mothers daughters sisters lost, bones dissolved, dust to dust.

But some were found. Clothe the naked bodies in used briefs, holey tennis shoes. Crank air conditioning to blast through waffle weave shirts. Limit blankets, bolster bottom lines. Launder shapeless green-orange-red jumpsuits.

The corporation pays eighty cents for laundry, two days’ work buys a Snickers. That’s how we welcome the stranger from Bangladesh, China, Ghana, Honduras, Mexico. The women sleep eighty to a room in rows of bunk beds, strobe-lit by ascending moon, melting through window-bars.

We will not look after the sick, wash feet, wrap ankles, salve busted blisters. Care costs! Ignore respiratory illness, bleeding bruise, abscessed tooth. Treat depression and suicidal thoughts with truckloads of Zoloft and Seroquel. Prozac for depressed moms missing baby birthdays, bedtime stories.

Nobody asked them to clean our houses, watch our children, do our nails, cook our food. No English? No problem. Just sign on the dotted line. Erase your rights, ignore the wrong. Can’t make bail, can’t pay attorneys, can’t read the plea bargain? Take a return-trip-ticket.

Arrest them for climbing sharp mountains without a visa, for driving with dark skin. They can spend months in jail, recreate in the concrete walls of detention, play basketball on multi-ethnic teams, groan as the long shot rolls slowly around the metal hoop, wobbles on the edge, and finally... falls... out.

Monday, May 1, 2017

National Day of Action on Immigration

May 1, National Day of Action on Immigration. Arturo Hernandez Garcia is still in detention in Aurora, CO, after being arrested for overstaying his visa. Arturo petitioned the US government for legal citizenship half a dozen times, through a few different avenues, and was denied each time. Our system is at fault here, not Arturo.

Pondering Arturo's case, and the case of many in detention, lead me to wonder: which group overstays their visa most often?  Turns out, it's Canadians, with slightly over 93,000 overstays at the end of fiscal 2015 (  If we take Europe as a group instead of individual countries, it has over 123,000 overstays.  What about Mexico?  In fiscal 2015, Mexico had just over 42,000 overstays. That's less than half of Canada's..... and yet, there were no white people in detention during the two years I volunteered at the GEO facility in Aurora.

We have to get beyond the labels of "illegal" and "legal" to wrestle with some difficult questions. The answers are never simple or clear-cut, but we should wrestle with them, instead of accepting the labels at face value. People's lives are at stake.