Family Moab

Family Moab
In Arches National Park

Monday, June 21, 2021

Simone Manuel Defeats Overtraining Syndrome

Simone Manuel was the face of U.S. women's swimming at the Rio Olympics. A gold-medal winner in the 100 meter freestyle and a silver-medal winner in the 50 meter freestyle, she added on another gold and silver in the 400m relays. In late March of 2021 she fell ill while training for a big meet in Texas, a lead-up to the Olympic Trials. After that meet she went to stay with her family for the first time in over a year, and a doctor diagnosed her medical issues as overtraining syndrome (OTS).

In an emotional press conference that Manuel gave after she failed to make the finals of the 100 free at the 2021 Olympic Trials, the standout swimmer graciously sat and answered numerous questions, some of a personal nature, about her symptoms and the stress she carried as a black athlete during the racial reckoning of 2020. The list she provided of her body's warning signals: high heartbeat, extreme fatigue, inability to resume her normal schedule after weeks of modified activity, anxiety, depression and insomnia, are all familiar to me. I had the same issues in 2011 and 2012 when I over trained for a marathon / triathlon combo. William, too, shared many of those symptoms in 2017 after his freshman swim season.

A reporter asked Manuel if she thought that overtraining syndrome was common with swimmers. She said she could not answer that, having just heard this diagnosis for the first time, but that she supposed it was quite common. Swimmers work so hard, for so long, trying to turn their bodies into hydrodynamic machines, that we often hear of injuries, burnout, depression, anxiety, stomach and sleep issues. But these symptoms are not usually treated as credible. Without understanding, without the official diagnosis, swimmers have trouble finding solutions from doctors, parents, coaches. 

By offering her story and being so vulnerable with a nation full of swimmers wondering "why?" Simone Manuel shone a light on a patchwork of problems in our sport. Too much difficult training can ruin an athlete - even a world class athlete. But this story has a happy ending. At the urging of her doctors and her coach, Manuel rested for three weeks in April, a thing absolutely unheard of just a month before Trials. Though she missed the final of the 100 free last week, she persevered through prelims and semifinals in the 50 meter free, and last night she won, landing on a second Olympic team. America's sprint queen is headed for Tokyo, and a more worthy winner I cannot imagine.



Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Unapologetic Aqua Fangirl

"I know what you're watching!"

My sister's text arrived as Lilly King smashed her way to a fabulous time at the United States Olympic Trials. Arguably the best meet in swimming - even, potentially, more tense and exciting than the Olympic Games - the U.S. Trials offer the best possible TV to a swimming geek like myself.  I gasp and cheer like an unapologetic fan-girl next to my long-suffering kids and husband, who won't see the remote control for the next week.

Though I don't know the athletes personally, SwimLabs has hosted many of them (they film video for our Champions' Library - they don't take lessons!) and one of my Masters swimmers is a stroke-and-turn judge. A handful of swimmers grew up competing in Colorado and are familiar names to my kids, especially William who has competed against some of them in state. We search for familiar names and faces like our backyard chickadees hunting for sunflower seeds.

William alternately watches the races and plays games or snapchats on his phone. He's trying to manage personal dreams of records and victories as his high school squad prepares for league and state championships, delayed until late June because of pandemic scheduling. His 200 medley relay wants the state record (only .13 faster than their current time) and could take aim at the national high school record. Meanwhile, his legs still hurt from training and he worries about starts and turns, so the Trials  offers both distraction and a chance to get nervous all over again.

I'm fully aware that swimming is not life-or-death, and that my children's swim times have no bearing on their future livelihood. In fact, it's the non-fatal attraction of sport that keeps me zoned in, the pleasant emotional upheaval of wins or losses instead of the existential crises of global warming and COVID. 

We were supposed to be at these Trials - would have been at them if the pandemic hadn't moved events back a year - but the refund we received for our tickets helped to pay for a trip to Greensboro, North Carolina in July. Aden and I are going to compete in a Masters National event there, a meet that will be much slower than Trials but equally exciting for its participants. My friend from our record-setting 200 free relay (13-14 girls in New England) will be there, too, and I'm excited both for our reunion and the fact that she is in a younger age group than I am!

The sport of swimming consistently offers me a mental health break, a physical outlet, and an amazing community. When Aden and William are both at CU and I am bereft of their high school swim activities, I hope to join the coaching staff of a girls' high school team in this area. I love helping athletes grow in their love and knowledge of the sport and I love being a cheerleader on the sidelines. Being in person trumps standing and shouting at the TV, though at the moment, I am glad to have both.


 

Friday, June 11, 2021

I am Not Over the Pandemic

The afterglow of graduation and ensuing parties has worn off, while exhaustion and a shocking heat wave knocked me flat for a few days last week. Despite my ongoing efforts to keep gratitude at the forefront, deep-seated frustrations and bitterness caused by the pandemic have re-emerged, like prickly weeds bursting through a crack in the sidewalk.

At William's final home swim meet, already worn down by emotional goodbyes to parents, their boys, even the pool itself, I overheard junior parents talking about their sons' pending college searches. I immediately left the area, overcoming the urge to scream "test scores don't matter !" "there's no scholarship money!" and "everything has changed!"  Junior parents don't need to hear further words of warning, at least not from me. The coming year and their college search might be more conventional than ours was in a historic 2020. 

After a night of restless sleep, dreaming of missed swim races and evaporating ties to high school meets, I walked with two friends in the cool of the morning. We exclaimed over the lovely summer flowers and happy dogs out for an early stroll. But when the conversation turned to religion, I again felt lightning flashes of frustration. Online church services and regular emails helped me only marginally during the lockdown, and I now feel separated from our church, divorced from my spirituality. 

Despite good intentions to meditate, I never resumed my long-dead practice, and my early morning alone-time during the pandemic was most often spent reading headlines. I realize that my spiritual disappointment and frustration should be aimed internally and not my place of worship, which did all it could to support people virtually. That knowledge doesn't diminish my disappointment or feelings of isolation.

How long will it take me, will it take our society, to recovery from the pandemic and resulting lock downs, social distancing and revamping of social norms? Are we even out of the pandemic now?  I wrote that our graduation party for William and his friends was "post-pandemic" but I fear I spoke too soon. Headlines continue to mourn deaths in India, wail about ten thousand Olympic volunteers defecting in Tokyo. My grievances continue to emerge at odd times and to eyebrow-raising effect. I hope I'm just reflective enough to place blame on the historic virus and not the people or institutions which - like me - were just trying to survive the best they could.

Monday, June 7, 2021

Post-Pandemic Carnival

William graduated on Friday morning and hit the grad party circuit after a brief nap, while Rob and I joined other parents to set up a grad party for him and four friends he's been connected with since pre-K. A Colorado sun blazed in the royal blue sky and sweat dripped into my eyes as I tied balloons to each boy's shade tent. The tents covered posters filled with pictures illustrating each young man's journey from babyhood to present, and we each took a few moments to look at the photos between hauling tables and filling coolers.

Early guests arrived before we could take a photo of the boys together or even finish preparations, and they wandered down the row of tents peering at pictures and happily greeting neighbors, who came out of the woodwork on the first fine day of the first "level clear" weekend in Colorado. The party took on the form of a reunion for our Willow Creek community; as the teenagers clumped to confab or dispersed in groups to play spike ball and volleyball, the adults greeted friends from across the neighborhood that may well have been on the other side of the country during the pandemic. 

"It's a carnival!" said one passerby.

"It's a post-pandemic reunion!" said a neighbor.

"It's going as fast as a wedding," we party-planners said as we rushed pass one another to get more food or beverages.

Everywhere I looked, vaccinated teens were laughing, joking, playing; an antidote to the pandemic, a toss of the head to social distancing. We took time out between conversations to marvel at their happiness and feel relief soaring like the red, white and blue helium balloons that our kids had achieved a sort of normalcy at the very end of their high school careers.

Friends shared endless stories of surviving the pandemic. Markedly absent was the usual glossing over of tough events, no one said "oh, the pandemic was fine" or "we did great!"  Instead we discussed a new wine habit, a basement renovation, other inexplicable big purchases. One friend bought a potter's wheel for stress relief after watching "The Great Pottery Throw Down" with her son. "But Mom," he said in exasperation when he learned of the purchase, "We only watched three episodes! Three! We don't even know if we like pottery."

"But it was on sale, on Amazon," she told us and we nodded wisely, bonded by our myriad uses of Amazon to survive months trapped inside the house with our families.

When darkness fell shortly after 9:00, the teens melted away and adults lingered around the edges, helping us fumble through the party take-down, conducted by cell-phone flashlight and shout-outs as we wobbled across the grass. Before he left to go to another party, my son gave me a big hug and thanked me for the evening. "It was so great," he said, "Thank you so much for everything."

I didn't buy a pottery wheel, a new car, or a new basement in the past year, but we did buy over 200 ice cream cones, myriad brownies, whoopie pies and rice krispie treats, and endless bottles of seltzer for last Friday. Was it worth it, even if not on Amazon sale? How can you even ask? For an post-pandemic carnival, and for my son's heartfelt thank you, I wouldn't change a thing.

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Graduation Week

It's graduation week. Graduation cards and thank you notes blanket William's place at the kitchen table, a long list of people he need to thank covers his cloth napkin. Our friends and family have been so generous that William jokes about the transfer of wealth from my generation to his, which certainly feels true to my checkbook. But I feel lucky to be writing notes of congratulations and checks to William's friends and so grateful to those who send those notes to my son. After the traumatic 15 months these teens have just endured, a weight of worry rises from my chest when I think of all the happy graduates, and the in-person ceremony to come on Friday. I'll be crying buckets when they march into the stadium but inside I'll be thrilling to the rituals they get to experience.

The rainy Memorial Day weekend was a blessing, an excuse to be indoors to clean and prepare for Bill and Connie's arrival. (I haven't seen them in more than a year and a half - insane.) The wet afternoon also provided cover for William and me to go through the past 18 years of photos and family videos, picking out the most relevant for his trifold display board. We'll put the board up at his shared grad party on Friday night, showcasing his cute round baby face and the adorable photos of his friends. The boys shared baseball, basketball, swimming, water polo, camping, boy scouts, school performances and countless other childhood rites.

William 's neighborhood friends have grown with him. The photos we picked out include their cherubic baby cheeks and gap-toothed smiles since they were at most two or three years old when they started playdates and park visits together. William's friends and their families are part of our chosen family and we wouldn't have made it over the hurdles of the past 17 years without them. 

Though I don't typically dwell on future events, the idea of this graduation party has crossed my mind over the years, especially when we celebrated the graduations of older siblings. We moms never doubted that this core group would still be linked, that the bonds of growing up together would hold. Now the cherished idea of finishing K-12 the way we started it - with dear friends at our side - will come to fruition on Friday. Gratitude fights with nostalgia for primacy in my mind, and underneath that battle lies a quiet happiness, a sure knowledge that we are blessed in community, and my children will understand that forever.


Monday, May 24, 2021

Is it the 1950's?

About a month ago, my swim friend / gardening fanatic told me about a wonderful new invention: seed tape. The tape is actually a toilet paper-type material, and the seeds are pressed between two layers at ideal intervals for planting. No more painstakingly dropping tiny seeds at carefully measured distances; with seed tape you can dig a simple furrow and lay the paper down in even and well-spaced rows. In a flurry of excitement I went to the local Ace Hardware, which was out of seed tape, and then online, where I purchased lettuce, spinach, carrots and beets.

The bulky envelope of seed tape thrilled me when it arrived and I carefully opened the lettuce and spinach to see the coiled paper within. What a shock when I came to the carrot bag and it was flat as a pancake. No carrot seed tape lay within and the flap on the envelope wasn't even sealed. Someone apparently missed the memo that those envelopes are supposed to contain a product.

So I girded my loins and made a telephone call to the help desk at the seed company. The 'helper' -let's call her Myrtle - asked me for my address and order number twice in a rusty voice. I kept my patience and used my nice "I can make friends on the phone voice," until Myrtle told me that I couldn't make the order request because my husband's name was on the order.

"I need your husband's confirmation of this order," she creaked.

"But I'm the one that made the order! He doesn't know anything about the garden. His name is only on it because I used his PayPal account to pay. And he's on a conference call for work."

"I'm sorry, Ma'am, but I can't process this re-order without your husband's go-ahead." She was definitely not using her "make friends on the phone" voice.

"But this is just for carrots, it's a five-dollar order!" Myrtle didn't reply, so I sighed loudly in exasperation and made the long trek downstairs to the basement so Rob could say yes, please order the carrots. (I may have stomped loudly on the stairs both ways.)

I got off the phone with Myrtle before the customer service recording could capture me saying something bad. Rob came upstairs later with a chuckle, asking why the seed company didn't trust me to order carrots. As I fumed, he shook his head. "It's not the 1950's," he said.

His words put a pause on my anger as I thought about the de-humanizing aggravation, the disempowerment, that women faced in the 1950's, and both before and after that time. The idea that a woman's authority has to come from a man seems barbaric to me, and yet there are people alive (mainly men, but not all) who still believe that. 

I'd like to tell Myrtle that women are powerful people, and we know how to buy our own damn carrots. We also own homes and businesses, take charge of families, companies, and countries. We don't need permission from anyone, and we're not going back to a time when a man needed to give it.



Tuesday, May 18, 2021

A Bittersweet Birthday

 "Wow!" said the little boy in Party City. "Those balloons are big."

"Yes," said the mother holding tight to his hand. "See, a one and an eight. That makes eighteen. How old are you?"

He held four fingers in my direction. "Four years old! That's a good number, too," I said, thinking back to William's flyaway brown hair, his chubby cheeks and his sturdy four-year-old body.

He nodded and asked his mom, "Who are those balloons for?"

I answered him. "They're for my little boy." 

The mom looked at me, her eyes sympathetic over the mask. "That's a big birthday."

"It's bittersweet," I said, dashing a hand across my eyes and cursing the cold that made me cry even more than usual.

William's golden birthday is today, as he turns 18 on the 18th. We didn't know what to buy him, so the balloons, cake and cards have to make the day special until he figures out what he wants or needs for college.  We now have four adults in the house, four people linked by years of living together, two who are rooted here at home and two who are sprouting wings and eager to fly away.

I used to want to slug people who said, "Oh, treasure every moment, it goes by so fast!" when they saw me with three young children. Back then, every day lasted a year. Moms can't get sick, can't take naps, can't go workout or even do grocery shopping in peace. I am so grateful for the freedom that comes with having adult children, for the self-care I can do now, for their independence and their help. But the years of high school did go fast, and especially in the pandemic, time slipped through my fingers like water.

As I baked William's cake, the photos of my babies flashed across our electronic photo frame. The kids  were so precious and innocent, so trusting, protected and happy. When they leave us, I can't protect them from this dizzying cruel and kind world. When they leave us, their absence haunts the house. My son whistles beautifully - like my father did - and when he leaves, his whistle goes with him, along with his swim bag in the corner, his shoes in the mud room, his towels from the backs of kitchen chairs. 

Rob and I have mostly done our job, I think, and there is pride and pleasure in that as well as a sting. Today we will show William only our smiles and our support, encourage him to keep growing and making his own way. But tonight, after cake, candles and singing, there will be more than a few bittersweet tears on my pillow.

Saturday, May 15, 2021

By the Numbers

Three hundred and forty-five days. That was the length of my Apple watch "move streak" which started in June of 2020 and ended yesterday, courtesy of my sinus infection. My goal was to meet the goal every day for a year, and I thought I would be sad to fall twenty days short, but in the end I didn't really care. Exhaustion and a craving for rest took precedence over a meaningless number, and I took the watch off at bedtime with nary a regret.

Though my goal of 365 days offered motivation for daily workouts and a thread of continuity in the long, empty days of the pandemic, it's no longer useful. As I lay in bed, trying to breathe, trying to stop my head from pounding, I thought about what the 345 days really meant - how lucky I was to be healthy for so long and to have space to exercise during the pandemic. Absurdly lucky, incredibly fortunate.

Numbers don't adequately express our lives, our feelings, our personhood. William is my second child and my first son and those descriptors don't do anything to explain how proud I am of his high school achievements, how sad I am that he will move out in August. The second departure doesn't promise to be any easier than the first, the second round of graduation events, prom, and parties no less exciting and tearful.

In this culture of numbers-obsession, where likes and followers are tracked relentlessly, I need to remember that quantity does not mean quality. Streaks are distractions, sight-views are missing the point. What was it Dr. Seuss said? "To the world you might be one person, but to one person, you may be the world." I want to treat every interaction, every workout, every day like it's one-of-a-kind, not focus on stringing things together or accumulating numbers but on appreciating each unique circumstance. As the days fly by, even in these waning days of the pandemic. each moment is a treasure.


Thursday, May 13, 2021

A Shocking Stuffiness

I woke up yesterday morning and something was amiss. Back pain, check, that's an everyday occurrence. Stumbling forward from bed to the alarm clock like a drunkard at 2am on perpetually sore feet, also normal. I performed my morning ablutions, confused as to my fogginess, when I realized that my nose was stuffy!  I haven't needed to use a Kleenex in over a year and but yesterday I had to go searching for saline spray and menthol.

We've been outrageously, absurdly lucky that in the past fifteen months of pandemic we haven't fallen prey to COVID-19 or even the usual seasonal bugs. All the mask-wearing, distancing and working from home kept us safe, I suppose, and my body forgot what it was like to be under attack from allergies or the common cold. A few teaching shifts in the water with young children blew that streak right out of the water. Those pesky young kid germs snuck right under my face shield and attacked when my guard was down.

We've been fortunate to escape the last year with our physical health intact. (Mental health, another story). Four of us are fully vaccinated and immune from COVID;  even our fifteen-year-old can get a vaccine now, and he's scheduled for his first shot on Sunday. We're unused to coughs and colds, our bar set at clear sinuses and easy breathing. My older son avoided me like the plague when he saw me reaching for tissues last night. "Stay away!" he said, "I can't get sick!" I guess I should be glad he's even paying attention to my existence.

I wonder if germ avoidance caused our immune systems to weaken, or if the frantic pace of work and family support over the past few weeks finally took a toll. Stress can be dangerous, and being back out in the world has increased my cortisol levels. Time to rest, avoid paranoid family members, and mask up in public. The last one, at least, is now routine.




Saturday, May 8, 2021

Duck, Duck, Goose

I navigated my way through Friday swim lessons without any hilarious diversions, which made for a smooth but less entertaining shift. This morning, however, a Canadian goose nearly knocked me down in the 303 Coffee parking lot, which kicked in some adrenaline. With hands full of lattes, I had to pause in the middle of oncoming traffic, guessing whether to duck left or weave right. Fortunately the goose got some extra lift and squawked by two feet overhead.

The incident struck me as apt, since I am bobbing, ducking and weaving my way through May. You have to hand it to the old May-hem, even as we're emerging from a pandemic it manages to hurl everything but the kitchen sink at parents. Thursday brought a swim meet (where I got to time in person), an in-person choir concert (where the program was streamlined and guests limited), to a track meet. My heart rate hasn't gone down yet, so stimulated was I by all of this in-person excitement. After 15 months of introverted escape, the rapid expansion of community takes my breath away.

Psychologists and a viral post by actor Anthony Hopkins urge us to keep our innermost social circles small, as we have during the past year of COVID-19. As we emerge like newborns into our previously normal social scene, some of us are gasping and crying like colicky babies. Others are delighted and unfazed, even energized by the growth of human interactions. To them I ask for patience, for tolerance of those of us who keep a tight inner circle like a life preserver around us, and for whom the open ocean of bigger groups and large events seems perilous, like swimming with sharks or dodging our way through a flock of Canadian geese.

Graduation looms, as do grad parties, vacations and other opportunities to mingle. I'll have to put my big girl pants on and self-talk my way into a semblance of composure. My fumbles of the past few weeks make this more difficult, as I rambled (way too loudly), and found myself divulging facts I should keep private at several volunteer events. I've never been good at small talk and now I've completely lost my way. I don't even know if I want to find it again, but I'll do my best to keep flying forward.


 

Monday, May 3, 2021

Kid Funnies

After getting my two jabs and waiting the recommended two weeks for full immunity from COVID, I jumped back in the pool to give swim lessons. Most of my clients are older and I can keep some distance while wearing my clear face shield, and for some I can even stay out of the water, but for the younger swimmers I am right there at arm's length, still protected by the Darth Vaderesque shield but up close. Working with kids under the age of 12 again provides welcome humorous material and useful research for my children's book and this blog.

A few weeks ago I had a young man - we'll call him Fred, though that's not his name - with a reputation of bouncing off the pool walls, turning somersaults underwater ad nauseam, and generally not wanting to do any of the suggested swim drills or distances. He's a sharp and funny kid, and I decided to take the bull by the horns and great him with tremendous positive energy.

"Fred! It's been so long since I last taught you, you have grown so much! How old are you now, 18?"

Taken aback, he froze and gave me serious side-eye. "I'm eight. When did I have you as a teacher?" he asked with lifted eyebrow.

"Oh, it's been at least two or three years," I said. "I bet you're a super swimmer now."

He ignored my obvious gambit to start swimming. "Three years, hmm." There was a long pause as he processed my absence from his life.  "Let me tell you, you have a lot to catch up on!" 

It was my turn to be surprised as Fred filled me in on the major events of the last three years, grandparent visits and deaths, school performances, sibling accidents, etc. My ploy to start swimming had failed, but our relationship certainly got back on good terms.

Then last week I had two youngsters in a beginner class. The first, aged six, was dutiful and determined, floating and kicking with straight legs and somber gaze. The second, aged three, was both exuberant and fearful, flashing an adorable grin when he felt comfortable and grabbing my arm with a vise grip when he felt nervous.  Imagine my surprise when I gently put him back on the bench after a back float and he turned and grabbed my chest with both hands. 

"Honk, honk!" he said with a glint in his eyes. I quickly recovered from my shock and removed his hands from my breasts, telling him that "we don't do that to teachers" and wondering how on earth he learned that party trick. I hoped the parents in the lobby didn't see that particular move on our TV. Still in fine fettle despite my reprimand, he grabbed the safety whistle as he went down the stairs and blew it until I could wrest it from his grasp. 

So merriment, shock and disbelief are back in my life and I remember now how interesting, surprising and startling young children can be. Time to dial up the shocking behavior in my children's book, and keep my notebook and pen ready for more kid adventures.


Thursday, April 29, 2021

More Light

 "As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being."  - Carl Jung

"To love beauty is to see light." - Victor Hugo

"There's more light out there, go find it!" - Kendall Toole

William and I watched the first part of My Octopus Teacher last night. The beautiful documentary about a filmmaker, producer Craig Foster, and an octopus that he befriends in the frigid Atlantic waters off the coast of South Africa brought me to near-tears with its beauty. The bright colors of the corals became the bright colors of the octopus, and the sunlight shone through translucent jelly fish and other creatures in the kelp forest. Just watching the first half-hour reminded me of all the beauty, all the light that exists in the world, and how much I want to go find it after this terrible year.

The whole country staggers to its feet now that the vaccine has arrived and COVID infections are mostly down, but headlines from India and Brazil continue to buffet our awareness and mass shootings have once again surfaced as daily occurrences. Most of us have learned to ration our news intake, to distance ourselves from tragedy just to preserve our sanity, but I forgot to seek out sources of beauty and light.

Withdrawing into my hole of unconsciousness, like the octopus hiding in its rocky den, doesn't spark my joy. The Oscar-winning documentary about an unlikely friendship between a man and animal reminded me of the mystery, the miracle-filled nature of our world. William and I spoke at the same time last night as we watched Craig Foster free dive in the kelp: "I really want to do that!" There's nothing stopping us from planning that trip. We'll soon be able to explore again, to recognize how much light is out there and how much we need to find it.



Monday, April 26, 2021

Enough Love to Get Our Hands Dirty

"Do you have enough love in your heart
To go and get your hands dirty?
It isn't that much, but it's a good start
So go and get your hands dirty.
Do you love your neighbor?
Is it in your nature?
Do you love a sunset?
Aren't you fed up yet?
Do you have enough love in your heart
To go and get your hands dirty?"
-Lyrics to "Dirty" by Grandson

When we had finished our Earth Day service project, new cottonwood trees and drought-resistant shrubs dotted the high prairie landscape. Socially distanced volunteers spread out across the suburban parkland, carrying buckets of mulch from the truck to new plantings, exchanging overjoyed hellos when they passed a masked friend they hadn't seen in fifteen months. A warm sun broke through the chilly inversion layer, and curious red-winged blackbirds screeched at us when we passed by their cattail marsh.

Our Indivisible volunteers joined with a group from the office of U.S. Representative Jason Crow to put young trees and shrubs into the ground (conveniently pre-augured by the South Suburban Parks team).  We celebrated both Earth Day and the many positive actions taken by Congressman Crow to protect the environment. What a relief to have a champion in government who wants to increase protection for public lands, sponsor energy innovation, examine carbon fees and promote dividends that go back to the people. His young family joined him on site, getting their hands dirty to help protect and rebuild the landscape.

When I stood up from my own Charlie Brown-esque baby pine, I scanned the families working together and thought about last week's blog on Radical Hope, the idea that having young children provides extra motivation to address the climate crisis. That outlook felt myopic as a wider gaze took in the range of volunteers, those who came solo, couples without kids or with grown children, and I thought of the lyrics of the song "Dirty": Do you love your neighbor? Is it in your nature? Do you love a sunset? Do you have enough love in your heart to get your hands dirty?

We don't have to have children, young or old, to work for change, we just need to have enough love for something. A nesting robin, a hawk circling overhead, a family of foxes hiding in the greenbelt, spring tulips, a sunset. The love can come from any source, be directed literally anywhere on earth. If we have enough love in our hearts to get our hands dirty, we have motivation to fight, to protect the Earth and every living thing who shares it with us.

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Not the Worst

 "COVID 19 in Colorado: Wave is not the worst in U.S." - Denver Post, p1, April 20, 2021

What to  make of a headline that states, "we're not the worst?"  Is that good news, bad news, or purposefully blurred news? We're getting worse, but other states have bigger problems - is that supposed to reassure me?

Today feels like a "not the worst" kind of day. The high school quarantined my senior because of "close contact," and he now awaits the results of his PCR test from his bedroom. As a result, I had to drive my freshman to school through icy, slushy streets. It took over 30 minutes to drop him off (usually a 12-minute drive) and then another 30 to get to Trader Joe's for the weekly grocery shopping. Driving west toward snow-covered mountains and blue sky, I tried to bathe in appreciation but descended into cursing the slow traffic and smut-spattered windshield.

A tall latte lifted my spirits briefly, though they crashed when I realized that the yogurt and eggs on my shopping list had never made it into my cart. The steaming beverage and bright sun brought on a hot flash which required the rolling down of windows, despite an outside temperature of 24 degrees. My uncombed hair fluttered strangely in the breeze, like the wings of a injured bird.

I had to shovel my way to the door with four heavy grocery bags, and when I was done unloading, I felt like going back to bed. The substitution of a quick blog will hopefully re-set the morning and my view on the day's chores, which include two more trips to the high school and a dentist appointment. Cheers to a day that's not the worst!


Friday, April 16, 2021

Act of Radical Hope

 "In a time of Covid-19, climate change and catastrophe, having a baby is an act of radical hope." - Tom Whyman, "Why, Despite Everything, You Should Have Kids (if You Want Them)", New York Times, April 13, 2021

I work with a lovely young woman who has two young girls, one only four months old. We met yesterday to discuss changes in the onboarding process, and she confessed that though she knew the world was a mess, she couldn't look at the news. My co-worker's biggest goal is to get her baby to transition from breastfeeding to a bottle before she can come back to work full-time.  Having faced this same issue with my oldest (twenty years ago), I could sympathize. What are headlines when your child won't eat?

In a rare moment of frustration she asked, "What are we even doing, having children, when the world is like this?" A profound question, not only in the time of COVID. Those of us in mid-life who were following the climate crisis twenty or thirty years ago asked the same question before we had our children, and the situation has not gotten better.

In 2000, before we conceived our oldest child, I asked my mentor in Environmental Studies if I should follow the dictates of my biological clock (loudly ticking), given what we knew then about global warming and its devastating potential effects.  He pondered the question, a single man with a step-daughter whom he loved. I'll never forget what Frank told me: "It's an act of hope, it forces you to work hard for a better society, a better world. When you have children, you have skin in the game."

Parents do have skin in the game, as we fight for a more just society, a functioning democracy, an environment that will continue to support life in future generations. I only have twenty-five or thirty years left on the planet if I'm lucky, and I confess that if I didn't have children, I might be tempted to give up the fight. Certainly I would have spent a lot more time in bed during the past pandemic year. 

This mindset, a personal failing, not a global truth, helps me to understand Tom Whyman's position that having a baby continues to be an act of radical hope. It's not for everyone and I applaud those who can fight for a more just world on the basis of their own moral imperatives. Personally, the three young faces at my kitchen table provide deep motivation for my work on climate change, for our personal choices in terms of solar panels and food, and for getting up out of bed each day with a positive attitude. We do not know the future, and something - someone - great may lead us into a better place that, for now, we can't yet see. 





Monday, April 12, 2021

Next Stop: CU Boulder

My senior has committed to attend CU Boulder in the fall. This involves the completion of forms, including a housing application, and payment of (large sums of) money. Less formally, it includes changing his Instagram bio to read CU '25 and telling his circle of friends where he will be come August. He's excited to take classes in the College of Engineering and Applied Science, though he's never been inside it or in one of the dorm rooms on the Engineering Quad.

William told me this morning that his decision felt anticlimactic. Boulder is not an exotic out-of-state location, far away from parents (it's only forty minutes from our house), and his sister will be a junior on the same campus. I think the real difficulty in embracing the future comes not from these variables but from the strange pandemic year which prevented us from doing a tour with William, from meeting professors and potential advisors, and from seeing the University through his eyes, instead of the eyes of his older sister.

How to embrace future possibilities when you have not seen them? It brings to mind my small black cat, Jack, trying to bait his bigger "older brother," Rex. Jack sat on my desk just now, waving his dark paw at Rex's big tawny side, swiping at the air with misguided determination until he finally connected with fur. Jack got bare teeth and a hiss for his efforts, which must have been the goal. Many college seniors have felt they were 'swiping at the air' with applications this year, and were unsure of the reaction when their applications did connect with admissions staff.

But the cats are peacefully watching me now, united in their hope for an early lunch, and I hope our high school senior will move smoothly into his new role of young adult on campus, embracing the new possibilities  and realizing this new dream is even bigger and more beautiful than the last.






Tuesday, April 6, 2021

No Return to Normal

Easter surprised me this year with it's sudden arrival. Coming close on the heels of my trip to Montana, I was completely unprepared. The winter wreaths were still on the doors when I came home, the Easter baskets buried under layers of gift bags in the storage room. I scrambled to do the minimum of decorating (change wreaths to spring / Easter egg theme) and purchased candy for Rob and the kids.

On Easter morning I got up at 5:15 am to drive Daniel to the youth sunrise service. He and I were tired and grouchy afterward, as I made coffee cake and prepped bacon for brunch. The older kids arrived at 9am, Aden from Boulder and William from bed, where he had only had a few hours of sleep. So much for excited kids searching for the Easter bunny's hidden eggs! No one really likes hard-boiled eggs, so I skipped them.

William and Daniel both fell asleep as we watched the 9am service online, and I jumped up to start the eggs after the sermon. A convenient service, but lacking the emotion of the soaring sopranos and horns that always move me to tears when we are in-person.

After brunch, Aden and I chatted while the boys dispersed to batting cages or bed, and I quickly cleaned up the Easter baskets so the cat wouldn't eat the green plastic "grass." The briefest Easter basket appearance in the history of our family, cut short because we didn't want to kill our cat!

Nothing is the same, do you feel that? Not only because the kids are growing up but because we have all changed, are still changing. My trip to Montana was a giant step toward joy, but not really toward normal. As my sister says, "there is no more normal. We never have any idea what the next day will hold, we just meet it as best we can." True, and disorienting.

Rex, the same cat who would binge on a diet of plastic grass if we let him, escaped last night when Daniel was taking out the trash. Of course we didn't realize it until three hours later, when I noticed his absence from the couch in our TV room, where he always dozes at night. We combed the house, and the boys hit the streets near us, shouting his name and waving flashlights. Daniel found Rex crouched in the bushes of our neighbor two doors down, and chased him back up the street and right through our front door.

The cat was spooked by his adventure, his eyes the size of dessert plates and his fur puffed out to five times it's normal volume. He immediately ran upstairs to hide under our bed, only to emerge some time later to drink as if he hadn't seen water in years.  Which reminded me of me, as I now venture back out into the world of in-person work and travel, letting my boys go back to school five days per week.  My eyes wide and my metaphysical fur on fire, excited for old routines but tearing back into the house later as if I hadn't sought refuge in years. 






Friday, April 2, 2021

Laugh Until You Cry

My brother introduced us to pickleball while we were in Montana. Pickleball, a cross between ping-pong and tennis, involves hard plastic balls that take weird spins and hard paddles too short to actually reach the hard plastic balls. I only played after stipulating that I would not run to the ball or move laterally in either direction. So Karen and I were a team and John played solo. John and I shuffle when we run, and I staggered when reaching low for the ball, which spun out of reach before my bifocally befuddled eyes. Karen had a wicked backhand and moved more elegantly.

That is, she moved more elegantly until she decided to imitate my stagger, shrieking with laughter as she stumbled forward, blindly stabbing her paddle into the air in front of her knees. I laughed so hard I almost peed my pants, illustrating a different mode of cross-legged stagger as I clutched my stomach. Mom joined our laughter from the sidelines, her gleeful chuckles punctuating our game. John shouted, too, as he "ran" to pick up the loose balls.

It's been fifteen months since I laughed that hard, smiled until my cheeks hurt, wiped laughing tears from my eyes. Over a year of seriousness, of trying to smile and brace my family but struggling to find bottomless joy. My friends and I would chuckle ironically or throat-laugh at memes, but we all need to laugh until we cry, to be doubled by merriment. That pickleball game erased part of the traumatic COVID  year from my psyche.

A good thing I found my laughter, since I came home to a doctor's text asking me to schedule my first colonoscopy. That text is the strangest happy birthday message I've ever received. And on the counter with my mail, a registration form courtesy of the AARP, listing the many benefits of membership. If those include uproarious laughter, I'm all in.


Wednesday, March 31, 2021

A Half-Century

I was greeted with posters, potted plants and balloons around every bend. Beaming faces, banners and birthday music dotted the trail as friends and family members conspired to surprise me with an outdoor fiesta for my fiftieth birthday. Rob gave me a beautiful ring in a Tiffany box, following in the footsteps of my father, whose ritual present to Mom extended to me and my sister when we became adults. So Dad was there, too, in Rob's thoughtful gesture.

After more than a half-mile of gathering partygoers like pied pipers, we stopped at a colorful picnic table to toast and elbow-bump. The vaccinated among us even hugged. My family presented me with a priceless treasure, a book compiled from scores of letters, poems, and notes, embellished with photos of loved ones over the decades. A half-century of memories, backlit in bright pastels.

Fifty years may be short on the geologic time scale but it's lengthy for a human, for me. The breadth of my life now includes almost twenty-five years with my husband, almost twenty years of child-rearing, sixteen years with my friends in Colorado. I can look back over the landscape of my life and see the valleys that began with my mistakes, the torturous routes to climb back up to the heights, and the amazing individuals that stood with me along the way. 

As I attempted to tell my friends on Saturday, I have never spent so many years in one place, never been so vulnerable, so grateful for friendship that stood firm in the face of trauma, of near-tragedy. In joyful, yet heavy, gratitude for their support, I broke down in ugly tears that seemed at once out of place and yet totally fitting. 

The birthday miracles continued this week as I was able to fly to Montana to meet my mother and sister. They stood outside in the airport parking lot and I heard them shouting, saw them waiting, as soon as I burst out the doors into the wintry weather. After barely pausing to avoid a passing SUV, I threw myself into their arms and we stood blocking the path in a three-way hug where tears and joy once more danced a lopsided jig. Thank God for science, for doctors and nurses, as the vaccine made or reunion possible after fifteen months of absence.

My oldest younger brother surprised us that night, my sister mistaking him for an extremely late deliveryman and refusing to open the door. My Mom calmly walked to the door and unlocked it over Karen's protests, revealing John with a pink birthday card envelope in hand. Our collective amazement extended to the family zoom call yesterday, when John revealed himself in the background of our screen, to the shock and awe of remaining family members.

I can't help but compare this milestone birthday to others. I hope that I'm less selfish now, more loving, humble and aware of my own frailties, more forgiving of others'. I hope to regain some of the childhood confidence that I've lost over the past two decades of raising kids, to cultivate the creativity that's been subsumed by planning and list-making. Mostly, I hope to continue building friendships, spending time with loved ones, and holding gratitude for the ties the bind.

Friday, March 26, 2021

Mourning for Boulder

"Having someone taken through gun violence, surviving gun violence oneself, even hearing gunshots tears at our basic sense of safety, of security and of self."  - Madison Armstrong and Jennifer Carlson, New York Times

"The massacre in Boulder this week, which took the lives of ten of our neighbors, was an act of genuine evil carried out by a single individual. But societal evil flourishes whenever ordinary citizens surrender their moral duty, courage, and collective imagination to resist it for the sake of the common good." - Rev. Mark Feldmeir, St. Andrew UMC, weekly email, March 24,2021

What to say?

My daughter told me about the active shooter situation as she walked from class to home on Monday. "Don't worry, Mom," she said, "I'm safe. It's across town, and the police are on the scene." Aden knew the police were on the scene because one of her classmates had attended their meeting via Zoom, and the noise of sirens in the background drowned out her comments. The professor had to ask the young lady to mute herself, for which he later apologized. 

Aden's classmate lives across from the King Sooper's where a lone gunman murdered ten people.

Another of Aden's friends had been grocery shopping at the location, and left five minutes prior to the first shots fired. My daughter spent a long time on the phone with him on Tuesday, and with two friends who grew up with one of the young people who was killed. 

"It's harder for them," she said to me. "It's their first time."

It isn't her first time, or mine. The Arapahoe High School shooting occurred down the street from us when Aden was in (a nearby) high school, and she lost three classmates to suicide her senior year, including a childhood friend. She's angry, and sad, and numb. Rob and I spent several shaken hours responding to texts, phone calls and emails from family and friends asking if Aden was safe. Yes, I said, and no.

My Facebook feed thrust ironic memories at me whenever I braved the app this week (to ask politicians to act on guns): photos of Aden and I at the Denver march for gun control in the wake of the Parkland shooting. The juxtaposition of past and current events did little to calm my inner unrest. Nothing has improved in the last three years, despite marching, voting, protesting, and writing.

Supposedly, a large majority of America supports common-sense gun regulation. We support it, but we don't care enough to replace elected representatives who don't follow through. There's no political incentive for most Republicans to come out in favor of an assault weapons ban, or even for extended background checks. 

Why? If we care about our broken society, our traumatized young people, our sense of self, we need to vote politicians who will take weapons of war off the street in to office, and we need to fire politicians who do nothing to stop the unending massacre of our citizens.

This is normal in America, but it should not be normal. It should shock, wound, sadden, and steer us to action. Where is our will, I wonder, when my young daughter says to me, "it's worse when it's your first time"?



Monday, March 22, 2021

Monday Confessions

I've been mostly awake since 3 am when the snowplow cruised down our side street, throwing out it's bright red and white lights. It was snowing when I went to bed, and the forecast called for anywhere from 2 - 6 inches overnight. Uncertain snowfall complicates my Monday morning coaching gig. 

Not knowing whether I would be outside or inside, or whether I should cancel entirely, my stress level penetrated my dreamscape. In my nightmare, I was chewing on my mask in the middle of CostCo, horrifying surrounding shoppers and my own subconscious ('you weren't wearing the mask?!'). In reality I was just chomping on my bite guard, but this panicked pre-dawn wakeup kept me hyped on adrenaline until it was time to leave for the pool just before 6:00.

The downward cascade of actions resulting from lack of sleep:

- Plugging in my race-day psyche music just to summon energy to run errands and get my hair cut. The pounding beat of Evanescence certainly surprised the nice older lady parked next to me at the salon.

- "Borrowing" my son's Pre-workout powder to survive my own swim practice. That was my fourth shot of caffeine, which combined nicely with the bass of my soundtrack to give me intense jitters and make it difficult to tie my sneakers.

- Smuggling my green avocolada smoothie into the house inside of my swim bag so the boys couldn't see it.  I could rationalize one special drink for lunch but didn't want to spend the extra $20 for everyone else to get one, too. As a result, I had to finish it in my bedroom, but I thought the subterfuge worthwhile.

What mother smuggles a drink into the house under a wet towel so her sons don't notice? This one. I'm all out of excuses. The boys probably won't ever read this blog post, so if you don't tell, my secret is safe.



Friday, March 19, 2021

Spring break, Spring forward, or Something

Rob and I moved to Denver from California in 2004. For over sixteen years I have known the time difference between Pacific Standard Time and Mountain Time - one hour. That's not a hard number to remember. On Wednesday, however, this pedestrian fact slipped my mind and I was convinced that my 3:00pm (PST) Zoom call would take place at 5pm my time. As I headed out the door for my afternoon walk around 4:00, my subconscious mind broke through the mental fog with a frenzied flag-waving: "Check the time! The call is now, you dummy!" So I raced to the computer to Google "What time is it in California?"

A new low, my friends. Not only did I have to Google the present time, but I narrowly escaped missing the family Zoom call. I abandoned the walk, slipped behind my desk, and pretended I was on top of things. (I didn't fool anyone, partly because I confessed within the first five minutes). Has my mind gone on spring break with the boys? Blame it on spring break, spring forward, or on the year anniversary of COVID life. The newly extended daylight strikes me like a slap in the face, as I stagger around every evening bleary-eyed, wishing it was dark so I could just go to bed.

I'm tired of making decisions about the health and well-being of my family every hour of every day. This re-entry period when vaccines provide hope is almost more difficult - mentally - than extreme lockdown.  We let our youngest go on a small mission trip to southwestern Colorado with church this week, despite some fear of his contracting the virus en route. Last summer we pulled him from both his mission trips, but I couldn't cancel again. He was excited to go, and we needed a break from him sitting at the computer, phone, or video game console at all hours.

Next week our older son heads to a swim meet in Phoenix. All of his big meets since February 2020 have been canceled, and this may be the only chance he has to race at sea level, for... well, ever. Despite lingering fears of infection, we said yes to that trip, too We're tired of saying no. I don't know if we're right or wrong, but we had to make a decision (yet again) and this one seemed like a no-brainer. Which is a good thing, since that term accurately describes me at our present moment.

We're all hanging in there, clinging to hope yet concerned about letting go too fast, too soon. Something about the emotional fatigue, the decision overload, has temporarily short-circuited my brain and required a great deal more coffee. At least it's Friday, and I've almost adjusted to the time change. When I can't blame spring break or spring forward any longer, I'll just have to fire up those neurons and force my brain to work once more.





Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Shoveling Out During the Big Melt

My apologies to Colorado meteorologists for doubting their accuracy. Winter storm Xylia delivered Denver's fourth largest snowfall and left tens of thousands of people without power, as well as many stranded on roadways. Despite arriving a day late, the storm dumped over 27 inches on our city and more in the surrounding areas. On Sunday morning, when the rate of snowfall was greatest, it felt as if we might be buried alive. 

Aden and I went out to snowshoe on Sunday afternoon when the wind and snow had died down, braving the slap of wind and stinging snowflakes to the face in order to tramp through our white greenbelts. Unsurprisingly, we saw three other sets of people out on snowshoes and a handful of folks walking their dogs. This is an adventurous neighborhood where no one stays cooped-up for long. Upon our exhausted return we tried to shovel the walkway to our front door and remove over a foot of snow from the cars parked in our driveway.

Yesterday, "the day after" or "the big melt" depending on who you read, saw neighbors out in force to dig out vehicles and clear driveways. In our family, we tag-teamed shifts with the shovel; wet snow weighs a ton and Rob and I aren't spring chickens. We should have sprayed the shovels with Pam or other cooking oil to keep them slick, but instead resorted to banging them against the nearest tree to dislodge snow, thereby releasing heaps of snow onto our head and shoulders. The brilliant sunshine reflected off high drifts, made us blink like startled owls, and the birds sang their delight at clear skies.

This morning I have a hard time lifting my arms above shoulder height and my back is telegraphing unkind messages. Rob slipped on ice toward the end of the day and fell, landing in a frigid puddle and worrying his bad knee, but he seems unharmed this morning, or at least unwilling to discuss his shoveling injuries. Last night I confessed to him that shoveling out was more than just physically difficult, it was emotionally tricky to let go of our family-full three days of sheltering at home. 

Shoveling out after a storm is like going back to old routines after isolating and distancing during the pandemic. Though I miss our comings and goings, resuming our normal calendar means saying goodbye to Aden, heading back to the grocery store, and picking up with our modified rat race of activities. I need some psychological equivalent to cooking spray to grease my mental shovel and clear my way through the blockade of pandemic restrictions and forward to our new life.


Sunday, March 14, 2021

Winter Storm Warning

Denver and its surrounds were supposed to be smacked upside the head this weekend with a whopper of a winter storm called Xylia. First projected to start Friday night, the slow-moving storm didn't actually get going until Saturday at noon, and nothing "stuck" until Saturday night. We viewed anticlimactic green and brown lawns through our rain-streaked windows until last night, when the temperatures dropped below freezing. Now we have a pretty accumulation of fifteen inches but it's far below the three feet that meteorologists projected. I'd love to have a job where I could be wrong much of the time and still be richly rewarded in salary and side-deals.

Grocery store shelves were empty by Friday and suburbanites suffered post-traumatic stress as the run on groceries recalled the pandemic terror of a year ago, when shoppers around the country rushed stores for canned goods, cleaning products and toilet paper. The pandemic has created a scarcity mentality in us - or at least in me - when I'm in fear of serious repercussions much of the time. When the worst has actually happened, there seems to be no reason for it not to happen again.

I convinced Aden to stay with us this weekend as her roommates were going to be out of town and Boulder was projected to get at least two feet of snow. She rolled her eyes when she came downstairs yesterday and saw the bare roads, but made the best of writing a paper in her room and whipping up chocolate chip cookies after dinner. We played music and games each of the last two nights, recalling the days of March 2020 when we felt alone in our sinking ship and made the best of it. 

After the past twelve months, I may never lose my instinct to circle the wagons when a threat emerges. My senior son, William, warns me that he is not coming home once he sets off for college, and tells me not to expect his presence during future emergencies. I cross my fingers and secretly hope that he ends up in Boulder with his sister, so I can at least get updates on his health and wellbeing from an outside source. Though I really do want the kids to grow up and away, become more independent and less stressed as time distances us from the COVID year, it's difficult to return to my pre-pandemic mindset of trust in the universe. Not every disaster is anticlimactic, and at the moment I'm in a state of suspended animation, waiting for the other meteorological shoe to drop.



Wednesday, March 10, 2021

The Interview

 "It has always been easier to elevate one family to a fairy-tale life of luxury than to do the dreary work of elevating every single family to a decent standard of living." Hamilton Nolan, www.nytimes.com, 3/9/21

I didn't watch Oprah's interview with Harry and Megan, though the fact that I use only first names in this sentence indicates their widespread following. Many millions of people did watch as both Harry and Megan described racism and persecution from members and staff of the royal family. I was, and I am, irritated by the constant news articles around this family drama, though headlines pop up frequently in my feed, so I must jump at the click-bait often enough. And, I'm writing about it now so I admittedly follow the drama despite my irritation.

The most interesting fallout appears to be the damage to the monarchy. As Hamilton Nolan writes in the NY Times, it's easier to worship one family, to read the fairy tale, than to actually lift up families on the ground with more basic struggles. The monarchy is an expensive distraction, and Harry and Megan succeeded in shattering its burnished image, one that has had serious cracks since the tragic death of Harry's mother, Diana. The institution is outdated and insulated, self-preserving and unnecessary. One thing Americans did right, says Nolan, is to abolish the monarchy in this country (not that we don't have plenty of other problems).

Megan also took her hammer to the idea that marrying a prince ensures a woman's "happily ever after." Again, Diana's sad story fractured this idea in the 1990s, but Megan has really shattered the myth. There's no prince, no fortune, no family that will guarantee one's happiness. Sometimes - many times - a woman is better off alone. In this case, Megan's prince got her into the biggest trouble of her life, though he also helped to get her out of it. 

But there's no "get out of jail free" card for any of us. In the Bible, all God promises us is that we will face trouble. S/he also says that we will not be alone, but that's the sum total of comfort offered. Harry and Megan have sundered bonds with one family and institution, and all I can think about their interview (aside from the fact that Oprah made a ton of money) is they wanted to reach out and connect with new people, in new ways. Fairy-tale marriages aside, we only survive this life in connection with others, though living in a family or any community is messy and difficult, we cannot go it alone.






Saturday, March 6, 2021

Quarantinaversary

 We've had the "quarantini," the "quaranteam," and now the "quarantinaversary," a bittersweet notation of one year in the bored/panicked/sad/hysterical timeframe since COVID first upended our daily lives. For those who have experienced great loss, for whom the time has been purely bitter, I am truly sorry. For the rest of us, who have experienced inconvenience and fear but averted catastrophe, we recognize our fortune while at the same time wrestling with an amorphous sense of loss. 

Our children have lost some of their education as well as socialization skills and abilities. Cherished rites of passage such as baptisms, confirmations, proms, graduations, birthday parties have been moved, removed, or observed in stripped-down, somber variations of the normal. We all miss loved ones, physical contact and a sense of optimism. 

But that optimism is creeping back, sending smoke signals above the horizon, which we might see when we venture out of our homes and bunkers. Many members of my masters swim team have vaccine appointments and on this sunny Saturday morning they compared notes about which vaccine they will receive, and when. My sister got her first vaccine last week, in the nick of time before the kids come back to school. In our district, all of the teachers and staff will be fully vaccinated and safe two weeks before they bring the children back to middle school and high school full time, to finish out the school year with a semblance of normalcy.

So this anniversary marks not only our sorrow at a troubled year but our perseverance in conquering its obstacles. We helped those in our communities, we celebrated health workers who toiled beyond the limits of human endurance to help us, we elected a new administration and embarked on a more hopeful path. Every person reading these words has struggled through difficult days, clawed his/her/their way out of bed when bed seemed like the only safe place, and made the world just a little bit better for those around them.

As we mourn those we've lost, as we recognize the trauma felt by a nation, we can also celebrate our strength and collective determination. We can proceed with caution, with masks and distancing, even as we allow the bubble of hope to swell within us and buoy us through the remaining struggles of the pandemic. 

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Tears at Trader Joe's

Trader Joe's employees are some of the friendliest folks you will meet in public, especially during the pandemic. The cashiers and baggers never fail to say hello, ask how my day is going, or comment on my food choices. The gluten free chicken tenders always get a comment, I think one young man has told me three times how he likes to eat them in a sandwich with the gluten free waffles.  So I was surprised yesterday when the women checking and bagging my groceries talked furiously to each other and failed to notice me for several minutes.

After filling a bag full, the blonde lady at the cashier looked me straight in the eye and said, "I'm sorry - how is your day going?"

Reassured that our regular programming was now on track, I replied that my day was fine, the weather was lovely, etc.  Then my cashier said, "My youngest son just surprised me in the checkout line."

Her friend, who was bagging the groceries, added, "She didn't know he was coming. He just surprised her with a visit from California - showed up in her line out of the blue."

Blinking back tears, the blonde said, "I haven't seen him in over ten months. He's the baby of the family, and when I first saw him, I almost didn't recognize him. I mean, I wasn't expecting to see him!"

Now all three of us were in tears. I exclaimed over her wonderful surprise and expressed my wonder that she was still at work. Her friend said, "I keep telling her to go home!"

We laughed, wiped our eyes and looked back down at the groceries or payment kiosk.  "I haven't seen my mom in over a year," I said to them. 

"Me either," said the woman putting my bananas on top. 

It's a solemn thing, to tolerate the absence of our loved ones, and a joyous one to reunite. As my family members start to get vaccinated, we all hold on to hopes of a gathering this summer. As my brother says, "I miss us. I need my mom's real hug." I hope we can all feel those arms around us soon.

Saturday, February 27, 2021

The 7 P's

 "Proper Planning and Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance." - British Army Adage

My dad spent two years in the United States Army and one legacy of his time in the service was his favorite phrase, the "7 P's." Not surprisingly, Dad was a big advocate of proper planning, famous for his organized manila file folders, his predilection for being at the airport at "O dark thirty," and his ability to get five children into the car on time for church, with clean fingernails, no less.

Mom reminded me of the phrase today when we were talking about school districts and their preparation for in-person teaching. Both my sister's district in California and my children's district in Colorado are trying to bring kids back into classroom for more in-person instruction. There are major differences, though, relating to planning and preparation, or lack thereof.

Here in Colorado, kids in K-5 have been in school five days per week since August, with a brief time in remote instruction between Thanksgiving and Christmas when community spread was horrendous. Students in middle and high school have been in person two days per week, except for that same holiday timeframe. The last step, which the administration hopes to take when all teachers and staff have been fully vaccinated, is to bring back the older kids four or five days per week, perhaps for April and May.

Our district did a terrific job of planning. They assessed buildings and revamped HVAC systems in the summer, mandated masks for everyone at all times on all campuses, drafted the cohort policy for the older students, and have basically followed the best science and data at all times, forging a clean pathway when none was provided by the CDC or the U.S. government. Unfortunately, our superstar superintendent will retire after this school year. (Our district will be one of five in the state looking for a new CEO). It's likely that naysayers and negative feedback played a role in his decision, though he's done everything possible to help our kids, teachers and community.

On the other side of the planning process lies my sister's district. None of their kids have been in school all year. To be fair, they adjoin a county that has seen horrendous numbers related to COVID for months. Teachers have done heroic work, shouldering full-time remote learning, emotional support, parental conferences. They learn of shifting criteria and decisions late, or not at all. In some cases, class parents tell my sister about new upcoming developments because parents were emailed before teachers.

I'm bothered by the fact that my sister has not yet had her first shot, and her kids are supposed to come back March 15. The timing is off, and so is the decision to evaluate air quality and circulation at her school just this past week. They learned in February that several of her windows are painted shut. The HVAC hasn't been touched. None of us are sure what the superintendent has been doing since August. Are we at a "piss poor performance" yet?

While I take my hat off to our district and am deeply grateful for the planning, dedication and thoughtfulness demonstrated at all levels, I am so sad to lose our fabulous superintendent. It's hard to accept that his mastery of the "7 P's" was met with blowback strong enough to force his hand. It's also difficult to accept that the poor planning of my sister's district may put her in dangerous circumstances, that in her district, parent wishes trump teacher safety. And of course, we would all be much better off if the ex-President had demonstrated any knowledge of proper planning and hadn't saddled us with the results of his piss poor performance. Perhaps if he hadn't avoided the Army, he would have known better.




Tuesday, February 23, 2021

The Unhelpfulness of Hormones

 I can't decide if it's an indignity or a confirmation of my life force that I still suffer hormonal swings as my fiftieth birthday approaches. Is it bonding or bizarre that my college-age daughter sobs into the phone, "I don't know why I'm crying, but it's probably just hormones" and I have to bite back my own sobs to tell her I'm "right there with you, kiddo"? One wonders just how long the mood swings and acne can continue - isn't (almost) four decades enough?

My answer to this rhetorical question is an assured yes, but I hear from friends who are around the bend of perimenopause that I shouldn't be anxious to venture into that uncharted territory. There lies a world of hormonal replacements and suppositories whose purpose remains shrouded in vagueness. Not better or worse than my current havoc, maybe, just a place with storm clouds and silver linings all its own.

The pandemic renders hormones even more unhelpful. For those of us married couples who have been co-existing in close quarters, wearing the same sweatpants, pullovers and harried expressions for a full year, romance is difficult to fathom. "Mommy porn" fantasies like Bridgerton may serve as temporary replacements for real life, but we all know that Rege-Jean Page will not be appearing on our doorstep in place of the Amazon delivery person. The Saturday Night Live opening last Saturday with Mr. Page explaining "the Duke is just a character, ladies" cuts to the horns of this dilemma.

Mixed metaphors aside, it's not easy for husbands, either. I'm sure Rob would like to get his semi-stable wife back, or at least be allowed to go on a business trip so he could have a few days to miss me before being thrown back into my company. He'd probably also like to throw away the heavily-worn sweat suit I don before bed and wear through the following morning (every morning). The most amorous relationships in our house are between anyone and the cat, who rubs against you and purrs when you feed him.

I'd just like a manual as to what shows are appropriate to watch with my teenagers, and what sentiments I am allowed to express regarding charismatic actors of either gender whose ages fall closer to my children's than my own? How much chocolate must I buy to satisfy the hormonal cravings that perhaps will never end, and when the after-dinner chocolate falls and sticks to the aforementioned sweat suit, how long can it stay before I eat it?




Saturday, February 20, 2021

Pandemic Confusion

I'm not used to constant confusion and I'm not dealing well. Here's what I mean:  

"Cases of the virus have dropped 77% and we're close to herd immunity, so time to lift mask mandates" - state of Montana

"Pockets of COVID have overtaken mountain communities: we're in for another surge due to tourists and skiers bringing in new variants" - Colorado mountain towns

"It's definitely time to double-mask at the grocery store" - random pundit whose name I can't recall

"Double-masking is unnecessary and potentially disrupts the fit of the underlying mask." - random opposing pundit

Now, I'm used to some level of confusion. Every day I wander into a room only to wonder why I walked there so purposefully. The iron law of my life is to write everything down on sticky notes, otherwise I will forget all but the most important information. Each day has its usual chores.

But I'm not used to experts providing diametrically opposed advice (constantly, for the last year). I do like to plan vacations, swim meet schedules and social events, and I usually manage this successfully with the help of my sticky notes. It seems pointless to plan in the present moment, however, because everything I put into the calendar will most likely be moved or deleted. 

We'd like to travel as soon as Rob and I are vaccinated, and I hear vaccines will be available in April - no, July - no, August. Colleges and universities will be more accessible this year due to their financial need for tuition payments - oh, but wait - thousands more students are applying with the same hope of admission and aid. Better luck next year, seniors. Our Masters' championship swim meet will be virtual, or in July, or in October. Our family get-together will be some time over the summer, pending all other events being scheduled.

You're all with me here, I can feel it. Hats off to those who are wading through the murk more successfully than I (99% of you, most likely). I plan to rest in solidarity with the fellow confused parent-planners of the world and ignore all headlines and advice for the weekend. Perhaps that will restore my sanity. It will at least postpone my confusion to Monday, which is my one regularly scheduled day for that mental state.




Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Letting Go, Just a Little Bit

At the dinner table last Thursday, William asked to go skiing with several friends over the long President's Day weekend. My heart dropped into my feet as I mentally covered the list of reasons why the trip was a bad idea: 1. COVID 2. Potential skiing injury 3. Lack of ski gear that fit 4. Loss of upcoming swim season (injury) and 5. COVID. We gave the parental answer equivalent to "I'm temporarily speechless" otherwise known as "maybe."

Over the next two days, William provided details such as the phone number of the adult who was accompanying the teenagers, the link to ski rental, the detailed itinerary and food he would need to bring. His organized mind saw only the plan and its potential, whereas my paranoid brain processed mostly the negative "what ifs." But the plan was ultimately solid and so we let him go, our senior who is almost eighteen but whose freedom has been seriously curtailed by the pandemic. 

We outfitted William with my old snow pants, Rob's ski jacket, helmet, goggles and gloves. It's been several years since he skied, due mostly to swim season as championship meets usually occur in February and March. Our kids learned how to ski when they were little, and as I watched William don the adult gear, my mind swooped back to memories of our six-year-old on short skis, rolling over moguls and diving down "blacks." I hoped he didn't aspire to those feats after such a long layoff with his foot or more of additional height throwing off his center of gravity.

While I was on the phone with my sister yesterday, discussing the rough draft of my book, William Snapchatted me to say that his ski day was over and there had been "no injuries, just lots and lots of fun." I put Karen on speakerphone so I could read his message and text back "hooray, hooray." I'm sure my flood of relief came through the phone and irritated my son to no end, though he responded with a picture of his smiling face.

Just as we're beginning a long-delayed and downsized process of letting go of our senior, I have to start letting go of the book I reviewed with my sister. It requires more editing before I release it to non-family beta readers, but ultimately it has to leave the safety of my hard drive and fly out into the buffeting winds of public opinion. For the first time, I will try to find a "real" publisher for a piece of my longer writing. Having only self-published before, that statement feels like a declaration of war - on my sanity, self-worth and security. But moving forward means letting go, and exploring new terrain, as William did yesterday, on skis in a foot of fresh powder. 

Saturday, February 13, 2021

Mother Nature Left the Freezer Door Open

 "Global warming is the long-term heating of Earth's climate system observed since the pre-industrial period (1850-1900) due to human activities, primarily fossil fuel burning." 

"Climate change is a long-term change in the average weather patterns that have come to define Earth's local regional and global climates." - NASA Climate, 2/13/21

"Climate change is no longer considered to accurately reflect the seriousness of the overall situation; use climate emergency or climate crisis instead." - The Guardian, 2/13/21, referring to changing terms in its style guide

It took a while to convince my Masters swimmers and co-coach to cancel Friday morning's 6am practice, despite the fact the temperature was predicted to be 10 degrees F. When I woke up on Friday  the thermometer on my watch said 3 degrees, and I was particularly glad that we had canceled. Did I mention that we swim outside year-round? On the coldest days, water splashed on-deck freezes instantly and people's bare hands freeze to the ladder rails when they climb out. Sliding across a sheet of ice to the building can be precarious even with copious amounts of salt thrown down by coaches in wool socks and boots.

Today the mercury has dropped further, registering a negative 2 degrees at 7am (I sleep in on weekends). My brother in Chicago has similar temps and my mom, in northern Montana, is even colder, at negative 6. The outrageous mood swings of the polar vortex brought freezing temperatures to much of the country, further confusing people who still call the monumental issue of our time "global warming." 

Though the atmosphere is steadily warming due to the emission of greenhouse gases, the changes we see are not always "warm." The current harsh winter conditions are actually caused by increasing temps in the Arctic. "Rising temperatures in the North Pole are causing parts of the polar vortex to split off and move southward, leading to the possibility of a particularly harsh winter in the US, Europe and Asia." (The Hill, 2/13/21.) So while it seems counterintuitive that we're freezing our bottoms off in the lower 48 due to a warming atmosphere, it's true. It's as if God - or Mother Nature - left the freezer door open.

The Guardian also evolved their language in reporting on climate issues because "climate change" is no longer an adequate way to address the seriousness of the situation we're in. They have instituted "climate crisis" or "climate emergency" instead. We should all try to use these terms; it's the only way to raise our collective consciousness. There's no do-over on protecting our livable climate or our planet. When we call something by it's true name, we're more likely to respond with action.  If your child was locked in a car that was rapidly overheating, you would certainly break a window to get her out. That's what people do in emergencies, they call "fire" and they take every available measure to save the situation.


Post Script, 2/19/21 - The situation in Texas has horrified the nation this week as power outages robbed millions of light and heat, and ruptured pipes required additional millions to boil water (or snow) for drinking. The electric grid in Texas fell prey to inadequate preparation and the hazardous weather generated by the climate emergency. Natural gas, particularly, was likely to freeze and remain ineffective for days.  As a nation we must update our power generation and our power grids so that more people aren't caught in suffering. Our thoughts and prayers are with the people of Texas as things hopefully return to normal this weekend.





Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Bullfrogs & Butterflies

"If  you sing this song ("Bullfrogs & Butterflies") or sing "Have patience, have patience, don't be in such a hurry" you will either see a flash of recognition on a person's face or a really odd look as they choose to ignore your weirdness."  - Robert Brouhard, https://ant-music.livejournal.com/952.html (2/10/21)

What happens when you add existential angst to chronic impatience? Spontaneous combustion, or perhaps just a restless inability to sit still. Neither option is good for a mother or a writer. When I shared my growing frustration with the pandemic at our outdoor Sunday school last week, my fellow adult leader quipped, "The first year is always the worst." Funny, ha ha.

 I expressed my rising angst to my mother and she reminded me to "have patience," quoting a family-famous line from the Christian album "Bullfrogs & Butterflies: God is Great" (link). My younger brother, John, and sister, Karen, and I used to play this album on repeat, dancing around the basement to its lilting tunes. We played the album, and quoted its songs, so often that our visiting cousins were convinced that we were deeply religious. 

They asked me at another brother's wedding - more than twenty years later -  if we were still so connected to our faith, at which point I stared in confusion. "You were always listening to that album," my cousin, Justin, explained. My brow cleared and I assured him that we listened because we liked the catchy tunes, and the related dances were easy to choreograph. While still church-going, we fell short of the faith level he envisioned.

But when I looked up the album, and specifically the song "The fruit of the Spirit: Patience (Herbert the Snail) (link), I was astonished to: 1. find it, and 2. realize that I still knew every word.  We must have played that cassette tape until we broke it, and I'm sure the subliminal messages did sink in, though none of us proselytize in the present day.  Apparently the album was quite popular in the late 1970's and early 1980's. According to Brouhard, some of the albums sold over a million copies and went Platinum.

That means many adults reaching the mid-century mark are familiar with Herbert the snail and his exhortation to have patience. I have to confess that "The Fruit of the Spirit: Patience" was my least favorite song. Having frequently been reminded of the need to have patience does not, in fact, make one patient.

But we do have one piece of good news as a family that I can sit with today: my Bullfrogs - procuring mom receives her first vaccination shot! She will finally join the ranks of the protected few and be able to venture into her local Super One without trepidation, though still double-masked and eyewear-protected. The news makes me want to sing and dance around the basement to "This is the Day," giving thanks for this special bit of progress, and for discovering our childhood soundtrack.

Monday, February 8, 2021

Wills, Wine and Wind

 Chronicle of Life in a Pandemic: Day 322

Inspired by the thought of our imminent demise, Rob and I recently updated our wills and power of attorney. Working virtually with a lawyer, we have ensured the safety of our offspring and our assets in the event that COVID carries us off. To conclude the process, we had a few friends over to witness and notarize the stack of documents. Blessed with Colorado sunshine, we planned to meet on the back porch around the fire pit, with beer, wine and White Claw on standby. 

The weather had other ideas, throwing 20 mph wind gusts into the mix. For the record, wind and will-signings are incompatible. Hastily reconsidering our process, we removed the cars from the garage and set up shop in that more protected environment, dragging lawn chairs and plastic tables into formation. Social distance was observed, and less alcohol consumed than one might think.

A White Claw was required after I followed procedure and explained to my close friends and witnesses that I do not care to have any extreme measures employed to save my life, insisting that I was in sound mind and able to make such a judgment. Rob mumbled something under his breath which may have expressed doubt in my sanity, but my friends blithely put pen to paper and all loose ends were tied with a bow.  As wind gusts buffeted our gate and sent gales of dust through the garage, we had a thoughtful discussion about where we wanted our ashes to be scattered.

That gathering was followed up by a Super Bowl pre-party on Zoom with my mom, siblings and their families. We played Super Bowl Jeopardy, procured and MC'd by my sister, a fourth-grade teacher now incredibly adept at Zoom and Google meeting technologies. Toasts were made, beverages virtually clinked, and questions answered. 

After such festivities, the Super Bowl itself was underwhelming. We watched people in the stands and in the streets of Tampa Bay and prayed that none were infectious. We marveled at Tom Brady's longevity and went to bed praying for our own, wills and trusts be damned.


Thursday, February 4, 2021

"Words with Friends" as Metaphor

I only play "Words with Friends" with a few people: my aunt, two brothers (off and on), my sister and my good friend from high school, Mike.* Mike has three degrees from MIT, and generally kicks my ass in "Words." Surprisingly, the game demands not only a wide range of obscure vocabulary but also mastery of geometry, a spatial awareness of how to extract the most points from the board's special tiles. My occasional wins over Mike mark red-letter days when my ego can temporarily stand up straight and take a deep breath.

Today is not one of those days. Mike has deployed the Z, J, K and X (highest point letters) in our current game, surpassing my point total by nearly one hundred. He has nailed every "triple word" box but one, which remains unusable due to its position after the word "QIS." I'm drowning in his flood of high-point-words, which included "wahoo" for a staggering 54. My mind freezes when confronted by the limited usability of my remaining letters: I, T, T, R L.  Despite my competitive nature, I may have to deploy a pathetic word like "lit" just to end this torture. We can always start a new game with greater hope.

And, just like that, "Words" becomes a metaphor for my week. (I know you could see that coming from a mile away). I've been dragging my heels while spinning my wheels, working hard and hardly working. I did manage to finish a chapter in the book I'm writing with my mom, but otherwise I've been in a slump. The ego hides in a corner, the withering energy looks to chocolate and coffee.  

But there's always tomorrow (or next week, tomorrow's coming awfully quick). A fresh game board with new letters and the chance to play a Z, J or X, the option to merge luck and opportunity.  I will inevitably accept Mike's invitation to play again - and one day my optimism will unfurl from this cold winter ground, alive to new possibilities. New words to play, new games to win (or lose), a calendar open to chance. Wahoo!

*Mom, if you're reading this, I would be playing with you, too,  but I can't find your name on the 'Friends' page. Did you delete yourself?? Also, I apologize for the three-letter word. It had to be said.



Tuesday, February 2, 2021

A Good Cry

 "Heaven knows we need never be ashamed of our tears, for they are rain upon the blinding dust of earth, overlying our hard hearts."  - Charles Dickens

I am addicted to Call the Midwife on Netflix. Over the past four months, I have journeyed from episode 1 through season 7, transfixed by the births, deaths, and life trauma visited on its ever-changing cast members. Nearly every episode brings me to tears, and that's probably why I feel better after watching. The events of the past eleven months have so harrowed our souls that grief must line the folds of every organ, and yet we adults have few outlets for our sorrow. My Midwife - induced tears provide some relief for the pent-up angst.

Usually I turn my grief into rage, it's easier to manage and venting is more socially acceptable than weeping. The children don't want to catch me in tears, but they're accustomed to my frustration and anger, at least when it's directed at someone or something other than them.  But they know to avoid me when I'm watching my show, and they pretend not to notice the used tissues on the floor or my faintly red eyes. 

Expectations that 2021 would usher in more positive outlooks and events have certainly been adjusted, if not shattered, by the events of our over-long January. I daresay we're all exhausted. How can regular adults rally to perform our roles when even Saturday Night Live actors are "over it."  The Atlantic's culture writer David Sims wrote on Sunday that "the show's first episode back after a chaotic six weeks in American politics was the equivalent of a giant shrug." (The Atlantic 1/31/21). The show makes its living on political turmoil, and even they can't rustle up the energy to duly comment on our times.

Health care workers and essential workers must experience this phenomenon ten-fold,  working tirelessly and desperately to save people afflicted by the virus. Some of my tears are for them. Some are for our children, struggling to carry out each day's strange tasks in a time of masks, social isolation and hybrid school. Some for teachers and for older adults, some for political leaders around the world who strain to do the right thing. There are plenty of reasons to cry, if we can only allow ourselves the outlet. When my show ends after a cathartic fifty minutes, it's time to stop the waterworks and get on with life, but I know there's another episode tomorrow, a sacred time when I can allow my heart to soften and my tears to erase some of the blinding dust of our time.


Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Evolution Moves Faster than Politicians

"They're known as pizzlies or grolars, and they're a fusion of the Arctic white bear and their brown cousins." Love in the Time of Climate Change

 "Evolution is moving faster than our politicians."  - Cesar Aguirre, of the Central California Environmental Justice Network 

"Winning slowly is another way of losing." - Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org

As fast as the departure of the holidays left gaps in my calendar, I have plugged them with Zoom calls on battling the climate emergency. My fascination with climate change began in the late 1990s, when Rob and I went on a Thanksgiving trip to Hawaii. I followed a majestic sea turtle on its underwater peregrinations, and when I resurfaced the balance of my world had tilted. Since then I obtained a degree in Environmental Studies, taught, communicated and organized around climate action. My children's first protest action was a rally for climate.  During the last four years, however,  I largely plunged my head back into the metaphorical sand out of despair at Trump's reckless abuse of environmental laws. 

Biden's budding presidency has already changed the momentum and the sentiment for climate groups in this country and around the world. Each Zoom call feels propelled by the possibilities of gaining traction against the problem of fossil fuel use, of species extinction, of creating a sustainable economy. A sense of urgency dominates the dialogue: we have no time to lose. Goals need to be big, timelines shortened, government actions bold. As Cesar Aguirre said on last night's call, "our voices are loud because our demands are urgent."

Nature herself makes this argument constantly. In fact, evolution appears to be moving faster than our politicians. As Biden battles against Trump's opening of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling, polar bears have started mating with grizzly bears. This has been observed outside of Barrow, Alaska, where eight pizzly, or grolar bears have been killed or live-captured by hunters. The writing is on the wall for the polar bears, and they see it better than we do. Last year was the hottest on record, capping the hottest decade on record.

But there is great hope. President Biden tore up the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline on his first day in office, and he has pledged to overhaul the federal fleet of vehicles, making them all electric. His procurement policy claims that this could create between 900,000 and 1,000,000 jobs. Investment companies like BlackRock are demanding that CEO's demonstrate progress toward  net zero (carbon emissions) by 2050. Wind and solar are now cheaper than almost all coal, and could replace 86% of the US coal fleet with lower cost electricity by 2025 (The Guardian).

So what do we do to help the climate change politicians, the CEO's, the local commissions and air quality boards? We need to call, write, demonstrate and engage to demand tangible goals, penalties for those who avoid progress, and rapid change on a grand scale. We fight to #BuildBackFossilFree, a way of meeting the Biden team's campaign slogan with the pressing need to leave poisonous and deadly fossil fuels in the ground. We demand rights for the sacrificed communities where black, indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) live, where water and air are routinely poisoned by pipelines and chemical plants. If we're lucky enough to invest, we invest in sustainably oriented companies or funds. I have listed some organizations and movements below, but there are many more to choose from. Get involved, get inspired, go fast. 

https://buildbackfossilfree.org/#about

Sierra Club Campaigns

350.org

Stop the Money Pipeline



Monday, January 25, 2021

A Winter Reflection

 "Snow: / years of anger following / hours that float idly down - / the blizzard / drifts its weight / deeper and deeper for three days / or sixty years, eh? Then / the sun! a clutter of / yellow and blue flakes - / Hairy looking trees stand out / in long alleys / over a wild solitude. / The man turns and there - / his solitary track stretched out / upon the world."

- "Blizzard" by William Carlos Williams

"What we call the beginning is often the end / And to make an end is to make a beginning. / The end is where we start from..."

- From "Little Gidding" by T.S. Eliot

In this, the winter of the world's discontent, we rise on cold mornings and greet the headlines of the fresh administration with either relief or trepidation, depending on our news sources and political orientations. For those eighty million of us who voted for Biden, Harris and their diverse cabinet, the ending of the Trump era signifies the beginning of hope, a starting place for progress. Our nights are filled with more peaceful dreams, our dreams themselves more resonant with possibility.

And yet the cold winter wind still bites, as I was reminded on the pool deck today at 6am. My watch said 23 degrees and the billows of steam rising off the chlorinated water put me in mind of a giant cauldron, over which I might cast a spell of my liking. Surely if I had been able to wield any magic* I would have multiplied all available vaccines and wished into being a flawless delivery mechanism for their protection. 

The billows of steam passed me by, offering a whisper of warmth as they flew but no magic. I cast salt on the ground to prevent the concrete from freezing under my boots and watched my swimmers in their solitary tracks up and down the lanes. What's next? whispered the wind, and my fingers slowly froze around the empty coffee mug. Our story is yet unwritten, it's plot-points dependent on the caution and restraint we exercise this winter, and the bold action we plan for the warmer, sunnier months to come.

*Yes, I'm still re-reading the Deborah Harkness trilogy.