Family Moab

Family Moab
In Arches National Park

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Incredible Coaching Opportunity Ahead

For the past six years I watched the girls' and boys' swim teams at our local high school with avid interest, noting the splits and times of my older two children as well as the performances of their friends and teammates. In the stands I would bite my lips and either sit on my hands or clap hysterically, trying not to shout random instructions that would be caught on Rob's video but never heard by swimmers in the water. 

It was a poorly kept secret in our family that I was an ardent fan, not at all cool and removed as I tried to play it.  I have nine years' of coaching experience between high school and Masters teams, but my kids already had coaches and needed me to be Mom, instead.  So I threw my passions into the booster club, planning banquets, wielding stopwatches as a timer and working the scoreboard. I tried to hide my over-the-top passion for stroke technique, streamlines, starts and turns, keeping my post-race comments to "You looked great, I'm proud of your effort."

But the crazy swim geek in me doesn't need to hide any more; I am over-the-moon excited to say that I will be assistant coaching for the girls' team this year.  We have a terrific staff, extremely talented and hard-working girls, and every opportunity to teach great technique and love for the sport. I'm in chlorine-scented heaven, especially since my own swimmers are now off at CU and happy to give their blessing to my pursuit of all things swimming and coaching.

Sitting in the registration meeting last night with an auditorium full of girls, a sense of rightness filled me like helium - I had to hold onto my seat to not float away.  I've never been so sure of a new job - a new anything - in my life and I am grateful to the universe for opening this window when I thought the door was swinging closed. I also appreciate the new head coach who brought me on board. Time to openly wield the spreadsheets of splits and times, to jump up and down on the pool deck at meets, and to obsess over relay combinations and meet strategy. I can't wait!

Thursday, September 23, 2021

The Ministry for the Future

 "The days grew short, the air chill. The leaves on the lindens turned yellow and the west wind swept them away." - Kim Stanley Robinson, The Ministry for the Future

I started Kim Stanley Robinson's powerful novel, The Ministry for the Future, at the beginning of summer when Colorado baked under a heat wave. At the time, the Pacific Northwest was suffering under a heat dome and millions of shellfish were boiled alive in their shallow-water habitat. The opening scene of the novel describes millions of people dying in a terrible heat wave in India, and the conjunction with reality was too much for me; I had to put the book down. It lay untouched on my bedside table - mutely chastising me - until the cooler evenings of late August allowed me to push past memories of stifling heat and resume reading.

If you're interested in looking closely at the climate crisis and potential solutions, I highly recommend the book, which left me on a hopeful note despite hundreds of pages dealing with the obstacles confronting humanity. Among those - bankers, the wealthy, fossil fuel companies, intransigent governments, etc, that we see in action every day. Though a work of fiction, the book is well-researched and Robinson's perspectives on economics, science, diplomacy and human nature continually resonated with me as true to both our current and prospective situations.

Who knows what great invention, positive social trend or technological advance lies right around the corner? We must always hope, and work, and hope. Robinson writes of sailing ships that run on wind and solar, dirigibles and other air vessels that also run on renewables and replace jets and jet fuels. The protagonist sails from France to New York and takes rail from NYC to San Francisco. The world banks group together to  issued money in units of carbon saved, and across the world people's movements for a fair wage and fair taxes catch fire. These hope-filled ideas spring from the possibilities of today, which we can make real. In the book, as with anything, you have to struggle through the muck to get to daylight on the other side, and in this case the struggle is worth it.

Sunday, September 19, 2021

Fossil Free Finance

 When I moved to Colorado in 2004 with two young children, I volunteered time and energy to form "Green Teams," groups of neighbors, churchgoers or co-workers who wanted to collectively reduce their carbon footprint and waste production to help the environment. At the time I possessed the zeal of the newly converted, with my recent Environmental Studies degree tucked under my belt and hourly motivation from the two little faces constantly turning to me, sunflowers to the star. One neighborhood group was profiled in the now-defunct Rocky Mountain News, and photos showed my backyard compost pile and efficient sprinkler system. The smart sprinklers were new then, and the Wall Street Journal also called for a quote. 

I felt good about the work at the time, but looking back now, I feel I was duped by big oil and gas companies who wanted us to stay busy measuring our individual footprints, our trash output, our electric and water use. With our heads down in the daily nitty-gritty we stayed out of their (big) business, failing to note how the investment in fossil fuel infrastructure continued, how the money from sales of oil, gas and coal flowed steadily into pockets. Many oil and gas companies promoted tools like the Green Team guide, the "footprint calculators" that proliferated online and guilted us into faulting ourselves, focusing attention on our neighborhood and social groups rather than big companies who kept pushing their damaging products.

Guilt distracted us from the real issue behind the climate crisis - that burning fossil fuels will eventually render this planet unfit for habitation by humans. The Chevrons and Exxon-Mobils of the world have known this for sixty years, but they obscured the knowledge, lied about the effects, paid climate naysayers to spout garbage on television and in the papers, driving the locomotive of our destruction to the edge of a cliff while raking in profits. They love the footprint calculators, and they don't want us to lay the blame for this crisis at their door.

"But we drive! we use too much gas! we fly!" Yes, all true. But we need comprehensive legislation, energy policy, infrastructure builds and other high-level changes to provide us with choices. We drive because no investment has been made in good public transportation, we fly in the US because we don't have high-speed rail, we get our electricity from coal because utilities refuse to shut down coal-fired power plants.

No more. The House Oversight Committee has now focused attention on the oil and gas industry's role in "spreading disinformation about the role of fossil fuels in causing global warming" (NYTimes). Representative Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) said she "intends to hold the fossil fuel industry to account for its central role in causing and exacerbating this global emergency." As citizens of the world, we need to focus our protest energy, our investments and purchases in such a  way as to influence banks, oil and gas companies, coal companies, and governments to move immediately away from fossil fuels in order to prevent a catastrophic rise in temperatures and an uncertain future for humanity.

Futher, House Representatives Mondaire Jones, Rashida Tlaib, and Ayanna Pressley introduced the Fossil Free Finance Act in Congress just this past week. The act would require the Federal Reserve (the bank that makes rules for all US banks) to hold big banks accountable for financing fossil fuels. In the last five years, the world's 60 biggest banks have financed fossil fuels to the tune of $3.8 trillion ( I recently protested the Fed's involvement in financing fossil fuels at their Denver office. Our chants: "Fossil free Fed" and "leave it in the ground."

We should continue to do what we can in our own lives both because it's right and because it makes us (or at least it makes me) feel better. With constant headlines of floods, fires, heat domes and drought, daily efforts to help our environment can empower us to believe in positive change. The birds at my feeder inspire me, my solar panels make me smile, and my drip sprinkler keeps plants happy without wasting valuable water. But if you're called to do more in the face of the climate crisis, keep an eye on the oil and gas industry, the banks, and central government. Don't waste time on guilt, go after the real culprits.

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Pumpkin Spice and Asphalt

Oh, these nippy September mornings! I shrug on a fleece to coach at 6am and delight in the earliest signs of fall colors on our oak and cottonwood trees. This morning, I added pumpkin spice creamer to my coffee and hummed a tuneless "it's almost fall" ditty as the house fan ran and Daniel got ready for school. The euphoria only lasted until a strong, black licorice-turned-bad scent of asphalt assaulted my senses. A peek through our open screen door revealed early shift workers out administering black tar to the cracks in our street, rushing to repair roads before our Colorado summer-fall turns to fall-winter.

The morning's themes continued as I dodged roadwork signs to pick up Daniel's new black suit at the tailors. Angling my car into impossible parking spots at Trader Joe's, where half the parking lot was blocked off in Tetris shapes for new asphalt, I swore several times and had to breathe deeply as a red SUV nearly backed into my little Mazda. 

Once inside TJ's, I indulged my craving for autumnal peace and bought orange and purple flowers, pumpkin spice yogurt, even a PS smoothie from Nekter, next door. The potassium-fueled drink helped me maneuver two heavy bags of groceries around cones and under yellow caution tape back to my vehicle, commiserating with fellow shoppers turned pack mules, forced to leave our shopping carts at the door.

As I waited to extricate myself from the parking lot maze, I dreamed of getting up into the mountains to see the aspen slopes turn gold. We shouldn't have to 'get away' to enjoy the season that's right here in backyards and neighborhood greenbelts, but with every locality tainted by toxic fumes and crazily busy suburbanites,  I see fall at this altitude in the onset of pumpkin spice and orange lawn decor. The mountains call me, as they do tens of thousands of other leaf-peepers, with whom I will share my hiking trails when we finally escape to the hills.

What will we crave in future falls, as weather, seasonal temperatures and natural disasters continue to flux and disrupt our routines? Will it still be flavored coffees, lattes and yogurts, or will we simply dream of cooler air and the outfit changes of healthy trees?  At the very least, I hope we're less reliant on cars, roads and resulting asphalt updates.

Friday, September 10, 2021

Short but Not Sweet, Labor Day Week

This short week packed a powerful punch. Running from one event to another in record-setting heat, I came home smelly and soggy, hesitant to sit down lest I lose momentum or even fall asleep where my cheeks hit the cushions. Fatigue dragged on me, I walked through peanut butter. When I asked my nutritionist what was wrong with me, she ran tests and perused the results with a decided lack of concern. 

"Your progesterone is a little off," she said. "And you should stop taking melatonin." That was it - no underlying virus or threatening adrenal issue as has occurred in the past. Just age, perimenopause and one nightly spray of melatonin catching up with me.

I worked steadily into the evening last night, teaching swimming to excitable and sometimes irascible youngsters. In the final class I had a power struggle to deny one child the joy of hitting her sister with a swim stick.  As I covered the pool with limp arms, my watch rang with a strange Denver number. There was a sharp pain in my chest as my heart clutched reflexively; Daniel was at his first Ultimate Frisbee game in Denver, sans parents.

My wet fingers couldn't answer the phone and so I watched helplessly as it went to voicemail, which soon told me that Daniel was injured, complaining of pain in his back and numbness in his leg. His beleaguered coach asked if I wanted him to take my son to the emergency room. "No!" I thought as I struggled to wrap a towel around me and re-dial.

I got through to the coach, talked to Daniel, and reassured them both that Daniel should be fine with ice and Advil at home. The tone of Daniel's voice over the phone told me everything - that he was calm and ultimately fine, just shaken by a collision and anxious about the resulting bruise and soreness. The coach drove him to the house while I drove east to meet them. The evening was filled with limping, ice packs, and Advil (but no homework).  

That marks the second time this year that one of my sons has been referred to a hospital. My older son texted me earlier in 2021 with this:  "At the hospital, LOL."  An appalling juxtaposition of messages that I hope I never see again. My heart couldn't take it.

If I'm forced to admit that nothing's wrong with me or with this constant panic scenario, then I have to embrace this chaos as normal. Instead I'm going to will bury my head under the sheets with the fan on full blast, and hide out until this Labor Day week finally ends.

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

The View from 100,000

On September 6, 2021, Wild Specific Tangent hit a milestone of 100,000 views. Perhaps 20,000 of those views can be attributed to my mother, husband and sister, but even subtracting their regular viewership, I've reached more than a few of you - and l am grateful.

Twelve years of anthologizing anecdotes of my family's life, and I've learned: the short form of blogging is my happy medium, my children like the blog posts that mention them (but don't say too much about them), a good quote encapsulates a week's worth of musing, humor is the oat milk of life, and making a reader feel something lifts my feet off the ground.

The past almost two years of the pandemic, in combination with political extremism and unholy headlines about climate change, have made me think about legacy. Even if I survive COVID, hurricanes, headlines, and misogynistic politicians, I will inevitably "shuffle off this mortal coil." My kids will be my most profound legacy, but I also have this little bit of writing to leave behind, the Clavadetscher and Dravenstott names commingling in long-winded perpetuity over the internet.

That's not enough, not yet, but it's a good start. I appreciate the good humor and merciful aspect of my readers and welcome more comments and feedback (unless it departs from their aforementioned good humor and mercy). I'm grateful that my mother could read my blog posts to my father before his death and that he got to see the printed compilation of eight years' worth of stories. This life is all about connection, and I savor the tiny threads of connection between me and my readers, all 100,000 times that writing and reading brought us together.