Life At Sea

Endless sea and sunset

Before I jump into the activities and adventures we did and had in our ports of call, I thought I would clear up the notion of a Sea Day. Until I took my first cruise, the idea of days at sea with nothing to do troubled me. I thought I would be bored. I assumed days floating at sea would be a waste of time and money. Many of my friends who have said they would never take a cruise vacation claim the “wasted days at sea” as their reason. I get it. I felt the same way until I had a day when I had nothing to do, no one to answer to, nowhere to rush off to, and the freedom to do exactly and only what I felt like doing. How many days do adults get like that in their busy lives? Not many.

A day at sea allows you to truly relax. It does not mean you will lack for things to do. Many cruise ships are like floating theme parks with water slides and zip lines and climbing walls. Cruises on Celebrity are aimed more at an adult crowd, though, so their sea day amenities are more about pools, spa treatments, casino time, and fine dining, but the lack of children tearing through the passageways and screaming and splashing at the pool more than make up for that. Cruise directors load the day with potential activities for those who want more and are looking for distraction. There are lectures and art classes, wine tastings and friendly on-board competitions (passenger versus crew pool volleyball and putting tournaments, for example). There are movies and games and ship tours too. At night there are karaoke sing-offs, live music performances, theater shows, comedians, and plenty of opportunities for dancing. If none of that appeals, you can read a book or nap in a deck chair facing the sea or play cards or watch for sea life. We enjoyed searching for dolphin pods and seeing them race and jump and flip alongside the ship. If you get bored at sea, you have no one to blame but yourself.

One activity that costs extra but is well worth the investment is a behind-the-scenes ship tour.Our tour took us through the galleys and into the belly of the ship where food is stored. We learned about how the ship processes recyclables and waste, does epic amounts of laundry, plans their shopping, and stores the food for the journey. On our ship, there were 1500 people employed for food preparation and service alone. We learned about what cruise life is like for those who live on the ship and work in its service. We visited the engine room and learned about what powers the ship and keeps it running smoothly and on time. The final stop on the tour was to the bridge where we learned about what training the captain and officers undertake for their careers, as well as how they bring these huge ships into port. It was fascinating.

When we finished our ship tour, we grabbed some lunch, gawked at the desserts, and then went to a wine tasting with premium wines and cheeses. After that, we sat on deck and enjoyed the view and the peace and each other’s company until it was time to dress for dinner and head to the Raw on 5 restaurant for Joe’s birthday dinner choice….sushi. We topped off our day with some silent disco because why not?

If the notion of a sea day or two on a cruise, where your every need is catered to, vexes you, perhaps it’s time to reassess your priorities. Do you not deserve a day where you don’t have to cook, clean, or care for anything or anyone other than yourself? Have you not earned a day or two with no obligations and thoughtfully prepared, delicious meals served with whatever cocktail calls to you? Come on. Live a little. Become reacquainted with yourself. When the sea day is over and you wake the next morning to find yourself in another exotic port of call, rested and ready to explore, you realize this is why you took this vacation. You’ve let yourself go in the best way possible.

The silent disco is a vibe

A Colorado Avalanche Legacy

Our little Joe

We are an NHL family. My husband and I have been Colorado Avalanche fans since the team first came to Colorado from Quebec in 1995. During the Avs’ 2000-2001 season, I became pregnant with our first child. My due date, based on my best guess memory of my most recent menstrual cycle, was calculated to be July 26th, 2001. The hockey season progressed alongside my pregnancy, and the Avalanche were killing it. Thanks, in part, to team captain Joe Sakic’s phenomenal scoring year (118 points from 54 goals and 64 assists), the Avs completed the regular season with 118 points, winning the President’s Trophy. Steve and I were over the moon. Hockey is fun to watch, but it’s a lot more fun to watch when your team is showing up in a big way.

Scrapbook page I made during Joe’s first year as an Avs fan

The team entered the playoffs and we did not miss a game. I was still working as a technical writer and editor for the National Renewable Energy Lab and started my day in the office at 6:30 a.m., but that did not stop pregnant, tired me from staying up late so as not to miss any of the action. When we progressed to the championship series against the New Jersey Devils and were down 3-2, to put on a brave face knowing we might lose our shot at the cup, I told Steve it was okay if we lost because then at least I would get some much needed sleep. But, we didn’t lose. We came back from that 3-2 deficit to win the series and the Stanley Cup on June 9th, roughly seven weeks from my due date. When the clock ran on out on that last game and the jubilant Avs players threw their sticks in the air and flew off the bench to celebrate, I screamed and jumped up and down like a crazy person for minutes. My heart was racing. I was over the moon. When Steve and I finally were able to soak in the win and relax, we went to bed with an early alarm set so we could wake up and drive downtown to pick up Stanley Cup Champion merchandise.

In 2011 with my guys at a game

On the morning of the 10th, we drove down to the Sports Castle on Broadway and picked up our gear and began trying to figure out if we’d be able to attend the Championship parade on Monday. Later that day, we took the light rail downtown to see a Colorado Rockies game at Coors Field. It was 90 degrees when we got to the ball game. I was feeling a little off, which I attributed to my pregnancy, the heat, and my lack of sleep the night before. At some point, though, I became aware that my water was definitely leaking. We decided to go to the EMS at the field to get their opinion. There were two EMTs there, both male. They inquired about my due date and asked if I was having contractions. I told them I didn’t think so. They took my vitals, noticed I was not soaked down there, and dismissed my concern as an overreaction by an irrational pregnant lady. I didn’t appreciate their cavalier attitude, so I called my midwife. She told me to get in a cab immediately and meet her at the hospital.

The boys with Bernie in the age of Covid

At the hospital, I measured 3 centimeters dilated and 50% effaced. I was in labor. Because my due date was still seven weeks out, the doctor made the decision to stop my labor. They medicated me to stop contractions, checked me into a room, and told me they would have an ultrasound tech check my amniotic fluid levels the next day. The ultrasound revealed too much fluid had been lost, and the doctor ordered Pitocin to stimulate labor again. I panicked. We hadn’t even had a baby shower yet. The nursery was not finished. I had no car seat, no onesies, no diapers, no nothing. The midwife, doctors, and nurses said we would have time to gather all that up because our infant would likely remain in the NICU for 6-8 weeks. It was a lot to absorb, but it was what it was. We made our peace with it and tried to remain positive.

I watched the Stanley Cup parade from the hospital. Labor was induced around 4 p.m., and our five-pound son was born at 12:31 a.m. on June 12th, a little over 48 hours after the Avs had won the Stanley Cup. As soon as I heard him cry and knew he was breathing, I inquired how long they would be keeping him in the hospital. The nurse (and I will never forget this) turned to me and replied, “Oh no. This one goes home with you.” Our son had scored 8/10 on the APGAR. I had gotten my conception timing wrong and we, thankfully, had a fully cooked baby after all. Steve and his parents went shopping to buy baby gear. I was told to pick a name for the birth certificate because we would both be released into the world the next day.

Joe in his Sakic sweater watching Gretzky offer post-game commentary

We decided to name him Joe as a nod to Joe Sakic, and our son’s tie to Colorado Avalanche history was cemented. We’ve attended hockey games with our sons since they were infants, sometimes as a family of four and sometimes with my Avs fan father-in-law who would always buy the boys the something at the game. Joe went to his first Avs game on October 31st, 2001, when he was five months old. Joe has always had Avalanche gear, onesies and toddler rompers gave way to t-shirts and sweatshirts. For his first birthday, my sister gifted Joe an adult-size Joe Sakic sweater, which we held onto until his 18th birthday.

An Avs doll (Matt Duchesne) hanging out at our house

Steve and I watched every game, save one, in the Avalanche playoff series this year, missing just the first game in the Stanley Cup series because it played out while we were asleep on a cruise ship in the Mediterranean. Joe refused to miss that game, however, waking up at 2 a.m. to watch it in his cabin in the Joe Sakic hockey sweater he had hauled to Europe from home. We woke up at 4 a.m., ahead of our planned flight home from Rome, to catch the final period of the second game in the Stanley Cup series in Italian. Twenty one years and fourteen days after our Joe was born, the Colorado Avalanche, helmed by Executive Vice President and General Manager Joe Sakic, won their third Stanley Cup two days ago on June 26th. Yesterday, I took our grown sons to a sports store to buy us all Stanley Cup championship gear. We’ve come full circle.

On 6/26/22, our son’s namesake, Joe Sakic, hoisted the Stanley Cup a third time, this time as General Manager

Watching Avalanche hockey with our sons over the past two decades, both in person and on the television, has been a priceless gift. These games are family ritual, this team part of our family identity. And this Thursday, I will finally get to attend a Stanley Cup parade here in Denver and I’ll get to do it alongside my Joe. I’m not sure what the legacy of this year’s Colorado Avalanche team will be, but I know the legacy the Colorado Avalanche organization has created in our family.

All the small things, indeed.

If our family has a theme song, this is it now and forever. Go, Avs!

When One First Meets Rome

After missing out on sleep completely on the overnight flight from Denver to Munich, I was dying to get to Rome. While a layover in Munich is not a hardship because there are pretzels and Haribo gummi bears to be scarfed down there, Munich is not Rome. And, as I learned when I finally stepped foot in Rome itself, Rome is unparalleled. It reminded me of Paris without the fuss. Something about it being wild and chaotic, ancient and yet modern, made it more accessible somehow. I fell in love almost immediately.

I had rented two rooms at a guest house a stone’s throw from the Fontana di Trevi. When our airport shuttle driver turned from the chaotic main streets onto narrower side streets where the sideview mirrors were nearly clipping pedestrians, I started wondering if I had made a mistake choosing the Arpinelli Relais instead of a larger, more well-known hotel. My fears were unfounded. We were met by a lovely Italian gentleman who helped us move our bags into a small elevator that had to be as old as Rome herself, and then showed us to two well-appointed rooms (one with a charming balcony). There were bottles of Chianti waiting for us there, and then the gentleman sat down at a table long enough for a large Italian family and proceeded to map for us dining and sightseeing recommendations. Italian hospitality at its best and so much more personal than a large hotel. We already felt we belonged. This wasn’t a hotel. It was a home away from home.

With our check in completed and our first bottle of wine emptied, we took off on foot for an explore. First stop was Trevi Fountain, a whole two-tenths of a mile from our lodging. I was surprised at its size and how crowded and popular a location it was. It was a challenge to capture a photo that wasn’t loaded with giddy tourists and lounging Italians. It’s right in the middle of a popular area filled with gelato shops, so it’s no wonder the area is consistently packed.

Knowing we were a two minute walk from this fountain and could easily return, we opted to head to the Pantheon. I didn’t know much about the Pantheon. Honestly, I didn’t know thing one about the Pantheon. I knew only that the Pantheon was not to be confused with the Parthenon in Athens. I was blown away. I had seen photos of the exterior with its columns because our youngest is somewhat obsessed with all things Western Civ and he has spoken to me about the building and even shown me photos discussing its architecture. But holy crap, Batman. People obsess about the Colosseum, but the Pantheon is something else. Originally built in 27 AD by Marcus Agrippa, burnt twice and rebuilt finally in 120 AD by Emperor Hadrian, it is the best preserved ancient Roman monument that survives. The best part about the Pantheon is that there is no cost to enter it. No tickets to be bought. Just walk up, get in line, wander through the epic doors, and have a look around. It’s phenomenal. The dome is 142 feet in diameter, and light inside the building comes through the oculus in the ceiling, which is roughly 24 feet in diameter. It has functioned as a Catholic Church since 609 AD. And did I mention it’s amazing? Photos cannot capture its magnificence.

We gawked at the ancient Roman edifice for a while and then decided it was time to take one of the dinner recommendations passed along by our host. We chose to continue walking our way through the city.

The Italian gentleman at the guest house told us about a couple authentic, Roman restaurants, places where for a fair price you could try local specialties that were excellently prepared. He also told us the restaurant to which we were headed did not take reservations but always had a line before opening at 7 pm. We arrived at Da Enzo al 49 at 6:45 and there was already quite a long queue. It was long enough, in fact, that we debated looking elsewhere. But we had walked thirty minutes to the Trastevere neighborhood for this, so we decided to cross our fingers and wait it out. We were in luck. Once the waiters had busted through the line in front of us, we were given one of the last available tables on a patio adjacent to the restaurant and were quickly greeted by an efficient waitstaff. It was clear this restaurant had a system. We ordered Aperol Spritzes and a couple appetizers, including Carciofi all Giudia (fried artichokes). For dinner, we each ordered pasta dishes. Luke and I opted for the house-made gnocchi with Bolognese sauce. Joe had the Roman classic cacio e pepe and Steve stuck with a carbonara. It was amazing, and as much as we might have enjoyed lingering a bit longer we saw the rest of the line that had been behind us, hungry and waiting for their shot at a table, so we finished up and headed back to our rooms.

Once it was dark, we stepped onto the balcony and noticed the streets below us were still teeming with life. We decided we had enough energy in us for a quick walk to view the Colosseum at night. We were treated to this spectacle.

And with that we called our first day (well, half day) in Rome a wrap and headed back to our comfy beds for a hard-earned rest.

Next up: The Roman Forum, a tour inside the Colosseum, and the Vatican Museums

And Just Like That My Calendar Feels Like 2019

The pandemic. Am I right? I lived the vast majority of my life never using that word. I vaguely remember reading that word in history books once or twice before I hit 20, but that was as much as my brain ever considered a pandemic an actual thing. In the past two years, however, I don’t think I’ve gone an entire day without mentioning it. Honestly, I am sick of the word. Sick. O. It. I am almost as sick of the word as I am of not having a day alone in our house, watching my hands bleed from relentless hand washing and sanitizing, running out to buy more hand lotion, wearing masks, hearing people complain about wearing masks, getting vaccines, hearing people complain about getting vaccines, taking Covid tests, hearing people complain about taking Covid tests, and trying to explain how science works to others and remind myself about it, as well.

I know. I know. We are not out of the pandemic. (There’s that word again). No one has any idea when we might be out of it. So we are in limbo. We’re going on a cruise next month. At least, we think we’re going on a cruise next month. It all depends on whether we can manage to stay Covid-free between now and then, even as cases are on the upswing again. Now, if this was 2021, I’d say that would be no problem. We’d just hole up at home and skate our way onto the cruise with a clean bill of health. But this isn’t 2021. It’s 2022, and 2022 is apparently 2019 again. No masks. No crowd size limits. No restrictions whatsoever. It’s a free-for-all. Everything is back up and running. Sold out playoff hockey games. Sold out concerts. Parties. Dining out. It’s all back, baby. And we are here for it. We are SO here for it, so ready to be here for it, that our May calendar is packed. No lie. Here is is.

Oh, wait. I have one free day on 5/23. Woot!

As you can see from the tiny dot underneath every date (save 5/23) between now and May 31st, we have something going on every day between now and the end of the month. I plan to keep the 23rd open for the nervous breakdown I will be having. Why is our calendar so full? Well, let’s see. There’s senior prom and all our usual appointments for therapy and haircuts and doctor’s appointments and the like. Then hubby and I are flying to Pasadena to see a concert, booked a million years ago before we had anything on our calendar. We get back late on Sunday night and then Monday I load a different, pre-packed suitcase in the car and drive to Washington to pick up oldest son from his sophomore year at college and then drive the 1,085 miles back home across five states. Then it’s our youngest’s 19th birthday. Then there are graduation parties for friends’ children and more events for our own son’s graduation. We are going to another sold out concert (in our city this time) on the 24th. The 27th is my damn birthday, but that should be low-key because hubby and I are in class that entire weekend trying for get scuba certified. Then it’s basically June, and we have graduation practice and will have family in town. Then it is graduation and woohoo! We’re almost done! But we aren’t because we are hosting a graduation party for Luke and his friends. Then on the 6th we have to clean the house for the house/dog sitter, buy dog food for our security beasts, shop for what we need for the trip, find our passports, pack, get Covid tests to prove we can take the trip, upload results of said Covid tests to the Celebrity Cruises web site so they will let us board, and get on a plane to Rome on June 8th. Did I mention we still have a puppy who is, well, a puppy and a senior dog who is, well, not exactly a puppy? What the hell was I thinking? Finish strong and you can collapse on a boat? They have limoncello and ouzo where you are going? Hold on, sister. You can make it. I think I can. I think I can. I think I can.

I realize this is a lot of sniveling from a white woman with an embarrassment of riches in the areas of wealth and good fortune, but it’s my full calendar and my introverted, whiny butt will complain about the lack of quiet, sit-in-bed-all-day time if it wants to.

Just please don’t remind me that in 2020 and 2021 I begged for my life to be, and I quote, “back to normal,” because of course I did. Who wasn’t wishing for that same thing after being stuck at home with spouses and children and pets for months on end? We all wanted out. Now we’re getting what we asked for. Don’t remind me I did this to myself. Of course I did. Be kind and please say a silent prayer to Jesus or Allah or Vishnu (or even the Flying Spaghetti Monster God of Pastafarianism) that my heart holds out, at least until we get to Santorini. Then I can die, exhausted, happy, and at peace at long last in an ouzo haze.

Puppy exhibiting how I can attempt to hide from those dirty obligations and celebrations

Go Ahead — Ask For Some Help Already

This post is for all of you helpers. You know who you are. You are the ones who take on more responsibility than you need to, who feel overworked and under-appreciated because you don’t know how to share the load, who don’t know how or when to ask for help or even that asking for assistance is not only important but healthy.

I am your people. I grew up believing I could only count on myself. I had no problem helping out others. I learned that if I wanted something done the “right” way, I had to do it myself. It never occurred to me that perhaps someone else might have a better way of doing something or that I might learn something useful from their efforts. I didn’t know how to ask for what I needed, so I told myself I didn’t need anything from anyone else. If someone disappointed me, which happened on occasion precisely because I didn’t know how to ask for what I wanted, I labeled them as untrustworthy and went my own way. It was a vicious cycle. Each time I tried to trust someone and was disappointed, it was further proof I could only count on myself. And so I went through most of my life taking on more and more, trusting less and less. Since no person is an island, I created for myself an untenable situation. I became stressed out. I continually felt put upon. The truth is, eventually, we all can use some help. Wise people understand burden sharing provides insight, camaraderie, and a sense of belonging. Taking on everything solo fosters isolation, frustration, and bitterness.

Every night as I’m finishing with dinner prep and we are about to serve, my husband asks if he can plate some food for me. Most nights I still say no. Most nights I tell him I can get my own. I grew up feeling self-sufficiency was proof of competency. Other people ask for help. I don’t need help. That was the lie I told myself. The more I took on, the more others relied on me for that service and the more exhausted I became. My life only began to improve when I started letting others share the burden.

I’m still learning it is okay to let others do for me. They might not do it exactly the way I would have done it, but that can be good. Sometimes when I let someone else do something their way, it’s a growth experience. Other people can be a great source of fresh ideas if you let them bring their gifts to the table. I’ve learned a lot through watching others do things their way. Sometimes I adopt their method because it makes that much more sense.

So, my challenge to all my control freak comrades is this: find a few moments this week when you are feeling overwhelmed and ask for help. You can start small. Ask for help bringing in groceries or walking the dog. If you’re meeting a friend for lunch, suggest a place closer to you for once rather than driving across town to meet them like you have always done. People who are willing to seek help and rely on others occasionally create for themselves a sense of belonging. I think we could all use a little more of that feeling these days.

I promise you this. Once you start asking for assistance, once you start allowing others to be there for you the way you’ve been there for them, you won’t go back to your old ways. It’s liberating to let go of unnecessary responsibility. And, believe me. When someone is insisting on contributing, it’s because they want to. Understand that accepting their offer doesn’t mean you’re incompetent; it means they feel they have something positive and useful to offer. Maybe it’s not about you at all. Maybe it’s about them and their desire to be involved.

There’s nothing wrong with asking for what will make your life a measure easier. Sharing life’s burdens makes life better. You just have to be willing to let go of a little control. No one of consequence will think less of you.

Help Wanted: Tall, Handsome Man For Unpaid Position

The planting has begun

Gardening. It’s something many people enjoy. I am not one of those people. I would love a beautiful flower garden, but not if I have to be the one to plant, weed, prune, and water it. I also have zero desire to grow my own food when there is a perfectly serviceable grocery store nearby. While I am adamant about no pesticides in my yard, I am also against pests in my yard. If I’m out digging in the dirt, I’m sure to run across some worms or spiders or other creepy crawlies. No thank you. If I could manage to garden without seeing bugs, I still wouldn’t do it because dirt is, well, dirty, and if you’re outside gardening you’re also outside getting hot and sweaty. If I am going to get hot and sweaty outside, I prefer to be sitting in a lounger at a pool.

Once a year, though, because we haven’t yet won the lottery yet despite my husband buying tickets more often than he should, I use my brown thumbs to drive to Home Depot to buy mulch. Then I go to a garden center and pick up plants to replace the perennials that weren’t and put some petunias into planters so I can complain about having to water them every day until mid-September. This is a ritual that I carry out through gritted teeth, while cursing my allergies to all of the outdoors. (Seriously, I am allergic to all the trees, grasses, and weeds that grow here.) I continue to pray that someday a tall, handsome man will show up at my house and offer to take care of my yard and grow flowers for me just because he thinks I’m amazing. If this tall, handsome gardener man does materialize, Steve will have to learn to live with him. And, before you say anything, I did offer to interview Steve for the position of tall, handsome gardener man, but his application is currently under review because he isn’t willing to work for free.

Until a gardener has been acquired, I will continue to bitch about planting, watering, and weeding every stupid spring because, as Bobby Brown so eloquently put it back in 1988 and all my fellow Gen Xers know, it’s my prerogative.

All Dressed Up With Some Place To Go

With our senior set to graduate in 39 days, 17 hours, and 30 minutes (not that I’m counting), last night we attended our final Denver Academy Gala as parents of a current student. Because the last two gala events had to be held virtually, we were thrilled to learn this year’s event would be in person again, and at The Ritz-Carlton, nonetheless. I’ve missed this event because it is my yearly excuse to get dressed up and prove that I know which fork to use at a full place setting. I get to wear a lovely dress and heels and see my husband looking dapper in his suit. And raising funds so more students can attend this private school that teaches students with learning disabilities the way they learn best is a passion project now. Steve and I will likely continue to attend these events after Luke graduates because the school changed our sons’ educational trajectories so dramatically. Luke entered 7th grade at the school reading more than a year below grade level, but four years later at 17 he was reading at post graduate level. Joe, who struggled in nearly every subject in elementary school, now attends a competitive liberal arts college and has a 3.6 grade point average. You can’t argue with that success. This year the school celebrates fifty years changing lives for these neurodiverse kids. We were happy to dress up, show up, and donate from the deepest corner of our pockets.

It’s not hyperbole when I say Denver Academy saved our family. Once our sons started at this school, there were no more homework battles; in fact, we were rarely asked to help with homework at all. Parent/teacher conferences no longer made me cry. The boys started believing they were capable. Smart, even. This was new territory for them. They began getting involved in sports and clubs. For our part, we attended a seminar that simulated what it’s like to live with learning disabilities and gained a better understanding of our sons’ struggles. We showed up for every lecture and presentation DA held that we felt could help us do better for our kids. We bonded with other parents whose experiences with their children were eerily similar to ours. We no longer felt isolated in our situation with our children. We found a home, and nothing in our lives has been the same since.

Thank you, Denver Academy, for teaching our kids how to be successful in their skin and for teaching us that learning differences are something to appreciate, not fear.

The T Rex Of Greater Sterling Ranch

I feel compelled to alert my neighbors that we may have a T Rex problem in Sterling Ranch. I have had the opportunity to witness this small T Rex, a juvenile, I believe, rampaging through the southeast corner of the Providence Village neighborhood. With short arms, sharpy teeth, and a vice-like mouth grip, it’s best you be on the look out. Don’t mistake his smaller stature as a sign of potential weakness in the creature. Make no mistake about it. He has a bloodlust that can’t be satiated. Just today I saw him rip open the cranium of a smaller juvenile T Rex. He then proceeded to carry his prey around with a glib nonchalance, as brain matter spilled from its head. A spine-chilling sight I won’t forget soon.

Attempts to capture the creature and pacify him with other tasty morsels have proven fruitless. Even when he has been presented with superior caliber game, the kind that would prove a challenge to most other carnivorous dinosaurs, he manages to best them in a matter of minutes. The toughest reptiles have felt his chompers penetrate their scaly exteriors and found themselves mortally wounded. At this point, I’m afraid all you can do it keep your eyes peeled for him, secure any quarry in which he might take interest, and keep your extremities in close to your bodies so as not to become his next victims.

He will, indeed, snatch with his pearly whites anything he can reach; and with his smaller stature, ankles, denim, footwear, socks, calves, feet, and toes are all highly vulnerable. Be forewarned that if you reach down to try to save any of the aforementioned body parts or items of clothing, you only subject your upper extremities, sleeves, sweatshirts, sweaters, and t-shirts to certain destruction. He is well-acquainted with weak spots. He will find yours. So far this week, he has ripped the arm off a bendy amphibian, gutted a large stingy ray, and dismantled a turtle with spikes.

Bring your pets and children indoors. If you spot him, remain inside and alert the authorities immediately. Any attempt by untrained individuals to subdue the beast will quickly become a regrettable decision. Please pray for the professional wranglers still endeavoring to capture and restrain this lethal predator. We need all the help we can get.

Perspective From Two Hours On A Flight Next To A Hungry, Tired Toddler

This was once my reality

Sitting in the small airplane, four seats wide, sharing the row with a young mother of three with a screaming toddler on her lap. Toddler is tossing everything she is handed onto the floor.

“It’s been a while since I had littles,” I tell her with as much patience and understanding and motherly wisdom as I can muster, “but I remember those days well. No worries.”

Her four year old son sitting behind me kicks my seat the entire flight, stopping only to push both feet long and slow into my lower back. Six year old daughter next to him bugging him for the iPad. The mom next to me looks exhausted and, boy, do I get it. Her toddler thrashes in her arms, grabs my hair and pulls. The mom is mortified and apologizes, and I nod with understanding. It’s been seventeen years since I last held a wailing toddler on a flight, but that experience never leaves you. The muscle memory of the anxiety and embarrassment remains fresh.

The toddler in her lap, likely desperately tired and frustrated, begins howling with increasing ferocity. The mom hands her off to her husband who is sitting next to their oldest daughter across the aisle from the young ones behind me. As her daughter thrashes like a shark in shallow water, the mom shrinks, puts her head in her hands, and shakes it slowly back and forth. I know she is counting the seconds until her tiny creation at last succumbs to the sleep she needs.

As she is doing this, I look out my window-seat rectangle with its rounded corners. I am grateful to be wearing a mask as the silent tears slip behind the fiber filter on my face. You see, I said goodbye again to my almost 21 year old this morning after I passed him the four bottles of wine we couldn’t fit into our checked luggage. And I’m heading home to my high school senior who will be moving away in four month’s time. The ache this mom is feeling as she wishes the time on this two-and-a-half hour journey would pass more quickly is a similar ache I am feeling as I wish these last few months would pass more slowly.

I would never tell her these things, as she will be in my shoes far sooner than she can fathom. She will discover in her own time the way childhood speeds up as it approaches puberty and adulthood. What starts as seconds moving as sand grains, imperceptibly draining through the narrow tube in an hourglass ends as deluge of sand dumped from a toddler’s beach pail. And this mom will learn, as I did, that those prayers for time to speed up aren’t selective. Time doesn’t speed for the rough moments without also speeding for the good moments. Time is brutal that way. Lucky parents will learn this the hard way, seeing their children mature in the blink of an eye and move on. We’re the fortunate ones, the ones who get to see their children reach adulthood. Many parents don’t have that same good fortune.

This is my reality now

For now, I say a silent prayer for this mom in opposition to her prayer to speed time up. I pray that she will embrace all the moments with some quiet, inexplicable gratitude for what they are because she will be like me sooner than she knows, with greying hair and reading glasses, hugging her adult son and handing him wine bottles. She will be both excited to get home to her high school senior and afraid to get there because she knows there are 46 days until graduation.

Parenting is the greatest purveyor of perspective I’ve found. It simultaneously breaks me and saves me over and over again.

The Tribalism Inherent In Being A Sports Fan

Last night we attended another Colorado Avalanche hockey game. It was a fun one too. The Avs, who have already clinched their spot in the playoffs, were on fire. The Avs scored 4 points in the first period, while the LA Kings scored none. By the end of the game, the Avs had gone up 9 to 3, and the fans were treated to a hat trick. It was the first time our son got to witness, as an adult, the unmitigated joy of other grown-ass adults tossing their baseball caps onto the ice.

As we were standing there, cheering after yet another Avalanche goal, Luke leaned over and said something to the effect of, “Oh, what a wonderful display of rampant tribalism.” He’s a funny kid. I had never thought of hockey fans as a tribe, but he is correct. There we were in our Colorado Avalanche uniforms (emblazoned Avalanche sweatshirts and hockey sweaters) chanting along and waving our fists in the air after every goal, so I guess we were definitely contributing to the tribe mentality. As part of the Colorado Avalanche tribe, I try to be decent. We had some Kings fans sitting to our left, and I did not do any taunting or trash talking. I let them suffer their humiliating loss in peace.

I began thinking about how many tribes there are. We often refer to our friends as our tribe, but there are other tribes too. You might have a tribe of people you associate with from your church or your child’s sports team or your office. I love the band The National and I’m part of their official fan club, so I am part of The National tribe. There are many tribes to which an individual may belong, intentionally or unintentionally.

I think it’s important, though, to differentiate between being part of a tribe and contributing to tribalism in a negative way. Being tribal, in its most basic sense, is actually a good thing. Tribes foster a sense of community. Ever seen how fiercely a tribe of friends will rise to help another friend who is sick or struggling? Tribes also create a sense of belonging, and that can be crucial to dispelling loneliness and depression. Tribalism provides the feeling that we are all in this together. When politicians speak of tribalism negatively, I think they are missing the point. It’s not tribalism that created our political divide but factionalism. On September 10, 2001, we were a fairly divided country. We’d emerged from a contested election, the outcome of which had been decided by the Supreme Court. We were split into factions: those who thought the Supreme Court should have allowed the recounting to continue to a satisfactory conclusion and those who were happy the court had decided to stop the counting and award the election to the person who had the most votes at that point in the process, George W. Bush. But when the United States was attacked by terrorists the following day, those factions quickly, albeit temporarily, dissolved. We united as one great American tribe. American citizens of every faction came together to aid in the clean up and recovery in New York City, to comfort each other in a time of deep sorrow and loss, and to donate blood. For a brief period of time, we united against a common enemy, terrorism. We proved how strong the American tribe can be.

Since the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Russian NHL players have been booed and jeered at during games and have received threats against themselves and their families for something they have nothing to do with. This is sports tribalism gone wrong. NHL fans need to do a better job differentiating between the actions of leader Vladimir Putin and the position of the Russian citizens who have been dragged into this war, some of whom are losing their family members in battle. We can do better.

Tribalism is a good thing that can have negative consequences if the power of the tribe isn’t applied judiciously. I’ve seen some impressive, positive sports team tribalism in recent years. When the Cincinnati Bengals beat the Baltimore Ravens on December 31, 2017, it put the Buffalo Bills into the playoffs for the first time in 17 years. As a show of gratitude, Buffalo Bills fans donated $442k to the Andy and Jordan Dalton foundation for ill and disabled children and their families. When the Bills were defeated in the playoffs this past season by the Kansas City Chiefs, Chiefs fans donated over $300k to the Oishei Children’s Hospital in Buffalo where Bills fans had previously raised over $1M to honor Bills’ quarterback Josh Allen’s grandmother after her death in 2020.

All we need to do is realize both the positive and negative powers inherent in being part of a tribe. We can use our tribes for good or not so good. So, when you’re part of the tribe at your favorite sports team’s event and they’re winning, be kind to the members of the opposing tribe. As with pretty much anything humans do, we can unite around good or evil. Make the right choice. As former First Lady, Melania Trump, put it, “Be best.”

Oh, how I love a good hat trick