Countdown

I’m trying not to think about the election being less than two weeks away. I’m unsubscribing to all the political emails that have been cluttering my inbox, writing “STOP” to all the political texts. I’m barely skimming the headlines, “watching” TV news with the sound muted while I work a mindless coloring app on my phone. I’ve hand-delivered my own ballot to the county clerk’s office. I’m trying to stay focused on the present, the day to day, the hourly.

It isn’t working. I’m still obsessing about November 3. Continue reading

Comfort and joy in the Pink Lady

I have been wondering how to deal with the fact that my life is brimming with good things while others are suffering, and chaos reigns in many aspects of the larger society. There is a scale between guilt on the one hand and smug, oblivious self-satisfaction on the other that I am trying to navigate. A delicate point somewhere on that scale is a state of humble gratitude. It is delicate because it is hard to rest there for any length of time. It becomes easier when I think of gratitude as a mix of comfort and joy. That’s what I have been experiencing lately.

Let me raise a glass to current life in our house, the Pink Lady. I haven’t named her recently or written much here because things have been shuffling and changing over the past months. We are still in a pandemic, which in itself changes things. I haven’t had much new to say about that for a while. But now I see some surprising ways the pandemic has brought benefits to us, thanks partly to the vision we had when we bought this oversized old home three and a half years ago.

Continue reading

From detention to sheltering

Ben has been with us for two weeks. The first week we took it easy. The second week we also took it easy but for different reasons.

The first week we were all catching our breath. He was getting settled into his second-floor suite in our house, greeting friends who had preceded him out of detention in previous months, getting electronically connected. We were doing a bit of shopping for essentials and getting used to each other–which was not at all difficult. We knew each other pretty well after four months of almost daily phone calls. We celebrated his arrival with a party on Friday, March 13. Continue reading

This was the week that was

On Monday at Chicago Midway airport we greeted “Ben,” the long-awaited asylum seeker we’re sponsoring, wrested from detention after more than four months. It was in the nick of time. That center near El Paso was being emptied out in preparation for a whole new batch of refugees coming across the border from Mexico. Hundreds of the previous detainees were being sent to other centers around the country. A few were being paroled. Ben got bonded parole.

Phew. He’s here. Just in time for Covid-19. Continue reading

Good news

Kate Atkinson, one of my favorite writers, wrote a novel called When Will There Be Good News? I don’t remember what the novel was about but the title has been on my mind a lot, as we have waited for Ben to be paroled as well as during the slog through what has to be (Good Lord we pray!) the last year of Trump.

Short answer: Monday, March 2. Good news came on Monday. Continue reading

A letter from prison

“Ben,” the African asylum-seeker whom we are sponsoring, has now been in detention in New Mexico for four months, waiting to be paroled or bonded out. As I’ve written before, he is part a cohort of a dozen or so Africans who came through Mexico and arrived at the border at about the same time—and the last one still in deteIMG_4068ntion.

We’ve been talking regularly on the phone these four months. He calls us Mom and Dad in the African way (he’s actually about the age of our children). We’ve written letters, too. Sometimes it’s easier for Ben, who is a journalist, to express his feelings in writing. The one that came yesterday struck me profoundly. He gave me permission to share it. Continue reading

The state of waiting

I was hoping I wouldn’t have to write yet another “waiting” post. I was hoping that something would shake loose and “Ben” would follow his friends into freedom. Failing that, I was hoping I would be able to turn my creative energies in other directions to so that I would find something totally different to write about.

Neither has happened, although something could happen any minute. See, that is the problem: the expectation that something could happen any minute. Not good. Continue reading

ICE breaking?

Last Thursday afternoon, hours after I’d posted the latest update, word came that one of our three asylum seekers in detention had just been released on bond. “Our”refers to the two other South Bend couples and ourselves, sponsors-in-waiting for three African asylum seekers who have made much of the journey thus far together and have been in a detention facility on this side of the Mexican border since October. Continue reading

Swallowing the stories

I have been learning gradually that what we are doing–connecting with an asylum-seeking refugee whom we have never met but who is now in detention, hoping to get him paroled to us so he can seek asylum in relative freedom rather than from prison—is kind of a new thing. No wonder it has seemed puzzling, iffy, and kind of ad hoc, with new developments at every turn. Continue reading

Life in the sponsor lane

Sometimes when you are dealing with an asylum-seeker things happen very fast, sometimes very slowly, sometimes not at all. It’s stop-start rollercoaster stuff. Last week, for example, a friend of our guys who had been held for five months in a different detention center was suddenly sprung free on parole with no explanation. There is a welcome party for her tomorrow night at the Episcopal church. Miracles do happen.

Meanwhile, we and the other two sponsor couples we’ve teamed up with, because our guys are being detained together, have adjusted our sights to the long haul. Continue reading