I’ve been reading lately that President Trump has been considering transporting Central American immigrants from our southern border to so-called sanctuary cities and dropping them off there.  “They should be very happy,” Trump allegedly said, referring to those of us who believe that we should welcome those who seek refuge in our country.

Here in California, we appear to be at ground zero for this proposal.  Not only do we have plenty of asylum-seekers showing up at the San Ysidro-Tijuana border crossing, but former Governor Jerry Brown declared California to be a “sanctuary state.”  Furthermore, Los Angeles, San Francisco, my own home in Sacramento County, and ten other counties have declared themselves to be sanctuaries.  I am quite pleased with this.

My understanding of a sanctuary state, county or city is one that refuses to summarily turn over undocumented immigrants to the feds for deportation.  This humane treatment of immigrants who are already here is vastly different than opening the door to those who have not yet entered the United States.  I believe that our president is an intelligent man who understands the difference between the two, yet chooses to pretend otherwise for the purpose of creating maximum drama while seeking to emphasize his prejudice toward Latin American immigration.

Still, I say bring it on, Mr. President.

Those who belittle the fact that we care about our fellow man say that sanctuary cities should not expect any assistance from the federal government as we help our newest neighbors to establish a new life in our communities.  Fine.  All we ask is that you grant asylum to our brethren from the south so that they can lawfully obtain employment in the United States.  We’ll take it from there.

Some have suggested that our fellow Californians Nancy Pelosi and Gavin Newsom should take in several immigrants to their gated mansions.  Ignoring the implicit sarcasm in such remarks, I actually think it’s a fine idea.  Let our leaders lead by example.  But if our elected officials choose to pass up this opportunity to show their mettle, no worries.  The rest of us will step up and set the example for them.

It’s no secret that we have plenty of jobs in California that are going unfilled.  It is difficult not to notice the “help wanted” signs in nearly every retail establishment.  There are so many physically taxing jobs, dirty jobs, low-paid jobs that American citizens don’t want to do.  Those who have walked more than a thousand miles to reach our borders, those who have spent their life savings to be transported here, those who have risked their health and their lives to make it to the United States, these are the immigrants seeking entry whose valiant efforts should be rewarded by a welcome with open arms and an opportunity to fill our vacancies and to become productive, tax-paying Americans.  As for those immigrants who become unable to work due to age or disability, we have state income maintenance benefits available to provide them with the basics of shelter and food.

Turning away those born elsewhere who are desperate to join us is un-American. How can our president say “turn around, America is full?”  We are not full!  To many throughout the world, the Statue of Liberty is a welcoming symbol of the United States.  The famous Emma Lazarus poem at its base says it all:  Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore.  Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me.  I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

So once again I say, bring it on, Mr. President.  You claim to be a Christian, so surely you can understand our welcoming position.  You know, that stuff about loving your neighbor as yourself?

The Easter and Passover season has arrived, reminding us that we, too, were once strangers in a strange land, relying on the kindness and humanity of others.  Remember, faith without works is dead.  This is our chance to step up and show what we’re made of.  So let us swing open wide the doors of our churches, our synagogues, and our homes.

We’ve got you covered, Mr. President.  And you can count on us to do you proud.




For Hayden, On the Occasion of Your Dedication on Easter Sunday

Auntie Cute

Today, Easter Sunday, my little grandniece is being dedicated in church.  A feeble attempt at wisdom from a doting uncle.

Dear Hayden,

This is your uncle and aunt speaking.  As they say in the vernacular:  Yo, listen up.

We held you on the day you were born.  We drove all night to be with you and, wow, was it worth it!  We were awestruck by how amazing you were on Day 1.  We have yet to lose that feeling.  We don’t think we ever will.

We are so looking forward to watching you grow up and being a part of your life.  Living more than 600 miles away is starting to get rough.  We see a lot of driving in our future.  Hmm, it might be time to buy a new Haydenmobile.

So what do we wish for your future?  Every good thing in life.  Too many things to list.  But on the day of your dedication, we’d like to mention a few of the really important ones.

We wish you never-ending wonder.  You are already well on your way to this goal.  We cannot help noticing how much you enjoy colors and shapes and playing with your mobiles.  Keep going on your journey of discovery, Hayden.  We hope you remain curious about everything the world has to offer.  Never stop asking questions, even the really hard ones.  When you ask us why the sky is blue, you will send us scurrying to the encyclopedia, er, we mean to the Internet.  When you ask us where babies come from, we will change the subject.  We are looking forward to this roller coaster ride.  Buckle up.

We wish you education and learning.  Yes, we started a college fund for you on the day you were born, but not all learning occurs in school.  We hope you become a reader, that you read every book you can get your hands on, both the good ones and the bad ones.  It won’t take long before you know the difference.  We hope you cultivate a love of words and this amazing English language of ours. We hope the dictionary becomes your best friend, but we promise not to send you there when you ask us what a word means or how it is spelled.

We wish you abundance.  That is a pretty big word that means:  May you never lack for anything.  Abundance is not measured by dollars, or by how many toys you have, or anything like that.  Abundance is measured by how much good stuff you can fit into your heart.  Just remember:  There is always room for more.  We hope you have an endless capacity for love.

We wish you friends.  May you experience many deep and long-lasting friendships throughout the years.  We hope you become friends with people your own age, with old folks like us, with Abby Cadabby and Winnie the Pooh and Harry Potter.  When you find friendship, cultivate it, nurture it and cherish it always.  For it is friendship that will color your life in rainbow hues and season it with the most delicate of flavors.

We wish you fulfillment on whichever of life’s roads you choose.  We hope you do what you love and love what you do.  Life is like a great big fitting room, Hayden:  Pick what is beautiful and try it on for size.  If it doesn’t fit, try something else.  And when you find the one that fits perfectly, don’t look at the price tag.

We hope you remain sensitive to the needs of others, even when they are very different from your own needs.  Be kind to everyone, even when it’s really hard because they’re not being very nice.  Do not turn away from those less fortunate than yourself; they may never have had the advantages that you do.  Give of yourself.  Share your riches.  For you shall reap rewards far greater than anything you give.

Be brave and fearless.  As the Nike ads say, just do it.  Don’t become jaded.  Never let the word “can’t” creep into your vocabulary.  Don’t let the naysayers get you down.  They’re wrong, you know.

Stand up for what you believe in, cry out against injustice, do something, Hayden.  Do something good and right and awe-inspiring.  Speak your mind.  Take action.  Be bold and keep God at your side always.

We wish you peace.  As the years go by, may you look back in contentment at your many accomplishments and smile.  Do not harbor regrets.  Always try to do more and be more, but also be satisfied with everything you’ve already been and done.

We wish you appreciation of beauty.  May you be in awe of the sunset, may you count the raindrops on your window pane, may you stand on the beach and be mesmerized by the vastness of the ocean and its crashing waves.  As the Leeann Womack song says, we hope you dance.  And we hope you sing, play a musical instrument, draw, paint, write poetry and keep a journal.  We hope you find beauty not only in the great works of art, but also in the everyday — in your reflection in a puddle, in the whistle of a passing train, in the smile of a stranger, in the flower that pushes its way up between the cracks in the sidewalk.

And we hope you laugh.  Laugh often and long.  Don’t take yourself too seriously, Hayden.  Find humor in your daily life.  Stop to smell the roses.  Take a picture with your iPhone.  Tell a story.

We wish you gratitude.  Sure, your parents will teach you to be polite and say “thank you.”  But when you say “thank you,” really mean it.  Appreciate your talents and share them with others.  Count your blessings on a regular basis.

Be reverent.  Praise God every day for your many gifts, as we praise Him for the gift you are to us.  Pray.  As the Bible teaches us, pray without ceasing.  There will always be people who will make fun of you because of your beliefs, who will belittle the fact that you pray, that you trust in the Lord.  There will always be small-minded, mean-spirited people who will try to bring you down, Hayden.  Pray for them.

What other advice can we give you, dear Hayden?  Brush your teeth every day.  Use sunscreen.  Eat your vegetables.  Stay healthy.  Take good care of yourself so you can love your neighbor as yourself.  Oh, and text your uncle and aunt once in a while.  We may be old fuddy-duddies who live way out in the middle of the desert and don’t understand your music, your lingo or your passions, but we love you.

So, as we say in Hebrew, shalom.  Um, that means “peace, out.”


Desert Spring



I don’t need to look at the calendar to know that winter has given way to spring.  Out here in the desert, three indicators clearly announce that March has arrived:  The fair, the heat and the first fruits.

The fair is in town this week in all its schlocky, throwback, family fun glory.  Kids from the high school perform, stuffed animals line the midway, the rides whirl and everyone eats cotton candy and funnel cakes.  The 4-H Club and the FFA strut their stuff; for weeks, I’ve heard nothing but tales of whose son has the finest pig and what prices the livestock auction will fetch.

As for the heat, well, March is the start of the long desert summer.  While New England suffers under yet another foot of snow, we have already had two days on which the mercury has reached 95 degrees.  We will likely hit the 100° mark before the end of the month, where the midday temperature will stay put for the next six or seven months.

Although I’m not a big fan of the fair and the relentless heat gets old quickly, I always look forward to the return of some of the best fresh fruit anywhere, just in time for Easter and Passover.  My treats today were an incredibly sweet, juicy red plum and some explosively tasty blueberries (photos above).

And let us not forget the flocks of birds that nest in our tree, sing us shrilly awake each morning and poop all over our cars.

Apparently, however, not all of our avian friends are keen about celebrating springtime in California.  I hear the Argentine cliff swallows have not returned to Capistrano this year.