My 2-year old Bärli

Everything right about this world is taking root in you – kindness, compassion, curiosity, warmth, the desire to explore.

Today, you are two years old. I awoke to messages from your Engeli Anna Murphy (the finest family law attorney in the business), two godmothers, and Mommy’s friend in Kenya. You are loved so deeply by your Dallas family. Today, we will have a full day with your grandparents and cousins…and Rosco.

The most important birthday message I can give you today, your second birthday, is to tell you to give up. This sounds odd, “Bear” with me.

Give up on things that do not work. Let go. Even walk away. You can always come back. Or pivot.

You do not need to follow Mommy’s horrible example. Mommy will beat the proverbial dead horse with hopes, prayers, and absolute exhaustion. Don’t. You don’t need to.

There are over 7.6 billion people in the world at this moment in time. Find people that want to be your family, want to be your friend, want to be your business colleague, want to be your mentor, want to be a collaborative, positive part of your journey.

There are 195 countries in the world at this moment in time. You need not sit still. You can explore. You can find places that feed your soul, your mind, your spirit, and your bank account (never move somewhere without a job, Henry). You do not need to stay in the harbor, where it is safe. Needless to say, that doesn’t really work. Let that kind of thinking go and sail off, during the day. See what is out there. You will come back a fuller, brighter Bärli.

There are over 7,000 known languages in the world at this moment in time. The most frustrating, humbling experience in the world is attempting to communicate in your third, fourth, fifth, etc. language with someone who needs your immediate help (or vis versa). Do it. This understanding that “English” and “The United States of America” are not the hegemonic forces to all corners of the world is crucial for you. Should you go into public service, and I hope you will, do not try to make that idea work. It does not work. It should not work. It does not serve our city, our state, our country, or our world to try and make it work. Let that go. Further your understanding of what does work by learning languages, recipes, dances, mountain trails, river routes, etc. from your exploration of this great world. Take that knowledge and make that work.

It is 6:37AM. You were born in Bern on this day, just after 8:45AM. Dr. Baur only scheduled babies to be born on Tuesdays; so, you were born on Granddaddy’s birthday, which pleased me. Granddaddy knew it was go to give up and reassess. So did Pop. They were wonderful examples of fine men.

Do not be afraid to give up.

Mommy is so proud to be your Mommy, my precious Bärli.

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Are Our Kids For Sale?

On Preston Road in North Dallas, I was struck by the following signs next to each other:

FOR LEASE and TED CRUZ FOR SENATE

When did we start electing politicians that would sell out our children?

Sell out their health concerns to Big Pharma and health insurance companies that don’t care about wellness.

Sell out their educations to a Secretary of Education that doesn’t believe in education.

Sell out their safety to a gun lobby that doesn’t care about non-violence.

Look at the scorecard:

Defunding CHIP.

Leaving gun violence in school unaddressed.

Failing to provide public schools with the teachers, supplies, resources, and administrative personnel they need.

Cyberbullying and suicide statistics rise without combative strategies.

Proper food and nutrition fall to the wayside as cheaper, less beneficial food“stuff” is thrown in vats and distributed.

Ballooning student loans.

Dismantling fine arts and physical education programs.

Separating non-resident children from their families, placing them in communal centers with cages, asking them to represent themselves in a court of law, failing to cease even after hearing cries of “Mama” or “Papa.” Still, leaving them without families months and years later.

How will our children judge us? Look at what we have done to them and to children like them.

My son is too small to articulate his thoughts. He plays with all children. My nephews are a bit older. Still, they see children as children – not as white or brown, rich or poor, blond or brunette. Just children. They don’t qualify or clarify when they talk about kids and how things are tougher for kids than they should be. And, unfortunately, even they realize that the adults should be fixing these things.

They are reaping the toxic seeds we have selfishly sown.

Every time we allowed policies that hurt our children at the local level.

Every time we voted for state candidates focused on pleasing PACs instead of families.

Every time we failed to demand action from national representatives more interested in dinner than school lunch programs.

Every time we allowed inaction or disinterest to keep us from taking a well-informed step into the ballot box.

We failed them.

It’s not to late to get involved. Midterms are around the corner, then 2020. Sooner than that, you have a local school that probably needs a volunteer or a Big Brothers/Big Sisters that could use another mentor. There are always after school programs desperate for talents you probably possess. So, do it.

 

Dear Uncle Bob

I felt lucky to be with you as the breath left your body today. I felt honored to have a closeness with you and Candy that allowed that to happen.

You are the only family member that genuinely understands two of my loves: mountains and opera. The only one who really “got” it when I didn’t want to make my home in Dallas – without the mountains – because I craved that connection to nature.

More than my own connection, the unforgettable love you gave to my aunt (your “Annie”), or any of the many hats you wore, I will remember one of your other roles.

I will remember that you were Henry’s first male role model.

You were present. When we came back, you showed up for Henry every week. You made silly faces and did silly voices. Heck, you talked to him, even though he wasn’t speaking yet. You wanted to hold him any time he was around you. In fact, I remember one time, Henry was crying and you told me, “Give him to me.” I reluctantly did so, I never gave Henry to anyone when he was upset. Of course, Henry quite abruptly stopped crying.

He asked for “Bob” all the time. Including today. When we arrived, he asked Candy, “Go see Bob?” Not today, Henry.

I want to thank you for being the first man that Henry reached for, the only man that made him a priority, and the perfect man for me to point to when I encourage him to learn to ski and play golf. I think I will point to your example about a great many things, Bob.

The journey from father to uncle to great uncle was a long one for you. I know that. I also know Henry was the beneficiary of all the wisdom you gathered along your path.

After you left us today, Candy closed the door, which was covered with butterflies. Henry looked at me and said, “Bob sleeping, Bob gone now.” I don’t know if he was asking or telling me? You two had a closeness for which I am and will remain eternally grateful.

I suppose that answered my question. He was telling me.

Love you.

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Majesty and Adoration

I’ve officially reached the ripe old age of 42. I realize some people regret the addition of another digit to one’s age; and, though I reserve the right to bemoan that should I ever choose to do so, I simply have never felt that way.

Every year, I consider it a new start. A chance for something, or someone, new to arrive. Last year, my father, my son, and I went to the epicenter of the Ayres family, Hutchins. Two years ago, I crossed the border and went to Lake Constance (Bodensee) for my birthday. A few years before, I went to the Château de Chillon, another year – The Matterhorn. I have spent the years searching for beauty, embracing the world’s amazing offerings.

This year? I took Henry to the local zoo.

Henry is fascinated by drawings and flashcards of these majestic animals; so, I spent my birthday morning with my son, looking at these creatures in the flesh. He fed a giraffe, without a hint of trepidation. He sat with a pane of glass separating him from a gorilla and carried on an entire conversation (“How you doing?” was his opening line). His entire face lit up when he witnessed the brightly coral-hued flamingos. He wept when we could *only* ride the Carousel twice. The adoration of the majesty of the animals. It was so pure and simple.

I no longer visit sparkly places. The place I visited today smelled, sorry, of elephant poo. But, like everyone, I still have goals for which I will strive. Here are three.

Mr. D Less than two weeks ago, I was honored to sing at the funeral of a beloved teacher from ESD. During this service, he was remembered as a man that “seemingly loved the simplicity of everyday chores and tasks.” Doing his part to make his corner of the world…better? Easier? Cleaner? More interesting? More beautiful?

Joe and Mrs. Simpson Three days ago, I was honored to pay tribute to one of my favorite people and teachers from ESD. I’ve never known anyone to have the semblance of one harsh thought of Joe. Never. Also, during a discussion about another honoree, I heard her described as a woman who had decidedly used her life to seek out the best in people. That’s an important distinction from “bringing out.” Joe and Mrs. Simpson both have this innate ability not to merely “accept” people for who we all are, but to reveal in what makes us remarkable.

Late last night, a dear friend wrote to me about BML being a woman that sought to help, even when she was, herself, in need of help – a woman able to keep her own needs in perspective with the needs of the patients, friends, or family members that needed what she had to offer. Her ability to bring light and life to those in need of human kindness is something severely lacking in this world.

In addition to these lofty goals, for myself, to be a bit more like these wonderful people, I have a HUGE goal as a mother. I want to continue to bring that sparkle of adoration to Henry’s beautiful eye.

Happy May 21st.

 

 

 

 

My Thesis and My Bärli

Henry, I have been at the Law Office for a few hours, while you are sleeping. It’s quiet up here because it’s Saturday. I allowed myself 8 minutes to write this, post it without corrections, and return home. I hope I’ll be there when Lindy has just woken you up and is feeding you lunch.

Periodically, I have some hours to attempt to finish my thesis. It is always difficult now. I sometimes wish I’d had three weeks to live in my thesis, non-stop. This coming and going is brutal. I am working on sections, reworking sections that have become outdated because technology is constantly surpassing what we knew to be possible, and under absolutely delusions this degree means anything to anyone over here.

Yet, I continue plugging away at it. I think, more than anything, I still believe in it. I remember my first conversation with Mira. She was enthusiastic. They all have been, my advisors on this topic.

But, life has proven to be more important than my thesis. I was blissfully unaware of what was in store for me, for our Ayres family. We have had the most difficult year and a half of our family’s life. Truly. We are still trying to pull out of it, as a family. It is a daily, seemingly unending journey.

But, I gather I have less than one month of pure, forced (i.e. I am forcing you to be with me because you have no choice) time with you left. I already ache to feel how much I will miss you later in life when you want to be with anyone OTHER than me. For now, that is not the case. Your face lights up when I greet you in the morning.

But, soon, I will need to put you in daily care and go to work full-time. That destroys me, but I see how badly you need it. You need your intellectual curiosity to be fed by other children and educators. You need your mother to provide for you financially in addition to the copious love and care I give you. You deserve opportunities, and I will do my damnedest to help you get in doors.

So, my thesis, which is now 18 months overdue (NOT AT ALL – coincidentally, you are 18 months soon) will have to wait at least one more month.

You are the most important thing in my life. I will soak in every moment of the next few weeks. When you were born, during that nightmare, your uncle, for whom you are named said, “Do not be distracted when you take him home from the hospital. You get that moment one time. Be present.” Though my phone was buzzing from reporters who’d “somehow” been given my phone number, I followed his advice. I am keeping it in mind now, as well.

I love you. I love your precious snaggle tooth. I love how much you love your vacuum. I love your precious singing voice. I love your thick brown hair and your deep brown eyes that always remind me of L. I love your tantrums that remind me of my own frustrations when I couldn’t “get it” right away, be “it” an idea or a thing. I love everything about you.

What a wonderful month this will be for us.

Glitter and Ashes

Because I was privileged and lucky enough, I spent 5 “Fasnacht/Ash Wednesday”s in Luzern.

Luzern does pre-Lent well. From Tagwach/Schmutzigen Donnerstag until the sun announces Wednesday has come, the city truly celebrates life, joy, music, food, culture, children, adults, visual artistry, drinking, city landmarks, etc. They bring so much life into the world during those days and they do a far better job than the Baselers (sorry, I’m FIERCELY loyal to Luzern, Basel!).

The Tuesday festivities for me always began on the train from either Zürich or Bern to Luzern. Inevitably, revelers would start “celebrating” as the train twisted through small villages and over little brooks. I’d witness a group of girls drinking Aperol Spritzes (I was more a Kafi Lutz gal on the train) or a man in a suit slip into the bathroom a banker and come out a bumblebee or (not-so) sexy nurse. Hours later, I would take in every mask, every instrument, every little band or big band, every smell (some not so great). I loved it. The first year I went, I was alone/abandoned. The last year, I was alone-ish – Henry was in my belly.

The next morning, I would wake early. I would attempt to remove as much of the glitter and caked-on makeup as possible, usually to no avail, I’d have a good breakfast, walk to Friedental, visit Bibiana’s grave, light a candle, place a rose, and then go to Ash Wednesday services. Every year.

Ash Wednesday services never depressed me or made me miserable. I would close my eyes as Cornel or Ruth or Father Luzzatto or Justin sprinkled the dust on my head. I would let the Aschermittwoch words enveloped me. I have always understood, since I was a small child, I am dust and to dust I shall return.

All day, during those years, I would walk feeling the pieces of glitter and specks of ash co-mingling on my forehead and in my hair. I never took that beautiful juxtaposition for granted.

I am far away from my heart and spiritual home, but I am walking down the hill, over the bridge, and into my church now. I contemplate that life and death are parts of each other. The darkened veil of sadness is laced with golden threads of bliss.

Ashes and glitter. It is always thus, is it not?

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Bärli – First March

You took part in your first exercise of democracy on Saturday. With Momma strolling you through a crowd of hundreds of women (and men) and children, you marched for Womens’ Rights.

Many times, people would stop, look at you, and tell you to remember the day. You will not. Some said you should run for president some day. I hope not, but will support you, if you decide to do so. When Mommy’s voice joined the others saying, “This is what democracy looks like,” you looked up at me and smiled. Sometimes, if Mommy was very loud, you laughed.

Mommy was never an activist and many of the women marching were similar. But, these are important times. Important things are slipping away – civil liberties, progress in the various areas of equality, common decency. Mommy has to raise her voice sometimes.

For me, the Womens March was about more than politics, that’s why I wanted to take you with me. It was about coming together as a community and supporting each other during a challenging time. I don’t care if you are political, but you will be informed, okay? You will never take your most powerful weapon, your vote, for granted. That is your brain’s only defense against corruption, injustice, and oppression.

Mommy wishes she was in Geneva, using her degree and expertise to make a difference. Dallas feels like a wasteland to her, in that way. But, Saturday morning was nice. It was nice to scream and raise my voice, and it was wonderful to have my full-of-potential son with me.

Screen Shot 2018-01-23 at 10.12.06 AM Mommy and a great lady she met that day…you are in that stroller, buddy!