Dallas – are we #DallasStrong? Next step #Shavon

I use the hashtags with intended respect to the movement “Dallas Strong” and the memory of 13-year old Shavon Randle. 1499120394-21972030_14990282510_r

Yesterday marked the anniversary of a horrific crime in Dallas that united a nation in abject disgust. A blue president joined a red president to grieve the abominable nature of shootings targeting our brave men and women in the Dallas Police Department and Dart Police. Twitter was filled with people expressing sympathy through #DallasStrong. Our police chief and mayor focused on unity through peaceful and productive reactions, not incendiary ones. As a result, the city stayed calm.

I am a single mom and supporting my son alone. We will be “diner” people for the rest of my life, though I hope he will have the option of five-star restaurants, if he should choose them. One reason we will be “diner” people is my desire to pick up the check of first responders I see. Paying 20 dollars for 2 Lunch Enchilada plates at El Arroyo for two female DPD that protect this city? Nothing.

My fervent prayer is that our DPD and Dart police officers realize how much this city not only supports them, but will not tolerate crimes against them. Do we expect the DPD and Dart Police to operate fairly and justly? Absolutely. Every life matters.

So, why do I mention Shavon? Because it’s time to protect the next group that needs protection – our children.

Dallas, let’s be truly #DallasStrong. Let’s be a city that calls out the fact that every person implicated in the July 2017 horrific Dallas crime detailed here is a person of color that is or is under the age of 30.

Children are not born criminals and/or drug dealers. Poverty, fear, and desperation are the birth parents of drug dealers and criminals. Cities allowing and tolerating socioeconomic, especially health and education, segregation and inequality are the birth parents of drug dealers. Ignorance, apathy, and insouciance are the birth parents of criminals. Children, like Shavon, have one job: take full advantage of the education afforded to you.

As adults, we have many jobs. At the local level, one of the most important jobs we have is making certain that every child is given the best start we can given him/her.

These alleged criminals were Shavon’s age. What did Dallas do to help them achieve good health? good educations? good homes? SAFE homes? SAFE schools? SAFE communities? Conjecture here, but I’m guessing their “jobs” as children were not strictly focusing on school. Take a look.

According to city-data.com, here is a comparison between crime stats in Highland Park (a small community in Dallas county with excellent schools) and Lancaster (Shavon’s community) in relation to the US average. What you will notice is primarily two-fold. First, notice the stark contrasts between these numbers (there are no stats for Lancaster in 2014 or 2015). Second, this is key, notice that the trend in HP and the US is a decrease. It’s not so for Lancaster.

HP Stats – 2013-2015

HP

Lancaster Stats – 2011-2013

Lancaster

Next step in #DallasStrong is being stronger. There is strength in being honest about what we are not doing well, as we saw last year. Our brave men and women in blue needed our support. 2017 – we are failing our children, Dallas. We need to be honest, get #DallasStrong, and step up. One of the best ways to step up? VOTE. Inform yourself about candidates supporting a stronger public school system with better pay for teachers, better security (not armed security), etc. Support candidates fighting for healthcare for all, not just those who can afford it. Support anyone trying to pull people up, instead of kicking them when they are down. Volunteer and get involved in educating all Dallas’ kiddos – not just your own.

A better start for our kids. Shavon deserved it. Her family deserved it.

#DallasStrong – the new chapter. All of Dallas’ children deserve it.

 

The Day of Your Baptism

IMG_9635It was sunny in Dallas on June 17th and 2PM in the afternoon. It was an interesting sunny for Dallas, Texas. We’d had lots of rain and the sky was actually quite dark that morning. But, when it was time for you to be baptized into the community of faith I’ve chosen for you at this point in your life, the sky was full of sunshine.

Your entire God Squad was there for you that day.  Lindy and Pop Pop were there, wearing a corsage and boutonniere, respectively. Your Auntie and The Dude were there. The Ayres Little Men were Mother Amy’s helpers. You were surrounded in love.

You were baptized in All Saints chapel at the school your family always supported, even when it was not easy to do so. A mere hop, skip, and jump from the chapel is the Ayres Physics Lab. ESD sometimes forgets how deeply our family has loved it and I do not know why. Regardless of this sporadic amnesia, I am pleased you were baptized there.

In the ESD memorial pew were five roses – representing your great grandparents and a classmate of Mommy’s. IMG_9633

In the baptismal font was a special blend of holy water – some from Dallas, some from Mommy’s church in Luzern, and some from the holy River Jordan from Momma Sproaty’s trip to the Holy Land. You were blessed by water and God’s armor will protect every hair on your head.

There were two baptismal candles, including one from Lindy’s baptism. She has kept it for years, not even using it during the baptisms of her own children. It shone brightly, decades later, on your baptism, as if it was holding in so much of its glory in anticipation of that day.

Your godfathers were there. Your grandfather and uncle were there. Uncle Robert was there. Bop, Joe, Joe-L, Davey, your cousins, Rob, Bob, Hollye, Mike, Taffy, Rob, Father Casey, Larry, and a few others were there. Your father was not there. He did not call or write to Mommy because he will not speak to me. He does not accept my emails or my phone messages. I sent him a Tweet, which broke my heart. He did not respond. There were good men at your baptism, my son.

IMG_9608

Godpoppa and Mommy sang the hymn from Switzerland we sang at the Hospice two years ago. Mommy sang in German, then in French, and then we sang in English. Just as we did. Mommy held her Luzern rosary. Switzerland was well represented in water, song, and body. That made Mommy so happy.

Godmomma, Sproaty, and Godmum dressed you, as is the tradition. They robed you in the christening gown purchased in Firenze (Florence, Italy) in 2007 by Lindy. This gown will, we hope, be worn by Ayres children in the future. IMG_9620

You slept. You were so peaceful, you slept. Even when Mother Amy dropped the holy water on your brow, you barely stirred. You were the incarnation of the peace of Christ, my Bärli.

We all promised to support you during your faith journey. No one will do so more than Mommy. Whatever path you choose for yourself, after we have walked the first leg of your path together in the Episcopal Church, I will support you. I only pray you choose a path paved with the virtues of peace, tolerance, and love.

What a blessing you are.

Here is the God Squad: IMG_9523.JPG

I Did Not Make a Huge Mistake

For now, I have decided not to do the interview requested of me by a reputable reporter in Switzerland, who was to come to Dallas today. I remain appreciative of his diligence and grateful for the professional courtesy shown to both Henry and me since the press found out about Henry. However, the following is all the information I need to give (at this time).

My objective today is to publicly correct two wrongs – one done to my son and the other done to the people who protected (and still do) my son. All of the following can be substantiated by various communications from 2016 to the present.

In the fall of 2015, I started on the path to secure a meaningful life in Switzerland, my beloved and chosen home. I had some good friends, including Christophe, and I was on my way to graduating with a respectable degree in international law and economics. I hoped to spend the rest of my life in the country I loved while helping to make a real difference at the WTO in Geneva.

Everything stopped for me in January of 2016 when I realized I was pregnant. Let me be crystal clear: the best decision I ever made was having my son. Now, I will try to correct two grave wrongs, which have bothered me for months (in addition to a great many other atrocities).

Correction:

My son is not a mistake. My son is a gift to all who are blessed to know him. He is strong, already has a kind heart, and possesses a smile that brings joy to everyone upon whom his light shines. He is not anyone’s “schweren Fehler.” Any lawyer somewhat adept at public relations should have pointed out how vile and disgusting such a statement was. In my opinion, it was also patently false. There were (and are still) many mistakes made by his father, but Henry was not (and is not) one of them.

Correction:

Because a “version” of our story was purposely told to the press mere days after Henry’s birth, my son and I were consequently quite vulnerable. The staff, doctors, and Hebamme of Salem Spital went above and beyond the standard expectations for people in their positions to allow my son and I to be protected during a challenging time. Careful consideration was shown to every possible need and security precautions were put into place to safeguard Henry, my parents, and me. Salem Spital should be commended for the exemplary service and care they provide their patients and guests. Commended – not falsely blamed and treated with disrespect. I will no longer tolerate anyone condemning or  accusing Salem Spital of impropriety in any way.

Similarly disrespected during this time were my OB/GYN and my lawyer, Anna Murphy. Ms. Murphy fairly and fiercely fights for my son. My concerns, as they should be, are secondary to what she believes is right for my son and in full accordance with Swiss law and KESB protocol. She is an excellent lawyer, who was undeserving of the disrespect she received from the two people who should have been grateful for her protection of this child. My OB/GYN was the greatest blessing to come into our lives in Bern. Her discretion, professionalism, and personal encouragement helped me navigate my way through a very challenging time. She, too, is undeserving of any disrespect and derision from, again, two people that should be a) grateful and b) understanding, being parents themselves.

On a personal note, as a foreigner, I was very grateful for the kindness and support shown to me in the last few weeks of my pregnancy by the authorities in the Zivilstand in the Bern Cantonal offices and the people I spoke with at the KESB. These representatives, of their respective agencies, certainly demonstrate what is “right” with the system in Switzerland. I will never forget the employee who came to my home on her way to work to retrieve necessary papers because I was simply unable to walk due to sciatica. Anyone claiming Swiss people are cold or unfriendly, tell him/her to contact me. I have evidence the exact opposite is true of a great many Swiss people.

When a baby is unexpected, women have an advantage in only two ways. We have the ultimate choice on whether or not to have the baby and we have the immediate bond because the baby is a part of us. It was my experience, during the past year and 5 months, both of these advantages can be cause for tremendous conflict between a man and a woman. Punishing me for having these advantages is one thing – punishing a child is another.

My son, in addition to the other articles with that horrible headline, I’ll make sure you read this someday and I hope it eases the pain of what he said and did. We, you and I, both know who and what you really are – a miracle. 

Grandparents

I’ve written about it before. My paternal grandfather’s last day on this earth was May 21st in 2004.  That is the same day I was born in 1976.

I didn’t have a normal relationship with my grandparents. Normally, children see their grandparents a few times a year – I saw all four of mine weekly for almost 22 years (when we lost my paternal grandmother). Most children have a vague idea of the lives their grandparents lived before becoming “old” – I walked the steps my grandparents walked as children in their respective cities. I took road trips with all of my grandparents traveling to Hutchins or Port Aransas or Virginia. I soaked up every piece of wisdom, every note of a song danced under the moonlight, every bite of an old family recipe. When my son’s delivery date was chosen, it was only fitting that it was my maternal grandfather’s birthday. No one has had four such grandparents and no superlative I could use does them the justice they deserve. I think of each grandparent almost every day, sometimes multiple times a day.

On my birthday, I always try to do something to celebrate Pop’s wonderfully rich life. This year, I will drive my 8-month old son to the small town which molded his great grandfather to become a poetry-loving, Pearl Harbor-stationed, family-oriented SMU graduate. Just as Pop and I used to do, we’ll listen to Caruso, and I’ll make it a “perfectly bully” time.

I worry for my son’s lack of a father. When I was three months pregnant, I realized my son would probably be raised without a father’s influence. I worried about this for one year and two weeks. Then I remembered my grandfathers. Pop lost his father when he was a little boy, barely remembering anything about him. His primary male influence was his uncle, whom he always spoke of with childlike adoration. Granddaddy also lost his father during his childhood. He was taught how to be a proper, and I use that term in its full glory and dishonor!, gentleman by his older brothers. They were two of the finest men I will ever know – fatherless at an early age.

What I need to do, just as those folks helping mold little Rowe Jack and little Horace, is keep the fine influences strong. I do this by telling the stories of acts of kindness and gentleness I witnessed from Henry’s great grandfathers, grandfather, and uncle.

And, this year, on the day Pop and I share, I will find a street that bears his name. I will stand my son up, take his little hands in my hands, and “walk” with him down a street which little Rowe Jack’s (both of them) feet walked down years ago. My precious Pop will walk with me and his great grandson where life began for him on the day life ended.

What a beautiful moment for all three of us and how lucky I am to give it to Henry.

 

The High Road

There is a beautiful Wanderweg (clearly-marked walks through the Swiss countryside, mainly) in Kanton Zug. It sits atop the Zugerberg and contains breathtaking beauty, relaxing pedestrian strolls, a charmingly dilapidated church, fabulous tracks for bikers, and the “Skulpturenweg” for children and adults.

When I lived in Zürich, I took the short train ride (with my beloved SBB) to Zug, and  walked it many times. It was more meditation than sport. I would walk for hours – disappearing in the sound of cowbells and sunshine or rain or foggy mists.

The top of a Swiss mountain, even a “smaller” one like the Zugerberg, can make one pause. There is a literal and figurative perspective when viewing the city below that brings an immediate disconnect from “real life” and places one in the mountain’s uppermost sanctuary.

When looking down upon the city below, I recall feeling compelled to stay high. I wanted to stay at the top because being at the top felt easy and peaceful. Relative to what lingered below, the higher road above felt more who I was. (Do not mistake me, I can do it – work and live below – I just don’t want to.)

The low road is covered with soldiers running around wearing narcissism, greed, neglect, pathological lying, darkness, etc. like medals. It seems almost normal for quelque personnes on the low road to engage in the tearing apart of folks who don’t live like they do. People who place a higher premium on other virtues.

I don’t do that well and I hope my son will choose not to. It’s not a Catholic thing for me, it’s a human thing. I have one life, I don’t want to live it worshiping those gods.

The high road has better views and many things seem easier to “touch” up there – joy, God, clarity, compassion, sunshine. That’s what I want my son to strive for, also. Life can show you true joy when you stay focused on gratitude, generosity, and humility.

There’s one great thing that lives up there I failed to mention. Justice resides on the high road. Even as some on the low road fail to see her or care she is there. Justice always stays where the air is pure and the views are clear.

And, she’s one hell of a companion to have by your side.

Four Years Ago

I went to the Hospice for the first time.

I had no idea how much that place would change the course of my life.

I remember being told that the journey to the Hospice was difficult, but worth it.

I agree.

Here are a few of my posts on the Hospice and how much it has meant, and will always mean, to me.

http://wp.me/p2dSt7-5g

http://wp.me/p2dSt7-aj

http://wp.me/p2dSt7-6l

http://www.newlyswissed.com/great-st-bernard-hospice/

SDG †

12.04.2013 – 12.04.2017

 

Americans Need International Organizations and Here’s Why…

The United States has key relationships with other nations established by treaties, customary law, etc. These relationships may be volatile at times, but they are also crucial. They both secure our ability to trade and operate within the global economy and protect us (American citizens) from harm. That harm, as other nations have seen, sometimes encompasses both external and internal threats.

The US led the fight to revamp the League of Nations culminating in the establishment of the United Nations. The US argued for the formation of the GATT which later led to the World Trade Organization. In fact, the US either participated in or guided the creation of well over a dozen influential international organizations.

These organizations are tasked with duties affecting every aspect of our daily lives. Think I am being hyperbolic?

Here is what the often-maligned-by-our-current-President-and-his-staff organization NATO has been up to:

http://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/topics_52060.htm

Here is what the United Nations, similarly disrespected by the current crew, is responsible for (among other great works): http://www.un.org/en/sections/what-we-do/uphold-international-law/index.html

Here is what the WTO, an organization in the cross hairs of the current administration, does to help the US trade more effectively and economically: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2016/09/20/would-the-u-s-be-better-off-without-the-wto-not-when-the-wto-guides-98-percent-of-global-trade/?utm_term=.aa4951ed4418

The US has a key role in promoting and fairly participating in these organizations. Without the standards and regulations established by them, our nation will be adversely affected. Trade will suffer, putting a strain on our businesses, and the global economy could collapse.

Human rights violations worldwide, as we’ve seen in the latest mass migration, do affect every nation’s citizens, as we collectively strive to be a peaceful world. Environmental principles advanced at the international level (Paris Agreement, for example) are literally the bare minimum bargains between the US and other nations meant to maintain something as critical as a planet with breathable air, livable temperatures and sea levels, etc.

The US should be leading these international initiatives and organizations, not fighting them or publically rebuking them.

Having IOs establish global standards is not only in the best interest of every American, it is fundamental to our way of life. When I take away my son’s favorite toy because he has thrown it on the ground four times and almost broken it, he cries. He feels the loss.

Should the US continue to discount how essential international protections are, we will lose them. And, I feel we too will suffer. Greatly.

It is reason enough to be on the phone, every day, to our elected representatives.

The Day Before You Were Born

I wrote this the night of September 5, 2016. I was too afraid to publish it, but I’m not afraid anymore.

**

My son. You have been named for your uncle and the Henry family. You are God’s child and will be mine because He gave you to me.

“They” made this day before you were born a difficult rollercoaster for me and your grandparents. But, we know the end of the ride will be worth it…you will be with us.

And, the Ayres/Vaughan family will be stronger than ever.

You are loved. So many people all over this world are waiting for you to be born. Children in the US will go to sleep tonight and be excited to wake up and see you tomorrow morning.

You are loved.

You are wanted. There will be people in this world, even people you want to want you, who do not want you. That is okay, Henry. I am the luckiest woman in the world right now as you kick my belly. I want you with every cell in my body.

You are wanted.

You are blessed. So many times in the past 9 months, people have prayed for you. You have been covered in God’s love from the first week I knew you were in there! God is blessing you, even now.

You are blessed.

You are protected. God will protect you. Lindy and Pop Pop will protect you. And, Henry…your mom will protect you. You are an innocent, beautiful boy.

And, you are protected.

No matter what or who comes at us, we will be okay.

Written for you in our little apartment in Länggasse, Bern on the day before you were born and made me…a Mommy.

45’s America Feels Like an Umbrella Stroller

New parents purchase something around 6 months or so called an “Umbrella Stroller.” This is the transition from the bulky, heavy Big Daddy Stroller, a.k.a. the “carseat-in-the-stroller” stroller, to an “easier” stroller – the Umbrella Stroller.

Here’s the difference between the two, and I think it’s apropos to what is being felt/thought by a great many people in this nation right now.

In the Big Daddy Stroller, we both feel safe – Parent and Baby. Baby knows that Parent is in charge. Baby knows that if something bad happens, Parent is on it. Parent handles the burden of the weight and gravity/gravitas of the stroller – making all the necessary adjustments to ease the stroller through tight spots, being able to pick up the weight of the stroller with or without Baby in it, assuring Baby that life in the stroller is okay, visually negotiating with other Parents to make sure we are sharing the space, keeping an eye on impending dangers for Baby, etc. This is no joke. This is how Baby and Parent work in this Stroller.

In the Umbrella Stroller, only an idiot Parent feels safe and no Baby would feel safe. Baby sees everything…except Parent. Parent can’t see Baby. There is a detachment that is uncomfortable, anxiety-inducing. Baby wonders if Parent is present? Is Parent still on top of all of Baby’s needs? Baby is seeing things that scare the never-ending-stream-of-poo out of Baby and where is Parent? Pushing the Umbrella Stroller…or on Twitter? Parent is trying to use the cheaply manufactured, piece-of-poo wheels to get Baby out of a massive pothole in the road as Baby is quietly wondering “why did MY Parent lead me this way in this cheap stroller” while pooing him/herself.

See, the Umbrella Stroller is a few things. A) It’s lighter. B) It’s cheaper. C) It comes in bright blue fabric with sea creatures. D) It is simple. Exciting and “better.” Great.

The Big Daddy Stroller is also a few things. A) It’s heavy as all get out. B) It’s costs an arm and a leg (and a mortgage). C) It doesn’t care how it looks (much like the Parent pushing it), and D) It went through 3 decades of R&D…TO MAKE SURE IT DIDN’T KILL THE BABY. IT IS A TANK DESIGNED TO TAKE OUT A GRANNY ON A LARK.

The nation of my birth is now an Umbrella Stroller. I, for one, am terrified as the Baby. I do not feel I have a Parent pushing my Big Daddy Stroller, as I always have. I don’t have a Parent that values my security and welfare over ease of weight and/or financial milieu. I have never known life with an Umbrella Stroller administration. Neither have you. As much as we can say about past White House (Pres., VP, Staff) administrations, we’ve never known this. I am worried about A) my piece-of-poo Umbrella Stroller and B) the Parent pushing it. Aren’t you?

We are seeing things as the “Baby” that should scare us. Our faces should have collective fear, but…guess what? Our “Parent” is too busy Tweeting, using the Office of the President of the United States to conduct unfair business deals, and making a mockery of this country to notice our faces.

So, what are you doing? As the baby (lowercase intentional), you don’t have a lot of options. We are all locked into the Umbrella Stroller now because we have a 2-party system and the Electoral College. But, you can use your voice.

  1. Cry your head off – call every representative. Did you vote for Trump? Tell them you made a mistake.
  2. Shake the stroller – donate money to Democrats. Why? Because you’ll get back in the Big Daddy stroller! Dems are trying to save your healthcare, your AIR, your paycheck. Usually vote red? SHAKE IT UP.
  3. Break out – go find a new Parent. Do you like John McCain? Okay. Write to him. Donate to him. Chris Murphy fan? Castro brothers? Write to them. Donate to them. Get the ball rolling in a positive direction. Elizabeth Warren speaking to you? GET OUT YOUR CHECKBOOK AND DONATE TO EMILY’S LIST. Go in a different direction.

For God’s sake, do something. You might be the “Baby” in this scenario and we are all in an Umbrella Stroller…but, a crying baby is one of the loudest noises in the world.

USE YOUR VOICE.

Am I disposable? Are you?

The World of Before You

I am profoundly struck by Pope Francis’ recent remarks, “Young people at the moment are in crisis. We have all become accustomed to this disposable culture. We do the same thing with the elderly…they are afflicted by a culture where everything is disposable. We have to stop this habit of throwing things away. We need a culture of inclusion.”

Have we all, young and old, become an “i-generation” that is focused primarily on disposing of everything easily?

Let’s think about things that are disposable: razorblades, diapers, tires. Yes, they are easy to throw away and that is convenient. But, where do they go when they’ve been disposed of? I mean, it all goes somewhere, right? One of the many things I love about Switzerland, they make it hard and expensive for you to dispose of “trash.” Well done.

As disturbing as our “I have to dispose of this thing easily”…

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