Sherin Mathews

Sherin-Mathews-Missing-Toddler-Texas.jpgI imagine myself traveling to India with the intent of expanding my two-person family. I would do it in a heartbeat.

I imagine seeing a beautiful girl with a dim, but present, sparkle in her eye. She is not speaking, but I feel her speaking to me. I imagine myself feeling I am her mother.

I imagine she has never known the love every child should know. I imagine she is hungry, sad, and weary.

I imagine bringing her to my home, and giving her love and nourishment for her body, soul, and spirit.

I imagine struggles because she is malnourished, frustrated because she cannot communicate, and tired of being passed from home to home. I imagine myself feeling similarly frustrated at times, but overwhelmingly blessed by her.

Here are the things I cannot imagine.

I cannot imagine purposely causing harm to her for any reason under any circumstances.

I cannot imagine putting her by a tree in an area with coyotes at any time during the day. I cannot imagine letting her do anything unsupervised in an area with coyotes.

I cannot imagine punishing her for not drinking milk.

I cannot imagine letting her out of the house for any reason at 3AM.

I cannot imagine not calling the police (my family, my friends, and anyone else I could call) immediately upon the realization she was missing or possibly hurt.

I cannot imagine waiting five hours or five minutes to call the police.

I cannot imagine leaving the area in my car, even to look for her.

I cannot imagine doing laundry when she was missing because I can hardly imagine breathing.

I cannot imagine not cooperating with every police or FBI officer and every search party to find her. I cannot imagine not leading those search parties myself.

I cannot imagine withholding information about her location nor can I imagine lying about what I’ve done or not done to her, accidentally or deliberately.

I cannot imagine not imploring Acura’s Navigation system to track the GPS information and AT&T to do the same with the phone of anyone who might have harmed my daughter.

I cannot imagine 10 days passing and not being honest about the circumstances.

And, I speak for many people when I say this last part, I cannot imagine ever forgetting about this little girl. As long as she is missing, we will continue fighting for her to be found. We will never stop until she is found.

My prayer for you, Sherin with the sparkle in her eyes, is that you are peaceful for the first time in your life. You deserved better from our world, I’m sorry you have not had that. I do hope you have that now, wherever you are.

#SherinMathews

 

 

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.

 

Birthday Wish to all of you

“A ship in a harbor is safe, but it’s not what ships are built for.”

Today is my birthday. In the past 10 years of my life, I cannot believe the “outside of the harbor” choices I’ve made. Ironically enough, given the quote’s nautical nature, I do not consider “moving across an ocean” to be one of the most trans-formative choices.

I learned a new language (something one can do anywhere). I changed my career path (you can also do this where you are, and consider that applicable to all below). Together, my parents and I mended conflicts well before it was too late (today, they are two of my closest, most treasured relationships). I maintained a healthy physical lifestyle and weight, which wasn’t easy when I couldn’t walk. I published a book. I became “Aunt LaLa” to the Ayres Little Men and added a new family (my “Henry” carries their family name). I gave my hair to make wigs for children with cancer…four times. I faced, and continue to face, my fears (crippling stage fright and fear of heights). I watched marvelous sunrises in gratitude and walked through challenging sunsets in humility. On this day in 2011, I converted to Catholicism, which was the single-most authentic decision I have ever made.

Perhaps, some of the most trans-formative trips out of the harbor are those we simultaneously fear and welcome? Though we are afraid, we know we truly have to go – into the vast, seemingly-unending expanse. Someone calls and says, “I have the perfect job for you, but it’s in Lichtenstein” or someone writes you an email and begs, “Can you please take in this rescue dog?” or even “Marry me, my love?” Life changes in one … Augenblick.

One of mine happened on January 22, 2016 when I saw and heard a strong heartbeat from a machine in Bern, Switzerland. It took me about a second to process that was his (Christopher Henry) heartbeat. Sometimes, I guess, that second is all it takes to pick up the anchor and set sail. Fear be damned. Best decision I ever made, pulling up that anchor.

I know it’s tough and scary. Many times in the past 10 years, my ship has ventured out into the sea only to return battered and bruised. Heartbroken. Sea voyages can be treacherous and arduous. There are literal ups and downs that either propel you forward or crush you. It’s difficult to leave the comforts of a tranquil and serene harbor. Ah…but, that’s not what ships are built for.

I like to imagine wisdom from my four grandparents, as I push away from the harbor each time. They have four simple rules for each journey.

“Be bold, Lulabelle.”

                                                                 “Be authentic, Sweet Girl.”

                                    “Be brave, Granddotta!”

                             “Be peaceful, Princess Wawie.”

 You can do it, too.

Be bold. Be authentic. Be brave! Be peaceful.

Important Lessons from a Swiss juridique Konferenz

September 11th and 12th found me sitting in a breathtakingly gorgeous room in St. Gallen, Switzerland attending a legal conference the presentations of which were in two languages which were both foreign to me a mere 6 years ago.

Yep. Same girl that wrote that book you all love. Now, I’m attending legal conferences. Go figure.

Regardless of my green status, I held my own.

Well, maybe not on day one. My brain didn’t trust itself. I translated everything that was said into English and wrote my notes in English, as well. I left with chicken scratch about most of the presentations (thankfully not the one given by my new professor, who was amazing and thankfully did not speak at the speed of a Texas bullet) and a gigantic headache.

I wasn’t sure if there was a point in attending day two. At three o’clock that morning, it hit me – let go. Listen to the words and write your notes in German.

I tried it and it worked. Thank God because one of the presentations yesterday changed the way I will approach my thesis (if it gets approved). Thanks to the Swiss guy who sounds like he’s from Luzern, but is actually from Solothurn/Cambridge, Mass…go mighty Crimson…moving on.

Swiss people do something by nature that continues to astonish me. They easily flow from one language to another. They can, and do, seemingly seamlessly answer a question posed in French with an answer formulated in German (and vis versa). Above that rests a familiarity and comfort with English that blows my mind given how complex this language is (for example, I can say, “The money I had had had had little worth in the end,” and this sentence is a perfectly acceptable sentence utilizing double past perfect. It’s also a perfectly acceptable reason to drink Vodka shots. Moving on…). Anyway, the ease of linguistics was my first lesson this weekend: keep my languages (specifically words and thoughts) flexible.

The second lesson was something I’ve seen in both conferences this summer (the other being the remarkable conference on Internet Jurisdiction, hosted by the University of Geneva in June). The Swiss rarely dig their heels in and, instead, will find a way to say “perhaps, I’m not sure, it’s possible that, well have you considered” in the most flowery way and end it with “you might be wrong?” We all will be at one point and time! Second lesson: keep my “feet” nimble and ready to move. Not easy for a Texas girl, no matter how liberal she has always been.

What I’m learning about these two particular “Swiss” approaches is how crucial both are to moving forward. We can no longer (especially in the area of law in the digital age) continue to sit still, review data, and “write legislation.” The majority of legislation in this field, for the foreseeable future, has the lifespan of a fruit fly. It needs almost constant reworking, rewording, amending, reviewing, re-creating, etc. The moment after it is accepted as law and applied, chances are good it will already be obsolete or facing obscurity. Let me put it this way for all you Torah/Bible folks out there:

Each of us owns a tablet, but the age of stone tablets is over.

Don’t dig my heels in. Stay agile. It’s common for me to be dewy-eyed and optimistic, but I remain optimistic about my thesis and what it might add to the landscape. I learned many things this weekend that will help me a great deal.

This country continues to teach me life lessons.

I’m Swiss. Isn’t that just too great?

A few clicks on the computer and Mom uncovers that Grammy’s family actually came to the US from Switzerland.

Nope. Not kidding. We had a bit of info about the family in Kentucky from around 1800, but weren’t sure how they got to the US. Now we know. From Switzerland.

Six years of struggling like hell to be accepted as a “foreigner” and it turns out that good old (and very dead) Jacob Spahr of the Kentucky/Texas line of my family was born in Basel, Switzerland.

Generations before him…all Swiss. Super Swiss and entrenched in the Basel area. My family, my heritage, my ancestors.

All Swiss.

See people, this is why I do not need to write fiction. I just need to write my real life.

I am Swiss.

The Importance of Fathers

The steadfast love and care of one’s parents throughout life is a luxurious consolation.

I have learned from many people over the years to add the disclaimer “luxurious” because I have known many who were not fortunate enough to see one parent don salt and pepper strands of hair.

Two such people are very near and dear to my heart: my grandfathers.

Before both men entered adolescence, they found themselves in households without their fathers (lost to illness). I never heard either of them speak of their fathers. Never heard one of the mundane references I so casually throw around to my nephews about “my father.” I saw one picture of Granddaddy’s father and I’ve never seen a photo of Pop’s father. I remember, as a child, I thought childishly (Pop would tell me to correct that to “unknowingly”) that both grandfathers were probably too sad to talk about their fathers.

As an adult, I see things differently. I think both men were not only sad, but profoundly so. The only way to eradicate that sadness was to be fathers. To be strong, consistent fathers.

In 1919 and 1921, respectively, Rowe Jackson Ayres and Horace “Hap” Vaughan were born into truly exceptional circumstances and times. By no means, were the Vaughans of Virginia nor the Ayres’ of Hutchins so-called “elite,” and both households struggled through the Great Depression and the looming fear and ultimate reality of WWII without their paternal leader. More lovers than fighters, it has always been difficult for me to imagine the terror they felt when the news of Pearl Harbor reached them. I would imagine, it would be a nice consolation to discuss that with one’s father. They did not have the luxury.

The years between 1929 and 1945/or so without a father, it’s really something. Without the guidance of a father to say, “Son, glad you’re back from the War in one piece, I’ll call Jimmy to help get you a job” or “Son, I’m proud of you for being at Pearl Harbor” or “Son, stop drinking so much Coca Cola, you’re getting fat and you’ll shame the family.” (That was an inside joke with my Musical Grandfather.) They had brothers and strong mothers (they had to be strong), uncles, friends that were like family. All that. But, no “father”s.

Oddly enough, one would think this might lead to a lifetime of alcoholism or inconsistent career paths or failed marriages or something truly debaucherous. All of which, they could happily blame on their “dead fathers” and “horrible lot in life.”

Nope. Both men spent their lives in constant, life-long devotion to their children, wives, and the companies they served. Even at their ends, both men did not want to die because they did not want to leave their children.

They were also steadfast servants to their country. The Greatest Generation did not need to talk about being great, they just were.

I see, however, the effect their fatherless childhoods and adulthoods had on them. Ultimately, it produced two of the finest fathers this world has ever known. A small part of me has to ask – was part of that the lack of a father’s presence? The knowledge of how profound and pivotal that lack was? Both Pop and Granddaddy knew, “I will be there every step of the way for my son/daughters” as a result?

Because they were.

Even my childhood felt like a childhood with a father and 2 bonus fathers because they were there for me, the granddaughter, every step of the way.

I think this “hands on” fathering had a serious effect on my brother and I hope that continues through to the Ayres Little Men. If it had to begin from little RJ and little Hap losing their own fathers, well, I would prefer it had not been so. I wish I could change that for them. But, then again, there is literally not one thing I would have changed about my grandfathers.

Granddaddy WWIIHorace Vaughan during WWII

PopRowe Jackson Ayres, Sr.

My mother has just told me a rather interesting story (via Skype) about my maternal grandfather and my father. Apparently, one day at our family home at 21 Robledo Dr., the kitchen sink was clogged. Granddaddy came over (my father was not the engineer that the grandfathers were) to fix it. Instead of merely fixing it, Granddaddy showed my father how to fix it. For me? Perfect example of how Granddaddy was already adept at being a father figure. I love this story.

Lost in translation? I don’t think so.

I remember the day very clearly (it’s in my book). About four years ago, I was standing in front of someone and trying desperately to communicate in German – my 6th language.

“Ich weiss mein Deutsch ist nicht so gut,” I said.

“Ja und nicht gut genug.”

I know my German is not so good….to which he responded, “yes and not good enough.”

I refrained from saying, “Oh really? How’s your English? Tell me your thoughts on the Oxford comma? Passé?”

Today, I was dealing with a Swisscom employee. I am already a day behind because of Swisscom and also 400CHF poorer. This to say nothing of the pounding headache I have had since purchasing their product that would make my life “einfacher.” #itdidnt

Go on a little “with me” trip, as I call it. Especially those of you who get frustrated by non-native English speakers.

Picture yourself as a technical idiot trying to explain, in your sixth language, something said to you the night before on the Swisscom hotline by an actual technical expert. Imagine while this is happening, you are watching the minutes slowly tick toward the departure of your train.

Then, imagine the manager telling you in Swiss dialect “kein Englisch nur Tüütsch” (no English, only German), even though English is one of the working languages for Swisscom. Next, imagine missing both trains and still there is no solution from the people who sold you the mountain & the gold for 400CHF. You there? Great.

Now, add on to it that you, like everyone else in the world, have your own issues to deal with.

Really. Imagine all that.

It’s more than a headache. It’s the problem, in a global sense, with customer service and general apathy toward others – in particular, those who are foreign to us in some way.

Again, I’m not Mother Teresa (read the post entitled “I’m not Mother Teresa,” you’ll see), but when I see someone is struggling, for any reason, I go where they are. I can attempt other languages (including Latin and sign language) if I have to. Why? Because it’s not about me. It’s about the other person needing the help I can give.

I really don’t care if we are talking about a 5G connection cockpit username upgrade or directions to the bathroom or even spiritual discernment. Egal (I know that one…it means, “it’s all the same” like “equal” but super-sized). I am going to try my damnedest to be there and to help.

If I were in Texas and someone walked up to me (as a customer or a mere human) in need of my help and said, “passt Deutsch?” I would never say, “huh uh.” See, that’s the Texas (dialect) version of English (official language). Why would I do that? I have no need to make another person feel small, stupid, or subordinate. I would say “natürlich passt das, wie kann ich helfen?”

One of my favorite quotes, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” We should all make sure we commit that one to memory.

In every language.