Friday, December 25, 2015

My Grown up Christmas List

Dear Santa,

I have been good this year.  Well, for sure at least decent.  I remembered to make my bed a few times as soon as I got up in the morning.  I didn’t have many meltdowns over spilled food in the car, and I rarely said anything too harsh when people cut me off on my way to work. All in all I really tried hard this year to be a good person, so I figured I could ask for a few things.  A short little list.  Here is what I would like:

  1. Grace.  There are times when I am extremely hard on myself.  I beat myself up about all the things I am not doing and should be doing.  I give myself a hard time for the cookie I ate when I know very well I should have had an apple or some other fruit instead.  When my son gives attitude, as all pre-teens do, I blame myself. (Although quite frankly I thought I was safe from this phenomenon for a few years because boys didn’t suffer from the terrible teen mood swings.  I was wrong.)  I wonder what I am doing wrong, and worry because I don’t know what I am doing most of the time.  I just ask for a sprinkle of grace.  A reminder that I am doing the best I can, and I will continue to do the best I can.

  1. Acceptance.  I am what I am.  I am not going to get any younger.  No matter what I do, or what creams I buy.  It doesn’t matter at what angle I hold my phone, as I attempt to take a picture because a wrinkle still pops up here and there to remind me that time does not stand still.  But do I really want it to?  What a gift to wake up every day, and live!  Actually live the moments we are given.  My beautiful grandma is in her 90's.  She takes her vitamins, watches what she eats, and walks every day.  Not out of vanity, but because it makes her feel good.  When she smiles, the corners of her eyes crinkle, and it is one of the most beautiful faces I know.  

  1. Freedom of guilt.  I have to remember that it is ok to take a moment or two for myself.  It doesn’t make me a bad mom to get a pedicure on my own, or take a run in silence.  Kids are very intuitive and know when momma is stressed and about to lose it.  The quiet before the storm they call it.  In order for me to be the best mom, best person I can be, I need to make ME a priority as well.

  1. Wisdom.  One day at a time, one hour at a time, one moment at a time.  From the minute I wake up, I am bombarded by choices.  Should I get up at the first alarm I have set, or the third which is 15 minutes later?  The famous, what am I going to wear?  Most days I have nothing to wear as I stare at my closet bursting with things.  And once I decide on something, what accessories do I pick?  All these thoughts before I even step a foot into my fuzzy slippers.  Those are simple decision, that although could cause some stress, ultimately no real damage comes from deciding to wear a t-shirt as opposed to a dress.  There are choices however, that do leave a mark.  Choices that do leave bigger consequences.

  1. FInally, if it’s not too much trouble, I would really like a new journal.  I know I already have a stack of them cascading out of a plastic box in my office, but I figured I would ask. A lovely leather one with crisp blank pages, unlined.  There are so many out there, I didn’t want you to get confused.

My kids and I left some cookies out for you.  One had a little bite out of it, as I wanted to make sure it was just the right amount of soft and crisp.  Didn’t want you to have to eat subpar Christmas cookies. (See?  I told you!  All nice, not naughty.)

Thank you, and Merry Christmas!


Esmeralda Lara

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Looking For A Safe Place

I stopped wearing my gold chain when I moved to Venezuela.  I also started carrying my purse across my chest instead of slung over my shoulder.  I used an anti-theft device that locked the steering wheel to the brake pedal, every time I parked the car.  All precautions against petty crimes I had been warned about.  As the political, economic and social fabric of the country deteriorated, the frequency and severity of the crimes increased.  If we weren’t victims of crimes ourselves, we personally knew someone who was.  All homes had bars on their windows and several locks on the doors.  Despite all these security measures, thieves still broke into houses, cars still got stolen and ordinary people were held at gun-point at the stop light and taken to the ATM to withdraw all the cash in their accounts.  But we got used to living like that and developed habits and routines to protect ourselves and maintain a certain level of tranquility; the most vital one being prayer.  Every morning as I left the house to take the children to school, we would say these words of a Bahá’í prayer for protection:

I have risen this morning by Thy grace, O my God, and left my home trusting wholly in Thee, and committing myself to Thy care. Send down, then, upon me, out of the heaven of Thy mercy, a blessing from Thy side, and enable me to return home in safety even as Thou didst enable me to set out under Thy protection with my thoughts fixed steadfastly upon Thee.
There is none other God but Thee, the One, the Incomparable, the All-Knowing, the All-Wise.

I was still living in Venezuela when the Columbine High School shootings happened in 1999.  At the time I thought to myself, here I have to worry about being safe on the way to school; there I would have to worry about my kids being safe inside the school.  

We moved back to Texas in 2001.  Our home did not have bars on its widows.  There was one lock on the door.  Little children walked to school by themselves.  People parked their Lexus on the street and locked up their junk in the garage.  It was very easy to be lulled into a sensation of safety.  So much so, that although we prayed every morning before going to school, we didn’t feel the urgency to say the same prayers for protection as we did before.  Then one morning in September, as I took the kids to school I heard about planes crashing into buildings in New York and I was reminded of the fact that a complete and total feeling of safety, anywhere in this world, is an illusion.

Yesterday, more innocent people were killed or injured in San Bernardino, California.  People got up in the morning, went to work not knowing that a horrible tragedy was about to happen.  Just as the people who were dining out on a Friday night in Paris never thought they would be targets of violence.  But every day millions do live in real fear of violence.  So what are we to do?  How do we carry on with our lives?  We can’t lock ourselves in our homes.  We can’t stop traveling and going to work.  It is a sad and scary thought to think that there is no place safe in this world.  Here are three things I tell myself to keep going on with life with hope and optimism:

1.     There is no safety but in complete and utter reliance on God. 
2.     There are more good and peaceful people in this world than otherwise. 
3.     What we are witnessing are the results of living in a divided world and I can do my part by building as many connections as possible with the people around me.

The Irish philosopher Edmund Burke says: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”  And as the good people of this world, we can all do something to erase all traces of “otherness”, a little bit each day.


Friday, November 27, 2015

Loading Zone by Carolyn

I have been plagued by an excess of "loading" lately, which probably means I have been watching too much video of one sort or another. You know what I mean - that "loading, please wait" message you get when you want to watch something on the computer or on TV, and the video is not quite ready for viewing. Loading drives me crazy: I want to watch that video RIGHT NOW!! Unfortunately, the video is not ready to be watched. Whatever mysterious things all of these devices have to do in order to play a video has not been completed. It is just not ready.

Sometimes it seems we spend our lives waiting for something-or-other to load so we can experience it. When I was a child I would voice my wish for time to pass faster, "I wish it was Christmas already!" or "I can't wait until I'm 16 (or whatever age sounded appealing at the time)." My mother, wise woman that she was, would say, "Don't wish your life away." I am afraid that we often tend to consider the present as just a waiting period until some much-anticipated outcome occurs. When we are children, we are waiting to become teenagers. When we are teenagers we are anxious to become adults. If we are single, we are waiting until we find our soulmate to marry. If we are childless, we can't wait to become parents. I was talking to someone last week about how quickly the phases of our children's lives pass. She agreed and said she felt so guilty because with her first child, she was always thinking, "I can't wait until he rolls over (sits up, crawls, walks, can feed himself, is potty trained . . .)." She knows now that she should have savored each and every moment of her child's development, instead of viewing each stage as a prelude for the next. She has plans to enjoy more and rush less with her second child. Although I enjoyed being in college, I was in a hurry to graduate. (At the time I thought I would be marrying my then-boyfriend. I was mistaken.) I took 21 hours a semester, attended summer classes, and worked part time. I graduated at the ripe old age of 20, and have been a "responsible adult" ever since. What was I thinking? I had a good thing going, and rushed through it without taking the time to really savor it. I guess I saw college as something you had to go through to begin the real part of your life. Foolish, foolish girl! It makes me wonder if I am doing the same thing now: waiting for Mr. Right to show up at my front door, waiting until I retire to start doing things I want to do, waiting until I have more money to travel, etc. I have come to the realization within the last few years that the majority of my regrets about how I have lived my life are not about what I did, but rather about the things I did not do. Too much time spent loading, in the sense of waiting for the movie to play.

Maybe, however, there is another way of looking at loading - preparing for something good, working toward a goal, gathering our resources to put them toward a worthwhile effort. I've heard that athletes "carb load" before a big game or prior to running the marathon. I have no personal experience with that kind of loading, you understand, being the antithesis of an athlete, but it makes sense - being proactive by giving your body a lot of the fuel it will need to perform at its best. A student might load his/her brain by studying thoroughly and wisely before a big test. I can even envision pregnancy as an opportunity to load (no, I don't mean to gain weight!) the emotional capacity and parental know-how that will be needed in the near future. As parents, we want to help our children load everything they will need to know as they grow up so they will be healthy and happy and productive adults. Attending college should definitely be considered a time of loading for your whole future, but also a time of enjoyment and exploration. Building academic knowledge, learning how to get along with all kinds of other people, working out the details of time management and fiscal responsibility, figuring out who you really are and who you want to be - the perfect opportunity for loading. Maybe middle age should be considered a time of loading for old age, certainly financially, but we should also be gaining wisdom and tolerance and self-confidence so that we can live out the balance of our lives content with ourselves and the choices we have made, and do whatever we can to be a blessing to others. So while we live, we should take opportunities to load, in the sense of using our time and resources wisely to handle whatever the world brings us, and enjoy the ride while we do.

We should be the video, not the passive waiter-and-watcher of the video.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Entries from the Encyclopedia of Me, Volumes J-S

By Andrea

J is for Jesus
All my life I had known about Jesus.  I heard about him from my mother, grandmother and great grandmother. I learned about his life in weekly Sunday school lessons and by participating in vacation Bible school during the summers. Yet it was not until 1997 did I seek sincerely to know Jesus. I prayed about questions of why my knowledge of him was not transformative as others claimed it was for them. So I studied the Bible, read books and listened to great teachers to find out who he is, why he is important and how he could change lives. The Bible teaches “seek and you will find” and that's exactly what happened. On August 17, 1997, I committed my whole heart to walking in his ways.  Seeking, believing, repenting and being baptized were just the first steps of this lifelong journey toward becoming a Christian.  Sometimes I stumble along the path.  Yet the beauty of my relationship with Jesus versus my knowledge of Jesus is I know he is with me.  He leads. I follow.  I go off track.  He brings me back- sometimes gently guiding me by the hand, sometimes by the neck with his shepherd’s crook.  Always with wisdom, true love, mercy and grace.

K is for Kai
In October, my heart was stolen by the world’s most beautiful baby boy, Kai Alexander, and I have not been the same since.  I am now one of those grandmothers.  At the most casual query as to his well-being, I whip out my cell phone to show him off. One or two will not do, I must show ALL of the pictures. People are so kind. They yield to my enthusiasm. l used to check Facebook when I had a minute to play on my phone.  Now, I stare at my baby’s little cherub face. He has the wisest eyes, a sight I have never seen on any other baby.  He’s got the cutest little nose and elfin chin.  All I want to do is kiss his sweet head full of big soft curls and tell stories or sing songs to him.  When he looks intently into my face, hope makes sense.

L is for Lexus
Anyone who knows me well will be able to tell you I'm not very much into name brand anything. I like high quality products, and I will pay for it, but I also love a good bargain as much as the next girl. When it comes to the car of my dreams, however, I would throw out all of my pragmatism, stop my eye-rolling at American consumerism and brand fandom. I have no real idea when this adoration started, but it shall not be assuaged until a milk-white ES 350 belongs to me. I've been an adult making money for a long time now, but I've yet to choose and purchase a car for myself. I think a Lexus would make a great first car for a middle-aged lady.

M is for Mommy

I am 42 years old, and I still call my mother “Mommy”.  So do my siblings.  My husband and his brothers still refer to their late mother as such.  We are not the only ones. Every black person I know, who grew up calling their mother “Mommy” uses that moniker always- even as adults.  During a conversation a few years ago,  a friend curiously said “Wow, you still call your mother mommy.”  I had never thought about it before.  Was this unusual? So I started to pay attention to how people referr to their parents, moms in particular. I asked people of other communities and found if they had used the term Mommy at all, they had outgrown it somewhere in the preteen years and switched to Mom or Mother.  We tend to view the world from our experience and where I’m from, a predominantly black community, almost everyone calls their mother Mommy (Ma is probably the second most popular).  I actually cannot think of a black person who addresses his or her mother as “Mom.”  Nonetheless, my mommy by any other name would be just as wonderful!

N is for Noni
We have already started teaching baby Kai to call me Noni and his grandpa, Pop. The latter will be easier because that's what our son calls his father. Sometimes, I slip up when talking to the baby and refer to myself as granny. I guess that comes more naturally to me because that's what we taught our kids to say to their grandmothers. I'm just too young to be called Granny. Noni just sounds cooler, more hipster. Don't you agree?

O is for Optimism
My uncle, Herman, likes to tell the story of seeing me for the first time as an infant. He recounts that my mother opened the door to her New York apartment with me in her arms and as soon he looked down at me, my face spread with the biggest gummy grin. He always ends the story with “you've always been my happy, positive Punky!” In the world of personality theories, I'm a sanguine. Easygoing, optimistic, looking for the good.  I've had moments in the past when I wished God had given me a different personality. I thought I wanted to be more serious, more ambitious, more demanding or more take charge. Thank goodness God saw fit not to grant that wish. The older I get, the more I get me. My optimism is probably the thing I like most about myself.

Q is for Quiet
It is quite odd that someone as gregarious and extroverted as I am longs for and looks forward to quiet. I raised four children and work as an elementary school teacher. Maybe it's not so odd now that I think about it.

R is for Rest
My motto used to be “We can rest when we get to heaven!” For the first 40 years of my life I was the Energizer Bunny. I lived at the speed of right now, right fast. By God's grace, I started questioning the wisdom and effectiveness (or lack thereof) of my pace and prayed to see the value of rest. In the Old Testament, the Sabbath day was established for the Jews and is still practiced today. Apparently, they needed rest. I bet the same is true for the rest of us, too. On the 7th day of creation, God rested. If he rested though he does have the whole world in his hands, I had to ask what's my excuse? Rest. It is good.

S is for siblings
Brother-sister-brother. The children of my mother. I am the oldest by eight, eleven and sixteen years. This means I was practically grown by the time they were becoming cool kids. My little brother used to answer me “Yes or No, ma’am” because he grew up with my kids and that is the required response for them. It was too weird coming from my little brother so I had put a stop to that.  They spent every summer with me and my family as they were growing up. Those times were special to me then, but the memories are more special now that they are all grown. We don't spend nearly as much time together as we did back then. I miss them and wish we weren't so far apart, in distance and time.

Friday, November 13, 2015

First Thanksgiving

By: Susan

I arrived in this country on November 26th, 1978.  It was the Saturday after Thanksgiving.  So I did not get to celebrate this uniquely American holiday until the following November.  By then I was a senior at Bellaire High School in Texas.  Earlier that month, the American embassy in Tehran was attacked and many people were taken hostage.  Being an Iranian was not a good thing! I escaped a lot of the harassment and name calling because most of my classmates assumed that I was Hispanic and I did not correct them.  By the time they would find out that I was in fact "Eye-rain-ian", they knew me enough to know that I did not support violence and aggression of any kind.  One of those classmates was Sheri.  The week before Thanksgiving she asked me how I planned to celebrate it.  I mentioned that I didn't know how.  She was shocked! She insisted that I must go to her house.  She lived with her grandparents and described their Thanksgiving meal as enormous!  On Thanksgiving day my mother dropped me off at their house.  Sheri and her family were very welcoming to me.  It's just now, thirty some years later, that I realize what open hearts and minds they had.  Sheri knew me as a person and did not categorize me based on what she was hearing and seeing in the media at the time.  Sheri herself was displaced.  One day she told me it was because she had been abused.  I didn't really know what that word meant.  Now I do.  Maybe at some level she understood my situation, being out of place, trying to adjust to a new way of doing things, trying to belong.

To this day, Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. Free from pressures of gift giving and decorating, we come together as families, blood relationship not always a pre-requisite.  I see immigrants from all places embrace Thanksgiving and add their own flavors to it.  I always ask my mother to make Shirin-Polo.  It's a rice dish with raisins, almonds and slivers of orange peel.  I think of it as a Persian stuffing for the turkey.

I usually tell the story of my first Thanksgiving at Sheri's house when I talk about the time I learned how culturally we have different notions of what an enormous meal is.  At my house, whenever we had guests, my mother would fix enough food to have leftovers for a week.  If the platters were cleaned off at the end of the meal, she would worry that she had let her guests down by not preparing enough food.  At Sheri's house, there was enough food:  a slice of turkey breast for each person, casserole sized dishes of macaroni and cheese and green beans, a basket of rolls.  Enough food but very different from what I was used to calling "enormous".  Over time though, I have come to realize that this is really a story about true friendship, about letting "your heart burn with loving kindness for all those who cross your path"*.

Thanksgiving meal at my mother's house
Thanksgiving is coming up in a couple of weeks.  I am so excited to have all four of my children with us this year.  And as we sit around the table, eating whatever version of the traditional Thanksgiving meal we have made our own, I will be thankful for all the good people that have crossed my path on three continents.

*taken from a quote by Bahá'u'lláh

Monday, October 26, 2015

On Becoming Grandparents by Andrea

On October 12, my husband and I became grandparents for the very first time. Here are just a few of the feelings I can put into words.

*I wish I could adequately express what it was like to see my own grandchild for the first time. 
     Kai made his arrival lighting quick.  At 10:47 pm, we got a call from my son to "leave the house because IT is going down NOW!" I let out a little loud cheer then gingerly (shoulder surgery kept me from charging) climbed the stairs to deliver the news and to hasten my hubby's preparations. We thought we would have time to shower and take a quick nap before driving the hour and forty-five minutes from Cedar Park to San Antonio.
    King Kai, as our son refers to him, had other royal plans and summoned all of his loyal subjects together suddenly.  By 11:11 pm, Daddy Damien had called back. Excitedly but distractedly he yelled into the phone, "He's here!  He's here!" before breathlessly uttering some words about needing to be by his wife's side and hanging up the phone.  I was thrilled she was well and proud that he knew she needed to be his priority.  A knot started to form in my throat as I let the words 'he's here!' sink in.  I yelled upstairs to make the pronouncement of the his majesty's arrival.  The thought "We are now Noni and Pop" filled my mind as my heart tried to fully comprehend the enormity of it all.
     I looked down at my cell phone screen a few seconds later, and there appeared our newest pride and joy.  Our little prince came in at a whopping 8 lbs 7 oz., 21.5 inches long. And he looked every bit of it with his mouth gaped open in a wail, the sweet sound that every obstetrician and new parent longs to hear.
    And I wept.  Soft, steady, sweet tears. Every joy, every hope, every prayer dripped from my eyes as I took in every aspect of him, another miracle born into our family.  Oh, to live that feeling over and over again.
Our first photo of the big guy!
*Holding my grandson for the first time was a lot like holding his father for the first time, but also a lot different.
     Readers, if you will recall from a previous writing about my life, I told you Damien came to me when I was 16 years old.  Despite my youth, I fully understood and appreciated the beauty and responsibility which were part and parcel of being a new mom.  I held him with fierce devotion and adoration while denying feelings of overwhelming insecurity as the automatic recognition of the enormity of the task of bringing up another human being washed over me.  At once, I was awed and afraid.
     With Kai, I did not feel the insecurity.  Humility swept over me as, subconsciously, I realized how privileged we are to have a chance at life with this little person.  Love showered my heart and soul as an infinite number of hopes and dreams seem to converge on his sleeping face.  Yet, I felt no fear or doubt as I held him.  Maybe this is the secret of grand-parenting versus parenting.  We have brought up a human being who is more than capable of bringing up another.  In this I find comfort and peace. I get to enjoy, not fret (at least not over the same things as his parents). I get to devote my time and attention fully to him, not to all the fears and what ifs that come with parenting for the first time.  Mostly because, I know in end he will turn out just fine because I know who his parents are.

*I always knew my son would make a great father.
      Because of the adoration and respect he has for his wife, I knew she would be a great mother. Watching them with Kai during the first day of his life brought such pride.  They may not feel completely confident and sure, but they are acting the part quite well.  They have made decisions for Kai's best interest with focus and certainty as if they'd been caring for him for years.  They know him already.  They can already speak of his likes and needs.  Damien has 5 younger siblings and scores of cousins and play cousins.  He has spent years inadvertently preparing for this time.  But the rubber meets the road when its your child.  He is embracing his all-important ocean of responsibility with grace and confidence that comes from one who has prayed for his child.  Our grand-baby is in expert hands. I tell my son, "A lot of people know a lot of things about babies, but you are the one who knows everything about your baby.  Pray, then trust yourself."

Thursday, October 22, 2015

If I Were . . .

Sometimes you have a plan, but then you are knocked off your path by something extraordinary. That happened to me tonight. I had a totally different topic in mind for my post. Then I was blindsided by this little beauty:

Intrepid librarian and all-around amazing woman, Paulette, showed me this book tonight. Let me just say that it is a jewel of a book, although you can't really tell from its unprepossessing cover. I don't want this to turn into a book review, although I could definitely rave about this book, and I will be ordering a copy for myself as soon as my little fingers can hit the "Order with 1-click" button. However, it did inspire me to change the topic of this post, so now I present "If I were . . . "

If I were a blanket, I would wrap you up in warmth and downy softness. I would be your place to relax, snuggle, recuperate, and drift into restful sleep. I would snuggle your tiny babies and keep your children warm when they wake shivering from a bad dream and wrap your grandfather in warmth when he feels a chill in his bones. I would remind you most poignantly of the tender hugs your mother gave you, even when you didn't feel like you deserved any tenderness. And I would live to remind your children of your hugs when you can no longer hug them yourself.

If I were a chair, I would be a snuggly, cozy rocker. I would beckon you to me, to sit and cuddle . . . maybe with a good book, or a sweetheart, or a luscious armful of a precious baby. I would provide just the right place for you to ease into a new morning gently and slowly, maybe with a steaming cup of coffee or a cuppa tea; to take a breather in the midst of the madness of a hectic day so you can keep on going; to rest after a long, bone-wearying week of work -- whatever comfort you need, I would provide.

If I were a tree, I would be strong, sturdy, and graceful. My roots would run deep, deep into the ground, reaching down and out, anchoring me into the soil. The rough shingles of my bark would display the initials of you and your love forever intertwined with a lopsided heart. I would stretch out my leafy branches, curving ever-so-slightly toward the sun, so I could provide quiet, restful shade for you. I would watch over you almost silently (just a soft little murmur of the wind through my leaves to lull you into peacefulness) while you drowse on the soft, green grass beneath my limbs. I would have just the right place for a treehouse that can become a pirate ship, a castle full of knights, a spaceship guarding against intergalactic invaders, whatever can be dreamed. I would be the anchor for a tire swing that flies back and forth, around and around, to the melody of the delighted squeals of your children and your children's children.

If I were a smile, I would be unguarded, clear and bright, a reflection of what I see when I look at you. I would warm your soul even on a cold-that-seeps-into-your-bones kind of day. In the broiling heat of summer, I would be the fresh breeze you yearn for, sweeping over your skin with a light, cool touch. I would awaken the sleeping beauty within you, and you would favor me with your own smile of infinite light.

If I were a house, I would stand stalwart, brave, unyielding in the face of lashing winds, torrential rains, bitter heat, and freezing temperatures. I would safeguard within my walls all you hold dear. My rooms would echo with the laughter of your children and wrap them in peaceful security as they slept. My doorsills would mark off the years as your children grew; faded pencil lines attesting to the unyielding passage of time. My kitchen would capture and hold the snapshot images of family and friends gathered around the table, the dear faces of those you love never completely fading from memory. The pores of my walls would soak in the days and nights of your life, absorbing all that you are and all that you hope to become. If I were a house, I would be your home.


Friday, October 9, 2015

When the shrinking violet meets the immovable force

By:  Susan

I have determined that there are two kinds of people in this world; those who have an internal warning system that goes off about 10 feet before they have reached the limit of what is appropriate in personal interactions and those who depend on repeated and forceful external indications that they have reached that limit.  The shrinking violet will sleep on a sofa without pulling it out or taking any of the cushions off.  The immovable force rearranges the furniture in a hotel room.  The first type thinks that she can get along with anyone because she always goes along with everyone.  The second type’s philosophy is that you can and should ask for what you want because people can always say no.  The irony of life is that these two kinds of people inevitably end up together. The reason they are bound to find each other either as spouses, relatives or co-workers is that they both need each other to bring out the best in them.  One has to learn that you cannot live a life of integrity if you think you can please everyone you meet.  At some point you end up lying to yourself or to someone else.  The other has to learn that you cannot put the burden of limit setting on others, that there is virtue in being selfless and considerate.  Both suffer from diseases of the ego.

Come to think of it, the ego is the culprit in almost all cases of our pain and suffering.  It is what gets hurt when we don’t get our way or when we feel slighted.  But it is also what stops us from saying no and setting limits.  It seems almost paradoxical, but sometimes we go along with unreasonable expectations so that we don’t have to deal with assaults on our self by those who will push and demand. 

I really believe that we are put in each other’s path for a reason.  Each of us has to learn something different.  Even the most toxic and painful relationships end up teaching us something about ourselves.  I spent years in a challenging relationship with a person very close to me.  When she passed on, a friend wrote to give her condolences.  Her note said:  I am a better person for having known her.  My first thought was, I wish I could say the same thing.  My second thought was, I am.  If not for her, I would not have realized that the biggest lie I had ever told was that I could make everyone happy all the time.  She taught me how to say no, gently but firmly.  I learned that I am capable of forgiving.  Those are huge lessons and I would not have learned them if our worlds had not collided.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Introducing Me in ABCs -Part 1


A woman
A mother
A person
A me

A…which means one.  I am unique and it is ok to admit that.  It isn’t conceited or against the rules.  There is only one of me and there is only one of you.  


I have my own library.  A wall full of books.  Children’s books, self-help books. Books I have read several times, and books I aspire to read.  I love books.  I’m hoping to one day see my name on the spine of a book in my library.

Cha cha

A nickname.  My nickname.  That just so happened to become my actual name for the majority of my early educational years.   The paperwork to be filled out was pretty straightforward. 
“Child’s first name-Esmeralda”
“Middle name”- left blank because I have no middle name, which always left me feeling slightly inadequate and incomplete.
“Last name-Villa”
Easy enough.  Then came the next question…
“Does your child go by another name?” 
Well, yes.  As a matter of fact I did.  
When I was born, my grandmother used to take care of my cousins and I.  My mom and dad were still in college, and luckily my grandmother made herself available to watch us.  I would go down for a nap, and my grandmother would tell my two cousins, who were slightly older to let the baby sleep.  Let the “muchachita,” little girl, sleep.  My cousins being little didn’t quite get the muchachita part all the way out, so it was shortened to chachita.  Which ended up being Cha cha, and it ended up on the little line as my mom registered me for kindergarten as the other name I happen to go by.  Quite a lot easier to say and spell than Esmeralda, so this became my name throughout elementary and all through my junior year in high school.   My friends from Colorado actually still refer to me as Cha cha.


I drink coffee.  I love it.  It doesn’t have to be Starbucks contrary to the beliefs of many. (Although I do prefer my skinny vanilla latte)  I take my sips slow and steady.  Savoring every little drop.  When my cup is empty I am actually sad.  Like an actual feeling of sadness courses through my body.  Its more than just a little pick me up.   It’s soothing and calming.  It’s conversation around my grandmother’s table with the most exceptional women I know.  It’s stories, and history.  It’s love. 


“So there is this boy, he kind of stole my heart.  He calls me mom.”  Kind of is an understatement.  From the moment he was born, my heart has been on my sleeve.  I am so proud of the young man he is becoming.  I love our conversations, and his hugs.  He will always be my baby, even though he is taller than me now.


I become Esmeralda again when I moved to Texas.  My family and I moved the summer before my senior year in high school.  I was excited and nervous.  I knew things would be different starting high school my senior year as the new girl.  I also knew I did not want to be Cha cha in Texas.  I wanted to use my actual name.  The name I would write on my papers, and the name I would use to introduce myself would be my name, not a nickname.


I like to eat.  I love food.   Not sure what else there is to say but that.


God is good.  All the time.
All the time.  God is good.

I could not make it through my day without Him.

Hernandez Women

I have always said that if I ever have any doubt of God’s love for me, I need only to look at the family I was blessed enough to be born into.   I have been loved by seven of the most giving and precious women.  My grandmother, mother, and five aunts.  I cannot describe how influential they have been for me, or begin to express all the gratitude and love I have for them.  I admire and respect each one.  They are by far the strongest, most God-fearing women I know.