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.