Sunday, December 30, 2012

Just Two

In the spirits of birth and renewal that mark this season I'd like to offer my suggestions for resolutions in similar sets of twins. Just two little things at a time that I'm going to aim to achieve....

Talk less and listen more. I certainly have heard enough of my own voice and I'll bet those around me feel the same way. I'm going to pursue curiosity about others' points of view with greater vigor.

(Now if I could just limit who I have to limit who I listen to. Could everyone please check in with me on what your opinions should be this year?)

Fix what you can and let be what you cannot. It's a tough one, but a recent quote by Helen Keller about how not only heroes move us forward with giant shoves but honest workers also move us with their collective tiny pushes made me think about trying to shove less and push more. I'm sure I've just confused you, but it totally makes sense to me.

(My husband to disregard this statement. The light in the closet ring bells? Well it shouldn't. It should light a bulb.)

Remember and forget. I'm going to take a suggestion about collecting my 'good days' in a jar ~ leaving a note in it when I've had a success or a pleasure ~ so I can remember them.  But I'm not going to do that with my grievances and worries.

(Those I'm going to harp on endlessly until someone comes and carries them off. Anyone? Buehler?)

Be kind and don't always tell the truth. Others in the world may be cold. I can be the constant heat of compassion and understanding I should be when my loved ones come in from a wretched day. If I am another chill, where is relief?

(This does not apply to room cleaning standards or grammar correction, kids. Nice try.)

Be important and don't give yourself such great importance.  We're living in an age, and I work in a field, where self-aggrandizement is encouraged and modeled with some regularity. It doesn't suit me and though I've tried it on for size I prefer an outfit with less glitz.

(Although I don't mind a good sequin. Anyone want to make me a special vest that says "I'm Important" with some sequins on it?)

Love yourself and don't be embarrassed to let that show.  I want to demonstrate to my children that care of oneself is a high priority and must not be driven by an external force. I don't want to think others will think less of me if the new pair of shoes is mine instead of my child's; I sure don't when I see a mom with a new pair of shoes.

(Yes, shoes. I actually do need shoes. The beige ones are crinkling. The red ones, the heel is damaged. The black ones don't have the thingy inside. The chocolate ones are pinchy. The black boots don't keep my feet warm. The other black ones are just - eewwww. Those dark red ones are too slippery. Am I making the case here, or what??)

Lose what you can and keep what you must. This applies to everything - belongings, weight, vices. What I don't need I should stop housing and caring for. What I cannot get rid of, either because it has a use now or a meaning beyond this moment, I must find a way to accommodate.

(Starting with my thighs? No. Starting with that storage room in the basement. ~my thighs breathing a sigh of relief as they have been on this list for a good 30+ years; it's got to be exhausting~ Now if I could just fit myself in the storage room. DAMN. Sorry, thighs.)

And now that I've revealed my full-on schizophrenia - a final word. Really, I'm going to aim to do just two things -

Be better and be grateful. Just those two, at the top of the priority list. Striving is what makes the dull day have meaning and gratitude is what reminds that the dull day is a miracle all by itself. Being better moves everything forward and gratitude makes everything stand still so you can rest and be ready to move again. I am blessed to be as good as I am and I know that because I'm grateful, deeply and really, for all the goodness in my life. So onward, forward, ahead.

I hope the New Year brings you at least two moments of peace and happiness, at least two blessings for which you can rejoice every day and at least two new ideas that offer you hope.

(And two times the resolve I'll need to accomplish even one of the things on that absurd list of impossible goals.)

Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Second and The First

We're talking about the 2nd amendment now. Again.

And it makes me think about my first conversation on the issue. It was in a fifth grade social studies class at St. Ita's Elementary School. I remember challenging my teacher (surprise!) on why it made sense for a daddy to have a gun in his house to fight a soldier. I told her wars happen on battlefields, not in someone's house, right? I remember this vividly because I didn't have a dad at home most days so I was desperate to get clarification on this point - could a soldier come into my home where it was only me and my mom? Could we get taken to jail by some unknown heathen trying to reshape our government through the capture and torture of my family? Keep in mind that, as a Cuban, the experience of having an armed militia fighting the established government was viewed quite differently in our living room than it was in U.S. history books.

It was all a jumble in my head until ,my teacher said, essentially, this: 'The United States wouldn't exist without regular people having guns.'

Our country was formed through armed conflict. Fighting that did not occur between a formal army and a trained military opposition. Farmers, cobblers, tailors - regular men - pulled themselves together, armed themselves, and created a legitimate (and ultimately prevailing) counter to the trained armies of the British empire. That's some pretty amazing stuff, isn't it? I can't imagine my husband, the realtor, and the neighbor across the street who owns a dollar store, and the guy behind me who's an artist, pulling guns out of closets and fighting the British army today. Can you? And yet our forefathers did that, just as the Cubans did. Whether you like the outcome of one or the other there are some parallels.

And so having discussed this with my teacher, and later with my mom, I walked away simply agreeing to disagree with myself. Part of me felt it was absolutely appropriate for a person to be able to defend themselves against unreasonable invasion by any force - whether criminal or not. The other part of me felt  there was real and mighty danger in allowing anyone to exercise that power because in one case (let's argue the Americans) the result might be o.k. but in another (let's, for the moment, say the Cubans) the situation that survives might be awful. I left it at that for years and years and years - I just didn't think about it.

Then, maybe ten years or so ago, I read an article in the Tribune about a mom who's daughter had been killed at a Kentucky Fried Chicken. The mom had been raising her family in a poor neighborhood when, some short time prior, her son had been gunned down in an act of random gang violence. She took the extraordinary measure of moving her whole family elsewhere, to a place she expected would be safer. Not many have the wherewithal or the initiative to do this but she was determined to assure her girls that they were protected, that she was protecting them. When her daughter was shot and killed at her part time job in this better neighborhood, the thing that struck me - and has stayed with me all these years - is what she said to the reporter - 'I have one baby left. How am I going to convince her that she is safe? That I can keep her safe? I can't.'

That mom's simple but complete pain was indellibly impressed upon me. Nothing is more important than keeping your baby safe. Freedom to own a gun doesn't matter when your baby is dead. Only the freedom to keep her safe matters.

We talk a lot about freedoms in this country. We're free to do this that and the other and we're very insistant about that. What many fail to remember when they're railing about their freedoms is what they trade for the freedom.

You want to be free to walk in and out of buildings without search? OK. Then someone may walk in with a bomb strapped to his chest. We'll take that bet, in most cases. You want to drive around without the police asking you for identification? Yes. Then sometimes, foreign nationals without legal authority to be here will drive down that same street. For the most part, we'll suck that up too. You want a free press? Absolutely. Good. Then you may hear more about Kim Khardashian than a body should ever know. I think she'd agree with that one.

You want everyone to have the right to own a gun - any kind of gun? Fine. Then every so often someone will randomly enter an elementary school and kill babies. OK?

The question this country has to ask itself - and we are, and continue to be - the great self-correctors in governance - is 'Are we willing to trade our babies for the freedom to own any kind of gun?' I can't imagine anyone saying 'yes' to that question, but somehow, some find the way to do so by invoking the 2nd Amendment.

The 2nd Amendment has a good and reasonable purpose - to offer protection to regular people against an unreasonable, armed, threat. In what may be its most profound case of irony to date, it appears this amendment has become the unreasonable threat it seeks to obliterate.

Friday, December 14, 2012

There Are No Words

There are no words to describe this kind of grief. It seems futile to try. So instead of words, I'll offer an experience. Tonight I had the great privilege to enjoy another spectacular concert at my children's elementary school. Boys and girls of the same age as those who perished and suffered under the strain of someone else's pain began the night with a moment of silence, honor and prayer. And then they sang. They strummed, they clapped, they trumpeted and drummed. Into a dark room a virtuous and pure music like only children can offer played for parents and loved ones who surely held their own and all the fallen in their hearts tonight. And among the last notes, a song that sums it up for me. The song was sung by my children and their classmates, babies. Like those who died tonight, tonight and always, they are all mine and they are all ours.

"I did my best, it wasn't much, I couldn't feel, so I tried to touch. I've told the truth, I didn't come to fool you. And even though it all went wrong, I'll stand before the Lord of Song with nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah."

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Things That Annoy - Random Edition

I hate when the top of the dishwasher is packed front to back, side to side and then there's, like, one pot lid in the bottom rack. So do you run the cycle? Or wait for more dishes and then end up with a sinkful of little stuff that won't fit in the top? No matter what you do you end up either killing an innocent baby whale somewhere or suffering a sinkful of dirty dishes that no one will do until they can load them into the dishwasher.  Not cool.

Teachers, I adore you, you know that. But for heaven's sake, a little warning? If you're going to send my kid home with a project board that's twice her height and four times her width, give me a little notice so I don't have to drive from 7200N to 5200N back to 7200N at $4 a gallon only to show up late for every single thing I'm doing afterwards as a consequence. I hate being late and that dumb board has been in your building since September. I'm pretty sure it coulda waited a day.

Hey, sales guy at the electronics store! When I ask you if your rewards card system is going to send my husband an email about his rewards before I give him his SURPRISE gift, know what the heck you're talking about, ok? I've been saving for months and moving all kinds of pieces on an intricate chessboard to SURPRISE him and you've kind of ruined it in a big way. I'm a little peeved at you, friend and this may mean I won't be back to get that million dollar warranty you did seem to know so well.

Construction traffic? I can't think of a darn good thing to say about you so in keeping with my mother's advice I'm going to remain silent. But I hope you can hear every single one of my thoughts as I sit in parking lot after parking lot doubling for a main thoroughfare in this city during the freaking holiday season. (A little shrill with your rant, ma'am? Yes, thank you.)

About the Lord trying to teach me patience ~ frankly, I know. He's all about the eternal gig and I'm into it, really, but I think we should just call this one a wash. I feel the FF button on the DVR was His gift to me, and me not throttling all the incompetent people I come across in retail is my gift in return. After that I feel like we should just shake hands and walk away on this one. I suppose it's what makes Him different that he keeps trying, but the tests are wearing on my... well... patience.

The Mac vs PC argument in my household has reached epic proportions. The kids actually move away from us when we start. My husband insists that it all boils down to 'user error' when I encounter challenge after challenge with his Mac, but when he fusses over a problem with my PC the trouble is clearly technology/design related. I'm thinking of throwing apples at him when he starts this conversation so that I can show support for his Mac addiction while still protesting in favor of my PC.

I'd list more items here because, well, I have them. Unfortunately I have to go wash dishes by hand so I can empty my sink so my child can use the kitchen to complete yet another project board before we take my husband out to dinner where he will not be surprised by the damn gadget I got him. We'll have to start out an hour early because of all the damn construction traffic that is currently strangling every major street surrounding our home so I'm running out of time. Let's hope this thing posts. I'm using the Mac and if there's one more glitch during this experience I may just fling the damn thing out the window. Lord knows, I'm capable of it because, really, I have no patience.