For a few years, we tried to start a little New Year's Eve tradition in which each member of our family wrote down our predictions for the others during the coming year, and then shared the predictions from the previous year to see the ways in which Ms. Fate had surprised us, and the ways in which we somehow managed to get the scoop on her. It was fun, but also a bit disconcerting when things turned out exactly the way you were afraid they might. 

At any rate, after a few years we gave it up. Perhaps we figured out that, no matter what, you're going to get surprised, so you may as well pour a little courage into your Happy New Year toasting glass and drink up. And then get ready for the first thing to come around the corner or jump out of a closet unexpectedly and yell "GOTCHA!"

On the news last night they were showing a "Top Stories of the Year" feature and I wondered aloud how the stories from our family's past year might be sorted according to "top story" status. Would the honors go to the brother-in-law who passed away pre-50 and so unexpectedly? My own dance with cancer that came out of nowhere, leaving a trail of unanswered medical questions in its wake? The altogether sudden appearance of a third strapping young man at our Christmas celebration, bringing hints that he may intend to throw an additional (we already have one on the calendar) wedding into the 2014 mix? Or Russ taking a job in...gulp...Panama?!

I can't answer yet, because each event dropped into the pond continues sending its ripples into our future. Even when the initial shock fades, the forward path retains its new twist. I'm sure 2014 will bring more of the unthinkable. Which means it's pointless to think about that now. Better to reflect on all the ways life remains remarkable and so utterly worthwhile, no matter where it takes us. 

So bring on a large Diet Coke, please, with a hefty shot of whatever else you have on hand that might help...and on we go. Happy New Year! Yes, again.



Immigration Reform

I want to learn Spanish, I feel
it’s the right thing to do, living
here among the lizards, the cactus
spines, the land of rocks and sun
and stings, the lank and curl
of snakes and everywhere sharp edges

Spanish is soft, Spanish rolls
off their tongues, lolls around my yard
making itself at home, working
while I watch
they rake and weed, heads wrapped up
against the sun, probably talking about me
I think, and who could blame them

Of course they’re talking
of their own lives, homes and weeds
sons playing ball, TVs
they talk of work and songs, dreams
and daughters, gardens, dinners
dogs, their mothers, cars and death
and yesterday, last night
week after next

But if I learned it, would they tell me
what they think about it all, would there
be a fence, a wall between us
could we become friends
or could I never speak that Spanish
theirs from birth, mine from a book or worse
a menu, even if I learn to say it all
correctly, get the accent right, hop up
in back of their truck, tie on
a bandana and ride

to the next yard and the next yard
and the next, laugh at all their jokes
would we ever laugh together?

I would like to tell them what I want
instead I watch them from my window
weeding in Spanish, their easy flow
of words a soft cool drink
their rakes cutting line after line
in the sand between us





Come and get it you say
then up goes the fence, my face
against the slats, I try to push
my way through
use my tricks
the ones you taught me
also some I'm trying  
just to see what works
like how about these eyes, the way
they almost speak, this mouth
the way it turns just so
as close to smiling as I get
wet, curving lips
my panting tongue
and just a hint of teeth, I promise
not to use my bite, I promise
to be good for you
just let me at it


Thanks to Tess at The Mag for the prompt
Click on over and fetch a few more twists on the story...



There’s nothing like an airport for reminding you that you’re not in charge. Of anything, really. Except how you behave.

In fact, you can tell a lot about people by how they behave at the airport. And when a flight is canceled, you can tell even more. (Have you guessed that I am writing this while sitting at the airport after my flight has canceled? I hope to be on my way in about 7 hours…)

When I called my airline-executive husband for a little behind-the-scenes help getting scheduled for a later flight, he said, “A good day in the airline business is when you only piss off hundreds of people. Not thousands.” 

I shared that with the other stranded folks in line next to me. Only a few of them saw the humor, and those were probably flight attendants traveling incognito and stand-by on their day off. What do they care about canceled flights? They just roll to the list for the next one, willing to sit in a jump seat if need be. And then they pick up a latte or some frozen yogurt.

So I guess this is how I behave…I try hard not to cry and think about how to turn it into an essay. You have no idea how many times in the average day I turn to this coping mechanism. With more success sometimes than others.

But standing in the angry/dejected/frustrated line, watching 150 people who were all screwed to varying degrees, I decided it’s not the worst way to cope. All the tantrums in the world aren’t going to make the plane go, and they aren’t going to make the gate agent work harder to get you a seat on the next flight either.

The woman in line next to me was infinitely more screwed than I was. I was just trying to get home to let Cooper out. She is a pediatric heart specialist on her way to a morning interview with a group of surgeons in Atlanta for a prestigious and coveted spot in their practice. And there was not another way to get from here to Atlanta tonight. 

But instead of throwing a fit, she chatted about growing up in Iowa, the best places to eat in Chicago, the weather in Seattle, and the beauty of Vancouver BC, with the people around her. She had a great smile, generously shared. In the end, we laughed, we all said “this sucks,” and we shook hands and said “good luck!” when we parted ways.

It reminded me that it’s okay not to be in charge; even when you think you are, you’re only forgetting that you aren’t. Because that’s what it all comes down to. It’s a giant exercise in learning to roll with it. Whatever it is. 

And an exercise in doing so with as much grace as possible. Meanwhile acknowledging that everyone around you is not only subject to the same frustrations you are, they may actually have it worse. And therefore treating them accordingly. And that includes the gate agent. 

Just say "wheeeee," metaphorically speaking. And get some frozen yogurt while you're waiting for things to improve. It's a lot more fun that way.