22 December 2011

comfort in the dark {a poem}

Winter begins
not with a blizzard or a flurry
but with darkness and
temperatures below freezing.

It's the solstice,
the very word speaking of
light and dark
and how our lives intertwine with both.

On this, the longest night of the year,
my kitchen smells of
sauteed mushrooms and onions
and of red wine—a kind of holy trinity
of comfort in aroma.

Standing over the white stove,
I stir the risotto, my face flush
in the steam that pirouettes from the
cooking rice.

Out my window, it is cold and it is dark,
but I do not notice.

Instead, I notice how risotto
all of a sudden
becomes creamy
as it drinks in the wine.

I notice how risotto
is about both patience
and action.

We long to categorize:
light versus dark
good versus bad
black versus white

But more often
we live in a messy blend
of looking for the light in the dark

of stirring the pot and waiting
for the risotto to transform.

That moment will come.

It always does.

19 December 2011

choose your own adventure {kind of}

In a fit of nostalgia, I pulled out an old writing journal over the weekend.

This one was from the creative writing class I took my senior year of college, and as I read through it, I through two things:
  • I wish I could go back to college. Life was so simple back then. {Name the musical I'm quoting!}
  • I was overflowing with stories to be told back when I was 22. Not that I've stopped telling stories now {I'm not sure how this blog would exist if I didn't have stories to tell...}, but I mean more the fiction kind of stories. In this class, we were challenged and encouraged to write way beyond our comfort levels, and so I had to do fiction, even if I didn't think I had stories and characters to share.

    That, by the way, is mostly why I wish I could go back to college: okay, partly it's because I want to be able to wander into a cafeteria and have a plethora of choices for food that I didn't have to make.

    But I also want to go back to college for that daily challenge thing. For that thing where you have to stretch your mind to do chemistry and analyze a modern poem and write a well-researched paper on who the best president of the post-World War II era has been—all in one week.

    And to be in a writing class where you're told: come up with 15 different ways to start a story. Now. Yes, for that challenge, I wish I could go back to college.

    {Here is where someone will insert that if I really wanted that challenge, I could take classes or do a self-study or something. But let's all just own up to this fact: there is nothing like having your only job be attending class and learning.}

Speaking of 15 different ways to start a story, I came across a list like that in my writing journal. And in a silly little effort to feel like I'm in college again, I'm going give myself an assignment.

{Actually, for this to really feel like college, it would help if a professor/teacher gave me the assignment. So if any of you fit the bill, please comment and assign me this. Ooh, and maybe create a syllabus for me.}

Assignment: Choose one of the following opening lines and finish the story.

Stipulation: I'm going to let all of you, dear readers, vote. Please take a glance at the list below and then let me know which story you'd most like me to finish. Voting closes Wednesday, December 21, at 5pm CST. {Doesn't that sound so official? Maybe I should have poll workers, too.}

Deadline: I'll do this over Christmas break. Okay, I also wish I could go back to college because I still got a Christmas break back then. Now, I get one federally-mandated day and any vacation days I want to save up for Christmas. But in any event, I'll work on this when I'm not at work.

Which of These Opening Lines Should Become a Full Story?

{aka, the time Kamiah pretended to still be in college}
  1. She woke up, looked out the window at the snow, and thought, 'Who said it could snow today?'
  2. She looked at the map, then at the street signs, then at the map again before she started crying in frustration because everything was written in a squiggle of Arabic.
  3. Holidays were a treacherous time for the family, and this one was no exception—it was, in fact, more of a shining example.
  4. When the sun got too hot for his dreams, he opened his eyes and realized that he didn't know why he was in a field of fall grass.
  5. The little girls splashed in the pool, not knowing what had almost happened yesterday.
  6. I stared at my computer screen and pretended to type so that I'd fool my boss, but in my mind, I was already in Venice on a gondola with a man who looked like Cary Grant and Tom Hank mixed together.
  7. She thought about how everyone had said, "Don't worry, it'll be okay," when they were obviously ignoring the fact that nothing is ever okay and that worrying is how she remembers that.
  8. Running away is too hard when your tires are flat on your pink Huffy bike and you're still six years away from even thinking about which pedal is for the gas.
  9. The Midwest, unlike some people think, is not the most boring part of America. And I could prove it.
  10. Her face always looked like nothing important was happening behind it, which is how I knew that she was a people watcher, too.
  11. The fight last night had been over the dishwasher and bowling, but both of them had a suspicion that there was more to it than Joy and strikes.
  12. It was only in small, orderly spaces that she felt comfortable enough to relax, which is why she often had to escape into phone booths. There were two problems with this one: it had graffiti everywhere, and someone was already in there.
  13. I had laughed at his jokes, even though I hadn't understood what he meant and had thought that maybe he was mocking me.
  14. I didn't like Halloween, but I didn't tell my friends that. They were just starting to think I was cool.
  15. I hated that I was always the one who had to leave and that I was never the one to cry.

Happy voting! All you need to do is leave a comment with the number of the opening line you'd like to see a full story for.

{Or, you know, you don't even have to think of this in terms of what you'd like to see: if you want to make me write a really, really hard story and you think one of those opening lines will be harder than the others, you can vote for that. That seems a little mean to me, but you can do whatever you want, just so long as you vote.}

16 December 2011

a word from compline

I do so love words, which may be part of the reason I resonate so deeply with liturgy. When you don't know what else to say to God, it is a comfort to be able to turn to these words that people have been praying for hundreds of years.

And there is something to the communal voice, to saying the same thing as everyone around you.

Some mumble, some enunciate, some whisper.

But there are all the voices around you, and you can feel the words swelling and building. I have more to say about the liturgy, but right now, words are feeling a bit inadequate and all I want to say is: At my small group the other night—after we ate Christmas cookies and shared Christmas stories—we did compline, which is an evening prayer service.

It's a hushed service that makes you think of wearing footie pajamas and having hot milk before bed. You half-expect the children's prayer "Now I lay me down to sleep" to be in there, complete with that line about "if I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take."

{I used to prayer that every night, and I always tacked on: "God bless Mommy, Daddy, and the whole wide world. Amen." Didn't see the need to list my sister and brothers by name; they were covered by the whole wide world comment, of course.}

After doing compline, I always want to crawl directly into bed, which I couldn't do the other night because I was not at my own home and that would be awkward.

This prayer especially stuck with me during Tuesday night's compline, and I wanted to share them with you {along with, apparently, a blabbering-on about liturgy and footie pajamas}:
Be present, O merciful God, and protect us through the hours of this night, so that we who are wearied by the changes and chances of this life may rest in your eternal changelessness; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

15 December 2011

re-arranging {part II}

You may want to take a glance at Part I before you get into this.


The MUST DO list has just a few things on it, and that's the way it should be. Instead of feeling that everything is dependent on today, the MUST DO list shows me that no, I don't have to a superwoman. I don't have to be one because that's impossible—

this mix of

Hillary Rodham Clinton {sharp and powerful}
Julia Child {because if you have to eat, it may as well be French}
Martha Stewart {perfectly, plastically Stepford she may seem, the woman really knows about presentation}
and several characters played by Amy Adams {girl-next-door prettiness with some quirky chipperness thrown in}

I just need to be me and accept that whatever happens in a day is all right.

On the Sunday of my room re-arranging, my MUST DO list had on it:
  • choose cookie recipe for Tuesday night's cookie exchange
  • go to grocery store {for cookie stuff and general food}
  • run {outside! It's 40 degrees in December!}
  • winterize kitchen window {because it won't always be 40 degrees!}

The NICE TO DO list is, of course, much longer. It's the bonus list, the icing list. Here are things that it would feel good to get done, but if I don't get to them, they will keep.

Sunday's was:
  • order new swimsuit
  • go to Home Depot {new lightbulbs}: wander around bathroom section, thinking lovely re-do thoughts
  • start birthday thank you cards
  • cut out fabric for kitchen door project
  • email catch-up

I know that it's all just words and trickery, this MUST versus NICE; I know that my to-do lists are just as leggy as before, but since I've added these titles, the lists look more manageable, and they're less guilt-inducing.

I even re-arrange them: if, halfway through the day, I realize that something I thought was essential in the pre-dawn darkness {when the world does indeed look different} isn't, in fact, all that essential in the bright afternoon sun, I move it from the MUST to the NICE list.

This, too, is trickery, a sleight of hand as if I were the Magician of Productivity. It's the listmaking equivalent of moving furniture to make your room feel new and maybe even a little bigger.

Nothing has changed but the placement of an armchair and a lamp, but you feel like you can breathe more easily in there. You feel more like you want to curl up in that armchair and write things that would make people say, "You sound like a modern-day Jane Austen."

There is an incredible, calming freedom in doing three or four things well and completely, instead of trying to muddle through 29 things.

I'm slowly learning this lesson—and attempting to keep myself from putting on my MUST DO list:
  • Learn, for once and for all, how you can't do everything and be everything to everyone every day. Learn how to give yourself a break.

That's just not a to-do list sort of item. You can't check it off in one day.

But you know what you can do? You can find an arrangement that works for you in whatever moment you find yourself in. You can figure out what is best for you so that you can thrive and enjoy where you are, instead of feeling like you're simply checking off another item on your never-done list.

Right now, it's most helpful for me to focus on doing a few tasks well. Right now, I need my MUST versus NICE to help me, in bold caps, prioritize.

But there will come a time when this arrangement—as well as it is working now—simply won't work as well. I know this. And when that time comes, I'll do a little re-arranging to open up my life again.


Re-arranging my living room was not on my MUST DO or even NICE TO DO list on that Sunday.

But I'd already finished everything I knew I had to get done that day. The Christmas tree was lit, The Mary Tyler Moore Show was on, and I was on a chair changing a lightbulb, feeling so accomplished and energetic.

After months of feeling that my life was closing in on me with obligations, I was finally in a position to look around and see the possibilities.

And so I moved the armchair.

14 December 2011

christmas stories: go buy this book now

Last night, I went to a Christmas cookie exchange where we read our favorite Christmas stories. I brought the Tomie dePaola-illustrated version of Miracle on 34th Street, and I read aloud the part where little Susan Walker overhears Kris Kringle singing a Dutch Christmas song with a little girl at Macy's.

I always liked that part because—well, of course it's charming and touching and makes you want to believe that he really is Santa Claus—but I always liked it because when Susan is telling her mother about it, astonishment in her voice that this man could speak Dutch, her mother {her ever-practical mother who doesn't want her believing in fairy tales and Santa and other nonsense} says, "Well, Susan, I speak French. That doesn't make me Joan of Arc!"

It's possible that I learned French so that I could one day say that to someone. "I speak French; that doesn't make me Joan of Arc!" I'm not sure when this would be appropriate, so I have yet to use it.

Someone else read the Pearl S. Buck story Christmas Day in the Morning. Have you read that? I'd never heard it until last night, and I almost cried.

And since I so rarely cry, and certainly not in public, that is saying something. Seriously. Go read it right now. Go buy it from Amazon immediately: here's a link. The story, written in that quiet Pearl S. Buck fashion, makes you feel comforted and wistful, all at the same time.

As we approach the shortest day of the year—this time when the world goes into hibernation and we start to cling to any light we see in the darkness—this story fits perfectly with what I've always thought of as the true spirit of Christmas.

It's not in the bright Christmas tunes that start playing in October, those bouncy tunes in the key of Happy Major.

It's not in the wrapping or the bows or in the tables heavy-laden with food.

{I'll stop there before I start to quote The Grinch.}

To me, a truer spirit of Christmas is in that darkness.

In small moments of warmth.

In realizing how much love you have surrounding you, close and tight, in the darkness.

There's a touch of the melancholy in this view of Christmas, I know, which is probably why I'm drawn to those Christmas songs that pull out the minor sadness: "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" and "I'll Be Home for Christmas," for example.

Christmas Day in the Morning is the kind of story you should read when you're starting to feel overwhelmed by that key of Happy Major this time of year. You should have it around for moments when you're not sure you like shopping or your family or even sugar cookies.

When those moments come—and they usually do, these moments when you despair—you can read this story to remember that Christmas is about hope in the darkness.

No, seriously, go buy the book now. Or check it out from the library. However, you want to get this book, just go.

Read it and cry {or almost cry, as the case may be. I don't know your emotional state or how you feel about crying}.

13 December 2011

re-arranging {part I}

It all started because I needed to change a lightbulb. Up on a chair in my living room, I looked around and wondered.

What if I moved the bookshelf there? What if I moved those chairs? And aha, that would expose the vent that's been hiding {surely another reason it's always slightly chilled in my apartment in the winter, beyond that the heat is programmed to drop to 58 degrees at night and beyond that I live in the Midwest, land of the frozen ice sheet}.

This re-arranging was not at all on my to-do list.


I've been making these MUST DO and NICE TO DO lists for my free weeknights and for the more unstructured weekends. The concept is straightforward: prioritize. What is actually required today?

I have a tendency, when given a chunk of free time, to make lists as long as my legs, not that I have long legs but when it comes to listmaking, your finger is probably a better gauge, I've leaned.

In my leg lists, the concept of time never applied, so perhaps the first item on them should've been:
  • invent Star Trek-inspired machine to stop time {consider suspended animation principles from Star Wars?}

Being outside the limits of time would've helped me accomplish everything on my leg list, which usually looked like this:
  • plan lunches for week
  • make grocery list
  • go to grocery: try to arrive before everyone and their children do
  • make chicken stock {can be started early in the morning and left to simmer while doing everything else}
  • take clothes to dry cleaners that have been hanging over the back of the armchair in my room for months
  • go to Home Depot: plan bathroom re-do?
  • do all laundry
  • clean bathrooms—especially scrub floors! Maybe twice!
  • vacuum whole apartment
  • vacuum car
  • figure out why garage clicker isn't working
  • make three-course dinner

And then, because I'm aware that free time is for relaxing, I would add a few "non-chore" items:
  • read paper
  • do crossword {time self! Try to beat time from last Saturday!}
  • journal
  • call three friends to catch up
  • write cards to three other friends: gosh, Kamiah, try to be a better and more consistent friend and not have to do these massive catch-ups

That all adds up to an impossible, intimidating list.

It's a laughable list. The kind of list you'd half-expect to end with:
  • conquer world by lunch: then have soup and grilled cheese?

It's also the kind of list that leads to guilt when you, quite inevitably, can't accomplish everything on there. Or even three things on there.

As the day progress and you don't make as much progress on your list as you'd like, you can start to feel weighed down.

I think it's the weight of those undone tasks, the weight of the things you aren't doing, dragging you down. Day after day, you feel like you aren't accomplishing what you need to. Yes, your definition of "need to do" may be off and unrealistic, but that doesn't matter in this scenario.

What matters is: you feel dragged down by these tasks, and even in admitting that, you add another task to your list: get over yourself. What's so hard, after all, in your life? Why don't you have the strength to get up and do what needs to be done?

In my mind, I see a person with hunched-over shoulders, an exhausted frown, and insomniac eyes, walking through a harvested field {stubbled and a burnt yellow} and pulling behind them a to-do list made of stapled-together scrap paper 100 miles long.

Wow. Sorry for the incredibly dramatic—if very vivid and perhaps paint-able—image there. But in all honesty, I got to a point earlier this fall where I did feel like that person.

I felt like someone trying to carry on doing all these tasks I didn't even know if I enjoyed anymore.

And it didn't matter how many lists I made or how many people I explained this to: at the end of the day, I still felt dragged down. Something had to change or I was prone to start wandering through harvested fields feeling sorry for myself.

I took comfort in this: I know many smart, time-savvy people who, given the opportunity, think they can accomplish 10 things at once and so they, too, make these leg lists.

Why do we do this? Why do we overestimate our abilities and underestimate our need for rest?

I think the answer lies in:
  • how common—expected, even—it is to multitask
  • how scheduled our lives can be so that we're either perplexed by free time or overzealous when it comes
  • if you're of a certain task-oriented, checklist-loving, order-bringing personality. {I may be one of those.}
I've been learning this fall—and now into Advent—about limiting the to-do list.

About not trying to conquer the world {or even my own little corner of it} in my free time.

About focusing on really, actually, truly needs to be done—and then setting the rest of my free time free.

And from that place—that place of wanting to feel less like my life was dragging—has come the MUST DO and NICE TO DO lists.


Which I'll tell you about in Part II, as well as wrap up the furniture re-arranging bit {bet you forgot that that's where this story started, didn't you?}

09 December 2011

white and clean {a poem}

The year's first snowfall is
of course
the topic of conversation at the office
as we all get our morning coffee.

"I'm not ready for winter," someone says.

"But it had to come, didn't it?" someone replies,
trying to be truthful and realistic.

The snow brings it out in us,
this ancient desire for honesty and fortitude,
conjuring up forebears
with a barn full of hay
and a cellar full of canned tomatoes,
ready for the winter.

The world has turned white and clean,
and we want to see the best in others
and in ourselves.

06 December 2011

jane austen may have looked like this

On Monday, big news hit the Jane Austen world: she may not have been ugly.

No, seriously, this was one of the headlines: Jane Austen wasn't as ugly as people think.

Jane has been in the news quite a bit over the last year or so—
Last fall, it was revealed that Jane's original manuscripts are full of terrible spellings and laughable attempts at grammar. The Queen of the Period Drama, unable to make a coherent sentence? If I knew what smelling salts were, I'd call for them; instead, I just wrote a little thing on her spelling mistakes, which you can read here.

Then there was the time a few weeks ago when a murder mystery author suggested that Jane Austen had been poisoned with arsenic. You can read about it in the Guardian here.

But—and my crime knowledge mostly stems from watching Law and Order with my parents {that chung-chung clangy thing they do at the end of scenes is addictive, I think}—don't you have to have a motive to have a murder? And who would want to kill Jane Austen?

I guess you could say someone who was jealous, but Charlotte Bronte {never Jane's biggest fan} was only 1 or so when Jane died. I don't think even the author who put a crazy lady in the attic of Thornfield Hall would've been familiar with arsenic in the cradle.

But—ooh!—maybe someone wanted to kill Jane because she was NOT ugly?!?!

Yes, it seems that Jane Austen was murdered because she was fairly all right looking. Let's go with that theory. I think that sounds like it should be the top item on the BBC News tonight.

This whole not ugly thing came about because an author who's writing a biography about Jane discovered what may be a portrait of her—and up until now, there have been just two accepted portraits of Jane.

One is an 1810 sketch by her sister Cassandra, and everybody says she looks cross about being a spinster in it.

This raises an important question: How do they {you know, smart academics} know she's cross about spinsterhood in the drawing? Couldn't she just have been upset that Elizabeth Bennet's character wasn't coming out right? Or maybe her sister was teasing her, or maybe she had a case of the mean reds.

One frown in a woman who is not married does not a cross spinster make. But you can judge for yourself—see the picture below. What do you think she's upset about?

The other accepted portrait is an 1870 re-doing of the sketch, one where Jane is not frowning but is looking off to the side, as if she's daydreaming about Mr. Darcy. This is the one used on most of the book markers and book jackets for Jane because who would want a picture of an angry spinster staring at you every time you picked up Sense and Sensibility?

So those are the two images we've had of Jane for hundreds of years, and when you're talking about a woman who couldn't spell and who may have been murdered, it's tiring to have to trot out the same images.

Enter the new portrait—and a sigh of relief that Jane wasn't ugly, although...

Okay, look at this potential new portrait of Jane.

Do you think this proves she wasn't ugly?

I see a crazy cat lady writer with a really long neck.

And I also think this: Why is it so important that we think of Jane Austen as pretty? As a successful woman? As a non-cross person? Why, if we can see so much of ourselves in our characters in their flaws and small joys, do we want Jane to line up with some sort of ideal?

Please discuss via a five-paragraph essay format. I will not judge you on your grammar and spelling, but do please include a picture.

02 December 2011

things i think about while swimming

I've recently taken up swimming for a couple of reasons:
  1. I may enjoy running, but running around and around a track through the winter is...exactly what it sounds like. It's like running in circles, a phrase generally applied to "I'm not getting anywhere" situations.

    Sometimes, no matter how many episodes of This American Life or Selected Shorts you listen to while going around the track, you're still acutely aware that you're wearing an oval-shaped hole into the earth. It starts to occur to you that when Dante talked about circles, they related to Hell.
  2. I'm not very good at swimming. I mean, as a girl raised on the banks of the Mississippi, I can swim. It just wouldn't be safe to take your children boating on the Muddy Mississippi if you didn't think they could swim back to the sandbar for safety. Although when it comes to the Mississippi, there are other dangers to consider beyond actually swimming:
    • Clams that can slice your foot open when you step on them, cursing that you didn't see it—but how could you have? Clams burrow into that Mississippi mud and wait for small children's feet to find them.
    • Speaking of mud, the mud from the Mississippi has been associated with wonderful things, ever since it got a pie named after it. But in reality, it smells like dead fish.
    • Many kids, after reading Huckleberry Finn, have dreams of building a raft and floating down the Mississippi. When you live in plain sight of the river, it's that much more tempting, and with driftwood forever floating up on the banks, it's that much more possible.
    So I can do the basics of swimming, but it's not something I've ever excelled at. I prefer the bobbing around a pool and then laying out and reading version of swimming. Doing handstands in the water is also a good way to swim.

    I decided that this winter, I would get better at swimming. I would get through the part where I'm flailing in the pool, coughing, and generally not looking very athletic—self-confidence-crushing though that stage may be. Sometimes, I think, it's good to do things that you're not very good at; it brings healthy humility into your day.
It's only been a couple weeks, and trust me, I'm not out of the flailing stage. But lap by lap, I know I'm getting stronger. Less of a flailure, if you will.

My brain helps me get through the half-mile I can currently swim by keeping me entertained. Thank goodness.

Things I Think about while Swimming

  • How long have I had this swimsuit? High school, when we all had to take yearly swimming lessons so that the school district could feel justified in choosing to build a pool instead of an auditorium?

    It's as if the school board thought, 'Well, even if the band kids have to play all their concerts on the middle school stage—thereby making them feel that they've never actually left that purgatory of middle school—at least they'll all be able to swim. Perhaps even with their French horns if they become strong enough swimmers...'
  • How can I run for close to 2 hours—quite the extended effort—but I can't swim a lap without needing to stop?
  • I kinda hate that old woman in the lane next to me. She will not stop. No pausing. No hanging on the side of the pool to catch her breath. She could probably swim her way off Alcatraz, should the need ever arise.
  • Slow and steady wins the race.
  • But I want to win the race right now. I'm not used to this lagging behind thing. Oh, I see—this swimming thing is supposed to teach me something about life. Way to go, water and old swimsuit.
  • I CAN'T BREATHE. But I have developed a funny, hacking cough.
  • I don't really hate that old woman anymore so much as I want to be her.

01 December 2011

breaking the rules {part III}

Like Maria in The Sound of Music taught us, you should start at the very beginning of this story: Part I.


After boldly walking down the Priority Access line, I handed over my boarding pass and smiled.

I asked how the TSA guy was doing, making sure I made eye contact. He was young—early 20s—tall, and thin, like an upright praying mantis with a badge.

"Boy, it's sure busy here today, isn't it? Do you have a long shift in front of you?"

"Not too bad. In fact, I'm going on break right now. You probably have a long day, though," he said as he looked at my driver's license, perhaps checking if the smile in the picture matched the smile on my face.

"Just a couple of meeting in New Jersey and then a dinner thing. It'll be a good day, I'm sure."

"I hope it is for you. You have a nice flight, Miss Walker." And with that, he handed back my boarding pass and driver's license and pointed me to the front of the line.


"I can't believe it worked," I told my boss when I found him at Gate K9. "I feel a little like I cheated, but it worked."

That's when he piped up with his advice about risking embarrassment and walking like you belong. I was thinking that over as I settled in to 29F. Book here, computer out, flash drive handy—and what about those hundreds of people I cut in front of? Were they all going to make their flights?

I though of the 30something guy in a hoodie who'd been in the process of taking off his shoes when the praying mantis TSA guy had waved me through. A shoe in his hand, he hopped on one foot and nodded at me to go ahead, as if I were some sort of airport celebrity, the Julia Roberts of O'Hare.

How long had he been waiting? Did he bite down all his fingernails in anxiety? Did he know that he had a hole in his sock?

"Excuse me." The businessman in 29D interrupted my guilty spiralling around holey socks and falsified importance. "I stopped at that new Rick Bayless restaurant—that Torta Frontera—and got this huge breakfast sandwich. There is no way I'll be able to eat all of it, so would you like half?"

"Are you serious?" The Julia Roberts of O'Hare probably shouldn't be so incredulous at kindness.

I sized up the man: late 40s, black suit, red tie, wedding ring, iPhone, and a slightly tanned look suggesting he hadn't spent all of this gray November in pasty-making Illinois.

Not that I knew what signs to look for, but he didn't seem like the type to buy a $10 sandwich, hide drugs in half of it, and then hope he sat near a pretty young woman who'd also boarded early so he could lure her with talk of locally-sourced bacon.

I took the sandwich. Of course I did.

29D and I talked foodie details {just the right crunchiness to the bread, the egg wasn't overwhelming, etc.} until the man in 29E sat down, and the two of them discussed a shared love of fishing musky. At that point, my contribution to the conversation was, "I don't like fish" and "In my high school athletic conference, there was a team called the Muskies."

About five minutes into the flight, the baby behind me, who had screamed through the entire take-off, suddenly stopped crying, coughed—and threw up. We're talking projectile, and I realized from the furious scrubbing of the back and side of my chair that if I'd been just a little more inclined to the left—if I'd still been in that conversation about bait and reels—that baby's impressive arc of puke would've hit me.

Life is messy, isn't it?

Good moments get smashed together with bad moments.

A day can start out so well and end so sadly—and vice versa.

You can do everything right and still not have things work out.

Or you can break the rules and have it all work out.

Sometimes, all you can do is say: I'm glad I'm here, full of good food and not covered in puke.


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