After learning my flight was detained 4 hours,
I heard the announcement:
If anyone in the vicinity of gate 4-A understands any Arabic,
Please come to the gate immediately.
Well—one pauses these days. Gate 4-A was my own gate. I went there.
An older woman in full traditional Palestinian dress,
Just like my grandma wore, was crumpled to the floor, wailing loudly.
Help, said the flight service person. Talk to her. What is her
Problem? we told her the flight was going to be four hours late and she
I put my arm around her and spoke to her haltingly.
Shu dow-a, shu- biduck habibti, stani stani schway, min fadlick,
Sho bit se-wee?
The minute she heard any words she knew—however poorly used—
She stopped crying.
She thought our flight had been canceled entirely.
She needed to be in El Paso for some major medical treatment the
Following day. I said no, no, we’re fine, you’ll get there, just late,
Who is picking you up? Let’s call him and tell him.
We called her son and I spoke with him in English.
I told him I would stay with his mother till we got on the plane and
Would ride next to her—Southwest.
She talked to him. Then we called her other sons just for the fun of it.
Then we called my dad and he and she spoke for a while in Arabic and
Found out of course they had ten shared friends.
Then I thought just for the heck of it why not call some Palestinian
Poets I know and let them chat with her. This all took up about 2 hours.
She was laughing a lot by then. Telling about her life. Answering
She had pulled a sack of homemade mamool cookies—little powdered
Sugar crumbly mounds stuffed with dates and nuts—out of her bag—
And was offering them to all the women at the gate.
To my amazement, not a single woman declined one. It was like a
Sacrament. The traveler from Argentina, the traveler from California,
The lovely woman from Laredo—we were all covered with the same
Powdered sugar. And smiling. There are no better cookies.
And then the airline broke out the free beverages from huge coolers—
Non-alcoholic—and the two little girls for our flight, one African
American, one Mexican American—ran around serving us all apple juice
And lemonade and they were covered with powdered sugar too.
And I noticed my new best friend—by now we were holding hands—
Had a potted plant poking out of her bag, some medicinal thing,
With green furry leaves. Such an old country traveling tradition. Always
Carry a plant. Always stay rooted to somewhere.
And I looked around that gate of late and weary ones and thought,
This is the world I want to live in. The shared world.
Not a single person in this gate—once the crying of confusion stopped
—has seemed apprehensive about any other person.
They took the cookies. I wanted to hug all those other women too.
This can still happen anywhere.
Not everything is lost."
Naomi Shihab Nye (b. 1952), “Wandering Around an Albuquerque Airport Terminal.” I think this poem may be making the rounds, this week, but that’s as it should be. (via oliviacirce)
It’s Just Work
I am thankful that I get to write stories for my job. It’s what I love, after all.
Like today, I wrote about an Italian immigrant who inspired his grandson to start a toffee company. Sent off a first draft to the client a week earlier than it was due.
I started researching for a new book project about famous Nebraskans.
And I edited an article for someone’s blog, using a new (to me) version control system called GitHub.
I also found out that I missed something on a proofread for a branding client. It went to print and everything! It’s been nagging me all day. I hate making mistakes.
This is the kind of work that I want to be doing. It’s good work. And still, it’s just work.
I have to gear up and talk myself into diving into a new project. It’s even harder to finish something that I am already “over.” I randomly get inspired to pick up a story that isn’t on the docket yet. I mess things up and have to live with it. I learn new things. I put in the hours.
Women and Work
Sheryl Sandberg was interviewed by Nora O’Donnell on 60 Minutes and my mom wanted to be sure that I saw it.
Mom: Hi Daphne, If you did not listen to 60 minutes tonight I hope you can go online and listen to the second segment on there. It was with Sheryl Sandberg … Pretty interesting to listen to her talk about her journey to the top. Even with all her success she admits to being intimidated by mothers. She really believes in women’s empowerment. It was really good.
Mom: Also why can someone as successful as Zukerburg dress like a common kid on the street but Sheryl who is second in command in his company has to dress in thousand dollar business suits? There I have had my say.
Daphne: I watched it online … great interview! She brings up a lot of really good points. I was especially interested by how she still, as the most successful woman in America, feels “so guilty that she had to write a book about it.” When are women going to stop being plagued by guilt for all the things we’re not doing … and be free and content to do the things we want, need, are called to do? I don’t see dads being plagued by guilt about working or not spending enough time with their children … or really, constantly feeling guilty about anything in the same way that women are. Do you?
Mom: Yes, Daphne, I agree. I wish women could love and embrace who they are, where they are and yet know they can keep growing and learning and expanding without always comparing themselves with others. It seems like women struggle so much more with that than men. The comparison trap is so damaging. It holds us back and keeps us in the proverbial guilt trap. We don’t all have to be shooting for the same goals. Just enjoy and live in the present.
- - -
Here are few Sheryl Sandberg quotes from the interview:
“The very blunt truth is that men still run the world.”
What about the women’s revolution?
“I think we are stalled … and that we need to acknowledge that we are stalled so we can change it.”
Are you trying to reignite the revolution?
“I think so.”
“My entire life I have thought I should hold back on being too smart, too successful or too lots of things … women attribute their success to working hard, luck and help from other people. Men will contribute that same success to their own core skills.”
“[Women] start leaning back. They say ‘Oh I’m busy, I want to have a child one day, I couldn’t possibly take on anymore, or I’m still learning on my current job.’ I’ve never had a man say that stuff to me … plenty of women are as ambitious as men. But I am saying unequivocally and unapologetically that the data is clear that when it comes to ambition to lead—to be the leader of whatever you’re doing—men/boys outnumber girls/women.”
“Do not lean back, lean in.”
“This is deeply personal for me. I want every little girl who someone says they’re bossy to be told instead, ‘You have leadership skills.’ Because I was told that, and everyone I know who is in a leadership position was told that.”
“Everyone knows marriage is the biggest personal decision you make, but it is the biggest career decision you make … partner with the right person because you cannot have a full career and a full life at home if you’re also doing all the housework and childcare.”
“The studies show this: husbands who do more housework have more sex with their wives.”
“I feel guilty a lot. I compare myself to the women who are at home mothers with their kids. I think I’m a little intimidated to be totally honest. Because we all feel a little insecure about our own choices we get pitted against each other. Every woman I know feels guilty about the choice they’re making, including myself. In fact I feel so guilty I wrote a whole book about it.”
“I am not saying that everyone has the resources or opportunities that I have or that everyone’s husband is going to wake up tomorrow morning, read a book and start doing his share. But I am saying that we need to help women own the power they have, learn how to negotiate fair raises, get the fair pay they deserve.”
“The things that hold women back, hold women back from sitting at the board room table and they hold women back from speaking up at the PTA meeting.”
“It is easier for me to say this—and that’s why I’m saying it.”
“I feel like I’m doing all the leaning in that I can do right now.”
- - -
You can watch the 60 Minutes interview here. What do you think?
It Suits You
Jara, THANK YOU for giving me the chance to reflect on this topic. It was a really important concept for me to sit with for a while.
Here’s to me—and you—and all of us—living more and more and MORE (all of our) time in our own skin.
Let’s Get it On
Today I went all the way to Delice, just for The Grey Plume roast.
I take that back, I went there because even though Legend Coffee has an amazing cappuccino, there is no light at Legend Coffee. And the morning light at Delice is heavenly.
Okay, I’ll be completely honest now: I went to Delice for the fireplace. It’s a sunny day, and warmer outside than it’s been in weeks. Days like these, proper Midwesterners go on picnics.
I was humping the fireplace at Delice.
A Morning When “Nothin’ Can Harm You”
To be read as you listen to Summertime, by Billy Holiday
You shimmy across the room, socks picking up cat hair as you go.
The prism spins in the kitchen window, casting oval rainbows.
It’s all gray snow and icy streets outside
But in here, it’s summer in the south.
Brew a pitcher of sweet iced tea,
A squeeze of lemon your glass,
Crank up the heat another notch or two,
Sit down a spell,
Drink it slow.
And if you’re one of those
whose left side of the face doesn’t match
the right, it might be a clue
looking the other way was a habit
your predecessors found useful for survival.
not being beautiful.
Get used to seeing while not seeing.
Get busy remembering
while forgetting. Dying to live
while not wanting to go on.
- Li-Young Lee, from Self Help For Fellow Refugees
On Wednesday, Steve, Jane and I took a mini-road trip to Lincoln for a poetry reading by Li-Young Lee. Steve had introduced me to Lee’s poetry at an informal, spontaneous reading that we hosted at Peerless a year or two ago.
That day Steve read From Blossoms and I was transported back to childhood summers in Central California, when we would pick peaches from my grandpa’s tree—or perhaps sneak one from a neighbor’s orchard—and “devour them, dusty skin and all.” My desire was a mirror to Lee’s, so eloquently expressed:
O, to take what we love inside,
to carry within us an orchard, to eat
not only the skin, but the shade,
not only the sugar, but the days, to hold
the fruit in our hands, adore it, then bite into
the round jubilance of peach.
This poet was something special. So, even though I wasn’t very familiar with his work, when I heard that he would be in Lincoln, I knew I wanted to go.
We arrived a bit early and were lucky to get seats close to the front, though Jane was disappointed that they didn’t have coffee or rice crispy treats.* The Dean—a mathematician—gave a welcome that you’d expect from a mathematician at a poetry reading. Then the editor of the Prairie Schooner introduced Li-Young Lee, calling him a yogic poet, and preparing us to receive Lee’s “vulnerable gift of self,” and to recognize a poet who “risks everything to give it.”
When Lee took the podium, he looked a little flustered. First he attended to his rustle-y plastic bag of books, setting and resettling it on the podium. Then he seemed to remember that he was still wearing his heavy winter coat. He took it off, folded it loosely and dropped it onto the floor behind him.
He looked out at the crowd of 200-ish people, some still milling in the back, as more chairs were brought out and said, “Beginnings and ends are fraught with danger…so I’ll just wait a while until we’re in the middle.” And then he let the silence be, even a little longer than you’d expect. This is the part where I fell in love.
He read some poems, then invited some questions then read another poem or two. It was the expected format, like when you go to church and know that it’s going to go welcome-pray-announcements-pray-sing-pray-sermon-pray. But this was better than church.
He confessed that most of his poems about his wife are really about God (or Goddess?). From one such poem he read, “What she doesn’t say makes the sound of wind in the trees.” And then the lover says to the beloved: “Do you love me? I love you.” The question and declaration are never separated from one another; they are repeated eternally.
Since his childhood, Lee has been an exile—first from China, then from Indonesia; he is deeply familiar with issues of identity and displacement. You keenly feel his “loss of the homeplace.” His poems whisper mantras like, “practice until you feel the language inside you.”
In an old interview with The Sun, (which Steve sent me after the poetry reading) Lee was asked if his feelings of exile come from actual displacement from a country or if it’s his just his state as a human being. He replies:
I feel as if what I have gone through on the horizontal plane of history coincides with what we all go through in our psychic lives. I see that parallel between personal history and psychic history in my life as lucky: it makes things clearer for me.
Then he goes on:
I would like to be known as a poet of reconciliation, a poet who made it back from exile. You see, I have children, so everything’s at stake. My final report to them can’t be that our true human condition is homelessness and exile. Of course, if that’s what I ultimately discover, then that’s what I’ll report. But my hope is that someday I will be a poet of blessing and praise. I need to find my way home, and I need to get there authentically.
Lee’s honest persistency reassures us that we need not know the way to find it. He re-kindles the desire that spurs us further down the seeker’s path—not with soothing antidotes—but with unflinching acceptance of all that is.
Am I inside you? lying between her legs,
confused about the body and the heart.
If you don’t believe you’re inside me, you’re not she answered,
at peace with the body’s greed,
at peace with the heart’s bewilderment.
It’s an ancient story from yesterday evening
called “Patterns of Love in Peoples of Diaspora,”
called “Loss of the Homeplace and the Defilement of the Beloved,”
called “I Want to Sing but I Don’t Know Any Songs.”
(From Immigrant Blues)
* In the end, Jane wasn’t disappointed. The reception afterwards had coffee—with real cream!—and there was a whole table of almost-fancy sweet treats (although no rice crispy treats).
I had to lift a couple photos from Melissa and Brit’s instagram feeds so I could remember the good things that happened today. It started out as a pretty low day. February blues (again) + hormonal issues (yes, cramps).
But come 9am, Melissa arrived on the scene for an inspiring interview about the amazing work she does. Stuff like corporate community organizing and social work in cubicle farms. This woman, she’s the real deal.
Inspired by Kira Sedgwick of The Closer (watch it), I’ve started wearing braids. Way too often. It’s just that they’re so easy and fun to do. But it does not reflect well on the fact I haven’t had a haircut in ages. Those dead ends are screaming “HELP ME!” Besides I’m 38 years old, y’all. Things have got to change. And the Where’s Waldo scarf? There’s nothing like photography to make you reassess your wardrobe choices.
Speaking of wardrobe choices, before I left my house I did change out of my striped scarf, torn hoodie and yoga pants. (yep, I even put on underwear!)
After our interview, I spontaneously jumped into Melissa’s car and crashed a brunch at Lisa’s Radial Cafe with her, Marcia, Brit. It was all about the bacon (and friendship). Bon voyage, Brit. You will be sorely missed (as always). Again, the braids are whimpering their cries for help. And I am way-too-eagerly jamming my toast.
And now, the day is winding down. It’s 5:30pm and Nancy is sitting in the exact same position as she was in that first photo at 9am. She’s just SNORING now. I’m still wearing the blanket-y cardigan (not the holey hoodie). Thank you for bearing witness.
Shitty Morning Pages
I’ve been writing my morning pages. That means writing three pages—or, if I’m typing, 600 words—of the worst drivel ever. Just to get it out of the way. You know, prime the pump.
Sometimes when I’m out of words and I still am not finished with my task, I start to write absolutely whatever pops into my mind.
“There’s a lasting notion that the genie in the bottle will come out with rice. I don’t know if it’s true or not, but I believe something.”
That was today.
Caleb and I saw the Oscar nominated animated shorts at Filmstreams yesterday. Afterwards, I realized that none of the nominated films used speaking parts—yet they communicated so much. It inspires me to use fewer words to communicate more.
Fresh Guacamole was a fun one—even though the cook in me cringed to watch those finely “diced” chunks of plastic get mashed in.
However, the hopeless romantic within me will forever beat out the cringing cook; Paperman was my favorite.
February is absolutely the worst month. It’s only the 12th but I have already ashamedly teetered on the edge of Anne Shirley’s famous “depths of despair.”
Someone once said: “We need more poetry, sunshine and orgasms in our life.” All right, it was me—I said it. Today.
This morning there was poetry and the sun is shining. I won’t speak to the third bit.
All is (nearly) well with the world again.
- - -
For I Will Consider My Dog Percy
For I will consider my dog Percy.
For he was made small but brave of heart.
For if he met another dog he would kiss her in kindness.
For when he slept he snored only a little.
For he could be silly and noble in the same moment.
For when he spoke he remembered the trumpet and when he scratched he struck the floor like a drum.
For he ate only the finest food and drank only the purest of water, yet would nibble of dead fish also.
For he came to me impaired and therefore certain of a short life, yet thoroughly rejoiced each day.
For he took his medicines without argument.
For he played easily with the neighbor’s Bull Mastif.
For when he came upon mud he splashed through it.
For he was an instrument for the children to learn benevolence upon.
For he listened to poems as well as love-talk.
For when he sniffed it was as if he were being pleased by every part of the world.
For when he sickened he rallied as many times as he could.
For he was a mixture of gravity and waggery.
For we humans can seek self-destruction in ways he never dreamed of.
For he took actions both cunning and reckless, yet refused always to offer himself to be admonished.
For his sadness though without words was understandable.
For there was nothing sweeter than his peace when at rest.
For there was nothing brisker than his life when in motion.
For he was of the tribe of the Wolf.
For when I went away he would watch for me at the window.
For he loved me.
For he suffered before I found him, and never forgot it.
For he loved Anne.
For when he lay down to enter sleep he did not argue about whether or not God made him.
For he could fling himself upside down and laugh a true laugh.
For he loved his friend Ricky.
For he would dig holes in the sand and then let Ricky lie in them.
For often I see his shape in the clouds and this is a continual blessing.
- “For I Will Consider My Dog Percy” by Mary Oliver, A Thousand Mornings
The above photo was taken by Caleb Coppock. He and Nancy were both very attentive for this morning’s family poetry reading (Carol, however, did not attend). The above poem was everyone’s favorite.
Bad Portraits of Moi
Life with Caleb involves laughing every single day; it’s probably my favorite thing about our marriage. He helps me not to take myself so seriously! This on-going series of bad portraits entertains our friends and keeps me forever-humble.
Step out into the clearing All Alone,
And lean against the wind.
If lightening strikes,
You’ll be fired white.