Monday, January 23, 2017

Word of the Year

Two years ago, a column by Mary Schmich in the Chicago Tribune caught my eye.

She encouraged her readers to choose a Word of the Year and use it as a watchword, a guide, a nudge. So in January 2015 I chose the word smile as a reminder to myself and, in part, as a tribute to my childhood Cubs favorite, Ernie Banks, who had passed away that month.

Last year the word was breathe, to foster everyday deep breathing and as a vital part of singing. (I don't think I was able to smile and breathe simultaneously until the Cubs won Game 7 of the World Series.)

In hopes that the International Rules of Word of the Year allow this, I have adopted two words for 2017. Last year on National Public Radio's "Wait! Wait! Don't Tell Me!" veteran TV producer Norman Lear was asked the secret to his successful and long life. His answer: "over and next." As in, that's over; it's time for the next thing.

Over and next give me the grace to know that what's done is done and to look ahead to what's to be. To not dwell on the successes and failures, yearning for the good ol' days or punishing myself for real or perceived mistakes and transgressions. The words work for pretty much all corners of life.

The rules provide for changing your word or words through the end of January. But I won't. I'm eager to see what's next.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

2016: Of Cubs and Cousins

Some day soon, you may sit around a table at an Asian restaurant and search the placemat to find your birth year and the associated animal. You'll smile at the perfectly apt and perfectly opposite traits ascribed to you and your friends and family. (I was born in a year of the Horse. According to the zodiac webpage I just consulted, I'm more cunning than intelligent. Have to figure a way around that.)

I predict a new animal sign for 2016. It was the year of the Cub.

Early in the year, from the offseason trades to the hope of spring training, we knew it would be "our year." For me, it was also the year of the Cousins, my oldest friends.

In 2014, I was contacted by Flemming Rossen, who found me through my website and is my third cousin on my dad's side. He grew up in western Denmark and now lives with his family in a suburb of Stockholm. It's been a joy to get to know him, and in June 2016 he and his wife and children came to the U.S. and stayed with us for a few days. During that time, I hosted a big family dinner. Yes, enter the cousins from the Chicago area, as well as my daughter Miranda and her boyfriend, Tony. 'Twas a great evening of connection.

My cousin Dave and his wife, Julia, visited from Dallas in July. With his sister Sue and family, we went to a Cubs game versus the Texas Rangers. (The Cubs won, but Dave wasn't too distraught because he's also a Cubs fan.) We all got together again Oct. 28 at Sue and Ken's to watch the first Cubs World Series game in Wrigley Field since 1945, which did not go as planned.

Mid-August saw my husband, Bob, and I driving down to Morton, IL, to my cousin Marj and Brent's house. My 93-year-old Aunt Betty was in town from Houston. We had a fun and loving visit, which Miranda in Chicago and Dana in New Orleans were able to join by Skype. This was all the more special because, on Oct. 31, my dear aunt peacefully passed away.

The Chicago Cubs' postseason was this diehard fan's dream, though I think I'm still sleep deprived from all the late-night games. When they won that incredible Game 7 of the World Series, there were much tears and texting among us. Because of the lateness of the hour, I waited till the next morning to call my dad in Florida to share in what we've hoped for since I was a little girl in Wrigley Field.

The year 2016 ended with a great celebration on Dec. 31 in Morton of the lives of Aunt Betty and Uncle Henry, who died in 2000. My cousins Marj, Bob, and Bill did an amazing job of helping us rejoice in the memory of two of the best people I've ever known.

So I wish you a good 2017 and say I'm proud to be a Rossen cousin . . . and a Cub fan.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Unique words

Recently, I came across a list of words in various languages that have no good one-word equivalent in other languages.  There weren't any examples from English, but I imagine that ours would be Kardashian.
Being a wordsmith--a guardian of the language, if you will--I feel it my duty and privilege to share my favorites.
Torschlusspanik: from German, it literally means "gate-closing panic." It's the fear of diminishing opportunities as one ages, which evidently is a problem with some people. Or so I've read.
Wabi-sabi: from Japanese, it's the flip side of Torschlusspanik. It's a way of living that emphasizes finding beauty within the imperfections of life and accepting peacefully the natural cycles of growth and decay. Well, OK then.
Hyggelig: from the land of my heritage, this Danish word translates as "good friends, cold beer, warm fire."
Aren't words wonderful?

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Mother's Day week

It's two days after Mother's Day and I'm still smiling.

On Sunday, my daughter Miranda and her boyfriend, Tony, treated me to brunch at Hash House a Go Go, one crazy Chicago restaurant. The conversation, rapport, the unusual menu (a BLT Bloody Mary?)--all gifts to this grateful mom. And later that day, my daughter Dana called me from California for a great chat.

Many are the gifts and challenges of motherhood, and I thank God for them all. (I can't honestly say I was real thankful in the midst of the challenges, but such is my perspective now.)

This week I'm also thankful for my mother, Ethelyn Heitman Rossen, who would have been 85 last Saturday. I cherish the 12 Mother's Days we shared as moms together.

Monday, February 2, 2015

The word for 2015

Last month--which I think of as, say, November--one of my favorite columnists in the Chicago Tribune encouraged readers to do a different take on New Year's resolutions. Mary Schmich passed along an idea from one of her readers to adopt a word for the year. And you have until January 31 to change your mind and pick a different word.

Being a wordsmith, I was naturally taken with the challenge.

My first idea was confidence, my supply of which I sometimes let get depleted. I also thought of cherish, loving and appreciating my family and friends (my husband, by the way, shows me every day that he cherishes me, and I'm so grateful).

I chose instead the word order, which has a remarkable number of definitions. Bringing order to cluttered parts of my home. Putting my affairs in order, not before imminent death but so that I can live better. Doing things in the proper order--at work, in building relationships, in setting priorities, in tackling projects. Being a more active and prayerful member of Daughters of the King, a lay order in the Episcopal Church.

A couple of weeks later, I participated in a workshop on basic presentation skills. We had the delightful experience of watching ourselves on video, and I could not believe how serious I came across. Yikes. It became a priority to remedy that during the balance of the workshop.

The next day, Ernie Banks died. He was my childhood--and now adulthood--idol. Mr. Cub was my favorite, with his positive outlook, delicate but strong grip on the baseball bat, and fancy footwork at first base. My dad and I would always sit in the section directly in line with first base because of him. He was sunshine on a warm summer's day at Wrigley Field.

So I changed my word for 2015. It is smile.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Photos in gallery

Due to technical difficulties beyond my control or knowledge, I was unable to post the photos. They'll be in the Photo Gallery section of my website at

Saints alive

As the thermometer drops to astonishing lows for mid-November, I share with you, in my next post, some final fall photos taken two weeks ago.
This month also includes what is turning out to be one of my favorite combos of holidays: Halloween/All Saints' Day/All Souls' Day. From the joy of dressing up (or greeting trick-or-treaters and remembering your own childhood), to the celebration of our connection with believers through time and geography, to the always-welcome Thanksgiving, November has gone up several pegs this year.
All Saints' Day, which celebrates the officially canonized and folks like you and me, is November 1 but in many churches was "moved" to be observed Sunday, November 2. The next day we remembered the saints no longer with us on earth, who this year were joined by my brother-in-law, Dave Burgwald, and my friend Nancy Milnes.
I rejoice in the hymns of these holidays, especially "For All the Saints." Beginning with the opening downbeat on the organ ("bahm" is my interpretation thereof), I rejoice in its message of the communion of the saints. I'll close with verses 1 and 4 of the 11 written by Anglican Bishop William W. How in 1864:

[bahm] For all the saints, who from their labors rest,
who thee by faith before the world confessed,
thy name, O Jesus, be forever blest.
Alleluia, Alleluia!
[bahm] O blest communion, fellowship divine!
We feebly struggle, they in glory shine;
yet all are one in thee, for all are thine.
Alleluia, Alleluia!