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.