Curveballs

Curveball: Slang Something that is unexpected or designed to trick or deceive.

I travel for business about two weeks a month. Sometimes I luck out and it’s fun, like when I got to go to South Beach. I may not get to do anything besides work but I get good pictures like this one from my hotel window in May 2013.

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Sometimes I luck out and the travel itself goes smoothly, getting there and back with no delays, no lost luggage. Smooth. As. Glass.

Sometimes life reflects perfectly, like on calm water. If your day started like this, it’s hard to believe it could go wrong. (photo courtesy of the internet, couldn’t find the photographer’s name)

Sometimes, though, life throws you a curveball or two. Recently I had one of those trips. Several of us flew to Denver, had a good meeting and then headed to the airport. I was flying home to San Antonio via Dallas (DFW) and had a very tight layover. On the way into the airport, I was already thinking ahead to how I was going to manage it. I have the FlightTracker app on my iPhone and it gives you all kinds of flight info, including gate numbers. I know DFW well and was all ready to map out my layover.

You know when you have plans, you assume life will play along? Silly you. To borrow from another saying, plans are made to be broken. It takes a lot of strength to realize that the plan is not reality. That afternoon, I had to dig deep for it. I was tired and, thanks to some chronic health problems, very close to a physical crash. The delays on my last trip were so severe that I needed a wheelchair.  The prospect of more delays was stressful, beyond what many can imagine.

My first flight was delayed and making the connection wasn’t looking good. Mini-melt down time.

“But wait,” you say, “aren’t there other flights? Can’t you just get them to re-book you?”

“Of course,” I respond. “I should have thought of that.” Seriously. So I take a deep breath and tell the ticket agent I’m panicking over missing my connection. She’s not terribly friendly but I’m calmer just for having said it. She gets me on a later flight from DFW to home and I’m on my way. I’m not thrilled but it’s no big deal. I figure I’ll park myself at my gate, do some email, read a book. Except we’d used my phone for navigation to around Denver and the battery was low.

“No problem!” you say. “Just plug into an outlet.”

“I’m on it,” I respond, looking around. “Huh. No outlets in sight.”

“How can Denver’s airport not have outlets?” You look at me as if I should try harder.

“Wait,” I yell, “there’s some over there!” I point at a bank of pay phones. Yeah, you read that right – it’s 2013 and the outlets are at a bank of payphones.

But, hold on. There are no chairs next to the payphones. And I’m in a dress. “Blerg!” It may seem unladylike but that’s the least of my concerns. I drop my bags, park myself on the floor and try to act like it’s perfectly normal for a businesswoman in a dress to sit on the floor. Thank goodness for stretch! (Uhh, fabrics. I know guys don’t care, but girls do.)

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Finally, our plane arrives. By now, I’m frustrated because the airline can’t seem to predict when the flight will actually take off. Uncertainty is itself a stressor. My new layover time is shrinking by the minute but it looks like I’ll have just enough time. Passengers line up and I can tell in one sniff that many have passed the time in the airport bar.

I find my seat and learn quickly that my seatmate is not just frustrated, he’s passed into the zone of being pissed. Pissed as in he’s very, very unhappy. He’s also more than mildly inebriated (pissed means drunk in UK slang). His lack of inhibitions and his frustration nearly end up getting him thrown off the plane for not turning off his phone. After a face down with the flight attendants, he quiets down and we finally (!) take off.  It’s only two hours to DFW. We’ll be off the plane soon enough.

We land in Dallas and the entire plane is now in a frenzy to get to their next gate. Thanks to my iPhone app, I already know my next flight is delayed. It’s late – after 10 pm – and the terminal is surreally empty except for us.

A funky sculpture in DFW's newest terminal.

A funky sculpture in DFW’s newest terminal.

It's late, I'm tired and yeah, the escalator made me dizzy, too.

It’s late, I’m tired and yeah, the escalator made me dizzy, too.

I ride the Skylink to my next gate, where, sure enough, the flight is delayed. We have a plane but no crew. Since the delays are not weather related, I know the airline will do nearly anything to get us home – they won’t want to pay for lodging. Now, after delays, drunken passengers and being a seriously tired puppy, I am in my happy place. I park myself on the floor again, open my book and zone out.

Once the crew arrives, the passengers crowd the gate agent like they think there aren’t enough seats for all of us. We finally get  on board, the attendants give the turn-your-electronics-off speech and…we continue to sit at the gate. The pilot informs us we’re waiting for a passenger who has “gotten turned around” in the airport.  It seems my day could have been worse, I could be worried about missing the final flight home. Isn’t it nice of the crew to wait for a passenger who is likely panicking as she runs to catch the plane? I wonder if she knows this? I wonder if she realizes how all of us (well, most of us) are happy to take a few minutes and make sure she gets to the plane.

So what’s the moral of the story? Life throws curveballs at you. How you react is up to you. There may be lots of justifiable reasons for you to lose it. Do you think, though, that my drunken seat mate made it easier for himself? I’ll bet he walked away from that day that thinking everyone was a jerk. We, of course, thought he was the jerk.

Having a plan is good, being prepared for curveballs is better. Equip yourself by working with what you got. Be grateful for what works, let go of what doesn’t. Curveballs come and plans go but your peace of mind goes with you everywhere.

US versus Them (uhh, that means all y’all who are not us and, no, I don’t find that at all confusing)

We’ve been watching “The Bridge” lately, a show on two police detectives trying to solve crime on the El Paso/ Ciudad Juarez border. It’s highlighted the us v them mentality that seems to be everywhere in politics these days.

What is the difference that happens on the border of our country? The U.S.-Mexico border seems to be so much more controversial than the U.S.-Canada border. Why is that? What makes the difference in our perception? Do we see Canadians as more like us than Central and South Americans? I’m willing to bet the Canadians (especially the French-Canadians) don’t see themselves the same as us on the south side of that particular border. Are Canadian immigrants OK and Mexican immigrants not? Do we have different objectives in each of these cultures? Or does it just feel different on the inside of our culture?

US versus Them – What’s really the difference in these two groups of people, except their labels?

I live in a city where 2/3 of the population has Hispanic or Latino ancestry and 40% of the households speak a foreign language (likely Spanish) in the home. In many ways, this is a city where the residents are as at home in the U.S. as they are in Central or South America. Do we love these neighbors any less than those who have European ancestry? Many of them are U.S. born of immigrant parents. Do we love these first-generation people any more than someone who has just arrived from another country? I struggle with why many in our nation condemn people who are “other” (other than themselves, meaning of different backgrounds) when, at some point, our ancestors were also ‘other’ to the residents of our nation. Can we not accept each other as individuals, without judging stereotypes?

This belief that “we” are somehow superior to “them” is known as ethnocentrism. It lacks humility and requires broad assumptions about others. I think I can safely argue that the British had this same ethnocentrism about the American colonies, and look where that got them.

I’ll leave you with this quote, it seems appropriate for a time in which we’re debating immigration and our role on the world stage. It’s as appropriate now as it was in the 19th and 20th centuries.

The love of one’s country is a splendid thing. But why should love stop at the border? Pablo Casals, Spanish cellist and conductor (1873-1976)

Wag more. Bark less.

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Fierce protectors, resting after a long day defending the palace.

All right, I think I’ve found my favorite slogan ever: “Wag more. Bark less.” Isn’t that awesome? We’ve got two large dogs so I may be biased about this obviously dog oriented philosophy. Our Weimaraners are good natured girls but they think they need to guard us from the hordes overrunning the back fence. What may look like an innocent rock, leaf or squirrel to you is, in reality, the next invasion of barbarians. Are dogs innately suspicious? Is it that simple? Or do they have justification for suspecting all kinds of nefarious things in our idyllic backyard?

You’ve probably heard the parable about two travelers coming upon a farmer on the outskirts of town. When the first traveler asks the farmer what kind of people live in the town, the farmer turns the question back on the traveler and asks what kind of townfolk lived in the traveler’s previous town. “A bad lot”, the first traveler answers. The farmer then advises this traveler that they will likely find what they have before. When a second traveler approaches and asks the same question, the farmer again responds with a question. This time, the traveler says they were good people and that he will miss them. Guess what the farmer says? OK, I know. Y’all have heard this before. Then you totally understand the relationship between my dogs and those travelers. The farmer tells the second traveler that he will likely find the same kind of people in the town, just like where he came from.  Like my dogs, the travelers see the same things and interpret them differently, one sees the negative, the other one sees the positive. In the case of the travelers, it is the type of people. In the case of my girls, it’s rocks and leaves masquerading as danger.

Some of you are mumbling (as the mother of a teenage boy, I have supersensitive hearing, the better to hear mumbles with….), “If it walks like a duck, talks, like a duck….” Well, I’ll give you that one. Sometimes people are bad and rocks are dangerous. But you have to think about the big picture – are all the people in your life bad? Is every rock a menace? If so, to paraphrase the farmer, maybe it’s you, not them. This brings me back to the simple joy of “Wag more. Bark less.” I think that’s a GREAT motto to live by. I’d rather see the joy in things. Yeah, so once in a while, I’ll get a nasty surprise. Does that mean I should always be looking for it from perfectly nice people? I’d like to have more faith than that. I’d like to wag more and bark less.

On the Hunt

On the hunt for barbarians, they could be anywhere, maybe even up in that tree.

References

 “Wag More Bark Less” is the slogan of Buddy Biscuits dog treats – http://www.cloudstar.com//prodcat/Wag-More-Bark-Less-Treats.asp

For more on the travelers and the farmer, see this excellent telling of the parable (scroll down to The Two Travelers and the Farmer): http://www.wisdomcommons.org/virtue/151-optimism/parables

You Say Toe-may-toe, I Say Toe-mah-toe

Do you ever feel like you’re talking to someone but not really communicating? We have to remember that we all see things differently. I hope you find the following true story a funny reminder of this.

San Antonio is very bicultural, with a seemingly even split between native Spanish speakers and native English speakers. Other cities, like Miami, are probably the same. A few years back, my Assistant was a woman named Yolanda, who was raised in a Spanish speaking home. Her family emphasized English and she easily thinks in both languages. Myself, I was raised with English and therefore read and think in it. I have a decent ear for language, though, and can speak Spanish with a good accent. There are a fair number of words that sound very different in the two languages and there are also names that are common in the Hispanic community that are not so common in the Anglo community, like Hector or Jesus.

Like much of Texas, San Antonio is a very religious town, with references to our Lord, Jesus Christ, being fairly common in conversations. (Can you guess where this is going?)

When Yoli and I worked together, there was a mobile jewelry salesman from Mexico City, Jesus (Hay-soos for those of you who aren’t familiar with Spanish pronunciation). Yoli & I knew Jesus, the salesman, pretty well; we almost always talked about him and rarely wrote his name down. In my head, he was (and still is) Hay-soos. For me, Jesus (Gee-zus) is a different person entirely. When Jesus the jewelry salesman would visit, Yoli and I made it a point to go see all his sparkly doodads. He would usually call one of his regulars and then she would pass the word through email and Yoli would tell me.

One day, he called Yoli to tell her he’d be in the lobby with some new trinkets. She then emailed me: “Jesus is coming today.” Not thinking of jewelry, I assumed she was telling me Jesus Christ was coming.

I don’t know about you but I wasn’t expecting His return to Earth to be announced via email and in such a calm fashion.. I would think that Yoli would at least have burst into my office with some sense of drama! She’s kind of excitable that way.

Trying to be cool about the whole thing, I calmly replied, (still in email) “Really, how do you know?” I also offered to pray with her, thinking a quick prayer couldn’t hurt. She then told me that He’d called her. I immediately realized that Yoli must have been the most special of humans to have gotten a call from our Lord, Himself. I was just about awestruck. We went back and forth in email a couple more times before she came giggling into my office to tell me that I was crazy and asking if I wanted to go see our friend from Mexico City and his sparklies…..

The moral of the story is that two people can be saying the exact same thing but in two different languages, carrying two different meanings. Also, we listen and see differently. Remember the next time you’re in an argument to listen for the difference.

The New Normal

I received a newsletter this week that was headlined with “Corporate corruption is the new normal, Americans say”. That seems so jaded, doesn’t it? Or is it just realistic? The media is full of corruption scandals but does that represent the norm?

I struggle with two concerns in this area. On the one hand, I’m a born cynic. I question anything and everything, but more in the interest of learning than in challenging the speaker’s credibility. This makes me tough to be around because people feel I don’t trust them. That’s a painful experience for the people who love me or work with me.

On the other hand, I want to believe people and this puts me at risk for being a chump. Cynics will point out the folly in trusting people; they say there’s a risk that people will take advantage. However, when we trust people, the trustworthy treasure it and your connections are strengthened.

So, how do you choose between these two? The last few years have taught me that I can choose the type of world I want to live in. Said differently, I can choose my normal. I choose to believe that people are trustworthy until they prove otherwise. I choose to believe that the buzz over corruption isn’t representative of the whole. I choose to not only trust people but to have faith in humanity as a whole. Sure, I’ll be a chump sometimes but life isn’t perfect. I choose for my imperfections to be one of having too much faith and not too little.

Our dog, Ipo, who is begging for trust despite hiding in the drapes like she’s been doing something she shouldn’t have. (Ipo is pronounced “ee-poe”, it means sweetheart in Hawaiian)