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Day 6: A Canceled Flight, A New Perspective

When our plane touched down in Oklahoma, I was sleeping. Like one of those tilt-your-head-back and catch the flies kind of sleeps. Reader: I never sleep in public places (and half the time I have trouble sleeping in bed). So you can bet I was some kind of exhausted.

Our flight the night before had been canceled due to mechanical errors, so American rebooked us for the next morning. At first I was annoyed (it was so AMERICAN of them….they do this to us a lot). But then I was relieved. One more day at home in California. One more day with family.

That night (the extra one) I went with my mom and dad to my dad’s work party. Since he retired from being a Principal, he became a banquet bartender at a fancy hotel. The hotel was throwing their annual holiday party. Last year I was able to go too — so it felt special to be able to go again.

During the loud ’00s dance music, and while my dad played Blackjack with fake money, my mom and I walked the property. We found a jacuzzi and slipped off our shoes, and shared a few moments together while looking at the stars. It was one of those picturesque scenes out of the movies — a mother and daughter connecting. With three other siblings, a husband, a dad, and a son, it’s rare for my mom and I to be able to just sit uninterrupted. And it was lovely. (It was also fun seeing my dad mingle with his hotel co-workers….he loves a good time.)

(As I write this my mom is FaceTime-ing me. She must know I’m writing about her!)

On our drive home to our little town of Stillwater, OK, from the airport, it felt good to be back. That’s a mini-miracle all on its own. Because to be honest, living here can sometimes feel….different. So the shift in perspective was a welcomed one.

And to really grasp today’s wonder, when I came home, our friends who were watching our cat and plants left us donuts. AND (the best yet) one of my orchids (one that I wasn’t sure about) sprouted a new branch. A teeny branch, which will grow into a full stem, sprouting new buds, to finally BLOOM. Orchids are my soul flowers. I’m sure I’ll be writing more about them this year.

Day 1: Wonders of a New Year…at the Kitchen Table

A group of us gathered at the kitchen table this morning, on the first day of the year (and a new decade all together), eating fruit salad, donuts, quiche and sausage. We made our way around the table to discuss what our plans are for the coming year. My dad led the conversation, asking us to share our goals. There were professional resolutions, health and exercise plans, travel dreams, personal improvement, culinary courses, business ideas, educational goals, and an overall consensus that we needed more self-care.

I’m grateful for these kitchen table moments — time to reflect and share with the people I love most — and it’s empowering to lift each other up for a year ahead.

The kitchen table represents wonder to me because of its place of possibility. There are tears, laughs, hugs, inside jokes, good food to be shared. The kitchen table makes me feel like the world is a safe place, as long as we are sitting around with family. The kitchen table is a place to begin at, and return to. I guess it only makes sense to begin Wonder Year at the kitchen table, telling people why my phrase this year is, “level up.” I plan to level up in all areas of my life. If life is a game, I’m pushing myself to level three.

My dad, who retired a year ago, has since gone back to culinary school. Thirty-something years ago he ran a small catering company with his sister, and now he’s back to doing what he loves. He told me, “Cooks cook. And writers write.”

So here I am, writing about wonder — what it is, why it’s captivating, how to have more of it — in a leap year, 2020.

For the last night of 2019, I watched the sun set in Pacific Beach, in San Diego, CA. It was the last sunset of a wild decade. A decade that I found love, got married, had a kid, moved a bunch, graduated twice, and began a PhD program. I felt a sense of wonder as the sky turned to marbled cream-pink, at the possibilities ahead for all of us.

And today, on the first day of 2020, I spent it at the zoo with my sisters, Danika and Sydney, my mom, Kim, my brother, Gavin, husband, Nick, and son, Bennett. It’s easy to find wonder in a place like the San Diego Zoo, but the moment that stopped me was watching my youngest sister, Sydney, carry my son on her shoulders in awe of the birds in the aviary. There was a flock going buck wild — talking and singing and puffing their bright orange feathers in the bird cage. “It was like walking into a bird orgy,” someone said.

Maybe that’s what wonder is: something that makes you stop. Something that has you laugh and think about how wild and lucky and random this whole experience in life is.

I have a few hypotheses for wonder, but for today, I’ll leave you with the moment that first gave me wonder: the kitchen table.

And the zoo…

Tell me — how did you spend your first day of the new decade?

First sunset of 2020
Found this on a bench, on our last exhibit of the night.