Sunday, April 13, 2014

Real Love?

I get Christianity Today magazine and read an intriguing article towards the end of the April issue last week. Here's the first line: "The report is in, and the eulogy has been delivered. Romantic comedies are dead. I say that's good news." I was hooked. What could the writer possibly mean?

The writer described Hollywood's typical romantic comedy and argued that a new batch of movies and TV shows seem to be getting at a different message. Many of these recent offerings are either portraying the challenges of romantic relationships or are featuring relationships beyond the romantic as central to the plot. The writer described scenes from several recent movies and TV shows to support her point, including an example from Frozen, my new favorite animated movie. Instead of the act of true love being a true love's kiss in Frozen (a hinge point in so many romantic comedies), the act is a young woman sacrificing her life for her sister.

After citing examples, the writer gets down to the real reason the death of romantic comedies is a good thing. She writes: "Against all odds, Hollywood seems to be discovering that when we make romance the highest form of love, we're missing what love is all about...More important, we forget that love is not just for people in romantic relationships. Real love occupies our whole lives."

This article hits close to home and crystallized some thoughts I'd been turning over in my mind. As I get ready to turn 25 on Tuesday, my thoughts have inevitably turned to broader questions about my life and about life as a whole. Am I happy to be where I am in life? Am I okay with being single at a quarter century?

On Saturday, some dear friends of mine--a dad, two daughters, and one daughter's son--picked me up for an afternoon together. We had lunch at Rancho Chico and then went to visit their aunt, who lives near by. The big occasion for visiting was so the aunt could meet my friend's four-month-old son. The aunt lives alone, so we sat in her plain living room, drank peach tea with organic honey, and listened to her talk about various subjects--doctors, church, her son, organic food, and marriage all being among the topics.

One of the daughters is just 10 days older than me, so she had turned 25 the week before. The aunt asked her how old she was, and my friend answered.

"Twenty five!" The aunt said. "We have got to get you married. We have to find some nice man to snatch you up. We can't let you be an old maid."

Why not? I thought, rather peevishly. What's so bad about being an old maid? It's not a death sentence.

I've heard people express sentiments like this before, and though I'm still young enough to revel in my independence without regret, I always wonder what they dread will happen if I'm not paired up with someone post haste. It's not that these people are mean-spirited. On the contrary, it's not likely romance is even what they're hoping for when they wish for a spouse for a single person. Rather, they know that romantic love can give way to a life time of companionship and deep joy. I can understand that desire. I even wish it for myself often.

But, in the meantime, here I am. Single. Unattached. An old maid (depending on your standards). What's a girl to do? As the article says: "Romance is not the only kind of love that makes life worth living." Even in my limited experience of life, about to swell with another year, I've found this to be true. I've got a blessed number of friends and family and a God whose definition of love is constantly shattering the molds we squeeze it into. I have a feeling this year is going to be a wild ride. Hang onto your hats!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Menu-Planning Mojo

In the coming two weeks, I'm gonna need all the cooking mojo I can muster. I usually just cook two to three meals a week and eat the leftovers for lunch and dinner. It's easy; I only cater to my own whims. But I often find cooking for myself boring, which is why I like to try new recipes and new techniques and to play with new ingredients. For instance, a friend gave me some culinary lavender on Friday, and I spent a good bit of time researching recipes that evening (while watching Frozen). I've already made lavender ice cream and 16 lavender scones. I baked three scones and ate them with lemon curd and froze the others unbaked, so I can pull them out and bake them anytime.

I hope my success with my lavender treats has got me on a good foot for all the meals I have to make in the coming weeks. The first is a pancake breakfast for my company--Olive Tree--to celebrate a big software update that our development team has been working on for more than a year. We also invited the folks at Partners to breakfast since we're using their space to cook and eat. I'm guessing we'll be cooking for 35-40 people. The seven managers are cooking, but I'm in charge of planning the menu, buying ingredients, and giving orders on Wednesday morning. Despite the sometimes-harried nature of these events, I always like adding another event like this to my cooking resume. You never know when it will come in handy. The menu is has a lot of moving pieces, though: pancakes, waffles, crepes, fruit, baked egg dishes, sausage, and drinks. Wish me luck!

On Monday night, I'm hosting around 10 people at my house for our monthly children's ministry committee meeting. We used to have almost more food limitations in this group than I could count: vegetarian, doctor-ordered low-carb diet, gluten-intolerant, and a slight dairy-intolerance. While the gluten intolerant people are no longer in the group, I still try to be creative when I cook for this group, so the menu is as follows: Spring Risotto with asparagus and peas, deviled eggs, and cut veggies with homemade ranch dressing. I was planning to make a pavlova for dessert with baked meringues, a triple-berry compote, and whipped cream, but I was informed at church today that the dessert would be brought by my friend Karen. I have to admit I was disappointed, but as the reason for this dessert switch-up is my birthday the next day, I'm inclined to give in. :)

I have a reprieve on my birthday and will be enjoying milkshakes with a group of friends at the Milk Bottle, a classic Spokane joint. On Wednesday, I'll prep a meal with my friend Gerry for my church's monthly family night. In light of Easter the following Sunday, we decided on a simple menu of ham, green salad, sliced bread with butter, colored hard-boiled eggs, and Oreo Rice Crispy treats. Piece of cake!

The next day, my parents come into town until the day after Easter. We'll celebrate my 25th birthday and my dad's 60th birthday, both big milestones! I love planning the menu when my parents visit because they are so easily pleased. :) Thursday night, we'll have one-pot Arroz con Pollo. Friday, we're having Lemon Brioche Baked French Toast for breakfast. Lunch will be at a restaurant in town. Dinner will be Alaskan salmon and a wild rice casserole. A friend of mine gave me three filets of salmon and one filet of halibut several weeks ago that her husband caught himself in Alaska. I was so amazed at her generosity! I feel like I have pure (food) gold in my freezer.

Breakfast and lunch on Saturday are yet to be determined, but we'll likely need picnic food that day. The evening will feature broiled New York strip steaks and popovers filled with creamed asparagus. Dessert will be lemon ice cream and homemade shortbread. Yum! Easter is still up in the air, though I'm guessing my pavlovas will be on the menu for dessert. I've also spent this weekend filling my freezer with granola, vanilla frozen yogurt, and lavender scones and ice cream, so whatever else we are, we won't be hungry.

I found all my menu planning ironic after the sermon at my church today on Jesus' statement "I am the bread of life." Hunger is not what I'm feeling right now, but there was still something in the sermon for my food-filled brain. "In one of the most crucial points of Jesus' life," my pastor said, "he proclaimed that 'Man does not live by bread alone, but by the Word of God.' We still live on the Word of God, the Word made flesh, the Bread of Life." I'll keep this in mind as I eat and prepare meals in the coming weeks. God's grace is abundance. It's filet mignon once a day with peanut butter chocolate cheesecake for dessert. It's good to feel hunger, like the self-imposed hunger of Lent, but it's right to celebrate, too. And what better to time to celebrate than Easter?

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Happiest Place on Earth

I wrote this post for the Olive Tree Blog at work, and I'm sharing it here.

I don’t travel to new places very often; I love being at home. A couple weeks ago I broke the mold and traveled to southern California to spend time with my sister, and we spent a Saturday at Disneyland. The day was a happy whirl of rides, lines, ice cream, and warm sunshine, but around 3:30 that afternoon, when the park was at its most busy and we couldn’t walk without bumping into someone, I began to feel the effects of the crowds. As a child, I might have pitched a fit. But as such tantrums are not tolerated with adults (however much we might want to), I agreed with my sister that a half hour break in the car would be good for both of us. I recognized unmistakable symptoms of being overtired, irritable, and, in this new environment with so many unknown faces, a little fragile, too.

The next day, my sister and I visited my grandma who had recently suffered a minor stroke. My sister and I helped her from her wheelchair to the hospital bed, and she lay there helplessly, unable to use her arms to prop herself up on the bed. My sister and the nurse hoisted her up, and we stood over her, looking down.  She grabbed our hands, hers still surprisingly firm and strong, and said to us, “I’m sorry you have to see me at my worst.” I smiled at her and squeezed her hand, but my insides wrinkled uncomfortably as I recalled the day before, overwhelmed in the happiest place on earth, ready to burst into tears like a petulant child. My grandma’s worst didn’t seem that much different than my worst.

Two weeks later, I sat in the Ash Wednesday service at church and listened to the words of invitation to the observance of Lent:

“Friends in Christ, every year at the time of the Christian Passover, we celebrate our redemption through the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. Lent is a time to prepare for this celebration and to renew our life in the paschal mystery. We begin our journey to Easter with the sign of ashes. This ancient sign speaks of the frailty and uncertainty of human life and marks the penitence of this community.”

As the sign of the cross was marked on my forehead with ashes, I was struck by the troubling paradox in the words of invitation, new life and frailty in the same breath. It’s like Lent itself, a season marked by penitence and fasting, which is puzzlingly placed at the time of year when the created world is bursting into new life. The grass becomes green again, the trees straighten towards the light, and flowers emerge from the cold ground.

I realized as I felt the ash on my forehead that my grandma and I both represented the paradox of Lent. My grandma, whose earthly body is failing, is headed for the new life that awaits us in heaven, where the earthly wear and tear fades away forever. While still young and healthy, I have my own frailty in wrestling with the sin and brokenness that are inherent to human life. And yet, the promise of new life still extends to me in the culmination of Lent, that glorious triumph of the cross of Christ. I like Disneyland and all, but surely living in the light of new life, even with the shadow of death, is the happiest place on earth.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

The Beauty of Words

I've spent the last couple months tangled up in the beauty and excitement of language. This emergent theme in the last couple months prompted me to take a three-pronged approach to adding language to my life during this Lenten season instead of fasting like I've done in recent years. January and February were rich months of taking in words through reading, but I haven't been pouring words back out through writing. I've recently had an itch to write, so here are my Lenten goals:

  1. Journal for 15 minutes each day. No less time, but perhaps more time if I feel lead.
  2. Blog once a week.
  3. Memorize Psalm 139 and a yet-to-be selected poem.
Writing has always been a helpful way for me to think through life, and I felt uncomfortable with my lack of discipline in writing the more I read. A couple things I read (or listened to) made me particularly sensitive to my lack of discipline. The first was that I started getting the Spokesman Review, albeit a recycled version. I mentioned to my mentor that I missed reading the paper every day. No sooner had I said it than we had worked out a plan. She would get the paper from her neighbors every morning, read it, and then put the papers in a plastic bag outside her door, so I could pick them up (usually several at a time) on my way home from work. It's great to read the paper as a whole, but I've particularly enjoyed the poems that are included in the paper each Sunday, chosen by a former U.S. poet laureate. There's something about poetry--some magic, perhaps--that conjures the love of words.

The second is a little embarrassing to admit, but fun, too. I listen to a lot of music at work while I type at a computer all day. Back in December, I saw the movie 'Frozen' and spent a couple weeks at work listening to the soundtrack. The sophistication of the lyrics caught my attention along with the heartfelt vocals. I started a Pandora station with songs from Disney movies and Broadway musicals, anything from 'Annie Get Your Gun' to 'Mary Poppins.' Lyrics catch my attention because so many of the songs tell a story and use the classic pairing of words and music to explore the meaning of life. Listening to these songs gave the week-in-week-out routine of work and home a new context. Life is full of adventure, humor, sorrow, and routine and words put to music give life poignancy. You can even sing to people instead of talking to them, like I did with my housemate when she bought a new car. She'd been thinking about it for a while, so when she finally drove the car into the driveway, I sang to her: "You did it! You did it! You said that you would do it, and indeed you did" (from My Fair Lady). She only thought me half-crazy.

The third concerns the two books I read for my Sunday School book discussion class. In January and part of February, we read 'Cry, The Beloved Country' by Alan Paton, a novel about South Africa in the 1940s. In March and April, we're reading a non-fiction book called 'Letters from the Land of Cancer' by Walter Wangerin, a series of letters the author writes as he's experiencing cancer. The written words on the page are beautiful, but the beauty of the words and stories also extends to the discussions we enjoy in class each week. Our conversations allow us to question what we don't understand, extend the stories to our lives, and share the phrases in the books that challenged, encouraged, and moved us. The language of the stories allows us breathing room to discuss subjects that are challenging--sorrow, justice, death, and love. These subjects need the flesh and blood of stories to come alive and move us.

All these experiences led me to miss the process of reflection that comes with thoughtful writing. Here's my attempt, if only for the Lenten season, to move the words from inside my head and heart to the page, paper or computer screen, and to put flesh and blood on my own story.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Recent Highlights

Happy Advent! I have a couple highlights from the past week that I want to share with you with a couple pictures to illustrate.

For the second year in a row, my office had a Christmas decorating competition last week. We formed the office into three areas and the employees into three teams. My team decided on a "Christmas land" theme complete with a Christmas photo booth as you see in the photo below. And, we WON! It was exciting. :) My co-worker took a short video of the decorations that you can watch here. I think we won because the judges (from my old workplace, Partners!) loved posing at our photo booth so much.

I have to admit that I was partially dreading the competition (which is terrible because I'm the event planning head!), mostly because the task seemed daunting. Of course, I shouldn't have worried because my co-workers had great ideas and skill. It's been so fun to turn on all the Christmas lights in the mornings when I first get to work.

For the second year in a row, my church has had a women's retreat at Camp Spalding/Clearwater Lodge, which is the main Presbyterian camp and retreat center in the Spokane area. It's just about 40 minutes north of my house in the beautiful pine-wooded, lake-filled countryside. The photo below is looking across Davis Lake towards the distant mountains from the room where we had worship sessions. We experienced most of the outdoors through big windows because the temperatures have been in the teens for the last couple days. I took a walk on Saturday afternoon and it look my legs 30 minutes to thaw--no kidding! You can see in the picture below that the shore of the lake has iced over.

My friend Margy and I drove up to camp on Friday afternoon and joined about 45 other women. The whole weekend was lovely. There's something about being away from home in a retreat setting that gives women the freedom to share more freely and deeply. We had some great moments of laughter and of sharing our stories together. After dinner on Friday night, we split into six groups and had to create a Nativity scene with the materials we had available at our tables. The photo below is the Nativity scene my group created. Someone commented that the sheep looked like ghosts, which I have to agree with. The yellow rays from the star was just the plastic that held in a package of paintbrushes. How cool is that? We had some very creative women in my group. I appointed myself Chief Glue-Gun Operator since it requires very little creative energy. :)

I decided to drive up to Trader Joe's today to take advantage of the dry weather, since the only Trader Joe's in the area is about 30 minutes from my house and up a big hill. I went in with a list and left with only two items on that list. Oops! At one point, an employee asked me, "Are you finding everything on your list?" because I was staring at it perplexedly. I gave him a wry grin and said "Yes, thanks." On my mental list, that is. I found that the meal I had planned to make no longer sounded good, so I did some quick meal planning in my head and ended up with what you see below. The veggie broth, barley, pearl onions, and parsnips will become a Pearled Barley Broth from one of my favorite veggie-centered cookbooks. The Merlot will be cooked in a five-hour meat sauce to go on the pasta. The dried apricots (which are incredibly delicious!), cranberry-covered goat cheese, carrots and cucumber will become my lunch for the week. Tomorrow's lunch will be dried apricots and cranberries, a hard-boiled duck egg (from my cousin), crackers and the goat cheese, and the veggies. Yum! 

Time in general seems to fly by, but the Advent/Christmas season always zip by particularly quickly. I wonder why. I'm trying my best to savor Advent, the unique season in the Church Year of longing, anticipation, introspection, and joy. I'll leave you with a couple verses from one of my favorite Advent songs, Holy Is Your Name, a traditional Scottish hymn.
My soul is filled with joy as I sing to God my savior:
You have looked upon your servant, you have visited your people.
Refrain: And Holy is your name, through all generations!
Everlasting is your mercy to the people you have chosen, and Holy is your name.
In your love you now fulfill what you promised to your people.
I will praise you, Lord, my savior, everlasting is your mercy.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Extending Grace: The Ministry of Bearing

I can't remember when this idea first crept into my mind. We've been going through an excellent sermon series at church this fall about the facets of the Kingdom of God, things like fellowship, witness, simplicity, covenant, and persecution. It could have been in one of these sermons. Or the idea could have poked up its head in one of my conversations with a mentor or friend. I've also been leading a book study at church on Dietrich Bonhoeffer's pithy volume Life Together. I'm sure the idea partly came about through this book. Simply put, the big idea that's been on my mind and in my heart is the call that we have to extend grace to our fellow human beings.

Bonhoeffer gave me the words to express what this ministry is called in Scripture: the ministry of bearing. Paul writes: "Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindess, humility, meekness and patience, bearing with one another..." (Col. 3:12-13a). As I've thought more about it, my experiences in life recently have given body and shape to this idea of bearing with or extending grace to others. Or, more accurately, life has tested my limited ability to extend grace.

In church a couple weeks ago, my pastor introduced new members to the congregation. He said something like: "We have a divine call to welcome these new members into our congregation and to love them, to delight in their gifts, passions, idiosyncracies and oddities." The congregation laughed, but the truth is plain as day. We're all a bunch of idiosyncratic weirdos. Need any evidence? Spend 10 minutes with another person. Or, better yet, spend two minutes with yourself!

In my book study yesterday, we discussed the ministry of bearing with others as Bonhoeffer describes it. I was still trying to understand what this ministry was, so I asked three questions: 1) What is the ministry of bearing? 2) Have you ever thought of this as a ministry? 3) How do we practice the ministry of bearing? One person very thoughtfully said, "Well, it kinda sounds like putting up with others." We all laughed and agreed. I didn't expect to have my questions answered in one fell swoop, but there it was, clear as day. Bonhoeffer further describes the ministry of bearing:

"The freedom of the other person includes all that we mean by a person's nature, individuality, endowment. It also includes his weaknesses and oddities, which are such a trial to our patience, everything that produces frictions, conflicts, and collisions among us. To bear the burden of the other person means involvement with the created reality of the other, to accept and affirm it, and, in bearing with it, to break through to the point where we take joy in it."    
Notice he says that we "break through" to the point of joy. We don't usually get there right away. It takes struggle to bear this ministry faithfully. Perhaps this concept has been so striking to me recently because life has been so ordinary and this is a ministry of ordinariness. What could be more day-to-day than colliding with the created reality of our brothers and sisters? I could count out the examples from today alone in a few short minutes, but I do have two stories I want to share particularly.

The first story is from this summer when I took a day trip with my family to the Oregon Coast. For my family, family vacations are full of laughter and fun, but also memories of personalities colliding and expectations being thwarted. At the very beginning of the day, my dad insisted that he needed to deposit his check in the bank before we did anything else. Somehow, this started us off on a brilliant way of handling each other's "weaknesses and oddities." Whenever someone's oddities poked through and caused friction, we would gleefully shout: "Quirk! Quirk!" Instead of causing more tension, this simple statement released the tension, like the cap being opened on a soda. The tension fizzled away, and we would inevitably burst into laughter. But beyond just releasing the tension, acknowledging each other's quirks gave us insight into each other's needs and wants and gave us an avenue for communication. It opened up the possibility of extending grace to each other, and I learned a valuable lesson.

Bearing with each other isn't always so easy. It doesn't always have a good outcome. But this doesn't change our calling to bear with each other. In fact, I believe that God will, as he always does, extend grace to us as we extend grace to others.

Several weeks ago, my friend and I were cooking pancakes for breakfast. I had made a delightfully fluffy sour cream pancake batter, and my friend was in charge of flipping. As she poured on batter, flipped the pancakes, and slid the cooked hotcakes onto a platter, she told me about the tough time at work she'd had the day before. As she talked, I noticed that she was pressing all the air out of the pancakes with her spatula, thus ruining the airy fluffiness that had so excited me. The words were almost out of my mouth when a thought popped into my mind. She is upset, and she's taking her frustration out on these pancakes. It was a totally mindless act because she was focused on telling me her story. And what was I doing? Worrying about culinary perfection. Then came the three redemptive words: "Extend her grace." And I did. I shut my mouth and listened and ate flat pancakes with a new appreciation.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Month-Gone Highlights

Hello! Thought you'd never hear from me again? No luck! Here I am again, eating a freshly-baked molasses cookie. I don't usually do trial runs of recipes before serving them to guests, but I made an exception for molasses cookies.

Here are several highlights from the last month of my life:

1. Somehow I ended up with two full gallons of apple cider back in October. I went up two Sundays in a row to Green Bluff only to find that the Hansens were completely sold out of apple cider. Finally, I made a special trip up there on a Friday afternoon and got my coveted cider. The next Friday, I got two free half gallons from a friend. I spent a lot of time on food blogs, searching for recipes and ended up making apple cider quick bread, apple cider baked beans (which I ate for a full, long week!), several batches of steel-cut oats, freezing several yogurt containers full, and drinking many warm mugs in the evenings. Ah, fall!

2. On the last Saturday in October, my friend Gerry invited me to a harvest party and hay ride out in the country. The man who hosts the party each year farms a ton of land (like 1,000 acres!) and has a beautiful spot in the country north of Spokane. Right after we arrived, a bunch of us (there were probably a good 50 people there with tons of little kids) hopped into two trailers packed with hay bales for the first hay ride of the evening. I sat next to a lovely older couple, and we bounced along for about half an hour. Tim, the farmer, pulled us with his big, ol' tractor. At one point in the ride, the back trailer that I was on came unhitched from the front trailer when we jounced over a rocky spot. It was tremendously exciting. :)

It was so lovely to crest the hill of wheat-stubbled fields on our hay ride as the sun was setting and the mist was drifting in. We saw a herd of deer and one of my companions pointed out the fiery yellow larches--conifers that lose their needles in the fall--that were striking against the dark green of the Ponderosa pines. We had a delicious potluck dinner with hamburgers and hot dogs and a full table of desserts. Gerry's daughter, daughter's son, and his family were also at the party, and we all went out on a second hay ride in the dark. At first, I thought it would be scary and cold, but then we got distracted by the night sky. The heavens opened and stars burned through, bright and clear. The six-year-old who was with us stared up and said, "Wow! That looks like outer space!" We four adults got a good chuckle out of that. We spent the next half hour looking for constellations and watching for the ghostly lights of the barn that shone through the mist. As you can tell, the party was fodder for an active imagination.

3. Since September, the aforementioned Gerry and I have been cooking meals for a monthly family night at church. The day before Halloween, the youth group hosted a carnival and chili cook-off for the kids and their families. I purchased all the sides for the chili and was there early to arrange them and help the youth director with all the preparations. It was a madhouse when all the kids were there! I sat by myself with my chili when I finally sat down because I was a little stupefied. I rallied, though, and ran the craft table for the quieter kids. Being removed from childhood, it was fun to see the boundless enthusiasm of the kids in their costumes as they decorating cookies, cake walked, and had their faces painted.

4. For the third year in a row, my friend Heidi and I spent the first Saturday evening in November listening to the Whitworth jazz band play with a famous jazz musician, this year the saxophonist Chris Potter. The Whitworth jazz band is fabulous! Heidi and I listened with rapt attention and great big grins. There was one song I loved particularly because it featured a saxophone trio with Potter and two students. They seamlessly slipped the solo between the three of them and it was marvelous. It filled me with delight, and I had to stand up and clap when it was done while also regretting that it didn't go on for many minutes more.

5. Work has been an adventure the last two months. My department--customer support--has a steady work load. In an average week, we get about 400 e-mails from customers about every topic imaginable relating to the Olive Tree Bible Study app, our website, sales, etc. Due to financial tightness, we had to let a person from my department go at the beginning on October. Several weeks later, another co-worker resigned, leaving my department with two people. The first full week in November, my one remaining co-worker was on vacation for a whole week, leaving just me in my department. It was a busy, crazy week, and I learned a lot. About 10 of my co-workers from other departments helped out in the e-mail queue that week, so I got to lead them, answer questions, refine my own techniques and understanding, and work my tail off. It was a good week, but boy was the next week even better with my co-worker back to share the load of people waiting for help! There are still just two of us in support (though still with plenty of help from other departments), so it continues to be draining. I can't wait for a change of pace at Thanksgiving.

Well, those are the highlights! I do have a closing thought for you though. I'm part of a book club during Sunday School at church, and the leader asked me to co-lead this year. We've been reading Dietrich Bonhoeffer's Life Together, and I'm finding it to be full of challenging and rich passages. I have my dad's version from 1979, and it has so many underlinings and notes and scribbles. It's delightful! I spent a lot of time alone this weekend. Really alone because I hardly saw any of my housemates after Saturday afternoon. It was thus ironic that the chapter we discussed in Sunday School yesterday was "The Day Alone." Being alone always makes me take stock of my life. So much of life is so very ordinary. As I looked back in my planner, so much of what I do day to day is the same: eat lunch and make lunch, walk, journal, look at recipes online, read, talk with my parents, e-mail, ignore chores, fill up the laundry basket, do laundry, fold laundry, and on it goes. And yet, the ordinariness is infused with changing, shifting life. New lessons to learn, challenges to overcome, gratitude to be expressed, and daily life to be shared. Life isn't always easy, but there is always plenty to be thankful for, and today I'm thankful for life, the ordinary and extraordinary both.