Saturday, February 22, 2014

The Spectacular Ordinary: Day ??

Well, here I go again, starting a blog series with every good intention of writing every day, but, once again, failing backing down from my original goal.

But even though I haven't kept up with the writing about finding the spectacular among the ordinary (hey, the month's not over yet!), I haven't stopped looking. And last week, I found such a wonderful example that I just have to share it with you.

And it's just another reason I love Target.

So there I was, just an ordinary day of errand running, standing in the line at Target. I chose a line and found myself standing behind a boy of about six or seven years old. He was wearing black pants, tennis shoes, and a fedora.


And he was buying one thing--a pair of earrings. For his mom? For his aunt? His teacher? Himself? Who knows.

So Fedora boy walked up to the clerk--her name was Jill--and handed her his purchase.

"Is this is?" asked Jill.

The boy nodded.

"These are so pretty! Are they for your mom? Or are they for you?" Jill asked with a sly smile on her face.

No response, but I'm starting to take notice.

Jill then leaned over to the boy and said, "You know, these are kind of expensive. Do you have enough money?"

The boy whipped out a $20 bill.

"Wow, you're all set!" said Jill. "You seem like you're kind of into fashion. You sure look sharp with that hat."

The boy smiled and shrugged his shoulders. Still nothing. They finished their exchange, and the boy skipped off to meet his mom.

It was my turn, and as I approached the counter our eyes met, we smiled and said, "Wasn't he just the cutest thing?!" Then I looked at her and said, "You were so sweet with him. I just want you to know that watching you with that boy just made my day. Thanks for being so nice to him."

And do you know what?! Jill leaned over the counter and hugged me! And then she said, "You are so nice! Thank you for saying that. YOU just made my day!"

In those few minutes, I realized once again that it doesn't take much to make someone's day. Just watch. Just listen. Just look for it.

The spectacular is out there and it's in each one of us.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Top 5 Lines from Downton Abbey, S4:E7

Oh my word, you guys! I thought this week was the best episode of the season--so much happened!

First, though, could I just get something off my chest? Cora. Seriously, I've tried. I really have. I love Elizabeth McGovern--I've loved her since the '80s when she starred in "She's Having a Baby" alongside Kevin Bacon. So I was thrilled to learn when DA first came out that Elizabeth McGovern would be playing the Lady of the House.


Notsomuch anymore.

Is it just me, or does she deliver the same line in the same way every time? With that half-mooned smile on her face that just demands to be slapped?

And, I know this isn't EM's fault, but is Cora not the most clueless mother in the world?

"Hey, Mom, I kinda want to take off for Switzerland for a few months because, you don't know it yet, but I'm having a baby." 
"Well, I really don't know what to think about that, but I'm so busy with this church bizzaaaarrrrre that I can't even begin to think about that so, oh well, why not?!"

It took less than two seconds for her to think that one over.

This week just about did me in where Cora is concerned. Every time she came on screen I just cringed. Please, make her stop!

Alright, I feel so much better now.

Wait. One more rant. I jotted down four phrases this week that were definitely NOT in use prior to the 1920s. What is that?! It bugs me so much when Julian Fellowes writes modern colloquialisms into his scripts.

Anyway, here are the four I picked out. Did you find any more?

"I'm not on the market." (Mary said to Tony G.)
"It's like herding cats." (Cora, of course.)
"It's no big thing." (Mary)
"You know the drill." (Carson)

Could we not just stick to using words like "Golly" (which Cora used at least twice in this episode)?

Good grief!

Despite all of my complaints, I still loved this episode. Let's get to my favorite lines from this week.

1. I think things might be turning around for Molesley. He actually seemed like he had a backbone when he was talking to Miss Baxter.

"It's just coffee. You won't have to surrender any of your independence."

Good one, Molesley!

2. And how about that Mr. Drew, the pig man? Words of wisdom from him:

"Work's like old age, My Lady. Worst thing in the world, except for the alternative."

3. Violet was up to her wonderful ways again this week. How I love her! And that scene when she invited Edith and Rosamund to "luncheon"? Priceless.

"Rosamund has no interest in French. If she wishes to be understood by a foreigner, she shouts."

Of course. Who doesn't?

4. I absolutely love what has happened to Mary's character this season, especially in this episode. She has matured into a lovely, level-headed, wonderful woman, and I like her a lot. I'm so glad she came out of the fog she was in during the first episode and has gotten herself an occupation.

Side note: the scene with Tony when they are having lunch in that big, glass conservatory-type building? I wish I knew where it was, but it looks exactly like the Orangerie at Kensington, and if it is, I'm so happy because Kate and I had tea there one time.

Anyway, in that scene, Tony professes his love for the how-many-eth time (Go team Tony!), and Mary has a great response.

Tony: I'm not giving up, Mary. Not until you walk down the aisle with another man, and quite possibly not even then.
Mary: I find that irritating and beguiling in equal measure.

I may have to add that one to my lexicon.

5. I had to save my sweet Daisy for last because this week her scenes made me cry so hard.

First of all, this picture. I gave you a wide shot because just LOOK AT THAT SETTING!!! Want to know why I love England? That.

Anyway, Mr. Mason, what a dear, gives the best advice to Daisy regarding Alfred.

Mr. Mason: There won’t be too many people that you love in your life, and he’s one.
Daisy: I don’t know what I feel about him, not now.
Mr. Mason: Even so, you need to say goodbye to this young man, with nothing jagged, nothing harsh between you. 

See? What a dear!

And then, that scene when Daisy says goodbye to Alfred (poor puppy). I was sobbing!

Later still, when Mrs. Patmore comes outside to tell Daisy how proud she was of her? Ahhhh. Just all around television goodness, that was.

Runner up. I have to give a runner up prize this week because, although it didn't make it into my top 5 list, I'm sure it might have come up in yours, and I'm sure it will come up in all kinds of promotional materials for its PC-ness.

Tom: I don't believe in types. I believe in people.

So there you have it. My faves from this week. What were yours? Dish in the comments, please!

Saturday, February 15, 2014

The Spectacular Ordinary: Day 14

I'll be honest, friends. Finding the spectacular among the ordinary has been a bigger challenge this week than I thought it would.

In fact, there was a whole lot more crummy than spectacular in the past week.

A car accident (and everything that goes along with it).

Some disturbing news.

A lack of speed skating medals at the Olympics.

And yesterday.

A few weeks back, as we were looking at our calendars, B and I realized that we would not be together on Valentines Day, but instead, we'd be high five-ing each other at O'Hare as he came in from a trip and I left for one.

Earlier this week, however, B's trip got canceled thanks to federal regulators and some intense work he needed to get done. Thus began hell week for him. Early mornings (hello, 4:30!); late nights (see you around 9:30!). He's exhausted, but still at work, even today.

I was still looking forward to my trip to Dallas to help celebrate my niece's first birthday. This is a big deal because it's not often in our family anymore than someone actually is born and has a FIRST birthday. It's been 15 years, folks.

So I was looking forward to that, AND being with my mom who flew in from Texas AND seeing the rest of my family. After the sick Christmas we had, literally, I was looking for a do-over, and I thought this would be it.

Besides, I got my nails done!

So yesterday after class, I rushed home to pack. Caroline and I had scheduled lunch together, and I didn't want to miss that, so I had about an hour and a half to throw everything together before lunch, and then I was going to be off to the airport later in the day.

While I was at home packing, the phone rang. Caller ID said it was "Toll Free Caller," so I ignored it like I always do when Ms. Toll Free calls. She's so annoying.

I'm so stupid.

After my lunch with Caroline, I came home for a little while, and something inside me said to check messages on our home phone, which is an activity I save for about once a week when I'm really bored because these messages are usually of the let-me-sell-you-roofing-materials variety. Cell phones are where it's really at.

But I checked my messages, for some reason. And there, on my voicemail on my home phone which I never, ever check, was a message from the airline telling me that my flight was canceled and I was rebooked for Saturday afternoon.


Ms. Toll Free didn't bother to tell me she was actually the airline.

You guys. In all the years that I've been flying, I have never had a flight canceled. I didn't know what to do. Saturday afternoon was completely unacceptable because it meant that not only was the weekend already half over, I would miss Gracie's party.

Definitely unacceptable.

So I did what I always do when I don't know what to do: I called B.

He said to call the airline.

Which I did. And after 20 minutes on hold, I found out that I could get on a flight that left Chicago at 10:30 p.m. and arrived in Dallas at 1:00 a.m. These times, they do not compute in my brain. These are times when my head needs to be on a pillow--when everybody's head should be on a pillow--so I panicked again. I needed to talk it out.

I called B again.

He said to go for it.

So I called the airline again, but by the time I finally got through to an agent--a guy this time, who sounded like he had been drinking or smoking something on his lunch break--the seat was gone and there was nothing available until 5:15 p.m. on Saturday.

At this point I waved the white flag and asked for a refund.

And I cried.

I have been so disappointed since that happened and so incredibly sad and some other feeling that has been nagging at me that I couldn't put my finger on until just before I went to bed last night.

I realized that I'm mad at myself, because I feel like I am somehow responsible for missing my weekend away (and 70 degrees!) and for letting down my entire Dallas family.

If only . . .

If only I had picked up that "Toll Free Caller" when I was packing, I would have heard the message, called the airline, and easily gotten on another flight. By the time I finally got the message and called, everything was booked.

If only I had taken the flight that got in at 1:00 a.m., I would have woken up at my sister's house this morning and still made it to Gracie's party.

If only I hadn't been so stupid.

And that's what's eating me today. My own stupidity. My own lack of travel sense (ironic, huh?) about what to do when a flight gets canceled. My own indecisiveness.

I know I need to see this as somehow God's plan for me this weekend, but to be honest, I'm having a hard time with that right now. I'm buried under two feet of snow, I haven't seen even 30 degrees in about two weeks, and I'm discouraged.

How's that for spectacular?

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The Spectacular Ordinary: Day 12

I was going to start this post by listing out all of the million little things that are overwhelming me in my everyday life right now. But I know you don't want to read about that, because I wouldn't want to read about that.

Instead, I'll just let you in on a family secret.

For several months now, Kate has been keeping a list of Wildman Family Quotes--funny things any of us say at any random moment. It's actually kind of embarrassing more than funny because most of the quotes come from me, not because I'm so hilarious, but because I'm so hilarious without meaning to be.

So this afternoon Kate and I had to go to Enterprise ("We'll pick you up!") to pick up a rental car to replace the one that got sadly smashed on Friday. We had decided that it might be best if I drive the rental car and give the girls my mini-van until their car is either fixed or replaced.

[Side note: we should really take bets on the fixing or replacing issue. My bet is on replacing, but B's hoping for fixing. Stay tuned.]

I'm almost there. Almost ready to take possession of my exciting new wheels, when the guy behind the counter tells me that he has a Kia Soul available. Now, I'm an amiable person. I like to get along. And besides, I'm not paying for this, so I said, "That should be fine. As long as Allstate will cover it, I don't really care what I drive."

The guy must have had a funny look on his face--some kind of scowl or grimace or pained expression that I picked up on, because suddenly I asked, "By the way, what is a Kia Soul?"

He said, "Just think about the commercial with the hamsters."

Oh my word, I HATE that commercial! Almost as much as I hate the look of that car. (Sorry, if you're reading and you have a Kia Soul. You'd probably hate my Honda Odyssey.)

"Oh no! I not going to drive that!"

I thought it was an innocent comment, but, for me, it was saying a lot. Kate just sat there laughing her head off.

Needless to say, it's going in the Wildman Family quote book.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The Spectacular Ordinary: Day 11

You know, some days it's hard to find the spectacular among the ordinary. You really have to look for it.

Today was one of those days.

Wind chill of -5. For how many days now?

Still trying to deal with the accident of Friday. Frustrating.

Nursing a sick teenager. Sad.

Trying to get my head around the retreat talks I need to write, the classes I need to plan, and the cooking class I need to get ready for Thursday. Busy.

Today felt like a day full of "issues." I could think of all the obstacles and problems that came my way today, list them even. I could choose to focus on everything that felt like it was just too much to handle today.

But I realize that my "problems" are completely normal. Ordinary, even. Everybody gets into car crashes and has to deal with insurance companies. Everybody has a sick kid every now and then--some sicker than mine, that's for sure. Everybody is busy to the point that sometimes it gets them down.

My problems aren't really problems--they're just the everyday, ordinary part of life.

So I had to look. The spectacular is out there, I just had to keep my eyes open to find it.

When I did this, I realized that two spectacular things actually happened today.

The first was breakfast with one of my dearest friends. As I was driving home, I realized for the umpteenth time how blessed I am to have friends like Amy in my life. Even though I started out our breakfast by complaining about the weather and finished it by complaining about the coffee, she smiled and took it in stride. She knows me, and she knows that this is a hard time of the year for me, as I know it about her. She gets it, and she accepts it.

Friends who know you that well and still give you grace are a true blessing.

The second spectacular thing happened when I was talking to B on the phone this afternoon. The poor guy has problems of his own going on at work right now, so we were discussing his schedule for the next week and the accident and some other things we've got going on right now, when all of a sudden he stopped mid-sentence and said,

"A robin! A robin just flew by my window! How could that be?!"

You should have heard the excitement in his voice. My dear husband is almost as ready for Spring as I am this year.

And so, a spectacular friend and a spectacular sign of spring.

It's out there. You just have to look for it.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Top 5 Lines from Downton Abbey, S4:E6

Well now, just when you think things are getting a tad . . . routine . . . around the house, things suddenly start getting interesting.

Lots of interesting story lines leading to lots of interesting spoken lines this week.

Here are my top 5.

1. If you've been reading here for a few days, you know that I'm trying to find the spectacular among the ordinary. So I thought it was absolutely wonderful that a Downton character also found that what might be a fairly ordinary day could turn out to be an exciting adventure.

Know who I'm talking about?

Here is the line I loved from Thomas this week as he and Jimmy discuss his upcoming trip to America with Robert: "I woke up wondering what I'd be doing today, and I'll be off to New York by the end of it."

See? Even Thomas knows that everyday adventures are right around the corner.

2. So Robert and Thomas quickly head off to America to save Cora's no good brother, Henry, but not before the entire household gives them a formal send-off. What is it about goodbyes over there? They make such a big deal about them.

Anyway, dear Violet comes up to the big house to say goodbye to Robert, despite her impending illness. As soon as Robert drives away, Violet heaves a sigh of relief. But her response to her nemesis, Isobel, is what I really loved.

Violet: Oh, that's a relief.
Isobel: Really?
Violet: I'm feeling rather ill. I wanted him away before I keel over.
Isobel: Oh I'm sorry. Do you want me to come back with you?
Violet: That is the very last thing I would want.

How I wish I could deliver a line like that sometimes.

3. Poor Violet proceeds to get very ill. At one point I thought we were going to lose her--she looked so much like a corpse.

But dear Isobel--dear, helpful, in-your-face Isobel--is ready to stand in as nursemaid for Violet who looks like she's going to meet her Maker any minute. All from bronchitis!

[As an aside, didn't you just love Dr. Clarkson's instructions: "You cannot sleep, even for a minute, because her fever cannot go up even a bit. This cannot turn into pneumonia." Take it easy, doc! Isobel's got it covered.]

So Violet spends much of this episode in a feverish stupor, not really knowing what's going on around her. At one point she seems to ask Dr. Clarkson for a new nurse, mumbling, "This one talks too much. She's like a drunken vicar."

Classic. Even with a raging illness, Violet is still my girl!

4. I thought Mary had a great night this week. She was delivering great lines right and left.

To Mrs. Hughes: "Mrs. Hughes, I hope we are good employers, but even we expect to get what we pay for."

To her father, after commenting on Thomas's sexual preferences: "I've been married; I know everything."

And to Bates after he found out that Mary knew about Anna: "It's not your fault, Bates. It wasn't hers, but it wasn't yours." 

I thought that was sweet.

And, speaking of Anna, how about the exchange between Mary and Anna in the bedroom?

Mary: I'm not aloof, am I?
Anna: Would you like me to answer that truthfully or as a Lady's maid?
Mary: Let's move on, shall we?

I simply cannot leave this section about Mary without posting a picture of her in the pigsty. Oh my word! They must have had so much fun filming this scene, but all I kept thinking was that the servants were going to have their hands full trying to clean those clothes the next day.

5. You'll probably not be able to guess my favorite line this week. While I love the banter between Violet and Isobel, Mary's one-liners, and even Daisy's quips, this week my favorite line goes to Edith who very simply, very wisely, made a decision that will change everyone's lives forever.

"This is a mistake. I'm very sorry to waste your time, but this was a mistake."

Way to go, Edith. I can't wait to see you become a much stronger woman in episodes to come.

So that's it. I've probably given you ten lines to think about this week. Bonus!

Now tell me, what were your favorite lines from Episode 6?

Saturday, February 8, 2014

The Spectacular Ordinary: Day 7

Earlier this week I mentioned that I had taken Kate shopping for a new dress for a big event she was going to attend later in the week. I can tell you now that she was invited to attend the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington DC on Thursday.

I know, right?!

So cool!

She got home yesterday (Friday) morning and headed straight to class because that's just how she rolls--early morning flight? Classes all day? No problem!

After class, she stopped by the house to drop off her suitcase, and we ended up sitting at the kitchen table talking about her experience in DC this week and solving all the world's problems together. (You  know, just the usual things--work life, feminism, marriage, just to name a few.) I tell you what, there's nothing like having great kids who will sit and help you solve the world's problems at your kitchen table. It just warms my heart.

She left, and about 10 minutes later my phone rang. It was one of Kate's housemates.

"Shelly, Kate's fine, but she's been in an accident."

Just the words every mom does NOT want to hear.

I threw on my coat and rushed over to the site of the accident. Not to belabor the situation, I'll just tell you that Kate is fine. Someone pulled out in front of her from a parking lot, so she hit them pretty hard. Her head connected with her steering wheel pretty hard, too, so she has a fairly nasty goose egg on the top of her head.

You know, yesterday morning when I woke up I thought, "I can't imagine that anything spectacular will happen today--it's all routine today." And then this.

As I was putting on my shoes and throwing on my coat to be with my daughter, I thought to myself, "Ten minutes. Ten minutes is all it takes."


I have lived with this knowledge for most of my life. I have known from past experience that life can change in an instant, with a phone call, but this time it was my phone and my daughter and the reality that something much worse could have happened hit me hard.

So today I realized once again that God's protection over my kids is something I take for granted, but it's really, truly, something spectacular.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

The Spectacular Ordinary: Day 6

This is my room right now.

I hate that it's such a mess--I like my bedroom to be at least some semblance of controlled chaos. My kitchen looks pretty much the same. And so does my laundry room.

But there's a good reason for this. Well, not such a good reason, but at least a reason.

I've taken on too much. I have said "yes" to one too many good things for a few weeks, and it has left my life with too little time to do the things I should be doing, like laundry. Or folding the laundry. Or putting any of it away. Or cleaning up my house.

Today I had three big projects to work on, so I needed to allocate my time carefully to each project. (Sadly, the cleaning up was not one of the projects.) 

The main thing that I really needed to spend some quality time on was preparing two talks for a retreat that's coming up in a few weeks. I have been praying and praying for just the right words, but it felt like God was silent or waiting or making me wait. So this morning, God and I had some serious time together. I knew that I had two hours exactly (I set my timer on my phone--that's how determined I was) to work on this, so before I started, I prayed. I told God that I was desperate for a word from Him, that I trusted Him to show up and give me just the right words at just the right time, but that it would also be nice if I could just get a start on this.

I had already been working on the talks, don't worry. I had notes and Bible references and thoughts written out, but today it was time to start taking the pieces and pulling them together.

I'm sure you can guess what happened next. God showed up. After I prayed for some direction, I just started reading through my notes--out loud!--and highlighting what sounded helpful. At one point I actually said to myself, "Ha! That's good! Did I write that?!"

After I had read through everything, I wrote down all the verses that were given as cross references to the main verses I'm using in my talks (Psalm 86:11-13, in case you're interested). It was good to just put my mind on those references. And after that, I tried to think of stories from my life that I could use as illustrations for my main points.

Soon, I was writing an outline, and before I knew it I had written probably a fourth of talk #1.

Yes, I stil have a lot of work to do, but at least I feel like I'm on my way. I learned today that when time is extremely limited, setting a timer and eliminating distractions is one good way to knock out a lot of work in a very short amount of time.

When I started this month of finding the spectacular among the ordinary, I said, "my life is spectacularly ordinary in so many ways, but what I do know is that God is here and He is in it and I'd like Him to use it somehow. . . ."

So, even though my very ordinary bedroom is a complete disaster, and even though I still have lots of work to do (and several papers to grade by Monday--ugh), something amazing happened today: God showed up. 
"I waited patiently for the Lord to help me,
and He turned to me and heard my cry."
Psalm 40:1
I think that's something spectacular.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Top 5 Lines from Downton Abbey, S4:E5

I'm going to have to make this one quick. As usual, I've got too much to do and too little time, but I just have to spend a few minutes with my favorite fictional characters, reminiscing over the latest episode of Downton Abbey.

Downstairs seemed to have a lot of drama, as usual, and a few of my favorite lines came from a few of my favorite servants. So let's start downstairs, shall we?

1. Thomas is really trying to invent trouble, isn't he? This week he pressed Mrs. Hughes for information, but dear old Mrs. Hughes, stalwart and secret-keeper that she is, wouldn't budge. 

"You know me, Mr. Barrow; a woman of mystery if ever there was one." 

2. Later, that disgusting slimeball, Jimmy, suggests that he might like to take Ivy to a movie in town later in the week. Mrs. Patmore is all over that one, but it's Carson's droll response that I really loved.

Mrs. Patmore: Oh, I love that Rudolph Valentino. Ooooh! He makes me shiver all over.
Carson: What a very disturbing thought!

3. As we all know, the Ivy's date with Jimmy didn't turn out very well. (I knew he was trouble. Too slick, that one.) Later that night, she's commiserating in the kitchen with Mrs. Patmore and Mrs. Hughes while Daisy listens. Ivy suggests that Alfred would never have done what Jimmy tried to do, and Daisy just blows her stack. But, again, it's the wise and wonderful Mrs. Hughes who comes through with the zinger.

Daisy: Don't start.
Ivy: What do you mean?
Daisy: You break Alfred's heart, so now he's alone in a city that terrifies him. You break my heart by driving him away. I don't care about your good opinion of Alfred. If you'd discovered it earlier, you'd have spared us a lot of grief.

At this point, Daisy throws down her towel and stomps out of the kitchen.

Ivy: What was that all about?
Mrs. Hughes: Oh, I'd say it was about the fact that you had it coming.

So, while there was much drama downstairs, there was much hilarity coming from upstairs, specifically from my favorite Dowager Countess and her counterpart, Isobel.

4. I loved the storyline with the gardener, young Pegg, this week. Early in the episode, Violet believes that Pegg has stolen a precious object d'art, a Japanese sculpture. Isobel lectures her on "Things, things, things" (loved that!).

Isobel: I'm saying that you put too much importance on things and not enough on justice.
Violet: Oh really? I wonder you don’t just set fire to the Abbey and dance round it.

Later, when the Japanese sculpture is found, Isobel once again gives it to Violet.

Isobel: How you hate to be wrong.
Violet: I wouldn’t know. I’m not familiar with the sensation.

Oh, Violet.

OK, I know I'm giving more than five favorite lines this week, but this one from Violet (about Isobel) was too good to pass up. She and Robert are sitting together at the dinner table, and Robert gallantly tries to defend Isobel.

Robert: She likes to fight for what she believes in.
Violet: It's not a matter of what she likes; it is her fuel. Some people run on greed, lust, even love. She runs on indignation.


5. Finally, I think my favorite scene this week took place in the nursery between Mary, Tom, and Isobel. All three were reminiscing about their lost loves in such a sweet and tender way. They all obviously loved their spouses very much, and as each takes his or her turn, it becomes evident that they all share a special, but sad, bond.

After Mary speaks about Matthew, Isobel takes a deep breath and says with a quivering smile:

"Well, aren't we the lucky ones?"

Yes, you are. To have loved and to have been loved so well is such a gift. It was nice to have this small reminder and this quiet moment.

So tell me, did I miss any? What were your favorite lines this week?

Photos: 1|2|3|4|

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The Spectacular Ordinary: Day 4

Today was spectacular because I caught up a little.

Most days I hustle from here to there--from class to the gym to the grocery store to the cleaners to the high school--you know how it goes.

But today was special because I felt the luxury of time. The luxury of sitting still. The luxury of quiet. (I didn't even turn on music or the TV all day.) I actually felt the luxury of having a whole day in front of me with very little agenda (aside from the 15 people I had coming for dinner).

I sat at my desk with a long list in front of me, and even though I didn't cross everything off my list (papers still need grading and two retreat talks still need writing) I felt good about my day. I chipped away at that list, making phone calls, throwing in loads of laundry, cooking like crazy. . . .

Oh, the 15 people? College group meets here every Tuesday, and on the first Tuesday of the month we eat dinner together. I love having those kids here, and tonight was no exception.

The spectacular? The sheer appreciation that those kids have for sloppy joes, our dog, and a warm fire.

It's ordinary to me--nothing fancy here--but to them, it's love.

Monday, February 3, 2014

The Spectacular Ordinary: Day 3

There was nothing ordinary about today, because today we celebrated this girl.

Julia, my baby, the youngest of three, turned 16 today.

And if that isn't spectacular, I don't know what is.

At our house, you get to pick your birthday dinner (tonight it was "Pasta Supreme," salad, and thick Italian bread). And your birthday cake (red velvet bundt cake with cream cheese frosting).

There are always (OK, usually) streamers hanging from the kitchen lights and candles and the blue plate that says, "Today is your day! Celebrate!"

And the birth story, it must be told. Every year it's the same. You'd think we'd all be tired of hearing the same three stories every 365 days, but no. Even though the girls can recite most of the details for themselves, I think there's something about hearing Mom tell it and Dad chime in his two cents and the two of us looking at each other remembering that night like it was yesterday that brings it more to life, more real for my daughters than anything. We were there. They were there. We remember.

It binds us.

Tonight we all gathered around the table for dinner, all five of us. Even though it was kind of quick (there was homework to be done and commitments to be kept), we all looked with deep appreciation around the table at one another, knowing deep in our hearts that these traditions are not to be missed. Rushed, maybe. But missed, never.

Because this little girl?

The sleepy,

always smiling,

almost driving one?

She's worth celebrating.

So today, we're remembering the day Julia joined our happy clan. The all-grown-up, cheerful, rejoicing, grace-giving, loving, achieving, playful Julia.

We love you, sweetheart.

There's nothing ordinary about you.

The Spectacular Ordinary: Day 2

Sundays aren't ever "normal," but they do have a rhythm of their own. Church, home, dig around in the fridge to find something to eat, hit the couch for a nap.

Today, though, the nap didn't really happen because we had a bunch of college girls over to watch Super Bowl commercials.

That game . . . really?

I spent the afternoon messing around in the kitchen, pulling together some snacks to watch during the commercials game. Salsa. Queso. Brownies. Apricot crumble bars.

And homemade Chex Mix. The smell of which took me right back to my Grandma Ann's house and the many, many Super Bowl games we watched there when I was a kid.

Anyway, the quick, funny, out-of-the-ordinary thing that happened yesterday was that my "poor" husband was outnumbered 14:1 in our family room as we watched the game. So. many. girls in our lives!

I don't know whether to laugh or to cry for him.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

The Spectacular Ordinary: Day 1

So, just when you think your day is going to be ordinary and you're going to have to write about it and have nothing at all to say about it . . .

. . . this happens.

And no, I don't mean me standing around in my big, poofy red coat holding a snow shovel.

Look behind me. Mounds and mounds of white stuff that we woke up to this morning. Granted, some of it was already there, but this morning we got about seven inches on top of the foot that was already there. And, hey!, more to come!

About all I can say about that is it's been a winter.

But around these parts we don't let a mere seven inches of snow stop us. Before we even got shoveled out of our driveway, we were front wheel driving it down our unplowed street to our church because Rosaria Butterfield was speaking this morning, and I had been looking forward to hearing her ever since I heard she was coming.

No little seven inches of snow was going to stop me.

In case you haven't heard of Rosaria Butterfield, she's a crazy-intelligent woman who has a Ph.D. in Literature from THE Ohio State University who used to teach Feminist Literature and Queer Studies at Syracuse University. So what was she doing at my church?, you're probably wondering. Well, she has this completely amazing story about how she used to be an atheist and a lesbian and how God got ahold of her heart and changed her completely.

You can read about it in her book, The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert.

I took a lot away from the morning, but what I mostly took away was that the Bible has a lot of power for people who actually read it, which is what she did--over and over again--until it completely changed her life.

Convicting, that's for sure.

You'd think that after that excitement, my day would be complete, but you would be wrong. Never one to let a little snowstorm stop me from shopping, I picked up Kate at school and drove to Nordstrom to help her look for a dress.

Because my little girl is going to a kind of big event this week.

I'm not sure if I should tell you or not. I think I'll keep you in suspense for a few days. But I'll give you a hint: it's happening on Thursday. And she gets to go back to her last semester's stomping ground.

That's all.

Oh, and we found a gorgeous dress for her to wear--the first one she tried on!--and it didn't take all day. Whew!

After I dropped Kate off at her house--new dress in hand--I visited three different grocery stores looking for semolina flour for the pizza dough I'm making for the Super Bowl tomorrow.

(For those of you who live in my area, don't bother looking for semolina flour at Trader Joe's or Jewel. You have to head to Village Marketplace for all of your semolina flour needs. And it might help just a little if you spoke Russian or Belarussian or something like that because the only English words on the package are "semolina" and "Product of Belarus." Don't say I didn't warn you.)

You would think that after all of that excitement--church, Nordstrom, and three grocery stores--that my day would be complete. But no! We got the most exciting news (and I'm really not being sarcastic here) later in the day.

While I was scouring the shelves of my third grocery store desperately looking for semolina flour, I got a text from B: "Julia champed!"

For those of you who have never had a kid on the speech team, that probably doesn't mean much. And I guess if you know Julia, you already know she's a champ, but that's not what I'm talking about. In speech lingo, "champing" means she won! She came in first in her event (oratorical declamation, and don't even begin to ask me what that means) for the first time all season. She's been close--she's come in 2nd at least three times this year--but she's never champed. So, needless to say, we're all pretty excited around here.

And more good news--she's going to the regional competition next Saturday. If she does well there, she moves on to sectionals and then to state.

It's kind of a big deal.

So, all in all, I'd say that this ordinary day, this ordinary week, this ordinary month is starting out pretty spectacularly.

I'll keep looking for more spectacular ordinary. And I'd love to hear about yours! Comments, please.

Finding Adventure in the Everyday

A couple of weeks ago I took Kate out for coffee. She was leaving town for a few days, and I wanted to just sit with her before she left.

Time with Kate is always good.

So I'm sipping my latte and getting caught up on her latest news and somehow we got around to talking about my writing, or my lack thereof, and how that frustrates me on one level and frees me on another, when Kate kind of threw a challenge in my face.

"Mom, why don't you quit worrying about writing some big revelation and just write about your life?" Somehow she thinks that people might be interested in my daily visits to the grocery store or the number of times I travel Main Street.

So sweet.

So I've been mulling that over for a couple of weeks, and then, yesterday, I read this post by The Nester: Today was Spectacular in an Ordinary Way. She's in Uganda with Compassion right now--I just love what they're doing there.

What really struck me wasn't so much the dichotomy between the ordinary and the extraordinary, it was the fact that my life, or so I profess, is so much like that too. Ordinary. But not.

I think I get stuck when I write sometimes because I feel like I have nothing to say. No "big revelations" as Kate would call them. Some days are just plain ordinary.

But what if I just shared my very ordinary life? And what if you were reading about my very ordinary life and thinking to yourself, "I get that"? And what if some small ordinary nugget of my very ordinary day in my very ordinary life suddenly looked to you like that 6'2" Ugandan woman in a wedding dress stirring a pot of beans. (Did you actually click on the Nester's post? You have to read it to get what I'm talking about here.)

So I'm putting a challenge out here to myself: write the ordinary. Because my life is spectacularly ordinary in so many ways, but what I do know is that God is here and He is in it and I'd like Him to use it somehow, even if it's in an ordinary way. What I'm proposing (to myself) is that I tell you about my day every day for, say, the month of February (it's a short one), and let's see what happens.

This blog is one huge experiment anyway, so why not experiment with letting you in a little bit?

So, hold on to your seats, folks. You're going to get in on the ride of your life. A mini-van-covered-with-salt-and-coated-with-dog-hair-that-hasn't-been-cleaned-in-weeks (oh, Lord, I can't remember the last time my car was cleaned--I'm so sorry!) kind of ride.

Let's see if I can find the adventure in the everyday.

Will you join me? And promise to still be my friend at the end of the experiment?

P.S. Yes, I will still be writing about Downton Abbey because I just can't not. And besides, the Crawleys or the Granthams or whatever they're called are some of the most interesting people in my life!