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Explore: The Special Ordinariness of Life

In the last chapter of Patti Digh's book Life Is a Verb, Digh tells about a young mother whose final months with cancer were documented by Oprah. After the woman's death, the family was invited to appear on the show. In answer to Oprah’s question about favorite memories, the little girl talked about sharing a bowl of Cheerios with her mom. "It isn't the big things," concludes Digh. "It's those little ones." It's the special ordinariness of life.

Rather than the big, exciting stories of my childhood, my daughters love to hear the ordinary ones. These are a few I've shared with them: 

  • Each year, my mom would make my favorites for my birthday: lasagna for dinner followed by chocolate éclairs for dessert.
  • When my mom and dad went on vacation, my sister and I would stay with Great Grandma and Great Grandpa. Gram would cook oatmeal for us each morning, and Gramps would drive us to school in his blue Chevy Silverado pickup.
  • When I was in high school, my bedroom was on the main floor. My dad would come home late from work and watch funny shows on TV in the living room. I loved to hear him laugh out loud as I was falling asleep.

Steeped in my blood, these special ordinary stories pulse through my life, bubbling into my own children's experiences as I share the stories with them, over and over.

What will stand out to my daughters as special ordinariness in their lives? Recently the girls confessed that at the grocery checkout Dad buys Skittles or Kit-Kat bars that they eat on their way home. "I don’t believe you," I teased, thinking to myself how special those small treats will be in years to come.

What little things make up the special ordinariness of your life?

The ordinary arts we practice every day at home are of more
importance to the soul than their simplicity might suggest.
Thomas Moore