Five Things I Am Grateful For Today

It is October 26th, and this morning we got our first snow. This is NOT one of the things I am grateful for, mind you, but as I look out my window at the gray, cold wetness that is today, I realize that the only way through this very long upcoming winter is going to be by being grateful, today and and everyday, for whatever I can find to appreciate.

In some ways 2020 has flown by. I for one, cannot believe that it is nearly November when I still feel like I am waiting for summer to happen. And yet, at the same time, I have felt each and every day of this strange year. The angst caused by the pandemic, the anxiety of the upcoming election, fears from job loss or tightening finances, and just the overwhelming uncertainty of not being able to plan or look forward to much of anything – these stresses have gotten to all of us.

I have often ended my day by thinking of five things that I am grateful for and writing them in a small notebook that I use as a Gratitude Journal. But today I am going to do a mid-day gratitude check just to readjust my thoughts on this somewhat miserable gray day. Here are five things that happened today for which I am grateful:

  1. This morning as the snow first started to stick to the grass, leaves, and flowers in my yard, I looked out the window and saw the most beautiful red fox run through my neighbor’s yard. Every so often I see this fox, but it usually in the evening or early morning, and never in broad daylight. But this little guy seemed to be having fun, running through the snowflakes, his thick bushy tail flopping behind him. His coat was beautiful, in fact, and was what caught my eye as he ran by.
  2. Like the fox, I am having a good hair day. This does not happen often, especially when it is wet outside, but there it is. My hair is soft and smooth and making me wish I had a date or something special to do with someone who would appreciate the rarity of this occurrence. But since I don’t, my Book Club will have to be the beneficiaries of my good-looking head of hair today!
  3. I have Book Club tonight – and I have actually read the book. In a rare show of initiative, I am completely prepared to discuss the characters, the plot line, and my overall impressions of the story (Writers and Lovers by Lily King). What’s more, since I have been on my own the whole day, I am really looking forward to meeting my friends via Zoom for a little bit of company and a great discussion.
  4. We have access to technology like Zoom (and Google Hangouts, and numerous other options) so that even now, in the midst of a pandemic, I can visit “in person” with my friends, my daughters and my grandson. At work, I can keep up with meetings and discuss difficult topics face-to-face rather than just exchanging emails. Imagine how hard these last nine months would have been if not for the wonders of this technology!
  5. Full disclosure, this happened yesterday, but I am still remembering it with so much gratitude. For the very first time, my little grandson said clear as a bell to me, “Hi, Gigi.” That made my day, both yesterday and today – and probably tomorrow, too!

So as you can see, once you start thinking of things to be grateful for, even on a cold, wet, miserable, gray day like today, one special thought will always lead to another, and before you know it, you are smiling. At least, I am! Happy Monday!

Life Lessons Served Up on Chef’s Table

One of my new finds on Netflix is Chef’s Table, an award-winning series that focuses on the lives, passions, creativity, and struggles of famous chefs from around the world. Originating in 2015, the series has six seasons of 4-6 episodes and has won numerous awards for its visual artistry and overall excellence.

It’s true that the show is an amazing showcase of culinary creativity, but what keeps me tuning in are the life lessons that are served up in each episode. After getting hooked on the series and watching chef after chef achieve their dreams, I think I’ve learned as much about how to approach life as I’ve learned about what makes for creative cuisine. Here are four of the lessons Chef’s Table has to offer:

Not everyone is going to get you, and that’s OK. The chefs depicted in this series are masters of their craft, but almost all of them grew up being sort of the ‘odd duck’ either in their families or among their groups of friends. Some of them even grew up isolated or bullied for their perceived differences. But those who were most alone also seemed to realize, not that they were strange or different, but that they had just not yet found their ‘tribe’, and once they did and began pursuing their passions, they shone.

Knowledge feeds creativity. While each of the chefs has innate talent and unique abilities to imagine and combine flavors and textures in food, almost all of them reached a point where their talent could take them no further. Many of them went to another country (France, Singapore, Hong Kong) to study techniques, or they started learning the ancient recipes and cooking methods of their own countries (Peru, Thailand). They all found that the more they learned the fundamentals of their craft, the more creative they could be.

Struggles and adversity get you to the next level – every single time. Each episode of Chef’s Table is predictable in that every chef reached a “rock bottom” point in his or her career or life, and faced nearly insurmountable struggles to continue. Yet each one of them did continue, often suffering severe financial hardship in the process. The lesson is clear. Their hard work and dedication in the face of their struggles paid off as they began to be noticed and recognized by the world culinary community. If they had not struggled, their stories would not have been as inspiring, of course, but it is also likely that they would not have reached the culinary heights they have attained either.

Nothing beats finding your passion and living it. What I love most about this series is watching the passion with which these chefs practice their craft. There is a joy in their creations, a love that comes shining through everything they do, from growing their own ingredients to ensure quality, to the artistry with which they plate their dishes. It is a strong reminder that there is nothing like leaning into your passion and working hard at it, and that God is in the details, as they say. These chefs have attained their mastery by paying attention to the details, learning as they go, and constantly creating. It is an inspiration.

Grieving: Finding Comfort Where There is None

There have been so many losses this year. Whether you are mourning the loss of a family member, a loving relationship, an old friendship, a fulfilling job, or all the opportunities that have fallen by the wayside during the last eight months, the grief is real and profound – and much harder to handle during a time of isolation. Grieving, finding comfort where there is none, is more than a “one day at a time” endeavor. Sometimes it feels like a minute-by-minute challenge.

I have recently lost someone very dear to me, and I am mourning. I would like to get away from myself and escape the questions I have and the longing I feel, but there is no escaping these things – we cannot crawl out of our own skin, no matter how badly we want to. He is a part of me and with me, he remains.

But as hard as it is anyway, grieving in isolation feels worse. I thank God for the friends who have had my back and supported me even when they weren’t sure what to say or how to be with me. Their presence, checking in by text, phone or Zoom, sending me something to make me smile, just telling me that they understand – these small gestures have made all the difference as I navigate this strange new space.

As always, I find comfort in the words of others, too. Here are some quotes that have given me courage:

“Life is full of grief, to exactly the degree we allow ourselves to love other people.” – Orson Scott Card. I am full of grief because I am also full of love. I love the best way that I can.

“Sometimes only one person is missing, and the whole world seems depopulated.” – Alphonse de Lamartine. I am not alone in looking for a beloved face among others, and wanting again to share a smile.

“So it’s true, when all is said and done, grief is the price we pay for love.” – E.A. Bucchianeri You cannot have love without the grief that comes when it leaves. But in all ways, the love is worth it, and it is this love that eventually gives rise to hope.

“Every one of us is losing something precious to us. Lost opportunities, lost possibilities, feelings we can never get back again. That’s part of what it means to be alive.” – Haruki Murakami. And knowing this, I commit to doing the hard work of walking through this grief to the other side, where hope and new opportunities await me.

So I grieve my loss, remember my love, focus on the many, many happy memories, and hope for a new chance, a new beginning someday. I remember that all the pain I feel now, along with the love and happiness I felt before this loss, are all parts of being alive. I have lived and am living… and in his words, “so there’s that.” I wish you peace.