ingredients

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There is a quasi-weekly ritual at our house that involves my lovely wife and I standing in the kitchen, discussing the various things that have been hanging out – nearly forgotten – in our refrigerator for a little too long and desperately need to be either used or tossed. Neither of us relishes the idea of throwing out usable foodstuffs, so we try to creatively consider ways these random ingredients might be combined to salvage their culinary dignity and still, somehow, satisfy our need to eat tasty food.

Cooking is a delightful dance of invention and focus.

It draws from the potential of raw ingredients, the current tastes of the cooker and the eaters, and the limitations of time and imagination. Sometimes, you have a recipe and the will to follow it with precision. Sometimes, you feel the need to step off the path a little and throw in some improvisation while, mostly, adhering to the landmarks set forth by the cookbook or food blog.

Other times, however, you just need to freestyle…to push caution down the drain and try something new…something unexpected. It can end badly, of course; but it can also result in a work of uncharted delicacy.

I’m in a place right now of looking at my own ingredients…the stuff I am made from…the facets of who I am and what I bring to the table of life. It’s not so much that I see myself at risk of expiring like those various items in our refrigerator, it’s more that I don’t want to proceed from this point without a goal…without a plan…without something of substance and purpose in the making.

I’ve been a teacher, officially, for eleven years. I love that I have nearly daily opportunities to interact with young people…to learn their stories and interests and try to connect them with a passion for learning. Before entering the classroom, I worked in advertising on the creative side of things. Being able to use my imagination along with technology was the primary reason I enjoyed that phase of my professional life. I was able to get paid for telling the stories of businesses and their products.

In my non-professional life, I have been a father with a love for bedtime stories, a stage actor, a songwriter, a blogger, and wannabe novelist. The thing that ties together all of these parts of who I am…all of my ingredients…is a passion for stories. I love learning about people – both new and familiar – and I love telling those stories to others.

Living is a delightful dance of invention and focus.

It draws from the potential of raw ingredients, the current tastes of the life-bearer, and the limitations of time and imagination. For about a decade, I was in advertising. For a bit more than a decade, I have been in education. Now, as I stand ready to start my third act, I’m not quite certain what I will become. I have these skills and experiences, I have this passion for stories, and – so importantly – I have a wife who believes in me. It feels like I’m looking into some figurative refrigerator and considering the options for how it can all be woven together into something good.

Last night, as my wife and I were laying in bed, preparing for sleep, I had a brief vision of myself getting up in the morning and going off to some small cabin or cottage or bungalow with my cup of tea and a piece of toast. I imagined myself sitting down to write…to tell stories. I stayed there for several hours, focused on creating something worthwhile. Then, I closed my laptop, returned to my house, and spent the rest of the day cooking with my wife.

This morning, I woke with the vision still in my mind. I don’t know if it is where I’m headed, but it is certainly an attractive idea. When I look at life as it has been leading to right now, it is fairly easy to see how one moment has shaped and prepared me for the next moment and so on… Looking to the future, however, provides far more unknowns than knowns. I don’t have a sure plan right now, more a series of what-ifs and curious possibilities.

The joy in the process, however, is being able to stand with my lovely wife by my side, as we creatively consider ways these random ingredients of life might be skillfully combined into something wonderful.

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