Day 12: Let the Failure Go

In church today there was an important message for anyone who’s tried to accomplish anything. That is to say — everyone who has ever breathed.

The message was about failure. Or — who to blame for failure.

None of us like to fail. And when we do fail, we often blame ourselves.

But the pastor said, “It’s not your fault. If you are taking the blame when you fail, that means you are taking the blame when you succeed.”

He told us to give it away. Give it to God.

This was so powerful for me. I’m the first to feel down when I fail, but if I take away that control, then it isn’t so bad. And when I do succeed, I will always say I was never alone. I was with God. A wave of wonder settled inside of me. I went in peace.

Day 5: The Wonder of Tiny Seeds

“Come outside. I have to show you this,” my mom said.

I followed her outside to a little area of dirt next to the sidewalk I hardly ever notice. The patch is shaded and nothing grows there.

“Look closely,” she said.

I bent down and noticed between the coiled hose, a tiny sprout of something green.

“Back in October, after we carved pumpkins, I carried the seeds to the trash. One must have fallen off the plate, and now it has grown here.”

I looked closer, in awe, as there it was: the pumpkin seed still attached to the top of the sprout.

“Isn’t that amazing?”

In life, sometimes we plant seeds, and other times, something grows despite supposedly being “trash.”

Maybe the new year can bring a re-imagining about how we see failures in our own lives. If we open our eyes and look for the unexpected of what was once discarded, we might just find a gift.

Tiny pumpkin
Up close

Day 3: Wonder while Feeding the Animals

I slide my feet into two over-sized mucking boots. My pajamas are still on. I walk across the grass, still dewy from the early morning. The miniature horse, Skittles, neighs. The chickens cluck and the duck screeches. The sun slices through the trees at an exact angle. There is something peaceful and calming and therapeutic about feeding the animals in my parents’ backyard.

The feeling it left on me is something like wonder — it’s like I left a yoga class. I feel restored.

Even with the mixed smells of manure, clumpy mud, and hay, it all leaves a full body feeling. Perhaps, no wonder people have been up with the sun for centuries beginning their daily work. There is something good that happens to the body, and also the mind.

Day 2: Wonder of Childhood Friendships

Today was a day of friendship. The morning began with a visit from my college friend, Jenna, who brought her four-month-old baby, Bodhi for us to meet. He is everything sweet and snuggly and strong. I forget the built-in joy that enters a room with a happy baby. Later, my childhood friend, Matt, and his wonderful wife, Jeannette, brought their three-year-old daughter, Madison.

It was wonderful to watch my son be awestruck by baby Bodhi this morning. Then it was really cool to watch him and Madison play in my parents’ backyard. They ran up the hill to swing, jumped on the trampoline, played with my old “people house,” and shared goldfish. My mom said she had flashbacks from when Matt and I were three and two, running through the backyard playing, too.

Life presents us with generations of friendships as this unexpected gift. Adulthood can come with its challenges, but there is something magical about watching your friend’s kid and your kid play. It’s almost like they are built for each other, like the friendship of their parents is in their own genes. I wonder if this is true.

Tonight, we are still filling our cups, spending quality time with family and friends before heading back to Oklahoma. We are enjoying every minute.

Bennett (2) and Madison (3)
Baby Bodhi and Bennett

Day 1: Wonders of a New Year…at the Kitchen Table

A group of us gathered at the kitchen table this morning, on the first day of the year (and a new decade all together), eating fruit salad, donuts, quiche and sausage. We made our way around the table to discuss what our plans are for the coming year. My dad led the conversation, asking us to share our goals. There were professional resolutions, health and exercise plans, travel dreams, personal improvement, culinary courses, business ideas, educational goals, and an overall consensus that we needed more self-care.

I’m grateful for these kitchen table moments — time to reflect and share with the people I love most — and it’s empowering to lift each other up for a year ahead.

The kitchen table represents wonder to me because of its place of possibility. There are tears, laughs, hugs, inside jokes, good food to be shared. The kitchen table makes me feel like the world is a safe place, as long as we are sitting around with family. The kitchen table is a place to begin at, and return to. I guess it only makes sense to begin Wonder Year at the kitchen table, telling people why my phrase this year is, “level up.” I plan to level up in all areas of my life. If life is a game, I’m pushing myself to level three.

My dad, who retired a year ago, has since gone back to culinary school. Thirty-something years ago he ran a small catering company with his sister, and now he’s back to doing what he loves. He told me, “Cooks cook. And writers write.”

So here I am, writing about wonder — what it is, why it’s captivating, how to have more of it — in a leap year, 2020.

For the last night of 2019, I watched the sun set in Pacific Beach, in San Diego, CA. It was the last sunset of a wild decade. A decade that I found love, got married, had a kid, moved a bunch, graduated twice, and began a PhD program. I felt a sense of wonder as the sky turned to marbled cream-pink, at the possibilities ahead for all of us.

And today, on the first day of 2020, I spent it at the zoo with my sisters, Danika and Sydney, my mom, Kim, my brother, Gavin, husband, Nick, and son, Bennett. It’s easy to find wonder in a place like the San Diego Zoo, but the moment that stopped me was watching my youngest sister, Sydney, carry my son on her shoulders in awe of the birds in the aviary. There was a flock going buck wild — talking and singing and puffing their bright orange feathers in the bird cage. “It was like walking into a bird orgy,” someone said.

Maybe that’s what wonder is: something that makes you stop. Something that has you laugh and think about how wild and lucky and random this whole experience in life is.

I have a few hypotheses for wonder, but for today, I’ll leave you with the moment that first gave me wonder: the kitchen table.

And the zoo…

Tell me — how did you spend your first day of the new decade?

First sunset of 2020
Found this on a bench, on our last exhibit of the night.

Thanks for joining me: a note from the author

I have been obsessed with wonder since I realized I noticed less of it. As a child, I cherished dunking miniature plastic dolphins and manta rays in a puddle out in the cool grass in the backyard, make believing the wonder of a re-created mini (and quite muddy) ocean. Life can make us all grow-up too fast, too much. Wonder brings us back.

As I plan this project, in the fall of 2019, I have already been noticing wonder more. I haven’t even started the yearlong project yet, but it’s showing up because I’ve wired it in my subconsious.