Friday, July 10, 2015

_The Hancock New_ Column--July 1, 2014

Embrace the Ordinary

I love books. If I had a day free from work and responsibility, I would stay in bed and soak up a good book or two.

My husband’s a reader, too, although our taste in books is nearly opposite. We have three avid reader sons, and a daughter who can sound out many words but who would likely give up a small body part to be able to read independently. Additionally, the preschooler falls asleep covered in books, and the toddler sometimes sits still long enough to listen to books. Otherwise, he just teethes on them.

With more books than will fit on our dozen plus bookshelves, it’s an understatement to say that we’re book lovers.

The library, not surprisingly, is my favorite place in town. My children love the story times and other programs. And summertime brings the Summer Reading Club. Our entire family has participated for several years, and it’s fun to win some prizes for doing something we enjoy anyway.

This summer the theme of the reading club is focused on superheroes, and that’s a favorite of my children. From cartoons to movies to video games, kids and adults love superheroes. When life seems overwhelming, it’s comforting to imagine a strong cape-wearing superhuman swooping down and saving you from any trouble.

What’s more, I think many of us would like to be that superhero. Even if we wouldn’t like to wear a tight outfit, feeling special and needed and admired holds appeal.

The adult reading club’s slogan for the summer is “Escape the Ordinary.” For me, that’s what reading is-- an escape from the everyday hum-drum. Reading is a ticket to anywhere and anytime.

But for real life and real happiness, I’m not sure escaping the ordinary should be the goal. When I focus too much on the fantastic dreams in my head or the imaginings of another, be it through books, television, or movies, I miss out on the simple beauty and joys of plain, old everyday life.

Sure, maybe I don’t have a dark and mysterious masked superhero speeding to my rescue, but I do have an ordinary husband who can (and does) provide for our family, fix all sorts of broken things, wash dishes, and change stinky diapers. Maybe our family can’t take a tour of Disney World on our way to our own private tropical island, but we can have fun visiting friends and family and dipping our feet and splashing in Berkeley Springs. And likely we won’t make it to a big fireworks display, but, weather-permitting, we’ll be smelling the smoke of the grill while watching the kids chase lightning bugs to the background music of the endless song of all the critters of summer.

Instead of escaping the ordinary, I challenge you to embrace the beauty of the ordinary.  Don’t bemoan what’s missing because the real-life extraordinary is usually hiding in plain sight. Sometimes happiness is disguised as boring. Attaining contentment in your surroundings and in your own special gifts and talents-- that is a real superpower we all can possess.


My eldest, kneading his first batch of Oma's bread

One of the most ordinary foods is bread. It’s plain and simple, but warm out of the oven and spread with butter, I can’t think of a single food more extraordinary.

This recipe for bread is basic. It’s from my Oma, my father’s mother, and she taught it to me when I was 10 years old.     If you’ve never made homemade bread before, trust me, it’s not as hard as you think; even a kid can do it.

Really, I’ve learned over the years that there are so many variations of bread that barring burning it or leaving out salt, it’s hard to really ruin it. Even in those circumstances, burnt crust can be cut off and tasteless bread can be made into crumbs or bread pudding.

So if you want to do something that seems heroic this summer, bake some bread or teach a child to make it. It’s basic and it’s rewarding.


1 package yeast (2 1/4 tsp.)
2 1/4 cups warm (not hot!) water
2 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. sugar
2 Tbsp. shortening (or bacon grease, butter, olive oil, etc.)
6 1/2 cups flour

Soften yeast in water. Add salt, sugar and shortening. Mix in 2 c. flour thoroughly. Add and mix in well 2 more c. flour. Then add remaining 2 c. flour. Mix as well as possible.

Put 1/2 cup flour on board or counter. Empty dough on it and knead until lump of dough is as smooth as a baby’s bottom. Place in greased bowl, cover, put in a warm place. Let rise until doubled in bulk. Punch down. Let rise again. Punch down again. Let rise 1/2 hour.

Form dough into 2 loaves. Place into greased pans. Grease tops of loaves. Let rise again until doubled. Bake at 400℉ for 30 minutes. Turn out of pan and cool on wire racks.

Note: I’ve only changed the directions of this recipe slightly for clarity. If kneading is too hard for you, a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook will work just fine.

This post has been shared at Strangers & Pilgrims on Earth's The Art of Home-Making Mondays.


  1. I've been making bread for years, it is a simple pleasure, and those are the best. I like the title of your blog and was drawn to your blog because of it. I embrace the ordinary because it is in those things where you will see GOD in his extraordinary.

    1. Faith, I agree with you 100%. The older I get, the more I see those simple gifts from God-- the beauty, the humor, every thing.

      I still struggle with the title of my blog, but because the column I write for our local newspaper deals with all sorts of family topics and also includes a recipe, it was the best I could come up.

  2. Replies
    1. I love it, too. I enjoy eating fresh homemade bread, too :)