I don’t watch much TV, but occasionally I’ll flip to the Food Network to gratify my inner foodie. My kids watch along with me (they’re kids; they’ll watch anything), and the three of us particularly enjoy a show called Chopped.

The show features four generally unknown chefs who compete for a $10,000 prize by concocting various courses from mystery ingredients packed into a basket. With three courses and three rounds, one chef is eliminated (“chopped”) at the end of each, leaving the last one standing to collect the prize. The concept is simple enough, but the execution is tough. The ingredients in the baskets never go together, and often they make no sense at all.

Being evil geniuses, my kids have decided this exercise should be undertaken at home–on me. From time to time, they’ll decide it’s Chopped night at our house and proceed to fill our picnic basket with wacky items from which I am required to create a meal in a given amount of time. For example, one basket contained blackberries, honey, baby arugula, and Sprite. Sometimes I succeed (a sweet and savory crepe duo), and sometimes I fail miserably (peanut/tomato/rice noodle blob). Either way, I’ve had to look at the ingredients differently in order to find a creative solution. Sprite, after all, isn’t just for drinking.

My days are generally like those baskets. The things packed into them mostly make sense and I can put them in some kind of order to move forward. There’s always something, though, that throws me a curve. Good or bad, it forces me to rearrange everything to make room for it. It changes the whole character and nature of my day–just as one ingredient can change the whole character of a dish.

The only way to make those ingredients work is to change the way I look at all the others. I guess there’s a lesson in everything.

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