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What Makes an Extraordinary Life?

extraordinary |ikˈstrôrd(ə)nˌerēˌekstrəˈôrdnˌerē|


very unusual or remarkable

I never thought of myself as particularly extraordinary. That seems reserved for people like Steve Jobs or Richard Branson or Mother Teresa or people like that. But when I look at the definition of “extraordinary”, I can see that my life has been far from ordinary. Sometimes it seems that when I see something “ordinary”, I automatically run in the other direction. For instance, I have 11 kids, I homeschool, and I’ve been married for 30 years. Definitely out of the ordinary in this particular era.

In addition, I’ve toured the world while managing my daughters’ band, worked with major record label heads, television and movie studios, and had some of the top music producers in the world over to my house. Sometimes it seems surreal that any of this would have happened to an ordinary girl from the central valley farmland of northern California, but as I tell my daughters, it has to happen to someone, so why not us? Someone has to make the music; why not us? Someone has to make movies and television shows; why not us? We don’t live in a caste system here in America where your future is determined by your birth, so dream big and work to make it happen!

Our tour bus from our first US tour

Tour bus on our first US tour in 2013.

None of these things happened overnight, and honestly, if you had told me 30 years ago that I would have done any of these things, I think I would have laughed at you. Really loudly.

If you are a teenager or young adult reading this, dream big, and work hard. You’ve got exactly zero to lose and everything to gain. You may or may not achieve your exact dreams, but God gave you some unique talents, and if you develop them, He will open doors for you to use those talents, often in ways you never expected.

If you are a newlywed and overwhelmed by debt from student loans and credit cards, and even the smallest things seem so unachievable and unlikely, don’t despair. Your time is coming, but you need to lay the groundwork first. Stay focused, find your talents if you haven’t already, and work hard to get your financial house in order. I remember in my early 20’s, we had so much debt that it seemed like things might never come together. It took several years to get to where we could really excel.

If you have babies and toddlers underfoot, and you just want to pull the covers over your head and hide, I’ve been there. There were some years where just 5 minutes of silence would have been a massive gift, and life in general was just so overwhelming. The mountains of diapers and dishes and laundry seemed endless, and finding a creative outlet and a good friend were an absolute lifeline.

Cimorelli family 1996

Classic family pic with 6 kids ages 7 and under. Can't quite get everyone to smile!

The silver lining is that these are the trials by fire that make you stronger than you ever thought possible. Paradoxically, that is when the extraordinary starts to appear. If you focus on character, both yours and your children’s, your reward is just around the corner. Once they are out of diapers and can do things on their own, you will find you have a life full of abundant blessings. As they get older, you will have built in babysitters and helpers around the house to ease your burden. Date nights will become a reality again. Your sleep deprivation will end, and you will feel like a new woman. It's like hitting the jackpot!

I read something recently about reveling in mediocrity and feeling like it should be enough just to get through the day and never achieve anything of any importance. It is most definitely ok to do that. In some seasons of life, it’s a major victory just to make it through the day with everyone in the house still alive. I don’t think living an extraordinary life means that every single day is amazing. Extraordinary rises out of a whole lot of ordinary.

I’ve had kids for 28 years now, and for the first 23 of those years, it was mostly a blur. A lot of fun, a lot of tears, a lot of sleepless nights followed by crazy days full of delirious exhaustion. A ton of chores, a lot of longing for adult conversation, a whole lot of books to read aloud, and endless piles of toys to clean up.

The reason that anything extraordinary was able to happen was because during that time, a lot of groundwork was laid. I knew before I had my first child that I was going to homeschool him and whomever might follow (I had no idea there would be 10 more in close succession!). I heard about homeschooling on a tv talk show, and I knew instantly that was for me. Although I did well in school, I didn’t really like it, and my husband wasn’t a big fan of school either. Our kids were just genetically doomed when it came to the idea of going to school. Homeschooling opened up a whole new horizon for me, and I’m so grateful for it!

Lynne, Nick and Joey reading

Homeschooling read aloud time with my two youngest. These times are the absolute best!

I decided early on that character development was going to be my number one priority followed by helping my children unlock and develop whatever unique talents God might have given them. My reasoning was that if you become the best scientist or athlete or musician but you have poor character, then it doesn’t really matter. God entrusts us with these little beings to help them fulfill their potential. Side note - I am not advocating being a tiger mom here, with your toddlers in every activity known to man and a constant push for excellence from birth. I did the activity overload for a minute, and I can’t say that any great benefit came from it.

What I suggest instead is a gentler path with lots of play, lots of read aloud time, lots of music, art, conversation, chores to develop work ethic, and lots of love. Your child’s talents will manifest themselves as you teach them different things. Among my children, I’ve got musicians, computer programmers, athletes, mathematicians, great spellers, terrible spellers, foreign language whizzes, geographically challenged kids who couldn’t find their way out of a paper bag, photographers, movie makers, motor-heads, salesmen, artists, writers, and cat whisperers (like horse whisperers, but with cats). I have eleven complete and total individuals. They’ve been raised by the same two parents, but no two of them are alike at all. A few similarities here and there, but eleven wonderful individuals. I have no doubt that if God had blessed us with eleven more, there would have been eleven more completely unique individuals. Are they perfect? Of course not. But they all have good hearts and a desire to fulfill their potentials, and that is where extraordinary happens.

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