Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Celebrating 100 Days of Flair with. . . Fire Ants

Here I am, at the grand celebration of my 100th day of the "Live with Flair" blog, and the flair moment is. . . fire ants.  I was secretly hoping for fanfare. Something big!  Something extraordinary!  Maybe I'd wake up to an elephant in my front yard or I'd find buried treasure.   

But it's fire ants.  I suppose that's rather true to the project:  I want to find the extraordinary meaning in the common things.  Well, here goes. 

I'm walking in an area where fire ants bite us as we travel from the front porch to where our cars are parked.  A fire ant bite can be extremely painful and, for those of us with allergies to bites and stings, potentially deadly.

A family member calls out:  "Just keep movin'!  They won't get ya if you just keep movin'!  It's when you stop that those fire ants get into your shoes!"

It becomes a family joke whenever we leave the car.  "Just keep movin!" we repeat, laughing but also running to the porch as fast as we can.   

Something about that phrase made the flair bells ring.  To avoid those ants, it's absolutely critical that I don't stay in one place.  I have to move.  I can't be stagnant or else trouble comes. 

If you look up the word "stagnant" you'll find it means this:  Lacking freshness, motion, flow, progress, or change; stale.

I want a life that moves.  I want motion, flow, progress, and change.  I want fresh.

As I age, I realize I have to create motion.  I have to choose progress and flow.  Maybe it means I read a new book or find a new friend.   Or it means I learn a new skill.  Or I learn a new dance. 

Left to themselves, things do stagnate.  Without thinking, I could stay right here, doing nothing.  And in that place of stale, unwanted things invade and take over--like fire ants.  Friendships, marriage, parent-child relationships, spiritual growth, my relationship to myself, my relationship to the natural world, my teaching, my writing--it can all stagnate unless I develop a plan for fresh flow.

Living with flair means creating fresh flow.  It means running like crazy so the fire ants don't get into my shoes.  Whatever it takes, I want to avoid that sting of stale.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Feeling Homesick at Home

Sometimes I feel homesick.  But it's not for any particular home or family.  It's the weirdest feeling.  I'll be sitting there, doing the dishes or folding laundry, and I'll feel that something is horribly wrong.  I'm in the wrong place, and everything feels sad, and I just need to take my husband and children and get home.   

I feel like the wild daisy in A.R. Ammons's poem, "Loss."  He describes a wild daisy "half-wild with loss" who turns "any way the wind does" and lifts up her petals to float off her stem and go.  It's an image of terrible longing. 


What must it feel like to be rooted nowhere, to belong nowhere, and move like that with the chaos of the wind?  Some of us live that way simply because we don't know where to put down roots.  We can't find a sure place to land.  On those days, we are wanderers, and even if we have the strongest physical sense of home and place, we still feel lost at sea. 

There's a homesickness in our soul, even on our best days. 


So I'm doing the dishes, longing for home, and I recall Frederick Beuchner's book by the same title.  Beuchner's writing soothes my soul because he says we are all longing for a spiritual home. The sense of belonging and rightness comes when we put down deep spiritual, not just physical, roots.  

Maybe there's hope for me.  

Beuchner's book, The Longing for Home, reminds me how narrow my ideas of home are.  My home is not my house.  That homesick feeling is a cry for heaven.  


But what do I do with today?  Is there a way to find a home in this day, even though I'm made for another Home? 

Beuchner says this:  

“In the entire history of the universe, let alone in your own history, there has never been another day just like today, and there will never be another just like it again. Today is the point to which all your yesterdays have been leading since the hour of your birth. It is the point from which all your tomorrows will proceed until the hour of your death. If you were aware of how precious today is, you could hardly live through it. Unless you are aware of how precious it is, you can hardly be said to be living at all.”  


Today is precious.  So precious I can hardly live through it.   I can find my home in this very day, with God, and belong somewhere while I long for Home.  Living with flair has something to do with finding what's precious even when I'm wandering. 

Monday, June 28, 2010

Swimming Beneath the Geese

I'm swimming in a lake with my daughters, and another family nearby starts feeding the geese.  Within seconds, a gaggle surrounds us.  They come from every direction, leaving the shore and their organized formations across the lake.  Our heads bob along in the water right against their soft, wild feathers.  I'm so close that I can look into those deep black eyes and touch the fuzzy heads of the goslings.

It doesn't seem right how close we are. It seems other-worldly. We aren't separate from the wild; we're swimming along with it. 

The family with the goose food offers me a handful.  If I'm still enough, someone tells me, the geese will eat from my hand.

And so I am.  And so they do.

I'm told we can swim under the geese and even touch their webbed feet.  Because the geese are used to floating logs and debris, they don't mind when you hold their feet.  My daughter tightens her goggles and dives under the surface to swim beneath the geese.

My five year old has pink goggles that sit on the pier.  My husband tosses them out to me, and I dive deep under the gaggle, turn myself over, and look up towards the heavens.  It's all feathers, little webbed feet, and the jeweled water swirling above my head as the sun shines down.

I stored that experience away, like I hope my daughters did, in that place in my imagination reserved for the magical, the heavenly, and the purely happy.  Maybe one day, when life bears down on my children with that weight of sadness that comes to us all eventually, in its own way, they would recall this morning swim beneath the geese.  They could live again in that moment when something rare and beautiful happened.  And they'd catch it--all feathered, webbed, and jeweled--in their hands.


It could be their flair for that day.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Can You Remember Your 8th Grade English Teacher?

I'm chopping romaine lettuce this morning, and all of a sudden, I'm back in 8th grade.  It's 1988.  My teacher, Mrs. Guiles, tells the class:  "You know you are in a nice restaurant when you don't have to use a knife to eat your salad.  You want to eat at restaurants that bother to make each piece of salad bite size."  We nod, imagining fine dining and the lives we would lead as adults.

I cut the romaine leaf down the spine lengthwise and then cut each side into small pieces.  Mrs. Guiles has been gone for several years.  But as I methodically cut the lettuce, I can hear her voice and see her pacing around my English class like it happened that morning.

It was English.  We were supposed to be reading books and writing--not learning what makes a good salad.  

It wasn't just salad.   She taught us many random tidbits that were supposed to help us live well.  For example, she made us stand up when an adult walked into the room.  What did that have to do with writing?

"It shows respect.  You will honor your elders.  It's the right thing to do."  Every time anybody walked in the room--a secretary, another teacher, someone's parent--we rose from out seats, quickly and quietly. 

Salads?  Rising from our seats? 

"And you must learn the art of the beautifully composed thank-you note."  She set the scene:  We had just returned from a visit to New England.  A fine family had invited us to dinner, and we dined (on perfectly sized lettuce).  Now, we must write a thank-you note.   It had to radiate.  It had to merit framing.  I imagined that one day, I'd visit some family far away and write the sort of thank-you notes she described.  

"Include something so very specific, so very vivid.  Tell what you loved about your hostess and the accommodations!  Mention a lovely dish!"  She'd prance around the room.  She was a tiny woman who made flourishes in the air with her hands. 

And that thank-you note?  It had to be perfect.  She was impossible! 

We had no excuse.  All year, we had to recite, from memory, lists of linking verbs and prepositions.  She was mean and horrible.  We all talked about how much we resented her.  We didn't sign up for that kind of torture.

How dare she insist we know everything about grammar as explained in a dusty red textbook more suited for college students?   Who or whom?  She or her?  Comma or semi-colon?  We could punctuate any sentence she wrote on the board, while, mid-punctuation, we rose to greet an elder who walked into the room. And then we'd return to our seats to engage in the lost art of sentence diagramming. 

Orderly sentences mingled with orderly living.  It was infrastructure--those commas, those little symbols we used to designate types of conjunctions, those ways we talked about verbs--to build our lives upon.  And while things were falling apart in 1988--AIDS, Missile Defense, the Iran-Contra scandal, the Soviet war in Afghanistan, the war on drugs--I felt fear that a child shouldn't. 

But I didn't feel that way in English class.  Everything was manageable, predictable, and right when contained within those commas and parentheses.

Try me; I knew what to do with that sentence.  Everything else was up in the air, but I knew in the depths of my soul that the comma would make the meaning right. 

I'm chopping lettuce, thanking God for that woman who set my life on a trajectory it hasn't since left:  grammar, writing, and living with flair.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Flair with Introverts

I'm learning that flair assumes many forms. Many introverted forms. Forms like puzzles and card games. If you hang out with my husband and his family, you learn these things.

So I'm sitting at a card table. The children are playing Go Fish and War and probably some mysterious game called Solitaire. (My husband still laughs at me when I tell people I don't know the rules of Solitaire. I'm an extrovert to the extreme--not much alone time)

There's a 1000 piece puzzle before me (an old Milton Bradley, not a Springbok—apparently there are standards for good puzzles and Springbok is the best). Anyway, the puzzle. The puzzle is called, “ By a Canal, Holland.” I've been patiently assembling the sky when my husband announces that I'm doing it wrong. He says there are rules to puzzling like:



  1. Find all the edge pieces.


  2. Group them kindly by color.


  3. Claim your puzzle region.


  4. Begin assembling.


  5. Do not stop until the wee hours of the night.


  6. Start trash-talking about how you are “puzzle master” and “this puzzle is no match for me.”


  7. Reminisce about other puzzles you have put together in your lifetime: the 3D Notre Dame, the impossible Globe one, the historical puzzles, the Coca-Cola Memorabilia puzzle that's framed in your basement, the fluffy kittens, the Wizard of Oz.


  8. Decide who gets to put the last piece in (the one who has worked the longest).


  9. Rebuke the person who swoops down at the last minute and tries to put in the last piece.

    So I'm doing the puzzle. And I start thinking about what region of my brain is being activated.  This puzzle is good for my brain!  It's good for my marriage!  It's good for my family!  I need to hang out with introverts more! 

Living with flair means joining the introverts for a night. It's puzzling, that world, but good for my brain, my marriage, my family, and my flair.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Why Bother with Christianity?

If you can be happy without Jesus, why bother?  I've been thinking about this lately.  I've been thinking about all the happiness blogs people have sent my way.  It seems that all over the world, folks find legitimate forms of happiness apart from knowing God.  I know what this feels like.  I know that when I exercise, eat right, blog about my flair, and do any other host of mood-modifying activities, I can be happy.

I used to think that people went to church and read their Bible because they were unhappy.  They become Christians because of the promise of happiness.  While I do think that going to church and reading the Bible dramatically increase the likelihood of happiness, I don't think that Christianity is a religion that promises happiness.  Happy Christians tend to do other things that boost their mood like, for example, engaging in vibrant church communities.  But happiness, in this case, is a byproduct of lifestyle.  Jesus doesn't promise happiness. 

However, Jesus does promise one very important thing.

He promises. . . peace. 

Jesus said this:  "In me you may have peace.  In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world."  Jesus says that he leaves us "peace."  I thought back to the blessing God commanded to be spoken over the nation of Israel.  Simply this:  that God would turn his face towards them and give them peace.  Later, Jesus is prophetically described in the book of Isaiah as our "Prince of Peace." 

This morning I skimmed my Bible for passages that describe the peace of Jesus.  Romans 5, it turns out, defines the peace of a believer.  Here, the writer tells us 3 reasons Christians have peace:

1.  They find favor with God by faith alone, not by anything they do or fail to do.  They are completely reconciled to a Holy God because of faith in Jesus.  This point alone astounds me.  I can talk to the God of the Universe, and He loves me.  Unbelievable! 
2.  Because of Jesus, they have hope in the glory of God (his power and presence) in every situation.
3.  They can rejoice in suffering because of what it produces in them (perseverance, character, hope).  When God directs a person's life, suffering has meaning and will produce good

Curiously, New Testament writers claim that Jesus himself is our peace.  Paul writes:   "He himself is our peace" since in his very body he reconciles sinful mankind with the holiness of God.  By his very body, he grants access to God.  Christianity, after all, is a religion about God's body:   the incarnation--that little baby come to earth as a God-man-- the crucifixion--God hanging on a cross to die, and the resurrection--the literal body of Jesus conquering death.  And in the ascension, Jesus returns to the Father but leaves the promised Holy Spirit who indwells believers at the moment they believe.

Is peace better than happiness?  Absolutely.  The assurance of God's peace which, according to scripture, transcends understanding, is deeper and more profound than mere mood.  So while happiness is something I can moderate, my peace comes from Jesus alone.

Living with flair means I depend upon the sure peace of God even when flair fluctuates.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Why You Need Artistic Friends

I'm an embarrassment to the world of arts and crafts.  I've never even used a glue gun.  But when you spend a day with an extraordinarily gifted artist, you have to enter her world.

The artist enters the room wearing flip-flops decorated with bunches of green grapes--she made them for a wine-tasting party--and we all can't help but notice them.  Soon, my girls are asking about these flip-flops, and the artist says, "We can make any kind you want!"

Next thing I know, we are in Wal-Mart buying bright flip-flops.  Then we are in a craft store buying miniature birds, butterflies, orchids, and lots of jewels.  Within minutes, the artist has the girls sketching flip-flop designs.  She hands me a piece of paper and some butterflies.

I'm wondering when the cameras pop out and tell me this is all one big prank.  I don't do arts and crafts. 

But when you hang out with an artist, you learn to do artistic, whimsical, and spontaneous things.

It felt a lot like flair. 

I learned to inhabit that world, burning my fingers on hot glue and pricking myself on butterfly antennae.

Later, I wear these flip-flops outside.  Mothers and their daughters shriek with delight and want to know where we got our shoes.  I imagine a Red Sea of children parting in awe as my flip-flops walk by.  Those families are already at Wal-Mart and firing up their glue guns.  I've created a flip-flop revolution.

So I'm adding this to the list of spontaneous and supremely silly things:  dancing in my kitchen, learning double-dutch, and now, gluing butterflies on my shoes.  Living with flair means you hang around artistic people and make things every once in a while.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

A Stranger Tells Me His Secret

Many of my flair moments in the past 90 days occurred during conversations with strangers: the tired woman at the grocery store,  the neighborhood boy,  the hard-working Amish man, the precious waitress who gave my daughter a bad day mantra, the mean people at the drive-thru, that wonderful unknown woman who gave me the complement that changed my life, the curious woman and her service dog, the man at Starbucks, the man chasing trash in the parking lot, or the little boy explaining why he loves the rain because it makes the worms come out.

Remembering these conversations--and the flair they brought forth--reminds me to challenge myself to engage more with people who cross my path.

There's flair there, I just know it.

I am leaving a restaurant, and a man whose job it is to hold open the door greets me with a big smile.  He proudly holds open the door with such gusto I have to stop.

"Thank you!"  I say happily.  And then again:  "Thank you so much."

He smiles bigger (if that were even possible).  This employee is happier than he should be in this heat with this on-your-feet job.   I have to find out why. 

I say, "When you hold the door like that, it makes us all feel like celebrities."

He frowns and shakes his head.  He says, "You should feel like that all the time, not just when somebody is holding a door."

"All the time?  How is that possible?"  I say, my arms crossed.  The rest of my party is already in the parking lot, and I'm hanging around to talk to a strangely happy man.

"Above ground," he says softly.

"Huh?"

"Above ground," he repeats.

I lean in and whisper, "What in the world does that mean?"  People stream past us, a whole crowd of them, and I'm ducking my head back and forth to try and maintain eye contact.

He waves his hands like he's shooing me away.  I stand my ground.

"I'd have to explain it and it takes too long," he said.

"Well," I say, raising my eyebrows.  This was flair, and I wasn't about to leave it.

"OK," he says, the crowd thinning so he can give me some time.

"You just say to yourself that you're above ground.  You aren't stuck where you are, on this ground.   It's not about where your feet are or where you are hanging out.  You can be above it--above it all.   You are above ground.  Do you get it?  It's not about where you are or what you are doing.  That's why you can be the celebrity every day."

He's already on to other parties.  He's like a rock star that bothered to take a moment to talk to the little people.  He's big stuff, the real deal, and he's happy.  

And I'm writing down his words, learning from a stranger, because he was there, above ground, holding the door for me.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

10 Things You Learn About Life When You Go to the Beach

1.  Don't have lots of stuff.  The sand gets in everything, and it's a lot to manage when you're tired.  Less is more.

2.  Listen to older and wiser people.  Grandpa knows where to park and find the best spot.  He had to do it before GPS and iPhones.  

3. You need protection of all sorts--the more the better (SPF 100). 

4.  Find places to rest in the shade.

5.  Don't expect to find whole things (shells, starfish, crabs).  Most everything is broken but still beautiful.

6.  When you leave the shore and venture out, it's best to have  folks (grandma and grandpa) watching you and with you (Mom and Dad).  The sea is dangerous, so the more people you have aware of you, the better.

7.  Your instincts tell you to race back to the shore when a wave is coming.  Do not do this.  It will pummel you and toss you so hard you'll be beyond recognition afterward.  Move towards the wave (the fear, the new thing, the huge transition), and you'll find it will let you rise up high.  As my daughter says, "The wave only looks big.  When you swim through it, it becomes small."

8.  Know when it's time to go home.   Too much riding the waves means you can't make it back to your car.

9.  Stop for ice-cream on the way back to the car.  Sometimes a sweet, cold treat helps everybody manage if they've not figured out number 8.

10.Take pictures and look at them a lot.    

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Picture of the One-Eyed Cat

Here is my one-eyed cat.  

He likes to lounge around with his best friend, Snowflake, who I think looks like an upside down skunk.  She's the one who pulls the yellow rope around like a dog. 

Anyway, the point of this. . .

Jack has one eye. He was a wild cat who injured himself somehow.  His eye and mouth were infected.  Eventually, his eye had to be removed.  A local pet store, who rescued both Jack and Snowflake, asked if anyone would take the cats in.  

So we did (I didn't want to at all--it's my husband who loves cats mostly).  I resisted with every fiber of my being (Now, I'm completely in love with cats.  I would write blogs about these cats).

Jack's one eye was strange and a little creepy.  But soon, nobody noticed or even cared anymore. Sometimes, because he only has one eye, he bangs into stuff.  

He is a tough kitty.

Too tough.  He didn't even purr, not once, ever. 

I noticed this one day.  Months had gone by, and Jack didn't purr.  Not once, ever.

Our injured, wild cat had lost his purr. Years of sorrow had clogged him up.  The purr didn't work. 

The family and I decided to embark on a project to help our injured, wild kitty rediscover cat joy.  That purr was in there somewhere.  We brushed him, snuggled him, fed him, bathed him, pet him, loved him and loved him and loved him. 
One day, he's lying there, and like a slow machine winding up and letting loose, I hear it coming.  Jack found his purr.  And the moral of the cat story? 

You know.  

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Real Teal and Strobe Light

I'm not a good traveler.  I have massive anxiety when it comes to travel, I get homesick, and I get all out of sorts with a change of routine.  For years, I've interviewed folks who love to travel in order to find out what I'm missing somehow.  They all say the same thing:  they love the adventure.

My friend wrote recently to encourage me about an upcoming trip. She wrote something like, "I pray God surprises you with little blessings on this trip."  Amazing how that one statement made me think differently.  If I anticipate that God might surprise me with some little blessing, something perfect and unexpected, then yeah, I can see travel as an adventure.

So to prepare for summer travel, I did something wacky (for me) to represent adventure.  I let my daughters pick out nail polish for my toes--The Real Teal and Strobe Light--and we painted our toenails in this outrageously mermaid-ish teal and a top coat of strobe-like sparkles.

Every time I look down at my toes, I'm thinking about surprises and adventure.  I've got Real Teal and Strobe Light leading the way (literally).

Saturday, June 19, 2010

My Tantrum in the Parking Lot

Well, let's just say that I threw a little tantrum in the parking lot yesterday.  But in my defense, I'll set the scene:

I'm in the minivan with the girls.  I'd been sick for a few days.  It's a hot, sticky day, and we are circling and circling to find parking so we can go use our coupons for free hot pretzels at the Pretzel Factory.  Everybody is arguing and complaining, especially me.  Not only does a man glare at me and try to claim the spot I was patiently waiting for, but as I finally pull into my rightful spot, I realize I left the coupons at home.  And then I  realize that the girls are already spilling out of the minivan with all my pocket change.  They are generously feeding the meter (they love "feeding" the meter's "mouth").

I'm in a bad mood, and all I want to do is go home, take a shower, and forget this hot, sticky day.  So I literally stomp while dragging the girls down the street.  "I am NOT happy!"  I said aloud (please tell me other mothers out there have acted this way!)  And then, God reminds me to go over my flair principles.   I start saying to myself, "Heather, you can find the flair in this.  You need to apologize to your children and start new." 

It's not working; everything is annoying me:  the man at the cash register, the incessant ringing of the bell on the shop door, the way my girls are hanging on me.  We get our pretzels and fight a crowd of equally moody parents and children back to our car (the whole world seems to have the same pretzel outing idea).  There's a line waiting for my spot in the parking lot.

I buckle my seat belt, ready to get out of there, and I glance at my meter.  Apparently, my children used every last dime and purchased tons of time for that spot.  I look over my shoulder at the other minivans waiting for my parking space.

I see another mother who just wanted to be somewhere else.

And then I imagine the simple moment of happiness she might experience when she realizes that somebody else left her ridiculous amounts of time on the meter.  Maybe it would be just the thing to get her out of a funk.

I think this counts as a flair moment--for that other driver!  Finding extra time on the meter always makes me feel good somehow, like the planets aligned for me, like the universe was tilting in my favor.  It always feels like a special nod of love.

I start to giggle.  Some other person was going to have some happiness, although just a tiny bit of it, in the form of dimes in a meter.  Maybe they'd feel a nod of love from a stranger.  I was suddenly happy and out of my funk just because of the thought of surprising some other woman. 

Living with flair means putting extra money in the meter for the next person.  It might just make you feel better.

Friday, June 18, 2010

What Gets You Out of Balance?

A couple of days ago, everybody complained about the water in the pool.  After a rainstorm, the pH levels of our public pool were "off."  Our eyes stung, the water felt weird, and some people complained that their bathing suits were changing color.  It was strange. The pool staff adjusted the pH, but it still took time to stabilize.

I learned how sensitive a swimming pool can be.  Did you know the pool levels need to be monitored daily, sometimes several times a day?  Did you know how easily the pH levels change?  I had no idea.  I had no idea the delicate balance of chemicals involved in daily pool maintenance.  It's a lot of work!  And results don't come immediately.  Sometimes it takes 24 hours for a pool's normal pH to be restored after an imbalance.

I liked learning that about my pool.  My pool's imbalances remind me of my own.  It's not so strange to monitor my well-being daily, sometimes several times a day, and recalibrate based on what's out of balance. I'm like a lifeguard holding that chemical kit and pH tester.  I'm armed with tools to get myself back in balance.

If I'm not feeling good, if the family is stressed out, or if we aren't experiencing peace and joy, we stop and ask:  "What's out of balance?"

Then we recalibrate.  Sometimes, we recalibrate twice a day.  We make any and all adjustments to find balance again. 

Just as rainwater and outside chemicals and debris radically alter the pool's functioning, I've learned after all these years 10 things that get me "out of balance."  I wonder if you could add something to my list.

I don't feel so happy!   I wonder:  

1.  Have I had too much junk food, sugar, or processed food?
2.  Have I had enough sleep?
3.  Have I had time to pray and connect with God?
4.  Have I exercised in the last 48 hours?
5.  Have I deeply connected with my husband and each child recently? 
6.  Have I had enough social time with friends?  Have I had too much? 
7.  Have I had a creative outlet in the last few days?
8.  Have I conversed with too many toxic people (manipulative, guilt-trippers, complainers, gossipers) in my day?
9.  Have I assumed too many responsibilities and not delegated enough?  (Especially when it comes to keeping an organized and clean home. . . I don't have to do all the housework, ever)
10. Have I let my mind wander and create irrational future scenarios of doom (finances, health, etc.)?

What sort of things get you out of balance?  What brings your mood down most of all?  I'd love to hear what else we could ask ourselves to check our "balance levels."   Living with flair means learning to monitor myself, ask what's out of balance, and then, recalibrate.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Remember This and Mark the Day!

Yesterday my 8 year old announced she needed a diary to keep all her deep thoughts and secrets.  "I'm a 3rd grader now.  I have to write what happens to me in a diary," she said. 

I love her instincts to mark the transition to a new phase of her life with a special gift--one that involves recording her life's moments.

Children naturally celebrate rites of passage.  They are so aware when they change status somehow.  They know what it means to write their own name, lose a tooth, ride without training wheels, swim across the pool, read a chapter book,  or make toast by themselves.  

My children insist on celebrating their growth.  They dance, they make announcements, they write it down, they throw parties.  In fact, we have a "celebrate plate"  that we use whenever somebody accomplishes something.  We end up using it a lot. (Special thanks to my friend who gave this as a wedding gift 10 years ago!)
   

But all day, I wondered about this childhood awareness of personal growth.  I want to be as keen to my own process of growing because it doesn't (and shouldn't) stop into adulthood.  I want to be more deliberate about adult rites of passage ceremonies.  In what ways am I celebrating my own transitions from one status to another?  And how I am celebrating other adults in my neighborhood? 

I want to celebrate new:  new roles I assume, new friendships I enter, new goals I set (and achieve), any breakthroughs I experience--emotionally, physically, spiritually, or socially.  I want to acknowledge new changes and new experiences.

There's a reason why this matters so much.  

I'll never forget the day I started feeling hopeful for the first time in years.  My doctor said, "Mark this day. Buy a piece of jewelry or a special candle or a piece of art.  Do something to remember it.  Every time you see that thing, you will remember what has happened today."   

There's an ancient Biblical tradition of "marking the day."  Whenever the Israelites experienced a special deliverance from God, they "marked the day" by building an altar (even just a pile of rocks) so that whenever anybody saw it, they would remember the wonders of God.  It was for their children and the children after them.  It was so important to remember the work of God (because they kept forgetting!)

They knew and proclaimed, according to Isaiah 26:12, that all they had came from the Lord.  The writer insists: "Lord, you establish peace for us; all that we have accomplished you have done for us."

My daughter's desire to mark her graduation from 2nd grade, to remember it, under lock and key, in her diary, challenges me to remember, with various celebrations, what God has accomplished in my own life. We aren't building altars of rocks in our home (maybe we should!), but we are learning to "mark the day" when one of us experiences growth in any form.  I want to keep growing and marking many days of God's wonders in my life.  I want to be the neighbor that throws ceremonies for both childhood and adult growth. 

Living with flair, for me, means marking each day with a blog entry.  Thank you for celebrating with me each time you read one.  It's changed my life.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Some Science Behind Happiness

The more I read about the brain, the more I have to admit I sabotage my own happiness on most days.

If you knew how lazy I really am, if you knew how much I detest exercise, and if you knew how my arms are really flabby noodles pretending to be arms, you'd be amazed right now.  Collective flair bells would ring all over the world.

I've never been able to do push-ups.  I've tried.  I can maybe do 4 on my absolute best days.

But with Jillian Michaels encouraging (yelling) at me from my basement television screen, I get down (in girl style on my knees), and start to lower myself only to push myself back up with the strength of my little frail arms.

It hurt.  It hurt, hurt, hurt.   But I did it.  And then I did it again and again. 

Here's the story I told myself as I suffered through it:

"Do this, Heather.  Do this because you are investing in your future happiness.  You are gathering in happiness by changing brain chemistry right this very minute.  You wouldn't forget to take your thyroid medication, right?  Swallowing that pill makes your body work for the whole day.  This next push up is your medication for mood control.  Do it, Heather.  You are earning 48 hours of elevated mood, scientifically proven, confirmed by neuroscience and brain scans.  There's no getting out of this.  You have no choice, here.  You know the science.  Exercise trumps nearly everything else when it comes to long-term elevated mood.  You can't ignore the science, girl.  Do it."

And so I did it.  It didn't feel like flair while I was in the thick of it, but the fact that I was investing in a future mood pay-off mattered so much.  We aren't used to future returns.  We want immediate.  But living with flair means I don't always have the luxury of automatic happiness.

Maybe it means understanding the science behind happiness.

I have to invest in mood-control activities that, scientifically, will change brain chemistry--maybe not right now, but soon.  The more neuroscience I read, the more I'm amazed with how much I sabotage myself every day.  The brain works best with certain foods and certain activities (keeping a flair journal is one of those things for me).  I don't have a choice when it comes to this kind of living with flair.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Lesson from Neighborhood Boy in 100 Words

We can't find the mountain trail for our evening hike. 

Some kids pass by. One calls out:   "You looking for something?"  We describe the trail.   He nods.   "Follow me.  I can show you."

He delivers us to our destination.  He mentions different paths to avoid and various landmarks to spot. Then he returns to his friends. He didn't have to help.  There was no reward for him.  He was just helpful.  

The boy had flair.  Would I have done that for somebody? 

I thought about who might be lost and needs me to say, "Follow me. I can show you."

Monday, June 14, 2010

One Weird Verb and One Strange Quote

I discovered a long-lost verb today:  cull. 

It's a weird verb.  To cull means to gather, in an organized manner, things that are unwanted, unnecessary, and harmful.  You can cull the herd of diseased animals.  You can cull your social networking sites of unknown followers.  You can cull your basement of broken toys.

In writing, you cull your essay of excess wording or cliché expressions.  Writing with flair is so close to living with flair.  How do I know what things to cull in my own life? What do I do that's harmful and unnecessary?  What do I do that I don't really want to do (but I do out of guilt or some misapplied sense of duty)?

Could I cull my day and get to the good stuff? 

Could I cull my life and get rid of the excess and the cliché?  Cliché, in writing, is that overused, predictable expression that has become so common it no longer has meaning.  It's language diluted of its power.

There's a way to live a cliché life.  I'm living in cliché when I do what's expected, when I live by some script, when I perform some stock character role because I haven't learned to be my true self.

A therapist I had talked about the "false self" early on in my battle with depression.  When your false self dominates, you relate to yourself, to others, and to God through an artificial and numb haze of experience.  There's no real life.  There's a fake life--the one you are trying to live--that robs you of the joy and peace of just being. . . you.

I'm thinking about this verb last night, and I read a funny little quote in an obscure collection of short stories by Jane Yolen.  She describes a writer finding her true story by introducing the reader to a Japanese expression:

saku-taku-no-ki

She writes:
Saku--the special sound a mother hen makes tapping on the egg with her beak
Taku--the sound the chick makes tapping from within
no-ki--the moment when the tappings come together so the shell breaks

Saku-taku-no-ki! 

Jane Yolen tells me that when the outer "tapping" matches the inner response, the egg cracks open, and new life begins.  For writers, and for the rest of us just trying to live authentic lives, there's something about tapping on the shell of my life, waiting to hear how my heart responds, and continuing to work at it until my life and my heart come into complete alignment.  And then, life bursts forth.

It's a strange little Japanese quote matched with a weird little verb, but it made me crazy with flair all morning.  I want to cull my life so when I hear the tapping on my heart, I respond and break free from this shell.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

How to Relax in Church

I walk into the sanctuary today, and, like a wave coming over me, I'm hit with the reality of my own frail self.  I'm not good, I'm not peaceful, and I'm not close to God.  He's somewhere over there, and I'm struggling against the current to reach Him.  I'm flailing my arms and legs.  I'm taking in water.  I'm choking. 

But then I remember what it was like to teach my daughter to float on her back.  "Just rest your head on the water, like it's a great pillow, and relax."  She couldn't do it.  Her little neck strained, and her arms and legs thrashed about.  I need to train her, day by day, to relax into the water.  Her instinct is to somehow contribute to this process, but really, she just needs to be still. 

So I'm standing there, listening to the worship music, and I'm frantic with what to do.

I'm my daughter, flailing when I need to be still.  For once I lay my head back and relax into what I know.  God is with me; God sees me; God knows and loves me.   And then, I'm just worshiping, pure and simple.

Later, I'm with friends at a state park, and I'm invited to ride on a waverunner.  I put on my life jacket, hold on to the handles, and I'm off to see the most amazing sights: the expanse of water bordered by mountains and sky and banks with baby geese just testing the water.  I'm nearly crying I'm so happy to ride these waves in this sun and with this wind on my face.


I tilt my head back against the sky, like it's a great pillow.  God's training me to relax.


He's right here, and I pause, floating on the waves with flair.

Friday, June 11, 2010

My Morning Conversation with an Amish Man

This morning on the walk to school, we passed a neighbor's house.  We live not so far from Amish communities, but still, I'm shocked at what I see.  20 or so workers (mostly Amish men) stood on the roof of my neighbors house, working fast.  On the ground, one Amish man directed the rest.  We walked by a little sheepishly--I felt like I was interrupting something.  "Wow, you have a lot of workers up there," I said to him.  (I've never had a conversation with an Amish man before, so I'm standing there wondering what he's thinking about me in my jean shorts and sleeveless top.  All of a sudden, I'm so aware of what I look like.  I'm so aware of my daughters and their clothing, the sparkles on their shirts, their shorts.)

"We'll have that roof finished by the end of the day," he smiled proudly, his arms crossed.

We walk on.  I'm thinking about flair as I look back because what I encounter with the Amish man seems so important, so potentially blog-worthy.  But the Amish, on the surface, seem devoid of physical flair.  The whole community shuns ornamentation, embellishment, glitz, and glam.  The women cover themselves completely--they don't wear patterns, even.  They don't wear jewelry.

 So why are the flair bells ringing?  

A few days ago I asked my husband what he thinks it requires for Amish parents to maintain that counter-cultural lifestyle in their children when living adjacent to us modern folk. Do they constantly reinforce cultural standards at every opportunity? 

Just this morning, my daughter and I had a conversation about modesty.  She wants to wear the tiny tank tops and "short shorts" of her peers, and I told her that God wants us to be modest and not show too much of our bodies.   I ask her to change into some longer shorts. 

So before we see that Amish man, I'm telling her that her body is precious and special and she doesn't need to wear clothes that make her seem older.  And even when she's older, I want the most important thing about her to be her sweet heart and not her curves.

Then we look up and see the Amish people right smack in the middle of my street.

It's not so hard to go against the culture.  It's not so hard to be a parent and instill rules about clothing.  My encounter with the Amish this morning was a well-timed flair moment, right on the heels of my own counter-cultural discussion with my daughter.   We may not have the same task as our Amish friends, but we do go against the culture in some ways.   And we should.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Fame That Lasts Till Lunch

My daughter tried out for the talent show yesterday. 

I'm amazed that she would do this.  Amazed.  Last year, she didn't receive even one vote from her class for her dance routine. (It was freestylin' to "Accidentally in Love"--the worm, the spins on your bottom--I'll spare you the details because she would want me to.)

And this year has been heartbreak. The mean girls!  The fickle crowd!  When she told me she planned to audition in front of her class, I wanted to scream:  "Are you crazy, foolish child?  Will you cast yourself to the lions?  Let's preserve what little reputation you have left!  You will be devoured and humiliated!  Stay safe in my arms!  You've endured enough!"  I knew she'd be competing against a kid with magic tricks and a girl with years of elite gymnastics training.

She had no chance. 

But she really wanted to audition.  So there I am, preparing mentally all day for her sure failure.  I'm visualizing my parking space, closest to the school, so I can pick her up in my arms and carry her to the car so nobody can see her tears.  I'm imagining a special comforting dessert that will await her homecoming. What helps a child recover from. . . losing? 

She walks out of the school building, and I can hardly face her.  She calmly approaches me with a little folded piece of paper.  She doesn't say anything but just points to the note.  I unfold it and she's written in yellow marker: "I won the vote.  Yay!"

Oh, me of little faith.

As we drive home, she tells me about the other acts and how nobody was that good.  But when she performed her piano act (after dragging the class to the auditorium just so they could hear her 1 minute of music), everybody started cheering.  They voted for her.  The hands went up in the air!

What world is this where things go well for her?  Did God hear my prayer, her music teacher's prayer, and all my frantic text message prayer requests to please pray for my daughter today?


I think so.

"How did it feel?  Did you feel just great?"  I asked her, beaming but definitely trying to hide my proud parent, over-the-top enthusiasm.

"It was awesome."  She paused and looked out the window.

"But my fame ended by lunch time.  People forget you."

She changed the subject and told me to look back to see her amazing ceramic turtle she made in art class. We were on to new adventures, new topics--art, her summer reading plan, and what computer games she wanted to play. 

Whatever it was that allowed her to walk down that hallway to the auditorium, her little chin up, it's another thing I'm putting on my version of her resume.  Right next to "Survived Recess," I'm putting, "Auditioned in Front of Hostile 2nd Grade Crowd to Win Spot in School Talent Show Despite Totally Bombing Last Year's Dance Routine."

And I might add:  "Learned that Fame Ends By Lunchtime so Don't Bother Wanting it So Badly"

That girl has flair.  I would have never had the guts to do what she did.

And God answered an even better prayer than my superficial "grant her success."  He showed my daughter that winning the love of the crowd doesn't last. And it shouldn't.  There are much better adventures awaiting.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Small Town, Big World (in Pictures)

I live in a town where you can take pictures of things like newborn foals.  Skipped Emotion had her little one almost a week late, and here she is just 4 days old.  Today, both horses were released to the meadow.

I live in a town where you can take your little girls strawberry picking (just down the road) from a local fruit farm.  We picked 9 pounds and ate maybe 2 pounds along the way.  The owners don't care; we go to church together, and they told me they care more about us coming back year after year than whether we eat strawberries. 
I live in a little town where you run around huge trees in the twilight.   But lest you worry about the scope of what my children do in this little town, I offer this:
Yesterday I went to the elementary school assembly.  Children reported, not so much on local news, but on international concerns.  They celebrated how much money they'd all raised for oil spill clean up efforts.  They recalled their collective attempts to sell "Hearts for Haiti" and donate money for hurricane victims.  And then, as a group, they sang their anthem for the year:  "We Are the World" (complete with the modern version's rap sequence--thank you 5th graders!)
They sang so loud the walls seemed to shake. 

  You can be small town and big world. 

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

What I Don't Want to Share

I'll be honest.  I don't want to tell you about this flair moment, but it's the real one for today.

At the gym, I do the minimum and hide as far back into the machines as I can with my iPod and earphones keeping me in a safe cocoon away from any trainers.  But today I walk in, and two trainers greet me and insist that I try this new Body Combat class. One literally escorts me upstairs as I'm mumbling excuses and pulling away from her.  All of a sudden, I'm in this classroom of incredibly beautiful and muscular people.  She closes the door, and I find a corner, terrified. 

The trainer in front has a headset and looks like a drill sergeant.  He's ripped and already sweating.  His sidekick is a petite blond woman who is absolutely gorgeous.  Every muscle is sleek and defined, she's smiling, and she looks like a Cover Girl model.  They adjust their headsets, pump up loud techno music, and start teaching everybody these complicated combinations of squats, kicks, and punches.

I try to work the room and introduce myself to everybody.  My defense mechanism of encouraging all the others kicks in.  Maybe I could set up a table up front and talk to people as they exercise.  Maybe I could write a narrative or lay on the ground and pray for all those people. 

I'm dying.  I can't even figure out the moves.  The class lasts an hour, and every millisecond is absolute pain and humiliation. I cling to my water bottle like a security blanket.

And then, it's almost over.  But before we stretch, the instructors come over and give each of us a high-five.

Oh, come on!  A high-five?  A high-five like I'm a child?  And I totally failed in that class.  I couldn't even do the push up thing where you put one hand in the air.

But when the woman comes over and looks me in the eye and gives me that high-five, I burst into tears.  The drill sergeant gives me not one, but two high-fives.  I cry harder.

What was wrong with me?  I've been humiliated before, but something about physical fitness strikes a nerve.  There's no defense mechanism, no personality gift that aids me in my own body's response to exercise.  It's just me, my own muscles, and my own heart and blood out there.

I feel lost at sea every time.  It's the real me stripped of all the flair.

That's why I cried.  I was there, with nothing to offer, and those trainers still gave the high-five.  I felt like saying, "Are you kidding?  Do you know what a loser I am?"  But they did know--they saw every uncoordinated move.  And what makes the whole thing even better is that they bowed to us at the end to show how honored they were to have exercised with us.

I learned that living with flair means deliberately embracing situations that strip me of all my coping mechanisms.  It's good to feel lost at sea so I can receive love and instruction from somebody else.  I don't have to always be the teacher, the encourager, or the one with the flair. 

I'm a loser at the gym, crying in my minivan afterward because of a silly high-five.  But it felt like the best flair possible for someone like me.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Waking Up Happy

Something so small, something that takes only a few minutes, made me immeasurably happy this morning.  It's a little ridiculous, really, how happy it made me.

I want to wake up happy, not just for me, but for everybody else. I want to be self-aware enough to manage my moods and know what it's going to take to set the scene for flair.  I know that feelings of happiness and security for everybody else often depend on Mom's Mood.  I've been working on this for 10 years.

And all it was?  Chopped veggies in a bag for an omelet waiting in the refrigerator.  The whole morning seemed to pass so smoothly, like we were all skating on ice, gliding peacefully through the morning routine.  No rush, no yelling.

It started last night.  I do things like put out all the clothes we are going to wear and line up the backpacks by the door--anything I can do to make the morning work better.  But at my Weight Watchers meeting, I learned that you can chop up vegetables, put them in a bag, and dump everything in your pan with eggs for a quick breakfast.  It seemed easy enough.

So in a mere 3 minutes, I found I had flipped the world's most perfect omelet, complete with three different vegetables.  I paraded that omelet around the kitchen.  I imagined that omelet makers who have gone before me were rejoicing in heaven over this omelet.

When I do these little things--these little preparations the night before--I'm setting the scene for a good mood.  I know what it takes to keep myself pleasant for everybody else.  I know about exercise, about healthy eating, about a good night's sleep, about spiritual disciplines.  But what I sometimes forget is all the little night before preparations that, although consume time and effort, yield happiness benefits for me.

I think it's because when I opened the fridge and saw my breakfast nearly ready, I felt cared for and nurtured.  I wasn't in breakfast panic mode.  Everything was already taken care of.  Even though it was me caring for myself in advance (stay with me...), it still felt like a gesture of love.  It's how I feel when my husband has the coffee ready before I'm even out of bed (he's so great). 

Living with flair is being in a good mood for my family and my neighbors.  If it means chopping veggies the night before, I'm adding that to the good mood recipe.   And I'll do it as a gift to all the other folks around my table who appreciate a peaceful morning.  

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Flair in the Terrible Storm

I practiced one of the oldest ways of storm forecasting today:  I watched the leaves.  As families hurried into church under a darkening sky this morning,  my children clung to either side of me as I welcomed newcomers. 

I looked out at that smolder of sky and clouds.  Everything in sight seemed dark and braced for the worst.

Everything, that is, except the leaves.  My daughter pointed outside and said, "Mama, the leaves are dancing."  I smiled at the verb choice. 

It was beautiful to watch.  Dry leaves on the ground swirled up in this ballet of movement.  And in the distance, every tree turned its leaves up, anticipating the storm.  My friend who reads botany told me that the undersides of leaves contain stomata, or little pores, that help soak in moisture.  When they turn up like that, they position themselves to receive nourishment from the sky.

"Can they turn themselves up?"  I wondered aloud.  I imagined little leaf arms that flexed tiny muscles to turn those leaves over.  That would be so cool!  So flair!

It turns out that the leaves don't do any of this themselves.  The coming storm creates changes in pressure that actually move up from the ground and turn the leaves upside down.  The atmosphere conspires, it seems, to force these leaves to receive from the heavens.

I looked again at those leaves, enabled like that with no effort on their part, to receive.  As I turned to enter the sanctuary, I considered what it takes to stir those fallen leaves to dance and those branch leaves to receive.  I know God brings the storm, the pressure system, to invite my undersides to be exposed, to turn me to the right position.  From that place in the storm, I'm in the best place to receive what heaven pours down.   Only from there can I dance in that particular storm's wind. 

Saturday, June 5, 2010

What I Learned About Skin Today

Victory!  I figured something out:  My daughter loves to swing.  More than any other activity, she loves to swing.  Everyday, she asks if I can push her on the swing (she's not good at pumping yet).  And ever since I started writing the flair blog, I've been asking her why she loves it so much.  Living with flair is figuring out what we all love--getting to the core of it--and attaching it to a deeper truth.

My daughters think I'm over-analyzing.  I'm not phased by this.  I'm used to college students rolling their eyes and telling me we are "over-analyzing" that poem or that Shakespeare play.  They hate it when I ask them to tell me why they love something.

"Can't we just love it?  Do we have to know why?" 

Well, yes.  Yes, you do.

It will help you live great lives.

So this morning, I'm dusting my little one's room.  Both daughters are spinning around me, doing their little girl attempts at cleaning.  And I ask once again:

"Why do you love it so much?  Why do you love swinging for hours?"

"Mom, I already told you.  I...don't...know."

"It's not because it's high up or fast or something?"

"No."

"It's not because it feels like you're flying?"

"No.  I just like it.  That's all. OK?"  She's a college student telling me I'm over-analyzing.  She wants to love the poem but not care why. 

But I'm not finished yet. I call the older one, the wiser one who is more prone to accept challenges.

"Why does she love the swing so much?"

"Easy, Mom.  She loves it because it cools her down.  It's the wind she loves."

"But she loves to swing all winter--when she's already cold."

"Well, then, it's because she can feel the wind on her whole entire body.  That's what she loves.  The wind on her skin!"

We pause for a minute and I'm told by my children that the skin is the largest organ and that it feels things for us.

"Right."  My little one pops up and nods rapidly.  "That's it, Mom!  That's it!  I love it because it's my whole body feeling it on my skin."

And the older one says:  "That's why kids like to get dirty.  It gets the whole body into it, on the skin, you know."

I'm thinking that computer games and television don't engage their bodies.  I'm thinking that I want to go get on a swing with them, dive back into the pool (and yes, I did do the diving board yesterday--a liberating front dive to the applause of other moms!), bury them in sand at the beach, run in the rain with them, or roll down a grassy hill to get my whole body feeling something.

I'm probably dying a little bit inside for lack of diverse activities that get every piece of my skin involved.  Living with flair is getting my whole body into something.  And it's getting down deep into my experience to figure out what and why I love it.


(Photo from School of Prosperity)

Friday, June 4, 2010

When You're All Out of Flair

"I'm all out of flair," I said somberly to my sister this morning.  I woke up tired, cranky, and very, very uninspired.  Not even more coffee helped.  But I clung to one little hope, flickering like some nearly expired candle.

My sister said, "There's hope of flair.  Just remember that."

And I did have hope that the day could be great.  After all, I would do the one thing that always makes me feel good in the summer.

I would put on my bathing suit and go swimming.

The summers between ages 10 and 15, I lived at the pool.  I'd walk the mile and a half (in my jelly shoes), with my towel around my neck, show up when it opened, and then close the place down.  Once you passed a swim test, the lifeguards let you come without your parents.  So that's what I did, every day, for the three months of summer.  That little public pool was my whole world those summers. 

I still remember claiming my lounge chair, spreading my towel, and running--with that lifeguard blowing his whistle and booming out the WALK command--and jumping in that pool.  I'd stay until dinner, surviving on snack food from a vending machine, race home to eat a meal, and then return until the sun went down.  Sometimes I had friends with me, sometimes not.  It didn't matter.  I belonged to everybody, and there were goals to accomplish:  a front flip on the diving board, a full pool length of holding my breath, a championship in random Marco-Polo or Sharks and Minnows games, or a successful backstroke.  

No homework, no chores, no mean girls.  Actually, there was a mean girl, and she quickly left me alone when she saw my front flip and my mad skills in the deep end.  I was happy, free, and completely myself, floating on my back with the water holding me up and the sun shining down.

Now, I'm older.  I have kids of my own who race down to the pool.  Our pool has been opened since Saturday, and we've been everyday but yesterday because a storm threatened.

I read that afternoon that Rue McClanahan died.  Summer nights, I watched "The Golden Girls."  In 1985, Ms. McClanahan told The New York Times that the writers of that show knew how to showcase the many layers of an older woman.  She said, “They don’t turn into other creatures. The truth is, we all still have our child, our adolescent and our young woman living in us.”

I thought about that quote this morning as I got our pool towels and bathing suits ready.  I'm happy at the pool, even as a woman, because that little girl on the diving board is still alive in me.  She's in there, sometimes buried deep, and sometimes so quiet I can't remember her.  But when I'm in the pool, she's back.  Living with flair means accessing the child in us (and even the teenager) who loved to be alive--coloring, biking, dancing, jump roping, reading or swimming.  Happiness has something to do with remembering what we loved and doing those things no matter how old we are.

So even though my bathing suit is the kind with the skirt to hide my stretch marks and cellulite, I'm going to try the diving board today.  Who's with me?

Thursday, June 3, 2010

7 Dreams for Your Future

Today I had an unusual writing task:  I was to write a blessing of sorts for the doctoral and master's students that were leaving our Christian graduate student community to launch their careers.  I imagined what I would tell my own children as they started careers.  I imagined all the things I would want for them.  Mostly, though, I remembered what seven dreams God shaped in my own heart that sustained me through graduate school, marriage, parenting, teaching, writing, and just. . . living.  Here's what came to mind (and what I will speak to them tonight). 

1. May you be a blessing to all those you encounter, living a life of love and service with the strength God provides.  Colossians 1:28 tells us that we labor with Christ’s energy.  May that energy enable you to do extraordinary work in the lives of people and in your daily tasks.  May you advance knowledge in your field in ways that build, help, and bring healing in various broad forms.

2.  May you depend on the unfailing love of God, described in Psalm 90, that gives you joy and gladness for all the days of your life. 

3.  May you be filled with wonder in your career as you discover the treasures of Christ as mentioned in Colossians 2 where we read that the mystery of God is Christ “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”  May you find the wonder of God in each endeavor whether science, literature, social work, law, business, engineering, social sciences, education, architecture, medicine, or the arts.  May that wonder sustain you through difficult days.

4.  May you live a life of enormous faith—trusting God for immeasurably more than you could ask or imagine as noted in Ephesians 3:20.  May you have no fear as you move into the adventure God has for you, but only a joyful expectation of God's power, provision, and purpose for your life. 

5.  May you be an agent of peace, love, and the presence of the Living God in your workplace and in your city. May you remember 2 Corinthians 5—that God loves and cares for others through you. 

6.  May you build authentic community wherever you go—loving deeply as noted in 1 Thessalonians 2:8—being delighted to share your life with others because they are so dear to you. 

7.  May you remember Psalm 16 and the truth that God sets the boundaries of your life—they are good and right.  Also, the psalmist tells us that when you trust in the Lord, you will not be shaken

With these 7 promises in scripture, I'm confident that those new professionals will live rich, satisfying lives.  It's my prayer for them and for myself, and, in the words of this blog, they represent 7 dreams for a future of flair.  

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Poop Revelation

"Poop?  Poop?  You're writing about poop?" my youngest challenged me.  "That's gross, Mom."  Well, what can I say?  I don't always get to choose when the flair moment comes.  I just witness it.

On the walk to school this morning, my friend and I trailed behind her little dog (the one with the waggly tail).  When the dog stopped to poop, we stopped and waited, and then we waited some more while she picked up the poop and put it in a plastic bag. 

Meanwhile, the other parents and their kids ran ahead and up the hill through the woods.

"Thanks for waiting with me," my friend said.

"No problem.  That's what friendship is.  I wait while you deal with your poop."

We looked at each other and laughed.  It's so true.  How many days have we waited patiently while the other was dealing with her poop:  bad moods, freak-out days of too much work and not enough time, our "issues," or any other situation that made us act less than our best, less than we knew we could be?  How many days did we commiserate about sick children, family drama, disappointments, personal failures?  

We put our arms around each other and walked up that hill.  Any friend that can appreciate my flair metaphors of picking up poop and walking up hills is a friend of mine.  I don't even need to write it:  Living with flair means I stand beside my friends as they deal with their poop.  Even if everybody else is running up ahead, moving on with their days, I'm hanging around with the poop.  She'd do it for me.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

3 Ways to Love Life (According to a Young Photographer)

My five year old steals my camera whenever she can.  She's the most determined little girl when she's setting up a shot.  She'll take pictures of anything--cats, babies, rear ends, her own feet.  And it's all equally intriguing and equally beautiful.  As I found these photos other friends took of her yesterday, I couldn't help but think about what she's teaching me.


1.  Concentrate.
If my little girl can do it, surely I can take a minute and look around.  All of a sudden, I find extraordinary things to love.  I appreciate my surroundings instead of moving through them like they are mere inconveniences on my way to where I'm going.

2.  Look closely at your subject and be patient.   (You may have to hunch down and look completely ridiculous)  She's not self-conscious about this act of observing her world.  Who cares what friends think?  She's living with flair whether anybody thinks it's weird.   She passed up pie and shopping to stay there and get this shot.  She knew where the real joy was. 

3.  Everything's fair game, even your flip flops.

Do you know how many feet pictures my daughter takes?  She loves her feet, she loves shoes, and she loves that one toe of pink nail polish left over from last month's kitchen beauty parlor afternoon. 
 

Living with flair means I need to focus on my world, observe it closely, and know that everything is fair game for flair. 


Photos courtesy of Lauren Kooistra and Rachel Schrock.