Monday, May 31, 2010
It was a little after 8:00 AM.
It was just a trip for milk.
I left my children in their pajamas and my husband hovering over his ingredients. I'd have to be quick.
I'm turning the corner out of our neighborhood, and all of a sudden, like something bounding out of a dark woods into my car, I'm aware that I'm really, really happy. The realization struck with such force that it astonished me. For someone who battled the black haze of depression for nearly a decade, I am still amazed and celebrate the sheer joy that accompanies feeling good.
I was so thankful this morning to be alive. I was so thankful for what the holiday weekend represented--commemorating soldiers who died to secure freedom. We'd commemorate them in ways they would want us to: we'd eat pies, swim in the public pool, gather for a potluck dinner. What a gift this life is--this simple life that bursts with beauty in all these hidden places if I just look . . .
Living with flair means I commemorate, with ceremony and observation, how thankful I am for battles won, large or small. And I remember the fallen by being fully alive--fetching milk early Monday for blueberry pancakes eaten in peace, with a family, around a simple kitchen table.
Sunday, May 30, 2010
I could have sat there for hours. Transfixed, I had to wonder: why do I love to watch things burn? Why do most people?
Living with flair means asking the sort of question to get beneath my experience. So I stared at the fire. My children stared, hypnotized. I even recalled my entire history with campfires and what things I used to throw in. Magazines burned with prettier colors. Marshmallows exploded and elongated into these snake-like black creatures.
My children, too, enjoyed watching marshmallows burn more than eating them.
I finally thought of this: We really don't expect things to fall apart. We're used to permanence. I see things around me as intact, stable, and predictable. A stick is a stick. Newspaper is newspaper. Marshmallows are marshmallows.
But put them in fire, and all of a sudden, the true constitution appears. These stable objects transform into mere ash, residue, that looks all alike no matter what unique appearance it had to begin with. It's just a chemical reaction, completely understandable, and yet it produces such wonder, such peace even, as I watch the burn.
Outside of the boundaries of the campfire, though, that fire has such destructive power that it could take down my whole city.
It terrifies me, that power. And yet, sitting around a campfire, I get to observe that power from a position of safety. 18th century philosophers would say this is a sublime experience; it's a simultaneous fear and attraction. And when I encounter a power stronger than myself, even in a little backyard campfire, I'm humbled and put in my place. I see into the reality of my world--the black ash underneath it all.
Fire makes me think of the fragility of things (my own fragile self). Living with flair means appreciating a campfire for more than just the s'mores it makes. It means understanding the fear and power that accompanies all truly beautiful things.
Saturday, May 29, 2010
Imitation doesn't change the inherent problem I have. I need an infusion of grace, not an imitation of one.
Imitating a master is also like telling two people to stare at each other and imitate a relationship. I don't want to imitate love. I want to be in love. Imitation isn't the trick.
A relationship with God is a romance. It's an infusion of power, of love, of joy, of deeply knowing. It's not imitating a master or doing what Jesus would do. That kind of life doesn't work. It never has.
That's why the gospel is good news. I want to know Jesus and have him give me the power to live the life I'm supposed to.
Christianity isn't a religion of imitation--of acting more like Jesus. It's exchanging our weaknesses for his strength, for inviting his presence into our lives, and for depending on his love and peace on a daily basis.
It's not imitation. It's infusion.
I'm off to the pool. My children have been in their bathing suits since 8:30 AM. The towels and sunscreen are all in a row. The snacks are ready. The goggles are tightened. We could sit on the couch and imitate swimming, or we could dive into that delicious water. I think I know what we'll choose. Living with flair means I'm experiencing a life of joy, not imitating one.
Friday, May 28, 2010
I said the word aloud, and my daughter repeated it.
"It's a great word," I told her. I had actually looked the word up that very morning. My friend and I were talking about parenting, and she mentioned wanting to raise resilient children. She advised me not to constantly rescue my children, to not be afraid to let them suffer, and to realize that adversity creates strong children.
All week, I've been trying to rescue my older daughter from the bossy, mean girls who roll their eyes on the playground and insult her. I'm the mom who calls the teacher and wants to be there, mediating, controlling the situation, and ensuring total peace and happiness for my child.
Last night, I gave up the fight. I'm lying on the bed with my daughter. I'm listening to her talk and talk and talk about the mean girls, about the bullies, about the gossip and jealousy. For once, I don't try to solve it; I don't go email the teacher again. I've been doing that all year. For the rest of my daughter's life, there will be mean girls. I can't save her, no matter how hard I try.
"Look," I said. "You are just great. I love everything about you. You will figure out a way to handle those girls. I believe in you. God is with you. You can figure this out."
"I know," she said, smiling with that one loose tooth hanging by a thread. "I totally will."
The dictionary tells me that a resilient person possesses the ability to recover readily from adversity. In science, resilience refers to the energy a thing can store up as it deforms or is put under stress that it releases as it reforms. In organizations, resiliency is the ability to positively adapt to the consequences of a catastrophic failure.
I'm praying that she's storing up energy from this, that she'll learn that ready recovery skill, and that whatever catastrophic failures come, she can positively adapt. Tonight, I'm telling her I'm so proud of the resiliency she's already shown in these enormous eight years.
Resilient girls can handle anything. Put that on her resume! Put that in the cover letter! I survived recess today. What did you do?
This way of living with flair is the only way I'll survive parenting. Living with flair means I value raising resilient children. It means I embrace adversity myself for what it's storing up in me.
Thursday, May 27, 2010
"You need to remove that fruit! Pinch off the blossoms, too. Do not let those plants produce! Not this summer, and not next summer either."
All week, we'd been so happy about those blueberries and those ripening strawberries. I had imagined my blueberry pies, my strawberry smoothies, my blackberry jam. There was no way I was going to destroy that young fruit and those beautiful blossoms. Who were these people to suggest I would have to be patient for two more summers? (I realize that most of my friends know this about berry plants. I somehow missed the information.)
"You have to. You just have to do it. Make your husband do it," my understanding friend said. "But it has to happen."
This counter-intuitive and destructive move would make my plants thrive. If I take away the fruit, the plant directs the energy and nutrients to the most important part of the plant: the root system. A new berry plant needs a few years to make an indestructible foundation of roots. Then, we can enjoy the fruit. It would take three summers.
"I know it's hard. It killed me to do it to my own fruit plants," another said.
So this morning, with my daughters (and me!) safely away from the garden, my husband prepared our plants for abundance by deliberately diminishing them. All night I'd been thinking of what my friend said as I sat there with my mouth hanging open, refusing to believe the truth about my plants. I had to figure out what spiritual process this represents, what truth about the universe this destructive act mirrors. The flair project depended upon my ability to find the right in the wrongness.
She said, with such love and wisdom: "You've lived here three years, right? Weren't the first two hard? And now, in your third year, everything's going so well." I thought about the principle of three years. Maybe it was true. Maybe God knows that I need seasons of total emptiness, no fruit, not even blossoms, in order to get my roots deep and strong. I thought about marriage, of raising those babies to toddlers, of moving to new places and starting new jobs. I thought about years waiting for manuscripts to be published, friendships to form, community to thrive. It never all came together that first year, and maybe not even the second. But the third year? Fruit did come.
Maybe God feels like I do--the sadness, the loss--pruning away the obvious signs of productivity. In those years when nothing seems to happen, where nothing seems to bloom in my life, I'm putting down these awesome roots.
Just wait. It might not be this year, or even next year. In her book Anonymous , Alicia Britt Chole describes the spiritual process of our hidden years. She writes, "Abundance may make us feel more productive, but perhaps emptiness has greater power to strengthen our souls."
Living with flair means I'm strengthening my soul when there's no fruit in sight.
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
"Jesus, help us see you today."
Jonathan Swift wrote that "vision is the art of seeing what is invisible to others." When I look at this day, right now, I know that God is at work. And he sees what I don't see. Through suffering, through disappointment, through fear, through loneliness, God sees what I don't see. I want vision to see, with God's help, what is otherwise invisible. That's flair.
I want to see what God sees. I want to pierce through that layer of my circumstances to perceive that invisible script that God writes. These marks of God's intentions, of God's goodness, of God's love, are here. I pray that God sharpens my vision so I can see them.
My sleuthing for daily flair is really a prayer to see the invisible thing--that underlying beauty and goodness in any situation, no matter how bleak. It's a prayer to identify, in every circumstance, the marks of a spiritual process. When I see that process, I'm suddenly released from fear. I can find hope and love here, even in pain or confusion.
Living with flair means seeing the invisible thing. It means offering up a prayer to find God in whatever situation I'm in because, surely, he is here.
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
This way, they won't fall apart.
Meanwhile, the little girls in our neighborhood worry about their clothes, their friendships, their popularity. I think about clothing them generously with that ancient kitchen love--the kind passed down from generations upon generations of mothers who build families as they build recipes.
Keep these children strong, clothed in the ancient love, so they don't fall apart.
Monday, May 24, 2010
Not flair. No, this was not flair at all today.
We left the doctor's office right at lunch time. Dairy Queen was on the way home, so we pulled in. The whole time, I'm trying to comfort her, but nothing's working.
As we order food inside, I begin telling our server all about my daughter's horrible day. Hopefully, some ice cream will help matters. A few minutes later, this same server came to our table. Seeing my daughter still tear-stained and sniffling, I said, "We are just having a really bad day."
"Well," she said as she handed us our food, "there's a lot of day still left."
My daughter looked at her and smiled. The thought of "a lot of day still left," worked. The radical concept that the day wasn't doomed just because of a bad morning transformed this little girl's world. There was still time--seconds, minutes, hours even--to redeem the day. There was still time for flair.
I wanted to kiss the server. I told her that her comment would change the course of our whole day. Once again, language well-timed and well-spoken can create a new reality. The comment created anticipation. Something good would come. And by the time we'd finished lunch, ice-cream, and some laughs in our booth, it already had.
Living with flair means remembering "there's a lot of day still left." Even if we're down to seconds, there's still time for flair.
Sunday, May 23, 2010
Saturday, May 22, 2010
She told me I could use this picture (besides, it's the front page of the paper today and in local news). Below, you'll see the "after" shot. Here she is after we exited the limo and transformed her for her big reveal. You'll see me looking hyper as usual.
After all the glitter (literally we had glitter dust on us) and glam (think Movie Stars), my friend looked at me around 9:30 PM, and we both knew it was time to go home. It was an amazing, enchanted night with cameras, crowds, dancing--the works. But when it got late, we just wanted . . . home.
We drove back in my old Honda, back to our old neighborhood, back to our regular lives. For an entire day, we were movie stars, but this morning, I woke up thankful to just be home. Today I knew I'd be making pancakes, transplanting those seeds my daughter planted in the windowsill, and going to visit that newborn foal this afternoon. Monday, I'll walk the kids to schools, and later, we'll do double-dutch in the parking lot.
Living with flair means wiping the glitter off and enjoying the simple things. I loved the moment my friend looked at me and said, "I'm ready to go home." And did I mention that when we got there, her entire house was sparkling clean? A crew came and transformed her house while she was busy getting the makeover. Going home does feel better when you walk into a crystal clean house. Which reminds me: Saturday is cleaning day in my house (after pancakes and before gardening), so I'm back to the mundane, the anonymous, and the ordinary. I can't wait to enjoy a day of regular flair.
Photo courtesy of Centre Daily Times (Craig Houtz)
Friday, May 21, 2010
A few months ago, I wrote a little essay about a local mom who inspires me. The winner of this contest would receive a full makeover (wardrobe, jewelry, massage, nails, hair, gym membership, new smile, makeup, housecleaning, a Wii Fit, photo shoot, and tons of other prizes). When I heard about the contest, I had to nominate this mom. She's lost 100 pounds this year, but that's not even the most important thing. She's totally transformed her whole life. She's been on a journey to find emotional and spiritual health. I just love this girl! I love sitting next to her in church, worshiping God and seeing her write down every word the pastor says. I love seeing her choose hope and optimism even in hard circumstances. She fights for happiness, and I just admire her so much.
So all day, she gets to enjoy an incredible makeover. Not only that, but at 6:00 PM she arrives (by limo) to her huge reveal party--just like you see on TV! The press will be there: local news and ABC, magazines, photographers. It's the coolest thing to be a part of.
The real story here is that change is possible. This friend has had an impossibly hard childhood. She's taught me that the past does not determine your future, and you can change your life. Right before we got in the limo, I shared two Bible verses with my friend. I said, that "those who look to God will be radiant" (she is totally radiant right now), and that "anyone who is in Christ is a new creation. The old has gone, the new has come " (The new woman is here!). In fact, I have to sign off; she's nearly finished with her massage, and we are moving on to the hair salon. More later (with pics I hope).
Living with flair is getting into a limo with someone who deserves a makeover. It means going on the journey with friends who want to change their lives and being ready to celebrate.
Thursday, May 20, 2010
I said, "So I guess you want to avoid the big hills on your bike."
She paused and said, "Oh, no. It just means we need a bigger first aid kit."
There you have it: Courage means I ride full speed ahead, anticipate the wounds, and prepare with a great first aid kit. For my daughter it means Hello Kitty band aids. For the rest of us, it might mean we fill our kits with authentic friendships, strong ties to a community, a vibrant relationship to God, and the kind of space to heal. It's not the height of the hill that matters. It's not the danger, the risk, or the potential for failure. Wounds are likely. So I build the best first aid kit I can. That's some 5 year old flair.
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
Monday, May 17, 2010
I used to be incredibly ambitious. Now, not so much. Part of the reason is that, as I age, I realize the things I was ambitious for--money, prestige, fame--don't retain the same shimmer after too long. The problem with ambition is that it keeps my focus on some future manifestation.
I will know I am successful when. . .
I ask myself, and my students, to find a career that they love so much they'd do it for free. Today I will add: love it so much you'd do it for free and for absolutely no recognition. You love it so much you could do it. . . anonymously. You'll measure success, in this case, by a completely different standard.
It's hard to talk about these things when we need to earn a good living. We need to pay the bills, provide for our children, and stock the refrigerator. We often don't have the luxury of thinking about the larger questions about our work when we have to pay the electric bill today. But sometimes it's good to ask ourselves what motivates us to try so hard all the time. Beyond the paycheck, what are we really doing?
With money and prestige out of the picture, what would motivate someone to succeed in a particular line of work? And how in the world would they define success? As I think about living with flair, and in particular, working with flair, I wonder what to be ambitious for. Is it to serve others well, to advance knowledge in my particular field, to love every coworker, to build community in that workplace, to think about a mission to create beauty, order, or healing somewhere? Is it to fight for injustice or to awaken spirituality? Is it to provide for my family? It is to work with excellence, to the best of my ability? Or is it because I must do it because of a calling--because I'm made to do it--regardless of how my gifts are received or if they do anything?
These things are good and right.
Another friend asked me what the goal of my blogging adventures are. A book? For the first time in a long time, I was able to say that the goal was just to write, everyday, and record special moments that made the day great. The project is its own reward. I'm ambitious for living intentionally enough to find joy in the common thing.
When I measure success by a different tool, I'm suddenly free to do what I'm supposed to do--what I'm made to do--and not imprisoned by any other standard.
Living with flair means being ambitious for the right things-- for the sorts of things that can't be measured by dollar signs or followers.
Sunday, May 16, 2010
Saturday, May 15, 2010
Friday, May 14, 2010
On my drive downtown this morning, I saw a group of young men spreading mulch in the flowerbeds that lined the sidewalk. They were laughing, embarrassed maybe, as the cars at the stoplight stopped and observed them. The wheelbarrow of mulch wobbled between one boy's arms, and the pitchfork in another boy's hands took aim and missed the pile altogether.
I was thankful for their work to renovate those beds. They were giving that space some flair. And I knew, too, that the work would bring some flair to them as well.
Community service is like that.
It's service that intends to renovate us as we renovate our community. There's something about taking care of a community—those that need help, those that are suffering, or those places that need cleaning—that renews and refreshes the spirit, too.
As I drove past those boys, I remembered a verse from the book of Isaiah, chapter 58:
“If you spend yourselves on behalf of the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
and your night will become like the noonday.
The LORD will guide you always;
he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like a spring whose waters never fail.”
When I spend myself on the needs of my community, I ironically find a form of refreshment. My night becomes the noonday; my darkness turns to light. The promise of God guiding, satisfying, and strengthening me in that process represents the paradox of Christianity: you find yourself as you lose yourself; you become fully alive as you die to your own self-obsession.
You would think, in sacrificial service, that a frame would weaken, that a body would exhaust itself. But instead, the strongest frame, the most nourished individual, is the one who serves others.
Watching those boys spread mulch on that sun-scorched sidewalk reminded me that serving a community, even in small ways, contributes to our well-being. When we find a need outside of ourselves that we can meet, we can renovate, not just another person, but ourselves.
Living with flair means I meet the needs of others and delight in how it refreshes me. Spas and vacations are great, but greater still might be taking care of a neighbor (or spreading mulch in her flowerbed).
Thursday, May 13, 2010
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
I decided to ask God for help. Those people needed a blessing.
To bless is a way of inviting the power and presence of God in. It's a means of imagining the best for someone and infusing some situation with hope and joy.
"God, could you bless these people?" I muttered. But then I rolled my eyes at myself. Was that the best I could do? That blessing had no pizazz. If I'm going to pray for good things for people, I want to do with with flair.
I tried again: "God, could you give these workers unimaginable strength and joy today? Could you somehow remind them how wonderful and beautiful they are? Would you bring good things into their lives? Would you fill them with the kind of hope and security that will sustain them forever?"
Then, as I was leaving the drive-thru, a frowning older man nearly drove into my car. It looked like he hadn't laughed in decades. I took a deep breath, still wondering how I could be more creative in blessing people. I wanted to get specific.
"God, I hope this old man can laugh so hard that tears come out of his eyes today. I want him to slap his thigh and hang onto his friends for balance because he's laughing so hard."
I pulled out of the parking lot, and a frantic and stressed-out UPS man darted in front of me. So I prayed he would enjoy a profoundly delicious lunch. It was all I could think of at the time! Then I drove past some stern looking utility workers who seemed annoyed that I was driving past their work zone. I prayed that they would have wonderful evenings with their families--the kind where everyone feels cozy and loved.
Offering blessings today saved me from a bad mood and road rage. It reminded me that, in some mysterious way, I can invite the good and the beautiful into a stranger's life. God commands that we bless and not curse, so I want to do it with flair. What if I did this more often? What if everybody did? Living with flair means I'm not just enjoying this power and presence, but I'm also giving it. Next time I get in my car, I'm going to eagerly anticipate meeting grumpy people who need a stranger to bless them. And I hope that, when I'm a grouch, somebody is blessing me.
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
I've been thinking about temptation all day. Daniel Defoe, one of the first known novelists, wrote that "we are instruments of our own destruction." We hurry towards things that are not good for us. We run away from things that are. Why can this be?
This concept rings true primarily because we are experts in self-deception. We are very good story tellers.
I wonder what story I'm believing that makes the perceived benefit of that thought or action outweigh the harm it causes. It's amazing to me, for example, that a bowl of chocolate ice cream can overpower me. I can be ruled by appetite. Here I am, a full-grown woman, strong and sure, and yet, I'm brought down by sugar and chocolate. No matter what resolution I make, it wins. Sugar wins. Sugar! Isn't that just. . . ridiculous?
And it's not just food. It's overindulgence in many things.
But not today. I had this moment--this flair moment--when I figured out why the temptation wins in my life. Temptation wins when I change the story of what harm that thing I want brings. I tell myself only half the story (the good part). And it makes sense. I teach rhetoric. I was a debater. I know how to persuade, and I'm really good at convincing myself.
Today I told the whole story. I told the story of what happens when I do what I shouldn't do. I stopped and worked out the extended narrative--the director's cut. I let myself imagine myself doing that thing (in this case, eating the entire carton of ice-cream). But then what? If I tell the whole story of what happens next--after giving in--I remember the false promise. I unmask it, reveal the lie, and tell the truth about it. There's no life in the chocolate ice cream. It's just empty calories that provide exactly 3 minutes of chocolate pleasure followed by 3 days of getting back on track with my diet. It's not worth it. It's not that good.
Telling the whole story of what happens when I give in to temptation helps diminish its power. It's one way out. Living with flair means I see the full story regarding my choices. It means I become aware of my capacity for self-deception and tell the truth instead. That thing I want to do is just not that good.
Monday, May 10, 2010
The shoe in question is about the size of two grains of rice. Polly Pocket shoes are the bane of my existence. And we have so many containers of them. We have 8 years worth of Polly Pocket garage sale finds, gifts, and hand-me-downs that our shelves in the basement overflow with tiny rubber doll accessories no bigger than your thumb. And in that universe, one tiny dark pink shoe was somewhere, suspended in a galaxy of shoes.
I could have told my daughter that Polly needed to go barefoot. I could have lied and said that the shoe was gone. I could have just told her that there was no way in the world I would leave my desk to spend hours sifting and sorting for a doll shoe. Besides, it doesn't matter in the grand scheme of things.
But I did it. On the fourth container (and almost an hour later), I found the shoe. You would have thought we had struck gold. We squealed and jumped around. She held it up like some Olympic medal.
We lost an afternoon on that shoe. (I think it's missing again. I can't find it anywhere.)
So in the center of this ordinary day, the mass around which everything else orbits, was that insignificant shoe. That shoe represents the type of world I want her to know. It's a world where people stop their work to help a child find what matters so much to her. It's a world where we recognize what seems futile and unproductive to us might just be the very thing that brings delight to another person. (My husband, for example, watches American Idol with me because I like it. It's growing on him. And I watch woodworking shows with him. They are still boring.)
If I'm going to live with flair, I want to offer the kind of love another person wants to receive. It's not easy to give. It may seem like a huge waste of time. But what I devalue might just be what a person I love cherishes. I want to recognize what others think living with flair means.
For my daughter, it's finding a shoe. And so I'll search for it.
Sunday, May 9, 2010
I was jealous that Rob Reiner was filming a movie, "Flipped," in my old backyard (the one I left to move here). I should have been there, serving coffee to Hollywood celebrities and awaiting my invitation to star in the movie.
I was jealous of other women (friends from college) who had political and academic power. That was supposed to be me there on Capitol Hill or at that podium. It was weird how jealous I was. It was the kind of jealous that ate my insides and made me stomp my feet in the kitchen as I told my husband how wrong everything was. I was supposed to be a different person by now. Why was I here, in this town, with this life?
The rhetoric of my life was "if only."
So exactly one year ago today, I sat in church, jealous and ridiculous. I had just finished writing something about how if you ask yourself a good question, the right question, you could get yourself out of any bad mood. I knew I need to ask spiritual questions. That seemed right (after all, I was in church). So I wrote:
1. Is knowing God better than anything? (as J.I. Packer asks: "For what higher, more exalted, and more compelling goal can there be than to know God?")
2. Will I live the life God asks me to? (Here, in this town, with no retail, no glitz?)
3. Will I pursue wealth or godliness? (Seriously? I need a whole new summer wardrobe with sparkly flip flops.)
These questions mattered so much to me because in a split second, like lightening forking through the roof and straight into my heart, they reoriented me. They set me straight. They reminded me that my happiness comes from surrender to the spiritual truth that governs my life.
The first recorded question that Jesus asks in the Gospel of John is, "What do you want?" I love this question. I love the disciples' answer even more. They essentially ask him where he is staying. They want to be where Jesus is. They would leave everything to be in his presence. So Jesus says (strangely), "Come and see."
When God says, "What do you want," the answer from my heart is: "To be in your presence."
God, always the pursuer, always setting up a way to delight us, just says, "Come and see."
That morning, a year ago today, I imagined God asking my jealous heart: "What do you want?" And I wrote in my journal: To be in your presence. But is it really enough? It is really worth it to pursue spiritual instead of material wealth?
And God said: "Come and see."
It's been a year. What a year of enjoying the life God has given me. Nothing more, nothing less. When I open my eyes to see the wonder and mystery of God, the jealousy dissolves. Living with flair today means I continue to "come and see" what God wants to prove to me about the sufficiency of Himself.
Saturday, May 8, 2010
Eventually, we arrived at huge nursery. We left the car, met the wind and cold, and, hunching down and running, we slipped into the first greenhouse.
If only she had a greenhouse--a little paradise to keep her safe and warm so she could grow too. If only we could create the conditions that help her put down strong roots, stretch high out, and bloom, bloom, bloom.
What does a mom need? She needs to be protected and nourished so she can fully develop into the woman she's supposed to be. She needs friends who ask her about her ideas and her dreams; she needs a community who will spur her on and enable her to take risks in any direction she chooses. A mom needs people who don't limit her scope, who don't assume anything about her, and who recognize that she is a growing thing--like a tender vine in a greenhouse. Our children aren't the only people that need to grow in our homes. Babies aren't the only people that need swaddling.
If a mom doesn't grow and ripen, she shrivels. Moms need communities that value her spiritual, physical, social, emotional, and (if she wishes) her professional growth.
Friday, May 7, 2010
2. Seeing a brown bunny with a huge cotton tail hopping in the yard.
3. Putting maraschino cherries in my drink just because.
4. Listening to my husband on the phone as he arranged to borrow a truck to deliver compost to the backyard for a new vegetable garden.
5. Feeding the pet turtle, Stripe, that I'm babysitting for two weeks.
6. Wrapping myself in a huge green blanket as I write this because my basement office is chilly.
7. Knowing that a friend with seven children received a day of housecleaning as a Mother's Day gift from her husband.
It's May 7th. Another ordinary day in my neighborhood. Seven different moments made me happy today, and it's not even lunch time yet. As I wrote this list just now, I asked myself what made each moment so full of flair for me.
They each triggered a special memory: nervous and romantic first dates with my husband, chasing rabbits in a field when I was eight, ordering Shirley Temples with my father at fancy restaurants, growing the hugest tomatoes as a kindergartner (I still can see them in my mind), finding turtles on the banks of our backyard creek as teenager (I was too old for this, and yet I knew some things you don't outgrow), wrapping my friend in this green blanket as she slept on my couch one weekend nearly a decade ago, and remembering a best friend before she was married, before her life became the day-in and day-out of raising kids, and knowing she could rest today as someone else scrubbed her toilets.
The brain is a file cabinet of memories we turn into beautiful narratives. We thread the present moment into this quilt of memories and find its place in relation to all we've been through. What I love about living with flair is that it embeds my thoughts in the now while allowing deep reflection into past joys.
It's not a future thing. It's never a fantasy about what should or will be. Living with flair is fully experiencing the day, connecting it to what we love and loved, and staying in that place of joy. No need to imagine a different life. No need to ask what's missing. It's all right here.
Thursday, May 6, 2010
Wednesday, May 5, 2010
Last night, a boy knocked on the door with little marshmallows and toothpicks in his hand. He invited my girls to help him build structures out of these materials. Afterward, they were outside, running barefoot, playing hide-n-seek in the yard.
Tuesday, May 4, 2010
I am devoted to being a great wife. My goal is to support and inspire my husband by helping him fulfill his dreams, partnering with him in his endeavors, and creating an environment of predictable joy in our home. (That last part is a stinker for me. Pray for me.)
Monday, May 3, 2010
"What did you tell people?" I asked my husband. I was in bed, still in my pajamas, destined for the flu.
"That you were tired, really stressed-out, and probably getting sick," he said. Meanwhile, he collected the children to take them to an afternoon movie so I could sleep in a quiet house.
Then, my oldest approached me with her fist holding a crumpled up dollar bill.
"What's this?" I asked her.
"It's my tooth fairy money from my piggy bank," she said, very seriously as she put it slowly beside me. "I want you to have it in case you need to go to Starbucks later."
I had husband love, daughter love, and then, and then, some completely unexpected neighbor love.
At 5:30, neighbors came over with dinner. This amazing family brought me teriyaki pork tenderloin, fruit salad, green beans, rolls, potatoes, and ice cream for dessert. I hadn't been in the hospital or anything. I didn't even have a fever. They just heard I was tired and maybe getting sick.
Then, this morning, another neighbor handed me a pack of those mocha frappuccino drinks to sustain me while working today.
"How did she know I love those?" I asked my husband.
"It was either that or a bag of beef jerky. You're sort of easy to please."
It isn't like I'm on my death bed. I was just really, really tired from a long semester. I sounded the alarm on Sunday morning, and the family and neighbors mobilized immediately. I know what happens when a mom takes a day off. All of a sudden, the whole operation jams up. There's a clog in the wheel; everything overflows. She feels guilty and lazy because, after all, she's still breathing and can therefore empty the dishwasher.
But I had to do it. Living with flair means sounding the alarm if I have to. It means receiving from a community. I want to be strong enough to stay in bed and strong enough to accept help. And today, because I know what it feels like to be loved with a meal, coffee, and a quiet house, I know just what to do if I hear that somebody else is tired and stressed out.
My neighbors have flair. Bringing unexpected dinner and iced mocha frappuccino drinks to a tired woman is a beautiful, and so appreciated, form of flair. Community flair--that's what helped me get out of bed today.
Sunday, May 2, 2010
Saturday, May 1, 2010
Sometimes I need to remember to take myself and others back behind an experience—to see how it's being made for us. There's an infrastructure to our lives that other people make on their backs. It's not just food service. It's any service that we take for granted that makes our days happen. Someone is picking up the garbage, sorting the recycling, delivering my mail, or keeping the street lights working. Maybe I wouldn't demand so much if I could just journey back and see what's going on from a different perspective.
Living with flair means to sit with my hands in my lap and not demand my piece of cake.