Saturday, December 31, 2011

Under New Management

I'm driving home from North Carolina, and I see an old restaurant with a dangling sign, half-lit.  It says, "Come In!  We're Under New Management!" 

Something about that sign grips me and won't let me go.  It's hope.  I know it like I know my own hands typing on this keyboard.  The broken-down restaurant gets a fresh start--a new dream--under new management

The old has gone, the new has come.  2012 will be our best year yet.  We're under the new management of a Great God.  We're surrendered, strong, and steady.  Under new management means whatever was left broken down, hurting, and hopeless gets a makeover.  Renovated, restored, renewed.  

Living with flair means I'm under new management.  Sorry Self.  Sorry Satan.  I'm under new management. 

What in you needs to get under new management in 2012? 

Friday, December 30, 2011

One Simple Thing We Need

Last night I consider what a wise mentor once told me:  "Sometimes your most spiritual activity might just be taking a nap."

I'm so tired I feel sick.  I'm so tired my head hurts and everything in the world seems wrong and terrible and nothing will ever feel right again.  I hate everything, and my whole entire life is falling apart.

My husband reminds me that after a good night's sleep, I'll feel refreshed again.

The funny thing about getting a good night's sleep is that it works.  When life feels overwhelming and impossible, maybe we just need a good night's sleep.  I think about what happens to my children when they don't get enough sleep.  The simplest tasks (putting on shoes, brushing teeth, buckling a seatbelt) dissolves them both into puddles of tears.  

Go to bed, my sweet child. You'll feel right in the morning

Living with flair means we sleep.  Call it sleeping with flair.  It's a simple challenge to take care of a simple need before we try to conquer the day.
What's keeping you from a good night's sleep?

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Go Find the Brokenhearted

This morning, I'm speaking to a group of 1,000 people about how I encounter God.  As I pray about what to report, one phrase resonates over and over again.  In my sleep, in my waking thoughts, and in my attempts at writing, the same phrase erupts:

Go find the brokenhearted.  Bring them to the throne of God for healing.  

That's it.  If I want to encounter God, I go where He is.  Scripture says in Psalm 34 that "God is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit."

If God is near to the brokenhearted, I want to be with Him.  I want to draw near to whatever pain, whatever sorrow, and whatever deep despair imprisons the people God puts in my path.  I want to journey with them to the throne of God to meet the Healer.

I want them to know the Healer who healed me.

Do you know a brokenhearted person who needs to go to God's throne?

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

You'll Make It

Today, my youngest daughter and I float petals in the creek.  She loves to launch a flower where the creek begins and watch it find its way to where the creek flows off into some grand distance she cannot see.

We root and cheer for the little petal as it braves rocks, sticks, swirling eddies, and sandbars.   We observe delays, near-drownings underneath dams of leaves and bark, and the wilted, water-logged exhaustion of a petal on her journey.

When she's stuck, we see how when she simply turns to the ease of the current, the water takes her where she needs to go.

It's just like living, I tell my daughter.  You're on the journey, and when roadblocks come, you just relax and find your way back to that current of Living Water that always takes you home

Don't you just love watching things float down the creek?  Oh, the joys of childhood!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

When You Just Can't Contain God

I'm speaking at a conference this week for 30 minutes on the topic of how I encounter God.  I'm finding I cannot possibly narrow the topic down to 30 minutes.  I could speak for hours!  I could teach for days upon days about every moment of surrender, every beautiful instance of suffering, every story of entering the spiritual journey of another person, and every abundant blessing that came when I obeyed God's boundaries for a simple life. 

Surrender, suffering, spiritual journeys, and simplicity.  That's how I see Him.  That's how I experience Him most of all.  Whenever my faith moves from theory to practice, I see Him. 

But there's also beauty and wonder!  What if I used the 30 minutes to reveal what I learned of God by blogging about the acorn, the Lady Slipper Orchid, and the snowflake? 

Maybe, instead, I'll talk about the coconut cake that's in the kitchen at this very moment.  How could I not experience the goodness and presence of God when He makes something so very wonderful as the coconut?

Focus, focus. I'm thankful that there's just too much to report.  What a great God we serve!

How do you encounter God best? 

Monday, December 26, 2011

Graceful Adulthood

Whenever I return to my husband's little hometown of Fuquay-Varina, NC, I'm always amazed that people actually do grow up.  The little children who once ran down the aisle for children's church now hang back and talk about politics and sports.  The young girls who once tugged on my sleeve announce college acceptances. The high school students I used to know now have careers and spouses, and to my amazement and delight, new babies!  

Children do become adults in this little town.  And at least here, they don't seem to mind.

I've been studying theories of emerging adulthood this month.  Researchers worry that many adolescents in this generation do not transition well into adulthood.  They seek pleasure, fame, and ease and delay assuming the adult responsibilities of financial independence, marriage, family, and careers until well beyond 30 years of age.

Nobody wants to be an adult anymore.

But not in this town. This community celebrates, encourages, and teaches the graceful transition to adulthood.   It's a privilege and a joy to raise children, work hard, and serve your community.  Your own father did this, and his father before him.  Your own mother did this, and her mother before her.  You welcome the hard work of it.  You welcome the blessing of dying to self and raising up the next generation.

I'm sitting quietly in the pew, watching the new generation.  I feel old but full of peace and joy.   There's something so right about growing old and serving others.

Maybe the researchers need to come visit this town.  Some American children do grow up well.

Do you worry that children aren't growing into adulthood well?

Sunday, December 25, 2011

My Christmas Debacle

I'm at a Christmas Eve party in an unfamiliar home, and I go upstairs to find my daughters to alert them we're heading home.  All the children play a nice, quiet game in a room behind a closed door.

I gently open the door, but I don't know there's a step to go down into the room.

I proceed to tumble into the room, arms flailing, shrieking and grabbing onto anything that can keep me steady.  My black sweater rises above my body like horrible wings.  The sweet children see this monstrous figure lunging for them, and they scream so loudly that all the party guests start inquiring from downstairs.  The children keep screaming as I regain my balance and try to explain myself.  One little boy begins crying.  He runs to his father's arm while another boy relates the tale of the Creepy Mother who attacked the good little children at the Christmas Eve Party.

"I think it was the Freaky Mother, not the Creepy Mother," my oldest reports.  At least my own children laugh hysterically and talk about how fantastically terrible my entrance was.  "You enter a room with flair!  You were awesome!"

I spend the rest of the evening apologizing to parents as they comfort their children.  I feel horrible about myself.  My husband says, "Well, you made the best Christmas memory.  Nobody's ever going to forget that party."

Living with flair means you see your Christmas debacles as memory-makers.

Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

We Have a Problem

My youngest daughter receives magnetic earrings from Grandma to pretend as if those little ears are really pierced.  The magnet jewel sits on top of the earlobe, and a powerful magnet backing goes behind her ear to hold the earring in place. 

In theory, this works.  However, we quickly realize that strong magnets latch onto any metal she passes.  I'm on my hands and knees half the day, looking for whatever metal thing has attracted her jewel.  Her own headband, for example, sucks the earrings away from her ears. 

She needs the real earrings--piercing deep inside--to keep the jewel in place.  That night, I think of my own heart, drawn away and sucked into the vortex of shiny objects and luring ideas.  I want my heart pierced so deeply with God's truth that nothing else can attract it.

As we count down to Christmas morning, I'm so thankful for the birth of a Savior that pierced me for real.  Whatever passes by cannot shake that rare Jewel within me. 

How do you resist the lure? 

Friday, December 23, 2011

Another Dimension

This morning at grandpa's house, I take a moment to read a pop-up book by Robert Sabuda, the paper engineering genius.  I marvel over the intricate designs and how, when you turn a page, an entire world unfolds in another dimension.  The book enters the room, right upon my lap.  Why haven't I found these books before? 

On Mr. Sabuda's website, he teaches you how to make your own pop-up creations.  I cannot wait to try them.  Maybe I'll invite my children to join me. 

Sometimes, you leave the digital book and remember the wonder of paper and turning pages.  With pop-up books, you remember what it means to interact with texture and smells, sounds and movement. 

I'm going to try my hand at the reindeer, snowman, and angel.  Living with flair means you read a pop-up book and remember the ancient enjoyment of books you hold in your hand.

Do you remember the wonder of pop-up books? 

Thursday, December 22, 2011

A Great Christmas Verb

This morning, I realize that Christmas delights.  Delight (as a noun) means great pleasure and joy, and (as a verb) it means to both give and receive such joy.
I delight in your company!  Your company delights me!  You are a delight! 

At Christmastime, I recall the Lord's great delight in us.  Psalm 18 says:  "He brought me out into a spacious place; He rescued me because he delighted in me."

Zephaniah 3 tells me this:

For the Lord your God is living among you.
He is a mighty savior.
He will take delight in you with gladness.
With his love, he will calm all your fears.
He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.

Jesus comes because God delights in us.  His verb turns us into nouns; we are a delight. 

We delight--giving and receiving great joy--today.  We walk about in dust and shadow knowing we are a heavenly delight.   

Do you feel delightful today?  You are!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

3 Ways to Be a Christmas Blessing

As we gather to see friends and family this weekend, I wonder how we might be a true blessing.  I've spent too many holidays easily offended, moody, exhausted, irritable, judgmental, and negative.  I've spent too many holidays thinking of myself and my own needs.

Since action flows from belief, I've fashioned 3 tips to help me be a blessing

1.  Believe I'm on assignment from God to bless and encourage through words, gifts, and prayer.  Ask God to show me where, who, when, and how to bless. 

2.  Believe the best about everyone.  Assume pure motives.  Imagine the highest good about others instead of judging, criticizing, and complaining.  I forgive and release bitterness when I ask God to help me see the best in others. 

3.  Believe other people have extraordinary things to teach me. I ask God to make me humble, teachable, and amazed by others. 

We believe we have a Christmas mission.  We believe the best.  We believe in the capacity of every soul to teach us.

Do you have a tip for being a Christmas blessing?

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Even the Toilet

This morning, I read Emily Dickinson:

The only news I know
Is bulletins all day
From immortality

I'm on the look out all day for heaven's news: inklings, whispers, hints. 

Here, we clean toilets and scrub dried egg from the breakfast dishes. I have nothing to report but that heaven reaches down into even the toilet, even the dried egg.  Immanuel--God with us--even here.   Is there a better story anywhere?  That's the only real news I know. 
Do you see whispers of God in the ordinary cleaning day? 

Monday, December 19, 2011

Thundersnow Really Happens

Today, my husband remarks that we might get thundersnow this week.

"You're making that up," I laugh.  "What in the world is thundersnow?"

"When you get a thunderstorm, but instead of rain, it snows. It's a real thing.  Thundersnow.  David the meteorologist told me."

All day, I think about this phenomenon.  I imagine the colossal boom and roar of thunder coupled with the dainty, delicate fluff of snowfall that melts and dissolves on my fingertips.  I'm laughing just imagining it.  I want to race out into the fear and terror and find the gentle wonder of snow falling all around me.  

The shout of thunder and the silence of snow come all at once.

Is God like this?  A beautiful thundersnow of contradiction?   A sublime moment of daunting delight? We laugh and dance about in the fragile flakes, even as a storm's voice echoes. 

When that baby came to the manger, surely, it thundersnowed. 

Have you ever been in a thundersnow storm?

Sunday, December 18, 2011

I Refuse to Wear My Coat

Every single winter, my daughter insists she doesn't need to wear her winter coat.  You'd be amazed at the resistance to outerwear from the children in my family. 

Today, I decide to just let her go.  She rushes outside in a tank top, shoes with no socks, and a flimsy sweater.  There's snow on the ground from flurries; it's that cold.  "See!  I told you I didn't need a coat!  I'm fine!  I'm fine!"

A few minutes later, she returns to me, freezing.  

Does God just let me go sometimes so I finally feel the effects of my own wandering?  He stands there by the door, coat in hand, waiting for me to feel it and return.

Why don't children want to wear that winter coat?

Saturday, December 17, 2011

What Children Love Best About Making Christmas Cookies

I decide to ask my children what part of making Christmas cookies they enjoy the best.  It occurs to me that it's a good idea to get their perspective every once in a while.  Do you remember when I returned from our glamorous New York City trip and asked my children to recall their favorite memory?

It was the amazing birds.  Feeding the birds.  Not the fancy restaurants, shopping, huge buildings, or museums.

Maybe my children don't even enjoy all this fuss about Christmas cookies.  Maybe we should forget the whole thing.  

"What was your favorite part about today?" I ask.  I'm wiping flour from my face, removing sprinkles from my shoes, and scraping dried frosting from the counter.  The food coloring spilled everywhere just drives me crazy.  Next year, I'm going to prepare all the colored frosting bowls myself and make neat little stations for them to frost and decorate cookies.  Next year, I will not let little children anywhere near the food coloring.

"My favorite part," my daughter cheerfully answers, "was definitely the food coloring.  We got to make all those colors!" 


Living with flair means we recognize that the very thing we can't stand might be the thing they love. 

What thing do children love and remember that adults tend to not want to bother with?

Friday, December 16, 2011

Waking Up to Cat Breath

This morning, my cat who looks more like a skunk wakes me up with very loud purring.  She's right in my face, purring with that horrible cat-breath.  I'm not moving, so she puts one little paw on my nose.  Purr, purr, purr. 

I pet her and lean in to figure out the source of her purring.  The purring mechanism confuses even the most intelligent of scientists; nobody can discover how a cat actually purrs.  It just seems to happen.  It's not even daylight yet, and already I'm encountering mystery.  How do you purr, little cat?

We don't know how they purr, but we hypothesize why.  I read that cats purr for three reasons:  happiness, friendship, and intention.   They purr to communicate contentment and relaxation.  They purr as a sign of offering friendship.  Finally, they purr to express a specific request or intention (feed me, love me). 

What if my communication today rose up from a deep mysterious place of good tidings?  What if my sounds offered to the world around me today, even from daybreak, expressed happiness, friendship, and clear, good intentions?

Consider the mysterious cat.  I approach you purring, pouring out happiness, friendship, and good intention.

Just so dogs don't feel left out today (hello, Roberta!), I wanted to leave you with the quote, "Wag more, bark less."  For cats, it's "purr more, hiss less."  I'm asking God to help me turn from hiss to purr today. 

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Is There Such a Thing?

Today, my friend tells me I have the spiritual gift of "celebration." Is there such a thing?  There must be!  Living with Flair has been my 632 day journey to celebrate the day.  It never gets old for me. 

Lord, help me continue to celebrate! 

I want to remember to celebrate when I have long, boring days of work and chores and sadness and disappointment.  There's something  or someone to celebrate here.  There's something to dance a jig about, slap a high-five for, squeal-with-my-hands-over-my-mouth for, perform little jumps in the air for, grab-my-friend's-shoulders-and-jiggle-and-jump-and-kiss-on-the-cheek about, pump my fist over, whoop and holler about, turn a cartwheel for, sing the Hallelujah chorus over, write a blog about. . . 

You get the idea.  Living with flair means we're gonna celebrate.  There's always something--or better yet, Someone--to celebrate.  It might be anything--large or small, obvious or hidden--that's just waiting for us to observe and cheer over.   Woo-hoo!  Yahoo!  Yeah! 

Do you have something to celebrate today?

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Dangers of Blogging: Some Things Are Just For Now

I think it's sometimes hard to have a blogger for a spouse.  We're tempted to think about family events in terms of blog entries instead of just experiencing them. 

We're driving down a country road, and the moon hangs low and buttery yellow in the deep black of night.  "Pull off the road!" I cry.  "I want to photograph it!"

He pulls off into the dirt of a farm, and I roll down the window to try to capture the moon.

You can't do it; the moon never photographs well, at least with the kind of camera I have.  I look out at that moon and wish I had a record.  I wish I had the film to prove it, to share it. 

He holds my hand and says, "Some things are just for now." 

Some things, I learn, you don't need to always blog about.  You don't need to capture them at all.  They are just for now. 

If you're a blogger, do you find that you start evaluating your day based on what would make a good blog instead of just living it?

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Good Choice!

While out to lunch with a friend, I order nachos (boring, I know).  The waiter responds with a huge smile and exclaims, "Good choice!"  When I add some guacamole, he cries, "You go, girl!"  When I order iced-tea, he sounds equally enthused about my excellent choices.  When my friend orders her sandwich, he compliments her on her fine taste:  "Good choice!" 

We find ourselves laughing and loving his enthusiasm about what great choices we've made. 

"I obviously don't get enough affirmation," I say to my friend.  "I think I need people telling me I've made good choices more often!" 

It feels so good just to have someone, even a complete stranger, affirm that I've made a good choice.

How simple to have someone affirm a choice!  I realize this:  As a wife, mother, friend, and teacher, I make what seems like a million choices a day. Nobody sees them; nobody affirms them.  What if they did?   I want to affirm today all those choices we make in any given hour and say, "Good choice!" 

I'm sure you've made many choices today.  Good choice!  I'm glad you chose that. 

Did you make a good choice today? 

Monday, December 12, 2011

Only You

Today, I recall the First Lady's quote, "I can only be Michelle Obama."  She doesn't try to be anybody else.  

The statement resonates. I can only be me. Why would I try to be somebody else?

The me I am is the me people love. 

When we're trying to impress at holiday parties or when meeting up with old friends and family, just remember this:  The you you are is the you we love.  We don't need impressive, thin, wealthy, salon-made, well-rested, designer-dressed, or even clever.

We love you:  the quirky, complex, out-of-sorts, moody, restless, down-to-earth, a little plump you.  (Oh wait, that's me!)

We love that extraordinary you. 

Doesn't it just feel free to say, "I can only be me"?

Sunday, December 11, 2011

They See What You Don't See

I'm sending a novel pitch out to agents, and one responds with interest.  This means it's time to send a full proposal:  synopsis, character sketches, sample chapters, author bio.

Years ago, I forged ahead with confidence and zeal, believing I was hot stuff.  I didn't need anyone to tell me how to revise or improve my writing.  I was young and smart and perfect and error-free.  Now, after a decade of rejection after rejection, I've realized the beauty of humble living.   I've realized the danger of an independent spirit that--when left alone and unchecked--makes a person believe they are better and more important than they are.

This time (older, wiser, realistic), I send my chapters to neighbors who respond with the most insightful and clear revision suggestions.  The Local Artist, for example, sees what I don't see:  unclear sentences, confusing details, unrealistic scenes, clich├ęs.  Her commentary rids the prose of excess and turns each sentence towards its best position.

I want her to now edit my life.  Living with flair means abandoning my independent spirit so others can suggest and revise.  They see what I don't see. 

It's hard to let others see your work and your life, offering it up for revision and commentary.  Have you had good experiences when you allow others to "edit" you? 

Saturday, December 10, 2011

A Beautiful Answer to Prayer

My daughter gives permission to share the following true story that just delights me:

I'm tucking my daughter in bed, and she opens up and starts crying about how nobody plays with her at recess.  She spends the time walking alone around the school track with her head buried in her coat.

She's not athletic and still enjoys imagination games, and unfortunately, she can't find friends her age in those categories.  And when she tries to join a group of girls, they are gossiping and using bad language.  They don't let her in their circle.  

"What can I do, Mom?"  She feels so lonely and so rejected.

"How should we pray about it?  What do you want to ask God for?"  My heart aches, and I fight tears. 

"Just one friend.  Just one little girl who wants to be friends with me tomorrow."  So we bow our heads and ask God to send a friend.

The next morning, I pray for my daughter. The Bible verse in Hebrews 1:9 comes to mind each time I start to ask God for help:

You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness;
   therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions
   by anointing you with the oil of joy.

I pray the whole morning that God would simply anoint my precious daughter with the oil of joy.  Bring her joy.  Bring her joy.  Bring her joy.

That afternoon, she bursts out of the school doors and reports that a new little girl came to find her at recess.  "She wants to become my friend, and we played the whole time!"

"What is her name?" I ask.

"Her name is Joy."

The Lord brought Joy indeed. 

Do you have a great answer to prayer to share today?

Friday, December 9, 2011

This Will Hurt

These past few days, I've been talking to students and my daughters about what it means to do the right thing.   We decide this:

It hurts.

This generation, I'm told, avoids pain at all costs.  We've become experts in pleasure and experts in denying and avoiding suffering.  

Doing the right thing hurts.  When you do what's right, you often risk your reputation.   You risk losing relationships.  You risk your own comfort.  It's painful to choose what you know is right--what you know God wants--especially when everything in you desires the path of least discomfort.

Why should I go against my nature?  It feels so very wrong!  I think about Proverbs 14:12 where the wise man states: "There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death."  It seems right because it feels right--or makes sense--for profit, self-promotion, comfort, security, or pleasure.

But God lays out this whole other way of living, and I'm realizing that it's not always comfortable.  When I obey God, it usually hurts somewhere.  That kind of pain, however, produces this overwhelming, incomprehensible, sublime peace and joy.

Nothing compares to the peace of doing the right thing.

I don't want to be surprised by, fearful of, or repelled by the pain of obedience.  I anticipate it.

It hurts, but it's good. 

Can you remember milestone moments in your faith journey when obedience was painful?

Thursday, December 8, 2011

What We're Meant For

Today I notice the Weeping Cherry, and the beautiful intricacy of the ice on her limbs captures my attention.

Ice on the Weeping Cherry
A swirling scaffolding of crystal sparkles in the late afternoon sun.   It's so beautiful that I almost forget how terrible this weight is for my Weeping Cherry's fragile branches.  She's not meant for it. 

When I think about what I'm meant for, and when I start to desire that shimmer of fame or importance to capture attention,  I remember this:  God made the Weeping Cherry for its own unique kind of blossom and rich green foliage.  Let everything else melt off and free her to be what she was meant to be.  She'll bloom in time. 

Why do you think this generation desires fame so very much?

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

It Begins When it Ends: Saying Farewell to Students

As the semester ends at Penn State, I face these students one last time.  We'll never be together like this--in this way--again.  These freshman will move on, and I'll remain to greet the next class in January.

I never know what to say on the last day.   It never comes out right.  

Sometimes I just say good-bye and shoo them all away like they're magnificent interruptions to my important schedule. They walk past my desk, and I pretend not to miss them already. 

I remember a seminary professor who told me this:  "A good course is never finished;  it just begins when it ends."

We aren't ending.  We're beginning.   That helps me walk away.  I might not ever see them again, but I hope that something began in them this semester. 

Great teachers begin something beautiful.  Lord, let me be that teacher.

What was your best teacher--or best course-- like?   

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Everything You Need

My neighbor tells me that a little mouse is wintering in the sandbox by her woodpile.  Her daughter discovered him yesterday when she lifted the sandbox lid to play.

Little Mouse in his Winter House

The little mouse (who looks just like Mousekin from Mousekin's Golden House) has built himself a cozy nest of leaves and twigs to prepare for winter.

A Mouse's Winter Nest
All of a sudden, I'm brought back to the wonder of that childhood story:  the tiny mouse survives the harsh winter by building the warmest nest.  The snow and ice come, but Mousekin snuggles deep inside his winter home.

As a child, I loved the comfort of it all.   I thought about being that small against the enormity of winter.  With warmth, protection, and the feast of decaying pumpkin (or seeds and bark in this case), the mouse has more than enough. 

My neighbor invites us all over to peek in on our own Mousekin.   Winter doesn't discourage the little mouse.  He's plump, glossy, bright-eyed, and busy.   Something about that little mouse just delights me.  With such fine accommodations, this mouse will enjoy the winter.   He has everything he needs.

And for the moment, so do I.

As winter comes, I'm so thankful for the basic gifts of warmth, shelter, and food.  Who in my community needs more of these things? 

Monday, December 5, 2011

What Not to Say While Holiday Shopping

I'm standing in line at the store, and the salespeople rush around, trying to relieve the long lines waiting at each check-out station.  Every intercom announcement sounds off the code red.  People are waiting!  Lots of people are waiting!  Hurry, hurry!

A traffic jam of shopping carts blocks everyone's path as people maneuver for the best possible position.  When a new line opens up, ladies fight for that precious spot at a free register.  Somebody is going to get hurt. 

What's happened to our manners?

I'm yawning in my line and feeling awfully cozy in my winter coat.  I'm still sick and in no mood to rush around. 

The shopper in front of me decides to sign up for some special program. The cashier turns to me, nearly in tears, and says, "I'm just so sorry.  You can find another cashier if you need to.  This is going to take time, and I'm just so sorry." 

"That's OK," I say.  "I really have nowhere to be.  I'm not in any hurry."  I shove my hands in my pockets, look up to the ceiling, and wonder what I might blog about today.

Silence.  People glance over at me like I've just said a bad word out loud.  Someone frowns at me.  How dare I hinder this holiday rush? How dare I support the one slow-poke in everyone's way?  

"Take all the time you need," I insist to the slow-poke. Those six words wrap the two of us in a warm holiday embrace.  The cashier smiles and looks as if she might actually hug me. 

Living with flair means--especially in December--we let people take all the time they need.  What's so important in my shopping cart anyway?  What makes my day more important than another person's?

Are you the rushing one or the slow-poke?  I'm both!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Easy Does It (How to Survive the Holidays)

Tonight, we host a Christmas party for graduate students.  We've learned, after all these years and all sorts of gatherings in our home, that easy does it

Nobody cares if my cabinets have hand prints on them.

Nobody cares if I forget to dust the top of the refrigerator.

Nobody cares if I don't have the kind of Christmas centerpieces you see in glossy magazines. 

We're here to be together, so everybody can just relax, put their feet up, drink some holiday punch, and sing carols around the freshly tuned piano.

I decide to create some holiday cheer for guests with one of the easiest recipes I know:  Peppermint Bark.

We melt some white chocolate, add some peppermint extract, crush up some candy canes, sprinkle them on top with with chunks of white chocolate, smear it on a pan, let it cool in the fridge, break it up, and serve it.

Children love things that involve verbs like crush, smear, sprinkle, and break.  It's so easy and fun, that we think of ways to embellish the recipe.

What if we make coconut bark?  Imagine!  Coconut, dark chocolate, and white chocolate:  

Bring on the season!  Living with flair means you can celebrate with easy and fun.

What's your easiest and most fun holiday treat?

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Unlikely Sucess

Today, Jack alerts me to a beautiful bird in the Weeping Cherry.

He talks to the bird with that strange broken meowing sound, moving his jaw rapidly.  I've wondered for years why cats make this sound when they look at birds. 

My husband tells me that cats imagine eating the bird and therefore make munching sounds with their mouths.

Jack's on the hunt, imagining success.  Would a cat ever capture a bird like this?  Unlikely.  Would a cat with one eye, indoors, catch a bird like this?  Never.

Still, the cat munches.  Still, he visualizes success.

Maybe one day.  The confidence of my One-Eyed Cat inspires me.  The bird flies from the tree, uncaught, and Jack, undaunted, settles under the lights of the Christmas tree.  Maybe, in his mind, he simply let the bird go. 

Oh, Jack, you crazy cat, living with flair, in lights for all to see.  You don't give up.  We won't either.      
Happy Saturday!  Are you inspired to persevere today? 

Friday, December 2, 2011

Small Deposit, Big Return

Frost covers the clover this morning.

Frost Melts on the Clover

The children bend down, astonished by these small deposits of tiny white ice crystals.  Children teach me that the smallest thing often holds the most wonder.

I stand above the clover, and then I bow down to observe it.  I marvel at the conditions that frost this clover; that unseen hand requires air saturated with water vapor on surfaces cooler than the dew point.

I don't understand it.  It fades within the hour from the warmth of the rising sun.  Frost, when I really observe it well, astonishes indeed. 

It's not even noon, and I've already marveled.  Living with flair means marveling--being absolutely filled with wonder and astonishment--today.  I want to live my life greatly impressed.  Instead of cynicism or complaint, I want to marvel. 

What has astonished you today?

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Something New to Try: Growing a Pineapple in Your Kitchen

Today, with my sore throat, chills, and aches, I walk around campus as one wading through swampland.  What good can come of this day?  I teach in a fog, drag my feet to the store, and then robot-like and half-asleep, put groceries in my cart.

Pineapple is on sale.

Back home, I read about the best way to cut pineapple, and I learn this from a neighboring website:  

You can grow pineapples inside your house.   A website shows me a step-by-step guide to cutting off the pineapple's crown, letting in root in water for several weeks, potting it in soil, and then watching it grow to a mature plant.  Other sites claim that this fun project will keep children enthralled for the whole winter. 

I'm doing this!  I'm right this moment going to cut my pineapple, soak the crown, and let this new thing grow in my windowsill.  I'll report back the progress.

Suddenly, the day shimmers with sweet pineapple warmth.  Living with flair means--no matter what kind of day we're having--we discover some new and wonderful thing to try.

Have you tried this?