Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Don't Waste One Word

Today in class, I repeat my new writing slogan: Don't Waste One Word.

As we finish all the lessons in How to Write with Flair, students know that every single word matters. Each word creates a precise mood and image.

Don't waste one word. Don't settle for a weak or imprecise word when you can select a vivid and deliciously specific one.

We juice the sentence down to its best parts. We invite the sentence to do what we know it was meant to do.

I ask students to transform the weak verb into an image and mood-producing verb, and they proceed with flair. Instead of:

The leaves are on the ground.

They write:

The leaves garnish the ground. They dance on the ground. They obscure the ground. They even grapple with the ground. And of course, they blanket the ground.

I actually perceive things differently when I don't waste the verb. This isn't just writing we're talking about; it's living. I want vivid and deliciously specific, right this very moment.

The words--when I don't waste them--change everything.

How's your writing life going?

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Beyond the Boo Platter: Now She Wants Spiders

We gather in the kitchen to make the annual Halloween Fruit Platter for the class party. It's tradition now.

"What if we did a spider shape?" she asks so innocently.

Why not?

I like it. She loves it. It's nothing but a foil blob with legs that divide the fruit, and still, she loves it.

I never thought the fruit platter would be so important to my children. I love that the littlest things make a big difference in their lives.

Monday, October 29, 2012

"You Are Not Essential": Go Home and Be Safe

Today, the university shuts down. I receive an email telling me to go home and be safe. In this email, I read this line, "Although we are all important, no one is essential."

It's humbling and strange to think about how non-essential we actually are. Over the next few hours, blogs will shut down (not essential), teaching will stop (not essential), meetings won't happen (not essential), and all the hustle and bustle of downtown commerce will cease (not essential!).

The email communication reminds me we matter deeply, but our activities are simply not essential.

During storms, we pare down to essentials: Go home and be safe. Gather your loved ones in your arms.

Is it hard to know you're not essential?

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Storm Ready

Today we--like most everyone else in our community--spend the day becoming storm ready. Hurricane Sandy's on the way, so we make sure we're ready with water, food, lanterns, candles, and batteries. We're also bringing in lawn furniture, propane tanks from the grill, garbage cans, and anything else that high winds might send flying.

We're storm ready.

The activities of the day comfort us. There's something about advance warning and preparation that settles me down inside. Of course I'm nervous and praying for folks in coastal towns, but I'm also certain we can survive if we're wise and work together.

Normally, I like to be "in the moment" and enjoy the beauty and joy in the common thing right before my eyes. But on days like today, I shift my attention to what's coming. I secure my borders and strengthen my interior with an eye on tomorrow.

It's wise to keep that dual focus on the now and the yet-to-come. We secure ourselves in the Lord and strengthen our faith for whatever comes against us. We're storm ready.

We are praying for you folks on the coast tonight!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Never Too Old

This morning my husband tells me about an interesting encounter he had during my daughter's music lesson. While waiting for her turn with her piano teacher, a very old man shuffles into the waiting room. He sits down and carefully pulls out his beautiful violin.

My daughter turns to him to ask if he's the violin teacher, and he says, "No, I'm a new student."

My husband finds out that this man--well into his eighties--once played the violin in high school but had lost his skills over his long career as a professor.

Now in retirement, he has time to learn again.

So there he sits with all the little children in the waiting room of the music academy with his violin. He's the new student, and he's ready to learn.

Living with flair surely means that we don't stop learning. Even in our eighties we make it a priority to become a student again.

If you could take a class--any class--what would it be?

Friday, October 26, 2012

A Child's Time Management Advice that Just Might Change Your Life

I'm losing my voice after my cold, so I write my youngest daughter a note to tell her what she needs to remember to do before bedtime.

She disappears and then comes back to tuck a note into my hand.

Yes. Finish the important things. Do the rest later.

I love learning from children, don't you?

Thursday, October 25, 2012

What It Needs

I was thinking the other day about the millions of acorns on my lawn. What does it take for one little seed to take root and grow into a tall oak? Why aren't there millions of spouting acorn seeds all over my lawn?

So many don't survive. They're eaten. They dry out. They rot. They're stomped on by our feet. They overheat and lose their germination ability.

But some do survive.

This little seed--one of thousands--will become something huge.

It can live past 400 years. It can grow over 100 feet tall.

I think that all my creative ideas are seeds I toss out to the world. Many won't survive, but some will.

When I watch this time-lapse video of an acorn turning into an oak tree, I note how methodical it all is. I note how long it takes. I note that nothing interferes with this process. 

Mostly, I note that if a seed finds perfect conditions, it will do what it's supposed to do.

It will. 

I think more about writing. I think about parenting. I think even about friendship. 

Where shall this one be planted, Lord? What will help this seed grow?

Do you view writing like planting seeds?

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Confessions of a Tailgater (The Driving Kind)

It's a rainy day, and on the way to the grocery store, I nearly collide with two different cars at various stop signs. My tires spin and the brakes hesitate on the slick pavement. I'm driving way too close to the car in front of me, and these driving conditions showcase my problem: I'm a tailgater. I'm a shameless tailgater.

I don't know why. I think it's because I'm always in a hurry. I'm always focused, productive, and fast. If you're in front of me, you simply become part of my schedule, so let's move.

When I slow down today (because I was about to crash with several different cars), I suddenly realize the importance of giving folks space and time. They're on their own journeys. They're on their own timelines, even.

Give them space.

Give my husband space. Give my daughters space. Give my neighbors space. Give my students space. I need to stop tailgating and let folks get to where they're going on their--and God's-- timeline.

Living with flair means giving people space and time.

Have you ever wanted someone to give you space and time? It's a precious thing!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Crayon Drip Pumpkins: A Fun After School Craft

My youngest daughter bursts out of the school telling me how we must melt crayons on our pumpkins because her incredibly creative and wonderful teacher showed her one of her own designs.

"It was so beautiful in all those melted colors! Let's do it!"

At moments like this, I feel we are an ill-matched mother / daughter pair. I'm going to mess the whole thing up. I'm going to ruin the pumpkin! I promise to attempt Crayon Drip Pumpkins, but I cannot promise cute or excellent. I cannot promise it will work at all.

Apparently, if you simply glue your old broken crayons around the top of a pumpkin and blow dry them for a minute, they'll run and drip down in fun designs.

It looks scary to me. Perfect for Halloween, right?

Do you have a pumpkin craft you want to share?

Monday, October 22, 2012

Take a Minute

The weather report shows snowstorms for next week, but today, I'm not even wearing a jacket to campus. It's going to be nearly 70 degrees. I take a minute to savor it.

I stand beneath the oak tree and gaze up.

I go inside the Weeping Cherry and let the sun peek in.

I part the branches and examine the sun on those leaves. With snow coming, I know these leaves will fall.

But for now, I take a minute and enjoy the warm morning sun. Living with flair means I take a minute (or more) to enjoy this day's particular gifts.

This day has something special for us. 

Take a minute.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

When You Need Strength for the Week Ahead

Sometimes I pray for a circumstance to change, but when it will not, I know it's time to pray for strength. I think about three promises from scripture when I feel weak and scared inside:

2 Chronicles 16:9:  For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.

Isaiah 41:10:  So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Ephesians 3:15: I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being. 

I'm so thankful that it's not my strength at all. 

Do you need strength for the week ahead?

Saturday, October 20, 2012

A Little Thing Supports a Big Thing

At the pumpkin patch today, my daughter chooses a pumpkin with an unusual stem. Part of it branches out into far reaching curly cues.

I lean in, noticing the design. This pumpkin comes wrapped with her own curled ribbons on top.

I love observing pumpkin stems. Such a little thing supports such a big thing. I see folks carrying around 40 pound pumpkins by those sturdy--but small--stems.

I suppose if your stem is strong (just like your roots), you can be small but support so many big things. And you can look cute and twirly while you do it.

Did you go a pumpkin patch this weekend?

Friday, October 19, 2012


In May, she quietly houses Northern Cardinals, but in October, she sets herself aflame in autumn color.

Can you believe the difference? In one season, this bush serves a particular quiet purpose. In another season, everything about her--even her look--changes.

I think about this particular season when I feel aflame with a stressful schedule, too many writing projects (all good!), grading deadlines (not fun!), speaking events (all exciting!), and parenting challenges (all challenging!). It feels red with energy and pace.

It didn't help that I had a fever for two days and now feel two days behind. 

My husband reminds me that it's a season. I'll have my quiet May. I'll have my deep green, soothing, shaded May.

Besides, red has its own astonishing beauty if I just step back and take it all in. 

Are you in a stressful season?

Thursday, October 18, 2012

A Meal to Deliver

Several years ago, a friend delivered a delicious meal to our family after the birth of my second child. We loved this meal so much! After all these years, I still think about this one meal.

I recently heard that everybody tends to bring lasagna to neighbors who need a meal (and sometimes lasagna gets boring), so I remembered this recipe when it was time to help a neighbor recovering from surgery.

Kids love it. Husbands love it. I love it.

It's a Cheesy Kielbasa Bake, and since I'm in bed with a fever today, I thought I'd just send you to the website that has the recipe.

If you need to deliver a meal that's not lasagna, this one tastes great and lasts a few days. Enjoy! (Deliver with salad and brownies!)

What's your favorite meal to deliver to a neighbor that's not lasagna?

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Every Moment Sacred

Last night, some friends discuss the sacred. We wonder if every moment might become sacred; we consider how even grocery shopping and washing dishes might be set apart with the power and presence of God. Can we have sacred moments in our ordinary routines?

Yes! Yes! We invite God into it all. 

I look into my daughter's eyes. I brush her beautiful hair. I walk to school in the dappled morning sunlight. I think of the beauty of words. I meditate on the sacred vocation of teaching.

Even tying my shoes, buttoning my coat, and pulling on my mittens, I think about the Almighty God who fills the whole earth with His glory.

Did you find a sacred moment in a common thing?

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

More of You

I hear a wise woman tell a friend that sometimes people want more of you. They want the real you--and lots of you.

They want more of you. Lots of you!  I think about the expression all day.

I think about the way I hold back with people, even my own family. I think about how I hold back in writing and even in my teaching. I think about holding back even from God.

Am I holding back? Where? How? I imagine God says: "I want more of you." Do I believe it, or do I think I'm too much and unwanted?

Living with flair means not holding back. We want more of you.

Where do you hold back in your life? 

Monday, October 15, 2012

Praying for Endurance

Just this week, I pray and ask God to give my children endurance to complete their tasks. People with endurance know how to withstand difficult circumstances. They know how to complete unpleasant jobs that take a long time. Many people give up because they lose stamina. They can't endure.

I read in Romans 15 that God actually "gives endurance." I read in Colossians 1 about the "great endurance" the Lord bestows. But I don't think about endurance as a gift. I think of it as something I muster up. I think of gritting my teeth and forcing myself. But it seems that God gives endurance.

Well, if God gives endurance, I'm going to open wide my hands and receive it. 

I'm struck by how every person I meet has something they must endure. I'm tempted to ask everyone I know what in their lives requires great endurance. I'm tempted to remind them that God gives endurance, so let us ask for it.

I ask for endurance for my one daughter who has to complete 17 pages of make-up math homework. How can she do this in one afternoon?

Strangely (and quite out of character), she buckles down, enduring it. She finishes it, and I remember that I prayed. It's a simple example, but I know God heard my prayer.

I open wide my hands and suddenly know that whatever comes my way, I can--I will--endure it.

What helps you endure?

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Students Who Text Their Parents Too Much: Another Perspective

I ask my students how much they text their parents.

"All day long."

"At least six times a day. And we Skype. And we talk on the phone each morning to say 'Good Morning'."

"I check in with my dad several times a day while he's at his computer. We chat on line about everything going on." 

I'm talking to students in my office later, and I tell them the concern my generation has that students don't transition well to adulthood or gain any independence because they're constantly over-communicating with their parents.

"Dr. H, you're wrong on this one," they insist. "Technology keeps us close to our parents. We have great relationships with them. But we make our own decisions and live our own lives."

"But how do you figure anything out on your own if you're always talking to your parents?" I'm actually scowling. I'm actually crossing my arms and tapping my foot.

"I figure things out on my own. But then I text them to tell them about it," one says.

I find myself angry about this. I find myself convinced that technology surely delays adulthood.

But then later, I realize this: I'm not angry.

I'm jealous.

What I wouldn't give to have had that kind of connection with my own family! What I wouldn't give to have talked with my dad like that!

The more I study college students, the more I realize I'm not observing co-dependence; I'm observing love.

One student tells me to watch the Google Chrome commercial between a father and freshman daughter. "You'll change your mind when you see this," they claim. "This is what it's like for us."

I've changed my mind about this.

Do you think you would have texted your parents every day from college? 

Saturday, October 13, 2012

"You Make Me Feel Smart"

In class yesterday, I try to make the point about just how difficult it is to be kind in argumentative writing. I'm teaching ancient truths like the rules of civility and the lost art of listening. We're learning about how to defer to others, to believe the best about them, and to persuade them by finding common ground and acknowledging when an opponent is actually right.

To demonstrate, I ask students to give two genuine compliments to the person on their right. It's so awkward. It's so embarrassing. But they do it. We end up loving it. We end up laughing and nodding our heads in agreement with each compliment given.

At the end of it all, a student calls out from the back of the room to me: "You're on my right, so I have to compliment you."

"OK," I say. "Go for it."

He's quiet for a moment, and then he says carefully and clearly, "This is my favorite class because you make me feel smart."

I nearly burst into tears. It's because I'm suddenly aware of the narrative he's fighting; someone told him he wasn't smart, that he couldn't do it, that he didn't have anything to offer.

But not here. You're smart. Your particular intelligence matters deeply here.

Do you remember a teacher making you feel smart?  I had a few that shamed me instead. I think I'm adding this to my teaching philosophy: Teachers need to help students feel smart again.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Caramel Apples Rolled in. . . Everything

If you want to make awesome caramel apples with your friends (our Autumn tradition), you need 4 things:

1. Caramel (of course)
2. Granny Smith apples (so tart and crisp)
3. Chopsticks (sturdy)
4. Every delicious thing in your pantry to roll the caramel apples in (nuts, crushed cookies, chocolate chips).

Let's begin:

First, wash small Granny Smith apples and jam half a chopstick in each one where the stem would be. You can buy bags of cheap chopsticks at the grocery store (and you can reuse these each year). You can also use craft sticks.

Then, prepare plates with all your favorite toppings. We used nuts, crushed chocolate cookies, and mini chocolate chips.

Unwrap your caramels and melt them with 2 tablespoons water.

Invite each guest to dip her apple in your pot. Pull the apple straight up and let the excess caramel drip off.

Gently roll the caramel apple in your topping.

Young and older alike made a tray of caramel apples. You want to put a piece of wax paper on a tray, spray it with cooking spray (or butter it), and let these apples harden in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to an hour.

These weren't perfect, but they were so good. 

Enjoy caramel apples this month!

Have you tried caramel apples before? Many of our guests last night never had! There's a first time for everything, right?

Thursday, October 11, 2012

"In You They Trusted and Were Not Disappointed"

In Psalm 22:5, I read: "They cried to you and were saved; in you they trusted and were not disappointed." The truth resounds from the mouth of a king who feels forlorn, rejected, alone, and ignored. He must remind himself that even when feeling downcast, the truth stands that those who trust in God will not be disappointed. 

I'm walking down the street, crunching acorns under my sneakers, and I thank God that I won't be disappointed when I trust in God. I can't be.

I look up, and I see the things I'm supposed to see today: the astonishing tree on fire with color and the white fluff of pampas grass against the blue noon day sky.

Even walking--seeing what I'm supposed to see--I feel no disappointment. I don't want to be anywhere else because I'm right here on this walk with God (right where I'm supposed to be, seeing what I'm supposed to see). I want to know this truth everyday.

I love the fall colors! There's a tree with purple leaves in the background if you look carefully. 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

A Little Cattywampus

Today, I surprised my students with doughnuts.

Today, I surprised myself by treating myself to a fancy coffee for no good reason. And I wore cowboy boots with yellow tights that in no way matched my camel colored corduroy skirt. Apparently, this counts as hipster. 

And I ate a doughnut during my office hours as I talked with three wonderful students. I haven't eaten a doughnut in a year.

The whole day has been out of the ordinary--right down to my tights-- and, as an older Southern lady might say, "It's cattywampus." 

Cattywampus: not centered, out-of-sorts, a little chaotic. 

I think that for someone like me, a little cattywampus is a good thing. Too much order can stifle. Living with flair means you delight in a little chaos, a little break in routine, and a little out-of-the-ordinary.

So here's to a cattywampus Wednesday!

Did you surprise yourself today?

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Beauty of Disintegrating Things

I'm walking through the autumn leaves, and I realize how much I absolutely love the smell of dead leaves. That warm smell brings such longing with it; I think of fall school days as a child and jumping into leaf piles. That unmistakable leafy smell just makes me happy. 

Then I realize I'm actually delighting in decomposition (rot, if you will). I'm loving the smell of a disintegrating, dead thing.

Yes, yes I am. There's a particular beauty to what dies in this season. I celebrate it by jumping about, crunching into it, smelling it deeply.

I wish I could approach my own life that way. When things naturally and rightfully have to fade away because a new season is coming, I want to embrace it as eagerly as a child jumping into a leaf pile. New things always come about from old things falling away. I love the disintegrating leaves of Autumn. I pray I can welcome whatever disintegrating work God wants to do in my own life.  Let the leaves fall and nourish whatever comes next.

Don't you love those bright blue skies in the fall? It's smells just like a leaf pile everywhere I go.

Monday, October 8, 2012

The Blessing of Work

I thought of another secret I want to pass on to my children. It's a simple thing, but one that has shaped how I think about my days.

The secret is that work--hard work--is a privilege and a joy. Accomplishing a task and applying effort to achieve a goal brings a certain satisfaction.

Each day has its own work, and work is a blessing. Working hard on any task (whether homework, baking, cleaning, writing, grading, leading, building) can be so enjoyable! We fight a narrative that tells us that work isn't fun, that work is drudgery, that work isn't exciting or joyful, and that work is the thing you get through in order to do the thing you really want to do.

But what if the hard work is the thing you really want to do? What if the work itself is its own reward?

I truly enjoy the work that each hour brings. I want my children to love to work. Living with flair means we embrace the joyful work before us today. No matter what the task, we can consecrate it to the Lord.

Do you love to work? Why?

Sunday, October 7, 2012

My Best Advice for an Admissions Essay

Special note: I'm not a college admissions counselor. I'm not even part of an admissions committee (although I have been part of various admissions committees before). What I am, however, is a college writing teacher who has read my share of personal statements and essays for college, graduate and professional schools, and job applications.

And I'll tell you this: They all sound exactly the same to me.

Even the essays that boast of amazing international travel experience in orphanages or refugee camps have unfortunately become cliché. I read all about community service, leadership, and hardship. All of these experiences are real and valuable, but every other person applying has a similar story.

There's a solution! 

I tell students to make it memorable by replacing every overused, generic expression with a vivid and sensory experience for the reader. I tell students to make the narrative so uniquely them that it couldn't possibly be interchanged for any other person.

Make it memorable! 

Make it so memorable that even after reading two thousand essays, a person will say, "Remember that one about. . ."

I still remember an essay I read ten years ago about a woman watching a bullfight. I remember the essay I read five years ago about a person's job driving vintage cars in an annual parade. Something about the setting--the colors, the smells, and the sounds--stuck with me all these years.

So as I consult with students at this time of year (application season!), I tell them to make it memorable. It doesn't have to be bullfights and parades, either. Take the most boring thing--maybe eating breakfast or cleaning a toilet--and show us something we need to know.

Besides, living with flair means we don't live in cliches. We make everything unique and memorable (even cleaning toilets).

Have you read a great admissions essay this year?

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Really Listening and Nothing Else

Today I take my youngest on a 3 mile loop walk around the neighborhood.

It's a 45 minute walk, so I tell her that she's going to have to tell me everything she's thinking about.

"What do you want to talk about? What have you been thinking about?" 

I'm listening. That's all I'm doing on this walk. I'm not correcting, training, or suggesting. It's actually hard to just listen and not offer all my insight.

Nothing extraordinary happens in our conversation. It's all about birthday parties, dolls, caterpillars, costumes, leaves, and dogs.

That's it. Nothing deep or profound. Somehow, though, I know these are the kinds of conversations we need. These conversations are extraordinary.

I wonder what happens in the heart of a child when someone listens for a very long time to everything they have to say. I want to listen longer, harder, and more often.

Did you feel listened to as a child? What helps adults really listen to children?

Friday, October 5, 2012

A Super Cool and Easy Autumn Craft (Even I Loved It)

My youngest wants to collect acorns and decorate them.

"With what?" I ask, remembering in horror the glitter and glue and shreds of various materials involved in that unknown territory called "Crafts."

"We'll use all our nail polish!"

"OK," I say. This might not be such a bad idea. This might actually be a great idea.

As I begin, I realize that these little painted acorns are beautiful. All my old nail polish bottles--the ones I nearly tossed in the garbage--make for a fun craft that will keep for years. My daughter picks out a glass bowl to display her acorns in, and I must admit, they add some whimsy to the room.

We hold them by their caps to paint them. Then we dry them on wax paper. 

As I paint acorns, I realize I'm more relaxed than I have been all week. We're talking and listening to music. We're complimenting one another for our color choices and just being together.

I'm slowly starting to change my mind about crafts. There's nothing better than just sitting, talking, and creating something beautiful just because it's fun.

I think I want a bowl of painted acorns in my office. I love them!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

An Autumn Recipe You'll Love: Butternut Squash and Hazelnut Lasagne

Two friends tell me that this recipe for Butternut Squash and Hazelnut Lasagne is their favorite to share, so I thought I'd try it. (I love for finding delicious recipes, so enjoy this website!)

It's expensive by the time you purchase the cheeses and the hazelnuts, but it served our family for two nights with leftovers for lunch.

I love the beautiful orange squash. I love the smell of hazelnuts roasting.

I love the fresh sage and the parsley mixed into the squash and onion. Yum!

The mozzarella and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheeses make this so good.

We loved it! Enjoy!

Do you have a recipe for an Autumn Lasagne?

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Just Ask for the Story

I'm teaching my favorite kind of essay in class: rebuttal. I invite students to write essays to change our minds by arguing against one position in favor of another.

It's tricky.

We talk all morning about changing the communication climate in order to connect and care for the opposition. The goal isn't winning. The goal isn't to be right. The goal is persuasion. We learn that first, we need to foster connection with our audience in order to truly dialogue.

To connect best with those with whom we disagree, we must understand their story. When did they adopt that particular viewpoint? What's the story behind their belief? What was it like for them to experience these things?

Capturing stories means we work to ask the right questions, and then we lean back and say, "Tell me more."

When a person feels truly understood and loved, only then can fruitful debate happen.

In a college classroom, folks get angry so quickly. If you bring up words like abortion, homosexuality, religion, or even simply Democrat or Republican, everyone bristles for different reasons. But if you take a deep breath and ask for the story behind someone's viewpoint, you find students actually dialoguing in genuine, civil ways.

I'm learning not to bristle and instead ask the right questions.

Don't you love a great conversation? 

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

A Victory for Mom

I have permission to share this story about my daughter:

My daughter's crying at the kitchen table because she doesn't understand her algebra homework. Her math genius dad is traveling, so I'm all alone with this terrible algebra problem.

I'm horrible at math. I'm missing math brain cells. Plus, I can't remember how to do the problem.

I feel myself freaking out (just like I did at her age, just like she's doing right now).

"We can do this," I calmly tell her.

"But I don't understand! I don't understand!"

"We have to learn it. We have to teach our brain this new thing that it doesn't know. We don't need to feel bad, ashamed, worried, or sad. We just need to start fresh." I realize we're both in reactive--not responsive--brain states, so we need to calm down and come back later. We need a snack. We need a game. We need rest. We need to get rid of all the negative emotions that thwart learning.

We also need prayer. I actually cry out to Jesus to help us understand. I'm desperate.  

Meanwhile, I call a Ph.D. student (a great teacher) and ask her to teach me the math.(Thank you, Devon.)

It's embarrassing. But then I think to myself that it's not embarrassing. Who cares? If I never admit when I don't know something, how can I learn? I'm finished with pretending. I'm finished with living out of shame for no reason at all.

By the time I'm off the phone, I secretly work through the math problems to teach myself. Yes, it's 5th grade math. Laugh if you want to.

Then, I find my daughter buried under her covers in despair.

"We can do this," I say.

We start again, and I realize I know how to teach her because I'm a student myself. I help her set up the first problem , and all of a sudden, she grabs the pencil, smiles, and says, "I totally get this now."

And she's off finishing all her math.

Sometimes it's hard to learn because we're ashamed of what we do not know. That's ridiculous. Living with flair means we love to learn and have no problem admitting what we don't know.

I love algebra after all!

Monday, October 1, 2012

A Recipe for Autumn Warmth

With October here, I bring out all the fall decorations. I place mums and pumpkins on the front porch. I swirl the leaf garlands on the tables.

Then, I bring out a pot to simmer spices on the stove. The whole house smells of Autumn now (and I keep the kitchen humidified along the way). Here's my favorite recipe for Autumn Warmth in the kitchen.

Fill a pot with water. Add one chopped apple, a tablespoon of crushed cloves, one cinnamon stick broken into a few pieces, a teaspoon of nutmeg, and finally, a few slices of fresh ginger. Bring this to a boil, and then reduce the heat to low to let the spices simmer. Later, just add in more water. You can keep reheating this pot for several days.

Do you have a recipe for mulling spices?