When Sick, Go Look at Trees

My landscape architecture student reminded me of a famous study in 1984 published in Science that examined the recovery times of patients in a Pennsylvania hospital. Half the patients were in recovery rooms where they looked at a wall, and the other half had views of trees. I loved reading the results of this study. Researchers found this:

“In summary, in comparison to the wall-view group, the patients with the tree-view had shorter postoperative hospital stays, had fewer negative evaluative comments from nurses [and] took fewer moderate and strong analgesic doses. . . ” This study inspired many others since the 1980’s to research the “restorative effects of natural views.”

Why not take a stroll in the forest or look at trees today?


Slow to Speak

Today I must attend what I consider two very important meetings that I assumed would involve my talking for a significant amount of time.

And I woke up this morning with no voice! I have laryngitis! As I thought about this, I chuckled in my head (because no sound came out!) that perhaps the Lord wants me to learn to listen more and speak less.

I think of Proverbs 13:3: “Those who guard their lips preserve their lives, but those who speak rashly will come to ruin.” I think of Proverbs 29:20 and this question: “Do you see someone who speaks in haste? There is more hope for a fool than for them.” And of course, I cannot escape the truth of James 1:19: “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak. . . “

So I find myself exceedingly grateful that God urged me into wisdom today by what I might otherwise deem an unfortunate situation.


Bring in the Experts!

I loved bringing in a professional writer–Chris Rosenblum, the Director of Communications for our school district–to my advanced writing courses today. Students loved engaging with someone who makes all the theoretical tips practical and real.

In addition to bringing a wealth of interesting stories about professional work, he confirmed my insistence on strong verbs! He told them all about varied sentence patterns! He even reiterated exactly what I told them they should do in a job interview and on their cover letters. I could have cried with joy. I wanted to say, “See! See! I’m not crazy!”

I think sometimes it matters to students to see that you mean what you say, that you’re not the only one shouting from the rooftops about verbs and semicolons. It was a great day.

My favorite tip from Chris Rosenblum: Don’t be boring.



A Little Writing Every Day

As you’ve noticed, I still write every day right here on this Live with Flair blog. And if you’ve noticed, as I’m sure you have, it’s not always earth-shattering, revolutionary, or even worth mentioning all the time. Sometimes, I have nothing good to say at all. So why sit down and write? If it’s not going to be great, why do it?

Well, because it’s so good for us to write every day, even a little bit. It’s good to practice developing a written voice and experimenting with various sentence patterns. It’s good to allow yourself the freedom to not be amazing, but to just write. It keeps the juices flowing. It sets up a pattern of writing–of showing up to the desk, of putting something down–so it’s not so difficult when you’re writing something more high stakes. And, perhaps most importantly, it helps rid you of the fear of an audience. Just write! Write! Some of it will stick. Some of it will be mentioned and tweeted and emailed around the world. Some of it won’t even be read at all because your first line was so boring. You might have 5 readers today. You might have 5 million (did I mention my viral tweet on Christmas morning)? The important thing is the practice of writing. Soon, it won’t feel so forced all the time.

I go back and forth on this, though. I believe you do need to step away from writing projects in order to allow your thoughts to form, so I’m not in favor of just writing because you said you would write–especially on certain kinds of creative projects. I do believe how on certain days, you will feel more inspired and more able to write what you want to write. So it’s OK to wait for those days. I wait for those days.

But you have all the other days. What about the others days? I still like the idea of writing every day the way you breathe every day. It’s just part of your DNA now. It’s what you do. It’s like eating. It’s like sleeping. You do it every day. And, like breathing, you won’t notice the work of it all the time. You’ll just show up and do what you do. That’s the benefit of daily writing for me.


Some Days, The Bus Does Wait

This morning on my drive into campus, I slowed down behind a campus bus as it stopped on its route. I watched the students pile out as those waiting to board stood patiently in the cold. I worried about them as the snow felt lightly. I enjoyed a toasty warm car.

Then I saw her. She was way down the sidewalk, and as I looked through my rear view mirror, I noted the way she ran so fast her bag slung side to side. She couldn’t possible make it. The bus began to pull away, and my heart sank for her. Who hasn’t had a day like this? Who hasn’t missed the bus or began a day with something so frustrating like this?

I thought about where she’d go from here and how she’d recover. What class would she miss? What appointment would she forfeit? The day took on a dreary, cold feeling. This was the kind of day where the bus won’t wait, where the whole day is now off, and where nothing works out. Oh! Some days are like this.

But then, I heard the squeal of brakes and that exhale that told me the bus was waiting.

It froze in place for her. It waited for her.

I watched her climb on the bus happily, and I considered the narrative of a different kind of morning, the kind where you live in a world where the bus waits for you, where you make it on time, and where it all works out.

At least on this day, the bus did wait. I think about the ups and downs of ordinary living. You’ll have a day when the bus waits, and you’ll have a day when it doesn’t. But today, it waited!


A Pause. Then a Stop.

Today, when I heard that Kobe Bryant died, along with his daughter, Gianna, our whole family paused. Then we stopped altogether. We huddled around the television, and I checked Twitter only to find the platform overwhelmed with users. My husband, who was traveling, told me how people were just shocked everywhere.

I’m not even a huge NBA basketball fan. I didn’t even know that much about Kobe. I had no real connection to him at all, really. But what I did feel, however, was that–like so many sports’ legends– Kobe Bryant was like the background music to our ordinary lives. We always heard about Kobe and the Lakers. We heard about how great he was and how nice. Kobe, like so many other parts of our regular lives, was just there.

So we stop. It’s sobering and heavy. It’s overwhelming and sad. I think about his wife and children and the many young fans who loved him. It was an ordinary day, and then someone legendary was lost.


A Craft for a Winter Afternoon: Pour Paintings

I’ve been seeing beautiful photos and videos of “Pour Paintings,” and as I was cleaning out a closet today, I found tiny canvases. I remembered all the acrylic paints we still have in our craft bin, and then I remembered how much I loved making coasters for our coffee mugs. And then I remembered Pour Painting!

I ask my very artistic children to help me. They knew all about Pour Painting already. If you’ve never heard of it, you can read about it here. Basically, you water down your acrylics (we used paint thinner and water). You pour one color in the bottom of a cup, then the next color on top, and then the next color and so on. They you pour the cup out onto your canvas. You can use a blow dryer to move the paint around (or just tilt your canvas back and forth).

Here is my first Pour Painting that I’ll use as a coaster (but you can find many other examples on the internet).

I love pausing for a little craft in winter time.


Frozen Grapes While Writing

I’m like a puppy. I need to chew. When I’m writing or especially when I’m grading, I like to munch on things. But if I munch and crunch too much, my jaw hurts. And one can only eat so many carrots. But I found something I love: frozen grapes.

It’s odd: they freeze, but not too much. In other words, you can suck on them and chew them because they don’t freeze solid. And they are so sweet! I froze a bag of red grapes, and for this morning’s writing plan, I pop one in every few minutes. They hit the spot! They scratch the itch!

Another oddity: I don’t love fresh grapes. So if you’re reading this, and you think that you won’t like frozen grapes because you don’t love fresh ones, give them a try. It’s a different texture and flavor to enjoy them frozen.

Final odd thing: Chewing things aids concentration and memory according to various research reports. So if you’re doing a hard writing task, the chewing will help you. You’re welcome. Enjoy the chewing of frozen grapes today!


Never Too Old for a “Sick Tray”

After writing about taking care of yourself, my oldest daughter ironically runs a fever and stays home from school with a cough and aches.

No matter how old they grow (she’s officially an adult now), they are never too old for the Sick Tray. Nobody is. You don’t grow out of needing loving attention when you don’t feel well. Everyone needs a Sick Tray from time to time.

The Sick Tray: The collection of comforting items delivered to someone sick in bed. It includes a beverage, snacks, and anything needed for recovery.

In between assignments today, I brew the healing tea and stir in some wildflower honey. I bring the steaming mug up to her bedroom alongside something to nourish her when she feels like eating–some fruit, a little sweet treat and some pretzels. Later, I freshen the room, open the shades, and rearrange warm blankets around her. The cat lounges beside her to keep careful watch.

In the afternoon, one must replenish the Sick Tray, this time with the tools for diagnostics and treatment that you’ve perhaps already brought the night before (one much check up on these things): thermometer, fever reducer, and a tall glass of fresh water. You might need tissues. You might need a hot or cool compress. You might, if the situation requires it, send up the humidifier.

I pray she recovers quickly. Meanwhile the Sick Tray stands ready for evening duties: perhaps a light dinner and another warm beverage.


Taking Care of Yourself

I’m constantly reminding students and my own family to hydrate, to sleep, to wash their hands, and to listen to their bodies if they feel run down. It’s that time of year. Students and friends endure the actual flu, and it’s no joke.

So let me remind you: more water, more sleep, more hand washing, more listening to what the body needs. Let’s stay healthy! I’m mostly telling myself this. I intend to grab an orange and a green tea instead of a cookie, to add in more vegetables, to take vitamins. What if you considered that staying healthy is part of your job description today? And I know that people get the flu through no fault of their own; it happens. You can do all the preventative measures and still fall ill. After all, you’re with sick people at the grocery store or wherever you go in public. So when it happens–and it might–I pray we submit to the work of recovery and not exhaust ourselves. I pray health and healing for us all!