Maintenance for the Next Day or Two

Hello, Readers! I’m figuring out how to transition my blog email subscriber list to another service, so you may experience a temporary disruption in your daily email from Live with Flair. Hopefully, everything will be back in order ASAP!

I’ll keep you posted!


And Then Help Others

Do you remember how I had to learn new things this month? Remember all the technical writing skills I studied? And what I didn’t mention is how I’ve learned excellent online course design techniques. Our university’s course management system, Canvas, allows you create a great course for your students.

It’s easy to use Canvas (it’s like a website that houses all your course material, grade book, attendance, etc.). It’s easy after a while that is, but at first it’s scary. The shame comes. Nothing makes sense. It’s a whole new vocabulary and a whole new way of thinking. You feel old.

But little by little you learn. You take your time, and you learn how to design online quizzes, how to make intuitive learning modules, how to post discussions and link to videos, and how to upload your files in an organized way. You learn all about assessments and course narratives and learning outcomes. You talk to colleagues and ask to see their Canvas sites. You steal all their great ideas with their permission! You run your course by your teen daughters to see what they think.

You then find that you’ve made this beautiful website to serve students well. (And yes, every learning module mentions something about verbs. I’ve built a brand I must uphold!) So I did it.

But you have to learn it. You didn’t know it at first, and now you do.

And then? Here’s what’s so lovely. A friend calls in distress today because her school is transitioning to use Canvas, and she knows nothing about it. I remember the same fear and confusion. Can you help me? she cries. Help me!

I know that sound. It’s the sound of frustration, fear, and confusion. It’s the sound of hopelessness that you’ll never understand. And it’s also a sound of resistance to even wanting to learn things. Can I help? Yes! I know where you are and where you will be soon.

Yes! I learned. And now I can help you.


Perhaps Gratitude

I’m wondering if gratitude—I mean existential gratitude—could change us. A student uses the phrase “existential gratitude” to discuss a moment when she felt truly happy to be alive, to be here, now, breathing and participating as a living thing on this planet. And she thanked God.

David cries in Psalm 16 about his whole being rejoicing before God. I think of the existential gratitude of it all.

I consider this existential gratitude where everything we do flows from this gratitude and we marvel moment-by-moment just to be alive.

Think of it! Gratitude! It feels divine. It’s worship. It’s joy. It’s that shalom peace that you don’t need to be doing anything else, anywhere else, with anyone else, because you’re overcome with the “rightness” of just being right where you are as you are.

God, You are here. I am here. Thank you.


Remember to Stand Up Sometimes

Well–as you know, I write a lot. I sit a lot. I’m learning how important it is to stand up after you’ve been sitting for an hour. Walk around. Do some chores. Don’t stay in that seat!

Set a reminder. Challenge yourself. Do what it takes to rise up and move out of that seat! Your back and legs will thank you!



Since You Stand Firm

I love thinking about Paul’s words in 1 Thessalonians 3. It’s a challenge to remember a different way to live. It’s an invitation to care deeply about others. He writes, “For now we really live, since you are standing firm in the Lord. How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the presence of our God because of you?

Can you imagine believing your own life and joy were somehow inextricably tied to the spiritual well-being of others? Can you imagine inhabiting Paul’s joy?

We stand firm. We press on to help others stand firm.


When the Sun Shines

My solar-powered bird bath requires full sun to operate. Even one little cloud that might obscure the solar panel disrupts the flow of water.

Each morning, I eagerly await the sun. When the sun shines in the morning–and the fountain begins its work–the birds come and fill each bowl with happy splashes as they bathe. It’s adorable and joyful. They dip their heads and wings into the water’s flow, and I love to watch it all. Fluffy robins actually sit in those little bowls as if they’ve made them their own personal hot tubs.

And this morning, I finally see evidence of the sun’s great work in the vegetable garden: little green beans!

I know this: when the sun shines, things grow. When the sun shines, things fill up and overflow to bless others. I think about my time basking in God’s love and letting the light of His truth and wisdom fill my soul. I am a fountain; I am a green bean. And the sun and subsequent growth is never just for me. We enjoy God’s nourishing light in order to feed others and provide places of cool refreshment.

I want nothing to obscure that sun. I want no blocking clouds in my heart. May we flow like joyful fountains and grow heartily like the green bean.



When the Goal is Weakness

My great friend and mentor tells me I’ve got the wrong goal. When I claim I’m trying to be stronger or better in order to overcome something, she reminds me of a different goal: weakness.

Weakness means I depend upon God and draw upon His unlimited resources. Weakness means I stay humble. Weakness means I remain in a position of reliance upon Jesus and not myself.

When she asked, “What if the goal is weakness instead?” I felt a fresh breeze of freedom in heart. I remember Paul’s words from the Lord. he says, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Paul writes, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”

All day long, I’ve thought about a new goal: weakness.


A Quote I Love on Writing

I receive a newsletter from author James Clear with great advice. He shares this gem from writer Jorge Luis Borges on transforming every experience into a resource:

“A writer — and, I believe, generally all persons — must think that whatever happens to him or her is a resource. All things have been given to us for a purpose, and an artist must feel this more intensely. All that happens to us, including our humiliations, our misfortunes, our embarrassments, all is given to us as raw material, as clay, so that we may shape our art.”

Source: Twenty-Four Conversations with Borges: Including a Selection of Poems

If you like weekly advice on productivity or inspiration, you can sign up for James Clear’s newsletter, too. He’s the author of Atomic Habits, and I like his advice.​


Learning New Things

When you take the embarrassment away, you can actually learn so many new things. Don’t worry if you don’t understand something. You can learn! You can really learn!

I’m learning to fight any fear or shame if I don’t know something because it’s so much fun to learn. Who cares that you don’t know everything?

For example, I’m currently designing writing curriculum for the Penn State honors students who come from STEM backgrounds (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math). Technically, this is an advanced technical writing course. I’ve been spending the past few weeks learning all I can to adapt my normal writing courses to teach technical document design, proposals, and research papers in technical fields. At first, I felt overwhelmed, but each day I learn more and more.

I don’t know the language. I don’t know the landscape of an engineer’s brain.

Since I want to understand my students, I find myself researching their fields. In my humanities course, I don’t need to research “film student” or “poet” or “history major” to understand them. But in STEM? I’m researching things like “What’s the difference between a computer scientist and a computer engineer? What does a nuclear engineer do? What’s a day in the life of an aerospace engineer actually like? What kind of writing would a chemical engineer do or a mathematician? What writing instruction best serves an architectural engineer or a future surgeon?

Some of you are laughing because you know me. You know I’m all poetry and verbs and emotions. How will I survive with these students?

Well, I’ll learn.

I’ve read textbooks. I’ve read research articles. I’ve interviewed engineers and scientists and doctors. And now? I’m becoming an expert in technical writing. I’m holding my own in debates between the use of passive voice or active verbs in research articles and lab reports. I’m creating beautiful little worksheets on topic and stress positions in technical writing to make the most complicated engineering article digestible. I’m even learning the lingo of UX (user experience) and things I never knew (like PDF stands for portable document format). Who knew? Maybe I’ll learn some computer programming even.

The bottom line: learn something new this summer. Your brain will love it.

And now? I’m off to design a presentation on how to tell a better research story (yup–I stand by my belief that even scientists need to know how to tell a good story!). I’m calling that unit “Technical Narratives” that helps readers (general public, donors, legislators) care about and understand STEM research. In the end, I wonder if my storytelling aids for scientific minds might just become the best thing they learn.