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Daily Flair: Punning with a Crab

I desperately needed some visual flair. Due at a baby shower Saturday morning, I worried that the requisite darling baby clothes and princess books just weren’t enough. Something was missing.

Thankfully, last night I happened to enter a whimsical gift shop downtown. This was the sort of shop that sold earrings made of candy wrappers, giant marionettes of kangaroos and tigers, and miniature mosaic turtles. As I wandered past picture frames made of recycled magazines, fragile blown glass hummingbirds, and Christmas nutcrackers, I spied a stuffed animal crab about the size of both my hands put together.

It was a feisty looking crab.

Then I noticed that for claws, it had little teething rings. I looked at the crab. He looked at me. Why would anybody buy a crab teething ring? Then I started laughing out loud. It was a crab teething ring. A crab. . . to give to your baby when she’s crabby. I waved my friend over to me and showed her the little crab.

“Do you get it? It’s a crab. . . for when the baby’s crabby.”

We laughed for a long time. I laughed the sort of laugh that makes you lose your balance (good thing I wasn’t near the glass hummingbirds).

I love a good pun; it’s verbal flair. I have friends that can bring a good pun to an unpleasant situation and bring unexpected laughter (like when my husband joked with his friend on Friday that his colonoscopy must have been a pain in the butt).

Today I had the pleasure of attending the baby shower (massive flair: diapers arranged in a 5 foot cake tower, cupcakes accented with frosting versions of various rattles, diaper pins, baby booties). When the guest of honor opened my little crab, I warned her about the upcoming pun. Several of us laughed together, jabbing elbows into a side or slapping a nearby knee. Without the pun, little Crabby would have been a fine gift. With the pun, he was flair.

Living with flair means I laugh out loud and enjoy a good pun. It’s just the thing for putting someone in a good mood. Because, honestly, I’ll take what I can get when I’m. . . crabby.

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Daily Flair: “I’d Find the Cream.”

On Fridays, my daughter gets to choose a treat after preschool. Since I was going to the grocery store to find some wrapping paper for a gift, she said she’d like a doughnut from the bakery there.

“And it has to have cream inside,” she said, very seriously, her finger pointed into air.

“Why cream?” I asked, turning down the radio. Kate’s a philosopher, and I didn’t want to miss her insight, especially since I still hadn’t experienced my flair moment for the day.

“Because it makes it so good.”

“Well, what if you pick a doughnut that doesn’t have cream inside?” I wondered, equally seriously.

“I’d find the cream,” she shrugged with her palms upturned.

“What if there’s no cream?” I asked.

“Then I’d find a new doughnut.”

She folded her hands and looked peacefully out the window, assured that the cream was out there, somewhere, and she would find it.

On the flair meter, this statement ranked high for me. It represents an uncompromising commitment to persevere to find what the heart wants. So often we settle. So often we compromise. I thought of Thoreau’s quote: “I want to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life.”

Living with flair means I find what’s so good about everything. And if it’s not there, I find a new doughnut.

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Daily Flair: Becoming an Umbrella

Flair opened early this morning on the dreary mile walk to school. It was drizzling (drizzle is the worst: it’s indecisive and taunting with its half rain / half fog constitution) and remarkably chilly for March.

I have a huge bright blue and white umbrella. I like to spin it and do a little Gene Kelly dance as soon as I open it. And then, I’m driven by pure instinct to invite anyone near me in, to stand close, cuddle up, and stay warm. With my arm around a child or my head pressed to a friend’s cheek, I feel like it is a sacred space. It feels like flair.

And it’s no wonder I feel this way. Nearly every culture recognizes the important role of umbrellas and the treasures they protect. The umbrella’s rich history reflects how communities use umbrellas to shield their most holy objects, to announce sacred ceremonies, and to signal the presence of royalty. In Egypt, the figures of gods are covered by umbrellas, in the Roman Catholic liturgy, the umbrella covers the Most Holy Sacrament, and in the ancient Chinese book of ceremonies, the umbrella always covered imperial carriages.

What sacred treasures, what dignitaries were underneath my umbrella? Was that child, picking a nose and stooping to fix a sock that had inched its way down her foot, a treasure? (OK, that was my daughter)

I imagine that the umbrella doesn’t discriminate. I imagine the honor the umbrella feels to partake in the ceremony of walking to school.

What if I acted more like an umbrella? Living with flair means I open my arms wide to point out and protect what is sacred and of supreme worth in everybody around me.

This morning it felt like I walked to school with royalty. And I did.

Living with flair means I am an umbrella today.

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Daily Flair: 5 Seashells, Almond Extract, and a Cat

Some things nearly qualified as flair today: using almond extract and skim milk (a new concoction)in a freshly ground cup of coffee, choosing to pet my cat (the one that purrs so hard she seems to choke) for a minute longer than I had time for, or finding my daughter’s seashell collection on the floor of my minivan.

Don’t worry; my minivan isn’t that dirty. The whole collection was maybe five shells. And yes, I held one to my ear and even smelled it, all while waiting for the Rite Aid pharmacist to hand me my receipt through the drive-up window.

But those things aren’t so out-of-the-ordinary.

What did count as flair today wasn’t an experience with an object (or a cat). It happened when thinking about my first five blog followers. Five followers, statistically speaking, represents an absurdly small number. Infinitesimal. Too small to note, unseen as far as Internet blips go. But to me, those five were enough.

I recalled an essay a student wrote last week (thanks, Patrick) about how we tend to value the massive as opposed to the microscopic. Even in our own lives, we value accumulation and not reduction (unless, of course, you’re in my Weight Watchers meeting).

Living with flair means I take note of the immense worth of the small, the few, and the unseen. I take note, then make an offering of words, to just one or a million. It shouldn’t matter. After all, the boundaries of the day are set for most of us. Perhaps all we can embellish is a cup of coffee or a moment with a little creature. And maybe nobody will know about it even if we did bother to blog about it.

I know most of us won’t travel to any exotic beaches today. We might just experience the art of the ocean from our minivan’s floor and tell just five friends. And that’s just fine. That’s flair.

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Daily Flair: Learning the “Beat It” Moves

This morning, my neighbor and I learned the choreography for Michael Jackson’s “Beat It.” We had my laptop propped for maximum visibility and water glasses filled for potential dehydration. We adjusted our workout clothes so they wouldn’t inhibit our moves.

We learned the whole dance from a youtube video. This is no small thing.

I’m not sayin’ I can do it well, or in any way resembling MJ, but I did learn it.

Why did we do it? I have no idea. But it counts as my flair for the day.

Living with flair means I’m doing something a little ridiculous, a little “out there,” a little beyond what’s expected or appropriate every day. Something about dancing this morning reminded me that joy often lies dormant, waiting to be unearthed and brought forth. What made learning dance moves so joyful? What is it about the spontaneous, the supremely useless, and the silly that lets the joy in?

Whatever it was, I needed it.

Flair signals embellishment. I want to embellish the day; I want to celebrate it and set it in the right light. Doing my MJ moves (the thrusts, the snaps, the round kicks) made things shimmer this morning. But it really wasn’t, in terms of productivity or market value, useful.

But the day felt hopeful, not because I scrubbed a kitchen floor, but because I danced on it, hard, for no reason at all. And then I told all the neighbors about it.

Flair needs company. Dancing with my friend, banging into her when I mirrored the moves incorrectly, made us giggle like preschoolers. We weren’t talking about anything. We weren’t processing all the dysfunction in our lives or in the world. We were just trying to learn this dance. . . together. And we did it. We participated, somehow, in some larger dance: we are wives and mothers, aging and aching often both internally and externally, with enormous amounts to accomplish in any given day. Who has time to learn a dance from the 1980’s?

And yet, we danced. That was the perfect flair for the day.
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