Licking the Blender Whisk

It’s a snow day in our county, and the children and I make cookies to frost.  The girls crowd around me and eagerly reach for the blender whisks after I’ve made the vanilla frosting. 

I hand the whisks down, and I purposefully arrange some extra frosting on each one. 

A child licking the blender whisks reminds me of Henry David Thoreau’s famous quote about sucking the marrow out of life. Back in July, I wrote about how the “Live with Flair” blog was my way to “live deep and suck all the marrow out of life.” 

When my daughter licks the blender whisk, I see her searching out every last drop.  When she hands it back, it’s as if it’s been cleaned in the dishwasher. 

I want to search out the beauty in this day, relishing every part.  God hands me the whisk, and I sit back and enjoy it. 

__________________
Journal:  What good thing has come my way today? 

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What We Most Want

Finally, at 6:00 AM, we agree to open presents.  This is only after the 2:00 AM squeal alert that presents had arrived under the tree.

My living room sparkles with shreds of wrapping paper, bows, and tissue paper.  By now, the little girls play happily with their new dolls, and I drink coffee–lots and lots of coffee.  

Amid the laughter, I hear my husband calling out, “Can you think of any other person’s birthday party where you get the presents?”

He turns to me and says, “Isn’t that the real meaning of gospel?  We celebrate Jesus, but we end up getting the gifts.” 

Bring on the gifts, the shimmering joy, the peace, and the love.   May we unwrap His gifts upon gifts, in obvious and hidden forms, today and all year.  May we have the hope and the faith to see them, despite every circumstance.

May we lift our eyes and be led to what we’ve been waiting for all our lives.  Can it be that what we most want, we find in that manger?

Merry Christmas from Live with Flair!

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A Christmas Gift to Yourself

I’m sitting around a table with other couples, all in their 30’s and 40’s.  As we talk about the different activities we’re encouraging our children to try–voice lessons, dance, musical instruments, acting–one mother suddenly announces how much she wishes she could take ballet lessons. 

“Why don’t you!?” we all exclaim just as another mother confesses her desire to learn ballet.  And then, the whole table erupts in a discussion of the classes we wish we were taking.  We go around the room and answer the question: “What class do you secretly wish you could take?” 

Painting, photography, guitar, voice, history, Spanish, piano. . . the list goes on as we share the things we still–even at our age–want to learn and do.  But is it too late?  I had just finished reading a chapter about neuroscience and the importance of novelty for brain health.  Novelty–fresh ideas, fresh experiences, fresh activities–strengthens the brain as it ages.

It’s not too late.  It’s never too late. 

We commit to it as a group, encouraging one another in our desires.  The gift we might give ourselves this Christmas for 2011 is novelty.  Then, by Christmas of next year, we’ll have another interest to pursue.

Living with flair means I give myself the gift of novelty.  Who cares if you’re the oldest ballerina in the room or if your arthritic fingers hesitate over the piano keys?   You’ll inspire the rest of us with your courage, your enthusiasm, and your flair.  Is there something you secretly wish you could learn?  I’d love to hear it! 

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When Your Cat Looks Like a Skunk

My Skunk Kitty

When you’re sick in bed, you have a lot of time to think about your life.  You can have bizarre thoughts, brought on by fever and narcotics and the reality television shows you’ve been watching to pass the time. 

You start asking yourself if you’re dying, and you wonder what the whole point of life is anyway.  Then you start thinking you’ll never have another moment of flair again in your whole life.  You think that God has abandoned you and everything you thought was true is now untrue. 

You can’t remember any of God’s promises.  

And then your kitty comes up to snuggle with you, and she rolls over to show you the single white stripe on her belly.  She looks exactly like a skunk. 

But she’s not a skunk.  She’s a kitty.  She only looks like a skunk. 

What I see from this bed is not reality. 

There’s another system, another actuality, that God knows and God sees.  Good, beautiful, right, and true.  As warm and comforting as this cat beside me. 

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You Cannot Contain This

My morning begins by watching children race down the street so the speed limit monitor sign records their speed.  I still haven’t had enough coffee to move properly, and these kids are racing.  They know how to walk to school with flair.   I secretly want to record my own speed.  I still might, but I’m too busy trying to contain the activity. 

Turkey Masks

Then, I volunteer in the kindergarten classroom.  The teacher puts me in charge of the Turkey Masks for the feast the class will have next week.  I’m the monitor, and I can’t contain this project; the children smear glue everywhere, and feathers are in their hair, on their shirts, and attached to their jeans.

Eventually, we produce these fine specimens. 

However, nobody can see anything once the mask is on.  I wonder about this, but then I see kids delighting in darkness.

Apparently, this makes the feast more fun and uncontrollable.  

Meanwhile, I monitor the purple glue sticks and question how in the world they go on purple but dry clear.  The chemistry behind this phenomenon has me stumped.

Something dries out, and the purple disappears. Who invented this great item?  Maybe the same person who, as a kid, would have raced towards the speed limit monitor sign.

Lord, let me monitor my own joy today.  Let me race down streets, wear turkey masks even when I can’t see a thing, and stay vibrant purple.  Let me not be contained.  Let me have turkey feathers even on my jeans. 

I’m on my way to run in front of the speed monitor.   

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Your Most Memorable Act

Last year, my daughter’s teacher asked me to provide some healthy Halloween treats for the 2nd grade party.  Everyone knows how terrible I am at anything involving baking, crafts, or decorating.  I try, but when it comes right down to it, I’m just not good at these things.

Halloween Boo Platter

I am good at words, though.  And I recalled the wisdom of my friend in Texas who says firmly, “Heather, God gave these children to you.  You are the perfect parent for them.  Your gifts are perfectly matched to their needs.”  So this time last year, I arrange some vegetables in the shape of the word, “Boo.”  I have no idea what I am doing.  I take some foil, make a pattern, and fill it in with vegetables.  That’s about as crafty as I get.

The Boo Platter

Despite my anxiety about this platter (was it cute? would the children love it?), I bring it to the school party.  My daughter beams.  Children come over to read the word, and they laugh and eat vegetables because they are in the shape of a word.   It isn’t even that beautiful as you can see by this photo. (Feel free to comment to make me feel better about this). 

Story over.  A year goes by.

This week, my daughter bursts from the school doors and calls out, “Mom, I signed you up to make treats for the Halloween party.  Everyone wants the Boo Platter!  Let’s make another Boo Platter!”  She’s holding my hand, staring up into my face, and talking about this Boo Platter like it’s become a public school legend.  

I wake up this morning and arrange the foil in the shape of a word.  It might be the most important thing I do today, the thing that matters as the years go by.  God made me a certain way, and when I act out of that authentic self, I leave a beautiful mark.  A simple embellishment–in my style–to a platter created a memory–a tradition–that children remembered and needed.   These small acts that I think make no mark, that make no difference, that seem silly and awkward and out of place, actually embed themselves in neighborhood memory. 

Living with flair means pressing on in small embellishments that flow from my personality that help shape a family and a community. Sure, some other parents made more creative and impressive things, but what my children remembered and love was a word.  Because that’s me. 

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Am I a Husky or a Collie?

I recently walked in the woods with my neighbor and her Siberian Husky.  While other owners let their dogs run free in the woods, she keeps hers tight and close on a strong leash.

“I wish I could let him run free,” she says sadly.
 
“Why can’t you?”  I ask, watching other dogs bounding off into the distant cluster of pine trees.

“Because Siberian Huskies have a strong urge to run but no homing instinct.”

If she let him off the leash, he’d run and run with no regard for traffic or danger.  And he’d never return home. 

Unlike other breeds, the Siberian Husky wants to run away and lacks that inborn, mysterious, and often astounding ability to return home.  Other dogs can find their way back to you even if you drop them off hundreds of miles from home. Tales are told of Collie dogs, for example, who, when adopted into new families, have to be kept inside because their homing instinct is so strong they will return to wherever their previous home is even if it’s in a different state.  

Collies have an urge to run, but they always know how to find their way home. 

Let me be more Collie than Husky!  The urge to run–to follow the whims of an adventurous life– makes me dash off to fulfill that career possibility or that dream.  I’m a Siberian Husky racing off into the wild. 

Praise God for the leash! 

I wonder if when I feel most restrained by my circumstances that it’s really the firm hand of God not letting me loose.  He knows I’d run straight into danger with no ability to find my way back.  That tether on my life that I think keeps me down is actually the lifeline that keeps me safe, loved, and home.  

(Photo of Siberian Huskies by Randi Hausken Photos)

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A Taste of My Own Medicine

For all my talk of releasing children into nature, with nothing but pure imagination and the grass beneath their feet, I’m not one to take any time–as an adult–away from technology to just relax outside with no plan, no agenda. Is nature only good for the young?  What would happen if I joined them? 

How would I do it?  Would I be barefoot?  Would I look for frogs or collect random sticks? 

Leaving the cell phone and the netbook behind, I placed myself under a tree in my front yard.  The children played by instinct with the sort of freedom and abandon of fish finally released into water after nearly suffocating on land.

But for me, this environment of dirt, grass, pebble, and twig threatened to destroy my pedicure more than relax me.

But I stayed on, noticing the shade and breeze against my body.  I settled into the earth, introducing myself by removing my shoes.  I curled my toes around the grass and took a deep breath.  A moment later, a single white garden spider crawled over my big toe, and two ants found my left arm:  my welcoming committee. 

I’d been incorporated.

I was in.   

At one point, I opened a book and leaned back to read in the grass.  Afternoon shadows grew long, and the wind was cool.  The girls laughed and chased an enormous toad.

Their voices faded into the background of songbirds, the rustle of leaves above my head, and the hush of my own slow breath.   What peace was this in my heart?  What soothing balm? 

Tomorrow, I’m telling my children to send their mom outside.  She can’t come in until dinner.

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What’s Worth Keeping?

Yesterday, my oldest daughter had to choose one object from home that best represents her to share with her class.  The teacher wrote:  “Find one thing that best describes who you are.”

She said she’d choose one of three things:  her Bible, her journal, or a photo of her cats.  She values God, her writing, and her family members (OK, they are cats, but still). 

I’m cleaning my bedroom and I pass over various things I’ve collected over the years:  jewelry, clothing, books, candles.  Was there anything precious in the whole lot?  Was there anything I could say best represented me–the way my daughter could find the essential core of her identity in 3 objects? 

Cleaning day suddenly becomes so much easier.  I don’t need so many things.  I can pare down to essentials–the things that represent me and what our family values.  If it doesn’t fit into that essential core, I can recycle it or give it away. 

I’m seeing toys and trinkets differently.  I start to visualize what it means to give my children objects that can begin to represent their core identity.  God, creativity, relationships.  Can it be that simple?  Suddenly, cleaning never felt so pure, so right.  Suddenly the toy aisle and clothing section of stores don’t have the same pull.  Sure, I can buy things as diversions to fill up the days (as I often want to do for myself), but when it comes right down to it, what lasts (and what we want to keep) we can’t even hold in our hands. 

Parenting–and living with flair– might be broken down into these three things:  God, creativity, and relationships.  Does every room I’m cleaning help foster these three things?  If not, I’m rearranging the space and purging the objects within it to make room for flair.

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You, the Expert

I know many experts.  I have friends with cooking expertise, exercise expertise, teaching expertise, spiritual expertise, and parenting expertise.

They read, they study, they take classes, they interview others. These folks are wise

I call them all the time.  Just this morning, my sister, an education expert, talked me through my stress about my daughter’s kindergarten assessment.  Yesterday, I called my friend, a cooking expert, to ask the proper technique for storing or freezing my scads of garden basil.   Then I talked to another friend who knows how to counsel me through spiritual questions. 

I even have bug experts in my life.  I place emergency calls when weird looking insects attack my tomatoes.
  
A vibrant mind continues to learn.  Interesting folks, I read, have at least 5 topics they study.  As they age, they continue to grow in these areas, accumulating wisdom.  And then they teach others.  Normally, I think of expertise more narrowly.  But why not journey towards more topics? 

If I had to choose five, I’d pick subject areas like prayer, writing, teaching, parenting, and marriage.  Maybe I could make these more specific and pare down each category into 5 subcategories.  At that rate, I will have things to learn and do even in my 90’s.  Maybe I could assign a decade to each topic so, for the next 50 years, I’d have ways to grow.

My husband does this with his passion for history.  The 30’s? Revolutionary War.  The 40’s?  Civil War.  He spends 10 years reading everything he can on a certain historical topic.

This is why we have so much to talk about on date night. He doesn’t experience that strange land called Boredom. 

Living with flair means I study to become an expert.  Maybe for this year of flair, I could expand my topics beyond semicolons and dashes.  Maybe I could become an expert in Italian cooking or dressmaking.  I’m on my way.

I want to have passion and growth until the day I die.


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