What You Lose in the Rush

My oldest daughter has a horrible ear infection that’s so bad that the doctor actually looks inside her ear and says, “This is just a mess.”  We’ve already had two ear tube surgeries and countless rounds of antibiotics for infections.

What’s so hard is the sheer pain of it.  The doctor asks where my daughter was on the 1-10 pain scale, and she bravely reports, “An 8, except sometimes (meaning when she’s asleep).” 

We are driving away from the pharmacy with two different medications for her (and also the ear drops for after swimming now that the tubes fell out). She can’t swim all week, and she’ll have ear drops and oral antibiotics.  It’s all a waiting game for the ear to heal.  She’s counting the days until the pain recedes and until she can swim again. 

Out of the blue, she calls out from the back seat:  “Mom, did you know if the earth went any faster around the sun, we wouldn’t get to have so many days?  The year would be shorter.  That wouldn’t be good.  We’d miss stuff.”

She’s applying astrophysics to the time it will take for her ear to heal.  In her mind, she concludes that speeding things up actually results in loss for her.  Just this morning, I read about time and patience.  I have trouble waiting, even for a day, for things I hope for.

Do I really want to rush the cosmic process?  Whatever the speed of change in my life, it seems wise to fully live out the day and not wish so much for it all to be over–even if it’s uncomfortable.  Wishing for tomorrow means I have one less day. 

Even in pain, she doesn’t want to wish away the day because of what she’ll lose.   It’s ear infection flair!

(photo courtesy of Bruce Sterling )

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What $5.00 Bought Me This Morning

My 10 year old neighbor has started a garden and pet care business.  His flyer says he’s “responsible, caring, and dependable. . . since 1999.”  This morning, I hired him.  He said he could groom my cats, empty litter boxes, and play with the cats for exercise.  He said he would charge me $2.50 for his work.

I’ve used this service before.  At the beginning of the summer, he came to my house as a garden consultant and advised me about the placement of my beds and compost. 

This morning, I paid him $5.00 because not only did he care for all the pets, but he decided he needed to vacuum the basement.  And then, he wanted to help me make cranberry bread.  He needed to wash his hands first, he told me, because every proper chef washes hands before he handles food.

He’s still here, occasionally checking his bread in the oven.

I told him he should run for President.

He said he probably will.

I told him I was going to blog about him today, and he wasn’t interested.  He’s not into fame or recognition.  Right now, he’s into dragging the yellow rope around the house to exercise my cats.   He wants to make sure he fully earns his pay.

I hope he never loses whatever it is he has right now.  It’s the kind of flair I want all the neighborhood kids to have.  When I asked him why he’s starting a business, he said he has stuff he can do, and he can earn money and not be bored.  He’s not watching TV or lounging around this summer, and he’s not exhausting his parents’ resources by begging for trips to Disney World or expensive summer camps.  No, he’s going to run a business to help neighbors with their gardens and pets.   I just love that.

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4 Questions to Protect Yourself

Our family has been on a mission ever since Monday.  Monday afternoon at precisely 2:20 PM, I look out at my beautiful garden and smile at the huge squash, the cauliflower, the tomatoes, the cucumbers, the eggplant, the herbs.

Then, I see him.  He’s literally looking up at me with a smirk on his face, holding a juicy cucumber between his paws.  I start screaming and waving my arms in front of the window.  I run like a mad woman down the stairs and out into the yard.  The groundhog merely saunters off and finds refuge under our back porch.  He’s huge.  He must look like this groundhog by now.  He’s eaten all my cauliflower, stripped the green beans, destroyed the squash, and decimated the cucumber.

We gather the family together and set up garden surveillance. My children watch from the window and begin making a list of questions like:

1. How does the thief enter?
2. When does he come?
3. What attracts him to the garden?
4. What will keep him out?

My dear, dear husband puts up a beautiful fence that very night.  But the thief knows how to tear through the wooden fence.  He can also dig underneath it.  So my dear, dear husband returns from the store with chicken wire that buries deep into the ground and ascends up high around the garden.

Finally, we can sleep easy.  What’s left of the garden can grown in peace and produce a bountiful crop.

All day, I’ve been considering the vigilance of our family against this intruder.  It was silly.  But what isn’t silly is real threats against the garden of my own heart and the hearts of my family members.  Scripture teaches us that there’s an enemy of our souls, and my daughters’ list of questions sparked a new awareness of ways I protect myself from “anything that contaminates body and spirit.”  That groundhog contaminated our garden, and we found a way to protect it.  We learned to recognize the how, the when, and the why of harmful intruders.  When things intrude and contaminate my own heart, might I ask myself that list of questions and devise a plan to ensure safe growth and a bountiful crop in my life?  What must go deep and ascend high about my life to ward off spiritual, physical, and emotional contaminates?

Living with flair means I protect and defend against contamination when I need to.

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Celebrating 100 Days of Flair with. . . Fire Ants

Here I am, at the grand celebration of my 100th day of the “Live with Flair” blog, and the flair moment is. . . fire ants.  I was secretly hoping for fanfare. Something big!  Something extraordinary!  Maybe I’d wake up to an elephant in my front yard or I’d find buried treasure.   

But it’s fire ants.  I suppose that’s rather true to the project:  I want to find the extraordinary meaning in the common things.  Well, here goes. 

I’m walking in an area where fire ants bite us as we travel from the front porch to where our cars are parked.  A fire ant bite can be extremely painful and, for those of us with allergies to bites and stings, potentially deadly.

A family member calls out:  “Just keep movin’!  They won’t get ya if you just keep movin’!  It’s when you stop that those fire ants get into your shoes!”

It becomes a family joke whenever we leave the car.  “Just keep movin!” we repeat, laughing but also running to the porch as fast as we can.   

Something about that phrase made the flair bells ring.  To avoid those ants, it’s absolutely critical that I don’t stay in one place.  I have to move.  I can’t be stagnant or else trouble comes. 

If you look up the word “stagnant” you’ll find it means this:  Lacking freshness, motion, flow, progress, or change; stale.

I want a life that moves.  I want motion, flow, progress, and change.  I want fresh.

As I age, I realize I have to create motion.  I have to choose progress and flow.  Maybe it means I read a new book or find a new friend.   Or it means I learn a new skill.  Or I learn a new dance. 

Left to themselves, things do stagnate.  Without thinking, I could stay right here, doing nothing.  And in that place of stale, unwanted things invade and take over–like fire ants.  Friendships, marriage, parent-child relationships, spiritual growth, my relationship to myself, my relationship to the natural world, my teaching, my writing–it can all stagnate unless I develop a plan for fresh flow.

Living with flair means creating fresh flow.  It means running like crazy so the fire ants don’t get into my shoes.  Whatever it takes, I want to avoid that sting of stale.

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Feeling Homesick at Home

Sometimes I feel homesick.  But it’s not for any particular home or family.  It’s the weirdest feeling.  I’ll be sitting there, doing the dishes or folding laundry, and I’ll feel that something is horribly wrong.  I’m in the wrong place, and everything feels sad, and I just need to take my husband and children and get home.   

I feel like the wild daisy in A.R. Ammons’s poem, “Loss.”  He describes a wild daisy “half-wild with loss” who turns “any way the wind does” and lifts up her petals to float off her stem and go.  It’s an image of terrible longing. 


What must it feel like to be rooted nowhere, to belong nowhere, and move like that with the chaos of the wind?  Some of us live that way simply because we don’t know where to put down roots.  We can’t find a sure place to land.  On those days, we are wanderers, and even if we have the strongest physical sense of home and place, we still feel lost at sea. 

There’s a homesickness in our soul, even on our best days. 


So I’m doing the dishes, longing for home, and I recall Frederick Beuchner’s book by the same title.  Beuchner’s writing soothes my soul because he says we are all longing for a spiritual home. The sense of belonging and rightness comes when we put down deep spiritual, not just physical, roots.  

Maybe there’s hope for me.  

Beuchner’s book, The Longing for Home, reminds me how narrow my ideas of home are.  My home is not my house.  That homesick feeling is a cry for heaven.  


But what do I do with today?  Is there a way to find a home in this day, even though I’m made for another Home? 

Beuchner says this:  

“In the entire history of the universe, let alone in your own history, there has never been another day just like today, and there will never be another just like it again. Today is the point to which all your yesterdays have been leading since the hour of your birth. It is the point from which all your tomorrows will proceed until the hour of your death. If you were aware of how precious today is, you could hardly live through it. Unless you are aware of how precious it is, you can hardly be said to be living at all.”  


Today is precious.  So precious I can hardly live through it.   I can find my home in this very day, with God, and belong somewhere while I long for Home.  Living with flair has something to do with finding what’s precious even when I’m wandering. 

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Swimming Beneath the Geese

I’m swimming in a lake with my daughters, and another family nearby starts feeding the geese.  Within seconds, a gaggle surrounds us.  They come from every direction, leaving the shore and their organized formations across the lake.  Our heads bob along in the water right against their soft, wild feathers.  I’m so close that I can look into those deep black eyes and touch the fuzzy heads of the goslings.

It doesn’t seem right how close we are. It seems other-worldly. We aren’t separate from the wild; we’re swimming along with it. 

The family with the goose food offers me a handful.  If I’m still enough, someone tells me, the geese will eat from my hand.

And so I am.  And so they do.

I’m told we can swim under the geese and even touch their webbed feet.  Because the geese are used to floating logs and debris, they don’t mind when you hold their feet.  My daughter tightens her goggles and dives under the surface to swim beneath the geese.

My five year old has pink goggles that sit on the pier.  My husband tosses them out to me, and I dive deep under the gaggle, turn myself over, and look up towards the heavens.  It’s all feathers, little webbed feet, and the jeweled water swirling above my head as the sun shines down.

I stored that experience away, like I hope my daughters did, in that place in my imagination reserved for the magical, the heavenly, and the purely happy.  Maybe one day, when life bears down on my children with that weight of sadness that comes to us all eventually, in its own way, they would recall this morning swim beneath the geese.  They could live again in that moment when something rare and beautiful happened.  And they’d catch it–all feathered, webbed, and jeweled–in their hands.

It could be their flair for that day.

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Why Bother with Christianity?

If you can be happy without Jesus, why bother?  I’ve been thinking about this lately.  I’ve been thinking about all the happiness blogs people have sent my way.  It seems that all over the world, folks find legitimate forms of happiness apart from knowing God.  I know what this feels like.  I know that when I exercise, eat right, blog about my flair, and do any other host of mood-modifying activities, I can be happy.

I used to think that people went to church and read their Bible because they were unhappy.  They become Christians because of the promise of happiness.  While I do think that going to church and reading the Bible dramatically increase the likelihood of happiness, I don’t think that Christianity is a religion that promises happiness.  Happy Christians tend to do other things that boost their mood like, for example, engaging in vibrant church communities.  But happiness, in this case, is a byproduct of lifestyle.  Jesus doesn’t promise happiness. 

However, Jesus does promise one very important thing.

He promises. . . peace. 

Jesus said this:  “In me you may have peace.  In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world.”  Jesus says that he leaves us “peace.”  I thought back to the blessing God commanded to be spoken over the nation of Israel.  Simply this:  that God would turn his face towards them and give them peace.  Later, Jesus is prophetically described in the book of Isaiah as our “Prince of Peace.” 

This morning I skimmed my Bible for passages that describe the peace of Jesus.  Romans 5, it turns out, defines the peace of a believer.  Here, the writer tells us 3 reasons Christians have peace:

1.  They find favor with God by faith alone, not by anything they do or fail to do.  They are completely reconciled to a Holy God because of faith in Jesus.  This point alone astounds me.  I can talk to the God of the Universe, and He loves me.  Unbelievable! 
2.  Because of Jesus, they have hope in the glory of God (his power and presence) in every situation.
3.  They can rejoice in suffering because of what it produces in them (perseverance, character, hope).  When God directs a person’s life, suffering has meaning and will produce good

Curiously, New Testament writers claim that Jesus himself is our peace.  Paul writes:   “He himself is our peace” since in his very body he reconciles sinful mankind with the holiness of God.  By his very body, he grants access to God.  Christianity, after all, is a religion about God’s body:   the incarnation–that little baby come to earth as a God-man– the crucifixion–God hanging on a cross to die, and the resurrection–the literal body of Jesus conquering death.  And in the ascension, Jesus returns to the Father but leaves the promised Holy Spirit who indwells believers at the moment they believe.

Is peace better than happiness?  Absolutely.  The assurance of God’s peace which, according to scripture, transcends understanding, is deeper and more profound than mere mood.  So while happiness is something I can moderate, my peace comes from Jesus alone.

Living with flair means I depend upon the sure peace of God even when flair fluctuates.

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A Stranger Tells Me His Secret

Many of my flair moments in the past 90 days occurred during conversations with strangers: the tired woman at the grocery store,  the neighborhood boy,  the hard-working Amish man, the precious waitress who gave my daughter a bad day mantra, the mean people at the drive-thru, that wonderful unknown woman who gave me the complement that changed my life, the curious woman and her service dog, the man at Starbucks, the man chasing trash in the parking lot, or the little boy explaining why he loves the rain because it makes the worms come out.

Remembering these conversations–and the flair they brought forth–reminds me to challenge myself to engage more with people who cross my path.

There’s flair there, I just know it.

I am leaving a restaurant, and a man whose job it is to hold open the door greets me with a big smile.  He proudly holds open the door with such gusto I have to stop.

“Thank you!”  I say happily.  And then again:  “Thank you so much.”

He smiles bigger (if that were even possible).  This employee is happier than he should be in this heat with this on-your-feet job.   I have to find out why. 

I say, “When you hold the door like that, it makes us all feel like celebrities.”

He frowns and shakes his head.  He says, “You should feel like that all the time, not just when somebody is holding a door.”

“All the time?  How is that possible?”  I say, my arms crossed.  The rest of my party is already in the parking lot, and I’m hanging around to talk to a strangely happy man.

“Above ground,” he says softly.

“Huh?”

“Above ground,” he repeats.

I lean in and whisper, “What in the world does that mean?”  People stream past us, a whole crowd of them, and I’m ducking my head back and forth to try and maintain eye contact.

He waves his hands like he’s shooing me away.  I stand my ground.

“I’d have to explain it and it takes too long,” he said.

“Well,” I say, raising my eyebrows.  This was flair, and I wasn’t about to leave it.

“OK,” he says, the crowd thinning so he can give me some time.

“You just say to yourself that you’re above ground.  You aren’t stuck where you are, on this ground.   It’s not about where your feet are or where you are hanging out.  You can be above it–above it all.   You are above ground.  Do you get it?  It’s not about where you are or what you are doing.  That’s why you can be the celebrity every day.”

He’s already on to other parties.  He’s like a rock star that bothered to take a moment to talk to the little people.  He’s big stuff, the real deal, and he’s happy.  

And I’m writing down his words, learning from a stranger, because he was there, above ground, holding the door for me.

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The Real Teal and Strobe Light

I’m not a good traveler.  I have massive anxiety when it comes to travel, I get homesick, and I get all out of sorts with a change of routine.  For years, I’ve interviewed folks who love to travel in order to find out what I’m missing somehow.  They all say the same thing:  they love the adventure.

My friend wrote recently to encourage me about an upcoming trip. She wrote something like, “I pray God surprises you with little blessings on this trip.”  Amazing how that one statement made me think differently.  If I anticipate that God might surprise me with some little blessing, something perfect and unexpected, then yeah, I can see travel as an adventure.

So to prepare for summer travel, I did something wacky (for me) to represent adventure.  I let my daughters pick out nail polish for my toes–The Real Teal and Strobe Light–and we painted our toenails in this outrageously mermaid-ish teal and a top coat of strobe-like sparkles.

Every time I look down at my toes, I’m thinking about surprises and adventure.  I’ve got Real Teal and Strobe Light leading the way (literally).

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My Tantrum in the Parking Lot

Well, let’s just say that I threw a little tantrum in the parking lot yesterday.  But in my defense, I’ll set the scene:

I’m in the minivan with the girls.  I’d been sick for a few days.  It’s a hot, sticky day, and we are circling and circling to find parking so we can go use our coupons for free hot pretzels at the Pretzel Factory.  Everybody is arguing and complaining, especially me.  Not only does a man glare at me and try to claim the spot I was patiently waiting for, but as I finally pull into my rightful spot, I realize I left the coupons at home.  And then I  realize that the girls are already spilling out of the minivan with all my pocket change.  They are generously feeding the meter (they love “feeding” the meter’s “mouth”).

I’m in a bad mood, and all I want to do is go home, take a shower, and forget this hot, sticky day.  So I literally stomp while dragging the girls down the street.  “I am NOT happy!”  I said aloud (please tell me other mothers out there have acted this way!)  And then, God reminds me to go over my flair principles.   I start saying to myself, “Heather, you can find the flair in this.  You need to apologize to your children and start new.” 

It’s not working; everything is annoying me:  the man at the cash register, the incessant ringing of the bell on the shop door, the way my girls are hanging on me.  We get our pretzels and fight a crowd of equally moody parents and children back to our car (the whole world seems to have the same pretzel outing idea).  There’s a line waiting for my spot in the parking lot.

I buckle my seat belt, ready to get out of there, and I glance at my meter.  Apparently, my children used every last dime and purchased tons of time for that spot.  I look over my shoulder at the other minivans waiting for my parking space.

I see another mother who just wanted to be somewhere else.

And then I imagine the simple moment of happiness she might experience when she realizes that somebody else left her ridiculous amounts of time on the meter.  Maybe it would be just the thing to get her out of a funk.

I think this counts as a flair moment–for that other driver!  Finding extra time on the meter always makes me feel good somehow, like the planets aligned for me, like the universe was tilting in my favor.  It always feels like a special nod of love.

I start to giggle.  Some other person was going to have some happiness, although just a tiny bit of it, in the form of dimes in a meter.  Maybe they’d feel a nod of love from a stranger.  I was suddenly happy and out of my funk just because of the thought of surprising some other woman. 

Living with flair means putting extra money in the meter for the next person.  It might just make you feel better.

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