Verb of the Week

This morning, I talk to a student about the verb “rehabilitate.”  It means to restore to normal, to recover, to reestablish good working order.  In terms of physical therapy, this verb represents hope.

Physical therapists know that rehabilitation happens in the context of a whole network of support:  individual, family, and community.  You aren’t alone in the journey towards restoration.   It takes time, and we are all in this together. 

I think about this today because of the post-travel anxiety and moodiness I experience!  Nothing feels normal around here.  I’m rehabilitating–even still–from all those years of depression and anxiety.  Good days, bad days, hopeful days, hopeless days.

I’m learning not to fear the bad days anymore.  There’s a true self that emerges when you let even the darkness out. 

It helps that my neighbors tell me that their friendship isn’t dependent on my good, stable moods. 

Living with flair means we see life as a rehabilitation process.   As communities, we journey together patiently and offer one another the deepest, most beautiful hope.  Good days, bad days.  We are all in this together.

Journal:  Are you rehabilitating, too? 


Returning to a Garden

Arriving home, we immediately check on the blackberries.  Deep black berries burst on the vine; we gobble them up and leave the red ones to ripen.  We’re home! 

Blackberries Ripening

Our minivan’s contents now spill across the living room, and everyone feels out-of-sorts (especially the mother).  I leave everything and run barefoot to the vegetable garden. 

Neck Deep in Tomatoes

With the exhaustion and disorder of arriving home after a summer of travel, I find myself returning to the garden.  It’s overgrown with weeds, and nothing stayed quite in place.  But I’m out here, neck deep in green tomatoes. 

Something about growing things, something about the smell of the earth, the berries, and the vegetables reassures me.  We’ll settle in, find order and rhythm, and harvest the fruit of a long, hot summer. 

Journal:  What’s so good about coming home? 


If You Give a Child an Atlas

As we approach Burlington, Colorado, my daughter notices the Kit Carson County Carousel on the atlas.  We spontaneously decide to follow the signs off the interstate to find this carousel. 

What’s happened to the scheduled, inflexible, impatient traveler I normally am? 

For a quarter, you can ride on the back of a seahorse, a camel, a zebra, or even a deer with enormous antlers.  There we ride, in the middle of nowhere, going 12 miles per hour on a gorgeous carousel built in 1905. 

Later, my daughter spreads the atlas across her lap.  I see the spirit of adventure rising up in our old minivan.  You can go anywhere and do anything!  Why not follow the trail of Louis and Clark?   Why not? 

A few hours later, we stop in Kansas and find friends (the Newmans!) who recommend a local restaurant for dinner.  Why not?  We stay a night in this city and enjoy the unknown and the spontaneous. 

My friend reminds me, “Spontaneous things are better.”  I’m finally learning to relax, be flexible, and have adventures.  What will we find on the atlas today?  Suddenly, a day in the minivan doesn’t seem so difficult. 

Journal:  What spontaneous thing did I do recently?


Promise Not to Laugh

I climbed into a giant hamster wheel with my children today.  

Then I put my hands into a tank of fish to let them eat the dead skin off of my fingers. I learn this constitutes a spa treatment in some salons.

It tickled and was very strange indeed. 

Then I went back to the hamster wheel to take funny pictures of my husband. 

We were visiting the City Museum in St. Louis on our way to Colorado.  

I decided (somewhere between the 11-story slide and the airplane you reach by climbing through a wire tunnel) to embrace some whimsy. 

So when my youngest asked me to get into the hamster wheel, I didn’t hesitate.  And when my oldest told me I could get a manicure by fish, I didn’t hesitate. I can honestly say that I accomplished two spontaneous and whimsical feats today.  I remembered learning the “Beat It” moves in my kitchen; this felt like that. 

What a day!  How was yours?

Journal:  When I’m asked to do the next spontaneous and whimsical thing, will I hesitate?


If Nothing Changes, Then I Don’t Either

I hate change.  It makes me anxious. 

This morning at Saturday Morning Pancakes, my neighbor (the one who showed me the lady slipper orchid)  reminds me that when I feel anxious, it’s my opportunity to have faith

I look at her as if she’s just reminded me of my own name.  Of course.  It’s so simple.  When I’m anxious about anything, it’s a bright flashing neon sign saying:  Opportunity to Trust God Right Here!

I’m anxious because I have to travel.  I’m anxious because I have to leave my environment and live in another one for a while.

As I explain all these anxieties, a boy beside me suggests that if the environment never changes, then a person cannot grow and develop.  He explains it all using a video game analogy.  You’ve got to move around!  You’ve got to change things up! He tells me how good it is for my growth and imagination to have some change.

So this thing (whatever it is) that’s causing anxiety?  It’s an opportunity to trust God.  It’s putting me in an environment for growth.  If nothing changes, then I don’t either.  And I want to change and grow into the woman God wants me to be.  That means welcoming situations that stretch me. 

Journal: What’s causing anxiety in me, and how can I see this as an opportunity to trust and as an environment for growth?


On the Cheap

Who would have thought that living with flair could be. . . cheap!  I used to think that budgets and coupons and delayed gratification (blah, blah, blah) meant limitation.  But it actually offers me a different kind of freedom.  I’m free not to buy.  Imagine! 

Just today, my daughter and I made homemade hazelnut frappuccino drinks because you can make anything good with a blender, ice, and something sweet.  You put out some ingredients on the counter, start pouring things into the blender, and you ask–wide-eyed and smiling–“What can we make with this?” 

It was better than Starbucks.  I mean it.

Earlier, I took the advice of my world-traveling neighbor that you don’t need to buy expensive craft kits or distractions for your children when you travel in the minivan.

“You just need one thing,” she says.  This is the woman who drove her children from Pennsylvania to Washington in her minivan last summer.  “And it will cost you less than five dollars.”

“What?”  I’m taking notes.

“Pipe cleaners!”  She tells me that if you hand a child a bunch of pipe cleaners, they can make whole villages of imaginary animals and flowers.  “There’s no mess on the floor, either.”

I’m going to buckle them into their seats, hand them some pipe cleaners, and simply ask, “What can we make with this?”  

I like living on the cheap.  It’s never felt more creative.

Journal:  How do you live on the cheap?


My New Year’s Resolution: Be Soap

Before we leave to drive home from our holiday travels, we fear enduring the horrific smell in our minivan.  On the trip down, both girls get carsick all over the seats, the floor–everything in sight.  Have you ever been in a situation that was so unpleasant that it becomes comical?  Picture us pulling off of the highway, both girls vomiting, a snowstorm upon us, and no way to get the car clean.  And we still have 6 hours of driving left. 

Ha ha ha. 

It’s hard to live with flair sometimes. 

Once at our destination, we try everything to remove the smell, including all sorts of sprays and deodorizers.  Nothing helps.  Then, Grandpa tells us his tried and true way of removing any car odor.   You simply take a bar of soap and put it under the seats.

As we pack up the car to drive home, I’m doubtful as I put that little bar of Irish Spring under the seat. I’m plugging my nose and hating everything about holiday traveling. 

An hour later, we pile in, and we cannot smell the carsick odor.  I keep smelling the air, skeptical.
It’s completely gone.  The carsick smell is gone!   All day long, I’m thinking about a little bar of soap with the power to change a whole environment.  I can’t figure it out, but I know it’s working.  The soap somehow absorbs and neutralizes the offending smell.

Meanwhile, I have 10 hours of travel to consider my New Year’s Resolution.  And then it occurs to me that I want to influence my environment like that little bar of soap.  Can I somehow absorb and neutralize every terrible, offensive, negative thing–neutralize it–and in turn refresh whatever situation I’m in?

In 2011, I want to absorb and neutralize.  I want to counterbalance every attack with the good, the true, and the beautiful.  And I can because of God within me.  Might God use us all to change every toxic environment into a sweet smelling paradise?   Even a small intervention–as small as soap tucked under a seat–can change everything.  


Writing Atop a Double-Decker Bus with WiFi

I’m doing something I’ve never done before:  I’m riding atop a double-decker bus on the way to Manhattan. 

I’m with complete strangers.  But here’s what I know: 

The woman beside me was homecoming queen, and I know the whole story about the boy she met when she was 14 who visited, only in the summers, his grandparents who were her neighbors.  I know about their long distance relationship, the time they broke up after they already paid for airline tickets to visit Chicago, and how, even though they doubted the other would actually still go, they found each other in that city and fell in love again. 

I also watched a storm brew through the windows above my head with the older man next to me.  He has a hearing aid, and I’m not sure would speak if I engaged him, but when that storm barreled in, he glanced at me, looked back up at the dark clouds, again at me, and then back again.  We both saw it happening, and this was important. 

I had 15 minutes at a truckstop, and I was late because I was listening to a man describe his writing project.  The bus driver came in to find me.  He looked down at me, shook his head, and smiled. 

For the woman who hates to travel, I’m learning to find buried treasure in the people around me.  I’m having the time of my life, and we are just in New Jersey. 


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).