What is Your Scent?

A couple of years ago, I attended a weekend women's conference. I was there to enjoy the company of friends, not really expecting much more than a restful mini vacation.

While there, a speaker -whose name I wish I could remember- asked a question that has stayed with me for a while.

What is your scent?

When you enter or leave a room, is the place better for your contribution or worse? Are you a rose or a skunk?

This comparison drew a few chuckles. However, in this simple question is something profound - the idea that your presence can change the atmosphere of the room.

Of course, we cannot control the minds of people who would like to find fault with us. However, we can be aware of what we are doing, and try to create a sweet-smelling savor in a place, like a rose, or perhaps like a honeysuckle, which is far more pleasant to the senses.

That interaction you and I have with a random stranger at the supermarket, for instance, is not as insignificant as we think. It's part of a larger fabric of human encounters that creates a culture.

It can be a culture of kindness, a culture of indifference, a culture of unpleasantness and resentment; the choices are endless. It all starts with individual moments that you and I have with each other.

You are important. What you do is important, partly because it creates a precedent for the next person and the next generation.

What is your scent?  How will you create a honeysuckle moment today?

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Your Earliest Fashion Memory

A host asked a panel of style experts and artists to recall their earliest memory of fashion.

One person remembered the skirt of his pre-school teacher. As all the children sat listening to her read a book, he paid attention to what changes the teacher had made in her garments since the previous day. This would be the beginning of his career.

I'm fascinated by the subject of fashion, as one might be about any art. But I rarely practice any trendy fashion sense (as you may have noticed in"Your Story in Fabric"). However, I will take a crack at the question.

I was perhaps 6 years old. There was my father polishing his Allen Edmonds. He noticed that I was in the room and then he began to explain what he was doing to his shoe and why. Each step of the ritual was exacting.

Then he spoke of having a reputation in the Marines for polishing his shoes so well and keeping his bunk so neat that the higher ups did not bother to inspect his bunk and trunk sometimes.

My father is firmly associated in my mind with his clothing. There is a dignity to his bearing that shows in the way that he maintains his garments. Although he asks for a crease in his jeans at the dry cleaners and I'm the heavy-denim-and-the-force-of-gravity-will-handle-the-wrinkles type, I respect my father's style.

What is your earliest fashion memory? Has that experience defined your later life?

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Love the Movie, Read the Play

Source material is always great for a deeper look at some of your favorite films. Plays are a particularly fun source material to read because -like screenplays- they have some explicit author intent built right in.  Plus, it's fun to figure out why filmmakers leave out this or add that.

For instance, Lillian Hellman penned both the play The Little Foxes and the screenplay for the film of the same name starring Bette Davis as Regina - a wealthy industrialist. The author has added a character called David (Richard Carlson), who is not in the play. In the film, David informs Regina's daughter Alexandra (Teresa Wright) that her fortune is built on corruption and that her family is a nest of vipers.

In the play, however, the character discovers this on her own.

David is also there, it seems, to add that 1940s Hollywood romance. There is no romance in the play; it's all about a family's infighting for power and position and wealth. For a broader, film-going audience, love of some kind, is usually included.

Romance, then as now, really sells a film. Plays, for some reason, can be totally devoid of affection, and that can be the central premise and the audience is fine with it. Audience expectations are so different depending on the medium.

From there you can explore whether this change is better or worse, and ask yourself why you believe this to be the case. Are they equally great ways to tell the story, considering different formats of storytelling garner different expectations from the audience?

What effect does this change have on the storyline? Is that change significant? So many questions with which to grapple and have fun and challenge your own assumptions about life and how things should be. 

This is how I have fun. How about you?

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Your Story in Fabric

Sometimes while sitting with my camera, figuring out the next picture, I've taken closeups of the clothing that I'm wearing.

Fabric can be arresting, beautiful and informative.  I'm reminded of the tale of a lady who, during family gatherings, would take out a quilt, point to a square of fabric and tell a story of the relative who once wore the garment. There was a square of a baby's gown, a soldier's uniform from the Civil War, a wedding dress that her mother wore, etc.

Although I have not captured the threads wonderfully, the images below still seem to tell a story. Mainly that the person wearing them likes cotton. Tons of it. Anything easy-to-clean in neutral colors. This is part of me...currently...in fabric.

Plaid in the fall is perhaps my favorite thing to wear. Period. Reminds me of school days.

Seersucker for warmer months. I love that this comes in slimming vertical lines.

This is as flashy as I get. I wear solid colors on my torso so that the skirt can have a party below.

My go-to dark wash denim, gored skirt. It pairs well with almost any blouse in my closet.
There you are. A very boring functional closet of neutral wash-and-go fabrics. That's your host.

What is your story in fabric?

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What Are Your Passion Projects?

A third question from the "How to Stop Being Boring" article by Vanessa Van Edwards is about your goals. Do you have any passion projects in the works?

Yes. Making Summer Haven a fun, inspiring, and mutually lucrative space for both the reader and myself is the current general goal.

And I'd like to do it very quickly, like in 2 months. I'm not sure that's feasible, but we'll give it a try.

You've heard this, I'm sure, that the sweet spot of satisfaction lies where your interests overlap with the needs of others. Win-win. We'll see how this pans out.

What passion projects are you working on at the moment? Let me know.

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What Gets You Up In the Morning?

Last time, we discussed what is the best part of your week. Another question to ask yourself from the "How to Stop Being Boring" article by Vanessa Van Edwards is this:

Besides work, what gets you up in the morning?

What gets me up and ready to face the day is knowing that there is something worth doing. Even if I'm not headed out the door to do that something, I still know the projects that I value are waiting to be done. Many of the projects that mean the most to me are done after work or -as with this article that I'm writing to you right now, dear reader- are completed before work.

I once made it my routine to rush out the door despising the day ahead. However, by putting some of what I love in front of this mad dash, I now enjoy the morning. This helps me to coast to work in a better mood.

Often I rush out without breakfast, which isn't the best thing to do to your body. Now I want to incorporate into the morning routine savoring a cup of hot tea.  Haven't done that yet; I'm too busy reading and writing in the morning. I'll get to it.

What gets you up in the morning?  Comment below; let me know.

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The Best Part of Your Week?

In an attempt not to be boring, yours truly has read a blog post about the subject, as you do in the internet age. In "How To Stop Being Boring," behavior investigator  (Don't you just love that title?)Vanessa Van Edwards says to answer a few questions, including what has been the best part of your week?

The best part of my week always includes interaction with my nephews and trolling the internet. Not necessarily simultaneously.

 The Nephews

My young nephews and their playmates are a constant push against adult stagnation that can seep into your life after a certain age or set of accomplishments. They remind you to play and they give another layer of purpose to your life.

Whatever happens, your life has been enriched by the presence of these little ones. They inadvertently remind you constantly to ask what is the essence of my life? You hope that you've been the best aunt you can be and that you have enriched their lives as well.

The Internet

I've found a few people either whose perspective, whose website design or whose business model lights me up inside.

This week I've really paid attention to an author and artist I've known about for a while. She's Janice MacLeod-Lik and is the artist who will send you a copy of an original painting from Paris with a charming, relevant letter.

Just the idea that there are people out there making a living doing something so beautiful and who are not locked into an 8 to 5 grind made my week a little more hopeful. This is the kind of life I've longed for since childhood but never allowed myself to think of for long.

To the child version of myself, if a project was boring it must be an adult thing; if it was fun, it was a child's thing. As I grew into teen years, I put away childishness (or so I thought) and put myself through miserable, boring routines. That is the adult thing to do... or is it?

Ms. MacLeod-Lik is currently reading a book with weekly challenges by another artist and author of The Artist's Way, Julia Cameron. I've just read the sneak peak of her legendary best-seller and already the author has stirred my thoughts a bit. Ms. Cameron mentions that there is an artist child inside of people who is often dismissed. It's the author's job to help you engage that creative side of yourself. I believe she's describing me.

The book is in my online shopping cart waiting to be purchased.

Listened to a lecture by Ravi Zacharias in which the Christian Apologist mentions that when his son was two years old, telling the boy a story about a person getting up and walking to the door was intriguing enough.  To interest an older child, Zacharias says, one must add more to the story; he must tell a story about walking to the door, opening it and finding a dragon, for instance.

The point is, as we grow older, more is needed to sustain a sense of wonder about the world. He concludes that God is the only one big enough for that. A sense of wonder. That's what's missing from my days, sometimes.

All of these examples, I've just realized, harken back to childhood wonder and intrigue. These have been some of the best parts of my week.

What has been the best part of your week? Comment below; let me know.
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Is Your Home a Museum of Grief?

A Facebook user has a thought-provoking question which might help you and me de-clutter and grieve at the same time: Is your home a museum of grief?

Do you hang on to mementos and journals that make you cringe every time you see them? Are you crestfallen every time you step into your storage area and see all the unfinished projects you could have-would have-should have done?

It might be time to let go. The things that are not helping you reach your goals, the items which drain your energy are taking up space in your house and in your life. Space that can be used for the people and things that you love.

Last year, I began to give away, recycle or toss all the things I just haven't gotten around to doing, or the things that caused me unhealthy grief to keep.

The hardest part for me was ridding myself of a few rejection notices that I had received for internships in school many years ago. I had carefully organized, alphabetized and labeled the rejection notes in a binder with other old school papers.

I finally tossed them and I haven't missed them for a second. I don't know why I kept them. I suppose formal institutions were a part of my identity, even the unpleasant parts. I did keep the one acceptance notice which, combined with my hard work that summer, lead to another summer internship the next year. You only need the one acceptance to begin.

A problem area for me has been THE OUTFIT! The Outfit is what I wore on the evening that a person whose company I enjoyed first called me gorgeous. Circumstances are such that we've since parted ways, never really knowing each other, but the The Outfit remains. As if keeping it will bring back an opportunity. It won't. But somehow I'm attached to it and haven't tossed it yet.

Is your home a museum to grief? What ideas do you have to de-clutter these kind of items? Do you have any prevention ideas? Tell me in the comments below.

Still need help? Find great de-cluttering ideas from Taylor over at Home Storage Solutions.
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6 Classic Movie Tips on How to Be the Best Aunt or Uncle

This article was originally posted on our sister site, Java's Journey.

With a new addition to the extended family, a new crop of aunts and uncles are made. Since yours truly is becoming a veteran in this field (Where has the time gone?), I would like to share a bit of advice with the newbies and explain how the principles of being an aunt or uncle are exemplified in classic films.

1. Be Excited!

With the first wail of the baby in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954), Gideon murmurs, "I'm an uncle," and faints dead away.

You don't have to pass out or anything, but being an uncle or aunt is exciting. You are almost like mom or dad (But with the advantage of returning the kids to their parents when you're done babysitting ) and you are a different version of grandma or grandpa (which means you're up for any crazy thing). You are that perfect blend of authority figure, modernity and screwy fun to them. Celebrate it!

2. Get Your Bluff in Early Because a Tantrum is Not Cute (Especially after they learn to speak)

An aunt who exemplifies the opposite of this principle is Monica Breedlove in The Bad Seed (1956).
"Aunt" Monica, the next door neighbor, spoils young Rhoda with trinkets, dessert and anything else to the point where the girl feels entitled to have these treats. The little one throws a tantrum if she cannot get her way. This lack of discipline only exacerbates the girl's innate greed and leads to crime.

I'm not saying that if you give the kid an extra ice cream bar, she'll murder the gardener in the basement (as Rhoda does); just don't do anything the parents will have to undo. You are there to help raise a responsible adult; you're not there show how awesome you are (even though you are pretty cool).

3. Learn from Your Nieces and Nephews
Whether your nieces and nephews are young tykes or full-fledged adults with their own families, you might still think of them as babies. That's ok. We can learn from "babies" as well.
In Pollyanna (1960), Aunt Polly runs the town with an iron fist, a lack of compassion and a sour disposition. With the introduction of her orphaned niece, who has plenty to be depressed about but instead sees the positive in everything, the whole town gets a facelift. They begin to appreciate life, aid their fellow man/woman, and most of them even smile. Ultimately, when Pollyanna needs help they are now prepared to assist.

4. Support the Parents; Gently Offer Observations (When Appropriate)

Mrs. Almond, one of the title character's aunts in The Heiress (1949), quietly reminds her brother not to compare his daughter unfavorably with his late wife. "She cannot compete with this image you have of her mother," she warns. I love this scene because the brother and sister are being both frank and gentle. From then on, however, other characters withhold vital information, become unbearably cruel, and spin webs of deception, which makes everyone miserable.

Near the end of the movie, years later, when the heiress' life has not gone as planned, Mrs. Almond still visits her niece and continually extends invitations to her own house. At this point, the aunt could rub her prescience in everyone's face and leave her brother's daughter to rot, but she doesn't. Give this woman a medal for her wisdom and compassion.

5. When Nephews and Nieces Are Older, Be There To Listen and Humbly Share Advice

This is an extension of # 4 above.

Develop a relationship with the ankle biters when they are younger; it's easier for them to trust you when they are older. That ease will lead them to talk to you and trust your opinion when mulling over a problem.

Uncle Beemish in The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer (1947) is a listening ear for his adult niece, Margaret, who is raising her rambunctious younger sister. He doesn't demand anything, he calmly makes suggestions and leaves them for Margaret to contemplate and make her own decisions.Wonderful.

Another example: Aunt Eller in Oklahoma!(1955).

6. Savor the Moments

In The Searchers (1956), Uncle Ethan spends time with his brother's family - time that will be short-lived due to a massacre. From then on, Ethan becomes a nasty and vengeful man on the hunt for his one surviving niece who is abducted. One minute you're here, the next it's all over.

My own Uncle LSP said to me on occasion, "Enjoy this time now, kid. Pretty soon you'll be an adult with bills." Frankly, as great as childhood was, I wouldn't turn back the clock for anything. Still, I know what he meant - savor your moments. Perhaps he was savoring a moment with his niece when he said it.

Do you have any tips for aunts and uncles? Share one, with or without a movie reference.
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Spring is Here

It's officially spring. People start gardens, the grass grows, mud is everywhere.

I miss the glamorous silver coat of winter's snow.

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