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Gray gingham2At first glance, this outfit says, “So what? Gingham blouse, denim jeans. What’s the big deal?”

On closer inspection, I hope you’ll see the flourishes that interested me: girly pleats on the blouse’s cuffs; enameled, floral buttons; and quirky shoes.
Gingham detailsKedsKeds2Everything here was thrifted, but I’m keenest on the shoes, Nanette Lepore for Keds. They were marked $99, but I got them on a clearance rack for $15. And I don’t know about you, but I’ve never had a pair of Keds quite like this.

On these outfit posts, I can hardly be anything other than who I am—and for the most part, that’s a plain vanilla kind of girl who loves flourished details.

I’m more convinced every day that it’s the flourishes in life that can help us survive all sorts of mundane, difficult things. To wit: for the past seven or eight years, my 86-year-old mother-in-law has been giving skilled, at-home nursing care for her husband in a situation that becomes more difficult each day. How does she do it?

Some of that is unknown to us, but Jane has a robust love for music, and she always has a song in her heart to make things better. At any given moment, she may break loose in a song lyric. I Can See Clearly Now when they locate Jerry’s missing reading glasses. Getting to Know You from The King and I, when checking to make sure he is dry and comfortable. Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, while preparing his dinner plate. At bedtime, he rewards her with sweet gratitude: “Goodnight, Jane. I love you and thank you for all the things you do for me.” Come what may, he never seems to lose his charm.

Flourishes were also responsible for helping Hisham Matar’s father survive imprisonment by Gadhafi from 1990 to his death, a date the family never knew for certain. Matar wrote about searching for his father in Libya after the 2012 revolution in an April story for The New Yorker. From people who were imprisoned at the same time, Matar learned that his father frequently recited poetry, which delighted, comforted and entertained him and others—and by all accounts, kept him unbroken from the torture he endured.

In an interview with Fresh Air’s Terry Gross, Matar says he resisted his father’s attempts to entice him to memorize texts as a child. Now, he fully understands. “I think we misrepresent literature as some kind of sort of comfortable thing, that you sink into a nice comfortable chair, and you read a book, and nothing ever really changes in you. And you go on to the next book and so on,” Matar says. “And examples like this show you that actually literature is just far more fundamental. It’s about the makeup of our psychology. It becomes a kind of country for us and a kind of solace and friend at times, as it did, I think, for my father in those times.”

I hope I will have these things in my heart during times of great strife. What about you? What are the flourishes that help you manage through difficult times? What verses do you recommend as worthy of memorization? I’m connecting this post with my friends, Patti at Not Dead Yet Style and Bella at Citizen Rosebud.

Life is short. Wear the good stuff.