3.26.19 These Simple Days

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“I love this life. I feel like I am always catching my breath and saying, ‘Oh! Will you look at that?’ … bearing witness to the joy I find in seeing the extraordinary in ordinary life.” –  Harold Feinstein
By many standards, anyone on the outside of my life might call our Spring Break a bit of a fail. To be honest … I feel like I, myself would have called it one even yesterday. We have family in North Carolina, Kansas, and Colorado. Ordinarily … we’d be going to see them … but we are going nowhere – fast. Instead, due to conflicting work schedules, and a budget needed more for home repairs than exotic destinations – we are filling our days in less exciting ways than we usually might.

This is not to say that I am not being productive. I mean, when else might I conquer the post office, my son’s haircut, and scheduling vet appointments, eye doctor appointments, and a chunk of laundry all in the same day? Yeah, not super brag worthy, I’m aware … but then, there are the beautiful, unexpected ordinaries that I might be too busy to notice if I were elsewhere. Here are just a few:

I was able to have uninterrupted lunch with a friend (okay my husband called once and my kids called once, but only two interruptions is less than five so we’ll estimate it at zero).

My son and daughter invented a game with our Great Pyrenees puppy where they literally (dog included) play hide-and-seek tag around the house.

A former student saw me in a coffee shop window and stopped in just to give me a hug.

My kids have had playdates with besties they never have a chance to just be with.

My husband and I took a walk, led by our two beast-sized dogs who gain fame like a puppy parade.

We visited our cousins and I was able to see my son be the “big boy” my nephew looks up to with wonder.

My cat has helped me with more laundry than any other member of my family.

I have slept in for two days straight!

Today I watched my son and daughter at the park laughing in the sunset with wind-kissed faces.

Last night my son and I snuggled up for a superhero movie while downstairs, my daughter and her daddy watched a dance film.

I was able to catch up with far-away friends through phone calls, sharing pictures I’d meant to send, and writing letters.

It is only day two of this little break, and already I wish I had more time … more time to watch, and memorize, and play. My day may not be extraordinary by any measure, but isn’t it the details we end up clinging to? I intend to spend every last minute paying close attention to the ordinary I’m blessed to have the time to appreciate in these simple days.

I pray you’re blessed with a few of your own.

Elle

 

3.19.19 Her Story

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Recently, I was contacted by the sweetest woman who lives several states away, but found my work online and in Bella Grace Magazine. She had gone to my online writing boutique and asked that I write a poem for her friend who was recently diagnosed with cancer. We went back and forth with communication about her and her friend’s relationship over the past number of years. And so I wrote a poem based on the way she saw her precious friend. Can I just say what an honor! What an honor it is to be invited not only to this beautiful friendship, but to chronicle it in words to be passed on and remembered by.

I have asked permission to share the work, and it was granted. So I ask two things: first, please pray for healing for this precious woman about whom this poem is written, and second, never let a day go by that you do not tell your friends exactly how you feel about them.

All my love,

Elle

By Her

hers is an autumn spirit
the red-crisped edge of fall
speaking to the world in cursive lines and shooting stars she is the effervescent echo of laughter,
coaxing the light from every ember …
adding sparkle where others might fade

hers is a bluegrass soul
a kindred to wind and wave
the earth speaks to her in whispers in sunrises and the music of the moon she listens with fluency like a prayer powerful and protective in turn

hers is a gift-wrapped mind
knowing intimately the imprint of grace on a memory turning tarnish to treasure;
she regards rust with reverence
paying homage to the story behind each scar

hers is a curator’s heart safeguarding sepia smiles in elemental perfection each photo chosen with intention to call and recall for those of us who may otherwise
have forgotten

hers is the truth hers is the wonder hers is the magic

and mine is the perfect joy and knowing
and being known

by her

3.12.19 Once A Year

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Last night, I was able to see one of my best friends. We only see one another once a year, and it’s hard to make that happen because, well … life. Still, somehow, we find a way, and meet in between, and it is perfect – every time. So this is for him, and for our time, even if it’s not enough, it is, because we make time count.

Once a year –

that is how often I see him, this ever-and-always friend of mine

who understands me

with or without

words

who believes in the best of me

and refuses to believe I have a worst

He is the dinner date I’m annually late for

and the patient, smiling eyes waiting for me …

knowing how hard I tried to be on time

again

We fill our first hour with the necessary questions,

and later

when we’ve allowed social graces to take their turn

we fall back into ourselves

and our ways

leaving our table for a walk

It is with him that I notice the exquisite shape of branches

of the stars hanging in them just so …

It is with me he takes pictures of the moon

not because of the resolution,

but because it’s the closest way of capturing a memory he knows how

We amble, and slip in and out of shadowed streets long quieted for the night

There is no topic off limits,

and we rarely speak of ordinary things

there’s just no time for that

Instead, we focus forward and blink back

Somewhere lost between reflections and dreaming

Once a year – that is how often I see him, this ever-and-always friend of mine

who understands me

with or without

words

3.5.19 Sometimes, They Do

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Anak​ sokhasabbay​ te. No … this is not a typo. It is Khmer, the official language of Cambodia, and it means, “How are you?” It is also the only phrase that I can seem to get myself to remember on the occasions that I get my nails done by my sweet salon that is filled with Cambodian women. I have gone to this salon, two minutes away from my house, for a few years, and I have made friends with the wonderful owner and her staff. I know who has a baby girl, and who has a baby boy. I ask after their families and when they might go on vacation. I make pleasantries and ask them, each time I go, to teach me a new word or phrase, but so far, “How are you,” is all I can manage.

This time, as so many before, I sat down with one of the stylists, and chose my color. I hadn’t had this particular woman do my nails before, but I had seen her numerous times, on the edge of conversations … in the margin of the flurry of chatter around her. Sitting down, we made small talk and for a time, nothing was out of the ordinary – until it was.

A lot of people in my life say I talk too much – that I make conversation with everyone and anyone, and that I never leave room for silence. “Maybe people don’t want to always talk,” is something I’ve heard a million times. But my answer is always, “Then they wouldn’t talk back.”

And so I was myself, it seems I have little aptitude for being anything else. I talked. I asked. I questioned. And she answered. I asked her where she was from. Cambodia. I asked when she moved. She said she walked to Thailand when she was eight.

“Walked?” I asked.

“Yes,” she answered.

When I asked her to explain. She did.

Can I say,  and I am rarely ashamed of myself. I try to be open, honest, and caring. I love easily and well, and am always willing to learn something new. But sometimes, I realize that I not only can be ashamed … but should be. Because I simply didn’t know. A minor in history of all things … that is what I have! And yet I knew nothing about Cambodian’s sordid history. Between 1975 and 1979 nearly 24% of Cambodia’s population was murdered through a massive genocide carried out by the Khmer Rouge regime under the hostile take-over of the government by a man named Pol Pot. Nearly 1.8 million people, mostly educated and well respected members of society, were killed with an attempt to rid the cities of their progress and set the country’s people to be agrarian (farm) laborers. She shared that her father, an educated man who spoke seven languages, was taken, and never returned. She shared that she and her mother and sisters were split up by age to work in different labor camps. She shared that it was her three-year-old sister who found them and reunited them to one another, and that sometime later, her brave mother and two sisters walked endlessly to reach the Thailand border. She shared that they hid in ponds with straws in their mouths to breathe as shooting picked up around them. She shared that when they arrived, they were placed in internment camps, and only years later, when her aunt had made it to America, worked for three years to grant them sponsorship, and flew to California to make a living, was she really free. She shared that she wrote about the experience of losing her father, and won a youth poetry contest.

And then another nail technician came over. She said something in a quick, clipped way, and took the storyteller’s place. “She’s taking too long,” she said. With heavy, knowing eyes, she walked away.

Before I left, I found her, hugged her, and asked her to bring her poem so that I could read it when I came back. She said she thought she knew where it was.

I went home and asked my husband, a VP of International Sales and Marketing if he knew the story of Cambodian genocide. He did not. So I researched it, and sure enough. The experience of her life and the lives of millions of others was splayed across thousands of websites.

Shame has no place among those who hope to make a difference. So I am no longer ashamed. But I am asking you to join me in knowing this tragedy … in feeling its gravity and honoring its victims. Mostly, I am asking that you take the time to ask. Because sometimes people don’t want to talk – but sometimes, they really do.

All my love and peace,

Elle

 

2.26.19 Spring

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“Spring is the season of what’s next? Of not quite what I was and still stepping into what I might be.” 

Friday marks the distribution of the next Bella Grace issue, of which I am blessed to be a part. Two articles made their way in this time, and with the winter we have had, I can honestly say that Spring is where my heart is. New possibilities … the winds of change … the blossoms of hope … this is a time of year I can find myself leaning into. I close my eyes to imagine a street of Cherry Blossom petals,  a whisper of wind scented honeysuckle, or fresh puddles daring me to splash. What is it about Spring that sets you to satisfaction? I’d love to hear! Dream with me dreamers. It’s not too far away.

Elle

2.17.19 At the Edge

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Hello dear ones. I hope that you will join me in reading my newest poem, “At the Edge,” on Grace Notes, Bella Grace Magazine’s blog. This poem means a great deal to me, as it represents a place that I think we all find ourselves from time to time. We try so hard to make sense of the things that try us, not always realizing that the trial itself promises beauty on the other side of enduring it. Nothing lasts forever precious hearts. Stay strong, and please share this piece with those who might most need to hear it.

All my love,

Elle

 

 

2.12.19 His

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They say all men are created equal

and I believe it

But in my experience, they don’t remain so

because some

(one)

has found a way to elevate my perspective on the possibility of everything

His is the memory I run to when I need to hear just one more story

the promise that nothing lasts forever, and tomorrow will be better than today

His is the patient voice on the other side of my endless why’s

answering when he can

and holding me when he can’t

There are few people who are able to possess the freedom of imagination

and the anchoring roots of integrity

but he does

His is the mind that recognizes my Neverland dreams

and the plank-walk inducing push to jump into the unknown

and keep swimming though I can’t see land

“Landing isn’t what you’re looking to do,” he will remind me

and I will carry on

I share his eyes, but not always his sight

and yet his is the calm to my tempest-beset heart

when the world overwhelms my “Why does it have to be that way,” view

“So then make it better,” he will challenge

Equal to none,

this is the man

I have made a lifetime of admiring

It is his hands that have held me

helped me

pushed me

and fiercely protected me

always

and today

it is his life

I am grateful for

 

 

 

 

 

 

2.6.19 Morning

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This morning my son woke up my daughter who had come into my bed sometime before and fallen back asleep, “Wake up, I need you to play a game.” 

“What game?” 

“It doesn’t matter, as long as you play with me. Leave mom sleep, but I want to play with you.” 

“Well then, you’ll have to carry me,” she said groggily. 

“Ugh,” he grumbled.

“Carry me or I can’t go,” she insisted.

“Fine, get on my back,” he replied dutifully turning around. 

“Nope, this way,” she said, curling her legs up for him to scoop her. “But don’t drop me!” 

“I’m not gonna drop you,” he said, shifting to get a better hold. “If anything, I’ll go down too.” 

After putting her down she ran back to me, “I just needed a hug.” I gave her a tight snuggle. And waiting behind her, was him. “I just need a hug too.” I held on for as tightly as he’d let me. 

1.25.19 Peace Will Arrive on the Climb

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The path of my mind runs in circles

around and anon

my thoughts drift as shadows

chasing priorities that cut each other off

in their attempt to steal forward in my thinking

sifting and shifting 

too quickly for anything to gain much more attention 

than an increased heartbeat

as I try

and fail

to make yet another decision

that may not be mine to make

inside

and out of reach

over arching

and undercutting

the calm repose

I am only allowed to seek

not find

Patience is the prescription 

but knowing a cure

and procuring one

are sadly not of equal merit

to a fragile heart

or a too-full mind

And so it comes down to the truth

that though I may wish it – 

the path is not mine to forage,

but to follow

One tentative,

night-light-lit step at a time

Perhaps in the dance of a spiral staircase 

I cannot see the end of … 

peace will arrive on the climb

For now,

I’ll tell my weary mind, 

“Fret not dear burdened friend … 

for maybe sleep –

will come tomorrow” 

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1.21.19 Today’s Yesterday

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“Is solace anywhere more comforting than in the arms of a sister?”

It has been a hard week, to say the very least. There have been a bevy of emotional ups and downs, and at the end of it all … I was utterly exhausted. Usually, my day consists of waking up and dashing from one activity to the next. As awful as it is to admit, I usually need to think hard when someone says, “What’d you do yesterday?” But today’s yesterday is the exception.

Yesterday, after family coming and family going and hellos that came for goodbyes, my sister stayed. She  lives exactly 829 miles away, and it takes 13 hours and 29 minutes to get from one of our doorsteps to the other. We do not get to spend Sundays together, except for yesterday. Here for less than ideal circumstances and the passing of our grandmother (maybe the greatest lady who ever lived), we were granted an impromptu two days of “us.”

Emotionally (but never conversationally) spent, we sat in my bed for over two hours. We solved at least half of all the world’s problems. And mostly, we just rested and refueled one another’s emptiness. My sister is one of the only people who is allowed to see me in any stage, shape, or form of who I am at any given moment. She is the keeper of my secrets … the focus of my memories … and the protector to my fears. There isn’t a whole lot that cannot be solved by a day spent doing “nothing” with her … because her nothing is a whole lot more than something with anyone else.

Be grateful if you have a sister. If not … I’ll try to be one to you, as I’m pretty sure I’ve had the best training from the greatest example out there.

Elle