4.25.18 Change Never Is

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“But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a savior from there.” Philippians 3:20

In the past three days, I have been confronted with a series of challenging perceptions,  presuppositions, misrepresentations, misunderstandings, and multiple-perspectives on ethnicity, racism, and personal identity. From literary discussions to student issues, faith-based revelations to immigration conversations, it has been a heart-swelling week of looking hard at myself, my beliefs, my unintended biases, and my intentions. Revelation? I am still learning. Most importantly? I still want to.

My poem “Change Never Is,” is dedicated to every individual who maybe, like me, is still trying to discover how to be their best, most loving, undeniably compassionate self through it all, albeit imperfectly … and who is willing to step through the broken glass of shattered hearts, in the hopes of finding all the pieces to put us together again.

Go heal where you can,

Elle

Change Never Is

And suddenly … it’s different.

Just like that.

With the flip of a switch,

or the bat of an eye.

In the space of a heartbeat.

You realize something new about yourself.

Or maybe it’s old, but you wouldn’t admit it before now –

when actuality is staring back at you

clearer than the reflection of the mask you’ve grown so comfortable wearing,

you’d actually forgotten your own face.

You still might not want to deal with the truth of how you feel

but you do feel

and that’s the problem

(or some sordid beginning of the solution)

You can’t ignore it anymore –

and it’s jarring,

this knowing that you can’t go back.

Suddenly the innocence you had only just before,

is nothing more than a fantasy you can’t find your way back to

because reality demands accountability –

and there’s no longer room for the callousness of pretend.

We grow in stages,

but sometimes it feels as if a lifetime of lessons are hurled in our direction

faster than we can absorb the shock of their blows.

There is hardly a line between villain and victim –

the pain is dolled in equal measure,

whether it is deflected or digested? That depends on the user

and the used.

And as much as you thought that you knew who,

and how,

and what

you were …

everything can change

when you’re challenged to accept as fact

that what you wished was just the remnant of a bad dream.

You’re awake.

So now what?

There is no rest for you in dreaming … only in shaking off your slumber.

It’s time to breathe in slowly,

acclimatize yourself one fiber at a time …

There are thoughts to be sorted –

film reels of clouded memories to look at with new lenses.

The past may not align with the present,

but the future is yours to discern.

Endow a legacy stronger than pride.

Entitle yourself to an awakening.

That shifting in your bones … that thickening of your skin …

it’s not comfortable,

but darling,

change never is.

 

4.18.18 Busy People

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“Beware the barrenness of a busy life.” – Socrates 

I’m a handful; I know it. And usually I have a mouthful of words I’m holding in, ready to share with the next victim who gives me an opportunity to speak. Busting at the seams with ideas and dreams, I’m usually a bouncing-on-my-tiptoes, ready-to-go, kind of girl. But lately, this weather, this eternal winter, has got my curl-up-and-stay-warm-to-survive mentality fighting my productive self.

It is not unusual for my husband or I to work after work – to hang out with the kids, do dinner, dishes, bedtime, and then exercise, or write, or read, or plan for something essential that’s coming up in the next few days. We are “get ahead” people, “positive” people, “go-getter’s.” But sometimes, like the last few days, I’m a “tired” people. And in times like these, I realize that sometimes times like these are necessary to remind me why people should slow down sometimes.

The other night my son had soccer, and I volunteered to take him. I usually use his practice time to write because I literally need to steal time to write. I have a writer’s conference to go to Saturday. I have homework for a class that’s making me an educational ambassador to a major museum due next week, I have a field trip to plan for that is also next week, I have all these ideas for a new book, and the list goes on! I started to type, but the whirring of soccer balls was a smidge distracting. Usually I can “get in my zone” and ignore almost anything, but for some reason … nothing doing.

I picked up a book I brought along. I’d intermittently wave at my son, watching him weave between cones, look up at me, wave, and dribble on. I might’ve read three pages total when I gave in to the nagging feeling that I was supposed to “do nothing.” What surprised me was that I was watching him for a full five minutes or so before he looked up at me again. And in those delayed moments, I had the very valid fear that I’d missed an opportunity. Not to write another article to be published, or read another bucket list book, or get more homework done – but that I’d missed the opportunity for my son to look for me in the hopes that I’d be looking back. Ouch.

The good news is that instead of missing an opportunity, I got the sweetest little touch of grace. He did look up, eventually, and saw me elbows-on-knees, no book, no phone, no computer in my hands … staring at him. He literally did a double-take and gave me the most unexpected smile of genuine astonishment. With a confused grin he signed typing fingers and said, “Why aren’t you writing?”

I smiled back at him and signed, “Because I’m watching you.”

And that’s when he did it. That’s when he broke my mommy heart. With the greatest sincerity he held my blue eyes levelly with his and said, “Thank you.”

I love that he was concerned for my writing time. I love that he wanted me to watch him. But most of all, I love that without even knowing it his, “Thank you,” was really an, “I forgive you, for all the times you choose work, for all the times you choose writing, or reading, or cleaning, or planning, because this time – you chose me, and I forgive you.”

How could I deserve a love like that? Like his? It makes me think about my faith and how I can never earn the grace I receive on either side of my family, divine or earthly. I’m a little ashamed of myself, and how dense I can be in the midst of my busyness … and for the way I know I will do it again. But for the moment, I am grateful, that my slow-down-self won just this once … and I saw my son, when he needed to be seen.

I have no idea what kinds of lives you lead. I don’t know if you’re constantly busy or a slow down person. The funny thing is, we’re probably all a combination of both, but I am one-hundred percent convinced others do it better than me … they find a semblance of balance that I am perpetually chasing. Regardless, I’d love, love, love to hear of a moment that caught you in your tracks. I’d delight over you sharing a story of when destiny helped you make the right decision to be present in the presence you were drawn to. You hear so much of me … I’d love to hear a bit of your tale too.

All my love,

Elle

4.11.18 Apologetic

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“If the explanations amount to something, I will tell you.” – Joanna Klink

Sometimes I feel inclined to apologize. I don’t have a specific reason … it’s just an open gap between emotions that feels heavy; a call to respond to something beyond what I am capable of finding words for. Maybe it comes from the apologies I should have made throughout my life, but wasn’t mature enough to own at the time. Maybe it is the unspoken words I cannot give to the people who are no longer there to hear them. Maybe it is the result of a look that said more than I meant it to say, or the absence of a look that needed to happen. Whether it was in words being cast as arrows or shields … I apologize nonetheless. And this poem is to anyone who has felt the same, or to whom I should have apologized to long ago.

Apologetic

Apologetic

I am scarred

and stained

with the unused ink

of un-penned words

I never wrote

of unuttered phrases

I didn’t say

And I’m sorry

now,

and then

that I wasn’t

brave enough to speak what you deserved to hear

I may have given voice to my thoughts

but chances are they were not filtered with love

and truth,

without empathy?

Honesty,

without grace?

They are nothing but empty condemnation.

There are some things time doesn’t erase,

and the absence of an apology is the epitome of unalterable

How, after all, do you undo what was never done?

So I’m sorry –

from somewhere between quiet thoughts and trembling hands …

amidst the need to be vindicated and the desire to be free …

in the space that separates accepting defeat and willing myself to try once more –

I’m sorry.

For the hurt you feel that was my fault,

and wasn’t

For the comfort you needed,

but didn’t find in me

I remain,

here

and now

apologetic

4.5.18 Embracing Weakness

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“It was pride that changed angels into devils; it is humility that makes men as angels.”  – Saint Augustine

There’s nothing wrong with your computer or phone. I’m aware that the video is sideways. It’s on purpose. When I originally took the video, my camera was not aligned and I tried to fix it, but then I remembered what my husband (an unbelievable skier) always tells me, “Skiing when it’s snowing is like being tipped in a snow globe.” And you know what … I like it this way. I’ve stopped trying to “fix” the video, because watching it makes me feel like I’ve been placed in a safe, slow, bubble of glass protected and stilled – visible only in the perfect way that memories preserved in a globe portray.

TRUTH? I’m awful at skiing. I take that back. I’m not awful, I’m just not awesome. My entire family is awesome at skiing. My husband was a competitive skier, wowing me from the start with flips, lincolnloops, spins, stealth, and speed. He has taken our kids on the hill since they were three, so both have had well over five years of practice. Me? I went (when I had to) with my husband before kids … then I had a blessed reprieve during pregnancy and the early years. Now that my kids and husband are all out there – my excuses are gone.

We spent Spring Break in Colorado, and I was literally near tears as my children and nieces whizzed past me saying, “Great job!” They waited for me on every lip of every run, and I was so frustrated, not at them, but at my own weakness. The more my family encouraged me, the more desolate I became until I literally asked to spend some time alone to get my bearings on the mountain. My son wouldn’t hear of it. “I’m going with mom,” he said with authority. Though trying to talk him out of it, his resolve would not be moved. He spent the next hour tree-skiing next to me as I sailed down the green runs where I was most comfortable. “Look at me mom, look! Watch this,” he would shout above the wind.

Within a few runs I felt God tapping me on the shoulder saying, “See … it was never about you.” I struggle with this; I’m admitting it. Though I wouldn’t necessarily have thought it before, I realize that I am an inherently selfish person. I didn’t want to ski because I wasn’t the best at it. In fact, I was the worst. It wasn’t fun for me to be last, when as a teacher and mother and writer, I’ve become accustomed to being “good” at things. Not. Needing. Help.

I don’t like help. I like helping. There, I said it. And even though it is the truth, I realized this trip, that it isn’t a good truth. When the rest of my family rejoined my son and I for lunch, my sister-in-law pulled me aside. “You know it means a lot to my brother that you come out here.”

“I feel so awful,” I admitted. “I’m just slowing everyone down.”

“It’s not about that for him,” she said. “It’s about his wife being out here, standing beside him and doing what he loves. I know how proud he is just to be with you.”

More truth – I’m happy to say that our trip was wonderful. I grew (not necessarily as a skier) but as a human in my IMPERFECTION which needed some reminding. There is something amazingly beautiful about stepping into humility … as Saint Augustine said, ” … that makes men as angels.”

My halo’s pretty tilted at times, like a snow-globe tipped sideways. So here’s to embracing our weaknesses angels. I’m right there, flying slowly with you.

Elle

3.26.18 Is Him

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Even the sky becomes overburdened sometimes –

from the density of the clouds,

the chaos of lightning,

and the threats of storms to come.

Yet still, she does not succumb to the pressure.

Somehow – no matter how heavy,

the sky continues to be upheld

by the invisible hands of her maker …

a constant reminder that even the weight of galaxies

are not too leaden for God to bear.

So often this world,

contemptuous in its asking,

wonders where He is –

but an easier question might be to ask where He isn’t.

From the vibrant blue petals of a Forget-Me-Not,

to the whispered declarations of the wind, 

God is everywhere and always,

ubiquitous.

Present and yet passed through,

out of focus from the very nearness of His essence.

In turmoil, in pain – He is the quiet voice of recognition

that this virulent world is not the way it was supposed to be.

God is the very sense of HOPE that promises

restoration is only a short distance away …

one breath and a few years from this side of heaven to the next.

Where is God? 

In the spirit behind every compassionate word, or soothing thought – 

in the quickening beat of the heart attune to wisdom beyond itself – 

in the truth that opens a mind, and floods a soul with light beyond our reckoning. 

He is in each of us,

in our ability to recognize what is good,

what is pure,

what is true.

But ever the gentleman – 

he will wait. 

Never forcing himself upon you. 

He will stay beside you until you realize that 

every life within a life, every breath within a breath,

is Him. 

 

 

3.20.18 My Paper Pretend Reality

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Tonight my son gave me an acorn, and told me it was a kiss.  Here, it is not yet Spring, and so this tells me he has held onto this “kiss” for a time – just waiting to pass it along when the right moment came. In my heart full of opinions, it was perfect timing, because as the Peter Pan inspired gift reminded me … I think I’d like to escape this world for a bit, and live in pages for awhile. I hope you’ll share your stories with me, and our chapters will meet in the middle.

Elle

My Paper Pretend, Reality

I want to live in pages for awhile,

between the safety of clever beginnings

and tied-with-a-bow endings

not stuck in a plot line

that feels more like it’s spinning than rising

toward a climax I can neither see

nor predict
I want to live in pages for awhile,

where I can be the hero –

without being judged for my strength

or the damsel –

without being judged for my weakness

needing

and needed just the same

I want to live in pages for awhile,

and dwell in the possibility

that decisions have more to do with heart,

than logic

In a place where there is always time for the edge of a romance,

the curl of a mystery,

where adventure is never further

than a few precious lines away

I want to live in pages for awhile

where the strength of my spine

is defined by the words cast upon it

and yet safely,

tucked and protected within,

I’ll never hear anyone judging my book

by its cover

because I’ll be too busy living my life

on the inside

to care

I want to live in pages for awhile

so that just for a moment …

to appease the sensitive yet strong-willed character I’m sure to be –

Once upon a time,

someday,

and even happily ever after

have to exist

Simply because I wish it

as it is my imagination that requires tending to

The only question remains …

will you come with me?

 

Elle

3.14.18 Dreaming Like Yesterday

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Social activist and writer Arundhati Roy once asked, “If you’re happy in a dream, does that count?” I would say yes … a hundred times yes, because sometimes, when I’m dreaming like yesterday, I feel so very, truly alive.

As a little girl my parents always introduced my sister and I to classic movies. It wasn’t uncommon for us to watch Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals in-between our montage of day-to-day cartoons, and I have to say I love my parents for this, because it introduced me to a love affair I’ve been smitten over ever since.

Being able to ask my daughter, “Shall We Dance?” in the voice of The King and I and then parade around our kitchen … knowing the lyrics to “All or Nothing,” which I croon to my husband when he’s being difficult like Will in Oklahoma, or singing to myself, “I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Out of My Hair,” when my son’s being so feisty I literally want to throw him into South Pacific … these are the cinematic wonders that keep me company through my days.

So yesterday morning, I found myself, literally Singing in the Rain; only unlike the Gene Kelley original, in my dream, I danced with a man who looked suspiciously like my husband – and kissed me the same way. I woke up smiling, stretching into the pre-dawn light with the sappy version of happy that only comes from moments where one twirl turns into two, and grinning lips linger on other grinning lips.

In reality, my Gene Kelley was humming in the shower, and I was able to curl under the blanket of dreams for ten more minutes … splashing in puddles, spinning umbrellas, and casting glances in anticipation of the next long dip.

If you’re happy in a dream it ABSOLUTELY counts … especially if you’re dreaming like yesterday.

Go to sleep dear ones.

Go dream.

Maybe I’ll see you there!

Elle

3.9.18 Surprised!

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I was totally blessed by a friend today who had a bit more time to review the newest issue of Bella Grace than I have since I got it Tuesday. I told him to check out page 134, where my newest poem was, and he said, “Yeah, but you’re in it twice.”

“No, just the one piece,” I told him.

“No,” he said flipping it open in front of me, “twice.”

Ha, ha! A piece I’d published on Grace Notes made its way to the magazine. Please enjoy “Love Letter to a Single Friend,”  in print! I’d love to hear your thoughts, and thank you all so much for your constant support. Without readers, the voice of writers is pretty silent … I so appreciate your giving me someone to speak to.

All my love,

Elle

3.6.18 I Write.

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“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” – Maya Angelou

I am deliriously happy to announce that I have a new piece in Bella Grace Magazine. This poem was really special to me because it epitomized what it means to find rest … not always the easiest of pursuits. “Because of Sundays,” is about delighting in the times you can wake up, just to fall asleep and dream again. I hope that you are able to visit Bella Grace online to purchase a copy, or, like me, steal away to your nearest bookstore just to see this lovely publication on the shelves where she belongs.

I have to say that the happiest moment of this particular piece was stealing away to see myself in print at the bookstore before receiving my copy. There was a sweet lady who was interested in what I was reading, and I told her all about a magazine that wasn’t filled with adds or tabloid stories, but pure, real pieces from the heart of writers, photographers, and seekers of living life with intention. Watching her shuffle away with her copy felt like extending a tiny legacy in some minuscule, but meaningful way.

It’s not always easy. Writing. There are endless rejection letters … pieces that go unfinished because of the reality of living between imagination and Mondays … and the ridiculous business of revising things you could’ve sworn you got right the first time. Still, I cannot seem to shake this love affair with words. And though it is ever-so-much more a give than take kind of relationship, it is one I am willing to work on for all of the reasons I relayed in the poem below. Please let me know your thoughts dear ones!

All my love, from my pen and page to yours,

Elle

I Write.

I write.

To hear the sound of a pencil speaking to it’s page.

I write.

For the hope that a story that needed telling gets told.

I write.

To connect my whispered thoughts to fellow dreamers across the world.

I write.

For the undiluted joy of marrying words that belong together in a line.

I write.

To share memories my mind is too slippery to hold on its own.

I write.

For the beam of radiant thought I cannot ignore inside me.

I write.

To hear the promises of better things I will into being by creating them.

I write.

For the God who commanded my heart to dance at the sight of words.

I write.

To reach for the immortality of lines that will outlive me.

I write.

For the ones I have raised with the truth that stories hold power.

I write.

To feel.

I write.

For joie de vivre.

I write.

To inspire.

I write.

For there is simply no way I could not.

 

 

2.27.18 Broken Crayons

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I am writing a new book, as I’ve alluded to in the past, but the thing is – I don’t want this to be about me; I want it to be about them … my broken crayons. They matter so much, and too often I feel that somehow I’m inherently selfish, and that even in my noblest of pursuits, I end up focusing on what I want and need.

Today, with this post, I’m asking for feedback to see if this piece has the potential to do what I pray it’ll have the power to do … to shout to the world the stories of those who need voice – the tales of the beautifully broken ones. 

Please let me know what you think. Share it, and help me carry on with this project through your honest opinion of whether or not others might need to read it as much as I need to write it. 

I look forward to hearing from you,

Elle

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When I was still an undergrad, pursuing a degree in education, I was forced to take a class on learning how to teach art. I was not aiming to be an art teacher, nor were most of the students in my class I would suppose, however, our program required that we learn how to teach music, art, and physical education just in case we were ever in a situation that demanded we wear more “hats” than our title might suggest.

I didn’t have much of an expectation, but what I learned that first day of class has stayed with me throughout my teaching career. One of our requirements was to bring a twenty-four box of crayons. As soon as our professor entered the room, she warned us that she was going to start by making us all uncomfortable.

She handed out a piece of plain, white paper and asked us to draw her something. Uncomfortable, yes – we weren’t art majors after all, but not too bad. Glancing around I saw similar pictures popping up along my row. Simple trees, suns that looked like wheels with spokes, and (from the braver artists) a few birds or people awkwardly plunked in the cotton cloud or green-grass setting. Nothing too extraordinary. The professor wandered amiably around the room, commenting on the less awful sketches, and smiling kindly at the non-progressive creators. Not terrible at drawing, I wasn’t uncomfortable at all … until she spoke again.

“As future teachers I know that you are mostly Type A personalities. You like things ‘just so’ and you like to be in control. Well, I’d like you to begin this lesson by pouring out every single one of your twenty-four crayons – and breaking them.”

A collective gasp.

She might as well have asked us to break our own fingers. This was nearly as painful. But her demeanor had shifted at this point, and it was clear that no crayon was going to leave alive. Slowly, sadly, you could hear snap after snap of little fallen soldiers giving up their lives for a cause none of us could yet understand.

After the awful massacre, we sat fairly motionless, looking around with each other at the colorful wake of our war on Crayola. The professor spoke up. “That was the hard part,” she said, “but now you’re ready to see the real lesson. Pick up one of your crayons, flip over your picture, and color with it. Press as hard as you can – no form, just scribble out the color. We followed her trail of crazy, it couldn’t be any worse than what we’d just done.

The amazing part was, the papers were beautiful. Vibrant. Bold. Suddenly the simple tools I’d been using since childhood became an entirely new form of media. Instead of the waxy, shady tone we were all used to, our papers were filled with the thick consistency of an oil pastel. Every color was rich and brilliant. It was obvious from our collective, “Wow’s,” that no one was expecting beauty from all our destruction.

“You’ll never know what a crayon is worth,” she said, “until it’s broken.”

And that did it. A cosmic shift. An epiphany. My whole paradigm tilted. Those few minutes of art class became a metaphor for my entire philosophy as an educator. To be broken, is to be useful. To be broken is to no longer be afraid to push a little harder, because the “worst” has already happened. To be broken is to be able to pour out the truest colors you have to offer, because you’re now free enough to bleed passion. Kids recognize this. Teenagers mostly.

Like a pile of broken crayons, they are the leftovers of childhood. Still bright, but messy. Most people don’t want to “go there,” wherever there happens to be. No one wants to pick up a broken crayon when they would rather have something pure and new. I’ve been asked my entire career why I choose to be with middle and high schoolers, and it’s simply because, I’ve fallen in love. Somehow when I was given the choice between the new box of crayons and the throwbacks, I chose the later.

This book is not about me. There is nothing revolutionary I have done. I don’t have a ten-step program for you to follow, no gimmicks or tricks. This is just a love story that I needed to share. After a decade of teaching, I need my broken crayons in the world to know how I feel. And I need burnout parents and teachers to remember how to feel. Because these kids exist. They are in the world – right now, positively dripping with vibrancy. I thank God for continually putting them in my way, and I urge you to pray for a few broken crayons of your own to absolutely stop you in your tracks. And when they do, I hope you’ll recognize the blessing before you and help them release their colors back into your life.