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

 

1.14.19 Not Now

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Today I lost my grandmother. And while I know each person’s pain is their own, this feels quite acute … as if a particular piece of my childhood-self, somehow, can’t fathom her world without her. Yesterday was a long goodbye, and today I missed her final breath by two minutes. Just two. I wouldn’t have wanted her to stay, but it was my turn to be the brave one. In leaving, it’s almost as if she was saying, “No, no little girl. This moment isn’t yours to bear.” And yet facing a host of tomorrows without her seems somewhat indomitable if I’m being honest.

After leaving, I wasn’t ready. So I stayed. I went to the lake and closed my eyes against the rare, January sunshine. I went to the park and swung in the swing she always sat in … second from the right. I bought sweets at the candy store. I ran all the way up the church steps … just to run right back down. Then I got my nails painted red – her favorite, flashy color.

I tried grandma, to have a day “bumming” around … just the way you’d like it. I smiled. I remembered. I played. And I know where you are. And I’m happy for you … but here’s what I’m feeling just the same.

 

There is an art to saying goodbye

to orchestrating a memory that you know will be your last

only nothing seems good enough

or long enough

because although you may have shared a million laughs

it seems a million and one …

would have been the perfect number

Maybe I could have been satisfied with just one more

if one more had been allowed

but then again

maybe not

In coming my memory flickered like moving pictures

each and every one starring that jubilant face,

but in going, I fear might fade

like the sound of a voice in the echo

like the shade of the eye I can’t catch

like the difference between holding a hand

and having yours held in return 

the coming

of going

hurts strong

There is an art to saying goodbye

and it would seem, I am no master

There are too many colors and

untidy emotions that don’t quite match

In a medium of tears and memories

of the words I’d planned to say

of the prayers I meant to pray

and moments I may have missed 

without knowing

I tried so hard

to paint pictures that would last

but now there is only beauty 

in retrospect

You’d think I’d have seen it coming –

but who looks for what they don’t want to see? 

Who studies what they never wish to know?

Who accepts what they’ve practiced to deny? 

There is an art to saying goodbye

and I’m sure 

somewhere

it is done prettily 

with noble tears

and released fears

and flower-petal softness

But art is only a representation of the parts we 

want

to remember

and today

I want then

not now

I’ll love you forever. Thank you for being you, so I could enjoy this life in a way I couldn’t ever pursue without the gift of eternal optimism, and relentless joy you showed me how to own.

I pray this poem helps you too, my readers, however you are hurting from whomever you’ve lost. There is an art to saying goodbye … and maybe the key to being the best artist … is to never say it at all.

Elle

1.8.19 Right Here

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Some days my writer’s heart is more fragile than I’d like to admit. I think it is because writing is such a personal art, and so when you’re rejected, it doesn’t feel like a teacher telling you to edit … it feels like someone saying they don’t like you and that hurts worse. For as many accomplishments as I have been blessed to have this past year, I still pray fervently that I’ll be able to push this passion toward something more. Last Saturday I sent out twenty query letters … I already got three rejections. And sometimes my thick skin isn’t as thick as I like to pretend it is … and my upper lip isn’t as stiff as it should be … and my chin might just wobble a little as I heave in a breath and tell myself, “Just keep going.” 

When I’m feeling a little bruised –  and maybe just a little bit broken, I am instantly given the gift of my parents – of my mom who tells me I’m her inspiration to keep going – of my daddy who reminds me of Neverland.

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And then I smile and write some more. Tonight … quite when I needed to hear it the most, I received an email telling me that two more pieces are getting published. I might not be there, but I am here. I might not be then, but I am now.

And here …

and now …

might just be exactly the place I’m meant to be.

 

Carry on word-filled hearts. Like my daddy says, “I’m always right here,” with you.

Elle

12.30.18 From the Bottom of My Illuminated Heart

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Sometimes in the quiet, or not-so-quiet of my mind, I wonder if my words will matter. This is a dark fear, and it creeps upon me like a shadow, threatening to dash my confidence to carry on. But carry on I always do, because I just can’t seem to help it. Words are a part of me … maybe the best part, because somehow, they have the most chance of actually helping … of being there when I can’t be there … of soothing a heart that stumbles upon them.

Having the “what’s next” type of personality, I often see what I have not accomplished yet, and rarely take time to reflect on what I have. Today, so close to the new year, I decided to look back.

In the past four years I have …

Spoken multiple times a year for both educational and writing audiences

Reached 89 countries through my blog

Gained 1,110 followers

Had my website reached by 17,777 visitors

Had my articles, poems, and posts reach 23,520 views

Written one or more posts a week for four years for a total of 320 posts/articles/poems

Continued writing/editing most of my 17 book manuscripts (I even finished a few)

Published 18 total pieces for Bella Grace Magazine and their affiliate blog, Grace Notes the past two years

Met countless lovely individuals who shared their hearts with me and allowed me the same courtesy

So – in the ways of the publishing world … I have a long way to go. But, I guess I am going to take my daughter’s advice and “Enjoy the ride.” There are so many moments of bliss in the reality that not only do I have something to say, but I have unbelievable, artistic, creative, kind-hearted, kindred-spirits that actually want to read it!

Thank you my friends! Thank you for caring enough to read these ruminations of mine and continuing to believe in me and keep my light lit, even when the shadows threaten. You are my jar of fireflies … my lantern … my fairy dust. Thank you effervescently from the bottom of my illuminated heart.

Elle

12.24.18 Miraculously Still

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I wonder if the night was silent 

because it was too overwhelmed to speak

Maybe the fractals of light 

cast by the Bright Morning Star

were so incandescently stunning

that it somehow took nature’s breath away

and the gravity of heaven coming to earth

on the words of a promise

spoken by the lips of angels

resonated through the foundations of the world

in echoed whispers too sacred to be heard at all 

It might be that the love

transposed from ethereal divinity

into a mother’s young heart

was simply too pure to be translated into the

 imperfect reduction of words

Some feelings

after all

are simply beyond

Regardless of the why

the result of that ancient coming 

was simple

breathless

beauty

And the captivating 

overwhelming

absence of noise

must have come 

from the pivotal essence of it all

For one moment

for one breath

all

miraculously

was still

12.16.18 Holiday Cheer

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“Try to see things differently – It’s the only way to get a clearer perspective on the world and on your life.” – Neal Shusterman
Today I was reminded just how much perspective matters. I often try to look for opportunities to share a smile, a word, or a story with the people I come to meet and this particular trip to the market was no different. In the baking aisle, I was completely lost among ground cinnamon, ground cloves, and ground ginger when I saw a happy, very tall looking man glancing up at the shelves from a wheelchair. I asked if I could help him reach anything and he smiled largely at me, thanking me for the offer but assuring me he was fine and just waiting for his wife.

A few aisles later, I asked a worker where the molasses was, as I’ve never in my life made gingerbread cookies and had no idea. He told me it was on the top shelf near the syrup, but that it was probably really far back as a lot of people were asking about it today. He did not offer to help, just told me that I could find it there if any was left. As I made my way back, I saw the same pleasant gentleman and his wife and told them of my woes. They wheeled along with me and said they’d help me check. She finagled the last jar from the top shelf for me. I laughed and said, “Here I thought I was going to help you and you are helping me!” He smiled and told me that he was always the height-helper before getting Multiple Sclerosis. I apologized for his diagnosis and he simply smiled again and said, “You know what, it’s okay. It took a long time to progress and I’m doing alright.” His wife and I shared a few teacher stories, and after telling them I’d be praying for them, we shook hands and I was on my way.

In the checkout, I thought I’d continue the cheer and asked the teller if she was excited for Christmas. “You’re seriously asking a person in retail if they’re excited for Christmas?” she asked sarcastically.

“I guess so,” I replied. “I’ve never worked in retail so I wouldn’t know.” She continued to have a chilled demeanor and it just made me so sad. It’s true that none of us know one another’s story, but it struck me as so ironic that this seemingly healthy woman refused to find joy, and this ailing man, reduced to a wheelchair, couldn’t part with it. As I was leaving, I hoped that she would find a way to experience more than she expected this season … maybe the sweet man and his wife would find their way to her line and shift her perspective.

At home tonight, I’m blessed from my tired head, all the way down to my vintage apron. My husband and I decided to make something old and something new. He made his mother’s famous peanut butter cookies and I attempted my first gingerbread. We were both weary from a long work week, stressed with holiday finances, and overwhelmed with the all-too-soon promise of Monday morning – and yet we laughed and kissed and danced as we made a royal mess in our kitchen. Hours later, after endless cups of almond flour, loads of dishes, shared baking pans, and happy medium baking temperature (we wanted to each bake our recipes at the same time) we are in a sweet, sugar coma … grateful for the best gift of the season … one another.

I hope you are able to find yourself on the brighter side of the Christmas tree lights today and well into the new year. Be blessed dear ones.

Elle

 

12.7.18 One Heartbeat at a Time

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“My father didn’t tell me how to live; he lived, and let me watch him do it.” C.B. Kelland

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I always tell people that I don’t believe in problems … I believe in solutions … but sometimes I am confronted with a life-dealt situation that seems  impossibly solution less. This is a picture of my husband Matthew, and his hero, my father-in-law, Pete. I met Pete over seventeen years ago, as a freshman in college who was head-over-heels for his son. I remember it clearer than yesterday … funny how some memories imprint.

Matthew was going to go home for the weekend and his parents were coming to get him. At the time we were “friends,” but I had ambitious hopes for more, and Matthew’s attention toward me led me to believe he might as well. I remember Matthew asked me to stop by his dorm to say hi to his parents. They were packing up his bags into the trunk of their car when they turned to meet me with open smiles and firm handshakes. I didn’t know it at the time, but Matthew said to me once that as they drove away, his dad said, “Well, I don’t think that’s the last we’ll see of her.”

I love him for having said it. Because I’m pretty sure that there is no opinion in the world that my husband values over that of his daddy … and if I hadn’t gained approval that day, I’m not sure that I’d even be a part of Matthew’s story, let alone its leading lady.

The great thing (in my experience at least) about falling in love with someone, is that you get a whole other family, and after fourteen years of marriage, that is what Pete and Peg (my angel mother-in-law) are to me. They are family. They are not in-laws, they are not extensions of family. They are family – pure and true. We have built a life on shared experiences: vacations, holidays, parties, gifts, jokes, pictures, traditions … and now … diagnoses. Pete-the-Invincible, was diagnosed with Ataxia, a rare degenerative disease of the nervous system. As if that wasn’t challenging enough in the last ten years, he now battles Multiple System Atrophy as well.

It is my formed opinion, that there is a great lack of men of integrity in this world. I cannot watch the news for two consecutive minutes without thinking so … and yet I was blessed to not only come from a man of integrity (my own dad) or marry one, but also see my father-in-law continue to raise the bar of what it means. It is quite something to witness a man of increasing virtue when he is continually faced with having to reintroduce himself to a new version of his no-longer-working body. But, again and again, from cane, to walker, to wheelchair – Pete continues to convince Matthew and myself that he may just be some secret kind of superhero.

My husband and I are in the stage of life where days pass without our having said more than a few sentences to one another. We are busy, sometimes involuntarily so. We have jobs, and kids, and commitments, and to do lists that are ever-so-impossibly long. And some days, if I’m being honest – I take it out on Matthew. I resent not having time with him when he is the axis point of my life. It is ironically impractical to lose patience with and have no time for the person I want to be with more than anything. And in that way, in those times – I fail.

Then I look at my mother-in-law … at her ability to love in the most flawless way. Her hands are servant hands. Her mind is their shared bank of memories. Her heart is steadied by the realities of love’s legacy before her. And she carries on. Impossible as tomorrow may seem, she faces each sunrise bravely, with the gentle touch of a warrior.

And I am ashamed.

I am ashamed that I struggle in these … the best and strongest days of our lives, to love her son the way he deserves to be loved – selflessly, regardless of the amount of time we do or don’t have each day to show it. I have him. We have now. And by their example, I am confident in how to build this love story of ours … just like his parents … one heartbeat at a time.

Walk, wheel, crawl, or cry out to the one you love the most. Don’t leave anything until tomorrow.

Elle

P.S. This holiday season, please consider a donation to the further research of curing Ataxia.

https://ataxia.org

11.27.18 A Name Worth Speaking

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I only had a minute, but I called her – that’s the not-so-generous way time is with me. She only had a minute, but she answered – the same gift of time she didn’t have to spare. But we talked. And it mattered, because in the few minutes we shared, me hearing her voice and her hearing mine, she told me a story.

“I just got through talking to the neighbor,” she said.

“Anything wrong?”

“Yes, actually.”

“What happened?” I asked.

“Her mother died. It wasn’t very expected, but the way of it was powerful,” she went on. “Apparently, her mother had fallen, and being frail already, it was a decline enough to go on hospice.”

“That’s sad,” I said, imagining my own grandmother.

“It is, but then something amazing happened,” she went on. “I guess the family was all there, just visiting, and they were discussing nothing in particular when a chaplain came to ask if they wanted to pray. They said yes and right as the prayer started, her mother took one big breath … and was gone.”

“Just like that?” I asked.

“Just like that.”

“Wow,” I sat, momentarily struck by the beauty of it all.

“I know,” my mom said.

And she did.

To imagine that on the breath of a prayer, you can cross unfathomable distance. Your spirit and the doors of heaven meeting one another within the fraction of a whisper. To inhale here, and then exhale in exhalation ten million light years away. What a journey from breath to breath. What an assembly, with words spoken over you in intercession, to words ushered to you, entering you into eternity. What a journey.

This story, no, this reality, gave me pause in more ways than one, and I am honored that even in our trite “two minutes,” my mom offered me the gift of this telling. The truth is we really don’t know what lies between one breath and another. There is no “looking ahead” at the Author of Life’s chapter of your tale. And it makes you think doesn’t it? About what really matters one breath between another – and whether I’m using the breath within this very moment to compliment or curse, to speak or to listen, to drive away, or draw near. There may be nothing riding on a breath … or there may be everything.

The author Bansky once said, “… they say you die twice. One time when you stop breathing and a second time, a bit later on, when somebody says your name for the last time.” And if this is true, then I think it matters so much more to me that the coming of my second death is far removed from the first. I want to live a life worthy of the memory of a name worth speaking again, and again, long after my dust has settled. Don’t you?

May each of your next breaths count.

Elle

11.21.18 Happy Thanks-Living

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“I think I’ll move to Australia.”

Judith Viorst, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

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Home Depot – maybe not the most romantic of dates, I’ll grant you that, but necessary … oh, so necessary! We’ve been living with a leaky freezer for way too long. Our stove had been acting up. Our sink has been dripping. It was beyond time for some changes. More money and a whole lot more than we came for later, we left … giddy for the installs, but a bit punch-drunk from the butterflies soaring out of our now-empty wallet.

Fast forward three days … exactly four more days BEFORE the new refrigerator was scheduled to be installed and yeah – that is where this sordid tale of woe begins. I got home at about five-thirty, excited to settle myself and my cold into a cup of something warm and write. Then my son said, “Eww. Why is the floor all wet?” Sure enough, the rug by the stove was soaked … and so was the tile by the refrigerator … and the dining room, all the way to the library. I went downstairs and the concrete was slick with water. The clocks were all flashing like the power had gone out, and boxes of photographs were sitting pretty in puddles.

Wearing a ballerina tulle skirt, I immediately started emptying boxes and putting the photographs in drier areas to sort through later. Wrapping paper was matted down wet and stuck to the floor … past the pictures, I didn’t know where to start. I called my angel neighbors as my husband wasn’t home from work yet, and one of them came over and suggested I empty my hutch, my curio cabinet, and that we move the piano as all three are made out of wood and sitting on carpet that is more like sponge at this point.

Dismantling the furniture, he heroically pushed it all to safer ground. When my husband came home, it was a bit of a war zone. I had spread every beach towel and bath towel I could across the floor and was doing a soggy, slow dance across them all to sop up the water. Apparently somehow our water spout had activated and literally flooded the first floor and basement. Our freezer since re-froze everything into a cascade of icicles which are somehow less charming when dangling off of a frozen pizza box than when you adore them in nature.

My husband and I called my dad, Mr. Fix-it, who (with my mom) unhelpfully live down south. Still, he was able to talk us off the ledge to figure out our next steps. Towels. Shop Vacuum. Fans. Stat! He also suggested we turn the water valve off but … no surprise there because why wouldn’t it happen to us … the valve was calcified solid and turning it would risk breaking it. My dad said to leave it until the new refrigerator instal comes Saturday because, “They have quick ways to fix it, and you two will just break it.” True. Sad. But true.

At 10:30 I was headed to Walmart to buy fans, and seeking pity telling my woes to my sweet in-laws who lived out west. In all honesty they were probably thanking their stars we were so many states away so they couldn’t be called in for reinforcements as they too are very handy. Sometimes I wonder how we could both have such amazingly handy parents and neither be capable of doing anything and then I realize, it’s because they could do everything, so we never had to learn! Mistake number one!

About three hundred and fifty dollars later I had new kitchen rugs, two purple box fans (because if I’m gonna have to look at them they might as well be purple), two air purifiers (from the dust we were kicking up and sneezing from), and three humidifiers for our rooms because did I mention we have colds here?

And so … our house is a hum of electrical devices, my dryer is ready to go on strike from load after load of towels, and I am taking a moment to tell you about it because … you guessed it … I need more pity. Just kidding. I am actually supremely grateful; it could have been SO much worse. Last year we were hosting Thanksgiving, this year we aren’t. The flood could have been broken pipes instead of a refrigerator we are already replacing. My kids get to sort through a million games from the basement they forgot they owned. I get to nostalgically sort through photos I haven’t looked at in ten years. True we’re tired and our pocket book is a little worse for the wear, but I choose to look at it as Thanks-living. We just had a dose of life tossed upon us, true, but we have more than we could ever ask for simply by realizing we aren’t facing the struggle alone. I hope you too realize that … wherever you are and whatever you’re facing, you are not alone. That is one thing my writing has taught me … we are all connected through shared stories, experiences, and even woes. I am so very blessed to have you, my readers, to turn to.

Elle

“Some days are like that, even in Australia.” 

Judith Viorst, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

11.11.18 I Go

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Sometimes it is hard to take myself seriously and I don’t know why

or I do

It’s because of the honesty I can’t hide from myself

though at times I wish I could

because it would be easier

It would be easier not to have to face the insecurities

the what ifs

the let downs

It would be easier to hide the past and present failures

attempts to be what I want to be

but haven’t found my way into 

yet

I look back on my life and I’m happy

but I wonder 

if my path wasn’t riddled with quite so many hesitancies … 

… would I be farther down it?

Would I be on the same route at all?

And one question leads to another

another maybe

another might

another should I have tried

before?

But wishes are wasted on the past

forward is the only direction for dreamers 

and so I venture on

though often I can hardly say even where I’ve been

I am going somewhere

of this I am sure

because I am not where I was

and neither am I in a place I to stop

or stay

ever on –

with a pocket of words for company

I go