4.23.17 More

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More

I am more than a sum of achievements

I am more than the things I have done

I am more than my mountain of losses

I am more than the times I have won

I am more than the fears that have chained me

I am more than the weakness I’ve felt

I am more than just simple emotions

I am more than the cards I’ve been dealt

I am more than how others might see me

I am more than reflections in glass

I am more than what I can’t accomplish

I am more than the time that will pass

I am more than my insecure moments

I am more than the world’s pain or schemes

I am more than the limits I set for myself

I am faith.

I am hope.

I am dreams.

 

You are more too.

Love always,

Elle

4.16.17 She Still

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 “She made broken look beautiful
and strong look invincible.
She walked with the Universe
on her shoulders and made it
look like a pair of wings.”  – Ariana Dancu

Recently I’ve been thinking just how lucky I am to have so many strong women in my life. I would list you here on this page, but you know who you are. You are the “she” that keep me going – that keep me running … and just like clockwork, you always know right when it is time to wind me back up again, when my tick-tock-self is almost worn out. I feel unmeasurably blessed by you, and this is to let you know.

She Still

She still knows when I need her –

without my asking,

or even hinting why or how

She calls me

and talks me rationally through my

ever

irrational

fears

It is her smile that carries my spirit

and whether in photograph,

or in person –

even a glimpse is enough …

to reassure my choices,

to soothe my chaotic mind,

to protect my wounded heart from anything it can’t handle alone

When the world presents itself in a tempest of fury,

her voice is my focal point

When I’m trapped in fractured pieces of a memory,

she reminds me of who I am,

not where I’ve been

Her laugh makes me laugh

Her sadness is mine

Her success is my win too

And though the dark will come,

and the storms will rage,

and the choice won’t always be ours,

she still guards my heart,

and gives me her light

and somehow we make it through

There is no way to tell

at times

who carries who,

but whether by crawling

or flying

it is she –

still,

who brings me back to who I’m meant to be

and who I’d never have known

without her

 

 

 

 

 

4.9.17 Love for the Sake of Loving

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Sometimes I think that of all the words we can fill a conversation with, it is the smallest phrases that often have the most impact – phrases like: I trust you, I believe in you,  I love you, thank you, you mean so much to me, or please don’t go.  I don’t think we use these phrases enough. I don’t think anyone does. And I come to wonder what state this world might be in if we all heard them just a little bit more.

John C. Maxwell once said, “A word of encouragement from a teacher to a child can change a life. A word of encouragement from a spouse can save a marriage. A word of encouragement from a leader can inspire a person to reach her potential.” Though I’m sure I am oversimplifying, I really think that most problems in the world could be avoided if people just felt that they were needed … appreciated … wanted. If everyone felt even one of these things, how could feelings of ineptitude or desolation even exist?

So often I feel like I’m chasing an ideal version of myself that may never exist. I seek the writer who is able to be sustained by her craft of words. I chase the teacher who is no longer in the classroom, but who is instead sharing her wisdom in workshops or assemblies. I imagine the wife and mother who is able to do-it-all without becoming a ragged mess in the process. I desire to be the friend who always has time to write that card, answer that call, or meet up with everyone that matters to her. In reality – I am none of those things yet, maybe ever. But I wonder if that’s the point? From a handful of experiences recently, I am starting to think it might be a whole lot easier than all of those lofty ambitions.

This past week, a friend of mine was having a rough day. I didn’t have time to go out and talk for hours, but I brought him a coffee and recommended a great song to listen to. He lit up … his face filled with relief like giving oxygen to a drowning man. I didn’t deserve that response for so simple a gesture, but it was given regardless.

There’s a little second grader who hugs me in the hallway every time I see him. I am not his teacher.  Aside from giving him a nickname and passing on easily earned smiles … I cannot say there is much he could know about me; yet he hugs me still. I happened to chat with his mother the other day, and told her how much I loved his hallway hugs. She looked at me – eyes intensely focused and asked me if I had any idea what that meant. Pressing on, she told me that he is never affectionate. That he rarely hugged anyone, including his own family members beside her, and that a hug from him was the ultimate gift he could bestow. It took me a moment to catch my breath at that motherly admission, and I was humbled by the richness of lavish, undeserved affection.

There was an old man in the grocery store with the clearest blue, smiling eyes I’d ever seen. My kids and I were in his aisle, and I couldn’t help but offer him a smile and a chat about the day. His aged face became a beacon of delight. He proceeded to tell my children that there is only one place to get the “best mints” in town. He said that people called him, “the candy man,” because he loves to share a sweet and a smile with everyone he meets. After hearing about his bowling schedule and plans to make “poonchkies,” we were on our way. On impulse in the checkout, I grabbed a new bag of mints, purchased them and ran back to him, telling him that he needed to keep his pockets full for all the other friends he’d meet. He glowed. “I only give this to the most special people,” he said then, pulling a dark chocolate bar from his coat and snapping a piece off for me and my two children. Odd as it is, sharing that moment of melted chocolate and warm wishes felt as holy as communion.

And so I am left to wonder if that version of myself I’m trailing isn’t a bit of a waste of time. I’m starting to think that maybe it’s not the whole person, or the whole life, but the moments where you lean into living in the best way that make the difference of a lifetime. Jane Wagner once inquired, “A sobering thought: what if, at this very moment, I am living up to my full potential?” Funny thought. Maybe it isn’t what I have accomplished at all … my resume, degrees, and accomplishments seem of so very little importance in comparison with the memories of being in the moment when the opportunity to love for the sake of loving came about.

Lean in, and love.

Elle

 

4.2.17 Bloom

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Bloom

There is a light, and though it be pale, it is powerful. Enter into it.
Don’t hesitate or wait for another sign.
This is your sign.

This day, this breath, this choice …
all of them are pointing you toward life. Embrace the possibility that it’s not just time, but YOUR time.

So whether it is your first step or your fiftieth,
take it.
Whether you’ve tried and failed a thousand times before,
or you’ve never had the courage to try …
try.
Unfurl your own version of brave,
of beautiful.
Even subtle things can capture the attention of one who is seeking. Never underestimate that you may be
exactly
what the world has been waiting for.

Leaving even a trace of your delicate presence,
is enough to illuminate the existence of another.
It is easy to cast off the substance of who you are,
when comparing to everyone else.
But when did you ever get the idea you were to be compared?
Are you, beloved, not invaluable?
Are you not the only one of you ever created in the history of days? There is no room to doubt that which is irrefutable.
You are ready, whether you believe so or not.
You’ve been given today.
So, like a flower coming awake to the sun for the first time –
bloom.

3.26.17 Perfectly Imperfect

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Perfectly Imperfect

Do you know your imperfections might be my favorite part of you? That the little things that no one would ever notice, are the things I look forward to seeing most?

I love the way you talk too loud, and how no matter sacred or silent a place we find ourselves in, the decibel of your voice never lessens.

I love the way you always want your hair to be wild and free. That regardless of how meticulously we brush it, within two hours it will become a dreadlock-mess – just the way you like it.

I love how you try to make mischief, but don’t even really know how to be anything but the goody-goody you are deep down.

I love how you create in chaos, with markers, paints, crayons, and scissored bits laying in heaps all around the table. Your glitter-encrusted hands brightening whatever they touch.

I love that you refuse to wear collared shirts, even when they are my favorite, but then replace them with grey hoodies zipped up tightly like I won’t ever notice it is not what I laid out for you at all.

I love that when you whine and pout, you absolutely know you will not get your way, but you still default to it anyway … just-in-case your daddy and I temporarily abandon all of our parenting beliefs for this single, tantrum occasion.

I love how smart you are at everything, but how you never act as sure as you have every right to be.

I love how even when we ask you, and ask you, and ask you not to leave the table at dinner, you find a way to suddenly NEED to visit the bathroom, or get another napkin, or refill your water cup, just as an excuse to stand and get out your wiggles.

I love how you are never tired at bedtime, but you know I desperately am, and you ask me to lay with you, and read to you, until I fall asleep beside you.

You are not perfect dear ones … but you are perfectly imperfect for me.

3.20.17 Like a Lady

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Whoever says that little girls should be seen and not heard has,

in my opinion,

no ear for beauty.

And whatever little girl has listened to such a sordid phrase,

has no hope of growing with a clear perspective of her own reflection.

Maybe that’s why so many try too hard … or not enough …

why women sacrifice their integrity –

in order to heal wounds from words that have already turned to scars.

And though thick and calloused skin has replaced the cuts,

they never notice,

because it still hurts.

I wish that every girl had a mother like mine,

who taught me to act like a lady …

because it is an honor to be one,

not a favor to the eyes of the world.

She taught me that elegance is the sum of grace and strength combined –

and that the only shame you should ever feel,

is when you cannot forgive yourself after God already has.

If there were a way to speak truth into the hearts of all the girls in the world,

to heal all the fractured, fissure-cracked self-images … I would.

I’d remind them that their identity is waiting to be reclaimed,

and that even if their childhood wasn’t golden …

even if they haven’t been treated like a lady in quite some time –

they still are.

It is their right to be respected,

to be admired,

to be listened and attended to.

I want the teenagers who cut to be noticed, screaming from the inside out to hear me.

I want the mothers who are losing themselves to daily routine, and can’t find the woman they once were to hear me.

I want the grandmothers who feel their beauty is disposable, and society has no place for them anymore to hear me.

I want the single women who haven’t accepted their own bravery to face this world alone to hear me.

I want the girls in school, masking their insecurities with name brands and makeup trends to hear me.

I want my seven-year-old daughter … who we adore, we dote on, we love, but –

who has already asked me if she’s pretty

who has already asked me if she’s fat

who has already asked me if she’s smart

who already questions if she’s enough to HEAR ME!

You are a lady.

You are grace and strength personified.

You are meant to be seen,

but most especially, my darling –

to be heard.

Do not ever quiet your voice … even if it only comes out in whispers.

3.12.17 … And Then I Met Wendy

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I’m not sure how many of you know this about me, but I am a writer beyond my blog. Besides the occasional blessing of writing for Bella Grace, and the baby book I have published, I have fourteen finished manuscripts just waiting in the wings. Yup. Fourteen! Picture books, a middle grade novel, and three-fourths of a young adult novel done. Waiting. Sitting in the digital files collecting whatever digital files collect in lieu of dust.

In the midst of writing three other novels, and jotting additions to my ever-increasing list of ideas, (currently eight pages of one liners, titles, and character snips) it can get a little overwhelming. And, if I’m being honest, I get lost in my own words … the unpublished ones that call to me from beyond the laptop screen. But life happens right? I get busy doing other things – more “productive” things that lead me to that dark place that questions why I’m still trying.

And then I met Wendy. And just like that, God put an amazing woman in my path and I am re-inspired … to keep trying … to honor my imagination … to write on. But today, this is her story. Getting published with her debut novel in April, I hope you will read and share Wendy’s story as far as your social media connections will allow – for she has earned her place in the spotlight, and I ask you to help me make her entrance into the printed page shine!

Elle

WENDY’S STORY

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Let’s talk about dreams. Not the dreams you have at night while sleeping, the ones where places merge together, and people who shouldn’t know each other do, and everything makes perfect sense even when it shouldn’t make any sense AT ALL. No, I’m talking about the dreams we have when we’re awake. The dreams we craft for ourselves and our futures. In those dreams, too, places sometimes merge together, but I’d argue we have a bit more control over our waking dreams. Or at least I’d like to believe we do.

My dream has been the same since I was 10 years old. Other big dreams have come and gone and been fulfilled in the meantime: getting married, having kids, taking fun trips, redoing the bathroom. But this specific dream eluded me for years. It was the one that might not happen. The one that was maybe too unrealistic, too out there, too BIG.

My dream was to write a book. And not just to write a book (because I wrote a book when I was 10 and that’s how this dream was born), but to have a book PUBLISHED. For a while in my late teens and early twenties, I backpedaled on my dream and tried to be practical because … well … rejection is hard and I doubted myself too much. But, as dreams often are, mine was too powerful to just sit quietly and let me ignore it. My dream was kind of a nag, as all the best ones are.

In 1995, my family sat around a scarred wooden table  when my mom asked us all to make predictions about the year 2000. I predicted that by the year 2000, I would have a book published. (This was pre-children. I was 26. Oh, silly, optimistic, naïve young Wendy … you have so much to learn.)

But I made that prediction because I was writing. I wrote a college romance called Mostly Flannel. I wrote a WWII love story called The Soldier’s Wife. I wrote a chick lit friendship/vacation story called Rock, Paper, Scissors. I wrote the story of a widow who falls in love again called Keep Breathing. I wrote a story about the May-December romance between a single, pregnant woman and a college student called Pregnant Pauses. I wrote a bunch of fanfiction based on the TV show The Office.

Life marched on and throughout all the writing, I worked. I raised kids. I lived a normal, suburban life, and my writing was a secret I kept mostly to myself. I tried off and on to find an agent (and actually did have one, for a while). I received a lot of rejection. I doubted myself constantly. I thought about giving up. I eventually told some people (besides my family) about my writing and they encouraged me, but I could never tell if they really believed in the possibility of my dream when I wasn’t even 100% sure that I did.

Fast forward to 2011. My oldest child was now a young teenager and I were reading and loving the same books, so I wrote a young adult dystopian novel called The Swailing. I was convinced that this book would be THE ONE (spoiler alert – it wasn’t). I spent a year revising and waiting for agents to get back to me and getting THIS CLOSE and then … nothing. I’d missed the dystopian window, the market was oversaturated with Hunger Games wannabes, and like someone suffering a breakup after a long-term relationship, I had to face the truth: The Swailing would not be THE ONE.

Now it was 2013. Eighteen years after I had made my prediction. Thirteen years after it was supposed to come true. At 44 years old, it felt like time was running out. All this writing, for what? For fun? Sure, it’s fun for me or I wouldn’t do it. But a part of the fun of writing is the potential of what could be. Could I be an “author” and find an audience? Would someone pay me something for my time and whatever talent I have? Would it lead anywhere? In the fall of 2013, my answer so far had been a big, fat NO and I was about ready to give up. I didn’t even know what to write next. I was lost.

It was a feeling of surrender that I’ve had a few times in my life, and it should have been a sign to me that things were about to change. Whenever I let go of my tight grip on needing to control everything, that’s when the best stuff usually happens. My feelings about God’s part in all this are too complicated to go into now, but for me, surrender is the precursor to salvation of any kind.

One beautiful fall day I went for walk, taking my journal with me. And then (because exercise isn’t always my top priority) I sat at a picnic table at the park, stopped feeling sorry for myself, and brainstormed. I jotted down a list of seven pretty mediocre ideas. This was the last one on the list: “Girl who is a popular tutor because she can see into the future meets a boy who can’t let go of the past.” I thought about that idea a little more and jotted down a few more notes – that because she “sees” things, often heart-breaking things, through touch, she has become hesitant to touch. Something about the idea connected with something inside of me. A teenager yearning for connection and intimacy, but being trapped by her own body. Hmmmm.

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So I started writing a book about that, and I called it Zenn Diagram. I wrote a lot that fall – about 50,000 words during the month of November, and then … guess what? I finished it?! I found an agent?! Ummmm, NOPE.

I did nothing. The half-finished story sat on my computer and collected virtual dust for a year and a half. Until the spring of 2015 when my dad, who had been my boss for 20 years, decided to retire and sell his business. I had no idea if the future owners would keep me or fire me. I tried to think of what other job I could get, what other job I was qualified for, and I was completely stumped. What was I good at? (Helping with homework? Nagging kids to practice instruments?) What did I enjoy? (Eating chocolate? Taking naps?) The idea of starting a new career sounded horrible to me. I just wanted to write.

This is where surrender simply wouldn’t do the trick. I had to take ACTION. It was now or never. So I dusted off my manuscript and finished it. I asked some friends to read it. I edited and revised. And then in June, I steeled myself and started querying agents again.

But this time was different. I got an offer of representation. And then another. And then a third, all within the first month or two of querying. I selected an agent and we worked together to revise some more. I was tempted to get excited by my progress but I knew from experience that having an agent doesn’t necessarily mean you get published; it’s just a step in the right direction. But then my agent started submitting my book to publishers, got an offer, and in January of 2016, the deal was done. I was going to be a published author.

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My book, ZENN DIAGRAM, comes out on April 4, 2017. Almost 40 years after the seed of the dream took root. Seventeen years after I predicted it would happen.

Yeah. I’m a regular overnight sensation, aren’t I?

So why am I telling you all this? Because this is what I’ve learned:

  • Sometimes you have to surrender to get unstuck.
  • Surrender doesn’t necessarily mean give up – it can mean let go.
  • Patience is essential in just about anything, but don’t let it make you complacent.
  • Tell people about your dream, no matter how ridiculous it sounds. There is value in accountability.
  • The key to accomplishing anything is ACTION.

So … those are my thoughts on big dreams and how to take steps towards making them come true. I encourage you to think about yours. What do you need to give up to get there? What action do you need to take? What rules do you need to break? And then start taking some steps in that direction.

Wendy

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Wendy Brant is the author of the upcoming young adult novel, ZENN DIAGRAM, published by KCP Loft. To learn more about her or her book, visit wendybrant.net, or you can follow her on various social media:

Facebook: zenndiagram

Twitter: @wendyjobrant

Instagram: @wendyjobrant

3.7.17 A Pocketful of Simple Truths

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Marcus Aurelius once said that, “Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.” While this may be, I have found that there are some realities in my life that have become my own simple truths. And whether they are my opinion or not is less significant than the fact that they have become real, in my life, for me.

A Pocketful of Simple Truths

*Hugs are best received when offered, not asked for.

*Prayer is always more effective as a first resort, not a last.

*There is no such thing as, “Keeping your emotions in check” with someone you trust enough to be real.

*Making time for someone will bless you more than them.

*Children do life the right way. 

*Books are the most immediate, cost effective, and satisfying answer to, “Where should I go next?” 

*Love is strong enough to conquer anything if you let it.

*Keeping your imagination alive will serve you well, and may even save you when you least expect it.

*Art is the closest expression of dreams. 

*Some things do last forever, if you’re patient enough to see them through.

*Life is not simple, easy, or fair … but it is a gift, and should be handled with the utmost respect and care.

*Hope is the strongest armor we have.

May your day be blessed, and your pocket of truths be full. I’d love to hear a few! Share them with me. I too could use a pocketful!

Elle

2.27.17 “Lucky You” – Lucky Me

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Did I ever mention that I teach in the same school that my children attend? If so, did I ever mention it is a small, private, Christian school where everyone knows everyone? It is my first year there. I came from teaching literature in a public middle school where my class size was around 100 students a year; I now teach fourteen.

It’s different alright, and if I’m being honest, I’m still navigating the halls between “Mrs. Harris” my son and daughter’s mother, to “Mrs. Harris” the teacher. It’s weird to say the least. I get fun comments like, “Hey, Mrs. Harris, remember that time I came over for a playdate, and you and Mr. Harris were dancing in the kitchen and he dropped you?”

Yeah. That happened.

Or, “Mrs. Harris, remember when your hundred-pound dog stepped on my foot?”

Oh, boy do I.

Never a dull moment here at the Harris household, and this weekend was yet more proof of the same. Friday was a mixture of piano lessons we hadn’t finished preparing for, and a vehement argument about raisins.

Me: “Hun, do your piano homework.”

Her: “Ugh.”

Me: “Dolly, eat your raisins.”

Her: “I don’t like them.”

Me: “The good news is, I didn’t ask how you felt about them; I asked you to eat them.”

Her: “Ugh.”

Me: “They’re good for you.”

Her: “What are they anyway?”

Me: “Dried grapes.”

Her (unimpressed): “How many do I have to have?”

Me: “All of them.”

Her (aghast): “ALL of them!!!”

Me: “Yup.”

After eating four of them and gagging on three, she tearfully resumed the conversation.

Her: “How many now?”

Me: “Still all of them.”

The piano teacher came in the midst of it all, probably keeping time to the choking sound of tears and dry heaves. Nothing but professional lessons over here.

Later on, still embarrassed from the failed raisin reasoning, I relented as the kids had playdates for a few hours. My daughter had two friends over to, “prepare for the talent show,” which basically consisted of jumping on the trampoline and screaming and giggling around the house. My son had one friend over and they basically absorbed themselves in Pokemon cards and video games. All was well and good with the world until the three sets of parents came … at the same time.

More fun background information. My husband is now the Vice President of the Parent/Teacher’s Association for the kids’ school. MY school. Thus, we are again, intimately tied to more people in more ways. Well … my husband also wears Lucky Jeans. And at this point you’ll be thinking – so what? What do jeans have to do with anything at all? Oh it relates my friends … trust me. Because as those three parents came into our foyer, all standing together, my husband started to chat with them about an upcoming appeal he is leading for the school to initiate a new program. Right about the time he launched into his campaign for the agenda, was about the time I saw that his fly was wide open.

At this you still may be thinking – okay, I’ll admit that’s bad, but who cares what the name brand was. Well, let me enlighten you. This particular name brand is cute. So cute that its clever branding prints two words on the fly of their guy’s jeans … LUCKY YOU! Lucky me alright! There I stood, trying to seem like a bit of a professional as their children all attend my school, some with older kids in my class even, and my husband is flashing his business WITH advertising no less!

Backing up and turning purple with stifled nervous laughter escaping me, I pointed animatedly to the general groin region, hoping he’d get the point. Instead, I’m pretty sure it looked like I was being inappropriate, giggling and gesturing downward. My husband awkwardly ended his conversation and walked away to zip and return a few moments later.

Are you kidding me!?!

Now, Monday night, another amazing opportunity to feel like a tool. My son, the drummer, was supposed to practice. When he couldn’t find his drum kit he said, “Where do you think it is?”

“No clue buddy. It is your drum set after all.”

“Oh, I remember!” he said. “It’s in my music teacher’s room! We practiced there last Wednesday.”

Translation: “Mom I left my drum in my music teacher’s room for an entire week without anyone, including you, (the one who is supposed to be in charge) noticing. This not only means I’ve not practiced for five straight days, but also that my music teacher knows it!”

Fantastic! What on earth can I do but laugh at this point?

I work for a small school. It’s a lot like a family. They are beginning to know everything about us. The good. The bad. And the embarrassing.

Oh well. ‘Cest la vie … such is life. As an unknown quote says, “I’m the type of girl who will burst out laughing in dead silence because of something that happened yesterday.” LUCKY YOU! Lucky me. I’m still here … laughing.

2.16.17 Please Visit and Share!

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So I’m totally blessed to be a guest writer on “Bella Grace Magazine’s” blog, Grace Notes.  All about finding your own personal “Neverland,” this article is for anyone who needs a dose of defeating reality with just a little pinch of pixie dust.  I hope that you are able to visit and share. Letting Neverland Nourish Your Soul

Second to the right and straight on ’til morning, 

Elle