12.30.14 2014 In Review

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My Sweet Readers:

I was so happy to see the progress of the blog that was sent to me this week that I decided to share it! Thank you all for your constant support! I’m really working toward creating a second career of writing and speaking, and each time you share in my words, you move my dream forward.  Thank you my friends, my readers, my dream-keepers!

Please pass along my blog to anyone you think might enjoy it.  I’ll do my best to keep talking and typing!

Blessings!

Literarily yours,

Elle

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 4,600 times in 2014. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 4 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

12.28.14 PG13 Conversations

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Albert Einstein once said, “Do not worry about your difficulties in Mathematics. I can assure you mine are still greater.” I believe him, but I also don’t think that he could have reasonably considered the equation of what occurs when you have one, curious seven-year-old boy, plus one mommy who knows nothing about being one!

My son is famous for his one-liners. He is witty and quick to notice details. Already, in second-grade, he knows that he wants to grow up to be a chemist and I think he practices honing his skills for this future profession by seeing “everything,” even when I wish he wouldn’t. This is the kid who, when I lost something, helped me find it so thoroughly that he noticed my hiding place for birthday gifts, and I had to buy new ones. This is the kid who, when I gave him an answer he couldn’t quite fathom said, “Um, can you rephrase that?” Recently I asked him not to sing so loud, and he told me he just had to because he loved to “get his expression out.”

What’s really funny is the fact that he either has a question or an answer for everything. He’s equally inquisitive and self-confident in his assessment of whatever the current situation may be. I’ll never forget when he was five-years-old, he came into the kitchen and dropped his pants to “re-adjust.” While I shrieked something like, “What are you doing?” He calmly replied,
“It was sticking to my leg, and you need to know that!”
I need to know that. Me. A thirty-two-year-old female, needs to know that the boy parts need to be adjusted at any random time, in any random place, because now I have a not-so-random little man who will do this act – randomly.

The thing is, I feel like I’m not always what you’d call prepared for the conversations I am apt to have with my intrigued mister. There are times that he pulls a Babe Ruth and slams one into right field so far that I’m left on the pitchers mound, wondering how the ball I thought I had control over, went so far over my head. A few months ago he decided to pull the big one … you know where I’m going! “Where do babies come from mom?” Yup. That one. And – I’m not ready to have that question. He’s definitely not ready to hear that answer, so I found a way around it and it went something like this …
“Hey buddy. You know how movies are rated G or PG? And you know how you can’t watch PG13 because you’re too young? Well, this is a PG13 conversation, and when you’re ready, I’ll be happy to talk to you about it, but for now, we’re going to have to leave this one on the shelf, okay?”

Yeah! I know … genius! Well, genius only works when you can push off a convo because it isn’t right in your face. If you’re a man and you’re reading this, now might be a good time to click-away before I gross you out. If you’re a husband or a father, read on because it’s good for you to realize the questions that come from the lack of privacy we get, or … don’t get. Yesterday’s conversation was not able to be conveniently postponed until a later date because we were on a road trip – and on a road trip, you use public bathrooms, and when using public bathrooms with no daddy around to take your son to the men’s – that’s right, you guessed it – my son came into the women’s bathroom with me! Now, if I was smarter than I obviously was in that moment, I would have said something like, “face the wall please.” But I didn’t. Instead, a few days from my “you-know-what” time of the month, I was being precautionary and my son (who didn’t turn away quick enough) asked, “Mom … why are you wearing a diaper in your underwear?”

Dear Lord, (I prayed) if there was ever a time that I could magically melt into the floor, please let it be now. I really don’t want to have this conversation and I am fresh out of excuses and ideas. Now Lord? How about … now? Now maybe?

“Mom?” my son asked, breaking me out of my reverent bathroom prayer.
“Um,” I hedged, quickly zipping my pants. “Well, you see, that’s just something that is meant to keep you feeling fresh and clean.” I said, wishing I had my replica Harry Potter wand so I could point it at his wide blue eyes, use the charm “Obliviate,” and wipe this moment clean from his memory.
“So …” he said, carrying on in a worried tone, “do guys need to wear them too?”
“No,” I said, my face a total mask of nonchalance, aside from its red-turning-purple hue, “it’s just girls.”
“Well good,” he said breathing a sigh of relief.

And just like that, the subject dropped. As long as he didn’t need to wear a “diaper,” he was cool with me wearing one. Nightmare.

So, back to Einstein, who also said, “The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.” Well Albert, I agree with you, though it seems, right now, my son’s insatiable curiosity is primarily here on earth to keep me humble.

Embarrassingly yours,
Elle

12.25.14 Too Much To Say

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There is too much to say … too many words to choose from that would never say enough of what you have all meant to me. Having you “do life” with me through readership has brought me such purpose, and your thoughts and reflections continue to inspire me.

May you have the Merriest Christmas my friends. Please know your loyalty was the shiniest present I received this year!

“The greatest gift is a portion of thyself.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

Blessings, and may your Christmas be filled with love and sparkles.

Elle

12.17.14 Not Willing to Let it Go

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One of my favorite picture books is called Someday, by Alison McGhee.  Through beautiful, lullaby language and lovely watercolors, Someday paints a picture of the journey of life and the things we will go through.  On one page, the text says, “Someday you will hear something so sad that you will fold up with sorrow.”  And yesterday … that was the page of my story.  I don’t know if you have ever experienced this, but sometimes when something is wrong, when something is cosmically off-base with the universe, people turn a blind eye as a coping mechanism.  As much as I hate to admit it about myself, I am one of the people who does this.  I have often evaded pain by just “letting it go,” whatever “it” was, because not thinking about something, not exposing myself to it is just … well, easier.  I didn’t have that privilege this time. 

I decided to listen to the news on my way to work, as I do every now and then, and I heard it.  On Monday there was a hostage situation in Australia, where at the time of reporting, there were people literally trapped.  Instead of talking about it, however, the reporter then went on to immediately discuss the current football scores.  I was disturbed.  Wednesday, I decided to listen again, and heard of the horrors in  Pakistan.  At a school in Peshawar, over 140 people were murdered by the Taliban – and most of them were under 16.  Hearing that was abominable, but within the same breath, not even a sentence later, the current basketball scores were reported. The statistics were stated as enthusiastically as if nothing but common facts had just been said.  There was no “moment of grieving,” no call for consideration or sympathy … the death toll was callously announced and just … moved on from.  I was devastated.

Have you ever been so angry you cried?  So disgusted with the current state of desensitization and lack of “feeling anything” that suddenly you just felt too much?  To be honest, I avoid the news for this very reason; because I was born with the “gift” of compassion.  That’s an oxymoron.  Compassion tends to be more of a sentence, a curse, a burden to bear.  I hurt, I feel, I don’t let go.  And this time was no exception.

The second I walked into school I was surrounded by statements like, “I can’t wait to get out of this place,” and “I’m so ready for holiday break.”  And like the quote from Alison McGhee, I wanted to “fold up with sorrow.”  The world I lived in was so far removed, so aloof and completely unconcerned with anything outside the small circle of influence in which we reside, and that didn’t sit well with me.  I needed to teach, I needed to “be me,” but for once, I just couldn’t let it go.  I couldn’t pretend everything was okay, I couldn’t pretend I was okay, because I wasn’t.  My students would know that, so how could I hide? 

Dalai Lama explained that “Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive.”  We live in a nation of “me-ism,” where everything is focused on what matters in the here and the now and the “mine.”  But we need to start realizing that this way of living, this egocentric focus can’t continue if we want to survive as humans.  I would love to say I had some amazing connection, some fantastically connective assignment that brought things “home” to my students – but I didn’t.  I had sadness, I had raw emotion, and I had words.  So we sat together, we cried together, and we talked.  They asked questions … I didn’t have all the answers, and they were okay with that.  I wasn’t afraid to be real because I just needed them to understand – they are the future after all, and we are desperate for something more than we have become.

Sometimes I feel like we are nothing more than a nation of complacency … a society that only feels what pertains to us directly.  But it does.  Whether Australia, or Pakistan – down the street or next door, we are not called to care only for those within our reach.  Prayers have no bounds.  Like the conversation with my students, I have no real resolution to this conversation, I just really need to know that for once, I’m not the only one unwilling to let it go.  Below are two links.  Read.  Look.  Absorb.  Feel.  Pray.  And know that compassion makes a difference.

Elle

BBC Day in Pictures: Attack on Peshawar, Pakistan

BBC Overview of the Event: Attack on Peshawar School Massacre

12.11.14 Yes? No.

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If my life were a newspaper, today would’ve made the front page. There would be newsboys peddling furiously to hawk two Earth-shattering stories of age-old prophecies-come-true. Because in big, bold headlines the Science section would read: “Spotted – Actual Pigs Flying!” And the Weather segment would state: “It’s Official … Hell Has Finally Frozen Over!” Why? You might ask. How was it finally accomplished? Well, I’ll tell you. These cataclysmic events took place because the unthinkable happened … I, Elle Harris, finally said – NO.

If you don’t know me well, then you wouldn’t understand how epic this word, or the fact that I actually used it is! I am not a “no” girl. Pretty much the exemplar opposite, I am a yes-girl, an “absolutely” girl. I am the kind of girl who not only says she’ll do something (when asked) but stupidly offers herself up to a task or challenge willingly! I like to do it all. And worse, I like to pretend I can handle it all; but I can’t, and this season, I knew it.

I think that sometimes I actually get myself bogged down by all the choices of what I could be doing, what I should be doing, and what I want to be doing. Can I just say that those are all VERY different categories. I can relate to the saying, “Every time you say ‘yes’ to something, you are saying ‘no’ to something else.” And I guess I am okay with that, but not when the “something” is replaced by “someone.” I don’t like letting people down, but especially not my own people. In his book East of Eden, John Steinbeck said,
“The Hebrew word, the word timshel, – ‘Thou mayest’ – that gives a choice. It might be the most important word in the world. That says the way is open. That throws it right back on a man. For if ‘Thou mayest’ – it is also true that ‘Thou mayest not.”

I like this quote because it convicts me a little bit. It makes me think about the fact that I don’t say “yes” because I have to, but because a part of me (even the exhausted part) wants to … needs to even. A piece of me feels like every time I say yes, I am making myself: more legitimate, more worthy, or more notable, when in truth, I might just be making myself: more frazzled, more frayed and more torn.

At school I am a member of two committees. At my kid’s school I am a member of yet, another committee. At church, I’m a part of a group, and usually volunteer multiple times for multiple venues. I love YES! But when approached with the opportunity to say yes to another committee at school, I finally did it. I finally said no. I didn’t want to, and let me say, I didn’t like the taste of the word coming out of my mouth – I barely recognized it! Like a foreign swear word, it sounded unnatural and wrong; but it needed to be said.

In her novel Change of Heart, Jodi Picoult said,
“In the spaces between yes and no, there’s a lifetime. It’s the difference between the path you walk and the one you leave behind; it’s the gap between who you thought you could be and who you really are; it’s the legroom for the lies you’ll tell yourself in the future.”

I don’t want to wake up and realize one day that the only reason I didn’t become the person I should’ve been was because I was too “committed to commitments” to take chances. So in regards to my first “no,” I’d like to say I felt lighter, more free after rescinding my participation, but instead, I felt terrible. I worried about letting down my administration, and myself. I think I wrote a series of four emails apologizing for taking myself off of the new team. They understood, and understood again; I was the one who needed to let it go.

I went to Walmart later on that day and looked at the wall of deodorant. Eyeing the man standing a few feet away from me, I laughed internally as he scanned the shelves for a few moments, shook his head and took off. Too many choices apparently. I scoffed, turning back to the wall of wonder, thinking him a weak excuse for a shopper. But after a few minutes sniffing bizarre combinations of fruit and flowers, I too abandoned ship with an empty cart. I think it was the one titled “Caring Coconut,” that really threw me. I mean, come on – personifying an antiperspirant?

The point is, whether talking about consumerism or commitments, sometimes the overabundance of choices are the real enemy. We need to take into consideration the fact that sometimes enough really is enough, and work more on defining who we are by WHO WE ARE, not by what we are a part of.

So I said no one time … maybe it is more of an accomplishment than I thought.

Here’s to making choices, and being you … whoever that turns out to be. Like a health plan, it’s about diet and exercise … less to the yes, and exercise your right to say “no.”

Literarily yours,

Elle

12.7.14 Sick Day

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So, here’s what I didn’t finish this weekend … anything! Everything! You name it, I didn’t finish it! I started a great deal many “would’ve been awesome” projects, but not one, from laundry to Christmas cards is finished!

Why? Is a logical question you may find yourself asking – my answer would be: sinusitis, bronchitis, fever, headache, backache, chills, coughs, and plenty of nose-blowing. Those are the conditions myself and my family currently have. Two of us checked into the clinic and walked out with prescriptions, saline nasal sprays, humidifier filters and Puffs Kleenex boxes. Hysterically a friend heard I was sick and stopped over with some essential oils to help the healing along including Frankensense! Tis the season to be like Jesus I suppose! Ha!

Literally, this weekend, and for about the whole last week, my family has been falling apart. We are sick and tired and utterly cashed. We are so happy with Christmas concerts and plays and events with family and friends and work … but life, for us lately has been like a cupcake with too much frosting! It seems great at the time and tastes delicious, but when the buzz ends, leaves you exhausted and sick.

So, filled like a blended new-age pharmacy, my house is on it’s way to healing. I’ve got peppermint oil on my feet, a diffuser putting Eucalyptus into the air, an inhaler (probably needed after inhaling all the oils), and antibiotics for the bronchitis. Like Publilius Syrus once said, “there are no shortcuts to anyplace worth going.” I think the road to health is included in this.

Here’s hoping you aren’t as unwell. I pray a sneeze-free week for you all!

Snuffalupogusly yours,

Elle

12.3.14. Random, But Who Knows?!?

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Hey Readers!!!

Tomorrow I will be at an author’s fair in Hartford, Wisconsin! The venue is The Hartford Library at 7:00 PM. I realize that many of you do not live anywhere in the vicinity, but why not invite you anyway … my digital friends!

It would, as always, be a joy to chat with you as humans! In the words of Lewis Carroll, “Sometimes I’ve believed in as many as six impossible things before breakfast.” Why shouldn’t meeting you be one of them?!?

It would be much to my delight to meet you, but if not, fare-well in this entrance to winter’s will! I’ll just be a cozy, mouse-click away!

Literarily yours,
Elle

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11.30.14 The Poetry of Me

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This week I am beginning a poetry unit with my students, and I must say I am excited!  I know I’ll hear groans and disgruntled disclaimers of, “I don’t know how to write poetry,” but I am undeterred.  I come from a word-loving family, and though we don’t always express ourselves the same way, I believe Robert Frost who said, “Poetry is when emotion has found its thought and the thought has found words.” In short, poetry is bottled emotion, and who wouldn’t love to capture a feeling sometimes. 

I read poetry a great deal (part of the job of teaching Literature) but I enjoy it more than I can say.  I think that every time I read something, it effects me on a new level, even if I don’t fully understand it.  Carl Sandburg  personified poetry beautifully when he said, “Poetry is an echo, asking a shadow to dance.”  And words do dance!  They sway and twirl in our minds, sometimes displaying intricate choreography, sometimes spinning randomly.  Regardless, language offers itself up in poetry much like an interpretive song.  I was once asked to write a self-reflective piece; you can learn a lot about yourself by doing so.  I decided to share it with you, to dance with you if you will.  I hope you enjoy, and consider defining yourself without bounds.

Literarily yours,

Elle

Me, Myself and I

I am
found
unpredictable
and
quirky
unsure of myself still
younger on the inside than I seem to be on the outside

I am
weird (but never boring)
everything somedays
nothing the next
changing the world
as the world tries its best
to change
me

I am a
blue-eyed
tears cried
laughing
dimpled
mile-wide-smile
who
hurts
heals
and
helps others through

I am
an open book
a turning page
a closed door
a curious child with eyes open wide
who closes them
tight
at the hurt I don’t wish to see

I am
cautiously honest
true to myself
(whoever myself happens to be that day)
trying to do what’s right
wishing I knew what that was
and dreaming of a day without so many decisions

I am
fickle
a change of colors
wanting
needing
rejecting
protecting
me

I am
myself
(most of the time)
but more than any one
particular
thing
I am
everything at once
I am I
and someday,
I just might believe
I’m enough