5.27.19 What Only a Soldier Knows

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I was sorting through some old photos on my computer today and something popped up asking me if I’d like to look at a memory. It was a series of pictures from a trip with my family, and at the end of the scroll it gave me three options of what to do with the photos, one of which was, “Block Memory.”

This simple command option led me to ask myself what memories I would block, if only I had the power to do so. A few came filtering in and out that I wouldn’t mind erasing completely … but then, if I did, the lesson and the growth that came out of the hurt would be erased too – and would that not lead me to need to learn it again in some other way? Through some other hurt memory-to-come?

A few photos later, and I fell upon a recent one of one of my most-favorite people … Larry. I met Larry first as the grandfather to one of my students, then as the husband to one of my co-workers, and now, as simply one of my dearest friends. As a Naval Vietnam Veteran, he is one of the only people I am willing to talk politics with, because he has earned my respect, and doesn’t judge me for what I don’t know … and in turn has been honest enough with me to forgive himself for what he didn’t know then. That is a man with perspective; that is a man whose thoughts I want to hear.

Blocking a memory … ironic that it came up on Memorial Day of all things. I wonder what soldiers wouldn’t give to choose the blessing of erasure? I wonder if it is the lies, or the truth that hold so many of their minds captive? How can we, as an American public not thank them for carrying that burden of memories for us? How can we not acknowledge the gift of not having to follow orders we are uncertain of or decisions we aren’t forced to make. How can we celebrate freedom in good consciousness without first considering the price of the scars branded on those who paid the cost?

It has been 151 years of Memorial Days, and I fear that too many of us have replaced a day of gratitude for lives lost, with gratitude for a day off of work … a day to see friends … a day to block our memories from anything but enjoying a free day. Please don’t let today slip past without thanking someone who has helped maintain our country’s liberty.

So thank you veterans.

Thank you for answering the call to protect and to serve.

Thank you for paying the debts of a nation with your days, your years, and your lives.

Thank you for holding back the haunting questions of “What might have been,” had you not been brave enough to stand guard.

Thank you for continuing to honor the nation we so easily scoff at, argue over, and neglect.

Thank you for silencing your voices – your individual opinions to give us the right to hear ourselves speak … even when we have no idea what we’re saying.

Thank you for not blocking your memories, painful and raw as they are … for I know it is in the harboring of these memories that you keep us safe from what only a soldier knows.

 

5.21.19 Twenty Ways I’m Pretty Sure I’m Still a Kid

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“There is a certain part of all of us that lives outside of time. Perhaps we become aware of our age only at exceptional moments and most of the time we are ageless.” – Milan Jundera

I decided a great long time ago that I was never going to grow up fully. I can’t say exactly when I made this magnanimous decision … maybe when I read Peter Pan for the first time … maybe when my dad held me to his chest and said, “My little girl is growing up?” It might have been when I decided to be a teacher to stay with kids longer,  or even when I had my own babies and tried to raise them to have their own golden childhood.

Though some days (like today) I feel ancient and tired from my long, weary schedule … I’ve been reflecting on the twenty ways that I’m pretty sure I’m still a kid.

  1. I drink chocolate milk regularly … like … every other day.
  2. I dip animal crackers in my coffee.
  3. Converse are my favorite shoes and I have about fifteen pairs in different colors that I often wear with skirts – at work.
  4. I write children’s books because they are the genre I still most enjoy reading.
  5. I celebrate Dr. Seuss’ birthday in my class with readings no matter what age I’m teaching.
  6. I believe in the Loch Ness Monster, Bigfoot, Yeti, and other unproven creatures … the way I see it is … if they haven’t proven they don’t exist – why not?
  7. I often wear my hair in double braids like Dorothy or double buns like Princess Leia … depending on my mood.
  8. My favorite animal changes every day.
  9. I am more excited to go to the zoo than my own children.
  10. I wholeheartedly believe in the power of pretend.
  11. I want to be a fairy and sprinkle glitter generously and often.
  12. I will eat ice cream any time of the day it is offered to me.
  13. I love stickers.
  14. I think pizza tastes best on Friday because it is my favorite day of the week.
  15. I still ask my mom, dad, sister, cousin, and best friends before making any decisions about important things.
  16. I still ask my husband for five more minutes when I wake up (and he gives me ten because he’s amazing like that).
  17. I love cartoons. I even watch them alone.
  18. I have a Disney playlist that I pride myself on because I know all of the words to every song and my kids don’t.
  19. I have a yearning to play kickball every day of recess duty.
  20. I wish on everything … eyelashes, 11:11, stars, candles, sometimes even airplanes if they’re flying fast enough at night.

Come on … be young with me! I can’t wait to see what you’ve got on your kid list and if any of our kiddish tendencies overlap! Please reach out and tell me a few so I can add them to my life habits!

Yours kiddo,

Elle

5.12.19 I Find Myself Whole

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I have had the most extraordinary examples of mothers in my life. My own mom is practically an earth angel … she is selfless and endlessly encouraging and taught me that joy is a choice that we must pursue with intention and passion. My mother-in-law is kind, and good, and does life with a family-first focused mentality. There has never been an instance where I’ve seen her make a decision without all of us in mind. My sister has always and forever wanted only to be a mom, and as her full-time job … she is exemplary at it … loving with an other-worldly patience, never hesitating for a second to let a hug linger, as hugs often should. My cousin is the dedicated, work and play mom. She bakes, and explores, gardens, and tutors. I never know how, but she does it all so well. Both of my sister-in-laws are full-time doctors, and both of them consistently put dance shoes and soccer cleats at the top of their list along with patient care and job performance. Their girls will be better for the example of their mothers’ tireless love, and nurturing spirit towards both their own needs, and the needs of others. My best friend epitomizes the verse, “Love never fails,” as she not only adores her own three children, but her gorgeous sixteen-year-old step-daughter with a fiercely, undeniable grace that could only come from a pure heart. There is my friend who doesn’t even have children, but loves each human soul she meets with such intense safekeeping of their stories, that it is undeniable to know God has given her a mother’s heart. Or my friend, who has faithfully become the surrogate mother her middle school students have needed all their lives. Then there are my friends that are the sweet mothers of young ones, who remind me of the tender snuggles, the fresh-from heaven dreamy stares, and complete devotion to their new and forever role as mothers; oh, how they inspire.

These are the mothers I look up too. These strong, beautiful, uniquely individual women who time and time again, put the needs of others before themselves. How can I ever thank them, or the hundreds of other mothers I wish I had time to name?

On the other side of gratitude, I want to thank the most precious ones of all … my two, gifts … my son and my daughter. I cannot ever properly deserve you, and sometimes I worry God trusts me too much to have put you in my care. I am so grateful that my husband is with me to balance all my insufficient, impulsive ways with his steady character and heart. Somehow, beyond my inability to cook memorable meals, or keep a plant alive, or build anything, or do laundry with any semblance of efficiency … they love me. They love my constant question games in the car and my addiction to chocolate milk (for me, not them). They love my belief in pretend and my absolute conviction that Neverland is a real place. They love that I write, and support my poems, and articles, and books with prayers. They are my greatest fans, and I love how they forgive my flaws for the simple fact that love has blinded them beyond recognizing fault.

I am a mother. I am imperfect and deeply impractical. I value daydreams over diagrams and whimsy over worldly success. I put my kids to bed way too late, and often, fall asleep with them because I don’t want that thief, Time, to steal one minute I was unaware of passing.

I worry. I pray. I play. I dance. I try. I cry. I fret. I fail. I love.

I am many, many things, but because of the women I so cherish, and the children who have given me my most important name … I am a mother … and in that … I find myself whole.

5.6.19 The Finite Infinite

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This piece is a response to a recent tragedy in our community. It is also a reflection of being a mother and a teacher who is asked to make sense for young people what doesn’t make sense, and explain what is simply unexplainable. Katharine Graham once said that, “The truth and the news are not the same thing.” She was right. The news is just facts (or some version of them) but the truth is what you feel in response to what you are shown, and told to deal with.

I hope this poem finds you, and holds your hand through the biggest hurts and fears of what you see and hear. Your sensitive hearts are not alone dear ones. Even still, I believe love conquers all.

The Finite Infinite

I’m not one to watch the news

because I don’t want to see what I see

I feel too much

like pinpricks my senses are acupunctured until

I feel nothing at all

which is worse

But in time every nerve finds it’s way to exposed

every fiber rubs raw, and taught

and I ached in places only the soul can reach

because when I see what I don’t want to see …

when I hear what I don’t want to hear

I can no longer afford the luxury of pretend

reality is painful

and present

and insists on continuing to be

what it is

dark

Sometimes I don’t know the right way

because there isn’t one

to tell

to teach

to soothe the edges of jagged words

of broken ideals

in minds too young to comprehend what they’re asked to

in hearts too pure to make sense of what they weren’t meant to know

I want to silence voices of hate

I want to blur the lines of color

I want to carry burdens

release fears

and renew hope in the seemingly finite, infinite resource

of love

Maybe if it were given a chance

to indwell

to arise and awaken

we would find ourselves safe

in a world where I didn’t have to be afraid

to watch

the news