6.19.17 Thank you Daddy. Thank you Dad.

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It has taken me a while to write this post. Not because I didn’t have anything to say, but rather, too much. How do you put into words what your father(s) mean to you? How do you even begin? My father, and my father-in-law, have been the most influential men in my life aside from my husband. Married at 21, (and dating for three years before that) we have grown up together, and I feel that we have two full sets of parents that have blessed, influenced, and molded us. 

I realize that most of the world does not have the experience of a father the way I or my husband have. Often (especially in the lives of my students) I am exposed to the painful truths that most children experience some version of cool complacency with a father who was never really there. And for this … my friends … I am so sorry. I wish you could have had my childhood – one that was filled with encouragement, faith, and the safety of knowing you are well and fully loved. 

One of my favorite memories was falling asleep in my father’s arms at a Summerfest concert with Rod Steward wailing away. I must have been three or four-years-old, and I distinctly remember the feeling of curling into my dad, amid all the noise and chaos, and not waking up again until he was carrying me out of the car when we got home. It might seem a trivial memory, but to me, it was foundational. It was the beginning of my daddy nurturing my dreams, literal and otherwise. Since before I could even recognize it, my daddy has been growing my hope, teaching me to wrestle with my imagination, and pushing me to demand more of myself than I would have thought I was capable of. He is the hand I hold in the storms, and the nudge forward when I want to escape. He sturdies my resolve, and pushes me ever on. 

When I met my father-in-law, years and years later, I hoped to love and respect him, but didn’t think I’d need much, as I never had a void in the dad-department that required filling. I was wrong. Throughout the years, my relationship with my father-in-law has become one of a true, dad/daughter bond. When I first met him, his love language was that of service. Doing things like washing my car, and fixing broken things around my house were his way of telling me he loved me. Now he uses words, and oh, how I savor them. A lover of memories, like me, he writes treasures for us kids to savor – listing out scrapbook stories and pieces of childhood I almost feel like I was a part of. He listens to me. He reads everything I  write. He is proud of me as his daughter, and has long since adopted me into his family for real. 

One thing I have learned from both of my dads is what Marie Beyon Ray once said, “Begin doing what you want to do now. We are not living in eternity. We have only this moment, sparkling like a star in our hand – and melting like a snowflake.” They are live-in-the-moment men. Stand up, get knocked down, and stand up again men. They are I’m here for you, I’ll provide for you, I’ll show you how to do the same men.

I wish the world had more men like them. 

Both have epitomized bravery and courage to me. Whether battling occupations or health concerns, finances or relocations, they have remained men of faith and character. Neither has compromised his integrity in times when it would have been so much easier to take the “easy way.” They believe in hard work, in dedication, in family, and in this one, precious life the Lord gave them to live and journey through. I cannot imagine my or husband’s life without their guiding light and I am eternally grateful that God placed them as the pillars of strength in our family. 

Thank you daddy. Thank you dad. 

Elle

6.12.17 13 Years

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Once upon a time, there was a girl who met a boy with eyes the color of sea glass.

I cannot say whether he found her, or she found him, or whether the stars, the tides, or the winds from the four corners of the earth arranged themselves just so – but find one another they did.

Her curious spirit tended his intelligent soul.

He kept her grounded, and she set him free, and they found home within each other’s company.

Days stretched languidly into years and soon the boy asked the girl a question she only needed one word to answer.

Lengths of grace and lace and light accompanied them on the day simple words became divine promises.

And he had, and she held.

Since that time, in their story, there have been days of better, and days of worse … spans of richer and bouts of poorer … occasions of sickness, and stretches of health.

He has loved her, and she has cherished him.

In time two new heartbeats echoed the sound of their own. Two sets of hands swung between theirs, and two sets of feet stepped close to dance.

A new season brought sunlight-filtered smiles, sticky kisses and always, a golden glorious mess. In their most exhausted moments, he smiled a tired, secret smile, which she returned in a sleepy, happy daze.

Every day is imperfect, and beautiful for its mistakes. And every day the girl, who fell in love with the boy with sea glass eyes, is grateful for knowing the safety of his love.

This story has no end, only chapters that edge closer and further toward the brink of forever.

 

 

6.4.17 Voices

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“The meaning of life is to find your gift, the purpose of life is to give it away.” – Picasso

This past weekend was a first for me. I was asked to speak at a high school commencement. Apparently, I was the senior’s “first and only” choice. I feel that this honor was beyond what I should have been given, but I am so very, very blessed to have been able to speak twenty minutes worth of words. I pray they will arm these amazing young people with the ability to walk into the unknown with confidence. The theme of their year was “Voices.” I wrote this piece for them and ended my speech with it. May we all remember that words have power, and voices are meant to be heard. I love you class of 2017.

Always,

Elle

VOICES

It seems as though with every voice

there is a choice inlaid between

Of who I was, of where I am,

of how I feel, and how I seem

And though my heart may know the truth

foundations built as they were laid

I’ve often wondered if it’s His

or my own thoughts when I have prayed

I know heaven speaks in whispers

but my ears are set to shouting

So although I know He hears me,

I still end up lost and doubting

Like an apparition’s presence

all reflections become haunting

And I cannot trust my conscious

because suddenly it’s daunting

Weighted down with life’s decisions –

my mind a game of pitch and toss

Now the answer lies behind me

under the shadow of a cross

And in silence, when I’m broken

my healer finds and tends my scars

Knitting me right back together

atoning light, beyond the stars

A breath of life, His words redeem

and wash my spirit clean to light

There can be no more fear of dark

when truth has shown me what is right

Drenched with grace I know I’m worthy

raised in hope, my faith has grown

Treading bravely toward the future

the voice I’ll trust will be my own

5.29.17 Perhaps

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Perhaps I feel the way I feel because of the season of life we’re in. Or maybe it’s due to the time of the year. (I’m fairly certain it has something to do with the time of the month). But regardless of the specific reason, there are some days that I think we as parents need to celebrate NOT going insane.

This may sound a little crass, but I’m perfectly serious. There are moments, breaking points where I’m pretty sure that our last nerve, the last straw, and the last word are each cast in turn, and it takes every fiber of our being not to snap.

Last weekend my family and I were headed up to my grandmother’s ninety-fifth birthday party. What should have been a smooth, reflection-filled two hour drive, was instead a test of my will and character. There were multiple times on the drive that I wanted to pull over, get out, and walk –ALONE! Mary Francis Winters once said, “Don’t become too preoccupied with what is happening around you. Pay more attention to what is happening within you.” Well, I’d argue that what was happening around me was in direct correlation to what was happening within me!

Perhaps I sound dramatic, but you know what? Some moments ARE dramatic, and if you don’t share them dramatically you’ll be ruining the whole dynamic effect of the story. So here goes … imagine a Kia (because that’s what we have) filled to the popping point with gifts, coloring books, ninety-six markers (with which to color in said coloring books), driving activity cards, an overly-tired nine-year-old boy, a super-chatty seven-year-old girl, and a husband who has NO desire to talk, at all, even if it is our only chance that day to do so.

The boy is tired, and as such – grumpy. His reply to everything is equal parts mischief and sass. The girl’s conversation is a low flying plane set to circling. She is neither discussing anything of import, nor is she running out of gas anytime soon. I was (naively) looking forward to some mellow music and a bit of brainstorming, but either at the exact moment I was able to form a coherent thought or my daughter actually stopped talking, then SOMETHING would inevitably happen to interrupt my thoughts.

            “Where are our snacks?” she asked, starting it all.

            “Didn’t you pack any?” I asked my husband (who’d been in the car first, waiting for me with seemingly nothing to do but honk from the driveway to hurry me up).

           “No,” I retorted. “I was getting gifts together, why didn’t you?”

           “I didn’t think of it,” he said blithely, “and you normally do.”

At this point I could literally feel the blood blush creeping up my cheeks.

           “What about water?” my son asked pathetically. “Did anyone remember to pack us that at least?”

           “No,” I said again. “Why didn’t anyone else grab it.”

            “You usually do,” my kids said together.

So we figured we’d grab some when we stopped to get coffee. Of course that was another debacle. The ever-growing line behind us would just have to wait for him to choose which kind of bread he wanted and her yelling at me to put the whipped cream back on her order because SHE likes it, HE doesn’t, and I needn’t take off her whipped cream just because he doesn’t like it.

         “So …” the guy on the other side of the ordering counter droned on. “Was that whipped cream or no whipped cream then?”

About ten miles down the road, my son piped up with, “Hey, didn’t we get any water?”

     “NO! We didn’t!” I practically shout. “You’ve got a smoothie.”

     “Yeah,” he says unfazed, “but I need water when I’m eating lemon bread.

     “Well you’ll just have to wait.”

     “That’s fine. I need to go to the bathroom anyway – now,” he said with casual urgency.

This is where I’m pretty sure my deodorant started working overtime. Angry and annoyed, we stalked into the gas station to use the bathroom. The girl’s bathroom was “out of order,” and traumatized as I was, I knew we’d never make it to the party if I started letting my germaphobia take over.

About five minutes later, my daughter, who’d been waiting for my son to get out, came to me with indignant tears, telling me that just when he’d finished and it was her turn, he pushed her out again and said, “I’ve gotta poop.” After another ten minutes of wandering around the gas station that didn’t so much as have a birthday card, (which I still needed for the party) my son came out – a self-satisfied smirk on his face, and my daughter, blotchy-eyed, pushed past him. Ten more minutes, and I quietly knocked on the door, asking her if she was alright.

        “I went number two mom, but then I feel like I need to go potty, but not yet, so I’m waiting until I do.”

Now, I actually, physically started to tingle. My heart was drumming inside of my chest with the passing of time … time that was meant to be on the road gaining distance, not taking a museum tour of a dirty gas station while my daughter and son “enjoyed” the facilities.

Finally back on the road, we encountered utility vehicles, Sunday drivers on a Saturday, construction, wrong turns, and a quick stop to purchase candles that said “95” on them. Sweaty and anxious, we dusted off and took a few deep breaths before stepping into the loveliest party I think my grandmother has had to date.

Surrounded by family, friends, and numerous great-grandchildren, her hazel eyes glowed with pride and memories … of which I cannot be sure. The rest of the party was filled with double-slices of cake, cousins reminiscing with bubbling laughter, skipping rocks at the lake, and all the joy that comes with too many kids on a playground.

Perhaps it was the fresh air, or the fresh faces, or the fresh perspective I gained when I  saw the product of a life so-well lived. But the ride home was sweet and calm. He was coloring. She was sleeping. My husband was driving, and all was well enough in the world for me to daydream – and just like that, the balance of life was restored. Another day of keeping my sanity. Thank the Lord for that because, as Scarlett O’Hara says, “Tomorrow is another day.”

Elle

5.21.17 Thursday, Not Wednesday

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Henry David Thoreau once said, “Success comes to those who are too busy to be looking for it.” I sure hope that he was right, because lately I am so busy I don’t know which way is sideways let alone up or down. Every week, my students need to remind me that it is Wednesday, not Thursday, and then the following day, that it is now Thursday, and no longer Wednesday. I’ve decided that this is either a sign of early-onset dementia at thirty-four (which I am semi-convinced I have), or a that I might be just a little too busy.

If you cannot relate to my crazy life … I applaud you; but if you can, well – thank you for being a passenger on this train.

You know you’re too busy if:

  • You set two alarms because you are afraid your comatose exhaustion will not allow you to wake up for the first one.
  • Your “filter” becomes less functional, and you begin to let a little too much honesty leak out into your responses when people ask you how you feel about something.
  • You don’t watch your favorite shows, read your favorite books, or even take a bubble bath, because nothing can compete with the thought of just going to bed.
  • You buy extra loaves of fresh, french bread because you know your kids will eat it plain without toasting or buttering it, thus saving five minutes at breakfast.
  • You have an eight-minute turn around time between coming home from school, letting the dog out, and getting back in the car for soccer practice, usually leaving the dog out, and needing your neighbor to put her back in your house before you return.
  • You and your spouse become functioning roommates, complete with his and hers schedules and task lists.
  • You begin to believe that six hours of sleep is luxurious.
  • Your “healthy lunch” standards begin to slip toward anything that is in a pre-packaged bag and ready to throw into the never-ending lunchbox debacle.
  • You would rather buy the family new underwear than think about washing and folding another load.
  • You double-book appointments, and make it seem like you did it on purpose when two people show up for separate meetings, saying something smooth like, “I really wanted so-and-so’s input on this matter too!”
  • You would donate a kidney to not have to think of what to make for dinner.
  • Your spouse sends you an email invite to have conversations instead of just having them.
  • You don’t answer when your closest friends call because you know you’ll have too much fun talking to them to get off the phone in the five-minute window you’ve left yourself.
  • Your car becomes the hub where all things: personal care, meals, calls, correcting homework at stoplights occurs.
  • You develop random twitches in your arm, your leg, or your eye … your body telling you that it too now is freaking out, thank you very much.
  • You get nervous when you aren’t busy, and are uncomfortable sitting still because you have an underlying panic that you are most definitely forgetting something.
  • You are afraid of summer break, because you think the slower pace will rob you of the marathon lifestyle you’ve set for yourself, and tease you into forgetting how to manage it all!

I guess it’s the phase of life. Or the style of me. Or the pace I’ve attached myself to. Regardless, I am choosing to believe the words of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, “I am always busy, which is perhaps why I am always well.” I do feel better when I’m busy, as a general rule, but sometimes, like every Thursday, NOT Wednesday, I believe I stand corrected.

Wishing you rest!

Elle

5.14.17 A Mother’s Love

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“I remember my mother’s prayers and they have always followed me. They have clung to me all my life.” – Abraham Lincoln

When I think about my life, I can’t rightly imagine it turning out anywhere near the way that it has if I didn’t have my mother. In the chaos of my life, her voice has been the constant, soothing lullaby in the back of my mind, hushing my anxious thoughts, and setting the tone of my heart. I know full well that she is a rare gift, and I try never to forget just how blessed I am. When my own two children sweetly say, “Mom, you’re the best,” I know just how short-changed they are, because no one could even compare to what I have.

A few years ago, my mom and dad moved to another state, and not just another state, a state that is a fourteen-hour drive away from me. I’d be lying to say it didn’t wreck me just a little … maybe more than a little. Because of course, I’d planned to have the kind of life I grew up in – the kind where we saw cousins and aunties and uncles each week, and had brunch with grandma every Sunday. Not so it would seem. And while it has been so hard to be away from the family I crave, I will say that God is pretty awesome at filling in the broken places of my fragile heart.

While we may not be together daily, my mother and I talk often, and lift one another up even in absence, and for that I am grateful. But Samuel Taylor Coleridge once said, “The love of a mother is the veil of a softer light between the heart and the heavenly Father.” Aside from being an undeniably beautiful thing to say, I think it is the essence, the idea that motherhood is more than one person or one relationship – it is a form of love personified.

I realized some time ago, that if I believed this to be true, then the love of a mother, the love God bestowed for us is available in many places. And though I am lucky enough to still have a mother I run to, I would be remiss not to mention the other places my heart is restored.

I feel a mother’s love in the frantic phone calls my sister and I exchange. When we pick up one another’s broken pieces and gently put each other back together.

I feel a mother’s love when I witness the unconditional devotion of my mother-in-law to her husband. To her children. To me.

I feel a mother’s love in the late-night-textathons between my cousin and myself. When we laugh at our blunders, rant out our problems, and leave the conversation ten-pounds lighter than we came in.

I feel a mother’s love in the friendships that find me right where I am. In the conversations with women I do life with, and who invest their effervescent wisdom and beauty in equal measure.

In teachers. In neighbors. In strangers roaming the aisles of the grocery store who share an exhausted smile with me at ten PM. I feel a mother’s love in every place there is openness, gentleness, acceptance, experience, laughter, and encouragement.

So while I wish everyone a mother like I have, I know that cannot be (because I’ve already got her). Instead, I wish each of you open eyes and willing hearts, to accept the love of all the mothers around you, who are just waiting to take you in.

Be loved,

Elle

5.7.17 Old Souls

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Old Souls

Here’s to the days before digital

before instant gratification

and never needing to develop the virtue of patience

Here’s to the pictures we couldn’t delete

the songs we crossed our fingers to hear on the radio

and the dinners we ate … not pinned

Here’s to the years before smart phones

where conversations lingered because there was no where else to have them

and the only way to text was through notes you would pass

Here’s to the versions of print we ignore

to books with wrinkled pages from being too loved

and magazines you’d clip “someday” dreams from

Here’s to the times we remembered

how to get somewhere, whose number was whose,

and where we were supposed to go – all without a device to help us

Here’s to the screens you weren’t supposed to touch

to the shows you couldn’t subscribe to or binge on,

but waited with baited breath to see a whole week later

Here’s to those who were raised on

not yet

someday

and we’ll see

whose patience was cultivated by the culture

instead of tainted by it

Here’s to the old souls,

to the old ways,

to the past

4.30.17 In-the-Making

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“We are all saints in the making.” – Unknown

Recently a friend of mine defined peace as, “Being whole. If you can stand yourself for that entire twenty minute commute without music or any distraction, you have peace within yourself.” I felt it a genius thing to say. Because truth? Sometimes I can and sometimes I can’t. Sometimes my quiet company is all I need, and other times I’d do anything to rid myself of the chaotic thoughts that crowd my conscious like a room too filled with people. 

Over time I’ve noticed that my level of inner-calm is not directly connected to the things this world associates with peace. It isn’t related to lavender, or bubble baths, self-help books, massages, or meditation. Though there is a definite place in my life for all of those lovely things, they do not sustain me. My faith has helped me realize that I am most tranquil when I am being of use to others. Being still is important, but I’ve found my spirit is most at rest when it is engaged in loving others. 

I often think of the words of Teresa of Ávila who said, 

“Christ has no body now but yours. No hands, no feet on earth but yours.
Yours are the eyes through which he looks compassion on this world.
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good.
Yours are the hands through which he blesses all the world.”

Regardless of anyone’s background, of their religious position, you’ve gotta admit that Jesus’ one request, “Love one another,” was a pretty straight-forward imperative. It wasn’t, “Love those who are easy,” or “Love those who believe what you believe.” One another included everyone. Can you imagine that kind of love? That kind of peace? 

I most tranquil when I’m actively loving others, because only then are my “soul” and my “self” aligned in purpose. I’m carrying out my commission. And isn’t it just like God to heal my anxious spirit by encouraging equanimity in others? 

That same friend, went on later to say, “We should have peace up, and in, and out.” I’m thinking, for me at least, that OUT is the most important part. Because when I reach out, God reaches in, to lift my spirit up. I am certainly no saint … but it is an unequivocal gift to know that I am – you are – we all have the potential to be – in-the-making. 

Elle

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