9.16.18 Choose You

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In his book, Choose Yourself, James Altucher says, “Only think about the people you enjoy. Only read the books you enjoy, that make you happy to be human. Only go to the events that actually make you laugh or fall in love. Only deal with the people who love you back …” in other words … choose you! 

I find this somewhat difficult to do. At times, I feel like unless I am being productive, achieving something (regardless of how menial it may be), or pursuing accomplishment, I am wasting time. More and more I am realizing that both society and I have been lying to myself. Sometimes … more than sometimes, we need to do nothing more than refill our own cups, renew our own spirits, and realize our value comes from being, not doing.

In her infinite four-years-older-than-me-wisdom, my sister bought me a fabulous book for my birthday (and dress and boots to wear while I read it!). More of a journal really, it’s called 3,000 Questions About Me, and I absolutely LOVE it. More often than not my sweet family and friends and anyone who is stuck in my vicinity for more than twenty minutes will hear me chime in, “Hey, let’s play the question game.” This means that from would you rather to what’s your favorite, let’s pretend, to what if … I will pretty much ask you questions until you turn blue in the face from answering them all. (Sometimes I secretly applaud myself for choosing my occupation of teaching so I have an educational excuse to pepper those little angels with as many questions as I want to!) The thing is though, I rarely ask myself to answer the questions I ask, and this book has been giving me permission to do so.

So Friday night, my family went to a fun park, and I chose myself. I did some housework, I grocery shopped, and then I gave myself forty-whole-minutes to answering questions about me. Honestly, I didn’t know the answers to quite a few of them, and in some ways this thrilled me. Choosing you is like giving yourself permission to meet and interview the parts of yourself you’ve not really paid attention to recently – or ever. I don’t know what my most marked characteristic is … I’ve not decided what the next wonder of the world should be … I don’t know my Chinese zodiac sign … I’ve yet to explore what food best describes my personality … but the good news is, if I choose myself a few more Friday nights, I might begin to, and the better I know myself, the better able I am to be authentically known by others.

Choose you – because in doing so, you are allowing more of yourself to be open to the world that longs to know you better.

Elle

9.8.18 Today, I Shall Make-A-Wish

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“I wish that every human life might be pure transparent freedom.”                     Simone de Beauvoir

Today I shall make-a-wish. It is my 36th birthday, so I suppose I am owed one officially, but in reality I actually make wishes on a daily basis. I wish on stars. I wish on prayers. I wish on eyelashes. I wish on the clock when it says 11:11. I am a supreme believer in the power of a wish, and even more so because of all the wishes-come-true I’ve experienced in my 36 years.

I am loved.

I am a mommy.

I have the best of best friends and family.

I have readers who care and actually look forward to what I say!

Could I be more blessed? I think not. One of my greatest faults, I think, is that I am a bit too much of a forward thinker … a “what’s next,” eager soul jumping at the chance for tomorrow. But what matters most, I think, is today. Bella Grace Magazine, just published the most beautiful September issue, and I hope you will read and embrace it. I have a piece in there about the beauty of friendship and the importance of relationship NOW.

Ironically, I am also published in Grace Notes, Bella Grace’s affiliate blog with a piece on “Living Our Legacy Now.”

Don’t wait precious friends. Love who you need to love. Make wishes when they present themselves. Make that lunch date today. Be your best self, right now.

My wish today is all of you,

Elle

9.2.18 Take a Breath Vlog

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“What would it be like if you lived each day, each breath, as a work of art in progress?” – Thomas Crum

I hope that this weekend you are able to breathe … that you take a moment to lounge in a bookstore, to read the last chapter of a long unfinished book … that you daydream your way into a luxurious nap. Make time for conversation with your extra day. Go for a walk, and take the long way. Sit down with those pets you love and talk to them for awhile. Make a new dinner. Find a new treasure. Just be.

8.24.18 Accomplishment

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“Whosoever does not believe in the existence of a sixth sense has clearly not regarded their own mother. How it is they know all they know about you, even those secrets you locked away so tightly in the most hidden compartments of your heart, remains one of the great mysteries of the world. And they don’t just know—they know instantly.”
Narissa Doumani

Sometimes I think I need my mom even more now that I’m an adult. When I was a child, I needed her to reassure me that I was loved, safe, and that nothing would happen that I couldn’t handle. As I’ve grown, these needs have only increased, and I thank God that I’ve never had to go a day without knowing that she was only a phone call, text, or plane ride away.

I am always heartbroken over people who have complicated relationships with their mothers because I cannot even fathom her not being in my life in some small way on a day-to-day basis. I’m often greeted with morning texts, or mailbox notes … and even as we live far apart, we find ways to stretch across the miles, our souls kindred and ever-too-stubborn to accept something as insignificant as distance. Last week it was her birthday, and I asked her to send me pictures of everything she did and everywhere she went – so I could pretend.

Reflecting on what she means to me, I am struck at just how miraculous it was that she should be the one God gave me to. People always say, “I don’t know where I’d be without my mom,” but sometimes I think, I don’t know WHO I would have become without my mom. Insecure and constantly self-assessing, I am not always very kind to myself, but my mom sees a version of me that I am able to make real because she believes in her … in that rendering of me.

Well into motherhood now myself, I pray that I am capable of even a fraction of the foundation my mom set for me. Some people might say that these are impossible shoes to fill, but I say, living out of her legacy of love, being associated with her brand of grace – well, it’s all the accomplishment I really need.

I hope you are loved well.

Elle

8.17.18 I Can’t Believe She’s Mine

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“You wanted everything for everyone, and you wanted to know it all and learn it all …”  – Julia Quinn, To Sir Philip With Love

This one’s for my baby … my even-as-I-write-this little lady who captures every heart she meets. I have never met the likes of her, nor could I have dreamed her into being. My thoughts are simply not capable of the wonder that she is. She is a singular treasure. A divine gift. A paragon of what kindness truly is. Happy birthday to my little dolly. Knowing her is the privilege of a lifetime, but being her mommy is nothing short of a miracle.

 

Brighter than starlight

and made of the same radiance

she emanates compassion

she breathes empathy

and she feels – everything

Wonderstruck eyes at the world she yearns to know more of

yet enchanted with the reality of pretend

she travels her deepest thoughts

curiosity her constant companion

only outshone by her desire to be:

what everyone needs –

never realizing that she already is

There is not a day where charm doesn’t chase her

smiles and compliments are ever in her wake,

still she tries, failing to realize her effortless magnetism –

obliviousness to practical perfection allowing her to remain blameless

She is art personified

a walking masterpiece

the crescendo of emotion

the chorus of a beautiful song …

With effervescent giggles, she twirls with me

and doesn’t walk but cartwheels place to place

She creates

She delights

She seeks

She finds

And every day I can’t believe she’s mine

 

 

8.8.18 My Kind of People

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“I don’t like noodles Auntie Elle.”

“We are AT Noodles and Company buddy, what did you think that they made here?”

“I don’t know.”

“Noodles. That’s what they make here.”

Blank stare.

“So what do you think you’d like to get then?”

Looking up at the menu board for a long time, my nephew studied the pictured options, finally resting on something near the bottom and pointing to it.

“Garlic bread.”

“Garlic bread?”

“Yeah, I like garlic bread.”

“Do you want something with your garlic bread like soup or a salad or something? I feel like garlic bread isn’t really a meal.”

Looking for another length of time, he pointed once more.

“Pineapple.”

“Pineapple … you want pineapple with your garlic bread.”

“Yeah.”

“Not buttered noodles or chicken or veggies.”

“No.”

“Well alright … garlic bread and pineapple it is.”

“And I’ll have six pieces instead of three so it’s more.”

“It’s more alright buddy, but okay, six it is.”

This was the conversation I had with my eight-year-old nephew when I was watching him and his brother and sister for a week this summer. Going from a mother of two to five had its challenges, but honestly, even on the worst day (like that one, where we were stuck in the dentist’s office for two hours and my daughter had a cavity for the first time and a major meltdown because she had a cavity for the first time) conversations like this happen, and then it is all okay.

I struggle with people who say they don’t like kids. What’s not to like? As a teacher and mother, I feel that little people are the absolute best kind of people – my kind. I find even more that adults that I truly enjoy are so enjoyable because I can still see the kid in them, and that is my favorite part.

Yesterday my son held the door open for me and said, “Hey mom … how old do you think you’ll be when you go to live in one of those nursery homes?” It took every ounce of my kegal-exercised-control not to pee my pants laughing. I told him that I figured somewhere in my eighties, but that he could help me make the decision based on how I was doing upstairs. God bless him.

I love the quote from Kent Nerburn that says, “Remember to be gentle with yourself and others. We are all children of chance and none can say why some fields will blossom while others lay brown beneath the August sun.” The thing is, I really believe that no child should ever be a child of chance. We have schools, we have teachers, and principals and aides and volunteers and absolutely NO excuse. By God it is our job to LOVE them, not to like or to tolerate, but to love. I might be stepping out here, but I would go so far as to argue that if you as a teacher do not love the students God puts in your way, you are no longer called to teach.

The last days of my summer are ebbing to a close, and as melancholy as I feel about the quickly fading fireflies and the earlier approaching mornings … I am still excited. I’ve bought new lantern globes, pencil toppers, and name plates. I’ve begun moving desks and replenishing marker supplies. I got new fringe rugs and about two-hundred colored paperclips divided according to shade because those are necessary to the balance of my room of course! I can’t help it. I am a kid person, because I am very much in touch with the kid in me, and I let her voice dictate a great deal of my adult decisions because she is still right.

Children (even naughty ones, God love them … they’re the most fun) are the best kind of people, and it takes nothing to make them happy. Frederick Douglass once said, “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” I pray this year, as the academic turn comes once again, that everyone will remember this quote and take the time to love a kid just by giving them five uninterrupted minutes of your time.

Even if they talk about Pokemon.

Or Shopkins.

Or bugs.

Or knock-knock jokes.

Or guess my number.

Or why questions.

Or foods they hate.

Or foods they love.

Whatever it is … give them time.

You never know, by doing so, we just might be healing humanity one garlic bread and pineapple dinner at a time.

Please share your favorite kid quote with me. I’d love to giggle along.

Elle

8.2.18 Crave

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I crave that creative place

where my mind 

is free to wander 

just a bit

to dabble and dance

in and out 

of a memory or two

lingering in places particularly sweet

and allowing my heartbeat to quicken with reinvented remembering

I love to fall into a good conversation

where the words tumble over themselves 

in an effort to explore the emotions born with them

pushing past inherited perspectives and perceptions 

searching for what is true in your shared or borrowed states of mind

and heart

I wish time was a little less relative 

to everything

and everyone

that there would be more of it in the space of a day

or a moment that doesn’t necessarily need, but wants more attention

so that a detail

a look

or a longing wouldn’t have to go without

I crave that creative place

I love

to wish

7.25.18 Someone Like Him

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“Sons are the anchors of a mother’s life.” – Sophocles

When he was eight, my son looked up at me and said, “Hey mom, when I go to college … you’ll come right?”

“Of course,” I replied. And can I just say that until the offer is formally rescinded, I plan to find an apartment with a four-year lease, and keep my word.

Eleven. That is what this almost-as-tall-as-me charmer just turned, and my heart hurts with pride and pain at the clock and calendar that refuse to slow for me, regardless of my pleas. Ironically, he asked for a pocket watch for his birthday, and every few minutes, when he checks the time, I feel my heart racing the second hand as the visceral reminder that our time is fleeting. Emerson once said that, “Men are what their mother’s made them.” Though he may be a few years off from being a man, I can’t agree with Emerson, because nothing I have done in the past eleven years could have made a boy this good … this pure-hearted, or kind.

Whether it is right or wrong, a reversal of roles or even always appropriate … I depend on this little guy – on his perspectives, his judgement, his prayers, and even his bravery. He is a shoulder worth leaning into because underneath those mischievous smiles, there is a core of integrity and honor that can only be heaven-lent. I’m not sure how fair it is for me to need him at times probably more than he needs me, but there it is. My truth.

Just the other day I ran into a friend with a son the same age. She said she just finished running four miles with another friend of ours with another son the same age. After our pleasantries, I watched her sculpted runner legs leave and turned to my son saying, “Do you think it’s bad I’m not a runner mom? All your friends’ moms seem to run and I don’t. I rollerblade and walk and …”

“Mom,” he said, maturity washing over his little man features. “That’s silly. If anything they should feel bad because they’re all the same and you do things that are different.”

Cry.

There isn’t a day that goes by in this boy’s life where he doesn’t find a way to make me feel special … where he doesn’t make me believe that even if he could have hand-picked a mother, he would have chosen me. What in heaven’s reach did I do to deserve this? To deserve him?

We have our moments. But honestly … I can’t remember any of them significantly enough to even soften the halo around this post. I pray, with all my mother’s heart, that everyone have a someone like him.

Happy birthday baby boy,

I love you to Neverland,

Mommy (Elle)

7.18.18 Staying’s Enough

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Staying’s Enough 

Sometimes the broken places sneak up on you

like the hairline crack in the pavement you’d never see 

or the single wrinkle in a perfect plan 

you never could have predicted if you tried

Because we do try

and that the problem

We try 

and we fail

and we try again

and we fail again

we fall

and we hurt

and we see others hurting

and we can’t help

so we hurt for them

sharing our space for pain, since they’ve run out

And while I don’t want to feel this way

I’d rather it be this

than not feeling – for them,

for myself

at all

There are things I can’t fix

There are places I can’t go

There are memories I can’t turn back

There are people I can’t change

I wish I was more somehow

that if only I:

loved well enough

prayed hard enough

stayed long enough

or waded through enough

I could save – not just pacify

But maybe …

that’s not the point at all

I was not made to deliver, liberate, or rescue

I was meant to see

I was not asked to reclaim, salvage, or safeguard

I was asked to remain

in the moments that can’t be protected from, but stood by

Sometimes the broken places sneak up on you

like the hairline crack in the pavement you’d never see 

or the single wrinkle in a perfect plan 

you never could have predicted if you tried

But we do try

and that’s the solution

Not to fix

just to stay

And through it all

after all is said

even if nothing’s done

it turn’s out …

staying’s enough

7.9.18 A True Fan

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“It’s always compliments from people you love that mean so much.” Maria Bamford

Today I have the shortest, sweetest story. To drag it out would be to diminish it’s utter serendipity, and as I delight in fortuitous happenstances, I will tell it as it was. This lovely one is my sister. She is bright of eye, sharp with wit, generous in love and I have admired her forever. A sister through and through, she faithfully buys everything I am published in and reads every post, article, and poem I write. My mom, dad, sister, and husband generously fight over who is my “biggest fan,” and though I trust them with my life, I usually don’t believe a word of it.

That being said, the other day, my sister and I sat poolside, and she was thumbing through my newest Bella Grace summer edition magazine. She came across a spread of “65 Heart & Soul-Saving Reasons to Say No” in which writer’s responded to a Bella Grace’s prompt on Instagram. I’d not gone through that particular section yet, and she scanned and read the responses to herself, finally stopping on the third page of quotes to read me one that said, “Saying no is brave. It is an act of choosing ‘you’ when the world plays tug-of-war with your heart. Reclaim your right to what fills, not empties you.” Pointing to it before reading aloud, she burst out laughing.

“It was yours!” she bubbled. Sure enough, looking down, I saw that I had indeed written that post to Bella’s Instagram months before. “I guess now you’ll have to believe me when I say you really are my favorite writer,” she smiled.

I cannot tell you what that moment meant to me. If I could bottle it, I would, just to let the magic of my sister’s approval wash over me each time I opened the jar. She always says the right thing, but having her mistakenly identify a favorite quote and then find out it was mine!?! That was an authentic compliment I finally allowed myself to believe was real.

So my sweet sister, thank you from the bottom of this quote … our quote …

“I carry your heart (I carry it in my heart).”  e.e.cummings

 

Love you forever, Elle