7.5.19 Obstacles … Hurdles Cleared … and Everything In-Between

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So … we are moving. Far. We are starting new jobs, the kids are starting new schools, we need to find a new church … the list goes on and on. People keep asking me if I’m stressed and I am quick to say yes, but not about moving so much as trying to keep up with LIFE while you’re moving. This is a pity post, which means dear ones, that I am going to be looking for a sweet amount of “You poor thing’s,” and “It won’t last forever’s,” in my comments section! 🙂

Obstacle #1: We are closing a week before moving, which essentially means we are homeless.

Obstacle #2: We are closing on the new house two weeks after moving, which essentially means … we are STILL homeless.

Hurdle Cleared #1: We have good friends and family that will take care of us on both sides.

Everything In-Between #1: My cat … aka: Natural Born Predator, is currently going cross-eyed watching the carpet where a bug is crawling instead of doing her inborn duty and killing it.

Obstacle #3: Our seven-month-old puppy had an allergic reaction to the anesthesia for her spay surgery and almost died two weeks ago.

Hurdle Cleared #2: We have a fabulous veterinarian and she was able to do her surgery with new meds and she made it!

Everything In-Between #2: We have a dog with a donut around her neck who has no sense of spacial-awareness and is bumbling all over our box-ridden house … hilariously sad.

Obstacle #4: My husband has never seen the house we are buying in person, and is equal parts excited and terrified at his purchase.

Hurdle Cleared #3: Digital photography and realtor.com have provided great sneak-peeks!

Everything In-Between #3: There are some things that just DO NOT fit in boxes.

Obstacle #5: We took a family day “off” on the Fourth of July, and my son was sick with a fever the whole time resulting in two four-hour naps and no picnics, pools, or fireworks.

Hurdle Cleared #4: Sitting in an isolated row to see Spiderman: Far From Home totally redeemed our booger day. Nothing says God bless America like a Marvel movie!

Obstacle #6: We need to drive one of our cars down early and drop off our four pets to live with my family while we fly back to close on our house here, to then drive the other car down … but … we drive a Mini Cooper and a Kia.

Hurdle Cleared #5: My mom is as crazy as I am and agreed to help us herd our beasts south putting us at three adults to help wrangle the Great Pyrenees, Bernese Mountain dog, and two free-range cats! Say hairy!

Everything In-Between #4: Friends who buy you coffee and give you amazing, make-you-cry memory gifts are a rare and treasured blessing!

Obstacle #7: Having a piano ups the mover’s cost a hundred dollars! Grrr.

Hurdle Cleared #6: There is no clearing this hurdle … moving is wicked expensive, even when you do it the “cheap” way.

Everything In-Between #5: Is it weird how much I will miss my local antique store?

Obstacle #8: It is nearly impossible to pack your children sufficiently for a week away at camp and three weeks of being vagabond gypsies.

Hurdle Cleared #7: They are young and moving states away … much too far for the shame of repeated outfits for three weeks causing lasting damage.

Hurdle Cleared #8: I can always play the … “Hey, just remember at your new school there will be no uniforms!” card. I’ll tell them this rotation of clothes is just a final ode to uniforms.

Everything In-Between #6: Stress is bad for your complexion … and by “your” I mean my. I’m a literal zit-monster. Also … too much sun (even though I wear a chalk-white amount of sunscreen) gives my fair skin an unnatural amount of freckles – not the cute kind like my daughter’s cinnamon sugar across the nose sprinkle … but rather the sides of my face so that I look like I have a beard – a freckle beard. Attractive.

Everything In-Between #7: I want to tackle my summer reading list! 

Obstacle #9: My daughter’s bedroom light and fan stopped working. It is after the inspection, but we aren’t jerks … so we hired an electrician days before moving.

Hurdle Cleared #9: I found out that a friend that I taught with’s husband is an electrician! He was a wizard and it was over in fifty dollars!

Everything In-Between #8: I want to take a nap; and I cannot.

Everything In-Between #9: There are a great deal of, “We have to go there ONE. MORE. TIME. places in my family. We are running out of funds to fund our memory-making.

Obstacle #10: Saying goodbye to the home you moved into four days before your daughter was born really, really hurts.

Hurdle Cleared #10: Moving into a new home nine days before your daughter’s tenth birthday is a really, really cool irony.

Everything In-Between #10: Even now … even in all the chaos … life is a magnificent journey of haphazard, wonderful joys.

I’d still appreciate the pity post comments my darlings … I’m not getting my naps so something’s got to fuel my fire!

All my exhausted love,

Elle

6.27.19 Evidence of the Divine

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“And as You speak, a hundred billion galaxies are born … in the vapor of Your breath the planets form. If the stars were made to worship so will I.” Hillsong

In the everyday

in the commonplace

there exists little room for wonder

and we forget to be amazed at the splendor

waiting to marvel at miracles we inherently missed

So often people say that God is silent

and yet nature screams His presence everywhere

Is it not an unaccountable phenomenon that we exist at all?

That in a span of hours the world pirouettes in its turn among the stars

that in a span of days we slow waltz with the sun

Is it not unfathomable magic that even hundreds of thousands of miles away

the moon still directs the ocean

in a perpetual state of tide and wave, a crescendo of creation prevails

Is it not unimaginable that both sea and sky exemplify the glory of nature,

yet compliment rather than compete as evidence of the divine

 

6.18.19 Slipping Into Summer

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“I almost wish we were butterflies and liv’d but three summer days – three such days with you I could fill with more delight than fifty common years could ever contain.”
John Keats

Isn’t that a wonderful thought? To live three days as a butterfly, flitting and flying free in the warmest of summer breezes? Delighting in the presence of the present moment and never giving credit to a future you couldn’t plan for if you tried. It is that feeling that gives summer its magic and glory. Summer days have a way of lengthening and stretching twilight to dawn with minimal effort. The sun shows herself off brilliantly, complimented by her suitor moon, glowing brighter at the mere reflection of her.

It is a beautiful, anything-can-happen time of year and I encourage you to embrace each glittering moment of it! The summer Bella Grace Issue #20 is an absolute delight! I am featured on the cover! Please join me and read, “25 Whimsical Ways to Enlighten the Light of Summer.” I would absolutely love to hear how you are planning to delight in the days before you.

Be glitteringly fabulous and enjoy every fleeting butterfly-wing breeze,

Elle

6.12.19 Love Looks Different

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“I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where. I love you simply, without problems or pride: I love you in this way because I do not know any other way of loving but this, in which there is no I or you, so intimate that your hand upon my chest is my hand, so intimate that when I fall asleep your eyes close.”
Pablo Neruda, 100 Love Sonnets

I was married at 21. I remember people telling me I was really young and I remember thinking they were crazy. We had been together three years by that time, and when you’re 21, three years is a lifetime. Today is fifteen years from the day I said I do. And somehow, though back then three years seemed SO long, five times that has gone by in less than the blink of an eye … the beat of a heart … the length of a song.

I’ve often shared that I’m a hopeless romantic, and it’s true. I apologize to my husband because I know how unfair and unrealistic it is to be the way I am … and yet … I simply cannot help it. I love love. I even have a Pinterest board called that and pin romantic images. The thing is, after fifteen years, love looks different. At this stage it isn’t all sweeping gestures and classic eyes-closed kisses … but that doesn’t make it less … it makes it real.

For us at 36 and 37, with two kids and two dogs and two cats and two fish and two full time jobs … love is lived-in and a bit nicked up in places. My favorite home decor style is vintage romantic, and maybe that’s why … because it is still lovely, but aged … somehow sophisticated in its imperfection as if it has survived many stories worth telling. This is our love.

For us now:

Love looks like going to a coffee shop instead of a romantic dinner (neither of us have a huge appreciation for overpriced food).

Love looks like saying yes to acting classes and summer camps instead of get-away vacations for two.

Love looks like choosing to visit family every time we have a holiday.

Love looks like emptying the dishwasher, making the bed, and rinsing out the sink after shaving all without being asked.

Love looks like sacrificing Saturdays for soccer games and choosing your son’s travel league as your favorite sports team.

Love looks like saying yes to another dog because (at this point of fur) what’s the difference?

Love looks like stolen kisses at midnight because it is the only time our daughter might actually be sleep.

Love looks like laughing at old jokes … remembering first kisses … and being secure in the fact that regardless of the potholes life throws our way … we’re under construction together.

So yeah … our love looks nothing like my Pintrest board. It doesn’t sweep you under like a romantic novel or entrance you like a classic film … but it has stood the test of time; it is vintage and lovely, worn and comfortable. My love story, and the children who have come out of it, are the greatest accomplishments of my life. My husband is my living, breathing, there-for-me-when-I’m-being-a-weirdo, dream-come-true and I hope he knows it, even when I forget to thank him as I should.

Wherever you are in your love story … I sure would like to hear about it! You know I’m a sucker for romance after all … even when love looks different.

Hugs and kisses,

Elle

6.4.19 Esse Quam Videri

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“Esse Quam Videri” 

So our family is about to embark on a new adventure … we are moving from one part of these amazing United States to another. We’ve never before been out of the Midwest and now? We are about to be Southern y’all! The problem is … I love people too much – fiercely so, and with moving comes goodbyes; and goodbyes wreck me.

This past week I needed to say goodbye to my school … my students (present and former) and my friends. Do you know that the word goodbye actually comes from the 1500’s when the standard greeting was, “God be with thee.” I wish we still said that … a prayer in parting instead of a single word ringing with finality. I’m blessed enough to be going from a place that believes the same. I was grateful to be sent off with a jar of words … glitter … and a motto to live by.

Esse Quam Videri means, “To be rather than to seem.” Authenticity, love, and intention have always been my primary ambitions, and I am ever-so-enchanted to know that in this place … among these people, I have been nurtured to be myself, and encouraged to be more than I ever thought I was worthy of becoming – a bringer of hope, a believer in change, and now a dreamer of what lies ahead.

In these next days and months there will be a great deal of change for my family and myself, but one thing is for certain … wherever I go, I want to be, rather than seem … and I never want to say goodbye to anyone I’ve had the chance to know.

Please pray for me; I need you readers … your encouragement carries me more than you know.

All my love and God be with you,

Elle

 

 

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

 

 

4.28.19 Even Then … Only Slightly

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Lately I feel like my life is a little bit out of control. There is too much going on and I can honestly say that when we go through phases like this … seasons like this … that is when the most ill-timed circumstances find their way to me, becoming grand interruptions I don’t have time for. “You do it to yourself,” you might say. “You’re too busy!” Well, that might be so, but it isn’t the busy so much as the nothing-goes-smoothly-like-it’s-supposed-to that gets ridiculous!

Cormac McCarthy once said, “You never know what worse luck your bad luck just saved you from.” That is a sage piece of advice, but when you’re going through it? It sounds like something I’d like to see sewn onto a pillow so I could punch it! Right now, besides my husband and I working full time, our children are in a theater company and their first play is this coming weekend. Our daughter is in two different dance groups (both about to end, but about to and over are very different things). Then, our son is a travel soccer player. That’s not to mention regular things like school … or piano lessons. Or PETS! Don’t get me started!

You know how when you are going through a rough patch of luck, you look back on it later and it’s kind of funny? Well … I’m not there yet, because even then, even in retrospect, it’s only slightly amusing. At this moment though, I figured I’d share my luck so you could laugh and relate with me. If I knew someone was laughing with me, maybe I could push past the near-tears and laugh too.

Here we go –

We just cleaned our entire house! (Spring frenzy style!) We put all of our unwanted pieces in the garage, and when we called the company 1-800-Got-Junk to come and pick up the items we wanted gone, our garage door broke! We couldn’t get it open and needed someone to come fix it so the junk people could get the items out! That was a costly adventure.

My husband just put brand new dark mulch all around our house. Our white Great Pyrenees puppy really loves it. She also loves to dig. She also loves to rip the new drain pipe from the side of the house and carry it around like a trophy in the backyard. At six months old, she weighs fifty-six pounds and I had to hoist her up and carry her like a sack of potatoes across the house so her muddy feet couldn’t mess up my newly washed floor.

Our kids said they had a “little” homework left before bed on Sunday night. I said, “Okay but I want you in bed by eight because you have your play this week and will be out until past nine every night.” At 9:40 my nine-year-old is still at the table “finishing” her book report! ARGH!

This week I had to take our two cats to the vet for their annual check up. I also had to take the puppy to get her nails trimmed. Well, on the way there, one of the cats threw up. We found out one cat was severely underweight (Thyroid) and one cat was severely overweight (fat). The trip cost over three hundred dollars! Oh, and then the dog puked on the way home.

The pièce de ré·sis·tance? Well … Spring has finally come here in the Midwest – only not really. On Friday it was glorious and in the sixties with sunshine. We have flowers planted, and all is starting to bloom. On Saturday, we had a freak six-inch snow storm. My husband wasn’t home and asked me to find a way to protect the flowers, so between a tarp and a well-placed umbrella … we’ll have to see if they make it.

My friends … I am exhausted … and I realize that these are trifles in the grand scheme of things. And I know that someday (way in the future of next week) they might even be funny, but even then … only slightly.

All my love,

Elle