1.24.18 Not a Bad Day’s Work

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Whenever a year ends with my students, and they get sad about leaving, I tell them that I am like Mary Poppins. I am there to be with them until the wind changes, and when it does and they no longer need me, they will forget all but a pleasant memory or two. Sometimes the truth of this fills me with a bit of melancholy, but then I have days like today …  and moments like this one … and I am overwhelmed with the reason that I continue to teach and do what I do every day.

My job as an educator usually falls quite short of anything that could be compared to glamorous. On a daily basis I adopt the duties and occupations within my classroom I’d never have chosen to sign up for. Between endlessly picking up garbage, redirecting misguided behaviors, and repeating myself constantly, I too have moments of, “What am I doing here.” And then – just like that, I’m brought back to the reality that there is no job more rewarding than this one.

Today my fifth graders and I were scheduled to finish reading the novel Peter Pan, and if you’ve never read it, may I say you are missing out incredibly. This is NOT a story for the light reader. It is filled with symbolism, allegory, and thematic resonance. I can think of many adults that would miss what it is truly about, but not kids.

For as long as I can remember I’ve tried desperately to hold onto my youth simply because children are smarter than adults, and I want to be THAT intelligent. Kids see things without the eternal fog of pessimism. They inadvertently understand truths that we adults would no longer consider in our jaded state of “prove-it-to-me.” They believe simply because believing is enough. I am witness to their ability every day, and oh how I wish I could promise them Neverland, but even the end of J.M. Barrie’s masterpiece cannot do that.

As Peter Pan comes to a close, Wendy chooses to grow up, and Peter comes back one more time to visit, not knowing she had fully aged to an adult. The narrative tells of how Wendy wishes she didn’t have to tell the truth to Peter, “Hello Peter,’ she replied faintly, squeezing herself as small as possible. Something inside her was crying, ‘Woman, woman let go of me.” At this point in the story my students and I stopped and discussed how we all have a childish heart inside of us, wishing to draw us back to simpler times when we were unafraid and sure of everything we now question. And in that fragile moment, on the verge of tears, these amazing students got it. They understood the beauty of the age they are both a part of and transitioning from.

We went on to discuss how there are things we wish we didn’t know, but do, and other things wish we did know, but are no longer able to believe. As I read the conversation between Wendy and her daughter, the kids were silent.

“Why can’t you fly now mother?”

“Because I am grown up, dearest. When people grow up they forget the way.”

And I saw it in their eyes. The moment of recognition that this isn’t just a story about a boy not growing up, this is a story about the choice to believe in everything childhood stands for. In the story Peter describes himself, “I am youth. I am joy.” My students and I talked about that being what we carry away from this novel. Joy is a choice, youthful imagination is something to covet and protect. And teaching, with its many challenges, is still the most magical profession I can think of. Where else can you carry a child’s understanding from one age to another? Where else can you see the wonder alight their senses from a classic story? Where else can you impart to them the value of their precious time being young?

So today, I am not necessarily winning any breakthrough awards. I am not making much money or traveling to exotic countries, or influencing the masses … but I got to converse with the smartest people on the planet, I got to travel to Neverland and back, and I got to feel (for a moment) like the world was a little bit brighter because of the sparkle of wonder in my students’ eyes. Not a bad day’s work after all.

12.5.17 Believing Anyway

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“Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love.” Hamilton Wright Mabie

It was over a year ago now, that much I remember, when I fell asleep crying because I knew that someday, I’d have to tell my son the truth about Santa Claus. I remember it distinctly, because the moonlight was bright, and my pillow was salty and damp with heavy tears continuing to stream and soak in as I silently continued to weep. It was the idea of someday that pained me – the idea that someday I’d have to make him grow up just a little bit more … and it hurt, but I carried on and calmed myself with the solace that “someday,” was not today.

A few days ago, “someday” came. As a child I never understood the term bittersweet, or when people tried to tell me that pain could be beautiful. But now? As a mother? I understand.

He came to me on a Friday night, after school, after piano lessons, rumpled and boyish and wonderful. “Hey mom?” he hedged, “I know that Santa is real, but I just wanted to ask you, because … well … he is right?” And as much as I wanted to, as many times as I had before, this time was different because this time, his eyes begged to dispel a truth he already half-wished he didn’t know. Every time I’ve ever had to have a difficult conversation with my children, I’ve prayed God would just let me know the right time – and this was his.

In a series of too-short moments, I explained that Santa was a real and wonderful man. I spoke of his history, and his mission, and the way that he helped people believe in the beauty and love of giving. I said I believe in Santa, because I believe in his mission, and the magic and wonder of his mission lives on through us.

And he cried.

And I cried.

And I lifted that beautiful, long-limbed boy into my too-small arms and cradled him for just a moment. In the stretch of tears and sniffles, he turned to me with a weak smile on his now, somehow older face. “I understand mom,” he said, “and I believe in his mission too.” Then his expression shifted to something of worry and he asked, “But last year mom, when I got the new video game system – it was so expensive … I’m so sorry!”

And I cried again. Here this boy. This wonderful, God-given gift, who I would have done anything for just to give him one more day of believing, was selfless enough in his own heartbreak to worry about our bank account. After telling him it was nothing, that we gave from Santa’s spirit of giving, he looked at me with his deeply-watering eyes and hugging me said, “Thank you so much.”

I have experienced many a treasured Christmas, but this understanding, his ability to love beyond disappointment – that was a gift beyond words.

Wherever you are in the realm of the magic of Christmas … of first wishes, fond memories, or once-upon-a-snowflakes, I wish you the delicate, yet miraculously shatterproof love that keeps a broken heart beating … a tear-streaked face smiling … and a spirit believing – anyway.

Elle

 

 

9.4.17 Just a Little Like Audrey

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“As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands, one for helping yourself, the other for helping others.” – Audrey Hepburn

This Friday I will be turning thirty-five. I am not ashamed to admit it (though in my math mind I readily recognize it is half way to seventy). I am happy! If you’ve followed me for any length of time then you know that I adore birthdays, mostly because I believe in the power of wishes, of goodwill, and of love – all of these things happen on birthdays, and somehow leave me feeling infused with positivity.

Somehow, this year, both my mother and mother-in-law, have bought me gifts that revolve around the one and only, fabulous, Audrey Hepburn. One of the presents my mother sent me early was a boutique book about style, featuring Audrey on the cover. A day earlier, my mother-in-law had given me an Audrey-inspired lace dress, high-necked and sleeveless with a silk bow in the back. How both of these women knew I’d need to feel “Just a little like Audrey” on this key birthday, I’ll never know, but I’m certainly glad they did.

Inspired by their gifts, I’ve been watching my favorite Hepburn film, How to Steal a Million, reading about her iconic fashion sense, and skimming her best quotes. But do you know what made her best of all, worthy of praise and recognition? She had a true heart for love, for showing emotion to those who needed it, and for giving genuinely. Dedicating much of her life toward being a UNICEF Ambassador, Audrey replaced her film career with volunteerism. She is noted as having said, “Success is like reaching an important birthday, and realizing you’re exactly the same.” She was humble. She was gracious. She was a classy, intelligent lady.

More than any other year, in this last I have pushed myself as a writer. I have blogged, guest blogged for others, published poetry in magazines, went to conferences, submitted novels to agents, and began more than my fair share of new endeavors. And yet, here I sit … waiting. My son asked me today, “Hey mom, you have one book published and a bunch of magazine stuff, but when are you going to get another book published?” When indeed my dear!?! How is it that we humans are SO good at doing, and SO bad at being? Ambitious and restless, I find that I revert so quickly back to, “Where am I going?” that I rarely look back and appreciate where I have been.

And this is why I think this year’s birthday wish is to be a little more like Audrey. She reminds us that, “The beauty of a woman is not in a facial mode, but the true beauty in a woman is reflected in her soul. It is the caring that she lovingly gives – the passion that she shows. The beauty of a woman grows with the passing years.” Just now, I’m going to believe that she was right, and this is true. I may or may not get published again in the coming year, but I know my passion will continue to light the path of my words. I most certainly will earn myself a few more smile lines (wrinkles) and a few more strands of silver in my hair, (that I will promptly highlight, thank you very much) but I will also take time for long conversations and lingering hugs just because.

This year, I will nurture my best-self. I will polish my soul to shining. I will guard my faith. I will raise my head high and smile at the “what ifs” to come. I will laugh. I will wear dresses. I will step (in heels) toward those who need me. I will wear my heart on my sleeve, and hold the hand of whoever needs mine. I will be, just a little, like Audrey.

All my love darlings,

Elle

2.5.17 A Little Angel Will Call You Barbie

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So I have many, many faults. Of this I am quite aware. I talk too much. Worry too much. I’m busy. I’m somewhat stubborn. I’m loud. But I would say that one particular strength of mine is my transparency. I don’t ever really try to conceal my true self, because I have a feeling (with my heart-on-my-sleeve personality) she’d just come out anyway. In the spirit of transparency, I am going to be honest. Lately, I’ve been feeling that I look old. Audrey Hepburn once said, “And the beauty of a woman, with passing years only grows.” I think she was right metaphorically, but sometimes, mirrors speak louder than figurative language. 

About a week ago, I was really hung up on the glints of silver peeking around my highlights, and the forehead creases that never seem to ease up, even when I try to tell my face I’m done being expressive. This self-criticism might have been amped up due to a certain time of the month when us women get a, heightened sense of emotion let’s call it, but that was beside the point. I was feeling insecure.

It isn’t ironic, therefore, that little hints (I’m certain were dropped by the devil himself) kept rubbing my doubts in my face. “Here’s a new age cream,” I heard one co-worker say to another, you’ll love it.” I leaned in closer, thinking that the fifty-something, lovely teacher with less wrinkles than I had didn’t need it, and I nearly swiped it off her desk when she wasn’t looking. Then, I came upon an infomercial, raving about the way his formula revolutionizes the skin cream world. Would you believe I wasted a half-hour watching before I was smart enough to look up the credentials of the guy, only to hear that the “doctor” wasn’t recognized in any of the institutions he bragged about working at. Finally, a friend of mine said the one thing that was sure to break me, “Your husband has such a babyface … don’t you think?” 

Insert expletive here. 

I was a little more than freaking out at that point, and when I went home that night, I decided to work out my frustrations by working out. Nerd to the core, when I work out I often watch documentaries … strong body, strong mind and such. Anyway, I decided to watch a show about the Edwardian Age, which demonstrated how, though inventive, many of the newest technologies were actually quite damaging to your health, if not fatal. Imagine my delight, therefore, when they began talking about the beauty treatments women underwent, trying to maintain their youth and elegance. In the next half-hour, I learned that many women went bald, trying to use new electric curling irons that burned their hair off. Women used facial products and powders made from camphor, bleach, lead, and ammonia to keep their skin unblemished. At the most extreme, they would eat arsenic wafers, which they were told, would take care of any offending skin problems. 

Insane and sad as it was to hear it, I felt a little flick on the forehead from God in that moment, to appreciate that I was not quite that desperate. I’m embarrassed that it took so drastic a program to knock me back to my senses, but then, as I said before, sometimes I am a bit stubborn. Sophia Loren, one of the most iconically beautiful women of any age described that, “There is a fountain of youth: it is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of people you love. When you learn to tap this source, you will truly have defeated age.” 

Yesterday I was at my niece’s birthday party, and there was an adorable three-year-old there who looked up at me, smiled, and turned back to her mother saying, “She looks like Barbie.” I laughed, taking it as a compliment, though Barbie is fifty-eight, and I am only thirty-four. After immediately falling in love with that kid, I did a little review of my insecurities only two weeks before. The truth is … I’m not super excited about my forehead creases, but I’m not about to stop being expressive. I’m not a huge fan of tinsel-colored hair, but I’m certainly grateful to have the extra sparkle. I don’t always appreciate when people (out of concern only of course) tell me I look tired, when I know those dark circles are hereditary. But it’s all a part of the wheel. You can’t have living without aging, and I’ll choose my crazy, loud, exhausting, wrinkle-inducing life anytime. Once in awhile God will make you laugh at yourself and be okay with it all – once in awhile a little angel will call you Barbie – and all those times in-between, I’ll do my best to appreciate the reasons for all of those smile lines I’ve achieved. 

Stay young-at-heart,

Elle 

 

11.4.16 Instead of Counting Sheep

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The other night, I couldn’t sleep.  This rarely happens to me.  Usually, I am a master at conquering the pillow, but that night …  it eluded me.  Instead of counting sheep, however, I ended up letting my mind take over – never a good thing.  And in about ten minutes, I was crying about how  this might very well be the last year that my son believes in Santa.  Crazy that I would lose sleep over this, and yet it is a very real, very deep heart-hurt for me.  Because things like Santa, and Neverland, superheroes or fairies, represent so much more than characters from a storybook or holiday … they represent wonder and imagination, and the power of pretend and what if?

Don’t you remember how it felt?  Believing in things you couldn’t explain and delighting in the mystery of it all?  I want that feeling to stay for them.  I would protect it at any cost if I could, but I can’t.  People talk.  Kids overhear.  Beliefs shatter, and reality sets in … spoiling everything.  My husband tries to console me saying that since I never lost my imagination, they won’t either.  It is in the way we live and perceive things, not in who they do or don’t know is real.  I hope so.

I guess it ties back into the same problem I have with the word “forever.”  I am always equal parts shocked and shaken when people say, “I’ll live here forever,” or “This is our forever plan.”  I literally shudder.  And I can’t decide if this means something is wrong with me in terms of commitment, or in terms of perception.  I feel like the word puts an end to our stories … and it leaves no room for the unwritten possibilities to play.  There is something beautiful about order, and planning … but I like my personal definition to somewhat resemble Roman Payne’s description of a character in his book The Wanderess, “She was a ‘wanderess.’ Thus she didn’t care about money, only experiences – whether they came from wealth or poverty, it was all the same to her.”

I’m not sure I have any solutions to the inevitable, or if I’m even looking for any.  My children will learn the ways of the world soon enough.  I guess, I think we just need to live with equal parts intention and attention.  We need to not only hope for, but seek out opportunities to share in the wonder of everyday magic, and allow ourselves to travel a path slightly overgrown and wild, for that is where adventure lies.  So maybe the next time I can’t sleep, instead of counting sheep, I’ll focus on my “forever” plan … of making space for what-ifs, for imagination, and always, for pretend.

Wander far and wide my friends,

Elle

10.21.16 Yellow Spiders

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If you open my back door right now, this is the sight you’ll see.  A huge yellow spider crawling in its much-too-well-established web.  When my son saw it, he immediately ran for a broom to knock the strands apart.  I was literally five seconds away from the potential demolition, but I caught him in time, and made him stop.  I’m sure that seeing this Halloween beastie you’d think I’m crazy, but yellow spiders and I have a long history, and a memory I couldn’t possibly hold against them.  

Rewind back to my Freshman year of college.  It was October, and I was homesick.  I was overwhelmed.  And to top off the misery, our dorm had this curious infestation of yellow spiders and they were everywhere.  The showers.  The hallways.  The walls.  Each place you looked there’d be two or three to spot.  Their mustard-color impossible to miss.  While the resident advisor swore it was being taken care of, I remember nearly losing it when trying to fall asleep on my lofted bed to discover not two, not three, but four yellow spiders on my ceiling. 

In desperation of a new perspective, I called the one friend I knew would always be there to offer it to me.  The person I’d been friends with since sixth grade.  The one I’d gone through all of my awkward stages with.  The one I couldn’t ever scare away.  My favorite thing about him was that he never tried to fix things, he never tried to change them … he just always helped me accept whatever was, looking at it in a light I’d never have been able to see without his vantage point.  

I can’t honestly remember what he said about the spiders that night, but I do remember that he talked to me until I fell asleep on the phone … it was still clutched tightly in my hand the next morning. 

Tonight, hundreds of rotations around the sun later, I felt homesick.  I felt overwhelmed.  Life in its busyness took hold of my “keep-it-together” attitude and  rocked me.  I’m not the kind of girl who yells, but I yelled.  And I’m not the kind of girl who cries … but I cried.  I was inconsolable, belligerent and illogical.  I heard my rant about being tired, and tired rolled into unaccomplished, and unaccomplished rolled into aging, until all of my old demons of self-doubt and deprecation came out to play.  But in that moment of too many commitments and not enough time, of too many jobs and not enough hours, I recognized my desperation for a new perspective, and called that same friend I knew would be there to offer it to me. 

He answered.  He listened.  He understood, and then helped me do the same.  He let me laugh.  He let me cry.  Then he gave me the honor of sharing his struggles too.  He didn’t try to fix things, he didn’t try to change things … and once again I found peace in the assurance of having someone so genuine in my corner.  

J.K. Rowling once said, “We all have magic inside of us,” but I guess I’d like to think that some people, have just a little bit more.  Because I know that someone who is able to turn yellow spiders into reminiscent smiles – someone who can make the worst of the worst seem not-that-bad.  If you have magic like that in your life, embrace it … make time for it … and never let too much time pass before you tell that person just how valuable they really are. 

The newest member of the yellow-spider-protectorate,

Elle 

9.15.16 Black Sunshine

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American business man Frank Lane once said, “If you want to see the sunshine, you have to weather the storm.” Well, today, I think I was the storm.  Exhausted after another seemingly endless day, I dragged myself and the kiddos to the grocery store, pretty much letting them buy whatever they asked to throw into the cart because I was too tired to say no.  So what did we end up with?  A whole lot of food with impossible-to-pronounce, genetically-engineered crap for ingredients!  That’s what!

You see, starting a new school year, a new job, and a new slough of practice schedules while trying to maintain a house, and writing ambitions isn’t going so well. I’ve got about ten baskets of laundry I’m notoriously hiding under my bed, and an overweight Bernese Mountain Dog in need of more than a quick walk around the block.  To top it off … my awesome husband has found a perfect time for himself to work out daily, and has come home from work refreshed and fit, as his office has a built-in gym. Needless to say – if he tells me about one more “great workout” he’s had, he’ll be sleeping alone. I can’t seem to find thirty minutes to call my own, let alone three miles worth!

So today, after grocery shopping, and starting laundry, and taking care of the pets, and making dinner … I was feeling a little feisty.  As soon as my husband got home, I threw on the first clothes I could find and announced, that I needed to go workout before I, “lost it.”  Looking at me as if I already had, my husband grinned, reading the t-shirt I had on, “You are my sunshine.” Laughing at the irony of my stormy personality, he said, “Aww, you’re my little black sunshine.”

And you know what … it is okay. Today I am a little black sunshine.  I am happy, but in a bit of a thunder-cloud mood.  I’m ready to joke around, but am also ready to misinterpret or read into comments at will.  I am at peace with the fact that peaceful is not the way I feel … and if I had to define myself in one word at the moment … spitfire might be the one I’d choose.

There are plenty of things I don’t love about myself in this very moment: my new blemish (aka: zit), my cramped muscles, my straw-like hair, my nicked nail polish, my pile of to do’s, but that’s alright. Because I’ve decided, that just for today, I’d like to agree with Marilyn Monroe when she said, “Imperfection is beauty, madness is genius, and it’s better to be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring.” So I’m going to focus on what I do like about me right now instead.

I like my witchy-purple nail polish that’s just a shade too dark.

I like that my broodiest moods still involve lots of laughter, a bit of glitter, and “I forgive you’s.”

I like that while putting away groceries, my husband and I turned up  rap songs and danced in the kitchen until our kids came in from the yard and we ran to push, “mute!”

I like that even on a school-night (as a teacher) I let my kids stay up until way too late because it was the first time my daughter requested to watch Star Wars.

I like that half of my dinner tonight consisted of spoonfuls of peanut butter, and sea-salt chocolate caramels.

I like that my sister and I took a few minutes on our long-distance phone call to pretend that we lived closer, and even planned out what movie we’d watch if she were here.

I like that even on a day like this … when I’m an absolute troll, my mom texted me, “Goodnight beautiful.”

I like that tomorrow is another day … and I know it’ll be even brighter.

And I like that I should be sleeping, but instead am up typing to you … whoever you are … in the hopes that you relate, and find a likable list about yourselves too.

Carry on my little black sunshines – carry on.

Elle

9.8.16 Thirty-Four Wishes

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So it is my birthday.  My thirty-fourth birthday to be exact.  I know I’m not supposed to tell you that.  I am well aware that when you are no longer twenty-something, age is not supposed to be something that you share … but I’m sharing it anyway, because I’m grateful.  I’m grateful that in these thirty-four years I have memories that keep me in good company, regardless of the number that is growing ever on.  While I may not want the visual affirmation of decades of candles on my cake … I do like what my mother believes about wishes.  She says you get a wish for every year, for every fire lit sparkle that keeps hope dancing above the frosting.

I have no idea what this new year holds, but I wanted to mark and welcome it with a bit of a retrospective peek into who I’ve been, and what each year has held for me so far.  Me in  time-capsule-doses.  This life has been ordinary magic … and I thank so many of you for quite literally bringing my wishes to life.

Year One: I was blessed with an exceptional mom and dad, who inspire me still.

Year Two: My sister decided to love me, and has never stopped.

Year Three: My best-cousin and I become life-long partners.

Year Four: I believe with every fiber of my being in Santa Claus.

Year Five: I met the boy next door, who pretty much shaped my sister and my play days ever summer thereafter.

Year Six: I discover that not all teachers should be.

Year Seven: I become enamored with dinosaurs.

Year Eight: I discover the fun of Halloween (matching Pandas mommy and me).

Year Nine: I move for the first time.

Year Ten: I lose my dog … my first best friend.

Year Eleven: My kindred-spirit grandmother moves in.

Year Twelve: I meet my best friend.

Year Thirteen: I am immersed in the power of sleepovers!

Year Fourteen: High school begins, and all that goes with it.

Year Fifteen: I become a dancer.

Year Sixteen: I fall in love for the first time … and recognize the influence of a heart above all things … even sense.

Year Seventeen: I meet someone who calls me back to myself.

Year Eighteen: I go away to college with the best roomie a cousin could ask for.

Year Nineteen: I meet the man I am going to marry, who picks up and protects my heart.

Year Twenty: I enter into the School of Education to become a teacher.

Year Twenty-One: I graduate, get married, and get lost in Europe with my new husband.

Year Twenty-Two: I get my first teaching job, and become a first time auntie.

Year Twenty-Three: I experience infertility and the heartache that goes with missing something you’ve never even had.

Year Twenty-Four: I graduate from graduate school, and we drive the Romantic Road in Germany.

Year Twenty-Five: I get to know the wonder of my world … my son.

Year Twenty-Six: I choose to stay at home with my son and begin to write.

Year Twenty-Seven: I get to know the second wonder of my world … my daughter.

Year Twenty-Eight: I am diagnosed with Celiac’s Disease.

Year Twenty-Nine: My parents move, and my grandfather dies … and I feel the last bit of my childhood taken from me.

Year Thirty: We get our first puppy, who now weighs 100 lbs.

Year Thirty-One: I get my first children’s book published.

Year Thirty-Two: I taste a fairy tale and meet my husband in Cannes, France for the weekend.

Year Thirty-Three: I get published by my favorite magazine in the world twice.

Year Thirty-Four: Yet to be determined, but sure to be an adventure!

My wish?  Tell me about your most memorable year!  Share, post, comment! Give me the gift of words … they’re my favorite treat!

Elle

8.18.16 My First Guest Blogger!!!

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GUEST BLOG

This is my first, but hopefully not last blog hosted by a guest! An amazing writer, photographer and kindred-spirit … I am completely honored for her debut blog to be showcased on my site!  Please read through her bio at the end and encourage her with comments by finding her on Facebook and Instagram.  And now … without further delay …

Finding the Pieces Within – Courtney Johnson

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“We lose ourselves in the things we love. We find ourselves there, too.”
–Kristen Martz

I am a lover of life. I love finding the celebration in anything I can. Sure, life’s big milestones are amazing and forever ingrained in me. But I revel in the day to day! It is just as beautiful, and I desire to hold on to those feelings and moments, and relive them. It might seem ordinary to some, but to me, my life is exquisite. The prevalence of love and beauty is never lost on me. It is exactly that which I choose to center myself around.
Like any fairy tale, my life is not without its struggles; pieces of myself have come and gone, making way for what was necessary. And sometimes I put away bits of myself that no longer fit into a particular time and space. But those elements are still there, waiting for the perfect day to come back.
Unfortunately, one true piece of me that I have stifled for some time now has been the expressive part of my soul, the creator. She was right there with me for years until certain aspects of my life pushed her aside, trapping her, and closing her off from the best parts of me. Other pieces have since developed and taken over the show, but she’s been quietly watching and reminiscing … all the while hoping for a chance to show herself again.
Ever since I could write, I did. In fancy journals with vintage pictures on the cover, or old notebooks with the metal spiral poking into my skin as I carried them. I would tap away on my grandma’s antique metal typewriter, loving the sound of each key inking the paper. And Post-Its were essential; perfect, yellow squares to hold my lists, love stories, mysteries, poems, and songs.
It was no different with pictures. I documented everything with pictures … digital and physical albums containing tens of thousands of images telling the story of my life.
With a love like I had for pictures and words, I never understood why the version of me who created them could be lost. Back then writing and photography felt like something I just did – but I get it now, that version is the best version of me, she is still a huge part of who I am … and I need to keep her close.
Now I have this irrepressible urge to write, to photograph, to capture meaning in everything. Not necessarily to be heard by others, but to be heard by myself. Sometimes you just need you to hear you.
The old soul who values reverence, sentimentality, time, and music … they all rest with her … and she’s not satisfied with just a front-row seat anymore. She wants to create. She wants to perpetuate as much of my beautiful life as she can. She needs just a little stage time.
So if you notice her out and about, give her some encouragement, a smile, a hug, or a high five. Keeping her going will take some work, but it will be so worthwhile. If you feel like a part of you is missing or unfulfilled, look inside yourself. Chances are you will find a piece of who you used to be too. Immerse yourself in something inspiring and bring you out to play. Create a little space in your life to pick things up again, and don’t let the other pieces of you say no.
Here’s to you, dear one, for swooping in, befriending her, and helping me escort her out in a parade of wonder and amazement. She has been missed, and I need her more than I ever realized. She has so much to celebrate! This beautiful life I live is her muse, and she is mine.

Courtney’s Bio

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Courtney Johnson is a lover of life and a seeker of fun in every day.  As a teacher and mother of three little ones, she and her husband conquer each crazy day with love and laughter.  Along the way she pens thought-provoking narratives and captures beauty where she sees it, letting her life be her muse.

7/28/16 For the Fairies

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“Someday you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.” C.S. Lewis

This summer, more than any before has confirmed the notion that I’ve been dreadedly suspecting for some time … my kids are getting older.  Not just older, but older-older.  You know – the kind of older where they don’t need you to be there when they jump into the deep end of the pool, the kind where they can fix their own snacks, ride bikes without you running frantically behind their rear wheel, and even lead the games of tag and hide-and-seek at the park.  They don’t need head starts, or get-me-going pushes on the swings, and they can both now play more songs on a piano than I ever could. 

They are growing up.  And the thing is, I know this is good – a blessing even.  My husband and I got married young, had kids young, and planned on growing up with them.  Everything is going according to plan, except for the ever-present ache of watching time pass and trying desperately to memorize moments and make them stay.  When I look at his mischievous smile, or her bright eyes, I could cry for missing them.  It doesn’t make any sense, I know, to miss someone who is standing right before me, but that is a parent’s heart I’m afraid.  A melancholy mix of loving every memory that has built the individual you see.  

The other day, my nine-year-old told me he had a dream.  He dreamt he was in London, sitting on top of Big Ben and reading a book.  When I said what a cool global dream it was, he shrugged in noncommittal acquiescence. “Would you ever live in another country?” I asked him. 

“Depends on the country,” he said.

“Well how about England?” I continued.

“No way,” he said without hesitating a moment.

“Why not?” I asked. “I’d live there in a heartbeat.” 

“I know mom,” he said gently, looking at me with serious eyes, “but you and I aren’t the same person are we?” 

“No,” I laughed. “I suppose we are not.” 

And that is as it should be.  As Hodding Carter said, “There are only two lasting bequests we can hope to give our children. One of these is roots: the other, wings.”  It is true, I know this, and yet there are times when I look at these two beautiful, self-assured faces that seem so ready to take on the world – and I can’t decide if I’ve done something right, or terribly wrong that it happened so soon. I am so proud … but it’s still hard.

There has been one thing this summer, however, that has sheltered my fragile heart.  It has proven that we are not there yet, and there is plenty of time still for pretend.  My daughter, nearly seven now, decided to create a fairy garden.  And after taking care to choose the best doll house furniture, a mirror for admiring themselves, and plates and bowls to serve, she created a gentle rest stop for her fairy friends.  In the early morning hours when the dew still held fast to each grass blade, I tiptoed outside and sprinkled glitter in a trail from piece to piece. 

The wonder that both of my children had at seeing the results were heart-wrenchingly endearing.  She has proceeded to write them small notes.  He has helped her set up and check them each morning.  And though I’m running out of different colors of glitter, and my hand gets cramped from writing as tiny as I’m able … we have captured a memory that will stay. 

I have reminded her that all things move on … well, maybe I’m secretly reminding myself too, but for now – we are enjoying each sun-drenched minute of summer.  We are splashing cannonball-sized splashes, chalking every inch of our driveway, writing stories, catching dandelion wishes, drawing comics, going to bed way too late, and waiting, as long as it takes, for the fairies. 

Elle