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 

10.6.16 Even Trapped Farts in Tiny Cars

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Having taught for over ten years now, I’ve come to find that anything, and I mean anything can become a teachable moment.  I’m constantly finding connections to things and ways to integrate them into both my curriculum and my parenting, but I’ve found that God is no different, and he uses moments, unexpected and unconventional as they may be, to do the same for us.  There are hardly any “unusable” situations or scenarios that cannot bring us back to a sense of understanding the deeper connection to our lives as a whole.  Even, I would argue … trapped farts in tiny cars. 

This morning, as you might well imagine from my apt description … this was my scenario.  My children and I were on our way to school, as usual, and as usual we were stuck between unpredictable, chaotic traffic patterns that had us spending way too much close-time to one another in my Mini Cooper. As if there wasn’t already an edge in the air, as the minutes unforgivingly ticked by, categorizing our arrival time into “by-some-miracle-only,” standing, my son decides that he can no longer possibly hold in his gas, and passes it – loudly.  His sister, less than a foot away from him in the backseat, immediately shields herself from the inevitable, pungent onslaught about to overwhelm the five feet of squared space we share.  

“You did that on purpose!” she accused, shirt pulled up over her mouth in a makeshift gas mask. 

“I did not, I swear, I couldn’t hold it!” he defended, giggling like … well – a boy. 

“Yes you did,” she insisted, “and now you owe us a quarter.  It’s a family rule!” 

Really laughing now, he replied, “I didn’t mean to trap us in my fart, and now you’re making me laugh and I’m gonna have to fart again!” 

“Fifty cents!” she cried indignantly as another wave let loose.

Stuck with nothing but open windows of a slow-crawling car, and a full-blast vent that seemed to circulate more that eradicate, the day started with difficulty, to say the least.  In that moment there was really nothing to do but sit in it, and slowly wait for the air to clear, and the opportunity to keep inching forward. 

Though I didn’t realize it at the time, (possibly from oxygen deprivation) I really think that experience metaphorically paralleled the rest of my day.  There were unforeseen technology glitches,  attitude adjustments, and calendar conflicts to deal with.  Nothing was easy or error-free … and more than once I wondered if my brain was stuck on some pre-set slow motion setting.  There were tons of questions, emails, meetings, and expectations that, well – stunk to say the least!  I was stretched a little thinner on time and energy than I had.  But in it all, I caught myself laughing, realizing that just like in the car, there was nothing to do but sit in it, slowly wait for the air to clear, and find every opportunity to keep inching forward.  

So thank you God for autocorrect, for five more minutes, and drive through Starbucks.  Thank you for dishwashers that work, puppy kisses when I don’t deserve them, and scrambled egg dinners.  Thank you for functioning dysfunctional families and students who think I’m hilarious (whether I’m trying to be or not).  Thank you for phone calls from mothers, texts from brothers, and giving me a husband as exhausted as I am to live in this whirlwind with me. Thank you God, for little boys in tiny cars, fifty cents, in mason jars, and all the perspective they bring. 

Praying for your tomorrow, and frankly mine as well. Find a way to laugh through it. 

Much love, 

Elle

9.28.16 The Memory Box

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I have this vintage box of letters in my office.  Faded with printed flowers and scrawling text, this box has, tucked within it’s brass latch, more memories than I’d ever be able to hold in my mind without its weathered assistance. All those years ago, when I began collecting the notes, scraps, photographs, and messages it now contains, I never could’ve known they would become so much more than the simple correspondences they might originally seem to be. 

There, layered in paper, are private jokes with friends, confessions from past loves, and pictures that hold me forever still on a page. And I am so thankful, that for whatever reason in my adolescence, I had the foresight to know that I’d need these reminders of who I was then.  The truth is, life doesn’t give us many opportunities for reminiscence, things go too fast, years blur in colorful streaks past my consciousness until I force myself to slow, and visit a memory.  

Some of these letters are joy personified, littered with smiles, and coded words that no longer make sense but invoke pleasure anyway.  Lined with plans of what we’d do, or where we’d go, or even where we had already been. Some, are harder though.  They are the letters that, even now, I can’t bear to read, but need to hold onto, because they are the last proof of the people I can’t let go of … not entirely at least.  Cataloged haphazardly, whether dark or delicious … each memory in turn serves its purpose, and found residence in that treasure box for a reason clear to me alone. 

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Like a silent-bound old friend, this box keeps my secrets, benign as they may be, and guards them until I am ready to whisper glances at them some random, nostalgic day. 

Some pieces of a heart remain a mystery. And open as one might claim to be, there will always be chambers and alcoves none can enter.  And so it goes. There are depths and passes that remain unexplored, but there are also pathways well worn with remembering.  

American Author Roman Payne captured the desire of a woman’s heart perfectly saying, “The only thing higher for a girl and more sacred for a young woman than her freedom and her passion should be her desire to make her life into poetry, surrendering everything she has to create a life as beautiful as the dreams that dance in her imagination.” 

My letter box reminds me of those beautiful dreams I once had, and gives me the courage to know that same girl, the recipient of each precious letter, is still in me somewhere.  It’s time we honor our hearts, our ambitions, and our imaginations.  It’s time to pay reverence to the memories that formed us, but to look forward to what is yet to come.  Like elongated silhouettes, memories can cast a lovely shadow … but only when you take them in context of the light before you here and now.  Walk on my friends. 

Elle

9.22.16 From the Other Side of Lost

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I have found,

(in my limited experience of finding)

that life

is worth

the struggle

That things like optimism, brotherhood and benefit-of-doubt

still have a place among this place

and time

It could be said I’m just naive,

and once, I was

But fortunately,

my unfortunate moments have indeed proven that life

isn’t

easy,

and so naivety is no longer my reason why

It’s true, that early on it was simple to be

just because

Because my path was lit with golden strands that showed me where to go

and faces

and chances

seemed to make their way to me

Back then, there was no such thing as making up a mind

when I thought I knew it all

And my smiles then were breezy,

and I gave advice out freely

and I didn’t have a silver-lineless cloud

It was common then,

to look at life as though it were my game

until one day

it showed me I could lose

For the first time I saw clearly

the haze and misperception

of perfection

that no longer

existed

The enchantment of ideas like

later,

soon,

or “someday,” lost their glimmer

and I felt my sparkle

just

begin

to fade

But in that in-between…

past “Who am I?”

“Where am I going?”

and

“What do I do now?”

I realized, that some people

the right people

whether they’d been lost

or not

were waiting for me

to be right where I was

exactly who I was

accepting me for all they knew I could be

The grace of life

are the people you meet in it

those God sent

to bring out the potential you’d

never

realize alone

And so I don’t say

naively

that life is worth the struggle

I say

from the other side of lost

that found

is bringing others

to the light you know

 

6/28/16 Don’t Fight Fair

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I always thought that the phrase “fight fair” was kind of stupid actually.  Instantly I think of the ridiculous pre-colonial “gentlemen’s war” rules of etiquette that dictated soldiers stand in rows and take turns firing.  As if anything could be more obtuse than standing before one another just waiting for a shot to come.  I much preferred Bruce Lee’s perspective, “Use only that which works, and take it from any place you can find it.”  The only problem with that mentality is – it works, and when it works, you can’t exactly take anything back. 

I don’t fight often, but when I do I wouldn’t say I nobly wait for a comment to come cutting my way.  I have a long memory and my wit compromises my words in magnetic negativity.  As Lev Grossman once wrote, “In a way, fighting was just like using magic. You said the words, and they altered the universe.  By merely speaking you could create damage and pain, cause tears to fall, drive people away, make yourself feel better, make your life worse.”  And at the end of it all … whatever it is I’m fighting for or about, let’s be honest – it is rarely for a noble cause. 

As painful as it is to admit, most of my arguments are without true merit or intention.  They are the aftermath of a crummy day, resulting in a radioactive bad mood that permeates everything within the vicinity of me.  My husband and I were recently discussing this, and though we are rarely upset with one another, we do tend to give one another the brunt of our “left-over” day.  I am sorry for this, and yet it is a reactive pattern that forms whenever something disgruntles to the point of “letting it out,” by “taking it out” on whoever is nearest – and he always is.   

Peter Wentz said, “The silence is the worst part of any fight, because it’s made up of all the things we wish we could say, if only we had the guts.”  Well, unfortunately, I have to disagree … because I think in these pointed comments I say too much.  I remember too much.  I call forth memories like armor and use them to dispel any logical repartee that might be sound. 

This week, our pastor spoke about the power of forgiveness, and reminded us that it is not only our words that argue, but our actions.  A roll of the eyes.  Shunning a hug.  Vacant responses. And I was convicted at just how unfair I fought after all.  Like I said before, I’m not much into arguing.  I’m not a pot-stirrer; I don’t enjoy battles, and yet even in the here and there, infrequent times, I succumb.  And in those moments my words are effectively lethal in killing a mood, or ruining an intention.

There are things to call forth justice to, but my petty disagreements are not one of them, and I need to find a way to settle myself into a pattern of silence when confronted with my own disagreeable mood.  Just like having an umbrella over my head won’t protect me from sideways rain … fights aren’t ever fair, not really, no matter what key phrases or memories I cover myself in.  So from now on, though I’ll be imperfect at it I’m sure, I will try to at least think a little more about what is really worth fighting for, and trying my humanly best to forgive the rest.  I guess it’s time to turn the battle inward, and follow the thoughts of Stephanie Lennox, “I’ve been fighting to be who I am all my life. What’s the point of being who I am, if I can’t have the person who was worth all the fighting for?”  

Don’t fight fair, fight for something.

Elle