11.27.17 Come Boutique With Me!

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Tis the season … you know the one – BLACK FRIDAY, CYBER MONDAY, and every other ridiculous Christmas sale in the world! But you know what? A small part of me kind of loves it. I realize that this might seem inauthentic coming from someone who usually posts pictures of nature and family, but I’m just being honest, and a little bit girlie … shopping is fun.

Marcelene Cox once said that, “The quickest way to know a woman is to go shopping with her.” I’d say that is true half of the time. To shop for necessity is very different than shopping for fun, and this is the season of fun. This is the season of long layers, of high boots, and cute (not functional) hats. This is the season where stores present their A-Game, trying to entice, impress, and woo you – and who doesn’t like to be wooed? I love that this is the time of year when someone is hired just to say hello to me when I walk in. I love the displays that obviously took weeks to install and set right. I love the familiar melodies, the dash-of-pine and cinnamon scents, and the feel of warmth in every article of clothing artfully displayed for me to try on.

Shallow though it may seem, shopping actually holds some pretty precious memories for me. I remember being a kid and having my dad take my sister and I out to the mall at just about this time of year. Every store was literally bursting with colors and sights, sounds and smells; I’m pretty sure my dad couldn’t wait to get out of there, but he came anyway – for mom.

“Alright girls,” he’d say, “you need to help me find something special for your mom because she’s one special lady.”

One holiday season, I stopped at a jeweler and pointed to a matching pearl earrings and necklace set. Though my memory has faded out the pristine details, my dad tells me that I absolutely refused to accept any gift for my mother besides that set. Now, twenty-something years later, she still wears it.

Another milestone of holiday shopping was with my mom, sister, and grandmother. While they’d be scanning the aisles for deals, I would sometimes look right along with them and just as often ride the cart down those same aisles (regardless of the furtive glances tossed my way) just so I’d not have to walk another step. My mother always teared up a little when she saw the “generations” just being girls together.

Regardless of whether you love it or hate it, shopping is an intimate gesture, and usually done with those we love and trust the most. Sadly, though I have an abundant blessing of friends and family, I often find that they are scattered across the country and I am left to shop alone. My mom always says, “I don’t mind being alone, I like my company.” Most of the time (for myself) I agree, but sometimes my own company simply isn’t enough. That is when I find a great opportunity to make what I call “insta-friends,” random-strangers that I call on to tell me their honest opinions about whatever it is that I’m considering purchasing. You’d be surprised how many people are willing to be a friend in a pinch!

Speaking of friends, I want you to know that this is what you have been to me – all of you. You, my readers, are my silent company … my writing support system … my team, and I thank you for that. The realization of this, that you are my confidants, has made me realize that I wish I could shop with all of you! While that is practically impossible, I was inspired to start a mini-boutique on my site. THIS QUOTABLE LIFE BOUTIQUE is my attempt to put words into gifts. If there is an interest, I plan to grow the baby business with PayPal and an increased product line, including collaboration with other witty, wordy artisans, jewelers, and crafters. We shall see, and time will tell, but I am so excited for you to take a peek, share with your friends, and express your desires and wishes for what you’d like this to be.

Some come boutique with me! Let’s make this moment, this itty-bitty start our own holiday shopping memory. If you have interest in a product, simply contact me through the CONTACT ME PAGE, or on the THIS QUOTABLE LIFE BOUTIQUE page!

Love you darlings, and as always, thank you for your love and support,

Elle

7.7.17 Publication News

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I wrote this piece some time ago with the hopes that someday it would find its way off of the shelf, and IT HAS! Live today on Bella Grace Magazine’s  blog Grace Notes, you can read my newest publication, Love Letter to a Single Friend.

I pray that you will share it with everyone that needs to hear it … because they do … they need to know how singularly they are loved – how treasured they are to you, and to this world that needs their spirit so desperately. Help me spread this appreciation, help me gift this love.

With all my heart,

Elle

1.1.17 Seventeen Wishes

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It is the first day of the first month of a new year, and let me remind you – anything is possible. People always say, “Happy New Year,” but I want to offer you more than happy … I want to give you my own personalized list of seventeen wishes for 2017 that have nothing to do with resolutions (thank God). Author Francesca Lia Block offered great advice when she said, “Wish on everything. Pink cars are good, especially old ones. And stars of course, first stars and shooting stars. Planes will do if they are the first light in the sky and look like stars. Wish in tunnels, holding your breath and lifting your feet off the ground.” So, from someone who believes in the power of a wish followed by a prayer … here are mine for you.

  1. I wish you the longest of weekends … and the shortest of Mondays.
  2. I wish you laughter – the kind that makes your belly ache, tears run down your cheeks, and your breath come in pants and wheezes. 
  3. I wish you luxurious baths, filled with bubbles so thick you can’t see your toes.
  4. I wish you coffee … coffee every single day in only the BIGGEST of mugs.
  5. I wish you clearance sales when you don’t expect them.
  6. I wish you loads of time for reading books that fill your spirit with the power of pretend.
  7. I wish you marathon movie nights with loads of buttered popcorn and M&M’s.
  8. I wish you adventures that lead you to discover you are braver than you ever thought you could be.
  9. I wish you loads of sweet-dream sleep, complimented only by the cool side of the pillow. 
  10. I wish you ordinary delights, like perfectly toasted toast, a full gas tank when you didn’t expect it, extra cheese on your pizza, and a day free of any computer glitches at all.
  11. I wish you ice cream on a weekly basis, especially if it involves peanut butter or marshmallow sauce, sprinkles and cherry juice.
  12. I wish you memories … the type that flit into your consciousness and make you smile almost before you register that they’re there … like a friend who came to visit, bringing you “home” once again.
  13. I wish you a chance to step into the ocean, to stand somewhere with a view, to lean into the wind, and to remember that you’re a part of a story much bigger than your own.
  14. I wish you the appreciation of others, even people you don’t know … I wish you relationships, both old and new, that stretch into friendships you’ll never outgrow. 
  15. I wish you poetry, not the kind you read, but the kind you feel beyond the page.
  16. I wish you the opportunity to nurture your curiosity, to imagine what ifs, to discover new places, and to create space in your life to play.
  17. Finally, I wish you undeniable, unquenchable, unrestrained joy.  I wish you much beyond happy … I wish you unmitigated delight in believing that this isn’t just another year … but another chance to find the best version of yourself. 

It is an honor to know that somehow, my words have found you. I pray that this year I’ll continue to have the pleasure of your company, whether in person, or here as digital friends.  Your readership is one of my greatest sources of happy … so please keep visiting me here, and share this blog if you think anyone else would like to join our weekly word party. 

Literarily yours, 

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

9.8.16 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

9.1.16 School Year Sick

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I feel like a shadow of myself.  I look like me … sort of … and sound like me … well a version of me at least, but my mind is cloudy and gray.  I am sick.  The kind of sick that comes on fast and strong and unexpected.  Okay, I lied – not unexpected.  TOTALLY expected actually.  I just started a new school year, and let me say that 5th graders are not as in touch with cold-prevention hygiene as I would have hoped or assumed.

We are on week two, but from day one I had two kids coughing so vehemently I wouldn’t have been half surprised to see a lung fly across the room.  One boy was apparently too cool or too busy to be bothered with Kleenex, so his shirt sported crusty-polkadots for three days.  Then there are the sneezers who spray as if their noses were set to mist-mode.  Gross.  Lucky they’re awesome, minus the mucus.  But add to that fact that it was nearly ninety degrees every day last week, and we created the petrie dish effect.  Needless to say, I got a combination of whatever they had (minus the polkadots, I’ve still got enough self-respect to use a Kleenex).

Henry David Thoreau once said, “Tis healthy to be sick sometimes.” To be one hundred percent honest … I admire him hugely, but I’d kind of like to slap him in the face right now.  I’d like him to take a look at my puffy, bleary, bloodshot eyes, my cherry-tipped nose from friction with two boxes of tissue, and my perpetually red cheeks and ears as though I just got sunburned.  I’d like good ‘ol Henry to shout into my eighty-five percent blocked ears, or try to understand my pubescently-squeaky voice, or watch me pant as I climb a flight of stairs, and see if he feels the same.  Now, someecards I agree with. “Being sick can seem like all fun and games until you no longer live with your mom.” Or listen to their other divine truth, “You just don’t appreciate breathing out of both nostrils until one suddenly is taken away from you.”

Thoreau?  A fool.

Someecards?  Genius.

The best part is how we always get sick at the most inconvenient times.  I’m two weeks into a new job, so I can’t take off because it’d be more work to write lesson plans than to mask my fevered state with Advil and carry on.  Apparently my throat has a split personality now, because I had ice water on one side of me, and hot coffee on the other side for the same raw reason.

I am not complaining … okay I’m totally complaining – but I’m also grateful that, “This too shall pass.”  Thoreau might have had a little something to his comment … I guess feeling sick sometimes makes you appreciate all the times you’re not.  And in retrospect – oh who am I kidding!?! He’s an idiot and I feel awful.  I’m going to wallow and drown myself in mint shakes and mochas.

If you’re not feeling the best … I suggest you do the same!

Stay healthy,

Elle

 

8.18.16 My First Guest Blogger!!!

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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.

8.9.16 A “Bella” Day

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Aristotle once said that, “Hope is a waking dream.”  Can I just say that today I feel fully awake?  Another piece of mine has been published and so today you can find me on Bella Grace Magazine’s Blog!  I am always so impressed with the way words and pictures compliment one another just so … like stars and wishes, they magically fit, and the image chosen is summertime dreamy.

So here’s to Pretend, the theme of my piece, … and reality, because my words are really out there in print today!

Please pass on this post, and take a peek at my favorite magazine in the world.

Facebook: @bellagracemagazine

Twitter: @bellagracemag

Instagram: @bellagracemagazine

Elle Harris

7.13.16 You … Yes You!

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Today is my friend’s birthday, she is turning 34 and we have been “best” friends since we were in 6th grade and she hated me.  I think it as a good a way as any to begin a friendship.  She thought I was a matchy-matchy, goodie-two-shoes … she was right.  I thought she was exciting and a little bit scary.  I was right.  And somewhere in the middle, we decided to give one another a try, and then I was hooked.  Like Jane Austen once said, “There is nothing I would not do for those who are really my friends.  I have no notion of loving people by halves.  It is not in my nature.”  And for the past twenty-three years, I have loved every “whole” crazy minute of our friendship.

In honor of her, and just how much she means to me, I am therefore willing to embarrass myself (and by extension her) just to prove the everlastingness of our bond through a top ten memories list.  So … to Rebecca …

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10. First sleepover.  When we were eleven, and taking turns having crushes on the five suitable guys in our class, you came over and made me laugh SO HARD I peed my pants!  I couldn’t even blame it on the fact that I had children … or some weakened bladder disorder!  You were just THAT funny!

9. Tripping practice.  We thought if we could just practice enough, it’d all be alright if we fell in public because we would have learned to fall gracefully.  How did it end?  With you “practice” tripping me on the playground as I ran away from you, thus making me rock with momentum when you did, in fact, trip me and I went face first into the concrete!  (Emotional and physical scars still healing from that one!)

8. Softball game.  I had to pee, you had to pee, so we decided to climb the fence in our softball uniforms, but mine was too big and I got caught on the fence at the top!  What did my best-ie do?  Help me down?  NO!  Laugh her butt off as I stayed stuck for a good three minutes, trying my best not to cry, have an accident, or fall off the stinking fence!

7. Cutting hair.  Never a good idea, this one.  And though I have you to thank for growing out my ridiculous bangs (that took three consecutive sleepovers to do) I don’t think either of us was particularly adept with the scissors.  I just remember, “Wholly crap that’s a lot shorter than I was planning,” followed by a, “Yeah, but it’s still not straight … just a few snips more and it’ll be good.”  It wasn’t!

6. Cooking.  We decided to make breakfast for my family.  It was our first time making eggs, and they really turned out into little pellets of the hard, yellow, rubber variety.  I’ll never forget you looking at me and saying, “It is how they’re supposed to be right?”  and me saying, “Maybe we should just stir them a bit longer.”

5. Twins.  Convincing some guy at a party that you, dark-haired, golden-eyed you, were related to blond-haired, blue-eyed me … it took all of your inner strength not to laugh in his face, but you succeeded.  “And the funny thing is,” you told him, “she was the dark-haired baby and I was the blonde!”  I was in awe of you and your gumption that night.  You were always the brand of bravery that I craved!

4. Dating.  You were there for the thick of it all.  It began with sneaking-peeks at my sister and her boyfriend, though she always knew we were coming.  How?  We were so stealthy with your guffaw of a laugh!  After that, we progressed to our own relationships.  From you, patching up my confidence after being dumped in sixth-grade, to standing beside me at my wedding, there is not one significant relationship I was able to get out of or stay in without you!   Best relationship counselor ever.

3. Driving.  From tickets and getting lost to hydroplaning in a storm and using your dad’s van, you’ve always been the #1 most supportive co-pilot of my life.   Why?  Because where others might offer sage counsel or even some backseat driving advice … you proceeded to just laugh at whatever current predicament we found ourselves in, whether it was funny or not!  (Usually it wasn’t, by the way, but you got me giggling along like an idiot anyhow!)

2. Children.  I’ve always loved kids.  I went from babysitter, to nanny, to teacher.   You’ve always been slightly less tolerant of them, having taken care of younger siblings your whole life.  So isn’t it just fate that you’d have twice the amount of kids that I do!?!  God must be laughing at that little twist of our fates!  I can’t tell you how much I love that you think I know what I’m doing and call me with, “What do I do with her now?” questions when I barely have a clue for my own!  Still, I love the confidence you have in me, and I love the Godson you blessed me with!

1. Opposites.  Our entire lives we have always been 100% opposite.  You are bold and brave and hilarious.  I am a rule-follower, a goody-goody, and a dreamer.  You are decorative, fashionable and sassy.  I am a writer, a nerd and quirky.  We look at things from different sides, we see opposite angles, and you’ve always inspired me with your self-assurance as I still look to be that sure.  You’re one of my favorite things about myself.

I am proud of you … proud to claim you as mine.  And I love that out of all the middle school weirdos … you … yes you, picked me.

Happy birthday my crazy-amazing friend.  I love you forever.

Elle