11.4.20 Lost and Found

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The worst possible reality was hers – she had just received the news that her daughter died. Had just gone through the funeral. Had just tried to return to something as “normal” as a soccer game … with the deep seated reality that nothing would ever be normal again. That was where I found her.

After the awkward, fragile niceties, I broached the impossible question, “How are you?”

“All I want to do is talk about her,” she said. “People don’t know if they should bring her up or not, but I want to remember everything. She was my best friend.”

I had nothing to offer her aside from my tears – my tears and a memory.

“I’ll never forget the first time I met her,” I handed over my words gently, wrapping the moment in my softest tone. I remember her eyes – hungry with hope, with desire for any fragment of a memory I could give her. “She climbed in my lap and touched my freckles. Then she told me I had a lot of polka-dots.”

And she laughed.

And I laughed.

And I knew it was the bereavement gift she needed.

I believe the most precious commodity we have to give, to trade, and most importantly to keep, are memories. The immeasurable value in giving a hidden chapter to a story you thought was over … what could possibly matter more than that? What could ever replace the value of another page? Another line? Another word spoken from a “voice” you never thought you’d hear from again?

I’m writing to ask a favor. Please share a memory … no matter how small or insignificant you think the interaction might be. Send the picture, share the card with their signature, and always tell the story. Keep trading the hope of memories lost, and found.

4.21.20 Tenacity

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“Carry each other’s burdens.” Galatians 6:2

My favorite illustrator and great friend, P. Marin, once posted her word of the year … I fell in love with it and, after seeing it, asked if she could illustrate my favorite word on commission. Thus, this delightful little creature was born! P. Marin said, “It’s you,” and I’ve never been so flattered!

So … from her and I … hang on friends … this won’t last forever and we believe you’ve got all the grace, moxie, and tenacity to carry on. If you’re feeling weak or overwhelmed, send me a note and I’ll send some words to shield you. I’m hanging on, and until you can strengthen your grip, let others help carry you. All my love.

Elle

 

4.2.20 A Stranger’s Smile

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I fell asleep with my son, putting him to bed last night. I woke up this morning by falling out of his bed. I realized, in that cold, hard moment on the floor, that my predicament was quite the metaphor for how I’ve been feeling lately. Every day I wake up with a bit of a shock, a little rocked and shaken, a little dazed – needing a moment to reorient myself before standing up again.

Anyone else?

I asked a student of mine recently how he was doing and he said, “You know, I think this is going to be one of those things that changes you for the rest of your life. My great grandparents went through the Great Depression, and for the rest of their lives they were really careful with money and lived a simple life. I feel like this is going to be our big life event that changes us, and someday I’ll scream at my kids to ‘wash their hands better,’ because they just can’t understand what I’ve been through.”

Wisdom. I think he’s right. I think that this event is unlike anything the world has known in my time of living on it. In some ways I appreciate the pause, the time with my family, the dinners and walks. But in other ways Spring Break felt more like a Spring Breakdown … becoming acclimated to working remote from jobs that were not designed that way, and realizing that even outdoor escapes like parks and preserves are closed.

One of my closest friends said, “I hate that it’s called ‘social distancing.’ It should be called physical distancing. We shouldn’t be trying to make ourselves less social.”  It’s weird for everyone. It’s hard for everyone. So be gentle. Be kind. And don’t forget to be humane in your humanness. I feel like when I have ventured out for my weekly groceries, people cast their eyes down and look away from one another … like everyone is a potential threat. Stay six feet apart, but SMILE!

There was an elderly gentleman at the grocery waiting in line like me, and we got to chatting. I told him my frustration with people’s social ineptitude, and he said, “You know, someone took a picture of me the other day and said they couldn’t recognize me because I was scowling. I didn’t even know I was.”

“Well you’re smiling now,” I said. “And I’m honored you spent your smile on me.”

So, like me, you might be feeling a little rough-around-the-edges and sore. Life has taken us for a tumble … but don’t forget to be yourself, don’t forget to care about the smiles of a stranger that might be your job to bring about.

All my love and prayers,

Elle

11.19.19 Not Alone

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“Life’s under no obligation to give us what we expect.”
Margaret Mitchell

Sometimes I think that I have it all figured out … and then I realize that I absolutely don’t. I’m not sure if I’m caught somewhere between fate playing with destiny, God trying to teach me a lesson, or the devil trying to mess with me. Am I alone in finding it difficult to tell the difference? Like the weather that is forty degrees different from one day to the next, so too are the waxes and wanes of how my days progress. I can feel like I’m completely “there” one moment, and completely “lost” the next.

Maybe it’s a way of staying humble? Maybe it’s a reminder that we are dependent on more than our own strength? Maybe it is just life! Regardless of what it is, or who it is, I want you to know that if you are too tired to fold the laundry … you’re not alone. If you are about as mentally capable as a celery stalk … you’re not alone. If you are thanking the Lord for the invention of frozen pizza on a Tuesday night … you’re not alone. If you are maybe grateful for the STILL leftover Halloween candy because you just need it today … you’re not alone.

Never.

No matter what your mood.

No matter what the weather.

No matter if you are a million miles away …

… my friends … thank you for being at the other end of this post, reading my silly strand of words and reminding me that I’m not alone either.

Elle

9.1.19 The Cost of Hope

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“Sometimes I think I might be a bit of a naive optimist, a bit of a wishful thinker … In a world where light blinks out, where forecasts dim, I imagine that hope really might conquer all … if only a few more people looked for it.” – Elle Harris 

 

This quote is a small snippet of my newest piece in Bella Grace Magazine. Fresh to the local bookstore stands, this bookazine, as I’ve come to call her, is just stunning. From Autumn-crisp colors to inspiring quotes, photographs, and articles, I hope you’ll find half as much joy reading it as I did being one of the writers.

This piece in particular meant a great deal to me because I wrote it soon after the passing of my grandmother. I realize that being in my mid-thirties, I was lucky to even have her this long, but logic and the heart don’t always coincide. I miss her every day. And yet, just as the poem shows, life takes turns with our emotions. If my grandmother taught me anything, it is to pursue joy and hope at all cost … and if believing in hope costs you everything, well, then it is still well worth it.

I hope this fall season has you believing in the beauty and magic of this extraordinary, ordinary life.

All my love,

Elle

3.5.19 Sometimes, They Do

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Anak​ sokhasabbay​ te. No … this is not a typo. It is Khmer, the official language of Cambodia, and it means, “How are you?” It is also the only phrase that I can seem to get myself to remember on the occasions that I get my nails done by my sweet salon that is filled with Cambodian women. I have gone to this salon, two minutes away from my house, for a few years, and I have made friends with the wonderful owner and her staff. I know who has a baby girl, and who has a baby boy. I ask after their families and when they might go on vacation. I make pleasantries and ask them, each time I go, to teach me a new word or phrase, but so far, “How are you,” is all I can manage.

This time, as so many before, I sat down with one of the stylists, and chose my color. I hadn’t had this particular woman do my nails before, but I had seen her numerous times, on the edge of conversations … in the margin of the flurry of chatter around her. Sitting down, we made small talk and for a time, nothing was out of the ordinary – until it was.

A lot of people in my life say I talk too much – that I make conversation with everyone and anyone, and that I never leave room for silence. “Maybe people don’t want to always talk,” is something I’ve heard a million times. But my answer is always, “Then they wouldn’t talk back.”

And so I was myself, it seems I have little aptitude for being anything else. I talked. I asked. I questioned. And she answered. I asked her where she was from. Cambodia. I asked when she moved. She said she walked to Thailand when she was eight.

“Walked?” I asked.

“Yes,” she answered.

When I asked her to explain. She did.

Can I say,  and I am rarely ashamed of myself. I try to be open, honest, and caring. I love easily and well, and am always willing to learn something new. But sometimes, I realize that I not only can be ashamed … but should be. Because I simply didn’t know. A minor in history of all things … that is what I have! And yet I knew nothing about Cambodian’s sordid history. Between 1975 and 1979 nearly 24% of Cambodia’s population was murdered through a massive genocide carried out by the Khmer Rouge regime under the hostile take-over of the government by a man named Pol Pot. Nearly 1.8 million people, mostly educated and well respected members of society, were killed with an attempt to rid the cities of their progress and set the country’s people to be agrarian (farm) laborers. She shared that her father, an educated man who spoke seven languages, was taken, and never returned. She shared that she and her mother and sisters were split up by age to work in different labor camps. She shared that it was her three-year-old sister who found them and reunited them to one another, and that sometime later, her brave mother and two sisters walked endlessly to reach the Thailand border. She shared that they hid in ponds with straws in their mouths to breathe as shooting picked up around them. She shared that when they arrived, they were placed in internment camps, and only years later, when her aunt had made it to America, worked for three years to grant them sponsorship, and flew to California to make a living, was she really free. She shared that she wrote about the experience of losing her father, and won a youth poetry contest.

And then another nail technician came over. She said something in a quick, clipped way, and took the storyteller’s place. “She’s taking too long,” she said. With heavy, knowing eyes, she walked away.

Before I left, I found her, hugged her, and asked her to bring her poem so that I could read it when I came back. She said she thought she knew where it was.

I went home and asked my husband, a VP of International Sales and Marketing if he knew the story of Cambodian genocide. He did not. So I researched it, and sure enough. The experience of her life and the lives of millions of others was splayed across thousands of websites.

Shame has no place among those who hope to make a difference. So I am no longer ashamed. But I am asking you to join me in knowing this tragedy … in feeling its gravity and honoring its victims. Mostly, I am asking that you take the time to ask. Because sometimes people don’t want to talk – but sometimes, they really do.

All my love and peace,

Elle

 

2.26.19 Spring

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“Spring is the season of what’s next? Of not quite what I was and still stepping into what I might be.” 

Friday marks the distribution of the next Bella Grace issue, of which I am blessed to be a part. Two articles made their way in this time, and with the winter we have had, I can honestly say that Spring is where my heart is. New possibilities … the winds of change … the blossoms of hope … this is a time of year I can find myself leaning into. I close my eyes to imagine a street of Cherry Blossom petals,  a whisper of wind scented honeysuckle, or fresh puddles daring me to splash. What is it about Spring that sets you to satisfaction? I’d love to hear! Dream with me dreamers. It’s not too far away.

Elle

12.24.18 Miraculously Still

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I wonder if the night was silent 

because it was too overwhelmed to speak

Maybe the fractals of light 

cast by the Bright Morning Star

were so incandescently stunning

that it somehow took nature’s breath away

and the gravity of heaven coming to earth

on the words of a promise

spoken by the lips of angels

resonated through the foundations of the world

in echoed whispers too sacred to be heard at all 

It might be that the love

transposed from ethereal divinity

into a mother’s young heart

was simply too pure to be translated into the

 imperfect reduction of words

Some feelings

after all

are simply beyond

Regardless of the why

the result of that ancient coming 

was simple

breathless

beauty

And the captivating 

overwhelming

absence of noise

must have come 

from the pivotal essence of it all

For one moment

for one breath

all

miraculously

was still