10.9.18 Picturesque Song

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Every once in awhile, when I quiet my busy long enough to feel – life finds another way to bring me back. Sometimes it’s in the unexpected shift in the clouds that reveals an iridescent promise. Sometimes it’s the smile you didn’t see coming from the person who never does. And sometimes, it’s the words you didn’t know you needed to hear until you heard them.  Lately there’s a song that I’ve been loving called “Testify” by the band Needtobreathe. Although all of the lyrics speak to me, there is one line … isn’t there always … that draws me in and holds me.

“Mist on the mountain, rising from the ground – there’s no denying beauty makes a sound.” 

Doesn’t it just make you breathe slower? Close your eyes? And hear it?

What does beauty sound like to you?

I’m not sure I ever thought about it before, but now that I have, I often find myself wondering at what beauty sounds like, and little by little, my list grows.

Beauty sounds like the recession of a wave, pulling back the might of a swell.

Beauty sounds like the contented breathing of love sleeping evenly beside you.

Beauty sounds like the rustle of leaves … the hint of change swirling underfoot.

Beauty sounds like the quiet voice urging you one more time, to carry on.

Beauty sounds like a chance.

Beauty sounds like a choice.

Beauty sounds like a prayer, offered up without anything but remaining hope.

 

What do you hear? I’d love to know what beauty sounds like to you dear ones. Let’s make our own picturesque song.

Elle

9.8.18 Today, I Shall Make-A-Wish

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“I wish that every human life might be pure transparent freedom.”                     Simone de Beauvoir

Today I shall make-a-wish. It is my 36th birthday, so I suppose I am owed one officially, but in reality I actually make wishes on a daily basis. I wish on stars. I wish on prayers. I wish on eyelashes. I wish on the clock when it says 11:11. I am a supreme believer in the power of a wish, and even more so because of all the wishes-come-true I’ve experienced in my 36 years.

I am loved.

I am a mommy.

I have the best of best friends and family.

I have readers who care and actually look forward to what I say!

Could I be more blessed? I think not. One of my greatest faults, I think, is that I am a bit too much of a forward thinker … a “what’s next,” eager soul jumping at the chance for tomorrow. But what matters most, I think, is today. Bella Grace Magazine, just published the most beautiful September issue, and I hope you will read and embrace it. I have a piece in there about the beauty of friendship and the importance of relationship NOW.

Ironically, I am also published in Grace Notes, Bella Grace’s affiliate blog with a piece on “Living Our Legacy Now.”

Don’t wait precious friends. Love who you need to love. Make wishes when they present themselves. Make that lunch date today. Be your best self, right now.

My wish today is all of you,

Elle

8.8.18 My Kind of People

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“I don’t like noodles Auntie Elle.”

“We are AT Noodles and Company buddy, what did you think that they made here?”

“I don’t know.”

“Noodles. That’s what they make here.”

Blank stare.

“So what do you think you’d like to get then?”

Looking up at the menu board for a long time, my nephew studied the pictured options, finally resting on something near the bottom and pointing to it.

“Garlic bread.”

“Garlic bread?”

“Yeah, I like garlic bread.”

“Do you want something with your garlic bread like soup or a salad or something? I feel like garlic bread isn’t really a meal.”

Looking for another length of time, he pointed once more.

“Pineapple.”

“Pineapple … you want pineapple with your garlic bread.”

“Yeah.”

“Not buttered noodles or chicken or veggies.”

“No.”

“Well alright … garlic bread and pineapple it is.”

“And I’ll have six pieces instead of three so it’s more.”

“It’s more alright buddy, but okay, six it is.”

This was the conversation I had with my eight-year-old nephew when I was watching him and his brother and sister for a week this summer. Going from a mother of two to five had its challenges, but honestly, even on the worst day (like that one, where we were stuck in the dentist’s office for two hours and my daughter had a cavity for the first time and a major meltdown because she had a cavity for the first time) conversations like this happen, and then it is all okay.

I struggle with people who say they don’t like kids. What’s not to like? As a teacher and mother, I feel that little people are the absolute best kind of people – my kind. I find even more that adults that I truly enjoy are so enjoyable because I can still see the kid in them, and that is my favorite part.

Yesterday my son held the door open for me and said, “Hey mom … how old do you think you’ll be when you go to live in one of those nursery homes?” It took every ounce of my kegal-exercised-control not to pee my pants laughing. I told him that I figured somewhere in my eighties, but that he could help me make the decision based on how I was doing upstairs. God bless him.

I love the quote from Kent Nerburn that says, “Remember to be gentle with yourself and others. We are all children of chance and none can say why some fields will blossom while others lay brown beneath the August sun.” The thing is, I really believe that no child should ever be a child of chance. We have schools, we have teachers, and principals and aides and volunteers and absolutely NO excuse. By God it is our job to LOVE them, not to like or to tolerate, but to love. I might be stepping out here, but I would go so far as to argue that if you as a teacher do not love the students God puts in your way, you are no longer called to teach.

The last days of my summer are ebbing to a close, and as melancholy as I feel about the quickly fading fireflies and the earlier approaching mornings … I am still excited. I’ve bought new lantern globes, pencil toppers, and name plates. I’ve begun moving desks and replenishing marker supplies. I got new fringe rugs and about two-hundred colored paperclips divided according to shade because those are necessary to the balance of my room of course! I can’t help it. I am a kid person, because I am very much in touch with the kid in me, and I let her voice dictate a great deal of my adult decisions because she is still right.

Children (even naughty ones, God love them … they’re the most fun) are the best kind of people, and it takes nothing to make them happy. Frederick Douglass once said, “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” I pray this year, as the academic turn comes once again, that everyone will remember this quote and take the time to love a kid just by giving them five uninterrupted minutes of your time.

Even if they talk about Pokemon.

Or Shopkins.

Or bugs.

Or knock-knock jokes.

Or guess my number.

Or why questions.

Or foods they hate.

Or foods they love.

Whatever it is … give them time.

You never know, by doing so, we just might be healing humanity one garlic bread and pineapple dinner at a time.

Please share your favorite kid quote with me. I’d love to giggle along.

Elle

8.2.18 Crave

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I crave that creative place

where my mind 

is free to wander 

just a bit

to dabble and dance

in and out 

of a memory or two

lingering in places particularly sweet

and allowing my heartbeat to quicken with reinvented remembering

I love to fall into a good conversation

where the words tumble over themselves 

in an effort to explore the emotions born with them

pushing past inherited perspectives and perceptions 

searching for what is true in your shared or borrowed states of mind

and heart

I wish time was a little less relative 

to everything

and everyone

that there would be more of it in the space of a day

or a moment that doesn’t necessarily need, but wants more attention

so that a detail

a look

or a longing wouldn’t have to go without

I crave that creative place

I love

to wish

7.25.18 Someone Like Him

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“Sons are the anchors of a mother’s life.” – Sophocles

When he was eight, my son looked up at me and said, “Hey mom, when I go to college … you’ll come right?”

“Of course,” I replied. And can I just say that until the offer is formally rescinded, I plan to find an apartment with a four-year lease, and keep my word.

Eleven. That is what this almost-as-tall-as-me charmer just turned, and my heart hurts with pride and pain at the clock and calendar that refuse to slow for me, regardless of my pleas. Ironically, he asked for a pocket watch for his birthday, and every few minutes, when he checks the time, I feel my heart racing the second hand as the visceral reminder that our time is fleeting. Emerson once said that, “Men are what their mother’s made them.” Though he may be a few years off from being a man, I can’t agree with Emerson, because nothing I have done in the past eleven years could have made a boy this good … this pure-hearted, or kind.

Whether it is right or wrong, a reversal of roles or even always appropriate … I depend on this little guy – on his perspectives, his judgement, his prayers, and even his bravery. He is a shoulder worth leaning into because underneath those mischievous smiles, there is a core of integrity and honor that can only be heaven-lent. I’m not sure how fair it is for me to need him at times probably more than he needs me, but there it is. My truth.

Just the other day I ran into a friend with a son the same age. She said she just finished running four miles with another friend of ours with another son the same age. After our pleasantries, I watched her sculpted runner legs leave and turned to my son saying, “Do you think it’s bad I’m not a runner mom? All your friends’ moms seem to run and I don’t. I rollerblade and walk and …”

“Mom,” he said, maturity washing over his little man features. “That’s silly. If anything they should feel bad because they’re all the same and you do things that are different.”

Cry.

There isn’t a day that goes by in this boy’s life where he doesn’t find a way to make me feel special … where he doesn’t make me believe that even if he could have hand-picked a mother, he would have chosen me. What in heaven’s reach did I do to deserve this? To deserve him?

We have our moments. But honestly … I can’t remember any of them significantly enough to even soften the halo around this post. I pray, with all my mother’s heart, that everyone have a someone like him.

Happy birthday baby boy,

I love you to Neverland,

Mommy (Elle)

4.18.18 Busy People

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“Beware the barrenness of a busy life.” – Socrates 

I’m a handful; I know it. And usually I have a mouthful of words I’m holding in, ready to share with the next victim who gives me an opportunity to speak. Busting at the seams with ideas and dreams, I’m usually a bouncing-on-my-tiptoes, ready-to-go, kind of girl. But lately, this weather, this eternal winter, has got my curl-up-and-stay-warm-to-survive mentality fighting my productive self.

It is not unusual for my husband or I to work after work – to hang out with the kids, do dinner, dishes, bedtime, and then exercise, or write, or read, or plan for something essential that’s coming up in the next few days. We are “get ahead” people, “positive” people, “go-getter’s.” But sometimes, like the last few days, I’m a “tired” people. And in times like these, I realize that sometimes times like these are necessary to remind me why people should slow down sometimes.

The other night my son had soccer, and I volunteered to take him. I usually use his practice time to write because I literally need to steal time to write. I have a writer’s conference to go to Saturday. I have homework for a class that’s making me an educational ambassador to a major museum due next week, I have a field trip to plan for that is also next week, I have all these ideas for a new book, and the list goes on! I started to type, but the whirring of soccer balls was a smidge distracting. Usually I can “get in my zone” and ignore almost anything, but for some reason … nothing doing.

I picked up a book I brought along. I’d intermittently wave at my son, watching him weave between cones, look up at me, wave, and dribble on. I might’ve read three pages total when I gave in to the nagging feeling that I was supposed to “do nothing.” What surprised me was that I was watching him for a full five minutes or so before he looked up at me again. And in those delayed moments, I had the very valid fear that I’d missed an opportunity. Not to write another article to be published, or read another bucket list book, or get more homework done – but that I’d missed the opportunity for my son to look for me in the hopes that I’d be looking back. Ouch.

The good news is that instead of missing an opportunity, I got the sweetest little touch of grace. He did look up, eventually, and saw me elbows-on-knees, no book, no phone, no computer in my hands … staring at him. He literally did a double-take and gave me the most unexpected smile of genuine astonishment. With a confused grin he signed typing fingers and said, “Why aren’t you writing?”

I smiled back at him and signed, “Because I’m watching you.”

And that’s when he did it. That’s when he broke my mommy heart. With the greatest sincerity he held my blue eyes levelly with his and said, “Thank you.”

I love that he was concerned for my writing time. I love that he wanted me to watch him. But most of all, I love that without even knowing it his, “Thank you,” was really an, “I forgive you, for all the times you choose work, for all the times you choose writing, or reading, or cleaning, or planning, because this time – you chose me, and I forgive you.”

How could I deserve a love like that? Like his? It makes me think about my faith and how I can never earn the grace I receive on either side of my family, divine or earthly. I’m a little ashamed of myself, and how dense I can be in the midst of my busyness … and for the way I know I will do it again. But for the moment, I am grateful, that my slow-down-self won just this once … and I saw my son, when he needed to be seen.

I have no idea what kinds of lives you lead. I don’t know if you’re constantly busy or a slow down person. The funny thing is, we’re probably all a combination of both, but I am one-hundred percent convinced others do it better than me … they find a semblance of balance that I am perpetually chasing. Regardless, I’d love, love, love to hear of a moment that caught you in your tracks. I’d delight over you sharing a story of when destiny helped you make the right decision to be present in the presence you were drawn to. You hear so much of me … I’d love to hear a bit of your tale too.

All my love,

Elle

4.5.18 Embracing Weakness

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“It was pride that changed angels into devils; it is humility that makes men as angels.”  – Saint Augustine

There’s nothing wrong with your computer or phone. I’m aware that the video is sideways. It’s on purpose. When I originally took the video, my camera was not aligned and I tried to fix it, but then I remembered what my husband (an unbelievable skier) always tells me, “Skiing when it’s snowing is like being tipped in a snow globe.” And you know what … I like it this way. I’ve stopped trying to “fix” the video, because watching it makes me feel like I’ve been placed in a safe, slow, bubble of glass protected and stilled – visible only in the perfect way that memories preserved in a globe portray.

TRUTH? I’m awful at skiing. I take that back. I’m not awful, I’m just not awesome. My entire family is awesome at skiing. My husband was a competitive skier, wowing me from the start with flips, lincolnloops, spins, stealth, and speed. He has taken our kids on the hill since they were three, so both have had well over five years of practice. Me? I went (when I had to) with my husband before kids … then I had a blessed reprieve during pregnancy and the early years. Now that my kids and husband are all out there – my excuses are gone.

We spent Spring Break in Colorado, and I was literally near tears as my children and nieces whizzed past me saying, “Great job!” They waited for me on every lip of every run, and I was so frustrated, not at them, but at my own weakness. The more my family encouraged me, the more desolate I became until I literally asked to spend some time alone to get my bearings on the mountain. My son wouldn’t hear of it. “I’m going with mom,” he said with authority. Though trying to talk him out of it, his resolve would not be moved. He spent the next hour tree-skiing next to me as I sailed down the green runs where I was most comfortable. “Look at me mom, look! Watch this,” he would shout above the wind.

Within a few runs I felt God tapping me on the shoulder saying, “See … it was never about you.” I struggle with this; I’m admitting it. Though I wouldn’t necessarily have thought it before, I realize that I am an inherently selfish person. I didn’t want to ski because I wasn’t the best at it. In fact, I was the worst. It wasn’t fun for me to be last, when as a teacher and mother and writer, I’ve become accustomed to being “good” at things. Not. Needing. Help.

I don’t like help. I like helping. There, I said it. And even though it is the truth, I realized this trip, that it isn’t a good truth. When the rest of my family rejoined my son and I for lunch, my sister-in-law pulled me aside. “You know it means a lot to my brother that you come out here.”

“I feel so awful,” I admitted. “I’m just slowing everyone down.”

“It’s not about that for him,” she said. “It’s about his wife being out here, standing beside him and doing what he loves. I know how proud he is just to be with you.”

More truth – I’m happy to say that our trip was wonderful. I grew (not necessarily as a skier) but as a human in my IMPERFECTION which needed some reminding. There is something amazingly beautiful about stepping into humility … as Saint Augustine said, ” … that makes men as angels.”

My halo’s pretty tilted at times, like a snow-globe tipped sideways. So here’s to embracing our weaknesses angels. I’m right there, flying slowly with you.

Elle

3.26.18 Is Him

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Even the sky becomes overburdened sometimes –

from the density of the clouds,

the chaos of lightning,

and the threats of storms to come.

Yet still, she does not succumb to the pressure.

Somehow – no matter how heavy,

the sky continues to be upheld

by the invisible hands of her maker …

a constant reminder that even the weight of galaxies

are not too leaden for God to bear.

So often this world,

contemptuous in its asking,

wonders where He is –

but an easier question might be to ask where He isn’t.

From the vibrant blue petals of a Forget-Me-Not,

to the whispered declarations of the wind, 

God is everywhere and always,

ubiquitous.

Present and yet passed through,

out of focus from the very nearness of His essence.

In turmoil, in pain – He is the quiet voice of recognition

that this virulent world is not the way it was supposed to be.

God is the very sense of HOPE that promises

restoration is only a short distance away …

one breath and a few years from this side of heaven to the next.

Where is God? 

In the spirit behind every compassionate word, or soothing thought – 

in the quickening beat of the heart attune to wisdom beyond itself – 

in the truth that opens a mind, and floods a soul with light beyond our reckoning. 

He is in each of us,

in our ability to recognize what is good,

what is pure,

what is true.

But ever the gentleman – 

he will wait. 

Never forcing himself upon you. 

He will stay beside you until you realize that 

every life within a life, every breath within a breath,

is Him. 

 

 

2.27.18 Broken Crayons

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I am writing a new book, as I’ve alluded to in the past, but the thing is – I don’t want this to be about me; I want it to be about them … my broken crayons. They matter so much, and too often I feel that somehow I’m inherently selfish, and that even in my noblest of pursuits, I end up focusing on what I want and need.

Today, with this post, I’m asking for feedback to see if this piece has the potential to do what I pray it’ll have the power to do … to shout to the world the stories of those who need voice – the tales of the beautifully broken ones. 

Please let me know what you think. Share it, and help me carry on with this project through your honest opinion of whether or not others might need to read it as much as I need to write it. 

I look forward to hearing from you,

Elle

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When I was still an undergrad, pursuing a degree in education, I was forced to take a class on learning how to teach art. I was not aiming to be an art teacher, nor were most of the students in my class I would suppose, however, our program required that we learn how to teach music, art, and physical education just in case we were ever in a situation that demanded we wear more “hats” than our title might suggest.

I didn’t have much of an expectation, but what I learned that first day of class has stayed with me throughout my teaching career. One of our requirements was to bring a twenty-four box of crayons. As soon as our professor entered the room, she warned us that she was going to start by making us all uncomfortable.

She handed out a piece of plain, white paper and asked us to draw her something. Uncomfortable, yes – we weren’t art majors after all, but not too bad. Glancing around I saw similar pictures popping up along my row. Simple trees, suns that looked like wheels with spokes, and (from the braver artists) a few birds or people awkwardly plunked in the cotton cloud or green-grass setting. Nothing too extraordinary. The professor wandered amiably around the room, commenting on the less awful sketches, and smiling kindly at the non-progressive creators. Not terrible at drawing, I wasn’t uncomfortable at all … until she spoke again.

“As future teachers I know that you are mostly Type A personalities. You like things ‘just so’ and you like to be in control. Well, I’d like you to begin this lesson by pouring out every single one of your twenty-four crayons – and breaking them.”

A collective gasp.

She might as well have asked us to break our own fingers. This was nearly as painful. But her demeanor had shifted at this point, and it was clear that no crayon was going to leave alive. Slowly, sadly, you could hear snap after snap of little fallen soldiers giving up their lives for a cause none of us could yet understand.

After the awful massacre, we sat fairly motionless, looking around with each other at the colorful wake of our war on Crayola. The professor spoke up. “That was the hard part,” she said, “but now you’re ready to see the real lesson. Pick up one of your crayons, flip over your picture, and color with it. Press as hard as you can – no form, just scribble out the color. We followed her trail of crazy, it couldn’t be any worse than what we’d just done.

The amazing part was, the papers were beautiful. Vibrant. Bold. Suddenly the simple tools I’d been using since childhood became an entirely new form of media. Instead of the waxy, shady tone we were all used to, our papers were filled with the thick consistency of an oil pastel. Every color was rich and brilliant. It was obvious from our collective, “Wow’s,” that no one was expecting beauty from all our destruction.

“You’ll never know what a crayon is worth,” she said, “until it’s broken.”

And that did it. A cosmic shift. An epiphany. My whole paradigm tilted. Those few minutes of art class became a metaphor for my entire philosophy as an educator. To be broken, is to be useful. To be broken is to no longer be afraid to push a little harder, because the “worst” has already happened. To be broken is to be able to pour out the truest colors you have to offer, because you’re now free enough to bleed passion. Kids recognize this. Teenagers mostly.

Like a pile of broken crayons, they are the leftovers of childhood. Still bright, but messy. Most people don’t want to “go there,” wherever there happens to be. No one wants to pick up a broken crayon when they would rather have something pure and new. I’ve been asked my entire career why I choose to be with middle and high schoolers, and it’s simply because, I’ve fallen in love. Somehow when I was given the choice between the new box of crayons and the throwbacks, I chose the later.

This book is not about me. There is nothing revolutionary I have done. I don’t have a ten-step program for you to follow, no gimmicks or tricks. This is just a love story that I needed to share. After a decade of teaching, I need my broken crayons in the world to know how I feel. And I need burnout parents and teachers to remember how to feel. Because these kids exist. They are in the world – right now, positively dripping with vibrancy. I thank God for continually putting them in my way, and I urge you to pray for a few broken crayons of your own to absolutely stop you in your tracks. And when they do, I hope you’ll recognize the blessing before you and help them release their colors back into your life.

 

1.30.18 Unbuckled on a Rollercoaster

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So I woke up sick, and tired (because we all know one condition doesn’t travel without the other). And from there, the day continued on to be a rollercoaster of emotions ranging from giggle to growl-worthy. It’s rather a pity that our conscious doesn’t have the forethought to tell us to buckle up and keep our smiles and frowns inside the “coaster” at all times because I’m pretty sure I wasn’t always able to keep my facial expressions at a secure setting of placid.

Here is my list of highs and lows, hiccups and laughter.

7:20 Happy because I got to sleep in

7:25 Sad because I only got to sleep in for calling in sick to work

7:30 Annoyed at how long my daughter took to brush her dreadlocks

7:35 Still annoyed

7:45 More annoyed that I had to join the war on Goldilocks’ locks

7:50 Defeated and put her hair into a puffy braid that hid the knots

8:20 Excited to nap after dropping the kids off at school

8:45 Patiently waiting for the dog to come in so I can go nap as planned

9:00 Now LESS patiently waiting for the cat to finish her food but I have to stay and watch because if I don’t the dog will eat it

9:30 Sleepy, and almost nappy-happy

9:40 Devastated as I get a text from two teachers telling me that in my absence, the class hamster got out

9:45 Still Devastated as I get more texts from more teachers

10:20 Exhausted but sleepless as I continue to answer calls and texts about the hamster

11:00 Agitated, I get up to exercise out my pent up energy from the hamster fiasco I can do NOTHING about

11:40 Mildly intrigued by the old, cheesy spy movie I started watching starring Miley Cyrus

12:00 Proud of myself for realizing what a waste of time I was indulging in, switched my jogging pants for jeans, and went to the nail salon

12:30 Delighted that my sweet Cambodian nail technicians were as filled with coughs and sniffles as I was, making me feel less guilty about coming

12:40 Smart as I learned three phrases in Khmer, the language of Cambodia

1:00 Charmed when I saw a huge, burly biker sucking on a lollipop down the street

1:30 Suspicious as I ate my burrito bowl next to a man who literally faced the corner typing text into his computer like he was cracking some security code for the CIA

2:00 Cozy with a light salted caramel mocha to keep me company when I tried to relax and write, since sleep was NOT going to happen today

3:30 Indignant when I politely asked a lady at the coffee shop to keep an eye on my computer bag only to have her give me a stare so menacing you’d have thought I asked for a bite of her sandwich, needless to say, I took ALL MY BAGS into the bathroom with me (thanks for nothing lady)

4:00 Loved with a snowplow hug from my son who jumped on me when I picked him up from school

4:01 Double-loved when my daughter followed it up with a gentle wrap of her little arms around me

5:00 Giggly as I sat waiting for my kids to finish acting class while sitting across from a lovely lady who talked to herself while knitting

5:30 Sore from sitting on the hard floor for two hours while my children acted because I’m “that” mom who is too afraid to stay in the car while her kids are in the building in case they need me … which they did … for money and snacks, but still …

I have no idea what emotions the rest of my day might entail, and chances are there could be new emojis created off of them, but as Travis Barker once said, “Thank you for life, and all the little ups and downs that make it worth living.”

I’d love to hear the best or worst or funniest emotion you were faced with today. Please share! We are all unbuckled on this rollercoaster together after all!

All my love,

Elle