10.13.17 “Team Moccasin” Give Away

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“I think perhaps love thrives on chance and unlikely circumstance. Life also thrives on these principles – and is life not love? And love not life?” – Brandon Boyd

Lately I’ve felt like there aren’t enough love stories in the world. We hear plenty of hate, and an overabundance of greed, anarchy, and discontent – but love? Well, she’s been a bit quiet recently. It seems as though anger has the loudest voice, but that doesn’t seem like a good enough reason to listen to it.

Do you know what would be utterly magical? Giving voice to love. Sharing stories that imbue delight, inspire the heart, and focus our minds back to their intended settings. My mom and dad just so happen to be such a love story, and although it may not be my tale to tell, I don’t think they’d mind, just this once, if passed along their unconventional narrative, for the sake of putting out a little more endearment into the world.

It all began when she was a teenager. Like any girl of her age, she loved to frequent the local mall with her friends, and there, was besotted by a boy with shoulder-length hair and playful blue eyes. He worked for an upscale men’s clothing store, and was “dressed to the nines,” so-to-speak. She found a way to make conversation, and she liked what she heard as well as saw. They talked and dated for a few weeks, and that was that. Smitten.

Fast forward another week or so, and to her surprise, who came off the bus but her handsome (who she thought was older but now realized was not) young man. Only he was not her young man at all. This kid had on a t-shirt and jeans with moccasins of all things! She was devastated that he was not the polished guy from the shop, but a local, every-day high schooler who had succumbed to the fad of wearing sleepwear out of doors! Regrettably, his charms were no match for the vanity of fashion.

And that was it. Their brief infatuation was crushed by a wardrobe malfunction.

If the story had ended there, (as most assumed it had) neither myself or my sister would’ve been born. As it is, God has a sense of humor, and He often uses fate to deliver it. A handful of  years later, that same girl happened to be at a party with the moccasin boy she’d all-but-forgotten.

That night (thankfully) he was fully dressed with socks and proper shoes, and his charms once again tempted her interest. Only her honor prevented her from accepting his number, as she had been seeing someone else for some time. Gratefully, her best friend also happened to be at the party, and she had no qualms about compromising my mother’s reputation. She promptly gave my father mom’s number, and a few days later, he called.

I’m thankful for the days without caller ID, because my mom, unknowingly, answered the phone that night, and talked to my dad for hours early into the morning. And just like that, within half a day, they’d both taken the first step into falling in love.

I happen to love their love story. Though my mom feigns embarrassment, it’s nice to know that even she wasn’t perfect once upon a time. My dad uses this beginning to win us all over every time he tells it. About a year ago, I told my own children, and they declared they were “Team Moccasin” from the get-go. We like to think it is a little bit of cosmic karma that we’re still able to tease about this story every time any of us wears our slipper feet out-of-doors.

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Mom and dad have been married over forty-years now, and whether in heels or sandals, Converse or construction boots, they’ve remained grounded in following the path of love worn in by a lifetime of walking in the same direction.

It would be an honor to hear your generational love stories. As an incentive to share, I will write a poem based on your shared love story for the commenter that my family votes “most swoon-worthy!” It will be my next post and (if you share your address through my contact me page) I will send you a personalized print of it.

I will also link all of the shared love stories to my next blog post so that everyone will get to read your precious words, thus spreading love exponentially around the world.

LOVE WELL …  for it is all that amounts to any value in this life.

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

8.28.17 Through My Eyes or Yours

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“Let all that you do be done in love.” 1 Corinthians 16:18

As much as I believe in love, I have to admit that this is not the easiest command. I hope you take a moment to laugh with me at this sometimes awesome, sometimes awful, always amazing life. Please take a minute to watch and share your own love stories! Through my eyes, or yours, our perspectives should always be focused on what matters most … one another.

Carry each other through!

Elle

 

8.21.17 Analog Heart

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A really good friend of mine is getting divorced. It is both as blunt and pointed as that. I think one of the hardest things is that this person is not one to whom anyone could say they, “saw it coming.” And every time I think about the hurt – I hurt. What’s more is that I’ve seen this fragile, tender soul fall in waves of believing what writer Tonya Hurley once said, “If you expect nothing, you can never be disappointed.”

But that’s no way to live – and it’s not the identity one is meant to claim. It is not what any of us should be made to deal with. We should have expectations. We should believe that love is what it says it is, and will stay simply because it promised it would.

As I’m learning, this is not so. Apparently, some love, when it is unrequited and given up on, does end. Leaning into this friendship in ways of support, and listening to broken stories I don’t understand, this poem came to me.

An analog relates to a mechanism that requires a voltage or pressure to perform; it seemed a weakened, but still beating heart applied. So this is for my friend, who knows above all things the proverbial truth that, “Hope dies last.” Let your heart beat on – weak, but steady. For someday it will be filled again. It will rise to the point of a great crescendo. It, like you, will carry on.

Analog Heart

You – now equal parts ash and ice

who stumbles between the

purity of being tested in fire –

and the bitterest chill of indifference

You – beating fiercely as your

gears remain locked …

who feels the minutes pass –

hears every tick that slowly

grinds,

yet sees no discernible change

You – built to race,

built to fill and turn keys of

crimson and scarlet –

doors closed long enough

for filaments of light to become dull

You – filled to fracture with

memory – this moment –

even if it is all you’re capable of –

… stay …

… endure …

beat one time,

and let the echo of once

remind you how to carry on again

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Please share this with anyone whose heart is, or has been near to breaking. Remember that your strength only needs to last you this day, and somehow, miraculously, tomorrow you will find another way, another day, to carry on.

From my heart to yours,

Elle

7.17.17 Than Me

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“I promise you this, no matter who enters your life, 

I will love you more than any of them.”

– Clarise Fuentes

For ten years boy, I have known you

and I would say I have loved you,

but I believe I loved you much longer than that.

Before you were even mine,

before you were

blue eyes,

and tousled hair,

tan skin

and scraped knees,

I loved you for the dreams I imagined you might be.

And now that I have you

and see you

mischievous dimples,

and too many opinions,

lanky limbs,

and curious mind,

I know

without a moment’s hesitation,

that I will love you longer than ten lifetimes,

because your spirit is of my spirit,

and the memories you give me outweigh even the most significant ones

I ever had before you.

There is power in that kind of love

you know?

There is power in knowing that regardless of any

heartache,

or mistake,

problem,

or bad decision,

you can know with certainty that you are always wanted –

you are always enough,

because you are the very fiber of what family means to me.

There is nowhere you can go,

no height you can grow,

and no place in the world that will ever be far from me,

because you carry the best of my heart within each beat of yours.

And though I will mess up,

and make lots of mistakes,

and even make you a little bit crazy sometimes –

know that I’m trying my best,

and please be patient with me –

because there is no one who will ever fight for you,

be more proud of you,

or live more for you,

than me.

To my son … Mommy loves you.

Elle Harris

7.3.17 To Be Free

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“Freedom is not a gift bestowed upon us by other men, but a right that belongs to us by the laws of God and nature.” – Benjamin Franklin 

To Be Free

The will to be free is innate

and though we honor in days

in commemorations

and spectacles of light and color

the truest form of celebration is that of the soul

When your spirit is enraptured with light,

with peace

and with the tranquil understanding that

nothing can tether or tie you

but that which you choose to bind yourself to

By lifting your humanity to heaven

by humbling yourself to divinity

you will come to believe in the worth you were born into

Finding you are not owned

you are not enslaved

you are not ensnared by the grip of this world

not to conformity

not to addiction

not even to self-persecution

not to worry

not to acceptance

or a nagging fear of what may be

There will always be wars

and the battles will be endless

Some will be won

and in turn,

many will be lost

But freedom is not to be purchased into

or sold out of

To be free

is inherent in the plan of creation

and its grace washed over you with the light of your first breath

The genuine gift of freedom

is realizing that though life may assign you a value,

priceless

is the only identity

you have any right to claim

 

 

 

 

6.19.17 Thank you Daddy. Thank you Dad.

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It has taken me a while to write this post. Not because I didn’t have anything to say, but rather, too much. How do you put into words what your father(s) mean to you? How do you even begin? My father, and my father-in-law, have been the most influential men in my life aside from my husband. Married at 21, (and dating for three years before that) we have grown up together, and I feel that we have two full sets of parents that have blessed, influenced, and molded us. 

I realize that most of the world does not have the experience of a father the way I or my husband have. Often (especially in the lives of my students) I am exposed to the painful truths that most children experience some version of cool complacency with a father who was never really there. And for this … my friends … I am so sorry. I wish you could have had my childhood – one that was filled with encouragement, faith, and the safety of knowing you are well and fully loved. 

One of my favorite memories was falling asleep in my father’s arms at a Summerfest concert with Rod Steward wailing away. I must have been three or four-years-old, and I distinctly remember the feeling of curling into my dad, amid all the noise and chaos, and not waking up again until he was carrying me out of the car when we got home. It might seem a trivial memory, but to me, it was foundational. It was the beginning of my daddy nurturing my dreams, literal and otherwise. Since before I could even recognize it, my daddy has been growing my hope, teaching me to wrestle with my imagination, and pushing me to demand more of myself than I would have thought I was capable of. He is the hand I hold in the storms, and the nudge forward when I want to escape. He sturdies my resolve, and pushes me ever on. 

When I met my father-in-law, years and years later, I hoped to love and respect him, but didn’t think I’d need much, as I never had a void in the dad-department that required filling. I was wrong. Throughout the years, my relationship with my father-in-law has become one of a true, dad/daughter bond. When I first met him, his love language was that of service. Doing things like washing my car, and fixing broken things around my house were his way of telling me he loved me. Now he uses words, and oh, how I savor them. A lover of memories, like me, he writes treasures for us kids to savor – listing out scrapbook stories and pieces of childhood I almost feel like I was a part of. He listens to me. He reads everything I  write. He is proud of me as his daughter, and has long since adopted me into his family for real. 

One thing I have learned from both of my dads is what Marie Beyon Ray once said, “Begin doing what you want to do now. We are not living in eternity. We have only this moment, sparkling like a star in our hand – and melting like a snowflake.” They are live-in-the-moment men. Stand up, get knocked down, and stand up again men. They are I’m here for you, I’ll provide for you, I’ll show you how to do the same men.

I wish the world had more men like them. 

Both have epitomized bravery and courage to me. Whether battling occupations or health concerns, finances or relocations, they have remained men of faith and character. Neither has compromised his integrity in times when it would have been so much easier to take the “easy way.” They believe in hard work, in dedication, in family, and in this one, precious life the Lord gave them to live and journey through. I cannot imagine my or husband’s life without their guiding light and I am eternally grateful that God placed them as the pillars of strength in our family. 

Thank you daddy. Thank you dad. 

Elle

4.30.17 In-the-Making

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“We are all saints in the making.” – Unknown

Recently a friend of mine defined peace as, “Being whole. If you can stand yourself for that entire twenty minute commute without music or any distraction, you have peace within yourself.” I felt it a genius thing to say. Because truth? Sometimes I can and sometimes I can’t. Sometimes my quiet company is all I need, and other times I’d do anything to rid myself of the chaotic thoughts that crowd my conscious like a room too filled with people. 

Over time I’ve noticed that my level of inner-calm is not directly connected to the things this world associates with peace. It isn’t related to lavender, or bubble baths, self-help books, massages, or meditation. Though there is a definite place in my life for all of those lovely things, they do not sustain me. My faith has helped me realize that I am most tranquil when I am being of use to others. Being still is important, but I’ve found my spirit is most at rest when it is engaged in loving others. 

I often think of the words of Teresa of Ávila who said, 

“Christ has no body now but yours. No hands, no feet on earth but yours.
Yours are the eyes through which he looks compassion on this world.
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good.
Yours are the hands through which he blesses all the world.”

Regardless of anyone’s background, of their religious position, you’ve gotta admit that Jesus’ one request, “Love one another,” was a pretty straight-forward imperative. It wasn’t, “Love those who are easy,” or “Love those who believe what you believe.” One another included everyone. Can you imagine that kind of love? That kind of peace? 

I most tranquil when I’m actively loving others, because only then are my “soul” and my “self” aligned in purpose. I’m carrying out my commission. And isn’t it just like God to heal my anxious spirit by encouraging equanimity in others? 

That same friend, went on later to say, “We should have peace up, and in, and out.” I’m thinking, for me at least, that OUT is the most important part. Because when I reach out, God reaches in, to lift my spirit up. I am certainly no saint … but it is an unequivocal gift to know that I am – you are – we all have the potential to be – in-the-making. 

Elle

4.23.17 More

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More

I am more than a sum of achievements

I am more than the things I have done

I am more than my mountain of losses

I am more than the times I have won

I am more than the fears that have chained me

I am more than the weakness I’ve felt

I am more than just simple emotions

I am more than the cards I’ve been dealt

I am more than how others might see me

I am more than reflections in glass

I am more than what I can’t accomplish

I am more than the time that will pass

I am more than my insecure moments

I am more than the world’s pain or schemes

I am more than the limits I set for myself

I am faith.

I am hope.

I am dreams.

 

You are more too.

Love always,

Elle

4.16.17 She Still

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 “She made broken look beautiful
and strong look invincible.
She walked with the Universe
on her shoulders and made it
look like a pair of wings.”  – Ariana Dancu

Recently I’ve been thinking just how lucky I am to have so many strong women in my life. I would list you here on this page, but you know who you are. You are the “she” that keep me going – that keep me running … and just like clockwork, you always know right when it is time to wind me back up again, when my tick-tock-self is almost worn out. I feel unmeasurably blessed by you, and this is to let you know.

She Still

She still knows when I need her –

without my asking,

or even hinting why or how

She calls me

and talks me rationally through my

ever

irrational

fears

It is her smile that carries my spirit

and whether in photograph,

or in person –

even a glimpse is enough …

to reassure my choices,

to soothe my chaotic mind,

to protect my wounded heart from anything it can’t handle alone

When the world presents itself in a tempest of fury,

her voice is my focal point

When I’m trapped in fractured pieces of a memory,

she reminds me of who I am,

not where I’ve been

Her laugh makes me laugh

Her sadness is mine

Her success is my win too

And though the dark will come,

and the storms will rage,

and the choice won’t always be ours,

she still guards my heart,

and gives me her light

and somehow we make it through

There is no way to tell

at times

who carries who,

but whether by crawling

or flying

it is she –

still,

who brings me back to who I’m meant to be

and who I’d never have known

without her