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

3.23.20 Small Fib

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Dear Grandma:

Hello to you one of my all-time-favorite people in the history of ever and always. Grandma, there is SO much happening here on earth, and I wish for all the world you were here because I could really use some of your jubilant nature … some of your can-do-moxie, and one of your famous don’t-let-go hugs. But in the same breath, I am relieved that you are nestled in the grace of heaven, far from any more trials.

If we were together though, I know what you would say … and that is the blessing of knowing someone as special as you for so long … you’ve imprinted on my very spirit, and I can still hear you. If you were here, I’d start to cry. You would sweep my hair aside, put my head on your shoulder, rub my back and call me dolly. You would not only let me cry, but you would cry with me, wiping my tears just as fast as they fell, and planting kisses on my cheeks.

I would tell you how hard it is to be away from people I love, and you would remind me of the many people you had to say goodbye to. You would tell me that it is because love hurts, and sometimes pain is good. I would tell you that hiding and feeling trapped isn’t fair, and you would remind me that there was a time in history you lived through where people had to hide for much worse reasons than sickness. I would ask you how to deal with the dark thoughts and feelings that come, and you would tell me that joy is a choice, and it is about high time I start doing something fun.

If I were the me I imagine … the one who always came to you when I was feeling sad or scared, I know exactly what you’d do next. You’d scoop me onto your lap (even though I was nearly always taller than you) and you’d swing me back until our legs reached the sky and we dissolved into a fit of giggles. Then, you’d suggest we try on some of your jewelry … the best pieces you kept tucked in the boxes beneath your bed. I’d ask you to tell me all of your love stories, and you’d tell me small bits and pieces … just enough to keep me wondering at the girl you were, who stole hearts without meaning to, just by being you.

Grandma do you know how much I love you? How much I miss you? Still. Always. I love that you found a way to balance mischief and melancholy. You did not have an easy life … but somehow, you always found your way into another “dandy” time. I promise to do the same, and I promise to take as many with me as I can on each frolicking adventure into my imagination.

If I were with you, I’d ask you to never leave Grandma … and you’d squeeze my hand white-knuckle tight (like you always did) and you’d lie to me and say, “I’m not going anywhere.” Maybe just for today Gram I’m going to pretend that you’re not SO very far away … I might tell myself that I got to see you yesterday, and I can’t be so selfish with your time today. Do you think it’d be okay just this once to lie?

“It’s just a small fib,” you’d say. “No harm in that dolly.”

Oh Gram, meet me in a dream soon okay? Maybe tomorrow? So we can go bumming? So we can have a laugh and “get along real good,” like you always said we did. I know I just got to see you yesterday … but I might need tomorrow too.

I love you. I miss you. I need you still.

Tootaloo!

 

3.18.20 One Another’s Courage

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“But what now? What am I supposed to do with all these feelings?” – J. Han

I am not sure I understand what is happening in the world. It feels like we are somewhere between a blessed pause and a chaotic halt. I am not sure how to govern my time … my resources … or my emotions.

Every day, our status changes, and the extension between “normal days” and here-and-now continues to grow. I keep replaying the moment when one of my sweet students said, “Mrs. Harris, will I ever see you again?” I immediately cast off her question. I told her of course, that there was no doubt. But now there is … and I hate that I didn’t give her just a few more minutes of my time and attention.

My heart hurts for all the laughter and lessons I am going to try to “foster” digitally, but cannot have in person. It doesn’t seem to make sense that the sun is shining, but I’m not able to drive past the borders of my own town … that the flowers are beginning to bloom, but every known establishment is closing … that the weather is turning to Spring … to hope, but the economy crumbles around us. It is a paradox, this situation. This life.

Try to find the good. Try to remain in the might be’s and the someday soon’s. Nothing is ever as bad as it seems and we have a chance to encourage one another in a way none of us have ever been tested to before. Most of us were not raised in war-torn nations. Most of us have never known true hunger or poverty. Most of us have never been challenged to remain still, and silent, and waiting. I know I never have to this magnitude.

And so … we are commissioned and governed to be patient. God help me it is not my strength, but “this too shall pass,” and until it does, I’ll be here to offer you a digital hug and prayer. Stay with me friends, we will be one another’s very courage.

All my love,

Elle

 

3.3.20 The Stargazer, Seeker, & Voyager

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So … one of the best four days in the year happened … Bella Grace’s Spring Issue was released. Let me tell you friends, Issue 23 is as beautiful as ever. I hope that you will take a minute to visit your favorite quiet place and treat yourself to the renewal of having words wash over you. I was especially excited to be asked to write about self-renewal. Here’s a tiny sneak peek of my piece, “The Stargazer, Seeker, & Voyager.”

Hugs and sparkles,

Elle

“The human body was designed for renewal. Our blood cells have a lifespan of just over 100 days, our skin cells change over each month, and every seven years, every single cell in your body will have died and become replaced with a life that is brand new. We are designed incredibly, meticulously, and miraculously for restoration. Isn’t it astonishing to think that our cellular biology is glittering with revival?”

2.26.20 The Hardest Part is Loving You

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Dear Little Girl:

I think it’s time I tell you that being a mom isn’t always easy … there are many difficult parts of parenting – but the hardest part is loving you.

I don’t mean precious, that you are hard to love. The opposite in fact. Just to know you is to love you. Who couldn’t fall for that smile? I have been proud of every step, jump, and twirl of your life. I have applauded each role, whether minor or lead. I am excited about every new concept you master and every new idea you form. You are a wonder in my world. And that is why loving you is hard. Because love hurts … and I love you fierce and full.

When you are hurting dolly, I hurt – and when you are the age you are, and life is what it is, and society does what it does, I wish, for you, that I could change it. I wish I could erase every confusion that twists your perfect smile into a worried frown. I wish I could wipe every concern from your furrowed brow at trying to understand things that make no sense. But I can’t, and that is unbearable – to know it is my job to protect you against shadows I can’t catch.

Sometimes I look at you, and I see me. I see a little girl who is afraid of a world she can’t explain and worries she can’t clear her mind of. I travel back in time and feel the too fast beat of my heart and fluttery nerves that come with anxious thoughts. And in those moments, it’s like I am no longer the woman whose outgrown her adolescent fears, but am instead walking through them again … only it’s worse … because it’s you – and I love you more.

There is no solution to this problem of growing up … there is only a promise I can make you that it’ll all make sense someday. There will continue to be personal mistakes, world problems, and difficult issues to learn about. There will never be a day when everything you do or say is just right. You will disappoint and be disappointed. Sometimes you will feel pain and sometimes you will cause it. There are things you cannot change, even when you want to. This beautiful, messy life is not easy … but living through the bumps and bruises gets you to the other side. The side I’m on now – the side that gets to love you.

Someday you will have your own little you. You will marvel at every baby sigh, and spoken word, and made-up song. Your heart will ache at a small hand that finds yours through the first steps, and millionth dances, and bad dreams. You will catch glimpses of yourself and wish against wish that you could pave every path smooth and cast every obstacle to the depths of the sea you’d swim clear across just to keep her from tripping. You will love beyond bearing it … and it will hurt terribly … because you will love with a mother’s knowing.

Hold on little one. I can’t move the mountains you might have to climb, but I promise to walk them with you one step at a time. Because dear girl, I love you … and it’s a pain worth every moment I get to spend at your side.

Mommy

2.19.20 Not Enough

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“You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.” ― Mae West

I’m not sure I entirely agree with this quote from Mae West. I love the impact of her delivery, but sometimes I’m acutely aware that the immensity of my dreams and ambitions far outlast the promotion of time one human is allowed on this earth. I don’t believe in reincarnation, but the idea of it is such a romantic thought to me. To come back … to do it all again but better. Differently. Hindsight is a really amazing gift, but it seems somewhat ironically unfair to gain wisdom after and then not be able to fix the parts and pieces of your story you’d love to edit.

I am of the opinion that life is much too brief to harbor regrets and hold on too long to wishes that can’t carry you forward, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I would make a few changes … or a few more than a few. In any case … I thought I’d invite you to share a piece of my mind with me – it goes great with coffee and a snuggly blanket. I’m happy to think I’m not thinking alone.

Not Enough

To think that we can measure time

is futile

to think we can stretch it

is madder still

For Time is an untamable beast

prowling and haunting

those like me

who would do anything to claim

just a little bit more of it

 

 

 

2.11.20 Damsel in a Ditch

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“I’m a damsel, I’m in distress, I can handle this. Have a nice day!”

– Meg, from Disney’s Hercules 

So I very, very rarely post twice in one week let alone two days in a row, but today warranted a post my friends! Trust me.

I love the picture above because it is the story of my life. No … there’s nothing wrong with your eyes, it is a blur, because that is the speed of life, and in my experience, trying to focus for even a second doesn’t really seem plausible. Today was no different. Maybe someday my memories will be in focus, and when they are, I hope I remember today.

So I dashed home from work to get home on time for my son’s personal tutor (he wanted to learn Japanese … GO HIM! So we hired someone wonderful to come once a week). She was pulling in as I was pulling in. He had lesson, and as soon as she left, we needed to get to soccer – but my daughter wasn’t done with her shower on time (she never is). Then, she was ready but he was “getting his socks.” That took another five minutes and so we were running behind.

Fast forward to thirty minutes later … we are nearly to the soccer field (new place, far, far away) and Google Maps tells me to do a U-turn. No. I did not miss my turn, this state I live in just has the absolute WORST road infrastructure and U-turns are as common as turning right or left. Let me back up and tell you now, most practices were canceled today because of the EXTREME rain we’ve been having. There was no track, no after school sports, no girls’ soccer … but oh yes. We still had boys soccer. Back to the road. I take my U-turn, knowing that my wheel will dip a smidge past the asphalt to the grass, but I see a few tire tracks and assume (yes, I know what assuming does) that it’ll be fine. So I get a bit of grass in my wheel.

Nope.

I got stuck. BIG TIME! My left-front wheel immediately sinks in about three inches below the lip of the asphalt. I try. And try. And try some more, furthering my predicament at every acceleration. My son, at this point says, “Oh no. Mom. Don’t worry. Are we stuck? Should I text my coach?” I told him sure, not knowing until later that he texted the entire team, “We are in a ditch.” Awesome. I’m that parent. The “ditch” parent. The “we-were-already-going-to-be-late-and-now-we-are-late-from-being-stuck- in-a-ditch,” parent! Here comes the damsel!

While I don’t like playing this role in the least … sometimes it is just true. Everyone needs help sometimes. This was my time. And you know what? God delivered. I wasn’t there more than two minutes when an angel in a Subway t-shirt walked across this suburban street. “Hey there,” he said, “I saw you through the window of my house right there,” he pointed behind him, “and I thought you might need help.”

I told him I wasn’t sure what to do and he said, “You get in and I’ll push.” He tried and tried some more and asked me if I had anything like a book or magazine I could put under the wheel. I gave him the one flimsy magazine I had, but nothing doing. Then he said, “I might have a piece of wood back by my house, I’ll put it under for some traction.” He just wouldn’t leave me alone and I could have cried. At that moment, a truck pulled up and another man jumped out and said, “I have some rope if you want, I think I could pull you out.” Then he signaled another truck filled with guys he worked with.

In a matter of minutes there were six men pushing my car up over that lip. I never wished more that I had something to give in my astonished gratitude. A whole host of angels descended and graced me with smiles and “no problems,” like they saved damsels every day. I promised to pay it forward and this is my first attempt to do so.

Be strong enough to accept when miracles happen – they’re among us, in Subway t-shirts, and muddy work boots. In tired, over-worked faces of men who stopped simply because they knew a damsel when they saw one, and had too much integrity as gentlemen to stand by and watch.

Thank you to my heroes.

Thank you God for miracles.

Thank you life for making me a damsel in a ditch.

 

Go be someone’s miracle today,

Elle

2.10.20 Ten Confessions

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Confession #1:  This week my son has lost: his book report book, his reading book, his shin guards, and his right soccer shoe (which was in his soccer bag). I am officially about to lose my patience, more money, and my mind … because of him.

Confession #2:   I had an hour to myself because my angel of a friend asked if she could take my crazy-disorganized son to soccer for me. I decided to workout. Three minutes in, my husband called and told me he’d be two hours late. I did not return to my workout, figuring another two hours without him to help WAS a workout.

Confession #3:   My dinner prayer consisted of, “Thank you God for leftovers,” and “Please help me with everything else.”

Confession #4:   It isn’t a dessert day, but Nutella is sweet. I convinced myself since it has hazelnuts, and nuts are protein, I was doing myself a favor by eating some … especially since I didn’t workout. I needed the extra health benefit. Don’t you agree?

Confession #5:   I might have decided that the slightly-sticky bowl from the dishwasher wasn’t that sticky, and put it away fast before thinking about it too much.

Confession #6:   I have lost the ability to sit down when I am eating dinner. I usually stand and empty the dishwasher. (I know you’ll be mad when you read this mom, but let me remind you – you never sat either, and still don’t! So don’t be mad.) Today, even with my family gone in different directions, I still stood. Is it weird to have to re-train yourself how to sit?

Confession #7:   Sometimes I fold extra laundry just to give myself the opportunity to rewatch episodes of Gilmore Girls. I feel like Rory and Lorelai would be proud of this secret sneaky multitasking. If only I could live in Stars Hollow … oh the delight I’d have staying at the Dragonfly Inn and writing at Luke’s Diner.

Confession #8:   I am planning to offer to put the kids to bed tonight, because then I’ll get to lay down next to them. When, I’ll wake up a few hours later,  it will be “too late” to accomplish anything more. This may or may not be a regular planned occurrence.

Confession #9:  When I find my son’s shin guards, and book, and other book … I am going to charge him three dollars for my time. Maybe five. He recently told me that when he was a little, he once “lost something” on purpose because he knew I’d say, “First one to find the missing item gets a dollar.” Punk! On second thought … make it ten!

Confession #10:   I secretly wish against wish that you’ll share a confession of parenthood, marriage, or just LIFE IN GENERAL, with me because it’ll make me feel less like I’m in confession, and more like I’m chatting with friends who unequivocally “get” me.

Your turn,

Exhausted Elle

1.4.19 The Serendipity of Words

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Today I was checking my Instagram feed and came across this lovely tag from a woman I’ve never met named Debbie. Her post said, “A small line from a most beautiful poem written by Elle Harris, which inspired my journal page today.”

Can I just say I’m so, SO very humbled. Any of you who have followed me for awhile know the story of myself and my friend Michelle. We met because Michelle’s best friend, Katrina, was very sick with cancer, and in her final days, Michelle said that she read one of my poems to Katrina over and over again.

Nothing in my writing career has ever come close to mattering more to me than this story, because nothing in the world could ever compete with serendipitously being “there” to help comfort the journey of one’s spirit from this world to Heaven itself. From that time on, Michelle and I became very close and when she told me the story of Katrina, I wrote a piece for her, that eventually ended up in Bella Grace Magazine.

Fast forward to today. Debbie found the poem and used a line of it in her journal. When I messaged it to Michelle, she said that it came at a perfect time because this season marks the third anniversary of  Katrina’s passing. How like the Holy Spirit to tie all of the threads of these disconnected lives together. How like destiny to lace and weave time and space for such a moment as this. How like fate to know just when a whisper across worlds needs to be heard. What a gift that Katrina still speaks.

Sometimes it is so very easy to feel that my words are rootless … sent out into the void of space without direction … but on days like this … I remember that isn’t true. And if my simple words have found a way to matter this much, I shall write on.

Thank you Debbie. Thank you Michelle. Thank you Katrina.

You inspire.

All my love,

Elle Harris