5.15.20 If My Mother Taught Me Anything

9

IMG_0768

If my mother taught me anything … and she taught me everything … but nothing that mattered so much as this – to have faith. It is perhaps, paradoxically, the easiest and hardest thing to do. On one hand, I have found that life without it, to me, is depleted of meaning. But on the other hand, sometimes faith requires oh-so-much more courage than I feel I have. Still, silently screaming, I hold on as tight as I can to this truth … believing with the wishes wished on a thousand stars, with the prayers offered up of ten thousand prayers, that faith will be enough.

And it has been. Life has never left me hopeless, because it is not only this life I hope in. People have never disappointed me to the point of despair, because it is not only their love that I cling to.

I pray you too … in the midst of everything, of anything, can hold tight to faith. If you cannot find some, you may borrow some of mine. My mother taught me that too.

Elle

4.16.20 All in All

6

Screen Shot 2020-04-16 at 8.36.30 PM

It’s been a week. A rough one … filled with: soap in my eye, choking on mouthwash, typos, miscommunications, my 110 lb. dog stepping on my foot and badly bruising it, past-midnight work emails, too-early alarms, what’s for breakfast, lunch and dinners, bought the wrong percent of milk, missed a call, forgot to call, laundry eating-me-alive, other dog ate a notebook, forgot to water the Hydrangeas, sinus headaches, don’t -have-time-to-finish the chapter, battery died before I could finish the slideshow, what’s that smell in the fridge, who’s mess is this, coffee spilled on a white chair, two spiders in my bathroom, is that a hairball, where did these feathers come from, no you can’t sleep on the couch, fine you can sleep on the couch, wake up and take your contacts out, no hun – you’re not going blind … you didn’t put your contacts in, I think I’m losing my mind, why would you do that are you crazy, dog ate a rice crispy treat, fish died, where did this hive come from, is this allergies or Covid, why are your showers fifty minutes, congratulations you’re out of soap, and now we’re out of paper towel, just used the last of my sugar, no you didn’t put the seat down, I’m so proud you took care of that zit by yourself, what do you mean why should I wear my glasses, cut your fingernails you look like a alley cat, caterpillars everywhere, wind broke a tree in half, we have more weeds than grass, that costs how much, no you cannot have another treat, fine have another treat, are these pickles still good, why does the pizza taste funny, hey mom … never mind, give me five more minutes, I mean ten more minutes, sorry guys – I know it’s been an hour, is my hair getting thinner, is my waist getting fatter, are my wrinkles getting deeper, it’s too hot in here, it’s too cold in here, my order arrived broken, the store is STILL out of toilet paper, yes I see the dog has dreadlocks, no they’re not taking grooming appointments, I’m sorry for trying to shake hands, ewww the dog just farted, you are not allergic to bees, yes you do need to reapply deoderant, please practice the piano, please STOP practicing the piano, no your sister cannot watch that show, yes your brother does need some time to himself, please let out the dog, please let in the dog, well … go find the dog, no you cannot eat Ramen again, what do you mean your digital music class asked you to drum, why are you working as long as I am when you’re in fifth grade, EAT OVER YOUR PLATE, don’t interrupt my meeting to ask for something in the Amazon cart, what do you mean you think you brushed your teeth today, I have four meetings in a row, I think I’m going blind from all the screen time on my computer, is this what date night looks like now, no I don’t want to talk about our budget, I think I need some frosting … no, don’t bother with the graham crackers – just bring a spoon, stop touching her, get your foot out of my face, did you pray, well you’d better, no I don’t know what that Japanese word means, yes of course I’d like to see another magic trick, don’t worry I’ll put the kids to bed since you passed out at seven, yes you can have another last snack of the night, go read the dog a book, can’t stop yawning, eyes are burning, I think I’ll take a bath, if I took a bath I’d fall asleep and drown, oh my goodness … it’s already midnight again, I’ll read one last email from a student I had six years ago

Mrs. Harris: Photo above attached, “Best teacher I ever had was …”

Him: “Without a doubt you! Miss you.”

All in all … not a bad week.

 

2.26.20 The Hardest Part is Loving You

0

IMG_8840

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

7.23.19 I Wish Him …

4

 

AD28AE73-D098-4C67-B935-27354E73661A

There are some wishes-come-true that are too powerful not to have come straight from heaven. He is, and has been, my most precious wish. I remember, twelve years ago today, meeting a tiny blue-eyed wonder who stole my heart with a single sigh. My heart, heavy with the fears that accompany infertility, suddenly found its way back to beating … and the breath I’d been holding in hope became a thousand colorful balloons finding their way to the sky.

I know he’s nearly a teenager now … I know we are supposed to butt heads and grapple with misunderstandings. I know that I’m not supposed to “get” him, and he’s not likely to care about what his mom thinks – but that’s just so not us. This boy … this wonder … is truly one of the best friends in my whole life. He’s intelligent, considerate, and kind. He’s protective and intentional in conversation. When I’m happy, chances are he’s the source of my laughter, and when I’m sad he won’t let me off without acknowledging whether or not I’m okay. We love pirates and pretend, random facts and Neverland. I love the way he loves his sister. I love the way he looks up to his dad.

I love him. Simply – and infinitely complex.

On this … his twelfth birthday, I thought I’d make a few wishes for him … one for each candle he blew out today.

  1. I wish him effervescent joy like he brings to others.
  2. I wish him confidence in times of chaos and calm.
  3. I wish him the freedom to always escape to his imagination.
  4. I wish him a lifetime of Sandman-sweet dreams.
  5. I wish him truest friendship in and of every age.
  6. I wish him the love that has no barriers or boundaries.
  7. I wish him fulfillment in each of his pursued endeavors.
  8. I wish him a thousand unexpected adventures.
  9. I wish him tenacity when life does what it does, and tries him.
  10. I wish him experience that leads to both humility and wisdom.
  11. I wish him accomplishment that bears pride in helping others.
  12. And most of all, I wish him faith borne of heaven’s wings.

 

5.12.19 I Find Myself Whole

2

 

I have had the most extraordinary examples of mothers in my life. My own mom is practically an earth angel … she is selfless and endlessly encouraging and taught me that joy is a choice that we must pursue with intention and passion. My mother-in-law is kind, and good, and does life with a family-first focused mentality. There has never been an instance where I’ve seen her make a decision without all of us in mind. My sister has always and forever wanted only to be a mom, and as her full-time job … she is exemplary at it … loving with an other-worldly patience, never hesitating for a second to let a hug linger, as hugs often should. My cousin is the dedicated, work and play mom. She bakes, and explores, gardens, and tutors. I never know how, but she does it all so well. Both of my sister-in-laws are full-time doctors, and both of them consistently put dance shoes and soccer cleats at the top of their list along with patient care and job performance. Their girls will be better for the example of their mothers’ tireless love, and nurturing spirit towards both their own needs, and the needs of others. My best friend epitomizes the verse, “Love never fails,” as she not only adores her own three children, but her gorgeous sixteen-year-old step-daughter with a fiercely, undeniable grace that could only come from a pure heart. There is my friend who doesn’t even have children, but loves each human soul she meets with such intense safekeeping of their stories, that it is undeniable to know God has given her a mother’s heart. Or my friend, who has faithfully become the surrogate mother her middle school students have needed all their lives. Then there are my friends that are the sweet mothers of young ones, who remind me of the tender snuggles, the fresh-from heaven dreamy stares, and complete devotion to their new and forever role as mothers; oh, how they inspire.

These are the mothers I look up too. These strong, beautiful, uniquely individual women who time and time again, put the needs of others before themselves. How can I ever thank them, or the hundreds of other mothers I wish I had time to name?

On the other side of gratitude, I want to thank the most precious ones of all … my two, gifts … my son and my daughter. I cannot ever properly deserve you, and sometimes I worry God trusts me too much to have put you in my care. I am so grateful that my husband is with me to balance all my insufficient, impulsive ways with his steady character and heart. Somehow, beyond my inability to cook memorable meals, or keep a plant alive, or build anything, or do laundry with any semblance of efficiency … they love me. They love my constant question games in the car and my addiction to chocolate milk (for me, not them). They love my belief in pretend and my absolute conviction that Neverland is a real place. They love that I write, and support my poems, and articles, and books with prayers. They are my greatest fans, and I love how they forgive my flaws for the simple fact that love has blinded them beyond recognizing fault.

I am a mother. I am imperfect and deeply impractical. I value daydreams over diagrams and whimsy over worldly success. I put my kids to bed way too late, and often, fall asleep with them because I don’t want that thief, Time, to steal one minute I was unaware of passing.

I worry. I pray. I play. I dance. I try. I cry. I fret. I fail. I love.

I am many, many things, but because of the women I so cherish, and the children who have given me my most important name … I am a mother … and in that … I find myself whole.

3.26.19 These Simple Days

2

 

“I love this life. I feel like I am always catching my breath and saying, ‘Oh! Will you look at that?’ … bearing witness to the joy I find in seeing the extraordinary in ordinary life.” –  Harold Feinstein
By many standards, anyone on the outside of my life might call our Spring Break a bit of a fail. To be honest … I feel like I, myself would have called it one even yesterday. We have family in North Carolina, Kansas, and Colorado. Ordinarily … we’d be going to see them … but we are going nowhere – fast. Instead, due to conflicting work schedules, and a budget needed more for home repairs than exotic destinations – we are filling our days in less exciting ways than we usually might.

This is not to say that I am not being productive. I mean, when else might I conquer the post office, my son’s haircut, and scheduling vet appointments, eye doctor appointments, and a chunk of laundry all in the same day? Yeah, not super brag worthy, I’m aware … but then, there are the beautiful, unexpected ordinaries that I might be too busy to notice if I were elsewhere. Here are just a few:

I was able to have uninterrupted lunch with a friend (okay my husband called once and my kids called once, but only two interruptions is less than five so we’ll estimate it at zero).

My son and daughter invented a game with our Great Pyrenees puppy where they literally (dog included) play hide-and-seek tag around the house.

A former student saw me in a coffee shop window and stopped in just to give me a hug.

My kids have had playdates with besties they never have a chance to just be with.

My husband and I took a walk, led by our two beast-sized dogs who gain fame like a puppy parade.

We visited our cousins and I was able to see my son be the “big boy” my nephew looks up to with wonder.

My cat has helped me with more laundry than any other member of my family.

I have slept in for two days straight!

Today I watched my son and daughter at the park laughing in the sunset with wind-kissed faces.

Last night my son and I snuggled up for a superhero movie while downstairs, my daughter and her daddy watched a dance film.

I was able to catch up with far-away friends through phone calls, sharing pictures I’d meant to send, and writing letters.

It is only day two of this little break, and already I wish I had more time … more time to watch, and memorize, and play. My day may not be extraordinary by any measure, but isn’t it the details we end up clinging to? I intend to spend every last minute paying close attention to the ordinary I’m blessed to have the time to appreciate in these simple days.

I pray you’re blessed with a few of your own.

Elle

 

2.6.19 Morning

8

IMG_9205

This morning my son woke up my daughter who had come into my bed sometime before and fallen back asleep, “Wake up, I need you to play a game.” 

“What game?” 

“It doesn’t matter, as long as you play with me. Leave mom sleep, but I want to play with you.” 

“Well then, you’ll have to carry me,” she said groggily. 

“Ugh,” he grumbled.

“Carry me or I can’t go,” she insisted.

“Fine, get on my back,” he replied dutifully turning around. 

“Nope, this way,” she said, curling her legs up for him to scoop her. “But don’t drop me!” 

“I’m not gonna drop you,” he said, shifting to get a better hold. “If anything, I’ll go down too.” 

After putting her down she ran back to me, “I just needed a hug.” I gave her a tight snuggle. And waiting behind her, was him. “I just need a hug too.” I held on for as tightly as he’d let me. 

10.18.18 But First …

4

IMG_8744

“Seeming to do is not doing.” Thomas Edison

Sometimes I get so frustrated with myself because I haven’t figured out how to do it all. I try. Trust me I try. But somehow … busy and busier is never enough to accomplish everything – or sometimes anything of value.

I find I’m at the, “But then/But first,” stage of my life. I have to finish that email, but then I have a meeting at four, but first I need to talk to so-and-so about such-and-such, but then I need to get my daughter to her haircut, but first I need to get home to let the dog out before she gets a U.T.I., but then my son has soccer, but first I probably need to feed him something … OH YEAH! I need to go pick up the groceries I ordered online this morning since I knew I wouldn’t have time to actually go – but then I’d make him late for his practice, but first I’d better make something out of the nothing groceries I’ve got left.

And on. And on. And on.

I’m a bit tired if you couldn’t tell. And my friends, I hope you aren’t. I hope you have a wealth of sleep-saturated nights and lazy-day mornings. I hope that your first “thing to do” isn’t until eleven o’clock. I hope your laundry is somehow magically done without your having done it, and the dishes put themselves away. I hope that when you get up you find that you still have two more hours to rest. And when your day ends, I hope there is nothing on your to do list but a checked-off load of accomplishments. I wish this reality for you … because at this point in my life … that is a fantasy.

My sweet husband (aka: the cute roommate I have that I think might have a crush on me sometimes when our eyes happen to meet as we pass each other every other day) fell asleep putting my daughter to bed. There she was wide awake as daddy breathed just a little too evenly beside her. I left him there because jealousy is a sin and I’m trying to be virtuous … that and if he stayed, I’d get to workout without interruption.

It is late, and tomorrow is dangerously close to today. I need to get to sleep myself but then, this whole circus will start up again so first I had to reach my typing fingers out into the world to assure myself I am not alone. Right? Are you with me exhausted friends? If so, carry on weary soldiers. If not … God bless you and keep you where you are.

Off to bed, but then someone has to turn out the light, but first I need to go wake him up to do it!

Dreaming of longer days,

Elle

 

 

Trepidatious Hearts 9.30.18

13

IMG_7992 2

“Build me a son, O Lord, who will be strong enough to know when he is weak, and brave enough to face himself when he is afraid, one who will be proud and unbending in honest defeat, and humble and gentle in victory.” – Douglas MacArthur

I am a little anxious writing tonight because I so desperately want to get this right. For the past few weeks I have been confronted with a tangle of thoughts and quotes and words and perspectives that have all built to a feeling to speak … I’m still not sure I know exactly what to say, but I can’t ignore the itch to try, and I pray something will come that is worthy of sharing, worthy of feeling and passing on.

I have been loving a song lately called “Charlie Boy,” by The Lumineers. It is about a young man feeling compelled by the speech of J.F.K. to enter into the war, and to fight for something bigger than himself – freedom. And as such, it is about a mother who is forced to accept his decision to fight, and ultimately, to die. The lyrics sing to her, “… don’t hang your head, love should make you feel goodIn uniform you raised a man, who volunteered to stand.” Based on of a true story, I wonder how many brave young men and women have heeded a call I consistently choose to ignore. I crave safety, not the price of it. I yearn to be protected, not defend myself. Having children has only deepened this yearning for sanctuary, I think because I want to offer my son and daughter a promise that’s not mine to give – that they’re always going to be okay.

When my son was five and in kindergarten the Sandy Hook shooting happened. As a teacher, I always knew the threat was real, but when I had a son in a school, and I wasn’t with him – something shifted in me that has perpetually remained unaltered. I’ll never forget the months of shaking hands when I hugged him goodbye and sent him off to class … the way I looked back at the locked door thinking it wasn’t safe enough … the way I questioned the administration about the how they planned to increase the security measures of a small private school. Nothing seemed right for a long time, and every afternoon, when I picked him up, I realized that I’d release a breath I hadn’t known I’d been holding. It’s the same feeling I now have when I read accounts of families sold into slavery, of the Holocaust, of human trafficking  … to me they are all tales of mothers being taken from their children. And I can’t read stories as impartial accounts of history anymore, because all I hear is the injustice of a mother’s broken heart, and the empathy in me rises so that I can hardly breathe.

There is something about my son, my daughter, that have made objectivity impossible. I can no longer look at a situation apart from them, because they are my own precious version of gravity, holding my identity in this time and space in history. And I wish – I wish with every fiber of my being, that the world could understand this love … because if it could, I really believe things would be better. I’m reading an amazing book called Circus Mirandus, and in it, there is a section where a magician offers a little boy an illusion to see anything he wishes to see, as long as he understands it cannot be real. The boy wishes to see his father home from war, and in the illusion, the boy’s mother says something to him that absolutely wrecks me … and I found myself wishing, beyond all wishes, that it wasn’t an illusion, that it wasn’t a beautiful part of a beautiful story, because it is so very acutely the way I believe things should be.

“The war ended all at once and very calmly. It was as if, between one moment and the next, all the mothers of all the soldiers in the world had checked their clocks and realized that their children had been out playing for too long … The soldiers shook hands with one another and wished one another well. Then they raced back to their mothers or to their wives and sons.” – Cassie Beasley

And can’t you just see it? Can’t you see all the misunderstandings, the judgements, the hatred erased as if it were one big confusing game that has just gone on too long? Can’t you picture soldiers, gang members, politicians, and rivals shaking their heads in sudden confusion, bewildered at the mistakes they didn’t ever intend to go that far? If only everyone heard their mothers’ voices calling them back to themselves. If only everyone heard their father calling them home.

What a world we could promise our children.

What peace our trepidatious hearts could feel.

 

 

 

8.24.18 Accomplishment

4

IMG_5441

“Whosoever does not believe in the existence of a sixth sense has clearly not regarded their own mother. How it is they know all they know about you, even those secrets you locked away so tightly in the most hidden compartments of your heart, remains one of the great mysteries of the world. And they don’t just know—they know instantly.”
Narissa Doumani

Sometimes I think I need my mom even more now that I’m an adult. When I was a child, I needed her to reassure me that I was loved, safe, and that nothing would happen that I couldn’t handle. As I’ve grown, these needs have only increased, and I thank God that I’ve never had to go a day without knowing that she was only a phone call, text, or plane ride away.

I am always heartbroken over people who have complicated relationships with their mothers because I cannot even fathom her not being in my life in some small way on a day-to-day basis. I’m often greeted with morning texts, or mailbox notes … and even as we live far apart, we find ways to stretch across the miles, our souls kindred and ever-too-stubborn to accept something as insignificant as distance. Last week it was her birthday, and I asked her to send me pictures of everything she did and everywhere she went – so I could pretend.

Reflecting on what she means to me, I am struck at just how miraculous it was that she should be the one God gave me to. People always say, “I don’t know where I’d be without my mom,” but sometimes I think, I don’t know WHO I would have become without my mom. Insecure and constantly self-assessing, I am not always very kind to myself, but my mom sees a version of me that I am able to make real because she believes in her … in that rendering of me.

Well into motherhood now myself, I pray that I am capable of even a fraction of the foundation my mom set for me. Some people might say that these are impossible shoes to fill, but I say, living out of her legacy of love, being associated with her brand of grace – well, it’s all the accomplishment I really need.

I hope you are loved well.

Elle