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

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

12.27.17 A Wish Turned Prayer

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Dearest Readers:

There are so many thank you’s I wish to express to you, but mostly, I am just grateful for your company. Sometimes, as a writer, you can feel quite alone with your thoughts. From time to time your weary-penned heart wonders if anyone else is out there sharing your silent conversations. The blessing comes in the comments, and every time you “talk back” to me, I am encouraged to write again. Over the years with this blog, I have nearly a thousand followers, and my blog has reached over seventy-five countries. What an amazing thought … what a delight to know that words have power and presence. I pray that this year you are all encouraged, that the tandem light of joy and peace merge and blend within your spirits and keep you delighted in the magic of every day.

Love and sparkles to you my friends. Here is a poem to start your new year.

Elle

A Wish-Turned-Prayer

There in the miraculous reflection of the stars lies the answer to the question
of whether darkness can vanquish light
Not only can it not extinguish what is …

it can’t even dissolve what was

Stars are echoes of illuminations past and yet here
in the present
they stay

Remaining radiant
defiant in their persistence

We are drawn to the same gleaming purpose the same luminescent call –
to alight the beat of a heart
to inspire the dream of a mind

to encourage the magic of ordinary expressions of love

What could be more noble than the pursuit of enlightenment?
of effulgence?
of starlight?
What could hold more power than the memory of incandescence?

So carry on in the twilights you’re given
toward what’s pure, though at times you may crawl Have the faith to redeem what is broken inside
Let the giver of perfect wisdom plant words that will heal And believe in the power of a wish-turned-prayer

12.18.17 After All

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After All

Sometimes all it takes is one person

one person to have one conversation

that leads to a single assurance

igniting an ember of hope

and suddenly overwhelmed becomes

less

and power transfers from fear

to faith
Isn’t it magnificent what one can do?

The way restoration washes over weary

when just the right pairing of comforting words

knit your spirit back together?

Whether the vessel used to pour out solace

or the parched heart receiving it

there is something so beautiful about the connection

of one soul tending to another

and it seems that somehow

the resonant ache in the broken places of this life

heal

albeit in small ways

but even a drop of grace is enough

to awaken a dormant conviction

to un-break a fractured heart

to alight a selfless intention

So be the one you need to be

whether in giving or in taking

expend or release

bestow or ascertain

because the truth is

they are of equal virtue

 

Ultimately – the world just needs to remember

how to feel

and recognize how the presence of one

becomes the potential of two

two who are no longer alone

but united in the mission of growing into the possibility

that one conversation

one ignited hope

is all it takes

to keep the world in balance after all

11.27.17 Come Boutique With Me!

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Tis the season … you know the one – BLACK FRIDAY, CYBER MONDAY, and every other ridiculous Christmas sale in the world! But you know what? A small part of me kind of loves it. I realize that this might seem inauthentic coming from someone who usually posts pictures of nature and family, but I’m just being honest, and a little bit girlie … shopping is fun.

Marcelene Cox once said that, “The quickest way to know a woman is to go shopping with her.” I’d say that is true half of the time. To shop for necessity is very different than shopping for fun, and this is the season of fun. This is the season of long layers, of high boots, and cute (not functional) hats. This is the season where stores present their A-Game, trying to entice, impress, and woo you – and who doesn’t like to be wooed? I love that this is the time of year when someone is hired just to say hello to me when I walk in. I love the displays that obviously took weeks to install and set right. I love the familiar melodies, the dash-of-pine and cinnamon scents, and the feel of warmth in every article of clothing artfully displayed for me to try on.

Shallow though it may seem, shopping actually holds some pretty precious memories for me. I remember being a kid and having my dad take my sister and I out to the mall at just about this time of year. Every store was literally bursting with colors and sights, sounds and smells; I’m pretty sure my dad couldn’t wait to get out of there, but he came anyway – for mom.

“Alright girls,” he’d say, “you need to help me find something special for your mom because she’s one special lady.”

One holiday season, I stopped at a jeweler and pointed to a matching pearl earrings and necklace set. Though my memory has faded out the pristine details, my dad tells me that I absolutely refused to accept any gift for my mother besides that set. Now, twenty-something years later, she still wears it.

Another milestone of holiday shopping was with my mom, sister, and grandmother. While they’d be scanning the aisles for deals, I would sometimes look right along with them and just as often ride the cart down those same aisles (regardless of the furtive glances tossed my way) just so I’d not have to walk another step. My mother always teared up a little when she saw the “generations” just being girls together.

Regardless of whether you love it or hate it, shopping is an intimate gesture, and usually done with those we love and trust the most. Sadly, though I have an abundant blessing of friends and family, I often find that they are scattered across the country and I am left to shop alone. My mom always says, “I don’t mind being alone, I like my company.” Most of the time (for myself) I agree, but sometimes my own company simply isn’t enough. That is when I find a great opportunity to make what I call “insta-friends,” random-strangers that I call on to tell me their honest opinions about whatever it is that I’m considering purchasing. You’d be surprised how many people are willing to be a friend in a pinch!

Speaking of friends, I want you to know that this is what you have been to me – all of you. You, my readers, are my silent company … my writing support system … my team, and I thank you for that. The realization of this, that you are my confidants, has made me realize that I wish I could shop with all of you! While that is practically impossible, I was inspired to start a mini-boutique on my site. THIS QUOTABLE LIFE BOUTIQUE is my attempt to put words into gifts. If there is an interest, I plan to grow the baby business with PayPal and an increased product line, including collaboration with other witty, wordy artisans, jewelers, and crafters. We shall see, and time will tell, but I am so excited for you to take a peek, share with your friends, and express your desires and wishes for what you’d like this to be.

Some come boutique with me! Let’s make this moment, this itty-bitty start our own holiday shopping memory. If you have interest in a product, simply contact me through the CONTACT ME PAGE, or on the THIS QUOTABLE LIFE BOUTIQUE page!

Love you darlings, and as always, thank you for your love and support,

Elle

11.20.17 Somewhere

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“Imagination often carry us to worlds that never were, but without it, we go nowhere.”   C. Sagan

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It is often that I find myself longing to return to a place that I don’t even physically travel to … but whenever my mind hasn’t wandered there for too long, back to that sacred, holy place of peace – I am sure to be less than the whole of myself. This Thanksgiving, I am grateful for God’s having given me such a strong imagination. I’d love to know your thoughts, and your thanks this season. Enjoy your “Somewhere,”… here’s how to get to mine. 

Somewhere

Somewhere between the here

and now

and the now

and then

there is another place

a place where there is room

to breathe

to pray

to imagine

and to wonder

wondrously

It is sometimes a secret

sometimes a lost place

seemingly far away

just barely on the fringes of our memories

and yet

intrinsically

we cannot forget

our desire to find it again

To follow the invisible compass

back to the song

of the spirit

that makes sense

it is there

quietly

but sure

placed in a place

we could never truly lose

without losing ourselves

completely

So somewhere between the here

and now

and the now

and then

find the beat of the heart

the pulse of the mind

the light of the soul

and return

Somehow

(I promise)

you already

know the way

I hope that you take a moment to nourish your ability to imagine. Be thankful as I am so thankful for you.

Elle 

9.18.17 At Least We Get to See Tuesday

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“Being entirely honest with oneself is a good exercise.” – Sigmund Freud

I feel like honesty is one of those things that people say they want, but shy away from when people give too much of it. They want to know things, but only enough to stay in the know. Well honestly … I think I’d rather really know you, really understand what you’re going through, than pretend to know the version of you that you pretend to be.

It is this very reason that I find teenagers are such good company. Having taught and mentored middle and high schoolers for most of my career, I find this stage of humanity so inspiring. Teenagers are too fresh with their feelings to know how to tamper them. They cannot quell their emotions because their emotions are too new to be tamed. When they’re happy, they are positively overflowing with it. When they’re angry, you can feel the heat roll off of their auras. When they’re scared, when they love, when they celebrate, when they’re sad – every emotion comes in tandem waves of give and receive. Teenagers cannot be near anyone for long without imparting some of what they feel into the surrounding atmosphere. 

And what a relief. 

What a relief to be near the unguarded reality of raw emotion. It is so much more appealing than so often trying to read between the lines of what you think someone said, versus what they meant, or deciphering between one placating smile and the next. Can I be honest? Sometimes I am sick of the dance. I am exhausted at the effort of sincerity directed at the insincere. I wish that people, like those precious teenagers, would just feel a little more, and let feelings, instead of pragmatism decide their course of action. 

I found out tonight that one of the best of these … these hearts that are ruled by feelings and not neutrality, passed away. She was a music teacher and would literally giggle, dance, laugh, and fume at her students in turn. She was wonder-filled and real; cancer, unfortunately, didn’t know her as well as those it took her from. Non-distriminant to the end, that disease – but if cancer had a heart, it wouldn’t exist.  

Thinking about her, though it might seem like the most insignificant of details, I realize that I have written her a Christmas card for the last twelve years. Somehow the reality that this year I will not immediately dimmed my spirit. It is as if a small bulb has burst, and now my string of lights will never be quite as bright as it was before. 

Honestly? I’m sad. I’m sad that a husband who loved his wife beyond the ability of most marriages is now alone. I’m devastated at the thought of children who have to grow up even more now that their mother is gone. I’m angry that anyone, including me, has the right to be anything other than grateful for this mundane, exhausting Monday – because at least we get to see Tuesday. 

I know that these words aren’t the sweetest. Like Mary Poppins I like to believe that if I had a spoonful of sugar to spin I would share it, but sometimes I think honestly might actually be the best medicine. I wish the world would try at it just a little bit harder. Whether it is happy or sad, angry or enlightened, easy or difficult to swallow … I wish truth and transparency for you today and always. 

Where are you? Honestly? I’d love to know your thoughts, and I will surely add you, my readers, to my prayers … because if I’m being honest, I am ever-so-grateful for you.

Elle

8.14.17 Boxes Because: A Bella Grace Post

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Surprised? Me too! I just received a message telling me that Bella Grace Magazine’s blog Grace Notes picked up a piece of mine that I’ve been wanting to share with everyone for some time, Boxes Because. From a trunk of letters to a tiny box only big enough to hold a secret, you never know what delight they’ll hold.  I hope that you click on the link and respond what “fills” you. In the mean time, I’m going to be trying something for the first time!

Brian Tracy once said, “You can only grow if you’re willing to feel awkward and uncomfortable when you try something new.” I’m heeding this advice by feeling very awkward, and uncomfortable! Below is my first VLOG! A video-blog snippet. It’s only one minute, but it is a start. Remember that boxes are only beautiful when you are filling them – not trying to fit into them.

Can’t wait to hear from you.

Elle

 

7.8.17 Bella Grace Blog Hop: “The Magic of Birthday Wishes”

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I am so excited to share that this post is a part of the Field Guide to Everyday Magic Blog Hop! Bella Grace Magazine’s newest sister publication! The Field Guide is pure delight wrapped in pages of golden images, inspiring writing prompts, and ways to make your imagination sparkle and shine. Be sure to comment and share this post with others for a chance to win a complimentary issue! I will be choosing the winner at random by next week’s post. Also, in anticipation of my: This Quotable Life Boutique, opening on my site this fall, I’ll be sending a little something wordy and wonderful as a personal thank you for being a faithful reader! Best of luck dear ones! Read on.

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“Make a wish …” 

Could there be any sweeter imperative than this? To be ordered to wish? To dream? To believe that all it would take to achieve what you most hope for would be to think it, close your eyes, and blow out the drops of light before you? What an enchanting command, and one I am more than willing to obey – year … after year … after year.

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Birthdays have always been a grand source of celebration in my family. My mother believed in the power of birthdays the way some people believe in holiday traditions – reverently. Each year, no matter how old my sister and I were getting, she would decorate the house, post notes on our mirrors, and make a thematic meal and cake to commemorate the day this earth was graced with our singular presence. How then could I, as a mother, do any less? Each year, our son and daughter’s summer birthdays are enveloped in confectioned delights and filled, moment-by-moment, with friends, family, and plenty of candled opportunities to wish. My husband once asked me when I thought we’d “go easier” on our birthday capers, to which I cast a wide-eyed reply of, “Never.” As long as this world has you in it – we must celebrate.

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I think very few people today realize that dreams are a renewable resource. We get so stuck in the ordinary expectations we set for ourselves, that we forget to imagine that there could be more – that we could be more. I am always especially bothered when it comes to birthdays, and the underwhelming perceptions people have of themselves on this once-a-year, you-alone celebration. Flippant comments like, “I don’t even remember how old I am,” or, “It’s just another day,” chip away at my heart like paint fading on something once considered beautiful. When did this one precious life ever give you permission to stop being grateful for it? Even in the darkest of times, there is something to be thankful for.

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Maybe that is why candles are so much more enchanting in the dark – because they shatter any chance at remaining there. Flickering flames dance in anticipation of the light they represent – the hope. So regardless of the number of birthdays you’ve been blessed with, you go ahead and make that wish. Make as many wishes as there are candles on your cake, and if you have no cake, light a candle anyway … just to have hope for what might be … just to believe in yourself and the power of your beautiful, renewable dreams. That is the true magic of birthday wishes after all, believing in what is yet to be.

Elle

Share a wish in the comments section with me now, or on Instagram @elleharris82 for your chance to win the copy of Field Guide to Everyday Magic that was destined for you! Much love darlings!

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