5.4.20 A Poem for the Ageless

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Here’s to the ageless ones …

the ones who self-identify with feelings 

instead of years

The ones that triumphantly ride squeaky-wheeled carts in parking lots

and aren’t ashamed to order dessert first,

even if they’re eating alone

Here’s to the ageless ones … 

the old souls in young bodies

bursting with wisdom they yearn to give freely,

yet no one receives without cost

Here’s to the ageless ones … 

who sing and beat their steering-wheel-drum

chanting their anthems to the wide-open windows 

and passerby cars 

who carry on completely unaware

Here’s to the ageless ones …

to those captured deep-in-thought,

tangled in the philosophies they weave

theories stitched in time 

yet surrounded by those stuck in the shallow end

Here’s to the ageless ones … 

the running barefoot, hair down breeze dancers

who delight in the light that they chase

just to feel the thrill of releasing it back to the wild 

Here’s to the young

the purposefully naive … 

the dreamers who remember to play

Here’s to the old, 

the vintage souls …

the antique hearts whose beat is the rest in-between

To those who transform 

but refuse to conform their spirit to a number 

too small to fit into

or big enough to get lost in

Here’s to the ageless ones …

for the world belongs to you

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

11.19.19 Not Alone

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“Life’s under no obligation to give us what we expect.”
Margaret Mitchell

Sometimes I think that I have it all figured out … and then I realize that I absolutely don’t. I’m not sure if I’m caught somewhere between fate playing with destiny, God trying to teach me a lesson, or the devil trying to mess with me. Am I alone in finding it difficult to tell the difference? Like the weather that is forty degrees different from one day to the next, so too are the waxes and wanes of how my days progress. I can feel like I’m completely “there” one moment, and completely “lost” the next.

Maybe it’s a way of staying humble? Maybe it’s a reminder that we are dependent on more than our own strength? Maybe it is just life! Regardless of what it is, or who it is, I want you to know that if you are too tired to fold the laundry … you’re not alone. If you are about as mentally capable as a celery stalk … you’re not alone. If you are thanking the Lord for the invention of frozen pizza on a Tuesday night … you’re not alone. If you are maybe grateful for the STILL leftover Halloween candy because you just need it today … you’re not alone.

Never.

No matter what your mood.

No matter what the weather.

No matter if you are a million miles away …

… my friends … thank you for being at the other end of this post, reading my silly strand of words and reminding me that I’m not alone either.

Elle

9.7.19 37 Already Wished and Answered

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“Wish on everything. Pink cars are good, especially old ones. And stars of course, first stars and shooting stars. Planes will do if they are the first light in the sky and look like stars. Wish in tunnels, holding your breath and lifting your feet off the ground. Birthday candles. Baby teeth.”
Francesca Lia Block

I believe in wishes … but what’s more … I believe in wishes that come true because, well – life! Is life and the living of it not a wish-come-true? Because every single day is a do-over, a do-better, a try-harder, a dream-bigger, and a chance to discover a finer rendering of your own superlative self!

Here, on the eve of my 37th birthday, I am captivated by the wonder of all the wishes of mine that have already come true. So on tomorrow’s set of candles … I just may send up a prayer of thanksgiving for all things already wished and answered.

  1. A husband I adore
  2. Two earth-dwelling children sent straight from heaven
  3. A mom and dad who are my #1 fans
  4. The perfect look-up-to-my-whole-life sister
  5. A cousin who’s closer than close
  6. Nieces and nephews galore!
  7. Best friends who’ve loved me forever
  8. New friends who want to invest in relationship
  9. Friends who live around the world, but somehow found me anyway
  10. Experiencing first love
  11. Healing from a broken heart, more than once, and finding who I was alone
  12. Getting proposed to in the most romantic way
  13. Receiving a second set of parents who are so much more to me than in-laws
  14. Walking on a green sand beach in Hawaii
  15. Meeting dolphins on an uncharted, drop-you-in-the-middle-of-the-ocean swim
  16. Holding a baby lion
  17. Discovering the wonder of literature and stealing time to read
  18. Having the time-of-my-life with my grandmother
  19. Having the honor to hold her before she traded this life for her next
  20. Becoming a dancer
  21. Having Lillies of the Valley in my wedding bouquet
  22. Owning our own home
  23. Getting lost in Italy
  24. Horseback riding in Umbria
  25. Climbing the Eiffel Tower
  26. Exploring the South of France
  27. Watching a Mediterranean sunset
  28. Coming home to a houseful of pets
  29. Becoming a teacher
  30. Getting a Master’s Degree
  31. Having students who still reach out to me
  32. Being told I made a difference in a life
  33. Building a relationship with my grandfather
  34. Writing for Bella Grace Magazine
  35. Having children’s books published and about-to-be published (Spring!)
  36. Waking up each day grateful to know God is holding my life in His hands
  37. Never having grown up or given up on the impossible possibility of dreaming

What wishes of yours have already come true? Words are my favorite gift … would you reply and tell me one of your best “already wished and answered?”

All my love and wishes,

Elle

6.4.19 Esse Quam Videri

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“Esse Quam Videri” 

So our family is about to embark on a new adventure … we are moving from one part of these amazing United States to another. We’ve never before been out of the Midwest and now? We are about to be Southern y’all! The problem is … I love people too much – fiercely so, and with moving comes goodbyes; and goodbyes wreck me.

This past week I needed to say goodbye to my school … my students (present and former) and my friends. Do you know that the word goodbye actually comes from the 1500’s when the standard greeting was, “God be with thee.” I wish we still said that … a prayer in parting instead of a single word ringing with finality. I’m blessed enough to be going from a place that believes the same. I was grateful to be sent off with a jar of words … glitter … and a motto to live by.

Esse Quam Videri means, “To be rather than to seem.” Authenticity, love, and intention have always been my primary ambitions, and I am ever-so-enchanted to know that in this place … among these people, I have been nurtured to be myself, and encouraged to be more than I ever thought I was worthy of becoming – a bringer of hope, a believer in change, and now a dreamer of what lies ahead.

In these next days and months there will be a great deal of change for my family and myself, but one thing is for certain … wherever I go, I want to be, rather than seem … and I never want to say goodbye to anyone I’ve had the chance to know.

Please pray for me; I need you readers … your encouragement carries me more than you know.

All my love and God be with you,

Elle

 

 

5.21.19 Twenty Ways I’m Pretty Sure I’m Still a Kid

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“There is a certain part of all of us that lives outside of time. Perhaps we become aware of our age only at exceptional moments and most of the time we are ageless.” – Milan Jundera

I decided a great long time ago that I was never going to grow up fully. I can’t say exactly when I made this magnanimous decision … maybe when I read Peter Pan for the first time … maybe when my dad held me to his chest and said, “My little girl is growing up?” It might have been when I decided to be a teacher to stay with kids longer,  or even when I had my own babies and tried to raise them to have their own golden childhood.

Though some days (like today) I feel ancient and tired from my long, weary schedule … I’ve been reflecting on the twenty ways that I’m pretty sure I’m still a kid.

  1. I drink chocolate milk regularly … like … every other day.
  2. I dip animal crackers in my coffee.
  3. Converse are my favorite shoes and I have about fifteen pairs in different colors that I often wear with skirts – at work.
  4. I write children’s books because they are the genre I still most enjoy reading.
  5. I celebrate Dr. Seuss’ birthday in my class with readings no matter what age I’m teaching.
  6. I believe in the Loch Ness Monster, Bigfoot, Yeti, and other unproven creatures … the way I see it is … if they haven’t proven they don’t exist – why not?
  7. I often wear my hair in double braids like Dorothy or double buns like Princess Leia … depending on my mood.
  8. My favorite animal changes every day.
  9. I am more excited to go to the zoo than my own children.
  10. I wholeheartedly believe in the power of pretend.
  11. I want to be a fairy and sprinkle glitter generously and often.
  12. I will eat ice cream any time of the day it is offered to me.
  13. I love stickers.
  14. I think pizza tastes best on Friday because it is my favorite day of the week.
  15. I still ask my mom, dad, sister, cousin, and best friends before making any decisions about important things.
  16. I still ask my husband for five more minutes when I wake up (and he gives me ten because he’s amazing like that).
  17. I love cartoons. I even watch them alone.
  18. I have a Disney playlist that I pride myself on because I know all of the words to every song and my kids don’t.
  19. I have a yearning to play kickball every day of recess duty.
  20. I wish on everything … eyelashes, 11:11, stars, candles, sometimes even airplanes if they’re flying fast enough at night.

Come on … be young with me! I can’t wait to see what you’ve got on your kid list and if any of our kiddish tendencies overlap! Please reach out and tell me a few so I can add them to my life habits!

Yours kiddo,

Elle

4.28.19 Even Then … Only Slightly

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Lately I feel like my life is a little bit out of control. There is too much going on and I can honestly say that when we go through phases like this … seasons like this … that is when the most ill-timed circumstances find their way to me, becoming grand interruptions I don’t have time for. “You do it to yourself,” you might say. “You’re too busy!” Well, that might be so, but it isn’t the busy so much as the nothing-goes-smoothly-like-it’s-supposed-to that gets ridiculous!

Cormac McCarthy once said, “You never know what worse luck your bad luck just saved you from.” That is a sage piece of advice, but when you’re going through it? It sounds like something I’d like to see sewn onto a pillow so I could punch it! Right now, besides my husband and I working full time, our children are in a theater company and their first play is this coming weekend. Our daughter is in two different dance groups (both about to end, but about to and over are very different things). Then, our son is a travel soccer player. That’s not to mention regular things like school … or piano lessons. Or PETS! Don’t get me started!

You know how when you are going through a rough patch of luck, you look back on it later and it’s kind of funny? Well … I’m not there yet, because even then, even in retrospect, it’s only slightly amusing. At this moment though, I figured I’d share my luck so you could laugh and relate with me. If I knew someone was laughing with me, maybe I could push past the near-tears and laugh too.

Here we go –

We just cleaned our entire house! (Spring frenzy style!) We put all of our unwanted pieces in the garage, and when we called the company 1-800-Got-Junk to come and pick up the items we wanted gone, our garage door broke! We couldn’t get it open and needed someone to come fix it so the junk people could get the items out! That was a costly adventure.

My husband just put brand new dark mulch all around our house. Our white Great Pyrenees puppy really loves it. She also loves to dig. She also loves to rip the new drain pipe from the side of the house and carry it around like a trophy in the backyard. At six months old, she weighs fifty-six pounds and I had to hoist her up and carry her like a sack of potatoes across the house so her muddy feet couldn’t mess up my newly washed floor.

Our kids said they had a “little” homework left before bed on Sunday night. I said, “Okay but I want you in bed by eight because you have your play this week and will be out until past nine every night.” At 9:40 my nine-year-old is still at the table “finishing” her book report! ARGH!

This week I had to take our two cats to the vet for their annual check up. I also had to take the puppy to get her nails trimmed. Well, on the way there, one of the cats threw up. We found out one cat was severely underweight (Thyroid) and one cat was severely overweight (fat). The trip cost over three hundred dollars! Oh, and then the dog puked on the way home.

The pièce de ré·sis·tance? Well … Spring has finally come here in the Midwest – only not really. On Friday it was glorious and in the sixties with sunshine. We have flowers planted, and all is starting to bloom. On Saturday, we had a freak six-inch snow storm. My husband wasn’t home and asked me to find a way to protect the flowers, so between a tarp and a well-placed umbrella … we’ll have to see if they make it.

My friends … I am exhausted … and I realize that these are trifles in the grand scheme of things. And I know that someday (way in the future of next week) they might even be funny, but even then … only slightly.

All my love,

Elle

4.12.19 The Beauty of Slow

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Today I was asked to guest blog about “The Beauty of Slow” for Jamie whose blog is https://asnailsspace.blogspot.com so please visit me there, and while you’re there, check out this lovely soul! You’ll see a short introduction about how she found me, and then my piece (also found below) will be featured! Happy reading darlings!

The Beauty of Slow

There is a beauty to being slow … and it is a beauty that took me some time to appreciate. Slow, to me, is an acquired taste, and in younger years it was only bitter – not sweet. I remember so many instances where time was my enemy – every minute a wrestling match for what I could get done next or cross off my never-ending list. At that time, I wasn’t so much a human being as a human doing, and while I believe we were given hands and feet to do … more and more I am coming to understand that we were also given minds to reflect, lungs to breathe, and a heartbeat … slow and steady … with which we were meant to keep time. 

What a difference my life would have felt, and still would feel, if I only paid more attention to that heart – to that beat. When I do take the time to listen to the parts of myself that speak quietly, I hear a great deal of questions … questions I don’t know the answer to, but I want to. Like when someone asks me to tell them what I did in a weekend, I have to start backwards or I literally can’t remember. Why is that? Or when I was a little girl, I used to sleep like a starfish – open and free – limbs tossed this way and that haphazardly. Now, I sleep curled up on my side. What happened to that little girl? What am I protecting myself from? Sometimes I have a sense of urgency to accomplish more, and I run myself ragged from the first rays to the last, only to exhaust myself for those who want the best of me. Why do I waste those best parts on a thankless  day, instead of a precious night? 

As you can see – I’ve not genuinely figured it out yet, but I’m thinking, and I’m trying, because when I do get it right … the beauty of slow seeps in and enchants me. Slow looks like watching the sleepy dreamer beside me, whose chest rises and falls in peaceful rhythm to his unconscious reverie. Slow feels like stretching every limb to its limit as I walk, and hike, and run to explore the hidden magic of nature. Slow sounds like hearing the words behind the song – becoming a part of the melody itself as it reaches the deepest parts of me. Slow tastes like the sea-salt air, the lilac wind, the damp dew of grass, the whispered sweetness of lilies. 

It is the afterglow – the lullaby hum – the perfect contentment of still. And I may not have figured it out yet, but there’s one thing I know … there is never such beauty, as the beauty of slow. 

4.3.19 Oops.

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“Caffeine. The gateway drug.” – Eddie Vedder

Four years ago I couldn’t sleep. Or, let me rephrase that … I could sleep, but I’d wake up between three and four in the morning with my heart pumping full of adrenaline so much so that I almost assuredly could have outrun a marathoner. Well, that’s what it felt like at least.

I was convinced, of course (being the semi-hypochondriac that I am NOT proud to say I am) that I was dying. My husband took me in to the E.R. and after several x-rays, and cardio tests, I found out I was not having a heart attack, a stroke, or anything else immediately life-threatening. Nope … I was just having the tremors of life.

At that time, my husband was in graduate school, our kids were even younger, and I was teaching, writing, and mommying full time without much interest or ability to put myself to sleep on time. I said yes to everything and ran myself ragged.

It’s amazing what our bodies say no to when our minds and mouths refuse. My body, after months of self-sacrificing habits simply began to refuse. After conversation with my doctor, he assured me that my life was not in danger, as long as I was willing to change it. Now, I only drink decaf. I go to bed (most nights) in time to give me around eight hours of sleep. I exercise so I don’t lose my mind. I read and write and play in order to more fully live the life I was trying so hard to squeeze every last experience out of and simply exhausting myself in the process. Lavender helps too. Lots of lavender.

So the other day, I was a bit manic. I was checking things off my to do list like a fiend. I wrote a ton of emails. I did some writing. Reading. Correcting. I had chats with colleagues. I made needed-to-make phone calls. I was on fire! I felt super twitchy though. My heart was a little fast. I felt like I needed to rest, but my eyes were wide and my breathing was fluttery. That was when my flicker-fast brain whispered, “Look it up.” You see, all day I’d been nursing a gigantic matcha green tea frappuccino. It was AMAZINGLY delicious. And the funny thing is … I knew black tea had caffeine, but guess what? When I googled, “Is green tea caffeinated,” it said: “The thought that green tea is naturally decaffeinated is a myth.”

That would explain it! On a high note (literally, Eddie Vedder was completely right about caffeine being the gateway drug) I got a whole lot done. But as my daughter said, “Mommy, every time you find something you like, you find out you can’t actually have it after all.” Call it the curse of a food allergy princess like me! Ha, ha. Sadly, my sweet husband can eat straight coffee beans and not feel any effects. Me however? It would seem I cannot.

Oops!

Here’s to all my fellow forced decafers out there! Much love, much sleep, and slower progress to us all.

Elle

12.16.18 Holiday Cheer

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“Try to see things differently – It’s the only way to get a clearer perspective on the world and on your life.” – Neal Shusterman
Today I was reminded just how much perspective matters. I often try to look for opportunities to share a smile, a word, or a story with the people I come to meet and this particular trip to the market was no different. In the baking aisle, I was completely lost among ground cinnamon, ground cloves, and ground ginger when I saw a happy, very tall looking man glancing up at the shelves from a wheelchair. I asked if I could help him reach anything and he smiled largely at me, thanking me for the offer but assuring me he was fine and just waiting for his wife.

A few aisles later, I asked a worker where the molasses was, as I’ve never in my life made gingerbread cookies and had no idea. He told me it was on the top shelf near the syrup, but that it was probably really far back as a lot of people were asking about it today. He did not offer to help, just told me that I could find it there if any was left. As I made my way back, I saw the same pleasant gentleman and his wife and told them of my woes. They wheeled along with me and said they’d help me check. She finagled the last jar from the top shelf for me. I laughed and said, “Here I thought I was going to help you and you are helping me!” He smiled and told me that he was always the height-helper before getting Multiple Sclerosis. I apologized for his diagnosis and he simply smiled again and said, “You know what, it’s okay. It took a long time to progress and I’m doing alright.” His wife and I shared a few teacher stories, and after telling them I’d be praying for them, we shook hands and I was on my way.

In the checkout, I thought I’d continue the cheer and asked the teller if she was excited for Christmas. “You’re seriously asking a person in retail if they’re excited for Christmas?” she asked sarcastically.

“I guess so,” I replied. “I’ve never worked in retail so I wouldn’t know.” She continued to have a chilled demeanor and it just made me so sad. It’s true that none of us know one another’s story, but it struck me as so ironic that this seemingly healthy woman refused to find joy, and this ailing man, reduced to a wheelchair, couldn’t part with it. As I was leaving, I hoped that she would find a way to experience more than she expected this season … maybe the sweet man and his wife would find their way to her line and shift her perspective.

At home tonight, I’m blessed from my tired head, all the way down to my vintage apron. My husband and I decided to make something old and something new. He made his mother’s famous peanut butter cookies and I attempted my first gingerbread. We were both weary from a long work week, stressed with holiday finances, and overwhelmed with the all-too-soon promise of Monday morning – and yet we laughed and kissed and danced as we made a royal mess in our kitchen. Hours later, after endless cups of almond flour, loads of dishes, shared baking pans, and happy medium baking temperature (we wanted to each bake our recipes at the same time) we are in a sweet, sugar coma … grateful for the best gift of the season … one another.

I hope you are able to find yourself on the brighter side of the Christmas tree lights today and well into the new year. Be blessed dear ones.

Elle