9.1.16 School Year Sick

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I feel like a shadow of myself.  I look like me … sort of … and sound like me … well a version of me at least, but my mind is cloudy and gray.  I am sick.  The kind of sick that comes on fast and strong and unexpected.  Okay, I lied – not unexpected.  TOTALLY expected actually.  I just started a new school year, and let me say that 5th graders are not as in touch with cold-prevention hygiene as I would have hoped or assumed.

We are on week two, but from day one I had two kids coughing so vehemently I wouldn’t have been half surprised to see a lung fly across the room.  One boy was apparently too cool or too busy to be bothered with Kleenex, so his shirt sported crusty-polkadots for three days.  Then there are the sneezers who spray as if their noses were set to mist-mode.  Gross.  Lucky they’re awesome, minus the mucus.  But add to that fact that it was nearly ninety degrees every day last week, and we created the petrie dish effect.  Needless to say, I got a combination of whatever they had (minus the polkadots, I’ve still got enough self-respect to use a Kleenex).

Henry David Thoreau once said, “Tis healthy to be sick sometimes.” To be one hundred percent honest … I admire him hugely, but I’d kind of like to slap him in the face right now.  I’d like him to take a look at my puffy, bleary, bloodshot eyes, my cherry-tipped nose from friction with two boxes of tissue, and my perpetually red cheeks and ears as though I just got sunburned.  I’d like good ‘ol Henry to shout into my eighty-five percent blocked ears, or try to understand my pubescently-squeaky voice, or watch me pant as I climb a flight of stairs, and see if he feels the same.  Now, someecards I agree with. “Being sick can seem like all fun and games until you no longer live with your mom.” Or listen to their other divine truth, “You just don’t appreciate breathing out of both nostrils until one suddenly is taken away from you.”

Thoreau?  A fool.

Someecards?  Genius.

The best part is how we always get sick at the most inconvenient times.  I’m two weeks into a new job, so I can’t take off because it’d be more work to write lesson plans than to mask my fevered state with Advil and carry on.  Apparently my throat has a split personality now, because I had ice water on one side of me, and hot coffee on the other side for the same raw reason.

I am not complaining … okay I’m totally complaining – but I’m also grateful that, “This too shall pass.”  Thoreau might have had a little something to his comment … I guess feeling sick sometimes makes you appreciate all the times you’re not.  And in retrospect – oh who am I kidding!?! He’s an idiot and I feel awful.  I’m going to wallow and drown myself in mint shakes and mochas.

If you’re not feeling the best … I suggest you do the same!

Stay healthy,

Elle

 

1.18.16 Translation?

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So I’ve come to the sad and startling conclusion that I don’t think I speak the same language as … well … anybody else!  How did I come to this beguiling realization you might ask?  Simply.  No one in my life ever seems to understand me!  Thus, in the words of comedian Robert Benchley, “Drawing on my fine command of the English language – I said nothing.”  Or I might as well have, because I swear, there’s a disconnect between what I say, and what others hear.  At first I thought it was just a little miscommunication here and there, but thinking through each of my major verbal interactions, I’m convinced it is more.  My words are truly lost in translation, and they go a little something like this.

What I Say & What My Kids Hear:

*“We are really in a hurry so get your shoes and coats on.” TRANSLATION: “Take your time and make sure to dawdle as long as possible on your way out today. You can even forget to brush your teeth until the last minute, Mommy will just wait.” 

*”No more snacks before dinner.” TRANSLATION: “Ask for as many random snacks as you wish in your whiniest voice for the next half-hour before dinner to see if I cave in on my ‘no snacks’ request.” 

*”Indoor voices please.” TRANSLATION: “Get louder so that you can tune out everything else going on in this house but your shouting.”

*“Please pick up your rooms.” TRANSLATION: “I think you should play Noah’s Ark, and take out two of every toy you have and leave them in a line from your door to your closet to see if I can avoid stepping on them all.” 

*“Please stop playing so rough.” TRANSLATION: “Keep playing as rough as you want to and we’ll see who gets hurt first.” 

What I Say & What My Husband Hears:

*“Hey, can you take out the trash?” TRANSLATION: “Someday, when you’re too bored to do anything else, can you grab the trash on your way out of the house?”

*“You haven’t really helped out much with the dishes lately.” TRANSLATION: “I’m so used to doing the dishes myself that I don’t even need your help anymore. You go relax.”  

*“I really think we could use a date night.” TRANSLATION: “Why don’t I call a sitter and plan a night out for the two of us. You don’t need to worry about a thing. It’s more romantic if I plan it all myself.”

What I Say & What My Pets Hear:

*“Come on, get outside.” TRANSLATION: “Look at me in a confused way. Shuffle a few steps and then sit far away as I stand in front of this cold door.” 

*“No begging! Go lay down.” TRANSLATION: “Come here!  Get really close like you’re going to steal the food right off our plate and then lay down under the table at the littlest one’s feet in case she drops something!” 

*“Go on.  Shoo!” TRANSLATION: “Come here! Get as close as you can to my black pants and rub your fur all over them so I think of you all day when I’m at work.”

What I Say & What My Students Hear:

*“This homework is due tomorrow.” TRANSLATION: “You’ve got something to do, and it’ll be due sometime, but I don’t know when … so don’t even bother.”

*“There will be a test on this, so pay attention!” TRANSLATION: “I am talking just to hear myself talk, and you’ll never need this material again, so feel free to tune me out.” 

*“I really want you to take your time on this assignment, it should take the whole time period.” TRANSLATION: “Last one done is a rotten egg, so get through this as fast as you can! 

*“Please write in complete sentences.” TRANSLATION: “I’d like you to write your answers to me as if I were a pal you were texting. Feel free to ignore all grammar rules and logical English structure. 

What I Email & How People Interpret:

*“Can you please answer the following questions? TRANSLATION: “I might write a litany of questions in a long email, but I really only want you to read the first sentence and answer that one so that I have to email you again later with the rest of the questions I need answered.” 

*“Can you quick tell me …? TRANSLATION: “I’m going to write you for no reason, so feel free not to respond at all.” 

*“Can you please send me the document in a non-zip file, as I cannot open it.” TRANSLATION: “Send the file to me again in a zip, I like the Rubic’s Cube challenge … it’s just what I needed to stimulate me today.

You see?  Translation definitely lost.  Philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein had it right when he said, “The limits of my language means the limits of my world.”  I hate to admit it, but I must not be speaking clearly … because my world is most definitely limited.

Hoping this message is translated with a knowing-chuckle.

Literarily yours,

Elle

12.14.15 Snow Angels

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At the very start of this winter season, we were lavished with snow.  It fell in lacy swirls, but quickly accumulated, the branches of trees no longer vertical, but bowing in majesty to the weight of winter.  Enchanting.

So what did my kids and I do in that foot of snow?  Did we make a snowman?  No … too logical.  Did we shovel?  No … too practical.  Did we stay inside with a fire in our fireplace and delight ourselves with cocoa and a wintery movie?  Of course not!  That would’ve been too amazingly perfect.  Instead, we went to Target in our Mini Cooper!  Of course!  Why wouldn’t I decide that the thing I absolutely had to go get needed to be gotten right then?  Now, two weeks later, I couldn’t tell you what that thing was.  But I guarantee it was important enough to leave the safety and warmth of our home … wasn’t it?

I would equate my drive there to the unknown quote that says, “When everything’s coming your way, you’re in the wrong lane!”  Completely!  First, there was the overconfident truck that passed me.  This not only made me slow down even slower, so as not to bump into the Ford-shaped leviathan, but also nearly set my miniature wipers into flight as they rapidly tried to scrape the slushy-backlash off my windshield!  Breathing deeply, driving at a snails pace, I imagined the scene from Chevy Chase’s Christmas Vacation, envisioning my Cooper riding under the big-wheeled rig ahead.

After about two minutes of peace, there were the snow drifts, (encrusted with ice beneath for a fun little skid every forty feet).  My kids, meanwhile, were: singing Christmas songs loudly, asking me to switch the number of the song, requesting I turn it up, turn it down, or make one or the other stop singing so they could have their turn to sing alone.

I was frazzled, to say the least, until I saw the snowplow ahead … NOT dropping salt … NOT scraping the undercurrent of ice I was riding like a rail, but driving past, no doubt on its way to do God knows what since, in my opinion, it certainly wasn’t doing its job!  I wanted to shout, “Why the heaven are you even on the road?  To tease us?”  But I had my little cherubic singers to think about after all … listening to “Silent Night” in Spanish, while one tried to sing it in English, as the other chose to sing it in German that he learned at last year’s Christmas concert.  Like a bubble of United Nations, it was a multicultural, cacophony that was anything but silent and peaceful, as the ironic song suggested.

Finally, after a fifteen turned forty-five minute drive, we made it!  I saw the red and white Target sign and felt the way a forlorn sailor might when he sees the beacon of a lighthouse in the distance.   Euphoric!

Finding a spot directly in front of the store, I remembered all the great reasons we’d left in the first place.  I could just feel the warm heat of the entrance, breathe-in the sharp scent of espresso from the adjacent Starbucks and picture my Cartwheel app scanning up digital savings.  We were almost there.  Almost.  But if you’ve been following me for awhile, you know how I feel about almost.  Almost never actually happens; therefore, almost doesn’t exist.

Right when I pulled into the fateful spot, I felt a soft “whoosh” of my Mini-Cooper’s tire over a not-so-mini-friendly tuft of snow.  Immediately, a train of words that only travel with exclamation points punctuated my mind as my cheeks turned winter-bitten red.  Back and forth.  Drive and reverse.  Breathe in, fume out.

“Why aren’t we getting out if we’re there?” my daughter asked from the backseat.

“Because we aren’t actually there!”  I said, not as calmly as I should have.

“Yeah we are,” my son chimed in.

“I see it,” she affirmed.

“We’re not moving,” he added.

“I think we’re parked,” she finished.

“We aren’t parked!”  I said, stepping out.

“Then why are you getting out?” he asked helpfully!!!!!

I think I slammed the door without answering, figuring that if I did answer, I might not be able to keep my prickly words from shooting out of my mouth like porcupine quills.  Thinking through the things I’ve seen people do, I kicked snow out from under each of the tires, rocked it back and forth, looked around like an idiot trying to solve my own personal rubics cube puzzle of white.  And you know what I realized?  The things I’ve seen people do don’t work for five foot three people like me.

As I took a moment to look up to the still-snowy sky, I noticed headlights behind me.  Turning like a literal deer in the headlights, I found myself staring at a gorgeous eggnog-colored sparkling Escalade.  It sailed across the snowy patches with ease, stopping just in front of me.  In a moment, three gentlemen came out.  “Need a little help?”  They asked smiling.

“Yes!” I said, almost laughing at how instantly my very independent nature humbled itself.

Within two minutes they had my car cleared and parked.  Not stopping to park themselves, I was surprised when they just kept going.  They weren’t headed to Target, but just (for some divine reason) passing through the parking lot.  Sliding into our ultimate destination, Hebrews 13:2 crossed my mind, “Be not forgetful to entertain strangers; for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.”  Three strong men coming out of nowhere in a pearly-white vehicle?  Stranger things have happened than to acknowlege seraphic work was being done.

So after all that, we got our “whatever it was,” and slowly made our way home, much less eventfully than we came.  There were other cars, but they stayed behind me.  There were plows, but they were doing their job scraping and salting.  There was signing, but one song, in one language – together.  And if I’d had any less of a memory, I’d say it was almost as if none of the driving drama had happened at all.

In the end, I believe that sometimes God allows us to make a fool out of ourselves, just to remind us that we need him … that he will provide … and that there just might be such a thing as snow angels to keep you safe on a wild, winter day.

Stay warm,

Elle

7.26.15 Speaking of Lists

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So I’m a list-maker.  I make lists for groceries, for things I need to accomplish, for parties I want to have, for home improvements I plan on never accomplishing … you name it – I list it.  I think that lists are healthy.  They put order into chaos, even if they are completely unnecessary, as most of my lists are.  I fell in love with lists when I was in my Honors Creative Writing class in high school, and we were asked to write “list poetry.”  It was completely freeing and I’ve found it to be a bit of an outlet.  So I’m sorry to say, (but not really) that I have compiled a top-three-list of lists for things that I (and quite possibly I alone) have discovered about just about everything.  I think I’m somewhat like Sandra Bullock when she said, “I want everything orderly, and I need lists.  My mind goes a mile a minute.  I’m difficult on every single level.”  While I don’t think I’m difficult on EVERY level, I do think these lists are hard to argue with, but I would welcome any challenge to hear what your top-threes are!

*Three Best Foods Ever:

Oreo Dirt Cake

Chicken Cordon Bleu (unless you’re a vegetarian of course)

Peanut Butter (on the spoon, why mess it up with anything)

*Three Worst Things About Being Over Twenty-Five:

People Call You “Ma’am” (or sir, I suppose)

You Depend on Coffee Like the Life-Blood That it Becomes

When You Pull an All-Nighter … It Shows!

*Three Worst Words in the English Language:

Blouse

Slacks

Moist

*Three Worst Class Subjects:

Chemistry (called so to disguise itself from what it really is … another math class)

Physics (just … blech)

Honors Geometry (one word – proofs)

*Three Things You Should Never Run Out of That We are ALWAYS Out of:

Contact Solution

Pet Food

Gas

*Three Things That Will ALWAYS Be Embarrassing When They Happen to You and Hilarious When They Happen to Someone Else:

Falling

Farting

Forgetting Someone’s Name

*Three Worst Rights-of-Passage as a Teenager:

Getting Acne at an Inopportune Time

Having Someone Walk in on You at an Inopportune Time

Passing a Note in Class That Your Teacher Decides to Read Aloud at an Inopportune Time

*Three Best Children’s Books of All Time:

Peter Pan, by: J.M. Barrie

Where the Wild Things Are, by: Maurice Sendak (remember this is the book, not the creepy movie)

Sideways Stories From Wayside School, by: Louis Sachar

*Three Most Annoying Driving Habits:

Cutting Me Off to go Slow in Front of Me

Cutting Me Off to Exit Two Seconds Later

Cutting Me Off to Change Your Mind and Move Back Into the Other Lane

*Three Best Daily Discoveries:

Waking Up Early to Realize You Have Two More Hours to Sleep

Finding Money in a Pocket

Someone Else Did the Dishes

*Top Three Most Awkward Questions Kids Will Ask You:

Where Do Babies Come From

Where Do Babies Come Out

Yeah, I Think the Top Two Pretty Much Cover Things

*Three Most Annoying Things About Smart People Who Suck as People:

When They Think They Know Everything, and Do

When They Think That Their Knowing Everything Means You Know Nothing

When They Talk Slow as They Explain Something to You (as if you only evolved one step from a cave man)

*Three Worst Things About Having Food Allergies:

When Snobby Restaurant People Roll Their Eyes at You Like You’re on Some New Fad-Diet

When Someone “Understands” Your Allergy But Doesn’t and You Spend Eternity in the Bathroom

When People Say, “It’s all in your head.”

*Three Best Things About Having Food Allergies:

Great Excuse for Students Who Bring Mysterious “Goodies”

Great Excuse for NOT Eating Treats People Bring Into Work

Great Excuse for Getting to Choose the Restaurant You Really WANT to Visit

*Three Worst Things to be Asked/Told:

You Don’t Look So Well, Are You Sick?

You Look Tired

Wow! You’ve Changed

*Three Amazing Things About Elderly People:

 They Tell the Truth (brutally, yes, but honestly)

They Eat What They Want and Complain About Portion Sizes Regardless of the Size

Thy Openly Discuss Horrifically Disgusting Bathroom Issues With No Shame at All

*Three Amazing Things About Children:

They Tell the Truth (but only when it’s convenient)

They Haven’t Forgotten How to Wonder at Life and the Living of It

They Understand the Power of Pretend

*Three Best Phrases to Get Someone to Do What You Want Them to Do (I only know because they’ve been used effectively on me … yes, I’m a bit of a sucker):

We Need YOU to Do ___________ Because You’re the Best At It

I Wish I Were ss Talented as You to do _____________ So Well

Well, Since You Did _____________ So Well Last Time, We Volunteered You Again

*Three Worst Fashion Faux Pas in History:

Hammer-Pants (not flattering on anyone, not even Hammer)

Neon (used appropriately, neon should serve as a warning, not cool when people have to squint around you)

Real-Fur-Anything (animal rights activists … anyone?)

*Three Worst Hairstyles in History:

Mullets (NEVER looked good on ANYONE, EVER!!!!!)

Rat Tails (you missed a spot)

Triangle Head (that awful place between short and long that ends up resting horribly on your shoulders in the form of a three-sided-figure)

*Three Things You WILL Say as a Parent Even When You Swore You Wouldn’t:

Because I Said So

So Help Me God, I Will Turn This Car Around

We Get There When We Get There

*Three Grossest Foods Other People Love:

Chili

Sloppy Joe’s (hello … they’re called sloppy for a reason)

Garbage Pizza (garbage! as in TRASH!)

*Three Things That are Just Annoyingly Stupid but No One Seems to Realize it but Me:

The Fact That Some Oxymoronic Idiot was Allowed to Name Mini-Vans MINI!

The Fact That the Nickname for William is “Bill”  (how in the heck?)

The Fact That There are Just as Many Bakeries in My Town for DOGS as Humans

In truth … I could go on forever.  I have an abundance of useless opinions on things that don’t really matter that I could list about.  However, here are the top three reasons I’m ending this post: my opinions probably don’t match yours, I’m not sure how many readers actually got this far in my list, and finally, I have a list of things I need to accomplish before my “To Do’s” are through.

List happily!

Elle

 

 

3.15.15 Just So You Know, I Know

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I can only assume that Suzanne Collins was talking about us women when she said, “We’re fickle, stupid beings with poor memories and a great gift for self distruction.”  Maybe she was talking about men too, but I think we women really rock the “fickle” thing – at least I know I do, and tonight I am writing this blog to publicly acknowledge it (honesty being the best policy and all of that).  

So I watched Jane Eyre tonight.  I know right!?!  Why?  It is single-handedly one of the most depressing stories of all time!  Those Bronte sisters really knew how to weave a sorry tale.  The novel was dreadfully sad when I read it in high school, every rendition of the story I’ve heard since has been the same and yet, there I stood, checking out the newest cinematic version from the library two days ago.  I am going to blame my monstrous cold, both for the lack of clarity and for the troll-like appearance that made me choose a movie where the heroine is notoriously plain.  Maybe my red-rimmed nose and watery eyes couldn’t handle Hollywood’s normal competition alright!?!  

Whatever the reason, my foggy mind or ragged appearance, there was something in the plot that resonated with me this time around.  If you aren’t familiar with the narrative, it is about a desolate and dejected orphan girl who later becomes a governess (nanny) for a rich, brooding man’s daughter. For some reason, Jane falls in love with this dark, mysterious fellow, and right before they get married, she finds out he is already married to a mad woman who lives in the mansion’s upper floor.  I know, I know … it’s terrible.  It ends well, but any ending would be a good ending just so that it’d be the END!  Regardless, the crazy wife thing got me thinking … because it was a hasty arranged marriage, Mr. Rochester didn’t know she was actually as deranged as she was.  It doesn’t really make the story less wretched, but helps  you understand why the guy kept it all a secret at least.  

So … back to me thinking; I might actually owe my husband an apology – or five. I’m not crazy (well, not most of the time … zany maybe, but not crazy).  Still, even though we were together for three years before we got married, there are a few things I bet he didn’t quite bargain for before saying “I do.”  I hold my cold accountable for these very generous apologies to follow … because if I were in my best condition, I doubt I’d be so reflective.  And yet, I do feel just a little bit bad about these characteristics and quirks; if I don’t understand them, there’s no way he has a chance … and just so you know, I know.  

So – Matthew …

1. I’m sorry for asking you to be spontaneously affectionate, and then pushing you away if/when I’m: feeling ugly, rushed, hungry, tired, or over-worked … because I’m pretty much always one of these.  Good luck finding “the right time,” because I have no idea when that is, but yes, I still expect YOU to try to find it.

2. I’m sorry for being addicted to both modern and classic love stories.  There is no way that any regular day would make it into a novel, and yet I somehow spin this fantastic version of reality in my mind that, quite frankly, does not exist in a world between bills and bedtimes.  

3. I’m sorry for the times I ask you if something I’m wearing makes me look fat.  The truth is … if I’m asking, I’ve already decided that it does, and nothing you say will be the right thing.  I know this, but sadly, it won’t keep me from asking.  

4. I’m sorry that you can never ever say the following harmless phrases to me, because no matter how well-intentioned … they WILL cause me to have an emotional-meltdown: “You look tired,” “How could you not remember that?,” “Don’t I have any clean underwear?,” “That outfit isn’t my favorite,” or “Maybe you need to slow down.”  None of these words, when used in conjunction with one another, will produce a good outcome. 

5. Last but not least, I’m sorry that I will never be logical.  I need you to know I’m not sorry for me … as you know I don’t put a whole lot of stock in logic, but I know you do; so for you, I’m sorry.  I will never find AM radio interesting.  I will never choose a nonfiction text over imagination, and I will never, ever pick “someday” over “today.”  I’m impulsive, I’m spontaneous, and I’m expecting these habits to rub off on you (sooner than later would be ideal for me).  

And so, though I don’t believe I’m a terrible choice, I do apologize to my sweet and wonderful husband who keeps trying, even with my overdose of fickle.  Matthew, gift of God that you are, believe that you are the hero of my story, the knight-in-shining-reality who keeps me dreaming.  I love you for loving me, even when I’m unloveable, and especially when I’m irrational … which we both agree is most of the time. 

I had to say this all once … just so you know, I know. 

Elle 

 

 

3.8.15 Yes … I Can Fix It

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So recently I was asked (by a professional no less) if I had any opinions on how a “normal” mother might improve the health care experience.  It took all of my restraint not to laugh-out-loud at this request for two reasons: A) I have opinions on just about everything whether it pertains to me or not, and B) I convinced someone that I was normal!  Can you believe it!?!  After a self-satisfying smirk and a bit of reflection, I pulled on my problem-solving-panties and contended that – yes … I can fix it!  

Jonathan Mead suggested once, that “Sometimes the easiest way to solve a problem is to stop participating in the problem.”  That, however poignant, is not going to fly here Jon, because we all know that trips to the doctor are completely, totally and unalterably unavoidable (especially if you have kids … which I do).    

As I said before, this little “fix it” journey began with some deep reflection – scratch that – it was pretty shallow actually, because I was at the doctor’s office two days ago.  How can I describe it?  Hmmm.  I would say that going to the doctor is something like getting a full mental workout.  The beginning is a stretch, a test of flexibility as your kids run through the automatic doors, (nearly squelching themselves) and then proceed to, “only step on the red parts of the carpet because those are the boat and the green is the water filled with sharks that will eat you.”  Then we move to the warm-up portion of the workout, where the kind, smiling, but slow-as-a-summertime-slug receptionist tells you, “It’ll just be a quick minute while we update your information … we just got a new computer system.” 

     “Again?” you ask.

     “Again,” they confirm with a sympathetic eye roll.

The cardio portion of this exercise begins when you finally turn (folding your gigantic  8 and 1/2 x 11 receipt because no one has figured out how to print smaller ones) to see your kids climbing chair arm over chair arm in some kind of demented race.  This does not get your heart racing for the potential danger of them falling, mind you, but rather sends you into a full-on panic attack at the realization that billions of potential-virus-causing-germs are absorbing right into their clammy little hands.  Simultaneously, the receptionist asks you if you’ve been to any Ebola affected countries, as the dude next to you sneezes. 

To finish off this little extended metaphor, would have to be the cool down – the final portion of your mental workout.  Here, the nurse takes vitals, writes down your questions and leaves to give you fifteen minutes of alone time with your kids in a small square room that contains a spinning chair and heightened exam table.  Then the doctor comes in to test your stressed memory and asks, “Do you have any questions?”  

The thing is, even after all that, I know that deep down I don’t believe in problems; I believe in solutions.  So realistic or fantastic (quite possibly somewhere in-between) I have come up with a list of seven (because it is my favorite number) practical (alright maybe completely unpractical but it’s my list so …) ways to fix a visit to the doctor. 

1. Provide two reception desk entrances – one for “well-visits” the other for the “not-so-well” visits (aka: those wearing masks when they come through the door!) 

2. Have the option of an online check-in system, that way all you need to do is process your payment (And maybe send a digital receipt too … save on the letterhead!)

3. Streamline and re-decorate with hard-surface-only chairs.  That way, though we know they may not be sanitized immediately before we come, we know they have less potential for retaining all the nasties fabric chairs can hold. 

4. Get rid of swivel chairs.  I know you’ve worked many, many years to become a doctor and you’ve earned it, but how about we get you a nice leather office chair that’s stationary?  That way, our kids won’t have the potential to need stitches before the visit is over! 

5. Physicians, please READ the questions those sweet nurses and technicians write down so we don’t repeat the “Do you have any questions?” question.  I know you’re busy and maybe couldn’t read it that fast, but they worked so hard jot it down – at the very least, reading it could be like a mini-handwriting lesson. 🙂

6. Be personable … act like it is a privilege to see us again (even if you’re pretending) because coming to you is like getting called into the principal’s office; even if it’s a good report, we’re nervous every step of “the wait.” 

7. Finally, and maybe most importantly, make your carpet ONE color … it’ll avoid our super-rational need to escape the sharks. 

And it’s as easy as that.  Problem solved!  But until the medical world figures out how genius my “fix-it” plan is, be well (mentally and physically … without going mental in the process). 

Elle 

 

3.1.15 Even “People-People”

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So, I am what you would call a “people-person.”  Actually, that is a complete lie.  Everyone in my family is a “people-person,” but I am a people-person on steroids.  If there was something akin to an “extreme” people-person, it would be me, without a doubt.  I don’t ever just like people, I LOVE people … most people, actually.  And sometimes, paradoxically, I think that might just be the thing that annoys others most about me!  Even those who love me best give a gentle eye-roll at times when I do things like: make friends with the cashier, start a conversation about college choices with the bag-boy, tell a story to a stranger that I feel would relate to them, or, my personal favorite, realize I am kindred spirits, yet again, with the person who sits beside me on a plane.  I can’t help it.  I was meant, molded and made – for people! 

That being clearly established.  I need to divulge a deep secret you may not know … even “people-people” like me, need a break from, well … PEOPLE sometimes!  Every once in awhile, me, little-miss-sunshine, the smiley, happy, bright-side-to-everything-girl needs a human holiday before I breakdown and those people I love realize that I do, in fact, have a breaking point!  There is a post circulating from the brand “someecards.com” that succinctly and perfectly describes my feelings.  It says, “I used to be a people person … until people ruined it!”  Completely!  It might be even more accurate to say that it isn’t people themselves, that cause the need for my short “stay-awaycations,” but rather, the dumb things they do and say!  

John C. Maxwell once said, “People may hear your words, but they feel your attitude.”  This is the exact reason I need some “alone time” once in awhile.  Because when I reach that “Are you kidding me right now?” point, I don’t want to chance going all “Hulk” on someone (even if they momentarily deserve it).  Best to step away and mentally shape shift into the green giant.  Still, I think it is important to be honest with ourselves and realize that even “people-people” need to back away in certain situations.  Just in case you aren’t sure when circumstances warrant a bit of “alone time,” here are a few scenarios I’ve gone through to guide you. 

Scenario One:  You’ve had a rough day with students, when one comes up to you, indignant and hoping you’ll settle the debate that “China and Japan are the same country … right!?!” (I kid you not, that really happened.)

Scenario Two:  You wear your glasses to work one day, and about the tenth person in a row asks you, in a dumbfounded voice, “You wear glasses?”  (You may have the urge to say, “Actually no, I just thought they’d decorate my face like those teenagers who wear lens-less frames.” But don’t.  They will just think you’re being snarky … which you are, I should know … ’cause I’ve said it.)

Scenario Three:  You take your sick child to the walk-in clinic, describe to the medical professional everything that your child has gone through for the past week, only to have them ask you, “So … what do you think is wrong?” (Oh, they were serious.)

Scenario Four:  Your significant other asks you what you are up to this weekend, after you told them (in detail) what you were up to that weekend two hours before when they “swore” they were listening to you.

Scenario Five:  You email a list of important questions to someone, and they answer the first, not having bothered to read the remainder of the message. (Grrr.)

Scenario Six:  You meet a parent during parent-teacher conferences who asks you about her child’s Science and Social Studies grades (when you teach Literature) and then listen as they proceed to tell you that when they went to school “Science and Social Studies was basically the same thing.” (Yup … nothing you say there is gonna be good.  Just smile and nod people, smile and nod.)

Scenario Seven:  Your child asks you what “being-on-time” means.  (Appropriate answer? “Nothing to us dear, and it never will.”)

Scenario Eight:  You get “talked-to” for something you “forgot” to do, and then run into someone who says, “Oh!  I forgot to tell you, but so-and-so needed you to do such-and-such.” (A little late there my friend!)

Scenario Nine: Going to the fridge for your easy and delicious left-overs, just to realize someone ATE them!  (Yeah, that happened today.  I’m still not over it.) 

Scenario Ten:  Anyone EVER who says, “You look tired.”  (Just don’t.)

The good news is, after every episode, a few deep breaths and a self-induced time out, I’m good to go!  Us “people-people” usually are; we recover quickly from the follies of others because: A) we love don’t like people, and B) we know that we are as guilty of making these blunders as anyone (except for the China/Japan/Science/Social Studies thing … those were  pretty much unforgivably outrageous). 

The philosopher Epictetus said, “The key is to keep company only with people who uplift you, whose presence calls forth your best.”  That is a lovely statement and beautiful notion, but you and I both know that we don’t always get to choose who we are with.  Still, we can pretend we do, make the best of it, and them.  Even if you aren’t some crazy people-person like me, you can still respect who you’re with enough to make them feel “worth your time.”  And when some insane scenario happens … when you just can’t believe someone said or did something so incredibly stupid, (because people will) smile politely, and walk away quickly, because even “people-people” need a breather sometimes. 

Literarily yours,

Elle

 

2.22.15 Fall Like Eve

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Genesis 3:13 of the Bible says, “Then the Lord God said to the woman, ‘What is this you have done?’ And the woman said, ‘The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

So … FYI … Eve is so not my favorite chic in the Bible.  Not even close.  In Genesis 3:16, after God had figured out Eve ate the dreaded apple, he determined a portion of her (our) punishment: “I will greatly multiply your pain in childbirth.”  I am able to recall  just how much Eve isn’t my favorite the first day of a particular day each month when this verse runs through my head as I simultaneously reach for the Advil.  I’ll admit, childbirth wasn’t exactly easy, but thankfully, God softened the sentence a little by allowing epidurals into the world.  The thing is, I don’t blame God … I blame Eve! 

She was given one rule – one!  I’ll admit that curiosity is powerful and temptation is no treat, but ONE tiny rule?  And about not eating FRUIT!?!  Fruit!  Not chocolate, not cheesecake, fruit for God’s sake (no pun intended).   Seriously sister … put down the apple and call it a day!  UGH! 

The thing is, that I don’t think cramps or contractions were the greatest pains from her fall.  Those things are temporary, fleeting; they pass.  Vanity doesn’t.  It was only after Eve fell from grace that she realized she was “naked.”  It was only then that she felt exposed, vulnerable and insecure … three words most people (men and women alike) have experienced numerous times in their lives I’m betting.  Again, I blame Eve.

I find it incredibly interesting that the New Oxford Dictionary has two definitions for the term vanity.  One: “excessive pride in or admiration of one’s own appearance” and two: “the quality of being worthless or futile.” What a paradox, that on one hand it explains a fascination with beauty, and on the other a sense of inferiority.  I do not think this is consequence. 

I am a girl.  I am a girl and thus, I love beautiful things: beautiful words, beautiful sites, beautiful dreams.  It is in our nature, I think, to see beauty … to gladly admire it for what it is.  When we are young, we notice lovely things everywhere, and call attention to them.  My daughter already does this.  She sees the sparkle in a diamond, the way some dresses twirl, and how blue brings out her eyes.  She is five.  She is beautiful – everyone tells her so; and she believes them, for now.  But I know the day is coming, you know too, because my guess is, I’m not alone, and that day already came for you.  The day you “bit the apple” … the day you saw yourself through the warped mirror of the world, and felt those three words. Exposed.  Vulnerable.  Insecure.  And suddenly we were no longer those children noticing what beautiful was – we were critics, noticing what it wasn’t. 

Without even consciously deciding, we all fall like Eve, and deceive ourselves into thinking that who we were created to be “as is,” just isn’t enough without a cover.  We go from: willing embraces to arms-crossed, eyes-wide-open to suspicious glances, broad smiles to guarded grins – barricading ourselves from the chance to really let someone in for the fear that then we’ll have to deal with being really seen.  The fairy tales know it … Snow White bit the apple, Sleeping Beauty couldn’t resist the curiosity of a spindle, and Cinderella lost her cover with a shoe.  Fact or fiction, we all stumble, but while their stories were fixed by the kiss of a prince, ours were solved with the death of a king. 

I get that Eve screwed up (and sort of screwed us over in the process) but God loved her better than her failure.  And he loved us enough to send someone better than prince charming to show us that true beauty, is sacrifice. 

So I may not like every line in my reflection, and I may never drop the inhibitions I inherited from that first fall, but really, it’s all a matter of perspective.  They say, “Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder,” but I think God would change that to, “Beauty is in the eyes of He who holds her.” 

In her book Here on Earth, Alice Hoffman wrote, “The sky is already purple; the first few stars have appeared, as if someone had thrown a handful of silver across the edge of the world.”  You are the silver; you are the stars.

Let yourself be held.

Elle

2.15.15 Your Crazy Isn’t Crazy After All

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So this video clip from Apple inspires me, not only because it has nothing to do with technology and everything to do with humanity.  It has to do with inspiring us to remember that expecting more out of this life than it is freely willing to give, does not make us greedy, it makes us resilient.  Because I don’t know about you, but my life has a voracious appetite; most days, it is just waiting to swallow up every one of my dreams with practicality.  But the thing is, I’ve never been practical, I’ve never necessarily done things the “easy way,” and I certainly would deny the very fabric of my being if I started now. 

I would like to blame my parents for this, mostly.  You see, they sort of ruined my chances at being satisfied with “normal” when they refused to tell me that I had to be.  There was never a day in my reckoning that they were not: there for me, believing in me, or cheering me on toward impossible ambitions with an unalterable attitude of “possible.”  So … yes, I blame them.  And I thank them, for allowing me to pursue the wish of becoming one of, “The Crazy Ones,” who just won’t accept that they were meant for ordinary. 

The thing is, knowing this about yourself … that you want to do, and say and be more, well – it’s kind of exhausting, especially when you’re not sure what to do with all you’ve planned.  I kind of joke around that I was born for ideas, and I wish I could just sell them to people who had more time to do with them than I’ve got.  I think, and think, and jot down ideas, and think of more.  My mind is a bit overwhelming at times, and this, I know, most of you can relate to.  Personally, I have come to judge my own brain’s respective fullness by my habits in the shower.  The other morning I realized that I had washed my arms twice, but forgot to shave my left leg.  Let’s just say, it was an exceptionally intense brainstorm and yes, to answer your question, I wore pants that day.  

I guess, for me, there’s no such thing as “starting at the beginning,” because my ambitions look something akin to Sudoku puzzle, the numbers never all line up without an issue.  I wish I had the mentality of journalist Gene Fowler who said,  “Let us then be up and doing, with a heart for any fate; still achieving, still pursuing, learn to labor and to wait.”  It is the last word, the wait that I struggle with.  I often have conversations at God like, “Whenever you’re ready to talk to me, I’m ready to listen.”  But notice the very important preposition choice there – “at” not “to.”  If I were talking “to” God, maybe I’d have a better chance at hearing him, but I’m often too busy with an inner monologue at Him to let His words get very far.  I know this, and yet I cannot always seem to push past my own life’s static to get a clear connection. 

People love to tell you to slow down, to be present in the moment and then clarity will come.  Sometimes I would like to personify my day into a person just to give it a good, stern talking to!  I would like to let it know that it has not done a good job of turning out to be what I planned, and it needs to take into deep consideration, the effect its actions have had on me!  How can I become what I’m meant to be (whatever that is) when life’s got other plans?  If only I’d be content with ordinary. 

When it comes right down to it though, I don’t believe any of us were intended for standard, routine or commonplace.  No one grows up wishing to be conventional or expected.  We all had visions and wishes and plans for more … so why the letting go? If I am being completely transparent with you,  you should know that I’m rather insecure.  I have aspiring and purposeful dreams, yes – but they are not because I actually believed my incredible parents who tried their hardest to instill in me that I was so much more than usual.  I do not really believe in my plan for me, but I do believe in God’s plan for me.  This busy mind and unquenchable spirit of mine have more reason than I usually give them credit for; I think you’re not so different.  

I believe that you might actually have a great deal yet to do with yourself … your gifts … and your potential.  So I am going to end with the quote we started with – just promise me you’ll take a sincere look inside and maybe realize that your “Crazy” isn’t crazy after all.

“Here’s to the crazy ones.  The misfits.  The rebels.  The troublemakers.  The round pegs in the square holes.  The ones who see things differently.  They’re not fond of rules.  And they have no respect for the status quo.  You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them.  About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them.  Because they change things.  They push the human race forward.  And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius.  Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.” – Steve Jobs, Apple

Here’s to changing your world; I thank you for continuing to change mine by listening,

Elle 

 

 

 

2.8.15 Book Covers

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The other day, I was in Walgreen’s picking up a prescription for my husband. While it was being filled I was wasting time roaming the merchandise. And although there were some mediocre sales to be had, and a few gaudy new Valentine’s decorations, nothing captured my attention quite so raptly as the six-foot-something, burly man muttering to himself aisle after aisle.

My woman brain started flashing “stranger danger” in neon colors, so I steered my left-wheel-dragging cart (as non-obviously as I could squeal) in the opposite direction of the guy. But the thing about aisles is, they have more than one entrance point, and as I turned down another, randomly, there he was … still muttering, and looking more flustered than before.

I flashed a small, polite, nervous smile as I turned to see just how much room I had to squeak past crazy. Then I saw it, the source of his surly attitude, and I smiled in earnest. Shaking my head at my preconceived judgement, he reminded me that looks really aren’t always what they seem.

Scratching his head in true bewilderment, looking at the wall of nightmares (also known as feminine-products) my heart melted as I asked, “Can I help you?”
“Would you?” he asked hope-filled as he noticed me standing there for the first time.
“Of course,” I smiled assuringly.
He turned twenty-shades of purple when he said, “It’s her first day.”
“Got it,” I said knowingly, then handed him the appropriate box.
“Gosh, thanks,” he said, letting out the breath he must’ve been holding all that time.
“You just tell her you won husband- of-the-year from me.”
“Will do,” he said blushing again.

The philosopher Socrates advised,
“Be as you wish to seem.” It’s a noble thought, but I’d venture to say that who we appear to be is decided by whatever circumstance we find ourselves in at any given time. Someone once told me I walk like a snob because I kept my head and neck up. I told them I was a dancer and posture was just a habit at this point. They told me that made sense, and I didn’t know how to reply. “Thanks for not thinking I’m rude now that you’ve taken the time to talk to me?”

The thing is, I couldn’t take offense … because we do that. We look at face value, we generalize, and we judge books by covers (I was at Barnes and Noble last night literally doing just that). But often, we’re wrong.

I have a student in my class I’ve nicknamed Romeo. I did this because the boy is a flirt. He has a girlfriend (also in my class) but that doesn’t stop him from passing compliments around like candy hearts in Valentine’s Day. Even I, twenty-years his senior receive some. A few days ago he “liked my haircut,” then “I had cool eyes.” So you’ll understand my wary smile when he approached me in the hallway and said, “Mrs. H., can I come home with you?”
“Well, why would you want to do that buddy?” I asked.
He didn’t hesitate when he said, “I just really want to know what it’s like to be a part of your family.”

Again, proving … things aren’t always as they seem. Because suddenly, they weren’t. He was no longer “Romeo;” he was a vulnerable little boy who wanted to be, well – wanted.

A few days later, I told my students I wasn’t going to be there because my daughter was sick. And Romeo asked if he could write her a note. It said, “Hey, I am sorry you’re not feeling well and hope you feel better soon. I am sad that Mrs. H., your mom won’t be here with us today because I’ll miss her, but I’m really glad she’ll be there to take care of you.”

Coming home to my baby girl that day, I saw tired eyes, and a smile she’d saved just for me. Because once in awhile, things are exactly what they seem.

The greatest fashion statement in the world is love, and how it always wears its heart on its sleeve. Maybe if we followed the trend, there’d be a few less passing judgements. And we would realize that face-values and generalizations don’t matter so much after all … people do.

Go love someone past their cover,

Elle