8.28.17 Through My Eyes or Yours

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“Let all that you do be done in love.” 1 Corinthians 16:18

As much as I believe in love, I have to admit that this is not the easiest command. I hope you take a moment to laugh with me at this sometimes awesome, sometimes awful, always amazing life. Please take a minute to watch and share your own love stories! Through my eyes, or yours, our perspectives should always be focused on what matters most … one another.

Carry each other through!

Elle

 

8.21.17 Analog Heart

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A really good friend of mine is getting divorced. It is both as blunt and pointed as that. I think one of the hardest things is that this person is not one to whom anyone could say they, “saw it coming.” And every time I think about the hurt – I hurt. What’s more is that I’ve seen this fragile, tender soul fall in waves of believing what writer Tonya Hurley once said, “If you expect nothing, you can never be disappointed.”

But that’s no way to live – and it’s not the identity one is meant to claim. It is not what any of us should be made to deal with. We should have expectations. We should believe that love is what it says it is, and will stay simply because it promised it would.

As I’m learning, this is not so. Apparently, some love, when it is unrequited and given up on, does end. Leaning into this friendship in ways of support, and listening to broken stories I don’t understand, this poem came to me.

An analog relates to a mechanism that requires a voltage or pressure to perform; it seemed a weakened, but still beating heart applied. So this is for my friend, who knows above all things the proverbial truth that, “Hope dies last.” Let your heart beat on – weak, but steady. For someday it will be filled again. It will rise to the point of a great crescendo. It, like you, will carry on.

Analog Heart

You – now equal parts ash and ice

who stumbles between the

purity of being tested in fire –

and the bitterest chill of indifference

You – beating fiercely as your

gears remain locked …

who feels the minutes pass –

hears every tick that slowly

grinds,

yet sees no discernible change

You – built to race,

built to fill and turn keys of

crimson and scarlet –

doors closed long enough

for filaments of light to become dull

You – filled to fracture with

memory – this moment –

even if it is all you’re capable of –

… stay …

… endure …

beat one time,

and let the echo of once

remind you how to carry on again

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Please share this with anyone whose heart is, or has been near to breaking. Remember that your strength only needs to last you this day, and somehow, miraculously, tomorrow you will find another way, another day, to carry on.

From my heart to yours,

Elle

4.9.17 Love for the Sake of Loving

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Sometimes I think that of all the words we can fill a conversation with, it is the smallest phrases that often have the most impact – phrases like: I trust you, I believe in you,  I love you, thank you, you mean so much to me, or please don’t go.  I don’t think we use these phrases enough. I don’t think anyone does. And I come to wonder what state this world might be in if we all heard them just a little bit more.

John C. Maxwell once said, “A word of encouragement from a teacher to a child can change a life. A word of encouragement from a spouse can save a marriage. A word of encouragement from a leader can inspire a person to reach her potential.” Though I’m sure I am oversimplifying, I really think that most problems in the world could be avoided if people just felt that they were needed … appreciated … wanted. If everyone felt even one of these things, how could feelings of ineptitude or desolation even exist?

So often I feel like I’m chasing an ideal version of myself that may never exist. I seek the writer who is able to be sustained by her craft of words. I chase the teacher who is no longer in the classroom, but who is instead sharing her wisdom in workshops or assemblies. I imagine the wife and mother who is able to do-it-all without becoming a ragged mess in the process. I desire to be the friend who always has time to write that card, answer that call, or meet up with everyone that matters to her. In reality – I am none of those things yet, maybe ever. But I wonder if that’s the point? From a handful of experiences recently, I am starting to think it might be a whole lot easier than all of those lofty ambitions.

This past week, a friend of mine was having a rough day. I didn’t have time to go out and talk for hours, but I brought him a coffee and recommended a great song to listen to. He lit up … his face filled with relief like giving oxygen to a drowning man. I didn’t deserve that response for so simple a gesture, but it was given regardless.

There’s a little second grader who hugs me in the hallway every time I see him. I am not his teacher.  Aside from giving him a nickname and passing on easily earned smiles … I cannot say there is much he could know about me; yet he hugs me still. I happened to chat with his mother the other day, and told her how much I loved his hallway hugs. She looked at me – eyes intensely focused and asked me if I had any idea what that meant. Pressing on, she told me that he is never affectionate. That he rarely hugged anyone, including his own family members beside her, and that a hug from him was the ultimate gift he could bestow. It took me a moment to catch my breath at that motherly admission, and I was humbled by the richness of lavish, undeserved affection.

There was an old man in the grocery store with the clearest blue, smiling eyes I’d ever seen. My kids and I were in his aisle, and I couldn’t help but offer him a smile and a chat about the day. His aged face became a beacon of delight. He proceeded to tell my children that there is only one place to get the “best mints” in town. He said that people called him, “the candy man,” because he loves to share a sweet and a smile with everyone he meets. After hearing about his bowling schedule and plans to make “poonchkies,” we were on our way. On impulse in the checkout, I grabbed a new bag of mints, purchased them and ran back to him, telling him that he needed to keep his pockets full for all the other friends he’d meet. He glowed. “I only give this to the most special people,” he said then, pulling a dark chocolate bar from his coat and snapping a piece off for me and my two children. Odd as it is, sharing that moment of melted chocolate and warm wishes felt as holy as communion.

And so I am left to wonder if that version of myself I’m trailing isn’t a bit of a waste of time. I’m starting to think that maybe it’s not the whole person, or the whole life, but the moments where you lean into living in the best way that make the difference of a lifetime. Jane Wagner once inquired, “A sobering thought: what if, at this very moment, I am living up to my full potential?” Funny thought. Maybe it isn’t what I have accomplished at all … my resume, degrees, and accomplishments seem of so very little importance in comparison with the memories of being in the moment when the opportunity to love for the sake of loving came about.

Lean in, and love.

Elle

 

11.19.16 Half-Okay

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“At the end of the day, all you need is hope and strength.  Hope that it will get better, and strength to hold on until it does.” -Unknown

This week something happened that left me speechless.  It wrecked me a little if I’m being honest, because it forced me to confront something that I usually choose not to … loss.  A few years ago I had a “golden class” of kids.  It wasn’t that they were the most advanced, or the greatest at anything in particular … it was just that the chemistry they had with one another and with me made us so much more than a teacher and her bunch of students – it made us a family, raw and real.  I’ve only ever had one other class that affected me the same way, and that was my second year of teaching.

Needless to say, when they happen, those “perfect” years, you don’t take them for granted for a day in the life of curriculum. When you need to stop class to talk about life and the love, and the joy, and the pain of it, you do.  We had many of those conversations. There wasn’t a topic we didn’t cover … politics, war, love, hope, faith, future, life, and death.  To this day, those two classes have been the ones to keep in contact with me.  From texts, emails, and phone calls, to lunches, emergency ice-cream stops, and coffee breaks.  The hardest thing, is when that life and that future we dreamed comes crashing to a halt I can’t step into.  They’re not with me day in and day out and I can’t be there the way I wish I could or want to be.

Two days ago I found out that one of these “golden” ones lost her brother.  He was 17, a varsity swimmer, Christian youth group leader, star student, family focused … a true all American dream.  His heart just stopped.  And with it, I assume his family’s did as well.  I thank God that they know Him … it has to be a sort of a comfort, the only comfort I would guess.  Still, for all the words and the wisdom and the grand conversations we had, I don’t think I ever prepared them enough for this.  For the grittiest parts of life – the end of it.

I asked my kids to pray for their family.  I told them that mommy would be absolutely never okay again if anything happened to either one of them.  My son asked me then, “What if you lost only one of us mom … would you be half-okay?”

How can you answer that?  How can this mother live it?  It took me two days to reach out to the family … to my student.  I couldn’t find the words, and I’m still not sure I used the right ones, but saying something in the midst of it all seemed the best way to go.  Sometimes I think that when things are the hardest, the most  important thing is just showing up.

I’ve heard that the holidays can be painful for a great deal of people.  They bring up and out memories that might do better to stay in the past, but still … we celebrate and we smile.  So if this is you – if you’re just “showing up” because people expect you to, because you said you would, that might be enough.  God has a way of putting the right people in your way at the right time, and whether you’re the one hurting, or you’re the one helping … I really think that’s the point of it all.  Of this journey.  Of this life.  You might only be half-okay, but you know what?  Half might just be enough to carry you back to whole.

Wishing you all the hope in the world,

Elle

11.11.16 A Double-Fisted Day

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This week I was in line for Starbucks … again.  I’d just been there two days before, but I needed it, and vindicated my drinking choices with my blonde-head held high.  I was that kind of girl … the Starbucks-toting, it-is-what-it-is “Gold Card Member,” drive-through frequenter that women like me are so typically pegged to be.  There’s a favorite verse of mine, Corinthians 15:10 that says, “But by the grace of God, I am what I am, and his grace within me is not without effect.”  I realized I would not be “effective” at all, without a Ventì.

While I might regret my Starbucks affliction at times, this week, (yes I’m talking about Wednesday morning) there was NOTHING that could keep me away from my perkalicious-pick-me-up.  The funniest thing was, as I made the necessary left, and quick right turn into the parking lot, my kids chorused, ” Again mom?”

“Don’t be judgmental,” I chided, “it’s not an attractive quality.

“Yeah,” my son said, “but weren’t you just here like – a day ago?”

Thankfully, right as we pulled into the line, I saw something beautiful … a man drinking a large porcelain cup of coffee, as he waited in the drive through line to order MORE coffee!  I laughed out loud and immediately diverted the conversation by throwing this amazing man right under the proverbial bus. “See,” I literally pointed,”now that guy has problems!  He’s the addict.”  My kids reluctantly agreed, and let me proceed with my order sans discrimination due to the double-fisted wonder ahead of me.  Still, if I hadn’t felt so “on-watch” I’d have loved to get another drink today … maybe two.

And while my pride won’t let me, I’ve decided to exonerate you … to absolve if you need to have a double-fisted day of three shots of espresso, or even something stronger.  So here’s a small list of reasons to allow you to be, “Off the Hook,” so-to-speak.   Relate to one, or ten … and enjoy a drink on me!

Official Double-Fisted Off the Hook List

  • If you’ve lost sleep because you’re looking into moving to Australia instead of staying in America … you’re off the hook.
  • If you’re balancing work, or kids, or school, or all of the above … you’re off the hook.
  • If you’re going on a television fast because you can’t stand to see another Black Friday commercial thus reminding you of the inevitability that you’re about to be broke in a month … you’re off the hook.
  • If your laundry is tracking you and the only way to avoid it is to leave the house … you’re off the hook.
  • If your inbox is filled to the digital brim with things you’re trying hard to ignore … you’re off the hook.
  • If you realized that the Halloween candy bowl is a lot lighter but you aren’t … you’re off the hook.
  • If you just want to go jump in the leaves but have to go to work instead … you’re off the hook.
  • If you needed to wear your winter coat for the first time this week … you’re off the hook.
  • If the only family member who hasn’t made you lose your temper this week is the cat or dog … you’re off the hook.
  • If you’ve already double booked (or triple-booked) for the holidays … you’re off the hook.
  • If you’ve spent any amount of time at all on Pinterest, thus making you feel like an epic failure … you’re off the hook.
  • If you had someone tell you, “You look tired,” this week …  you’re off the hook.
  • If you would do anything to stay in bed but the alarm is reminding you that the world expects you to show up … you’re off the hook.

You’re vindicated, you’re exonerated, you’re double-fist coffee worthy!

Carry on.

Elle

10.29.16 Effervescence and Men’s Deodorant

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So recently, I started to wear men’s deodorant.  Classy, I know.  But you know what!?!  It works!  I’ve tried around five different brands of women’s in the past, and felt like I needed to “reapply” like four times a day.  Mens?  Just once thank you very much!  It really struck me though, and kind of disturbed me, to tell  you the truth, that I … a five foot three inch woman who isn’t typically a “sweater” would need it.  I couldn’t understand, that is, until I did a little anthropological experiment of my typical day. 

On Wednesday, of this past week, I took a small slip of paper and kept a tally of all the times someone asked me a question.  As a teacher, and mother, and wife … you might imagine it was quite a few.  But would you believe that between 6:30 in the morning, and 5:30 at night, I was asked one hundred and thirty-two different questions!?!  No joke!  It is no wonder I’m often so fragmented.  I realized that questions often come in the form of interruptions … and therefore, I usually have an air of distracted, disjointed, and well … just plain lostness about me.  

My favorite thing, is when people tell you to relax.  “Just breathe and take it slow,” they suggest.  I suggest a reality check … because how can a person form a logical thought in their head with one hundred and thirty-two interferences?  Sometimes I wish that I could begin my day like Ronald Regan began one of his presidential speeches, “Before I refuse to take your questions, I have an opening statement.”  Genius!  Only life doesn’t work like that does it?  We are often going to need to answer the questions of children or adults who act like children (depending on where you work). It is just a part of the human experience I’m afraid. 

One thing I have learned in all of this, is that people really do respond to the way that questions are answered.  I’m certainly not perfect at this.  Sometimes an answer from me is “Mad as a hatter” off topic.  Sometimes it’s wise with split infinitives like Yoda.  Sometimes … as much as I hate to admit it … it’s a sarcastic eye-roll.  A lot of cliche lovers like to say, “There’s no such thing as a dumb question.”  I say, why lie to kids?  Some questions are dumb!  Regardless of the intelligence of the question (or the person asking it for that matter) I do believe in giving people the honor of time.  I’m really convinced that there are times, after all, that someone is only asking a question to build a bit of conversation, or to gain a moment of attention. 

Yesterday I introduced my husband to a new acquaintance of mine who said to him, “Wow.  This one’s got a ton of energy.  How do you keep up?”  My husband laughed and said he tries his best.  The gentleman went on to say, “She and I had a great conversation, and we’re all talked out.” To which my husband replied, 

“Yeah, but then she comes home and keeps on talking!  She’s never all talked-out.”  

He was appropriately glared at, but then I realized that my bubbly, enthusiastic nature and “talk-all-day” personality  (which rightly so annoys some people) is something that makes me useful.  God gives us what we can handle, and apparently, he intends that I handle those one hundred and thirty two questions a day.  I may come back kind or cranky, sweet, or snarky … but with me, I suppose at least you’re always guaranteed an answer.  I’ll keep praying for patience, but until then, I guess I’ll just keep being me – filled with effervescence, and of course … men’s deodorant. 

Talk on, 

Elle

10.21.16 Yellow Spiders

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If you open my back door right now, this is the sight you’ll see.  A huge yellow spider crawling in its much-too-well-established web.  When my son saw it, he immediately ran for a broom to knock the strands apart.  I was literally five seconds away from the potential demolition, but I caught him in time, and made him stop.  I’m sure that seeing this Halloween beastie you’d think I’m crazy, but yellow spiders and I have a long history, and a memory I couldn’t possibly hold against them.  

Rewind back to my Freshman year of college.  It was October, and I was homesick.  I was overwhelmed.  And to top off the misery, our dorm had this curious infestation of yellow spiders and they were everywhere.  The showers.  The hallways.  The walls.  Each place you looked there’d be two or three to spot.  Their mustard-color impossible to miss.  While the resident advisor swore it was being taken care of, I remember nearly losing it when trying to fall asleep on my lofted bed to discover not two, not three, but four yellow spiders on my ceiling. 

In desperation of a new perspective, I called the one friend I knew would always be there to offer it to me.  The person I’d been friends with since sixth grade.  The one I’d gone through all of my awkward stages with.  The one I couldn’t ever scare away.  My favorite thing about him was that he never tried to fix things, he never tried to change them … he just always helped me accept whatever was, looking at it in a light I’d never have been able to see without his vantage point.  

I can’t honestly remember what he said about the spiders that night, but I do remember that he talked to me until I fell asleep on the phone … it was still clutched tightly in my hand the next morning. 

Tonight, hundreds of rotations around the sun later, I felt homesick.  I felt overwhelmed.  Life in its busyness took hold of my “keep-it-together” attitude and  rocked me.  I’m not the kind of girl who yells, but I yelled.  And I’m not the kind of girl who cries … but I cried.  I was inconsolable, belligerent and illogical.  I heard my rant about being tired, and tired rolled into unaccomplished, and unaccomplished rolled into aging, until all of my old demons of self-doubt and deprecation came out to play.  But in that moment of too many commitments and not enough time, of too many jobs and not enough hours, I recognized my desperation for a new perspective, and called that same friend I knew would be there to offer it to me. 

He answered.  He listened.  He understood, and then helped me do the same.  He let me laugh.  He let me cry.  Then he gave me the honor of sharing his struggles too.  He didn’t try to fix things, he didn’t try to change things … and once again I found peace in the assurance of having someone so genuine in my corner.  

J.K. Rowling once said, “We all have magic inside of us,” but I guess I’d like to think that some people, have just a little bit more.  Because I know that someone who is able to turn yellow spiders into reminiscent smiles – someone who can make the worst of the worst seem not-that-bad.  If you have magic like that in your life, embrace it … make time for it … and never let too much time pass before you tell that person just how valuable they really are. 

The newest member of the yellow-spider-protectorate,

Elle 

10.12.16 Just for the Sake of Words

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Just for the sake of words, of poetry for poetry’s sake,  

I’ll write so that lines and lyrics have the chance to intertwine, 

letters pressed next to one another, 

finding reason within the pattern of simply standing side-by-side. 

Just for the sake of words, of sentences and sentiments implied, 

I’ll tiptoe-type across the keys, dotting into existence thoughts 

that only moments before, were left un-scribed – 

vindicating their importance simply by being in print. 

Just for the sake of words, of conversations that have a right to be spoken,

I’ll say the terms that may or not be easy to hear,  

tossing into the wind a winding of syllables and beats 

that beat the eardrum to submission until they are received. 

Just for the sake of words, of promises scrawled with passion,

I’ll read the pen that hit the page with fervor 

having faith that seeking wisdom and finding it 

would meet one another at just the right time.

Just for the sake of words, of expressions waiting in step, 

I’ll play the song of sounds until the seams blend into one,

where wall flower turns of phrase become choreographed cadences

and a masquerading missive is delivered among the dance

Just for the sake of words, of poetry for poetry’s sake,

I’ll create where there was no creation.

I’ll invent settings yet unexplored.

I’ll cure complacency.

I’ll offer intrigue.

I’ll breathe, and sigh, and live, and cry again, and again

loss and gain in equal measure … 

and all for the sake

of words.

 

All my love,

Elle

10.6.16 Even Trapped Farts in Tiny Cars

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Having taught for over ten years now, I’ve come to find that anything, and I mean anything can become a teachable moment.  I’m constantly finding connections to things and ways to integrate them into both my curriculum and my parenting, but I’ve found that God is no different, and he uses moments, unexpected and unconventional as they may be, to do the same for us.  There are hardly any “unusable” situations or scenarios that cannot bring us back to a sense of understanding the deeper connection to our lives as a whole.  Even, I would argue … trapped farts in tiny cars. 

This morning, as you might well imagine from my apt description … this was my scenario.  My children and I were on our way to school, as usual, and as usual we were stuck between unpredictable, chaotic traffic patterns that had us spending way too much close-time to one another in my Mini Cooper. As if there wasn’t already an edge in the air, as the minutes unforgivingly ticked by, categorizing our arrival time into “by-some-miracle-only,” standing, my son decides that he can no longer possibly hold in his gas, and passes it – loudly.  His sister, less than a foot away from him in the backseat, immediately shields herself from the inevitable, pungent onslaught about to overwhelm the five feet of squared space we share.  

“You did that on purpose!” she accused, shirt pulled up over her mouth in a makeshift gas mask. 

“I did not, I swear, I couldn’t hold it!” he defended, giggling like … well – a boy. 

“Yes you did,” she insisted, “and now you owe us a quarter.  It’s a family rule!” 

Really laughing now, he replied, “I didn’t mean to trap us in my fart, and now you’re making me laugh and I’m gonna have to fart again!” 

“Fifty cents!” she cried indignantly as another wave let loose.

Stuck with nothing but open windows of a slow-crawling car, and a full-blast vent that seemed to circulate more that eradicate, the day started with difficulty, to say the least.  In that moment there was really nothing to do but sit in it, and slowly wait for the air to clear, and the opportunity to keep inching forward. 

Though I didn’t realize it at the time, (possibly from oxygen deprivation) I really think that experience metaphorically paralleled the rest of my day.  There were unforeseen technology glitches,  attitude adjustments, and calendar conflicts to deal with.  Nothing was easy or error-free … and more than once I wondered if my brain was stuck on some pre-set slow motion setting.  There were tons of questions, emails, meetings, and expectations that, well – stunk to say the least!  I was stretched a little thinner on time and energy than I had.  But in it all, I caught myself laughing, realizing that just like in the car, there was nothing to do but sit in it, slowly wait for the air to clear, and find every opportunity to keep inching forward.  

So thank you God for autocorrect, for five more minutes, and drive through Starbucks.  Thank you for dishwashers that work, puppy kisses when I don’t deserve them, and scrambled egg dinners.  Thank you for functioning dysfunctional families and students who think I’m hilarious (whether I’m trying to be or not).  Thank you for phone calls from mothers, texts from brothers, and giving me a husband as exhausted as I am to live in this whirlwind with me. Thank you God, for little boys in tiny cars, fifty cents, in mason jars, and all the perspective they bring. 

Praying for your tomorrow, and frankly mine as well. Find a way to laugh through it. 

Much love, 

Elle

9.28.16 The Memory Box

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I have this vintage box of letters in my office.  Faded with printed flowers and scrawling text, this box has, tucked within it’s brass latch, more memories than I’d ever be able to hold in my mind without its weathered assistance. All those years ago, when I began collecting the notes, scraps, photographs, and messages it now contains, I never could’ve known they would become so much more than the simple correspondences they might originally seem to be. 

There, layered in paper, are private jokes with friends, confessions from past loves, and pictures that hold me forever still on a page. And I am so thankful, that for whatever reason in my adolescence, I had the foresight to know that I’d need these reminders of who I was then.  The truth is, life doesn’t give us many opportunities for reminiscence, things go too fast, years blur in colorful streaks past my consciousness until I force myself to slow, and visit a memory.  

Some of these letters are joy personified, littered with smiles, and coded words that no longer make sense but invoke pleasure anyway.  Lined with plans of what we’d do, or where we’d go, or even where we had already been. Some, are harder though.  They are the letters that, even now, I can’t bear to read, but need to hold onto, because they are the last proof of the people I can’t let go of … not entirely at least.  Cataloged haphazardly, whether dark or delicious … each memory in turn serves its purpose, and found residence in that treasure box for a reason clear to me alone. 

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Like a silent-bound old friend, this box keeps my secrets, benign as they may be, and guards them until I am ready to whisper glances at them some random, nostalgic day. 

Some pieces of a heart remain a mystery. And open as one might claim to be, there will always be chambers and alcoves none can enter.  And so it goes. There are depths and passes that remain unexplored, but there are also pathways well worn with remembering.  

American Author Roman Payne captured the desire of a woman’s heart perfectly saying, “The only thing higher for a girl and more sacred for a young woman than her freedom and her passion should be her desire to make her life into poetry, surrendering everything she has to create a life as beautiful as the dreams that dance in her imagination.” 

My letter box reminds me of those beautiful dreams I once had, and gives me the courage to know that same girl, the recipient of each precious letter, is still in me somewhere.  It’s time we honor our hearts, our ambitions, and our imaginations.  It’s time to pay reverence to the memories that formed us, but to look forward to what is yet to come.  Like elongated silhouettes, memories can cast a lovely shadow … but only when you take them in context of the light before you here and now.  Walk on my friends. 

Elle