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

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

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“Make a wish …” 

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

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

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

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

Elle

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

Bella Grace Magazine - Love the Life You Live

12.24.16 Winter Stars

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I love the stars at winter.  More than any other time of the year.  I realized, long ago, that even while we may shy away from the cold, the stars embrace this time of year, as if following the command of Psalm 37:7, “Be silent to the Lord, and wait patiently for him.”  Its as if they are frozen in the glorious memory of the purpose they served over two thousand years ago … to light the path to a baby, so that wanderers might no longer seek a destiny, but a person. 

Mother Theresa understood that finding our faith required attention to the details of life around us. “We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature – trees, flowers, grass- grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence … We need silence to be able to touch souls.” 

Well, the stars have always touched my soul – and I hope that this Christmas you find time to look up … time to let yourself be embraced by the glow heaven casts, and time to reflect on the wonder and majesty of the one who put them in place.  Merry Christmas to all.  I pray my words be a gift to you today, as your readership is such a treasure to me. 

Winter Stars

There is something magical about winter stars – the way they hang just a little bit
brighter, reminding us
somehow

that even at the darkest time of year, light will not be vanquished,
but distinguished in the heavens … set in place by divinity’s hand

Somehow, they know
frozen in the ancient majesty of what was, that still all these millennia later
we would need their company
their guidance each night
to reassure us that regardless of the chaos

some
things
stay

And so these winter stars
illuminate the inky depths with their promises of constancy immutably protecting all beneath them,
glowing more brilliant with the wishes they absorb
and the prayers they translate
to the one who listens above

Radiant of the skies, resplendent gift
glisten on,
and restore these dark days with a hope only you know

11.25.16 Thanksgiving Grace

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This year, Thanksgiving started early for me.  Last Sunday in fact.  I was in a bit of a mood, to say the least.  It happens every time I don’t have something lined up for myself.  I suffer from a bit of, “What’s Next Syndrome,” and while I relish in the miniature successes and publications of my writing, by the time the next issue comes out, or the next submission is sent, I am already feeling a bit unsettled, like an itch I can’t quite reach that requires another step forward to satisfy. 

It sounds discontent, I know.  But honestly, the light of a wordsmith’s heart tends to dim ever-so-slightly when there isn’t a project in the making.  At times it feels like it’d be a whole lot easier to just journal instead of dream, but J.R.R. Tolkien once said, “Faithless is he that says farewell when the road darkens.”  His words remind me that it is so easy to feel that the “road” is ending, just because I don’t know what turn to take next.  I wish that my writing career came with a little GPS, but unfortunately, it doesn’t.  There isn’t a Google map to follow, there isn’t a set plan-of-action that guarantees I’ll get “there”… I’m not even sure I always know where it is I’m trying to go –  it’s more about the inertia of moving ever onward I suppose. 

Regardless, last Sunday, I was in this mood … stuck in this moment of, “what’s next.”  Sitting in church, I decided to have a little conversation with God about it.  I offered up my prayer, which was simply, “Can you give me some direction?” I’d been feeling stuck at a stop sign, and I’d have done just about anything for a, “turn here” signal.  But as God knows, I don’t always hear his whispers so well, and sometimes I need an in-my-face-moment to remind me he is bigger than my self-doubt.  Kahlil Gibran reminds how weak my mentality can be saying, “Doubt is a pain too lonely to know that faith is his twin brother.”  Faith.  There’s a noble pursuit. 

When I got home, I checked my mailbox and what do you know … there it was.  A complimentary artist’s copy of the winter issue of Bella Grace – and I was in it.  Turns out that the email I received back in October wasn’t a residual marketing outreach, but a new push for the magazine I didn’t even know I was a part of!  Not more than thirty minutes later and God showed up.  Another small step, but forward nonetheless.  It was my very own Thanksgiving grace. 

So thank you all, thank you for reading what I write, for commenting so I don’t feel alone, and for inspiring me to continuing to share my words, no matter how small they might be. 

Literarily yours,

Elle

11.4.16 Instead of Counting Sheep

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The other night, I couldn’t sleep.  This rarely happens to me.  Usually, I am a master at conquering the pillow, but that night …  it eluded me.  Instead of counting sheep, however, I ended up letting my mind take over – never a good thing.  And in about ten minutes, I was crying about how  this might very well be the last year that my son believes in Santa.  Crazy that I would lose sleep over this, and yet it is a very real, very deep heart-hurt for me.  Because things like Santa, and Neverland, superheroes or fairies, represent so much more than characters from a storybook or holiday … they represent wonder and imagination, and the power of pretend and what if?

Don’t you remember how it felt?  Believing in things you couldn’t explain and delighting in the mystery of it all?  I want that feeling to stay for them.  I would protect it at any cost if I could, but I can’t.  People talk.  Kids overhear.  Beliefs shatter, and reality sets in … spoiling everything.  My husband tries to console me saying that since I never lost my imagination, they won’t either.  It is in the way we live and perceive things, not in who they do or don’t know is real.  I hope so.

I guess it ties back into the same problem I have with the word “forever.”  I am always equal parts shocked and shaken when people say, “I’ll live here forever,” or “This is our forever plan.”  I literally shudder.  And I can’t decide if this means something is wrong with me in terms of commitment, or in terms of perception.  I feel like the word puts an end to our stories … and it leaves no room for the unwritten possibilities to play.  There is something beautiful about order, and planning … but I like my personal definition to somewhat resemble Roman Payne’s description of a character in his book The Wanderess, “She was a ‘wanderess.’ Thus she didn’t care about money, only experiences – whether they came from wealth or poverty, it was all the same to her.”

I’m not sure I have any solutions to the inevitable, or if I’m even looking for any.  My children will learn the ways of the world soon enough.  I guess, I think we just need to live with equal parts intention and attention.  We need to not only hope for, but seek out opportunities to share in the wonder of everyday magic, and allow ourselves to travel a path slightly overgrown and wild, for that is where adventure lies.  So maybe the next time I can’t sleep, instead of counting sheep, I’ll focus on my “forever” plan … of making space for what-ifs, for imagination, and always, for pretend.

Wander far and wide my friends,

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

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

9.22.16 From the Other Side of Lost

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I have found,

(in my limited experience of finding)

that life

is worth

the struggle

That things like optimism, brotherhood and benefit-of-doubt

still have a place among this place

and time

It could be said I’m just naive,

and once, I was

But fortunately,

my unfortunate moments have indeed proven that life

isn’t

easy,

and so naivety is no longer my reason why

It’s true, that early on it was simple to be

just because

Because my path was lit with golden strands that showed me where to go

and faces

and chances

seemed to make their way to me

Back then, there was no such thing as making up a mind

when I thought I knew it all

And my smiles then were breezy,

and I gave advice out freely

and I didn’t have a silver-lineless cloud

It was common then,

to look at life as though it were my game

until one day

it showed me I could lose

For the first time I saw clearly

the haze and misperception

of perfection

that no longer

existed

The enchantment of ideas like

later,

soon,

or “someday,” lost their glimmer

and I felt my sparkle

just

begin

to fade

But in that in-between…

past “Who am I?”

“Where am I going?”

and

“What do I do now?”

I realized, that some people

the right people

whether they’d been lost

or not

were waiting for me

to be right where I was

exactly who I was

accepting me for all they knew I could be

The grace of life

are the people you meet in it

those God sent

to bring out the potential you’d

never

realize alone

And so I don’t say

naively

that life is worth the struggle

I say

from the other side of lost

that found

is bringing others

to the light you know

 

9.8.16 Thirty-Four Wishes

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So it is my birthday.  My thirty-fourth birthday to be exact.  I know I’m not supposed to tell you that.  I am well aware that when you are no longer twenty-something, age is not supposed to be something that you share … but I’m sharing it anyway, because I’m grateful.  I’m grateful that in these thirty-four years I have memories that keep me in good company, regardless of the number that is growing ever on.  While I may not want the visual affirmation of decades of candles on my cake … I do like what my mother believes about wishes.  She says you get a wish for every year, for every fire lit sparkle that keeps hope dancing above the frosting.

I have no idea what this new year holds, but I wanted to mark and welcome it with a bit of a retrospective peek into who I’ve been, and what each year has held for me so far.  Me in  time-capsule-doses.  This life has been ordinary magic … and I thank so many of you for quite literally bringing my wishes to life.

Year One: I was blessed with an exceptional mom and dad, who inspire me still.

Year Two: My sister decided to love me, and has never stopped.

Year Three: My best-cousin and I become life-long partners.

Year Four: I believe with every fiber of my being in Santa Claus.

Year Five: I met the boy next door, who pretty much shaped my sister and my play days ever summer thereafter.

Year Six: I discover that not all teachers should be.

Year Seven: I become enamored with dinosaurs.

Year Eight: I discover the fun of Halloween (matching Pandas mommy and me).

Year Nine: I move for the first time.

Year Ten: I lose my dog … my first best friend.

Year Eleven: My kindred-spirit grandmother moves in.

Year Twelve: I meet my best friend.

Year Thirteen: I am immersed in the power of sleepovers!

Year Fourteen: High school begins, and all that goes with it.

Year Fifteen: I become a dancer.

Year Sixteen: I fall in love for the first time … and recognize the influence of a heart above all things … even sense.

Year Seventeen: I meet someone who calls me back to myself.

Year Eighteen: I go away to college with the best roomie a cousin could ask for.

Year Nineteen: I meet the man I am going to marry, who picks up and protects my heart.

Year Twenty: I enter into the School of Education to become a teacher.

Year Twenty-One: I graduate, get married, and get lost in Europe with my new husband.

Year Twenty-Two: I get my first teaching job, and become a first time auntie.

Year Twenty-Three: I experience infertility and the heartache that goes with missing something you’ve never even had.

Year Twenty-Four: I graduate from graduate school, and we drive the Romantic Road in Germany.

Year Twenty-Five: I get to know the wonder of my world … my son.

Year Twenty-Six: I choose to stay at home with my son and begin to write.

Year Twenty-Seven: I get to know the second wonder of my world … my daughter.

Year Twenty-Eight: I am diagnosed with Celiac’s Disease.

Year Twenty-Nine: My parents move, and my grandfather dies … and I feel the last bit of my childhood taken from me.

Year Thirty: We get our first puppy, who now weighs 100 lbs.

Year Thirty-One: I get my first children’s book published.

Year Thirty-Two: I taste a fairy tale and meet my husband in Cannes, France for the weekend.

Year Thirty-Three: I get published by my favorite magazine in the world twice.

Year Thirty-Four: Yet to be determined, but sure to be an adventure!

My wish?  Tell me about your most memorable year!  Share, post, comment! Give me the gift of words … they’re my favorite treat!

Elle

8.24.16 Laughing Stars

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I am exhausted.  Mentally. Physically. Spiritually.  Spent. I don’t like feeling this way. Not one tiny smidgen, however, I’ve rarely found anyone who enjoys being laid waste by their endless tasks of endless days.  I am not sad. I am not angry. I am not listless or uninspired … I’m simply too tired to feed the imagination that says, “Come on … it’s my turn to play.” What did I expect with a new job, a new school year?  Certainly I didn’t anticipate I’d just waltz in and know what I was doing, and when, and how.  Well … I’d hoped, but I’m coming to learn that hope and expectation do not always agree.

Things are getting done … slowly.  As my mind flits and flutters from one task to the next, beating like a hummingbird’s wings.  My productivity and mindset do not match at all.  I’d like to be more than I am sometimes.  Have you ever thought that?  I’d like to be much more put-together than I often feel I am.  To have plans, and timetables, and actually follow the slotted minutes I designated for each thing would be lovely indeed.  But that is not life.  Not my life at least. My life is much more like a bright, engaging piece of abstract art – beautiful, messy, and somewhat unfinished in its pursuit.

I am okay with this I suppose, because even when I am as I am … exhausted to the point past sleeping … I still have traces of whimsy floating like dust particles around me.  And I see them through filtered light … my own personal confetti.  I sit in my office … my blue room, and everything feels better.  I run my hand along the old worn box that holds my most-precious letters given to me over a lifetime.  I put pumpkin-spiced coffee on the antique side table I inherited ages ago.  I curl up into cozy in the chair I’ve had forever, and I dream a waking dream of possibility.  And I imagine I’m anywhere, and everywhere at once.

My creativity comes back, and the weariness of my day wears thinner. I think if it could speak, my imagination would tell me what Antoine de Saint-Exupery once said in The Little Prince. “You – you alone will have the stars as no one else has them … In one of the stars I shall be living. In one of them I shall be laughing. And so it will be as if all the stars were laughing, when you look at the sky at night …You – only you – will have stars that can laugh.”

And so take the time to hear the stars my friend … because I would not be surprised, if they were laughing for you too.

Elle