7.9.18 A True Fan

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“It’s always compliments from people you love that mean so much.” Maria Bamford

Today I have the shortest, sweetest story. To drag it out would be to diminish it’s utter serendipity, and as I delight in fortuitous happenstances, I will tell it as it was. This lovely one is my sister. She is bright of eye, sharp with wit, generous in love and I have admired her forever. A sister through and through, she faithfully buys everything I am published in and reads every post, article, and poem I write. My mom, dad, sister, and husband generously fight over who is my “biggest fan,” and though I trust them with my life, I usually don’t believe a word of it.

That being said, the other day, my sister and I sat poolside, and she was thumbing through my newest Bella Grace summer edition magazine. She came across a spread of “65 Heart & Soul-Saving Reasons to Say No” in which writer’s responded to a Bella Grace’s prompt on Instagram. I’d not gone through that particular section yet, and she scanned and read the responses to herself, finally stopping on the third page of quotes to read me one that said, “Saying no is brave. It is an act of choosing ‘you’ when the world plays tug-of-war with your heart. Reclaim your right to what fills, not empties you.” Pointing to it before reading aloud, she burst out laughing.

“It was yours!” she bubbled. Sure enough, looking down, I saw that I had indeed written that post to Bella’s Instagram months before. “I guess now you’ll have to believe me when I say you really are my favorite writer,” she smiled.

I cannot tell you what that moment meant to me. If I could bottle it, I would, just to let the magic of my sister’s approval wash over me each time I opened the jar. She always says the right thing, but having her mistakenly identify a favorite quote and then find out it was mine!?! That was an authentic compliment I finally allowed myself to believe was real.

So my sweet sister, thank you from the bottom of this quote … our quote …

“I carry your heart (I carry it in my heart).”  e.e.cummings

 

Love you forever, Elle

4.18.18 Busy People

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“Beware the barrenness of a busy life.” – Socrates 

I’m a handful; I know it. And usually I have a mouthful of words I’m holding in, ready to share with the next victim who gives me an opportunity to speak. Busting at the seams with ideas and dreams, I’m usually a bouncing-on-my-tiptoes, ready-to-go, kind of girl. But lately, this weather, this eternal winter, has got my curl-up-and-stay-warm-to-survive mentality fighting my productive self.

It is not unusual for my husband or I to work after work – to hang out with the kids, do dinner, dishes, bedtime, and then exercise, or write, or read, or plan for something essential that’s coming up in the next few days. We are “get ahead” people, “positive” people, “go-getter’s.” But sometimes, like the last few days, I’m a “tired” people. And in times like these, I realize that sometimes times like these are necessary to remind me why people should slow down sometimes.

The other night my son had soccer, and I volunteered to take him. I usually use his practice time to write because I literally need to steal time to write. I have a writer’s conference to go to Saturday. I have homework for a class that’s making me an educational ambassador to a major museum due next week, I have a field trip to plan for that is also next week, I have all these ideas for a new book, and the list goes on! I started to type, but the whirring of soccer balls was a smidge distracting. Usually I can “get in my zone” and ignore almost anything, but for some reason … nothing doing.

I picked up a book I brought along. I’d intermittently wave at my son, watching him weave between cones, look up at me, wave, and dribble on. I might’ve read three pages total when I gave in to the nagging feeling that I was supposed to “do nothing.” What surprised me was that I was watching him for a full five minutes or so before he looked up at me again. And in those delayed moments, I had the very valid fear that I’d missed an opportunity. Not to write another article to be published, or read another bucket list book, or get more homework done – but that I’d missed the opportunity for my son to look for me in the hopes that I’d be looking back. Ouch.

The good news is that instead of missing an opportunity, I got the sweetest little touch of grace. He did look up, eventually, and saw me elbows-on-knees, no book, no phone, no computer in my hands … staring at him. He literally did a double-take and gave me the most unexpected smile of genuine astonishment. With a confused grin he signed typing fingers and said, “Why aren’t you writing?”

I smiled back at him and signed, “Because I’m watching you.”

And that’s when he did it. That’s when he broke my mommy heart. With the greatest sincerity he held my blue eyes levelly with his and said, “Thank you.”

I love that he was concerned for my writing time. I love that he wanted me to watch him. But most of all, I love that without even knowing it his, “Thank you,” was really an, “I forgive you, for all the times you choose work, for all the times you choose writing, or reading, or cleaning, or planning, because this time – you chose me, and I forgive you.”

How could I deserve a love like that? Like his? It makes me think about my faith and how I can never earn the grace I receive on either side of my family, divine or earthly. I’m a little ashamed of myself, and how dense I can be in the midst of my busyness … and for the way I know I will do it again. But for the moment, I am grateful, that my slow-down-self won just this once … and I saw my son, when he needed to be seen.

I have no idea what kinds of lives you lead. I don’t know if you’re constantly busy or a slow down person. The funny thing is, we’re probably all a combination of both, but I am one-hundred percent convinced others do it better than me … they find a semblance of balance that I am perpetually chasing. Regardless, I’d love, love, love to hear of a moment that caught you in your tracks. I’d delight over you sharing a story of when destiny helped you make the right decision to be present in the presence you were drawn to. You hear so much of me … I’d love to hear a bit of your tale too.

All my love,

Elle

3.9.18 Surprised!

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I was totally blessed by a friend today who had a bit more time to review the newest issue of Bella Grace than I have since I got it Tuesday. I told him to check out page 134, where my newest poem was, and he said, “Yeah, but you’re in it twice.”

“No, just the one piece,” I told him.

“No,” he said flipping it open in front of me, “twice.”

Ha, ha! A piece I’d published on Grace Notes made its way to the magazine. Please enjoy “Love Letter to a Single Friend,”  in print! I’d love to hear your thoughts, and thank you all so much for your constant support. Without readers, the voice of writers is pretty silent … I so appreciate your giving me someone to speak to.

All my love,

Elle

3.6.18 I Write.

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“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” – Maya Angelou

I am deliriously happy to announce that I have a new piece in Bella Grace Magazine. This poem was really special to me because it epitomized what it means to find rest … not always the easiest of pursuits. “Because of Sundays,” is about delighting in the times you can wake up, just to fall asleep and dream again. I hope that you are able to visit Bella Grace online to purchase a copy, or, like me, steal away to your nearest bookstore just to see this lovely publication on the shelves where she belongs.

I have to say that the happiest moment of this particular piece was stealing away to see myself in print at the bookstore before receiving my copy. There was a sweet lady who was interested in what I was reading, and I told her all about a magazine that wasn’t filled with adds or tabloid stories, but pure, real pieces from the heart of writers, photographers, and seekers of living life with intention. Watching her shuffle away with her copy felt like extending a tiny legacy in some minuscule, but meaningful way.

It’s not always easy. Writing. There are endless rejection letters … pieces that go unfinished because of the reality of living between imagination and Mondays … and the ridiculous business of revising things you could’ve sworn you got right the first time. Still, I cannot seem to shake this love affair with words. And though it is ever-so-much more a give than take kind of relationship, it is one I am willing to work on for all of the reasons I relayed in the poem below. Please let me know your thoughts dear ones!

All my love, from my pen and page to yours,

Elle

I Write.

I write.

To hear the sound of a pencil speaking to it’s page.

I write.

For the hope that a story that needed telling gets told.

I write.

To connect my whispered thoughts to fellow dreamers across the world.

I write.

For the undiluted joy of marrying words that belong together in a line.

I write.

To share memories my mind is too slippery to hold on its own.

I write.

For the beam of radiant thought I cannot ignore inside me.

I write.

To hear the promises of better things I will into being by creating them.

I write.

For the God who commanded my heart to dance at the sight of words.

I write.

To reach for the immortality of lines that will outlive me.

I write.

For the ones I have raised with the truth that stories hold power.

I write.

To feel.

I write.

For joie de vivre.

I write.

To inspire.

I write.

For there is simply no way I could not.

 

 

2.27.18 Broken Crayons

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I am writing a new book, as I’ve alluded to in the past, but the thing is – I don’t want this to be about me; I want it to be about them … my broken crayons. They matter so much, and too often I feel that somehow I’m inherently selfish, and that even in my noblest of pursuits, I end up focusing on what I want and need.

Today, with this post, I’m asking for feedback to see if this piece has the potential to do what I pray it’ll have the power to do … to shout to the world the stories of those who need voice – the tales of the beautifully broken ones. 

Please let me know what you think. Share it, and help me carry on with this project through your honest opinion of whether or not others might need to read it as much as I need to write it. 

I look forward to hearing from you,

Elle

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When I was still an undergrad, pursuing a degree in education, I was forced to take a class on learning how to teach art. I was not aiming to be an art teacher, nor were most of the students in my class I would suppose, however, our program required that we learn how to teach music, art, and physical education just in case we were ever in a situation that demanded we wear more “hats” than our title might suggest.

I didn’t have much of an expectation, but what I learned that first day of class has stayed with me throughout my teaching career. One of our requirements was to bring a twenty-four box of crayons. As soon as our professor entered the room, she warned us that she was going to start by making us all uncomfortable.

She handed out a piece of plain, white paper and asked us to draw her something. Uncomfortable, yes – we weren’t art majors after all, but not too bad. Glancing around I saw similar pictures popping up along my row. Simple trees, suns that looked like wheels with spokes, and (from the braver artists) a few birds or people awkwardly plunked in the cotton cloud or green-grass setting. Nothing too extraordinary. The professor wandered amiably around the room, commenting on the less awful sketches, and smiling kindly at the non-progressive creators. Not terrible at drawing, I wasn’t uncomfortable at all … until she spoke again.

“As future teachers I know that you are mostly Type A personalities. You like things ‘just so’ and you like to be in control. Well, I’d like you to begin this lesson by pouring out every single one of your twenty-four crayons – and breaking them.”

A collective gasp.

She might as well have asked us to break our own fingers. This was nearly as painful. But her demeanor had shifted at this point, and it was clear that no crayon was going to leave alive. Slowly, sadly, you could hear snap after snap of little fallen soldiers giving up their lives for a cause none of us could yet understand.

After the awful massacre, we sat fairly motionless, looking around with each other at the colorful wake of our war on Crayola. The professor spoke up. “That was the hard part,” she said, “but now you’re ready to see the real lesson. Pick up one of your crayons, flip over your picture, and color with it. Press as hard as you can – no form, just scribble out the color. We followed her trail of crazy, it couldn’t be any worse than what we’d just done.

The amazing part was, the papers were beautiful. Vibrant. Bold. Suddenly the simple tools I’d been using since childhood became an entirely new form of media. Instead of the waxy, shady tone we were all used to, our papers were filled with the thick consistency of an oil pastel. Every color was rich and brilliant. It was obvious from our collective, “Wow’s,” that no one was expecting beauty from all our destruction.

“You’ll never know what a crayon is worth,” she said, “until it’s broken.”

And that did it. A cosmic shift. An epiphany. My whole paradigm tilted. Those few minutes of art class became a metaphor for my entire philosophy as an educator. To be broken, is to be useful. To be broken is to no longer be afraid to push a little harder, because the “worst” has already happened. To be broken is to be able to pour out the truest colors you have to offer, because you’re now free enough to bleed passion. Kids recognize this. Teenagers mostly.

Like a pile of broken crayons, they are the leftovers of childhood. Still bright, but messy. Most people don’t want to “go there,” wherever there happens to be. No one wants to pick up a broken crayon when they would rather have something pure and new. I’ve been asked my entire career why I choose to be with middle and high schoolers, and it’s simply because, I’ve fallen in love. Somehow when I was given the choice between the new box of crayons and the throwbacks, I chose the later.

This book is not about me. There is nothing revolutionary I have done. I don’t have a ten-step program for you to follow, no gimmicks or tricks. This is just a love story that I needed to share. After a decade of teaching, I need my broken crayons in the world to know how I feel. And I need burnout parents and teachers to remember how to feel. Because these kids exist. They are in the world – right now, positively dripping with vibrancy. I thank God for continually putting them in my way, and I urge you to pray for a few broken crayons of your own to absolutely stop you in your tracks. And when they do, I hope you’ll recognize the blessing before you and help them release their colors back into your life.

 

2.13.18 Love Letter

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” … plant your own garden and decorate  your own soul instead of waiting for someone to bring you flowers.” – Veronica A. Shoffstall

A little over a month ago, the fabulous blog editor at Bella Grace Magazine warmed my heart by asking me to write a specific post for them this Valentine’s Day! She asked if I would write a “How to,” piece entitled, “How to Write a Love Letter to Yourself.” Instantly, I said YES!

It is quite amazing how expendable we think we are … how we’ve been cultured and desensitized to the point that we’ve decided we are replaceable. Well darling … this piece is a slow down and think, a breathe in and out, a stop and remember just how unrepeatable you are.

I hope you will take a moment to click on the link and remember how to love yourself. Leave a comment and please share the love this Valentine’s Day with your faith, with your friends, with your family, and always – with yourself.

Be loved,

Elle

11.27.17 Come Boutique With Me!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Elle

11.20.17 Somewhere

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

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

Somewhere

Somewhere between the here

and now

and the now

and then

there is another place

a place where there is room

to breathe

to pray

to imagine

and to wonder

wondrously

It is sometimes a secret

sometimes a lost place

seemingly far away

just barely on the fringes of our memories

and yet

intrinsically

we cannot forget

our desire to find it again

To follow the invisible compass

back to the song

of the spirit

that makes sense

it is there

quietly

but sure

placed in a place

we could never truly lose

without losing ourselves

completely

So somewhere between the here

and now

and the now

and then

find the beat of the heart

the pulse of the mind

the light of the soul

and return

Somehow

(I promise)

you already

know the way

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

Elle 

11.3.17 “Wordless” a Bella Grace Post

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There are some experiences in your life that absolutely change you. This post, “Wordless” on Bella Grace Magazine’s blog Grace Notes is just such an experience. I would argue that it was one of the most significant journeys my writing has taken me on, and has bloomed into one of the most precious friendships I’ve ever had. Please read. Please share. For myself … for Michelle … and most especially, for the memory of Katrina.

Some stories have the power to change the world. This story changed mine.  I pray it will inspire yours.

Sparkle dear ones, and let your presence of light hang heavy over the sky like fireworks.

Elle Harris

9.18.17 At Least We Get to See Tuesday

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

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

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

And what a relief. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Elle