6.1.18 The Last Time

2

 

“Some people believe holding on and hanging in there are signs of great strength. However, there are times when it takes much more strength to know when to let go – and then do it.” Ann Landers

So tomorrow is the last day of my son’s fifth grade year. This is monumental for many reasons, but the greatest of which is because he has been in my class all year. Let me begin by saying with emphatic resonance that I WOULD NEVER, EVER CHOOSE THIS. It was supremely difficult for numerous reasons I’m sure you can imagine, but mostly because I was paranoid for a YEAR that I was going to screw him up (even more than the poor kid is already likely to be with having me for a mother).

Imagine having your mom see you in your most formative time of social development on a daily basis. Imagine her seeing the way you interacted with friends, with less-than-friends, with girls! Half of the year I just wanted to close my eyes to give the poor kid some privacy and the other half I wanted to give him a, “What do you think you’re doing” death stare. Either way – it is supremely unfair. I was way harder on him than I’ve ever been with anyone else in my fourteen years of teaching. And I was way harder on me too.

But somehow, after all the prayers, and the tears, and the what if’s … I’m sad that tomorrow is it. I’ll be honest … my son is amazing. His nickname from day one was Mr. Handsome Face. He gave me hugs whenever I asked for them and even sometimes when I didn’t. He forgave me a million times for embarrassing him. He told me he’s learned more this year than ever before … me too.

I learned that this boy is courage personified.

I learned that this boy has integrity, just like his daddy.

I learned that this boy does know when to fight for what’s right, he does defend the weak, and he does put the needs of others before himself … even when mom “isn’t” watching.

I learned that this boy isn’t afraid of asking why history had to be that way, and if there’s really a chance we won’t need to repeat it.

I learned that this boy internalizes way more than I thought he did, that he most definitely cares what mommy and daddy think, and has more stress to live up to an invisible standard than I gave his little heart credit for.

I learned that this boy deserves my respect, my defense, and always, my love.

I learned a lot in fifth grade.

Sometimes I look back at pictures when he was nothing but a bundle of gurgling smiles. Other times I can’t bear it because it hurts too much to think about the times I might’ve missed a “last time” without even noticing. When was the last time I lifted him into the sky for an “airplane ride” at my feet? When was the last time I played pirates in a bubble bath? When was the last time I tucked tooth fairy money under his pillow when he still believed? When was the last time I rocked him to sleep?

Did I know it was the last time?

Did I even realize it was close?

Or was I too busy DOING motherhood instead of BEING his mommy?

Well … tomorrow is a “last time.” I can’t miss it even if I tried. Tomorrow is the last time my son will raise his hand to talk to me in class. It is the last time he’ll give me a mischievous grin across the rows of desks at some private joke only we understand. It is the last time I’ll have a son in elementary school. It is the last time I’ll be afraid that “Mrs. Harris” didn’t measure up to mommy and vice versa.

I always struggle with the end of the year – with students moving on, and beyond the memories we’ve formed toward those awaiting. I hate goodbyes. And it is surreal that somehow, though I’ll take him home with me in the afternoon … I think it is my son … this beautiful fifth grade boy … that I will miss the most – for the last time.

My heart hurts a little – okay a lot.

Elle

4.18.18 Busy People

2

IMG_2676

“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

4.5.18 Embracing Weakness

1

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

“It was pride that changed angels into devils; it is humility that makes men as angels.”  – Saint Augustine

There’s nothing wrong with your computer or phone. I’m aware that the video is sideways. It’s on purpose. When I originally took the video, my camera was not aligned and I tried to fix it, but then I remembered what my husband (an unbelievable skier) always tells me, “Skiing when it’s snowing is like being tipped in a snow globe.” And you know what … I like it this way. I’ve stopped trying to “fix” the video, because watching it makes me feel like I’ve been placed in a safe, slow, bubble of glass protected and stilled – visible only in the perfect way that memories preserved in a globe portray.

TRUTH? I’m awful at skiing. I take that back. I’m not awful, I’m just not awesome. My entire family is awesome at skiing. My husband was a competitive skier, wowing me from the start with flips, lincolnloops, spins, stealth, and speed. He has taken our kids on the hill since they were three, so both have had well over five years of practice. Me? I went (when I had to) with my husband before kids … then I had a blessed reprieve during pregnancy and the early years. Now that my kids and husband are all out there – my excuses are gone.

We spent Spring Break in Colorado, and I was literally near tears as my children and nieces whizzed past me saying, “Great job!” They waited for me on every lip of every run, and I was so frustrated, not at them, but at my own weakness. The more my family encouraged me, the more desolate I became until I literally asked to spend some time alone to get my bearings on the mountain. My son wouldn’t hear of it. “I’m going with mom,” he said with authority. Though trying to talk him out of it, his resolve would not be moved. He spent the next hour tree-skiing next to me as I sailed down the green runs where I was most comfortable. “Look at me mom, look! Watch this,” he would shout above the wind.

Within a few runs I felt God tapping me on the shoulder saying, “See … it was never about you.” I struggle with this; I’m admitting it. Though I wouldn’t necessarily have thought it before, I realize that I am an inherently selfish person. I didn’t want to ski because I wasn’t the best at it. In fact, I was the worst. It wasn’t fun for me to be last, when as a teacher and mother and writer, I’ve become accustomed to being “good” at things. Not. Needing. Help.

I don’t like help. I like helping. There, I said it. And even though it is the truth, I realized this trip, that it isn’t a good truth. When the rest of my family rejoined my son and I for lunch, my sister-in-law pulled me aside. “You know it means a lot to my brother that you come out here.”

“I feel so awful,” I admitted. “I’m just slowing everyone down.”

“It’s not about that for him,” she said. “It’s about his wife being out here, standing beside him and doing what he loves. I know how proud he is just to be with you.”

More truth – I’m happy to say that our trip was wonderful. I grew (not necessarily as a skier) but as a human in my IMPERFECTION which needed some reminding. There is something amazingly beautiful about stepping into humility … as Saint Augustine said, ” … that makes men as angels.”

My halo’s pretty tilted at times, like a snow-globe tipped sideways. So here’s to embracing our weaknesses angels. I’m right there, flying slowly with you.

Elle

1.30.18 Unbuckled on a Rollercoaster

0

unnamed

So I woke up sick, and tired (because we all know one condition doesn’t travel without the other). And from there, the day continued on to be a rollercoaster of emotions ranging from giggle to growl-worthy. It’s rather a pity that our conscious doesn’t have the forethought to tell us to buckle up and keep our smiles and frowns inside the “coaster” at all times because I’m pretty sure I wasn’t always able to keep my facial expressions at a secure setting of placid.

Here is my list of highs and lows, hiccups and laughter.

7:20 Happy because I got to sleep in

7:25 Sad because I only got to sleep in for calling in sick to work

7:30 Annoyed at how long my daughter took to brush her dreadlocks

7:35 Still annoyed

7:45 More annoyed that I had to join the war on Goldilocks’ locks

7:50 Defeated and put her hair into a puffy braid that hid the knots

8:20 Excited to nap after dropping the kids off at school

8:45 Patiently waiting for the dog to come in so I can go nap as planned

9:00 Now LESS patiently waiting for the cat to finish her food but I have to stay and watch because if I don’t the dog will eat it

9:30 Sleepy, and almost nappy-happy

9:40 Devastated as I get a text from two teachers telling me that in my absence, the class hamster got out

9:45 Still Devastated as I get more texts from more teachers

10:20 Exhausted but sleepless as I continue to answer calls and texts about the hamster

11:00 Agitated, I get up to exercise out my pent up energy from the hamster fiasco I can do NOTHING about

11:40 Mildly intrigued by the old, cheesy spy movie I started watching starring Miley Cyrus

12:00 Proud of myself for realizing what a waste of time I was indulging in, switched my jogging pants for jeans, and went to the nail salon

12:30 Delighted that my sweet Cambodian nail technicians were as filled with coughs and sniffles as I was, making me feel less guilty about coming

12:40 Smart as I learned three phrases in Khmer, the language of Cambodia

1:00 Charmed when I saw a huge, burly biker sucking on a lollipop down the street

1:30 Suspicious as I ate my burrito bowl next to a man who literally faced the corner typing text into his computer like he was cracking some security code for the CIA

2:00 Cozy with a light salted caramel mocha to keep me company when I tried to relax and write, since sleep was NOT going to happen today

3:30 Indignant when I politely asked a lady at the coffee shop to keep an eye on my computer bag only to have her give me a stare so menacing you’d have thought I asked for a bite of her sandwich, needless to say, I took ALL MY BAGS into the bathroom with me (thanks for nothing lady)

4:00 Loved with a snowplow hug from my son who jumped on me when I picked him up from school

4:01 Double-loved when my daughter followed it up with a gentle wrap of her little arms around me

5:00 Giggly as I sat waiting for my kids to finish acting class while sitting across from a lovely lady who talked to herself while knitting

5:30 Sore from sitting on the hard floor for two hours while my children acted because I’m “that” mom who is too afraid to stay in the car while her kids are in the building in case they need me … which they did … for money and snacks, but still …

I have no idea what emotions the rest of my day might entail, and chances are there could be new emojis created off of them, but as Travis Barker once said, “Thank you for life, and all the little ups and downs that make it worth living.”

I’d love to hear the best or worst or funniest emotion you were faced with today. Please share! We are all unbuckled on this rollercoaster together after all!

All my love,

Elle

12.5.17 Believing Anyway

4

IMG_0778

“Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love.” Hamilton Wright Mabie

It was over a year ago now, that much I remember, when I fell asleep crying because I knew that someday, I’d have to tell my son the truth about Santa Claus. I remember it distinctly, because the moonlight was bright, and my pillow was salty and damp with heavy tears continuing to stream and soak in as I silently continued to weep. It was the idea of someday that pained me – the idea that someday I’d have to make him grow up just a little bit more … and it hurt, but I carried on and calmed myself with the solace that “someday,” was not today.

A few days ago, “someday” came. As a child I never understood the term bittersweet, or when people tried to tell me that pain could be beautiful. But now? As a mother? I understand.

He came to me on a Friday night, after school, after piano lessons, rumpled and boyish and wonderful. “Hey mom?” he hedged, “I know that Santa is real, but I just wanted to ask you, because … well … he is right?” And as much as I wanted to, as many times as I had before, this time was different because this time, his eyes begged to dispel a truth he already half-wished he didn’t know. Every time I’ve ever had to have a difficult conversation with my children, I’ve prayed God would just let me know the right time – and this was his.

In a series of too-short moments, I explained that Santa was a real and wonderful man. I spoke of his history, and his mission, and the way that he helped people believe in the beauty and love of giving. I said I believe in Santa, because I believe in his mission, and the magic and wonder of his mission lives on through us.

And he cried.

And I cried.

And I lifted that beautiful, long-limbed boy into my too-small arms and cradled him for just a moment. In the stretch of tears and sniffles, he turned to me with a weak smile on his now, somehow older face. “I understand mom,” he said, “and I believe in his mission too.” Then his expression shifted to something of worry and he asked, “But last year mom, when I got the new video game system – it was so expensive … I’m so sorry!”

And I cried again. Here this boy. This wonderful, God-given gift, who I would have done anything for just to give him one more day of believing, was selfless enough in his own heartbreak to worry about our bank account. After telling him it was nothing, that we gave from Santa’s spirit of giving, he looked at me with his deeply-watering eyes and hugging me said, “Thank you so much.”

I have experienced many a treasured Christmas, but this understanding, his ability to love beyond disappointment – that was a gift beyond words.

Wherever you are in the realm of the magic of Christmas … of first wishes, fond memories, or once-upon-a-snowflakes, I wish you the delicate, yet miraculously shatterproof love that keeps a broken heart beating … a tear-streaked face smiling … and a spirit believing – anyway.

Elle

 

 

11.13.17 New Creation

9

Today was a little tough. Okay … a lot tough. There was nothing particularly awful, no singular tragic event or definitively difficult set of problems. It was just the sort of day that left me feeling defeated, deflated, and a little worse for wear. Scrolling through my Instagram feed, I came across the passage in 2 Corinthians 5:17 which says, “You are a new creation.” What a beautiful thought – a new creation. After days like today, after strings of monotonous moments that didn’t go according to plan, I wonder, at times, what God designed me for and if I’m very far off from his original blueprints. 

Was I really created for deleting a string of unwanted emails? For buffering stress-inducing conversations and scenarios? Is my purpose to have less time than I’ve ever had before to be instead of do? For some reason, I don’t think so. I don’t think that was meant for anyone. In his infinite wisdom I don’t believe that God handcrafted us with unique talents just so we could waste them in the pursuit of mediocre days where one is indistinguishable from the next. 

So how do we downshift? How do we recycle and reclaim our spent hours? Honestly? I have no idea. But I think it has something to do with attitude. In her infinite wisdom at ninety-five, my grandmother said, “It’s just so easy to be happy.” And you know what? She’s right. No one, not one single person on this earth has it easy. We are all struggling with past pains, present dangers, and future fears. There is not one among us who is unscathed or scarless. We each have crosses to bear and burdens we cannot share. Still, I agree with my grandmother. Even with the weight of your own small world on your shoulders, it is possible to be happy. Happiness is an action, a state of being, and a calling on your life. So. Be. It.

Right now, right here, writing to you … the hour is much too close to tomorrow. My blinks are drawing themselves out, my eyes burn beneath sleepy, lavender lids, and my body has begun that tingly stage of quiet revolt against another long day that isn’t done. Still – I decide, here and now, to be that “new creation” I think I was designed to be.

She is confident, this version of myself, and her smiles are given freely. She is stronger than she looks, but sensitive enough to know when to be real. She is creative and caring, and she never lets the opportunity to make someone’s day go by, even if it costs her the most precious gift she has – time.

She is happy, this girl in the blueprints. And even now, so am I.

Be a new creation, and introduce me to who you were designed to be! I can’t wait to meet you. Can you?

Elle 

 

 

9.30.17 Let Me Be Aware

8

IMG_8768.jpg

About ten or so years ago, I came across a poem that said everything I should say to my husband on a daily basis. I printed it out, and put it somewhere “safe” and then we moved and I lost it. All I remembered of it was a line … “Someday I shall wish … more than all the world, for your return.” And I remembered thinking that I never wanted to have that feeling, that relentless ache of NOT saying what I should have. 

Fast forward ten years, and miraculously, a friend gave me a stack of quotes as a gift. One of the quotes, as you might serendipitously guess, was the one I’d been searching and combing the internet for for all of these past years. I immediately looked it up, and this week, I was so very, very glad to have it, so I could read it to the man who not only has my heart, but has fiercely protected it since we met. 

Please share this video message, this poem, and this life with someone you hold just as dear. 

9.18.17 At Least We Get to See Tuesday

14

“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

8.28.17 Through My Eyes or Yours

4

“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

 

7.24.17 I Shall Cannonball

2

Screen Shot 2017-07-24 at 4.35.19 PM

I am an imperfect parent. Did I ever mention that? I’m pretty sure that I have, because as much as I love the picture-perfect-moments I might capture for Instagram, I in NO way, EVER want people to think that these snapshots of my life mean we don’t struggle. We do. I do. All the time.

Yesterday was a beautiful day through and through. My family’s only plan was to be together. I made chocolate-chip pancakes. We got coffee. We went to a trampoline arena. We ate out at a favorite restaurant. We got caught in the rain and quite literally danced in it. Splashing and sloshing and carrying on. Then we took bubble baths. We watched a new movie. We had our cake and ate it too … literally! It was awesome.

But then Monday happened. My husband went to work. I started prepping my classroom and got more nervous than if I would’ve just left it alone. I was instantly overwhelmed at all I needed to accomplish that I didn’t have time for. Then, I had a few stressful phone calls, and a few more stressful texts. My son had a momentary melt-down, (he never melts-down) my daughter snapped, (she never snaps). I got so sick of the mess in the living room that no one but me cleans up that I threw a tiny stuffed animal across the room and it (of course) hit my son’s milk cup which poured all over him. Did I mention he had just gotten out of the shower and had on the cleanest of clean clothes? Sometimes days kinda suck, and as important as it is to acknowledge the amazing days, is as necessary as it is to admit – NO – today wasn’t the best, thank you very much!

I was at the pool with my kids, headed to the bathroom alone, when a random kid stopped me. “Hey!” he said brightly.

“Hey,” I smiled back.

“Have you gone down the blue slide yet? Because if you haven’t you should and then curl up into a ball at the end and you’ll go in like a cannon ball,” he said in a totally serious dish of vital information.

“Well okay. Thank you for that tip!” I replied.

Can I say that I loved every second of that one minute conversation? Because apparently, I still look like the kind of adult who will plummet down a slide without my children just for the fun of it. I loved his faith in me that I would, and sometime before the summer is over – I will. I must!

So the truth is, we are fickle beings. The melancholy way we humans bounce between emotions is much akin to pinballs lighting up the different bands of color. Happy, happy, frustrated, sad, angry, happy, frustrated, happy, tired, tired, happy. I don’t necessarily anticipate that these whims or “pings” will change, because as life happens, so will moods. Toby Mac once said, “The only one that can truly satisfy the human heart is the one that made it.” So, in this life, at least, we will bounce between dispositions fluidly. It’s okay. You’re imperfect. I’m even more so! But, for today at least, I will hold true to the fact that yesterday, we danced, and someday very soon, I shall cannonball off of a bright blue slide.

Go jump in,

Elle