4.3.21 “Yes” Day

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It has been a year of “No.” No you can’t go there. No we can’t see them. No school. No sleepovers. No trips. No. No. No. So … inspired by the cute film on Netflix, “Yes Day,” with a few parameters, my husband and I decided that this spring break, though we wouldn’t be going on any trips or seeing friends, we would say YES to a “Yes Day” of our own.

We gave the kids a budget and told them, “No destruction to people or property … AND NO MORE PETS!” (We have 8 in case you didn’t know that fun fact about us – 1 hamster, 3 fish, 2 cats, and 2 dogs … you’re never lonely that’s for sure.) My takeaway is this – I am SO GRATEFUL FOR MY KIDS! They were so fantastic, stayed completely within budget, and even had mini-meetings throughout the day to discuss what might be the best options for time and money. So responsible.

Here is a list of what went down:

  1. Breakfast pick up from Chick-Fil-A (Matthew and I had to drive to three to find one open)
  2. Go to Walmart to buy Water Wars Ammunition!
  3. Have an all-out Water War in the yard (mom and dad had to pick up the 200 balloon pieces)
  4. Lunch at Noodles (Matthew and I had to drive to two to find one open … we don’t have good luck with food places or Google Maps)
  5. Go mini golfing (The sky rather opened and we got 100% drenched and proceeded to run the course instead of golf it … don’t worry … we hit every single number. We are not quitters.)
  6. Went to the mall (in our sopping wet clothes)
  7. Got hot, buttered pretzels (mom got a smoothie instead)
  8. Went to the toy store
  9. Got macaron cookies (white chocolate raspberry was the best)
  10. Kids played games while we picked up pizza
  11. Took a 9:30 drive to get ice cream before it closed at 10:00
  12. Watched two movies (Matthew and I fell asleep for both of them)

All in all, it was an amazing yes day. I think the most memorable part of it, for me, was just the freedom of not having any decisions to make. It was yes. Matthew and I started off with the stipulation that IF we said no, even accidentally, we’d owe them more money. It happened three times and I think they were almost rooting for our mistakes so the budget kept increasing! Ha ha! Delight.

So here’s to yes when you can, no when you have to, and lots and lots of smiles and memories in between.

1.12.21 Missing Light

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Her name was Lucy

which, not-so-ironically, means light.

And OH, but she was.

Fiery and feisty,

she taught me what it meant to be made of 

perhaps

a dash more spice

than sugar …

though her sweet tooth was never fully satisfied.

She loved life

and laughter –

so

much 

laughter.

She loved fancy

and flirting

and the color red.

When I was a little girl,

she taught me songs the world forgot,

but I remember still  … 

songs about “Elmer’s tune,” and “The Man in the Moon,” 

songs my children now know the words to.

I loved the way she called me “Dolly,” 

the way she didn’t over-apologize the way I do,

the way she shamelessly said

what-so-ever crossed her mind,

whether it was mindful or not.

Living nearly a century, with immeasurable loss,

she had every right to be hardened – to be jaded, or sad.

But she wasn’t. 

She lived in a world of her own making, 

dressing up her goodbyes as “too-da-loo’s” 

somehow making every parting more sweet than sorrow-filled.

She chose joy, 

and taught me that even now, even without her – 

because of her … 

I can too.

12.25.20 Nostalgic

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“Does it always hurt this much,” she asked.

“Yes, it does,” I assured her.

“I just love their ages so much right now … it’s just going too fast.”

“I know. And it will keep going. Just snuggle them up, and keep holding on.”

This was a recent conversation one of my closest friends and I had. I always feel especially nostalgic around Christmas … maybe because I have fourteen years’ worth of proof lining my window sills of just how quickly Father Time passes us by. This year, my son gave me coupons for favors, but the one that said, “A hug whenever you ask for one,” also said, “Never expires – can use without coupon!” I melted.

As I read the story of the very first Christmas to my family today, I realized I wasn’t alone. Twice the passage from Luke 2 said, “And Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.” Even the mother of God reflected on the precious and few moments and memories of her son’s too-short life. I can’t imagine the strength it must have required for her to know, even on the day of his birth, that his life was meant for everyone else.

I pray that you are feeling nostalgic, that you wish on the ancient light that led Hope to us all. May you dwell in the magic, mystery, and majesty of God’s greatest gift this Christmas and always. Rest in the love that heaven made incarnate.

6.6.20 Hero & Legend

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“Heroes get remembered, but legends never die.” Babe Ruth

I know this photograph is candid and imperfect. If I’d been focused, I might have asked my husband to put down his coffee cup and mail. I would have suggested him and my father-in-law to move two feet aside so that there wouldn’t be an obscure basketball hoop and half a truck in the shot. There are a lot of things that I could have done to make this picture, esthetically “more pleasing,” and yet … it is one of my favorites … because of the two men in it … and because of the radiant, pride-filled smiles on both of their faces.

When Matthew and I started dating – in the fresh moments of getting to know all there is to know about one another, one of the first things I noted was the way he spoke of his father. He talked about him almost reverently, and I can honestly say, that I do not ever, remember him saying anything negative about him in the past nineteen years we’ve been together. Every quirk was marked as endearing. Every obstacle or setback was spoken of with starry-eyed reflection, furthering Matthew’s adoration of a man who knew how to make the best out of a situation, or rise stronger after a fall.

My father-in-law wasn’t my husband’s dad – he was his hero, and this week he was taken from the world and finally given his proper placement in heaven … where all heroes should be. But you know what? It still leaves us shattered. Even expecting it … even knowing it was coming doesn’t soften the blow.

My father-in-law suffered from Ataxia and Multiple Systems Atrophy. He was diagnosed over ten years ago, and while he wasn’t in pain, this lethal combination of diseases slowly took away his ability to walk, to speak, and eventually, to swallow and breathe. As he slowly began to fade, a stranger might have seen a man reduced to humility and weakness … but my Matthew championed his father to the end as a glorified conqueror. He only saw the courage – the faith – the bravery. And I looked on with constant awe, at the impermeable strength of a father’s influence over his son, and a son’s desire to become just like his dad.

My father-in-law spoke in actions more than in words … in laughter, in service, and devotion. His last words were, “I love you … I love you … I love you.” And dad … we loved you too, and nothing about the distance between heaven and earth can change it. Legends are eternal that way.

3.23.20 Small Fib

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Dear Grandma:

Hello to you one of my all-time-favorite people in the history of ever and always. Grandma, there is SO much happening here on earth, and I wish for all the world you were here because I could really use some of your jubilant nature … some of your can-do-moxie, and one of your famous don’t-let-go hugs. But in the same breath, I am relieved that you are nestled in the grace of heaven, far from any more trials.

If we were together though, I know what you would say … and that is the blessing of knowing someone as special as you for so long … you’ve imprinted on my very spirit, and I can still hear you. If you were here, I’d start to cry. You would sweep my hair aside, put my head on your shoulder, rub my back and call me dolly. You would not only let me cry, but you would cry with me, wiping my tears just as fast as they fell, and planting kisses on my cheeks.

I would tell you how hard it is to be away from people I love, and you would remind me of the many people you had to say goodbye to. You would tell me that it is because love hurts, and sometimes pain is good. I would tell you that hiding and feeling trapped isn’t fair, and you would remind me that there was a time in history you lived through where people had to hide for much worse reasons than sickness. I would ask you how to deal with the dark thoughts and feelings that come, and you would tell me that joy is a choice, and it is about high time I start doing something fun.

If I were the me I imagine … the one who always came to you when I was feeling sad or scared, I know exactly what you’d do next. You’d scoop me onto your lap (even though I was nearly always taller than you) and you’d swing me back until our legs reached the sky and we dissolved into a fit of giggles. Then, you’d suggest we try on some of your jewelry … the best pieces you kept tucked in the boxes beneath your bed. I’d ask you to tell me all of your love stories, and you’d tell me small bits and pieces … just enough to keep me wondering at the girl you were, who stole hearts without meaning to, just by being you.

Grandma do you know how much I love you? How much I miss you? Still. Always. I love that you found a way to balance mischief and melancholy. You did not have an easy life … but somehow, you always found your way into another “dandy” time. I promise to do the same, and I promise to take as many with me as I can on each frolicking adventure into my imagination.

If I were with you, I’d ask you to never leave Grandma … and you’d squeeze my hand white-knuckle tight (like you always did) and you’d lie to me and say, “I’m not going anywhere.” Maybe just for today Gram I’m going to pretend that you’re not SO very far away … I might tell myself that I got to see you yesterday, and I can’t be so selfish with your time today. Do you think it’d be okay just this once to lie?

“It’s just a small fib,” you’d say. “No harm in that dolly.”

Oh Gram, meet me in a dream soon okay? Maybe tomorrow? So we can go bumming? So we can have a laugh and “get along real good,” like you always said we did. I know I just got to see you yesterday … but I might need tomorrow too.

I love you. I miss you. I need you still.

Tootaloo!

 

9.22.19 Almost Perfect

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“I think in the heart of every human being there burns an ember of hope that warmly entices us to believe everything will eventually come together into one perfect day, and that potentially the hours in this day will stretch on indefinitely.” R.E. Goodrich

I don’t believe in perfect. I think perfect is something that only exists in heaven, fairy tales, and dreams … but I do believe in exceptionally, delightfully, spectacular days – where sunshine and sea salt exist in harmony with freckled noses and sandy smiles. Today was an extraordinary, not-so-ordinary day.

We decided to christen our new southern life with a trip to the beach. For two hours and fifty minutes on the way, we took turns proposing songs for our, “To the Beach” playlist. If the rating wasn’t an average of 9 for each of us, it didn’t make the cut. We got iced coffees and frappuccino’s, ate snacks and skipped lunch. The kids boarded with daddy, while I taught them the trick to avoid being smashed by a wave. My daughter and I took turns dancing with our shadows. My husband and son played frisbee in the waves, miraculously finding it on the beach regardless of the number of times they “lost” it to a swell. We got pizza on the way home and ate it in the car as our son slept, and our daughter played D.J. (She never sleeps.)

In the spirit of honesty, there were salt-in-our-eye moments, waves that made us tumble, back-seat bickers, front-seat bickers, sand-sand everywhere, beachy knots in beachy hair, and hustling home for our school-night shuffle.

But for a series of breezes, and burn-your-feet sand moments … today was a delicious taste of “almost” perfect.

 

8.17.19 Birthday Squared

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“Peace is the beauty of life. It is sunshine. It is the smile of a child, the love of a mother …  the togetherness of a family. It is the advancement of man, the victory of a just cause, the triumph of truth.” – Menachem Begin

My mother and my daughter were born a day apart. Some might think it coincidence that two of the most important women in my life were born in such close proximity to our planet’s turn around the sun … but not me – because these two precious souls are of the same making. Sometimes I imagine that God took the very same cloth, made of joy and sparkle, divine patience and an ethereal twinkle in their blue eyes, and said, “Yes … the world needs more of this.”

My theory of their interconnected hearts is confirmed in the way that they love. Both my mother and my daughter epitomize the idea of putting others’ needs before their own. They are the first to self-sacrifice in honor of a friend, and it is quite something to recognize their particular brand of benevolence echoed  a generation apart.

I cannot ever live up to their level of altruism or down to their level of humble gratitude; so I am satisfied to live directly in-between. Thank you mommy, for being the catalyst of a life focused on the brighter side. Thank you daughter, for being the ever-present reminder that love speaks, and stays, and snuggles. I could never have deserved either one of you … but I am effervescently thankful that God gave you to me anyway.

All my love, and the happiest of turns around the sun to you both … I hope you feel every ray of gifted light this year and in all the years to come.

Elle (your daughter, your mommy, your #1 fan)

7.23.19 I Wish Him …

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There are some wishes-come-true that are too powerful not to have come straight from heaven. He is, and has been, my most precious wish. I remember, twelve years ago today, meeting a tiny blue-eyed wonder who stole my heart with a single sigh. My heart, heavy with the fears that accompany infertility, suddenly found its way back to beating … and the breath I’d been holding in hope became a thousand colorful balloons finding their way to the sky.

I know he’s nearly a teenager now … I know we are supposed to butt heads and grapple with misunderstandings. I know that I’m not supposed to “get” him, and he’s not likely to care about what his mom thinks – but that’s just so not us. This boy … this wonder … is truly one of the best friends in my whole life. He’s intelligent, considerate, and kind. He’s protective and intentional in conversation. When I’m happy, chances are he’s the source of my laughter, and when I’m sad he won’t let me off without acknowledging whether or not I’m okay. We love pirates and pretend, random facts and Neverland. I love the way he loves his sister. I love the way he looks up to his dad.

I love him. Simply – and infinitely complex.

On this … his twelfth birthday, I thought I’d make a few wishes for him … one for each candle he blew out today.

  1. I wish him effervescent joy like he brings to others.
  2. I wish him confidence in times of chaos and calm.
  3. I wish him the freedom to always escape to his imagination.
  4. I wish him a lifetime of Sandman-sweet dreams.
  5. I wish him truest friendship in and of every age.
  6. I wish him the love that has no barriers or boundaries.
  7. I wish him fulfillment in each of his pursued endeavors.
  8. I wish him a thousand unexpected adventures.
  9. I wish him tenacity when life does what it does, and tries him.
  10. I wish him experience that leads to both humility and wisdom.
  11. I wish him accomplishment that bears pride in helping others.
  12. And most of all, I wish him faith borne of heaven’s wings.

 

5.12.19 I Find Myself Whole

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I have had the most extraordinary examples of mothers in my life. My own mom is practically an earth angel … she is selfless and endlessly encouraging and taught me that joy is a choice that we must pursue with intention and passion. My mother-in-law is kind, and good, and does life with a family-first focused mentality. There has never been an instance where I’ve seen her make a decision without all of us in mind. My sister has always and forever wanted only to be a mom, and as her full-time job … she is exemplary at it … loving with an other-worldly patience, never hesitating for a second to let a hug linger, as hugs often should. My cousin is the dedicated, work and play mom. She bakes, and explores, gardens, and tutors. I never know how, but she does it all so well. Both of my sister-in-laws are full-time doctors, and both of them consistently put dance shoes and soccer cleats at the top of their list along with patient care and job performance. Their girls will be better for the example of their mothers’ tireless love, and nurturing spirit towards both their own needs, and the needs of others. My best friend epitomizes the verse, “Love never fails,” as she not only adores her own three children, but her gorgeous sixteen-year-old step-daughter with a fiercely, undeniable grace that could only come from a pure heart. There is my friend who doesn’t even have children, but loves each human soul she meets with such intense safekeeping of their stories, that it is undeniable to know God has given her a mother’s heart. Or my friend, who has faithfully become the surrogate mother her middle school students have needed all their lives. Then there are my friends that are the sweet mothers of young ones, who remind me of the tender snuggles, the fresh-from heaven dreamy stares, and complete devotion to their new and forever role as mothers; oh, how they inspire.

These are the mothers I look up too. These strong, beautiful, uniquely individual women who time and time again, put the needs of others before themselves. How can I ever thank them, or the hundreds of other mothers I wish I had time to name?

On the other side of gratitude, I want to thank the most precious ones of all … my two, gifts … my son and my daughter. I cannot ever properly deserve you, and sometimes I worry God trusts me too much to have put you in my care. I am so grateful that my husband is with me to balance all my insufficient, impulsive ways with his steady character and heart. Somehow, beyond my inability to cook memorable meals, or keep a plant alive, or build anything, or do laundry with any semblance of efficiency … they love me. They love my constant question games in the car and my addiction to chocolate milk (for me, not them). They love my belief in pretend and my absolute conviction that Neverland is a real place. They love that I write, and support my poems, and articles, and books with prayers. They are my greatest fans, and I love how they forgive my flaws for the simple fact that love has blinded them beyond recognizing fault.

I am a mother. I am imperfect and deeply impractical. I value daydreams over diagrams and whimsy over worldly success. I put my kids to bed way too late, and often, fall asleep with them because I don’t want that thief, Time, to steal one minute I was unaware of passing.

I worry. I pray. I play. I dance. I try. I cry. I fret. I fail. I love.

I am many, many things, but because of the women I so cherish, and the children who have given me my most important name … I am a mother … and in that … I find myself whole.

3.26.19 These Simple Days

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“I love this life. I feel like I am always catching my breath and saying, ‘Oh! Will you look at that?’ … bearing witness to the joy I find in seeing the extraordinary in ordinary life.” –  Harold Feinstein
By many standards, anyone on the outside of my life might call our Spring Break a bit of a fail. To be honest … I feel like I, myself would have called it one even yesterday. We have family in North Carolina, Kansas, and Colorado. Ordinarily … we’d be going to see them … but we are going nowhere – fast. Instead, due to conflicting work schedules, and a budget needed more for home repairs than exotic destinations – we are filling our days in less exciting ways than we usually might.

This is not to say that I am not being productive. I mean, when else might I conquer the post office, my son’s haircut, and scheduling vet appointments, eye doctor appointments, and a chunk of laundry all in the same day? Yeah, not super brag worthy, I’m aware … but then, there are the beautiful, unexpected ordinaries that I might be too busy to notice if I were elsewhere. Here are just a few:

I was able to have uninterrupted lunch with a friend (okay my husband called once and my kids called once, but only two interruptions is less than five so we’ll estimate it at zero).

My son and daughter invented a game with our Great Pyrenees puppy where they literally (dog included) play hide-and-seek tag around the house.

A former student saw me in a coffee shop window and stopped in just to give me a hug.

My kids have had playdates with besties they never have a chance to just be with.

My husband and I took a walk, led by our two beast-sized dogs who gain fame like a puppy parade.

We visited our cousins and I was able to see my son be the “big boy” my nephew looks up to with wonder.

My cat has helped me with more laundry than any other member of my family.

I have slept in for two days straight!

Today I watched my son and daughter at the park laughing in the sunset with wind-kissed faces.

Last night my son and I snuggled up for a superhero movie while downstairs, my daughter and her daddy watched a dance film.

I was able to catch up with far-away friends through phone calls, sharing pictures I’d meant to send, and writing letters.

It is only day two of this little break, and already I wish I had more time … more time to watch, and memorize, and play. My day may not be extraordinary by any measure, but isn’t it the details we end up clinging to? I intend to spend every last minute paying close attention to the ordinary I’m blessed to have the time to appreciate in these simple days.

I pray you’re blessed with a few of your own.

Elle