2.6.19 Morning

6

IMG_9205

This morning my son woke up my daughter who had come into my bed sometime before and fallen back asleep, “Wake up, I need you to play a game.” 

“What game?” 

“It doesn’t matter, as long as you play with me. Leave mom sleep, but I want to play with you.” 

“Well then, you’ll have to carry me,” she said groggily. 

“Ugh,” he grumbled.

“Carry me or I can’t go,” she insisted.

“Fine, get on my back,” he replied dutifully turning around. 

“Nope, this way,” she said, curling her legs up for him to scoop her. “But don’t drop me!” 

“I’m not gonna drop you,” he said, shifting to get a better hold. “If anything, I’ll go down too.” 

After putting her down she ran back to me, “I just needed a hug.” I gave her a tight snuggle. And waiting behind her, was him. “I just need a hug too.” I held on for as tightly as he’d let me. 

1.14.19 Not Now

10

Today I lost my grandmother. And while I know each person’s pain is their own, this feels quite acute … as if a particular piece of my childhood-self, somehow, can’t fathom her world without her. Yesterday was a long goodbye, and today I missed her final breath by two minutes. Just two. I wouldn’t have wanted her to stay, but it was my turn to be the brave one. In leaving, it’s almost as if she was saying, “No, no little girl. This moment isn’t yours to bear.” And yet facing a host of tomorrows without her seems somewhat indomitable if I’m being honest.

After leaving, I wasn’t ready. So I stayed. I went to the lake and closed my eyes against the rare, January sunshine. I went to the park and swung in the swing she always sat in … second from the right. I bought sweets at the candy store. I ran all the way up the church steps … just to run right back down. Then I got my nails painted red – her favorite, flashy color.

I tried grandma, to have a day “bumming” around … just the way you’d like it. I smiled. I remembered. I played. And I know where you are. And I’m happy for you … but here’s what I’m feeling just the same.

 

There is an art to saying goodbye

to orchestrating a memory that you know will be your last

only nothing seems good enough

or long enough

because although you may have shared a million laughs

it seems a million and one …

would have been the perfect number

Maybe I could have been satisfied with just one more

if one more had been allowed

but then again

maybe not

In coming my memory flickered like moving pictures

each and every one starring that jubilant face,

but in going, I fear might fade

like the sound of a voice in the echo

like the shade of the eye I can’t catch

like the difference between holding a hand

and having yours held in return 

the coming

of going

hurts strong

There is an art to saying goodbye

and it would seem, I am no master

There are too many colors and

untidy emotions that don’t quite match

In a medium of tears and memories

of the words I’d planned to say

of the prayers I meant to pray

and moments I may have missed 

without knowing

I tried so hard

to paint pictures that would last

but now there is only beauty 

in retrospect

You’d think I’d have seen it coming –

but who looks for what they don’t want to see? 

Who studies what they never wish to know?

Who accepts what they’ve practiced to deny? 

There is an art to saying goodbye

and I’m sure 

somewhere

it is done prettily 

with noble tears

and released fears

and flower-petal softness

But art is only a representation of the parts we 

want

to remember

and today

I want then

not now

I’ll love you forever. Thank you for being you, so I could enjoy this life in a way I couldn’t ever pursue without the gift of eternal optimism, and relentless joy you showed me how to own.

I pray this poem helps you too, my readers, however you are hurting from whomever you’ve lost. There is an art to saying goodbye … and maybe the key to being the best artist … is to never say it at all.

Elle

12.7.18 One Heartbeat at a Time

8

“My father didn’t tell me how to live; he lived, and let me watch him do it.” C.B. Kelland

IMG_3565

I always tell people that I don’t believe in problems … I believe in solutions … but sometimes I am confronted with a life-dealt situation that seems  impossibly solution less. This is a picture of my husband Matthew, and his hero, my father-in-law, Pete. I met Pete over seventeen years ago, as a freshman in college who was head-over-heels for his son. I remember it clearer than yesterday … funny how some memories imprint.

Matthew was going to go home for the weekend and his parents were coming to get him. At the time we were “friends,” but I had ambitious hopes for more, and Matthew’s attention toward me led me to believe he might as well. I remember Matthew asked me to stop by his dorm to say hi to his parents. They were packing up his bags into the trunk of their car when they turned to meet me with open smiles and firm handshakes. I didn’t know it at the time, but Matthew said to me once that as they drove away, his dad said, “Well, I don’t think that’s the last we’ll see of her.”

I love him for having said it. Because I’m pretty sure that there is no opinion in the world that my husband values over that of his daddy … and if I hadn’t gained approval that day, I’m not sure that I’d even be a part of Matthew’s story, let alone its leading lady.

The great thing (in my experience at least) about falling in love with someone, is that you get a whole other family, and after fourteen years of marriage, that is what Pete and Peg (my angel mother-in-law) are to me. They are family. They are not in-laws, they are not extensions of family. They are family – pure and true. We have built a life on shared experiences: vacations, holidays, parties, gifts, jokes, pictures, traditions … and now … diagnoses. Pete-the-Invincible, was diagnosed with Ataxia, a rare degenerative disease of the nervous system. As if that wasn’t challenging enough in the last ten years, he now battles Multiple System Atrophy as well.

It is my formed opinion, that there is a great lack of men of integrity in this world. I cannot watch the news for two consecutive minutes without thinking so … and yet I was blessed to not only come from a man of integrity (my own dad) or marry one, but also see my father-in-law continue to raise the bar of what it means. It is quite something to witness a man of increasing virtue when he is continually faced with having to reintroduce himself to a new version of his no-longer-working body. But, again and again, from cane, to walker, to wheelchair – Pete continues to convince Matthew and myself that he may just be some secret kind of superhero.

My husband and I are in the stage of life where days pass without our having said more than a few sentences to one another. We are busy, sometimes involuntarily so. We have jobs, and kids, and commitments, and to do lists that are ever-so-impossibly long. And some days, if I’m being honest – I take it out on Matthew. I resent not having time with him when he is the axis point of my life. It is ironically impractical to lose patience with and have no time for the person I want to be with more than anything. And in that way, in those times – I fail.

Then I look at my mother-in-law … at her ability to love in the most flawless way. Her hands are servant hands. Her mind is their shared bank of memories. Her heart is steadied by the realities of love’s legacy before her. And she carries on. Impossible as tomorrow may seem, she faces each sunrise bravely, with the gentle touch of a warrior.

And I am ashamed.

I am ashamed that I struggle in these … the best and strongest days of our lives, to love her son the way he deserves to be loved – selflessly, regardless of the amount of time we do or don’t have each day to show it. I have him. We have now. And by their example, I am confident in how to build this love story of ours … just like his parents … one heartbeat at a time.

Walk, wheel, crawl, or cry out to the one you love the most. Don’t leave anything until tomorrow.

Elle

P.S. This holiday season, please consider a donation to the further research of curing Ataxia.

https://ataxia.org

11.27.18 A Name Worth Speaking

10

IMG_7551

 

I only had a minute, but I called her – that’s the not-so-generous way time is with me. She only had a minute, but she answered – the same gift of time she didn’t have to spare. But we talked. And it mattered, because in the few minutes we shared, me hearing her voice and her hearing mine, she told me a story.

“I just got through talking to the neighbor,” she said.

“Anything wrong?”

“Yes, actually.”

“What happened?” I asked.

“Her mother died. It wasn’t very expected, but the way of it was powerful,” she went on. “Apparently, her mother had fallen, and being frail already, it was a decline enough to go on hospice.”

“That’s sad,” I said, imagining my own grandmother.

“It is, but then something amazing happened,” she went on. “I guess the family was all there, just visiting, and they were discussing nothing in particular when a chaplain came to ask if they wanted to pray. They said yes and right as the prayer started, her mother took one big breath … and was gone.”

“Just like that?” I asked.

“Just like that.”

“Wow,” I sat, momentarily struck by the beauty of it all.

“I know,” my mom said.

And she did.

To imagine that on the breath of a prayer, you can cross unfathomable distance. Your spirit and the doors of heaven meeting one another within the fraction of a whisper. To inhale here, and then exhale in exhalation ten million light years away. What a journey from breath to breath. What an assembly, with words spoken over you in intercession, to words ushered to you, entering you into eternity. What a journey.

This story, no, this reality, gave me pause in more ways than one, and I am honored that even in our trite “two minutes,” my mom offered me the gift of this telling. The truth is we really don’t know what lies between one breath and another. There is no “looking ahead” at the Author of Life’s chapter of your tale. And it makes you think doesn’t it? About what really matters one breath between another – and whether I’m using the breath within this very moment to compliment or curse, to speak or to listen, to drive away, or draw near. There may be nothing riding on a breath … or there may be everything.

The author Bansky once said, “… they say you die twice. One time when you stop breathing and a second time, a bit later on, when somebody says your name for the last time.” And if this is true, then I think it matters so much more to me that the coming of my second death is far removed from the first. I want to live a life worthy of the memory of a name worth speaking again, and again, long after my dust has settled. Don’t you?

May each of your next breaths count.

Elle

10.18.18 But First …

4

IMG_8744

“Seeming to do is not doing.” Thomas Edison

Sometimes I get so frustrated with myself because I haven’t figured out how to do it all. I try. Trust me I try. But somehow … busy and busier is never enough to accomplish everything – or sometimes anything of value.

I find I’m at the, “But then/But first,” stage of my life. I have to finish that email, but then I have a meeting at four, but first I need to talk to so-and-so about such-and-such, but then I need to get my daughter to her haircut, but first I need to get home to let the dog out before she gets a U.T.I., but then my son has soccer, but first I probably need to feed him something … OH YEAH! I need to go pick up the groceries I ordered online this morning since I knew I wouldn’t have time to actually go – but then I’d make him late for his practice, but first I’d better make something out of the nothing groceries I’ve got left.

And on. And on. And on.

I’m a bit tired if you couldn’t tell. And my friends, I hope you aren’t. I hope you have a wealth of sleep-saturated nights and lazy-day mornings. I hope that your first “thing to do” isn’t until eleven o’clock. I hope your laundry is somehow magically done without your having done it, and the dishes put themselves away. I hope that when you get up you find that you still have two more hours to rest. And when your day ends, I hope there is nothing on your to do list but a checked-off load of accomplishments. I wish this reality for you … because at this point in my life … that is a fantasy.

My sweet husband (aka: the cute roommate I have that I think might have a crush on me sometimes when our eyes happen to meet as we pass each other every other day) fell asleep putting my daughter to bed. There she was wide awake as daddy breathed just a little too evenly beside her. I left him there because jealousy is a sin and I’m trying to be virtuous … that and if he stayed, I’d get to workout without interruption.

It is late, and tomorrow is dangerously close to today. I need to get to sleep myself but then, this whole circus will start up again so first I had to reach my typing fingers out into the world to assure myself I am not alone. Right? Are you with me exhausted friends? If so, carry on weary soldiers. If not … God bless you and keep you where you are.

Off to bed, but then someone has to turn out the light, but first I need to go wake him up to do it!

Dreaming of longer days,

Elle

 

 

10.9.18 Picturesque Song

9

IMG_7991

Every once in awhile, when I quiet my busy long enough to feel – life finds another way to bring me back. Sometimes it’s in the unexpected shift in the clouds that reveals an iridescent promise. Sometimes it’s the smile you didn’t see coming from the person who never does. And sometimes, it’s the words you didn’t know you needed to hear until you heard them.  Lately there’s a song that I’ve been loving called “Testify” by the band Needtobreathe. Although all of the lyrics speak to me, there is one line … isn’t there always … that draws me in and holds me.

“Mist on the mountain, rising from the ground – there’s no denying beauty makes a sound.” 

Doesn’t it just make you breathe slower? Close your eyes? And hear it?

What does beauty sound like to you?

I’m not sure I ever thought about it before, but now that I have, I often find myself wondering at what beauty sounds like, and little by little, my list grows.

Beauty sounds like the recession of a wave, pulling back the might of a swell.

Beauty sounds like the contented breathing of love sleeping evenly beside you.

Beauty sounds like the rustle of leaves … the hint of change swirling underfoot.

Beauty sounds like the quiet voice urging you one more time, to carry on.

Beauty sounds like a chance.

Beauty sounds like a choice.

Beauty sounds like a prayer, offered up without anything but remaining hope.

 

What do you hear? I’d love to know what beauty sounds like to you dear ones. Let’s make our own picturesque song.

Elle

9.16.18 Choose You

4

IMG_7879

In his book, Choose Yourself, James Altucher says, “Only think about the people you enjoy. Only read the books you enjoy, that make you happy to be human. Only go to the events that actually make you laugh or fall in love. Only deal with the people who love you back …” in other words … choose you! 

I find this somewhat difficult to do. At times, I feel like unless I am being productive, achieving something (regardless of how menial it may be), or pursuing accomplishment, I am wasting time. More and more I am realizing that both society and I have been lying to myself. Sometimes … more than sometimes, we need to do nothing more than refill our own cups, renew our own spirits, and realize our value comes from being, not doing.

In her infinite four-years-older-than-me-wisdom, my sister bought me a fabulous book for my birthday (and dress and boots to wear while I read it!). More of a journal really, it’s called 3,000 Questions About Me, and I absolutely LOVE it. More often than not my sweet family and friends and anyone who is stuck in my vicinity for more than twenty minutes will hear me chime in, “Hey, let’s play the question game.” This means that from would you rather to what’s your favorite, let’s pretend, to what if … I will pretty much ask you questions until you turn blue in the face from answering them all. (Sometimes I secretly applaud myself for choosing my occupation of teaching so I have an educational excuse to pepper those little angels with as many questions as I want to!) The thing is though, I rarely ask myself to answer the questions I ask, and this book has been giving me permission to do so.

So Friday night, my family went to a fun park, and I chose myself. I did some housework, I grocery shopped, and then I gave myself forty-whole-minutes to answering questions about me. Honestly, I didn’t know the answers to quite a few of them, and in some ways this thrilled me. Choosing you is like giving yourself permission to meet and interview the parts of yourself you’ve not really paid attention to recently – or ever. I don’t know what my most marked characteristic is … I’ve not decided what the next wonder of the world should be … I don’t know my Chinese zodiac sign … I’ve yet to explore what food best describes my personality … but the good news is, if I choose myself a few more Friday nights, I might begin to, and the better I know myself, the better able I am to be authentically known by others.

Choose you – because in doing so, you are allowing more of yourself to be open to the world that longs to know you better.

Elle

9.8.18 Today, I Shall Make-A-Wish

14

Screen Shot 2018-09-07 at 6.53.36 PMScreen Shot 2018-09-08 at 8.47.24 AM

“I wish that every human life might be pure transparent freedom.”                     Simone de Beauvoir

Today I shall make-a-wish. It is my 36th birthday, so I suppose I am owed one officially, but in reality I actually make wishes on a daily basis. I wish on stars. I wish on prayers. I wish on eyelashes. I wish on the clock when it says 11:11. I am a supreme believer in the power of a wish, and even more so because of all the wishes-come-true I’ve experienced in my 36 years.

I am loved.

I am a mommy.

I have the best of best friends and family.

I have readers who care and actually look forward to what I say!

Could I be more blessed? I think not. One of my greatest faults, I think, is that I am a bit too much of a forward thinker … a “what’s next,” eager soul jumping at the chance for tomorrow. But what matters most, I think, is today. Bella Grace Magazine, just published the most beautiful September issue, and I hope you will read and embrace it. I have a piece in there about the beauty of friendship and the importance of relationship NOW.

Ironically, I am also published in Grace Notes, Bella Grace’s affiliate blog with a piece on “Living Our Legacy Now.”

Don’t wait precious friends. Love who you need to love. Make wishes when they present themselves. Make that lunch date today. Be your best self, right now.

My wish today is all of you,

Elle

8.2.18 Crave

7

I crave that creative place

where my mind 

is free to wander 

just a bit

to dabble and dance

in and out 

of a memory or two

lingering in places particularly sweet

and allowing my heartbeat to quicken with reinvented remembering

I love to fall into a good conversation

where the words tumble over themselves 

in an effort to explore the emotions born with them

pushing past inherited perspectives and perceptions 

searching for what is true in your shared or borrowed states of mind

and heart

I wish time was a little less relative 

to everything

and everyone

that there would be more of it in the space of a day

or a moment that doesn’t necessarily need, but wants more attention

so that a detail

a look

or a longing wouldn’t have to go without

I crave that creative place

I love

to wish

7.25.18 Someone Like Him

9

46E50FEE-E8D1-4F83-8DA4-958A1DE2F57D

“Sons are the anchors of a mother’s life.” – Sophocles

When he was eight, my son looked up at me and said, “Hey mom, when I go to college … you’ll come right?”

“Of course,” I replied. And can I just say that until the offer is formally rescinded, I plan to find an apartment with a four-year lease, and keep my word.

Eleven. That is what this almost-as-tall-as-me charmer just turned, and my heart hurts with pride and pain at the clock and calendar that refuse to slow for me, regardless of my pleas. Ironically, he asked for a pocket watch for his birthday, and every few minutes, when he checks the time, I feel my heart racing the second hand as the visceral reminder that our time is fleeting. Emerson once said that, “Men are what their mother’s made them.” Though he may be a few years off from being a man, I can’t agree with Emerson, because nothing I have done in the past eleven years could have made a boy this good … this pure-hearted, or kind.

Whether it is right or wrong, a reversal of roles or even always appropriate … I depend on this little guy – on his perspectives, his judgement, his prayers, and even his bravery. He is a shoulder worth leaning into because underneath those mischievous smiles, there is a core of integrity and honor that can only be heaven-lent. I’m not sure how fair it is for me to need him at times probably more than he needs me, but there it is. My truth.

Just the other day I ran into a friend with a son the same age. She said she just finished running four miles with another friend of ours with another son the same age. After our pleasantries, I watched her sculpted runner legs leave and turned to my son saying, “Do you think it’s bad I’m not a runner mom? All your friends’ moms seem to run and I don’t. I rollerblade and walk and …”

“Mom,” he said, maturity washing over his little man features. “That’s silly. If anything they should feel bad because they’re all the same and you do things that are different.”

Cry.

There isn’t a day that goes by in this boy’s life where he doesn’t find a way to make me feel special … where he doesn’t make me believe that even if he could have hand-picked a mother, he would have chosen me. What in heaven’s reach did I do to deserve this? To deserve him?

We have our moments. But honestly … I can’t remember any of them significantly enough to even soften the halo around this post. I pray, with all my mother’s heart, that everyone have a someone like him.

Happy birthday baby boy,

I love you to Neverland,

Mommy (Elle)