9.19.21 You Will Rise

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” … If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
    Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
    And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools …”

– Rudyard Kipling, “If”

This week, a precious friend confided the difficult reality that sometimes, life hurts. Right now – her pain is acute. And although no one goes through this existence completely unscathed, there are times that will shake you to the point of an internal tremble. I’ve been thinking about her all week. Praying for her. And while I hate that I cannot fix it, I want her to know … I want you all to know, that Hope is an ever-present promise, even when all else fails. I wish I could take away the trials, but for the time being, all I have to offer is a small collection of words I gathered in the midst of this trial. May they bring you back to a point of knowing this is not the end of the world’s story … or of yours.

Life isn’t always what it seems

what you thought it was,

would, or even should be

Sometimes, when the clouds come

they stay

stagnant and unforgiving

relentless and roiling

In the dark, the questions come

doubts intermingling with leftover pieces of dreams …

as though everything you thought you knew to be true

is backwards, a broken, mirrored reflection of what it once was

sharp shards revealing every tear

Even then … in the moments where Destiny feels defective

and reality is rent with defeat,

even then there is light

Fractured bits of faith remain as glittered dust among the debris

incapable of being gathered and disposed of fully

Just as embers might once again be fanned into flame

Credence is worthy of reflection

And while chaos is deafening –

Hope speaks in constant whispers beneath it all …

a steady undercurrent, present below the pain

What is anguish but an inverse reaction to love?

What is devastation if not proof that devotion was present?

So be angry dear heart,

there is room in this space to be angry.

Be sad if you must,

there is room in this space to be sad.

Ask questions, have doubts, be aware of the darkness …

because I know,

even if you don’t –

even if you can’t –

that you are made of stardust and promises …

and your heart is branded with infallible truths

This life has no claim over that which is eternal

You may be shaken but you are not shattered

You might well have fallen, only to prove

once again

you will rise

5.4.20 A Poem for the Ageless

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Here’s to the ageless ones …

the ones who self-identify with feelings 

instead of years

The ones that triumphantly ride squeaky-wheeled carts in parking lots

and aren’t ashamed to order dessert first,

even if they’re eating alone

Here’s to the ageless ones … 

the old souls in young bodies

bursting with wisdom they yearn to give freely,

yet no one receives without cost

Here’s to the ageless ones … 

who sing and beat their steering-wheel-drum

chanting their anthems to the wide-open windows 

and passerby cars 

who carry on completely unaware

Here’s to the ageless ones …

to those captured deep-in-thought,

tangled in the philosophies they weave

theories stitched in time 

yet surrounded by those stuck in the shallow end

Here’s to the ageless ones … 

the running barefoot, hair down breeze dancers

who delight in the light that they chase

just to feel the thrill of releasing it back to the wild 

Here’s to the young

the purposefully naive … 

the dreamers who remember to play

Here’s to the old, 

the vintage souls …

the antique hearts whose beat is the rest in-between

To those who transform 

but refuse to conform their spirit to a number 

too small to fit into

or big enough to get lost in

Here’s to the ageless ones …

for the world belongs to you

4.21.20 Tenacity

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“Carry each other’s burdens.” Galatians 6:2

My favorite illustrator and great friend, P. Marin, once posted her word of the year … I fell in love with it and, after seeing it, asked if she could illustrate my favorite word on commission. Thus, this delightful little creature was born! P. Marin said, “It’s you,” and I’ve never been so flattered!

So … from her and I … hang on friends … this won’t last forever and we believe you’ve got all the grace, moxie, and tenacity to carry on. If you’re feeling weak or overwhelmed, send me a note and I’ll send some words to shield you. I’m hanging on, and until you can strengthen your grip, let others help carry you. All my love.

Elle

 

4.16.20 All in All

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It’s been a week. A rough one … filled with: soap in my eye, choking on mouthwash, typos, miscommunications, my 110 lb. dog stepping on my foot and badly bruising it, past-midnight work emails, too-early alarms, what’s for breakfast, lunch and dinners, bought the wrong percent of milk, missed a call, forgot to call, laundry eating-me-alive, other dog ate a notebook, forgot to water the Hydrangeas, sinus headaches, don’t -have-time-to-finish the chapter, battery died before I could finish the slideshow, what’s that smell in the fridge, who’s mess is this, coffee spilled on a white chair, two spiders in my bathroom, is that a hairball, where did these feathers come from, no you can’t sleep on the couch, fine you can sleep on the couch, wake up and take your contacts out, no hun – you’re not going blind … you didn’t put your contacts in, I think I’m losing my mind, why would you do that are you crazy, dog ate a rice crispy treat, fish died, where did this hive come from, is this allergies or Covid, why are your showers fifty minutes, congratulations you’re out of soap, and now we’re out of paper towel, just used the last of my sugar, no you didn’t put the seat down, I’m so proud you took care of that zit by yourself, what do you mean why should I wear my glasses, cut your fingernails you look like a alley cat, caterpillars everywhere, wind broke a tree in half, we have more weeds than grass, that costs how much, no you cannot have another treat, fine have another treat, are these pickles still good, why does the pizza taste funny, hey mom … never mind, give me five more minutes, I mean ten more minutes, sorry guys – I know it’s been an hour, is my hair getting thinner, is my waist getting fatter, are my wrinkles getting deeper, it’s too hot in here, it’s too cold in here, my order arrived broken, the store is STILL out of toilet paper, yes I see the dog has dreadlocks, no they’re not taking grooming appointments, I’m sorry for trying to shake hands, ewww the dog just farted, you are not allergic to bees, yes you do need to reapply deoderant, please practice the piano, please STOP practicing the piano, no your sister cannot watch that show, yes your brother does need some time to himself, please let out the dog, please let in the dog, well … go find the dog, no you cannot eat Ramen again, what do you mean your digital music class asked you to drum, why are you working as long as I am when you’re in fifth grade, EAT OVER YOUR PLATE, don’t interrupt my meeting to ask for something in the Amazon cart, what do you mean you think you brushed your teeth today, I have four meetings in a row, I think I’m going blind from all the screen time on my computer, is this what date night looks like now, no I don’t want to talk about our budget, I think I need some frosting … no, don’t bother with the graham crackers – just bring a spoon, stop touching her, get your foot out of my face, did you pray, well you’d better, no I don’t know what that Japanese word means, yes of course I’d like to see another magic trick, don’t worry I’ll put the kids to bed since you passed out at seven, yes you can have another last snack of the night, go read the dog a book, can’t stop yawning, eyes are burning, I think I’ll take a bath, if I took a bath I’d fall asleep and drown, oh my goodness … it’s already midnight again, I’ll read one last email from a student I had six years ago

Mrs. Harris: Photo above attached, “Best teacher I ever had was …”

Him: “Without a doubt you! Miss you.”

All in all … not a bad week.

 

4.2.20 A Stranger’s Smile

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I fell asleep with my son, putting him to bed last night. I woke up this morning by falling out of his bed. I realized, in that cold, hard moment on the floor, that my predicament was quite the metaphor for how I’ve been feeling lately. Every day I wake up with a bit of a shock, a little rocked and shaken, a little dazed – needing a moment to reorient myself before standing up again.

Anyone else?

I asked a student of mine recently how he was doing and he said, “You know, I think this is going to be one of those things that changes you for the rest of your life. My great grandparents went through the Great Depression, and for the rest of their lives they were really careful with money and lived a simple life. I feel like this is going to be our big life event that changes us, and someday I’ll scream at my kids to ‘wash their hands better,’ because they just can’t understand what I’ve been through.”

Wisdom. I think he’s right. I think that this event is unlike anything the world has known in my time of living on it. In some ways I appreciate the pause, the time with my family, the dinners and walks. But in other ways Spring Break felt more like a Spring Breakdown … becoming acclimated to working remote from jobs that were not designed that way, and realizing that even outdoor escapes like parks and preserves are closed.

One of my closest friends said, “I hate that it’s called ‘social distancing.’ It should be called physical distancing. We shouldn’t be trying to make ourselves less social.”  It’s weird for everyone. It’s hard for everyone. So be gentle. Be kind. And don’t forget to be humane in your humanness. I feel like when I have ventured out for my weekly groceries, people cast their eyes down and look away from one another … like everyone is a potential threat. Stay six feet apart, but SMILE!

There was an elderly gentleman at the grocery waiting in line like me, and we got to chatting. I told him my frustration with people’s social ineptitude, and he said, “You know, someone took a picture of me the other day and said they couldn’t recognize me because I was scowling. I didn’t even know I was.”

“Well you’re smiling now,” I said. “And I’m honored you spent your smile on me.”

So, like me, you might be feeling a little rough-around-the-edges and sore. Life has taken us for a tumble … but don’t forget to be yourself, don’t forget to care about the smiles of a stranger that might be your job to bring about.

All my love and prayers,

Elle

3.18.20 One Another’s Courage

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“But what now? What am I supposed to do with all these feelings?” – J. Han

I am not sure I understand what is happening in the world. It feels like we are somewhere between a blessed pause and a chaotic halt. I am not sure how to govern my time … my resources … or my emotions.

Every day, our status changes, and the extension between “normal days” and here-and-now continues to grow. I keep replaying the moment when one of my sweet students said, “Mrs. Harris, will I ever see you again?” I immediately cast off her question. I told her of course, that there was no doubt. But now there is … and I hate that I didn’t give her just a few more minutes of my time and attention.

My heart hurts for all the laughter and lessons I am going to try to “foster” digitally, but cannot have in person. It doesn’t seem to make sense that the sun is shining, but I’m not able to drive past the borders of my own town … that the flowers are beginning to bloom, but every known establishment is closing … that the weather is turning to Spring … to hope, but the economy crumbles around us. It is a paradox, this situation. This life.

Try to find the good. Try to remain in the might be’s and the someday soon’s. Nothing is ever as bad as it seems and we have a chance to encourage one another in a way none of us have ever been tested to before. Most of us were not raised in war-torn nations. Most of us have never known true hunger or poverty. Most of us have never been challenged to remain still, and silent, and waiting. I know I never have to this magnitude.

And so … we are commissioned and governed to be patient. God help me it is not my strength, but “this too shall pass,” and until it does, I’ll be here to offer you a digital hug and prayer. Stay with me friends, we will be one another’s very courage.

All my love,

Elle

 

3.10.20 Still and Always

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A couple of days ago it was National Women’s Day, and in honor of it, I feel like I’d like to send a message to all of the young ladies who are in that in-between stage … the place between finding yourself and knowing yourself … because it is a hard place to dwell. This piece was actually written for a precious client of mine who regularly asks me to write poems for the special people in her life. She sends me her stories, her memories, and pieces of their precious relationships, and I sew her collected thoughts into prose. “Still and Always,” was written for her teenage granddaughter … about the paradox all young women face … being who you were, and becoming who you are.

Please pass it on to any women who need to be encouraged … and if that’s you … carry on beautiful … carry on.

Elle

Still and Always

It is contrary to imagine
in a world as concrete as this world tends to be
that there could yet be a glimpse of wonder, of glimmer, and of hope
Still she is, beautifully
And it’s trying to respect the perspectives
of generations apart from your own
those that give voice to the past instead of the present, who mistake was for will be Still she does, gracefully
It is unthinkable
in a life riddled with the movement of “me”
to allow your inner sun to radiate outward, to see others before self
Still she has, attentively
And even given the state of discordant haze
between battles of heaven and earth
between battles of right and right now
Of who matters most? And why should I care?
Still she loves, fiercely
It’s astonishing to believe
that this girl, so full of all that is good
could ever retain the domain of expectation
so many have come to depend on her for
Still she will, bravely
and so …
for this world,
and for her precious, singular place in it
Still and Always
I am thankful

3.3.20 The Stargazer, Seeker, & Voyager

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So … one of the best four days in the year happened … Bella Grace’s Spring Issue was released. Let me tell you friends, Issue 23 is as beautiful as ever. I hope that you will take a minute to visit your favorite quiet place and treat yourself to the renewal of having words wash over you. I was especially excited to be asked to write about self-renewal. Here’s a tiny sneak peek of my piece, “The Stargazer, Seeker, & Voyager.”

Hugs and sparkles,

Elle

“The human body was designed for renewal. Our blood cells have a lifespan of just over 100 days, our skin cells change over each month, and every seven years, every single cell in your body will have died and become replaced with a life that is brand new. We are designed incredibly, meticulously, and miraculously for restoration. Isn’t it astonishing to think that our cellular biology is glittering with revival?”

2.26.20 The Hardest Part is Loving You

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Dear Little Girl:

I think it’s time I tell you that being a mom isn’t always easy … there are many difficult parts of parenting – but the hardest part is loving you.

I don’t mean precious, that you are hard to love. The opposite in fact. Just to know you is to love you. Who couldn’t fall for that smile? I have been proud of every step, jump, and twirl of your life. I have applauded each role, whether minor or lead. I am excited about every new concept you master and every new idea you form. You are a wonder in my world. And that is why loving you is hard. Because love hurts … and I love you fierce and full.

When you are hurting dolly, I hurt – and when you are the age you are, and life is what it is, and society does what it does, I wish, for you, that I could change it. I wish I could erase every confusion that twists your perfect smile into a worried frown. I wish I could wipe every concern from your furrowed brow at trying to understand things that make no sense. But I can’t, and that is unbearable – to know it is my job to protect you against shadows I can’t catch.

Sometimes I look at you, and I see me. I see a little girl who is afraid of a world she can’t explain and worries she can’t clear her mind of. I travel back in time and feel the too fast beat of my heart and fluttery nerves that come with anxious thoughts. And in those moments, it’s like I am no longer the woman whose outgrown her adolescent fears, but am instead walking through them again … only it’s worse … because it’s you – and I love you more.

There is no solution to this problem of growing up … there is only a promise I can make you that it’ll all make sense someday. There will continue to be personal mistakes, world problems, and difficult issues to learn about. There will never be a day when everything you do or say is just right. You will disappoint and be disappointed. Sometimes you will feel pain and sometimes you will cause it. There are things you cannot change, even when you want to. This beautiful, messy life is not easy … but living through the bumps and bruises gets you to the other side. The side I’m on now – the side that gets to love you.

Someday you will have your own little you. You will marvel at every baby sigh, and spoken word, and made-up song. Your heart will ache at a small hand that finds yours through the first steps, and millionth dances, and bad dreams. You will catch glimpses of yourself and wish against wish that you could pave every path smooth and cast every obstacle to the depths of the sea you’d swim clear across just to keep her from tripping. You will love beyond bearing it … and it will hurt terribly … because you will love with a mother’s knowing.

Hold on little one. I can’t move the mountains you might have to climb, but I promise to walk them with you one step at a time. Because dear girl, I love you … and it’s a pain worth every moment I get to spend at your side.

Mommy