3.24.21 Springing Forward by Looking Back

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“In a year that has felt both impossibly long and frozen – an immobile collection of repeating days – it can seem difficult to look forward. A new season is upon us and yet it is the same season when, for many of us, this entire shift of ‘the world as we knew it’ began. So what are we to do with spring? How can we advance bravely into the possibility of what we hope for when things appear no different? It’s simple – we look back. Take a bit of time to dwell in your ever-present treasure of memories. Spring is a time of reflections, new directions, and growth. Let the garden of your mind harvest sweet blossoms, and make yourself an enchanting bouquet of thoughts.”

– Excerpt from Springing Forward by Looking Back, Bella Grace Issue 27

I hope that you will take some time to explore Bella Grace’s Spring Issue! It is filled with all things lovely and has so many refreshing suggestions to reset your spirit! As always, it is an honor to write for my absolute favorite magazine in the entire world!

Happy Spring my darlings! Here’s to new beginnings!

Elle

3.13.21 Beyond

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Sometimes I wish that we lived in a world where there weren’t quite so many conventions … so many “unwritten” rules of decorum and what is or is not: expected, accepted, or normalized. This is where children have it right. They rush into conversation with reckless abandon, all tangled hair and thoughts … all colorful, vibrant questions. I want to meet someone and push beyond the “getting to know you” phase immediately. I want to grab their hand, look directly into their eyes, and ask them if the ocean calls their spirit like it does mine. I want to know if they too feel magic in the wind and believe in the possibility that Fate and Destiny like to play.

But those are not ordinary questions, and so instead, I fear many of us remain on the surface … knowing, but also not knowing each other fully. I want to live in a world where those kinds of questions don’t end in a quandary of someone looking at me as though I am not “fully sane.” Why can’t we know? Why can’t we ask? Why can’t we feel fully and cannonball into grand discussions edged in gold, instead of politely tiptoeing around generalities that keep us shallowly acceptable?

Can I just say … I’d love to fight normal? I’d love to wrestle the glass barriers of the mundane in preference of the glorious, curious questions I wish I could ask. What invokes passion in you? What draws you to the edge of yourself? Do you believe our mortal bodies contain immortal relevance and what in this glorious, terrible life has led you to your conclusions?

Albeit to say, I would irrevocably love to push beyond to the good stuff … but the world might have to spin a little faster (or maybe it’s slower) before that happens. And yet, if you find yourself in need of a little bit more … of a little bit deeper … just know there’s someone out there who feels the same and is happy to follow your wondering, wandering thoughts. Beyond seems like an awfully enchanting place to go.

Come with me?

Elle

5.21.19 Twenty Ways I’m Pretty Sure I’m Still a Kid

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“There is a certain part of all of us that lives outside of time. Perhaps we become aware of our age only at exceptional moments and most of the time we are ageless.” – Milan Jundera

I decided a great long time ago that I was never going to grow up fully. I can’t say exactly when I made this magnanimous decision … maybe when I read Peter Pan for the first time … maybe when my dad held me to his chest and said, “My little girl is growing up?” It might have been when I decided to be a teacher to stay with kids longer,  or even when I had my own babies and tried to raise them to have their own golden childhood.

Though some days (like today) I feel ancient and tired from my long, weary schedule … I’ve been reflecting on the twenty ways that I’m pretty sure I’m still a kid.

  1. I drink chocolate milk regularly … like … every other day.
  2. I dip animal crackers in my coffee.
  3. Converse are my favorite shoes and I have about fifteen pairs in different colors that I often wear with skirts – at work.
  4. I write children’s books because they are the genre I still most enjoy reading.
  5. I celebrate Dr. Seuss’ birthday in my class with readings no matter what age I’m teaching.
  6. I believe in the Loch Ness Monster, Bigfoot, Yeti, and other unproven creatures … the way I see it is … if they haven’t proven they don’t exist – why not?
  7. I often wear my hair in double braids like Dorothy or double buns like Princess Leia … depending on my mood.
  8. My favorite animal changes every day.
  9. I am more excited to go to the zoo than my own children.
  10. I wholeheartedly believe in the power of pretend.
  11. I want to be a fairy and sprinkle glitter generously and often.
  12. I will eat ice cream any time of the day it is offered to me.
  13. I love stickers.
  14. I think pizza tastes best on Friday because it is my favorite day of the week.
  15. I still ask my mom, dad, sister, cousin, and best friends before making any decisions about important things.
  16. I still ask my husband for five more minutes when I wake up (and he gives me ten because he’s amazing like that).
  17. I love cartoons. I even watch them alone.
  18. I have a Disney playlist that I pride myself on because I know all of the words to every song and my kids don’t.
  19. I have a yearning to play kickball every day of recess duty.
  20. I wish on everything … eyelashes, 11:11, stars, candles, sometimes even airplanes if they’re flying fast enough at night.

Come on … be young with me! I can’t wait to see what you’ve got on your kid list and if any of our kiddish tendencies overlap! Please reach out and tell me a few so I can add them to my life habits!

Yours kiddo,

Elle

3.19.19 Her Story

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Recently, I was contacted by the sweetest woman who lives several states away, but found my work online and in Bella Grace Magazine. She had gone to my online writing boutique and asked that I write a poem for her friend who was recently diagnosed with cancer. We went back and forth with communication about her and her friend’s relationship over the past number of years. And so I wrote a poem based on the way she saw her precious friend. Can I just say what an honor! What an honor it is to be invited not only to this beautiful friendship, but to chronicle it in words to be passed on and remembered by.

I have asked permission to share the work, and it was granted. So I ask two things: first, please pray for healing for this precious woman about whom this poem is written, and second, never let a day go by that you do not tell your friends exactly how you feel about them.

All my love,

Elle

By Her

hers is an autumn spirit
the red-crisped edge of fall
speaking to the world in cursive lines and shooting stars she is the effervescent echo of laughter,
coaxing the light from every ember …
adding sparkle where others might fade

hers is a bluegrass soul
a kindred to wind and wave
the earth speaks to her in whispers in sunrises and the music of the moon she listens with fluency like a prayer powerful and protective in turn

hers is a gift-wrapped mind
knowing intimately the imprint of grace on a memory turning tarnish to treasure;
she regards rust with reverence
paying homage to the story behind each scar

hers is a curator’s heart safeguarding sepia smiles in elemental perfection each photo chosen with intention to call and recall for those of us who may otherwise
have forgotten

hers is the truth hers is the wonder hers is the magic

and mine is the perfect joy and knowing
and being known

by her

1.21.19 Today’s Yesterday

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“Is solace anywhere more comforting than in the arms of a sister?”

It has been a hard week, to say the very least. There have been a bevy of emotional ups and downs, and at the end of it all … I was utterly exhausted. Usually, my day consists of waking up and dashing from one activity to the next. As awful as it is to admit, I usually need to think hard when someone says, “What’d you do yesterday?” But today’s yesterday is the exception.

Yesterday, after family coming and family going and hellos that came for goodbyes, my sister stayed. She  lives exactly 829 miles away, and it takes 13 hours and 29 minutes to get from one of our doorsteps to the other. We do not get to spend Sundays together, except for yesterday. Here for less than ideal circumstances and the passing of our grandmother (maybe the greatest lady who ever lived), we were granted an impromptu two days of “us.”

Emotionally (but never conversationally) spent, we sat in my bed for over two hours. We solved at least half of all the world’s problems. And mostly, we just rested and refueled one another’s emptiness. My sister is one of the only people who is allowed to see me in any stage, shape, or form of who I am at any given moment. She is the keeper of my secrets … the focus of my memories … and the protector to my fears. There isn’t a whole lot that cannot be solved by a day spent doing “nothing” with her … because her nothing is a whole lot more than something with anyone else.

Be grateful if you have a sister. If not … I’ll try to be one to you, as I’m pretty sure I’ve had the best training from the greatest example out there.

Elle

 

6.26.18 Broken Angels

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“Family is not an important thing. It’s everything.” Michael J. Fox

Today I had the privilege of meeting a fresh from heaven darling for the first time – the beautiful daughter of my sweet friend, only two-days-old. I was immediately drawn into every detail of the encounter and tried to memorize the feeling of just being in the presence of this special moment. I took in every thread of their growing tapestry … from the way her daddy smiled a new smile, seemingly reserved just for her, to the way her toddler sister bragged about her new baby, to the precious handful of nicknames her mommy designated with each tender cuddle or kiss. It was holy, this love. It was pure. It was family in the way family should be. She was an angel born into a home that adored her. How I wish this was always the case.

A few weeks ago, I experienced quite the opposite. I was in a restaurant with my mom on a trip. I had just come off of an interview for a piece I was writing and I couldn’t wait to tell her every detail. But just as we both got our waters, a family was seated at the table behind us, and my concentration to the conversation was shattered for the next forty minutes. The family of five was soon to be six, as evidenced by a supremely uncomfortable and exhausted looking wife. She had dark rings under her eyes and did not smile once in the entirety of their visit. I’m not sure why she would however, as her husband was constantly berating the three kids whose ages ranged roughly between two and six. Between arguing about the expense of things, to nitpicking the way the oldest son was eating, to refusing to get his child a refilled drink, to displaying annoyance at having to cut food into pieces, or push up sleeves, or pick up a fork that fell … it literally hurt to witness such distain, such anger.

I kept losing my place in conversation and had to apologize to my mom over and over again for my distraction. She understood of course – the whole restaurant did at that point. My stomach turned in knots as I wrestled with determining what bothered me more … the fact that the three small children barely looked up from their plates out of fear, or the fact that another young life was being born into this already love-starved family. And as simple as it sounds to state it – I was so mad! I was so angry at the absolute disrespect this man had for the lives he brought into this world, and at the woman who not only allowed him to speak with such force, but then reinforced his words with her own jabs of disappointment and criticism at the children.

I hate doing nothing. I loathe when people say, “It’s not my concern,” because it’s just NOT true. Statements of copping out due to social graces are a weak excuse for doing the right thing. Being humane is everyone’s concern. Being kind is within everyone’s capability. After having taught for the past fourteen years, can you guess which type of family I see more of? Can you imagine why I might desperately wish to adopt so many of the past students I’ve taught? Do you understand why I spent as much time nurturing their emotional health as their educational growth? Because by the time so many of these middle school children reached me they were broken angels … and I had to wonder how long it had been since they had someone absolutely adore them. If ever.

Before leaving the restaurant that day, I stopped at that family’s table and took a moment to gush over the kids. I said how well behaved they were. I talked to them. I looked them in the eyes. I chatted about how I bet they were so excited to be great helpers to their parents with the new baby and how lucky their mom and dad were to have them. They looked up. They smiled and sat up a little straighter. And that was it. It was nothing … but it was everything I could do within that moment not to cry – not to yell, “How dare you,” to a complacent set of parents who didn’t realize the triple blessing before them. Hearts, after all, only turn hard to protect what once craved the love they weren’t given.

As for tonight … I am going to focus on this morning. I have to. I am going to see the sunlight that filtered into a room littered with new baby toys, with big sister joys, and with a mom and dad overflowing with tired exhilaration at the fact that their hearts just multiplied the amount of love they thought they could hold. I am going to imagine tiny, perfect breaths, rosebud lips, twitchy smiles brought on by invisible memories of heaven. And I am going to do my best to dream the impossible dream, that every child will be loved the way they deserve to be loved, appreciated for the miracle they really are, and found before they are ever lost.

Love fiercely, protect just the same … whether they are yours, or not.

Elle

5.23.18 Brave

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I want to be brave 

because 

I so 

admire 

the way it looks on other people

There are times in my life that I thought I was … 

but looking back –

the reflection of those memories seem much closer to 

seeking adventure

than requiring bravery in its truest form

which is – Necessity

Brave isn’t a character trait, 

it’s a state-of-being

and the bravest people I know don’t get credit for life

they just live it

So to:

The under-appreciated, marginalized, minorities in society

The citizens of nations who didn’t choose to be born unblessed by geographic happenstance 

The ill of body or mind in a world that makes you feel disposable for being “un-perfect” 

The overstressed, single parents who didn’t ask to do it alone

The children who’ve become accustomed to seeing themselves as an interference

To me? 

You  

are 

the 

brave 

ones. 

And I’m sorry. 

I’m so sorry that every day you don’t have a choice

but to be brave.

This wasn’t the way the world was supposed to welcome you

This wasn’t the life to which you were intended …

Precious little though these words might do

I want you to know

that I recognize the weight of your armor 

and when I see your tired faces

weary with

expectations

insinuations

and constant

degradations

I wish I could 

be 

more

So that I could 

do 

more

for you.

But I’m just me

and I’m not brave

because life never trained me

on battlegrounds like yours

Still, I want you to know

I see

I care

And the one thing I can offer – the truth?

God didn’t plan this part

In no cosmic design were you ever meant to be

less

than the children of divinity 

you are

Your purpose has a place 

and the cartographer of the stars in the heavens Himself

has charted the course of destiny you were meant for

But we are fallen

and life

is acutely unfair

I still want to be brave 

because 

I so 

admire 

the way it looks on other people

I’m just sorry

that wearing brave

was never a choice

you were given to make

 

Always,

Elle

1.24.18 Not a Bad Day’s Work

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Whenever a year ends with my students, and they get sad about leaving, I tell them that I am like Mary Poppins. I am there to be with them until the wind changes, and when it does and they no longer need me, they will forget all but a pleasant memory or two. Sometimes the truth of this fills me with a bit of melancholy, but then I have days like today …  and moments like this one … and I am overwhelmed with the reason that I continue to teach and do what I do every day.

My job as an educator usually falls quite short of anything that could be compared to glamorous. On a daily basis I adopt the duties and occupations within my classroom I’d never have chosen to sign up for. Between endlessly picking up garbage, redirecting misguided behaviors, and repeating myself constantly, I too have moments of, “What am I doing here.” And then – just like that, I’m brought back to the reality that there is no job more rewarding than this one.

Today my fifth graders and I were scheduled to finish reading the novel Peter Pan, and if you’ve never read it, may I say you are missing out incredibly. This is NOT a story for the light reader. It is filled with symbolism, allegory, and thematic resonance. I can think of many adults that would miss what it is truly about, but not kids.

For as long as I can remember I’ve tried desperately to hold onto my youth simply because children are smarter than adults, and I want to be THAT intelligent. Kids see things without the eternal fog of pessimism. They inadvertently understand truths that we adults would no longer consider in our jaded state of “prove-it-to-me.” They believe simply because believing is enough. I am witness to their ability every day, and oh how I wish I could promise them Neverland, but even the end of J.M. Barrie’s masterpiece cannot do that.

As Peter Pan comes to a close, Wendy chooses to grow up, and Peter comes back one more time to visit, not knowing she had fully aged to an adult. The narrative tells of how Wendy wishes she didn’t have to tell the truth to Peter, “Hello Peter,’ she replied faintly, squeezing herself as small as possible. Something inside her was crying, ‘Woman, woman let go of me.” At this point in the story my students and I stopped and discussed how we all have a childish heart inside of us, wishing to draw us back to simpler times when we were unafraid and sure of everything we now question. And in that fragile moment, on the verge of tears, these amazing students got it. They understood the beauty of the age they are both a part of and transitioning from.

We went on to discuss how there are things we wish we didn’t know, but do, and other things wish we did know, but are no longer able to believe. As I read the conversation between Wendy and her daughter, the kids were silent.

“Why can’t you fly now mother?”

“Because I am grown up, dearest. When people grow up they forget the way.”

And I saw it in their eyes. The moment of recognition that this isn’t just a story about a boy not growing up, this is a story about the choice to believe in everything childhood stands for. In the story Peter describes himself, “I am youth. I am joy.” My students and I talked about that being what we carry away from this novel. Joy is a choice, youthful imagination is something to covet and protect. And teaching, with its many challenges, is still the most magical profession I can think of. Where else can you carry a child’s understanding from one age to another? Where else can you see the wonder alight their senses from a classic story? Where else can you impart to them the value of their precious time being young?

So today, I am not necessarily winning any breakthrough awards. I am not making much money or traveling to exotic countries, or influencing the masses … but I got to converse with the smartest people on the planet, I got to travel to Neverland and back, and I got to feel (for a moment) like the world was a little bit brighter because of the sparkle of wonder in my students’ eyes. Not a bad day’s work after all.

10.29.17 Believing Will Have to Be Enough

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I believe that better days are coming

that tomorrow really might be better than yesterday

that although every cloud may not be lined in silver

some are backlit by gold and are worth the wait to find them

and if that makes me naive,

then I believe in the authority of naivety too

I believe in positivity

even when I don’t feel it

even when I don’t see it like I wish I might

even when I hear negativity

in some place stronger than my senses, I have hope

and if that makes me a dreamer

then I believe in the capacity of dreaming too

I believe that there is more to us than we might think

here in the shared space of quiet and chaos in our minds

here in the heart full to breaking

here in the hands that write, and make, and do – we are capable of endless somethings

and if that makes me over-confident

then I believe in the auspiciousness of confidence too

I believe in the power of touch

that hugs can heal a multitude of pains

that a kiss on the forehead redeems us

that bruises and scars have nothing on the hand that reaches out to hold yours

and if that makes me a blind optimist

then I believe in the integrity of optimism too

I believe in faith that there really is someone greater 

picking us up when there is nothing left of us but pieces

that somehow, even then, we are being miraculously transformed

into better versions of ourselves than we could ever be alone

and if that makes me a fool

then I believe in the folly of foolishness too

 

I believe. 

And for today, believing will have to be enough

 

What do you believe? Please share this piece with as many people as you think need to hear it. Then, send a comment to help brighten the weariness of this world to something tangibly worth holding on to.

Love and grace and peace to you all! I cannot wait to hear from you.

Elle

7.3.17 To Be Free

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“Freedom is not a gift bestowed upon us by other men, but a right that belongs to us by the laws of God and nature.” – Benjamin Franklin 

To Be Free

The will to be free is innate

and though we honor in days

in commemorations

and spectacles of light and color

the truest form of celebration is that of the soul

When your spirit is enraptured with light,

with peace

and with the tranquil understanding that

nothing can tether or tie you

but that which you choose to bind yourself to

By lifting your humanity to heaven

by humbling yourself to divinity

you will come to believe in the worth you were born into

Finding you are not owned

you are not enslaved

you are not ensnared by the grip of this world

not to conformity

not to addiction

not even to self-persecution

not to worry

not to acceptance

or a nagging fear of what may be

There will always be wars

and the battles will be endless

Some will be won

and in turn,

many will be lost

But freedom is not to be purchased into

or sold out of

To be free

is inherent in the plan of creation

and its grace washed over you with the light of your first breath

The genuine gift of freedom

is realizing that though life may assign you a value,

priceless

is the only identity

you have any right to claim