2.12.19 His

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They say all men are created equal

and I believe it

But in my experience, they don’t remain so

because some

(one)

has found a way to elevate my perspective on the possibility of everything

His is the memory I run to when I need to hear just one more story

the promise that nothing lasts forever, and tomorrow will be better than today

His is the patient voice on the other side of my endless why’s

answering when he can

and holding me when he can’t

There are few people who are able to possess the freedom of imagination

and the anchoring roots of integrity

but he does

His is the mind that recognizes my Neverland dreams

and the plank-walk inducing push to jump into the unknown

and keep swimming though I can’t see land

“Landing isn’t what you’re looking to do,” he will remind me

and I will carry on

I share his eyes, but not always his sight

and yet his is the calm to my tempest-beset heart

when the world overwhelms my “Why does it have to be that way,” view

“So then make it better,” he will challenge

Equal to none,

this is the man

I have made a lifetime of admiring

It is his hands that have held me

helped me

pushed me

and fiercely protected me

always

and today

it is his life

I am grateful for

 

 

 

 

 

 

2.6.19 Morning

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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

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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

12.16.18 Holiday Cheer

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“Try to see things differently – It’s the only way to get a clearer perspective on the world and on your life.” – Neal Shusterman
Today I was reminded just how much perspective matters. I often try to look for opportunities to share a smile, a word, or a story with the people I come to meet and this particular trip to the market was no different. In the baking aisle, I was completely lost among ground cinnamon, ground cloves, and ground ginger when I saw a happy, very tall looking man glancing up at the shelves from a wheelchair. I asked if I could help him reach anything and he smiled largely at me, thanking me for the offer but assuring me he was fine and just waiting for his wife.

A few aisles later, I asked a worker where the molasses was, as I’ve never in my life made gingerbread cookies and had no idea. He told me it was on the top shelf near the syrup, but that it was probably really far back as a lot of people were asking about it today. He did not offer to help, just told me that I could find it there if any was left. As I made my way back, I saw the same pleasant gentleman and his wife and told them of my woes. They wheeled along with me and said they’d help me check. She finagled the last jar from the top shelf for me. I laughed and said, “Here I thought I was going to help you and you are helping me!” He smiled and told me that he was always the height-helper before getting Multiple Sclerosis. I apologized for his diagnosis and he simply smiled again and said, “You know what, it’s okay. It took a long time to progress and I’m doing alright.” His wife and I shared a few teacher stories, and after telling them I’d be praying for them, we shook hands and I was on my way.

In the checkout, I thought I’d continue the cheer and asked the teller if she was excited for Christmas. “You’re seriously asking a person in retail if they’re excited for Christmas?” she asked sarcastically.

“I guess so,” I replied. “I’ve never worked in retail so I wouldn’t know.” She continued to have a chilled demeanor and it just made me so sad. It’s true that none of us know one another’s story, but it struck me as so ironic that this seemingly healthy woman refused to find joy, and this ailing man, reduced to a wheelchair, couldn’t part with it. As I was leaving, I hoped that she would find a way to experience more than she expected this season … maybe the sweet man and his wife would find their way to her line and shift her perspective.

At home tonight, I’m blessed from my tired head, all the way down to my vintage apron. My husband and I decided to make something old and something new. He made his mother’s famous peanut butter cookies and I attempted my first gingerbread. We were both weary from a long work week, stressed with holiday finances, and overwhelmed with the all-too-soon promise of Monday morning – and yet we laughed and kissed and danced as we made a royal mess in our kitchen. Hours later, after endless cups of almond flour, loads of dishes, shared baking pans, and happy medium baking temperature (we wanted to each bake our recipes at the same time) we are in a sweet, sugar coma … grateful for the best gift of the season … one another.

I hope you are able to find yourself on the brighter side of the Christmas tree lights today and well into the new year. Be blessed dear ones.

Elle

 

12.7.18 One Heartbeat at a Time

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

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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

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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

11.21.18 Happy Thanks-Living

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“I think I’ll move to Australia.”

Judith Viorst, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

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Home Depot – maybe not the most romantic of dates, I’ll grant you that, but necessary … oh, so necessary! We’ve been living with a leaky freezer for way too long. Our stove had been acting up. Our sink has been dripping. It was beyond time for some changes. More money and a whole lot more than we came for later, we left … giddy for the installs, but a bit punch-drunk from the butterflies soaring out of our now-empty wallet.

Fast forward three days … exactly four more days BEFORE the new refrigerator was scheduled to be installed and yeah – that is where this sordid tale of woe begins. I got home at about five-thirty, excited to settle myself and my cold into a cup of something warm and write. Then my son said, “Eww. Why is the floor all wet?” Sure enough, the rug by the stove was soaked … and so was the tile by the refrigerator … and the dining room, all the way to the library. I went downstairs and the concrete was slick with water. The clocks were all flashing like the power had gone out, and boxes of photographs were sitting pretty in puddles.

Wearing a ballerina tulle skirt, I immediately started emptying boxes and putting the photographs in drier areas to sort through later. Wrapping paper was matted down wet and stuck to the floor … past the pictures, I didn’t know where to start. I called my angel neighbors as my husband wasn’t home from work yet, and one of them came over and suggested I empty my hutch, my curio cabinet, and that we move the piano as all three are made out of wood and sitting on carpet that is more like sponge at this point.

Dismantling the furniture, he heroically pushed it all to safer ground. When my husband came home, it was a bit of a war zone. I had spread every beach towel and bath towel I could across the floor and was doing a soggy, slow dance across them all to sop up the water. Apparently somehow our water spout had activated and literally flooded the first floor and basement. Our freezer since re-froze everything into a cascade of icicles which are somehow less charming when dangling off of a frozen pizza box than when you adore them in nature.

My husband and I called my dad, Mr. Fix-it, who (with my mom) unhelpfully live down south. Still, he was able to talk us off the ledge to figure out our next steps. Towels. Shop Vacuum. Fans. Stat! He also suggested we turn the water valve off but … no surprise there because why wouldn’t it happen to us … the valve was calcified solid and turning it would risk breaking it. My dad said to leave it until the new refrigerator instal comes Saturday because, “They have quick ways to fix it, and you two will just break it.” True. Sad. But true.

At 10:30 I was headed to Walmart to buy fans, and seeking pity telling my woes to my sweet in-laws who lived out west. In all honesty they were probably thanking their stars we were so many states away so they couldn’t be called in for reinforcements as they too are very handy. Sometimes I wonder how we could both have such amazingly handy parents and neither be capable of doing anything and then I realize, it’s because they could do everything, so we never had to learn! Mistake number one!

About three hundred and fifty dollars later I had new kitchen rugs, two purple box fans (because if I’m gonna have to look at them they might as well be purple), two air purifiers (from the dust we were kicking up and sneezing from), and three humidifiers for our rooms because did I mention we have colds here?

And so … our house is a hum of electrical devices, my dryer is ready to go on strike from load after load of towels, and I am taking a moment to tell you about it because … you guessed it … I need more pity. Just kidding. I am actually supremely grateful; it could have been SO much worse. Last year we were hosting Thanksgiving, this year we aren’t. The flood could have been broken pipes instead of a refrigerator we are already replacing. My kids get to sort through a million games from the basement they forgot they owned. I get to nostalgically sort through photos I haven’t looked at in ten years. True we’re tired and our pocket book is a little worse for the wear, but I choose to look at it as Thanks-living. We just had a dose of life tossed upon us, true, but we have more than we could ever ask for simply by realizing we aren’t facing the struggle alone. I hope you too realize that … wherever you are and whatever you’re facing, you are not alone. That is one thing my writing has taught me … we are all connected through shared stories, experiences, and even woes. I am so very blessed to have you, my readers, to turn to.

Elle

“Some days are like that, even in Australia.” 

Judith Viorst, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

11.4.18 Creating a Bank Account of Cozy

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Salted caramel hot chocolate. Thick, warm slices of buttered toast. Snuggles under a new, warm blanket. Reading a classic while it’s raining … bright colored leaves painting the sidewalk. The first fire of the season, logs snapping as amber shadows dance on your walls. This is the Danish concept of Hygge – dedicating oneself to the pursuit of coziness and comfort.

I was honored to be asked by the editors of Bella Grace to discuss what cozy looks like. November first, this special edition of Bella Grace Magazine came out and is available at Barnes and Nobles, or online. Tonight I finally took the time to dive in and I was instantly neck deep in seasonally sweet ideas and ways to slow the pace of my racing days. From creating oil-infused baths to hosting a Scottish “Cookie Shine,” I am tempted beyond all reason to fill my antique teacup and crawl into bed to read the rest.

I hope that you’ll take a moment to read “Creating a Bank Account of Cozy,” my article and journal prompt and tell me one cozy aspect involving each of your senses. As a sneak peek, I’ll share one of mine.

Taste: Warm pumpkin muffins fresh from the oven

Sound: Strong wind that wrestles the last leaves off trees

Smell: The thick smell of melting chocolate

Touch: Layers upon layers of fleece, cotton, and wool

Sight: The brilliant encore of Maples and Oaks in the finale of Fall

Your turn to turn on your cozy! I’d love to hear your thoughts on how the Danish concept of Hygge might affect you as the season turns.

Be well and stay comfortable friends,

Elle

10.18.18 But First …

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“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

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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