9.1.19 The Cost of Hope

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“Sometimes I think I might be a bit of a naive optimist, a bit of a wishful thinker … In a world where light blinks out, where forecasts dim, I imagine that hope really might conquer all … if only a few more people looked for it.” – Elle Harris 

 

This quote is a small snippet of my newest piece in Bella Grace Magazine. Fresh to the local bookstore stands, this bookazine, as I’ve come to call her, is just stunning. From Autumn-crisp colors to inspiring quotes, photographs, and articles, I hope you’ll find half as much joy reading it as I did being one of the writers.

This piece in particular meant a great deal to me because I wrote it soon after the passing of my grandmother. I realize that being in my mid-thirties, I was lucky to even have her this long, but logic and the heart don’t always coincide. I miss her every day. And yet, just as the poem shows, life takes turns with our emotions. If my grandmother taught me anything, it is to pursue joy and hope at all cost … and if believing in hope costs you everything, well, then it is still well worth it.

I hope this fall season has you believing in the beauty and magic of this extraordinary, ordinary life.

All my love,

Elle

6.4.19 Esse Quam Videri

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“Esse Quam Videri” 

So our family is about to embark on a new adventure … we are moving from one part of these amazing United States to another. We’ve never before been out of the Midwest and now? We are about to be Southern y’all! The problem is … I love people too much – fiercely so, and with moving comes goodbyes; and goodbyes wreck me.

This past week I needed to say goodbye to my school … my students (present and former) and my friends. Do you know that the word goodbye actually comes from the 1500’s when the standard greeting was, “God be with thee.” I wish we still said that … a prayer in parting instead of a single word ringing with finality. I’m blessed enough to be going from a place that believes the same. I was grateful to be sent off with a jar of words … glitter … and a motto to live by.

Esse Quam Videri means, “To be rather than to seem.” Authenticity, love, and intention have always been my primary ambitions, and I am ever-so-enchanted to know that in this place … among these people, I have been nurtured to be myself, and encouraged to be more than I ever thought I was worthy of becoming – a bringer of hope, a believer in change, and now a dreamer of what lies ahead.

In these next days and months there will be a great deal of change for my family and myself, but one thing is for certain … wherever I go, I want to be, rather than seem … and I never want to say goodbye to anyone I’ve had the chance to know.

Please pray for me; I need you readers … your encouragement carries me more than you know.

All my love and God be with you,

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

4.12.19 The Beauty of Slow

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Today I was asked to guest blog about “The Beauty of Slow” for Jamie whose blog is https://asnailsspace.blogspot.com so please visit me there, and while you’re there, check out this lovely soul! You’ll see a short introduction about how she found me, and then my piece (also found below) will be featured! Happy reading darlings!

The Beauty of Slow

There is a beauty to being slow … and it is a beauty that took me some time to appreciate. Slow, to me, is an acquired taste, and in younger years it was only bitter – not sweet. I remember so many instances where time was my enemy – every minute a wrestling match for what I could get done next or cross off my never-ending list. At that time, I wasn’t so much a human being as a human doing, and while I believe we were given hands and feet to do … more and more I am coming to understand that we were also given minds to reflect, lungs to breathe, and a heartbeat … slow and steady … with which we were meant to keep time. 

What a difference my life would have felt, and still would feel, if I only paid more attention to that heart – to that beat. When I do take the time to listen to the parts of myself that speak quietly, I hear a great deal of questions … questions I don’t know the answer to, but I want to. Like when someone asks me to tell them what I did in a weekend, I have to start backwards or I literally can’t remember. Why is that? Or when I was a little girl, I used to sleep like a starfish – open and free – limbs tossed this way and that haphazardly. Now, I sleep curled up on my side. What happened to that little girl? What am I protecting myself from? Sometimes I have a sense of urgency to accomplish more, and I run myself ragged from the first rays to the last, only to exhaust myself for those who want the best of me. Why do I waste those best parts on a thankless  day, instead of a precious night? 

As you can see – I’ve not genuinely figured it out yet, but I’m thinking, and I’m trying, because when I do get it right … the beauty of slow seeps in and enchants me. Slow looks like watching the sleepy dreamer beside me, whose chest rises and falls in peaceful rhythm to his unconscious reverie. Slow feels like stretching every limb to its limit as I walk, and hike, and run to explore the hidden magic of nature. Slow sounds like hearing the words behind the song – becoming a part of the melody itself as it reaches the deepest parts of me. Slow tastes like the sea-salt air, the lilac wind, the damp dew of grass, the whispered sweetness of lilies. 

It is the afterglow – the lullaby hum – the perfect contentment of still. And I may not have figured it out yet, but there’s one thing I know … there is never such beauty, as the beauty of slow. 

4.3.19 Oops.

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“Caffeine. The gateway drug.” – Eddie Vedder

Four years ago I couldn’t sleep. Or, let me rephrase that … I could sleep, but I’d wake up between three and four in the morning with my heart pumping full of adrenaline so much so that I almost assuredly could have outrun a marathoner. Well, that’s what it felt like at least.

I was convinced, of course (being the semi-hypochondriac that I am NOT proud to say I am) that I was dying. My husband took me in to the E.R. and after several x-rays, and cardio tests, I found out I was not having a heart attack, a stroke, or anything else immediately life-threatening. Nope … I was just having the tremors of life.

At that time, my husband was in graduate school, our kids were even younger, and I was teaching, writing, and mommying full time without much interest or ability to put myself to sleep on time. I said yes to everything and ran myself ragged.

It’s amazing what our bodies say no to when our minds and mouths refuse. My body, after months of self-sacrificing habits simply began to refuse. After conversation with my doctor, he assured me that my life was not in danger, as long as I was willing to change it. Now, I only drink decaf. I go to bed (most nights) in time to give me around eight hours of sleep. I exercise so I don’t lose my mind. I read and write and play in order to more fully live the life I was trying so hard to squeeze every last experience out of and simply exhausting myself in the process. Lavender helps too. Lots of lavender.

So the other day, I was a bit manic. I was checking things off my to do list like a fiend. I wrote a ton of emails. I did some writing. Reading. Correcting. I had chats with colleagues. I made needed-to-make phone calls. I was on fire! I felt super twitchy though. My heart was a little fast. I felt like I needed to rest, but my eyes were wide and my breathing was fluttery. That was when my flicker-fast brain whispered, “Look it up.” You see, all day I’d been nursing a gigantic matcha green tea frappuccino. It was AMAZINGLY delicious. And the funny thing is … I knew black tea had caffeine, but guess what? When I googled, “Is green tea caffeinated,” it said: “The thought that green tea is naturally decaffeinated is a myth.”

That would explain it! On a high note (literally, Eddie Vedder was completely right about caffeine being the gateway drug) I got a whole lot done. But as my daughter said, “Mommy, every time you find something you like, you find out you can’t actually have it after all.” Call it the curse of a food allergy princess like me! Ha, ha. Sadly, my sweet husband can eat straight coffee beans and not feel any effects. Me however? It would seem I cannot.

Oops!

Here’s to all my fellow forced decafers out there! Much love, much sleep, and slower progress to us all.

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

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

 

 

 

 

9.28.16 The Memory Box

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I have this vintage box of letters in my office.  Faded with printed flowers and scrawling text, this box has, tucked within it’s brass latch, more memories than I’d ever be able to hold in my mind without its weathered assistance. All those years ago, when I began collecting the notes, scraps, photographs, and messages it now contains, I never could’ve known they would become so much more than the simple correspondences they might originally seem to be. 

There, layered in paper, are private jokes with friends, confessions from past loves, and pictures that hold me forever still on a page. And I am so thankful, that for whatever reason in my adolescence, I had the foresight to know that I’d need these reminders of who I was then.  The truth is, life doesn’t give us many opportunities for reminiscence, things go too fast, years blur in colorful streaks past my consciousness until I force myself to slow, and visit a memory.  

Some of these letters are joy personified, littered with smiles, and coded words that no longer make sense but invoke pleasure anyway.  Lined with plans of what we’d do, or where we’d go, or even where we had already been. Some, are harder though.  They are the letters that, even now, I can’t bear to read, but need to hold onto, because they are the last proof of the people I can’t let go of … not entirely at least.  Cataloged haphazardly, whether dark or delicious … each memory in turn serves its purpose, and found residence in that treasure box for a reason clear to me alone. 

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Like a silent-bound old friend, this box keeps my secrets, benign as they may be, and guards them until I am ready to whisper glances at them some random, nostalgic day. 

Some pieces of a heart remain a mystery. And open as one might claim to be, there will always be chambers and alcoves none can enter.  And so it goes. There are depths and passes that remain unexplored, but there are also pathways well worn with remembering.  

American Author Roman Payne captured the desire of a woman’s heart perfectly saying, “The only thing higher for a girl and more sacred for a young woman than her freedom and her passion should be her desire to make her life into poetry, surrendering everything she has to create a life as beautiful as the dreams that dance in her imagination.” 

My letter box reminds me of those beautiful dreams I once had, and gives me the courage to know that same girl, the recipient of each precious letter, is still in me somewhere.  It’s time we honor our hearts, our ambitions, and our imaginations.  It’s time to pay reverence to the memories that formed us, but to look forward to what is yet to come.  Like elongated silhouettes, memories can cast a lovely shadow … but only when you take them in context of the light before you here and now.  Walk on my friends. 

Elle

9.22.16 From the Other Side of Lost

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I have found,

(in my limited experience of finding)

that life

is worth

the struggle

That things like optimism, brotherhood and benefit-of-doubt

still have a place among this place

and time

It could be said I’m just naive,

and once, I was

But fortunately,

my unfortunate moments have indeed proven that life

isn’t

easy,

and so naivety is no longer my reason why

It’s true, that early on it was simple to be

just because

Because my path was lit with golden strands that showed me where to go

and faces

and chances

seemed to make their way to me

Back then, there was no such thing as making up a mind

when I thought I knew it all

And my smiles then were breezy,

and I gave advice out freely

and I didn’t have a silver-lineless cloud

It was common then,

to look at life as though it were my game

until one day

it showed me I could lose

For the first time I saw clearly

the haze and misperception

of perfection

that no longer

existed

The enchantment of ideas like

later,

soon,

or “someday,” lost their glimmer

and I felt my sparkle

just

begin

to fade

But in that in-between…

past “Who am I?”

“Where am I going?”

and

“What do I do now?”

I realized, that some people

the right people

whether they’d been lost

or not

were waiting for me

to be right where I was

exactly who I was

accepting me for all they knew I could be

The grace of life

are the people you meet in it

those God sent

to bring out the potential you’d

never

realize alone

And so I don’t say

naively

that life is worth the struggle

I say

from the other side of lost

that found

is bringing others

to the light you know