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

 

9.15.16 Black Sunshine

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American business man Frank Lane once said, “If you want to see the sunshine, you have to weather the storm.” Well, today, I think I was the storm.  Exhausted after another seemingly endless day, I dragged myself and the kiddos to the grocery store, pretty much letting them buy whatever they asked to throw into the cart because I was too tired to say no.  So what did we end up with?  A whole lot of food with impossible-to-pronounce, genetically-engineered crap for ingredients!  That’s what!

You see, starting a new school year, a new job, and a new slough of practice schedules while trying to maintain a house, and writing ambitions isn’t going so well. I’ve got about ten baskets of laundry I’m notoriously hiding under my bed, and an overweight Bernese Mountain Dog in need of more than a quick walk around the block.  To top it off … my awesome husband has found a perfect time for himself to work out daily, and has come home from work refreshed and fit, as his office has a built-in gym. Needless to say – if he tells me about one more “great workout” he’s had, he’ll be sleeping alone. I can’t seem to find thirty minutes to call my own, let alone three miles worth!

So today, after grocery shopping, and starting laundry, and taking care of the pets, and making dinner … I was feeling a little feisty.  As soon as my husband got home, I threw on the first clothes I could find and announced, that I needed to go workout before I, “lost it.”  Looking at me as if I already had, my husband grinned, reading the t-shirt I had on, “You are my sunshine.” Laughing at the irony of my stormy personality, he said, “Aww, you’re my little black sunshine.”

And you know what … it is okay. Today I am a little black sunshine.  I am happy, but in a bit of a thunder-cloud mood.  I’m ready to joke around, but am also ready to misinterpret or read into comments at will.  I am at peace with the fact that peaceful is not the way I feel … and if I had to define myself in one word at the moment … spitfire might be the one I’d choose.

There are plenty of things I don’t love about myself in this very moment: my new blemish (aka: zit), my cramped muscles, my straw-like hair, my nicked nail polish, my pile of to do’s, but that’s alright. Because I’ve decided, that just for today, I’d like to agree with Marilyn Monroe when she said, “Imperfection is beauty, madness is genius, and it’s better to be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring.” So I’m going to focus on what I do like about me right now instead.

I like my witchy-purple nail polish that’s just a shade too dark.

I like that my broodiest moods still involve lots of laughter, a bit of glitter, and “I forgive you’s.”

I like that while putting away groceries, my husband and I turned up  rap songs and danced in the kitchen until our kids came in from the yard and we ran to push, “mute!”

I like that even on a school-night (as a teacher) I let my kids stay up until way too late because it was the first time my daughter requested to watch Star Wars.

I like that half of my dinner tonight consisted of spoonfuls of peanut butter, and sea-salt chocolate caramels.

I like that my sister and I took a few minutes on our long-distance phone call to pretend that we lived closer, and even planned out what movie we’d watch if she were here.

I like that even on a day like this … when I’m an absolute troll, my mom texted me, “Goodnight beautiful.”

I like that tomorrow is another day … and I know it’ll be even brighter.

And I like that I should be sleeping, but instead am up typing to you … whoever you are … in the hopes that you relate, and find a likable list about yourselves too.

Carry on my little black sunshines – carry on.

Elle

9.8.16 Thirty-Four Wishes

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So it is my birthday.  My thirty-fourth birthday to be exact.  I know I’m not supposed to tell you that.  I am well aware that when you are no longer twenty-something, age is not supposed to be something that you share … but I’m sharing it anyway, because I’m grateful.  I’m grateful that in these thirty-four years I have memories that keep me in good company, regardless of the number that is growing ever on.  While I may not want the visual affirmation of decades of candles on my cake … I do like what my mother believes about wishes.  She says you get a wish for every year, for every fire lit sparkle that keeps hope dancing above the frosting.

I have no idea what this new year holds, but I wanted to mark and welcome it with a bit of a retrospective peek into who I’ve been, and what each year has held for me so far.  Me in  time-capsule-doses.  This life has been ordinary magic … and I thank so many of you for quite literally bringing my wishes to life.

Year One: I was blessed with an exceptional mom and dad, who inspire me still.

Year Two: My sister decided to love me, and has never stopped.

Year Three: My best-cousin and I become life-long partners.

Year Four: I believe with every fiber of my being in Santa Claus.

Year Five: I met the boy next door, who pretty much shaped my sister and my play days ever summer thereafter.

Year Six: I discover that not all teachers should be.

Year Seven: I become enamored with dinosaurs.

Year Eight: I discover the fun of Halloween (matching Pandas mommy and me).

Year Nine: I move for the first time.

Year Ten: I lose my dog … my first best friend.

Year Eleven: My kindred-spirit grandmother moves in.

Year Twelve: I meet my best friend.

Year Thirteen: I am immersed in the power of sleepovers!

Year Fourteen: High school begins, and all that goes with it.

Year Fifteen: I become a dancer.

Year Sixteen: I fall in love for the first time … and recognize the influence of a heart above all things … even sense.

Year Seventeen: I meet someone who calls me back to myself.

Year Eighteen: I go away to college with the best roomie a cousin could ask for.

Year Nineteen: I meet the man I am going to marry, who picks up and protects my heart.

Year Twenty: I enter into the School of Education to become a teacher.

Year Twenty-One: I graduate, get married, and get lost in Europe with my new husband.

Year Twenty-Two: I get my first teaching job, and become a first time auntie.

Year Twenty-Three: I experience infertility and the heartache that goes with missing something you’ve never even had.

Year Twenty-Four: I graduate from graduate school, and we drive the Romantic Road in Germany.

Year Twenty-Five: I get to know the wonder of my world … my son.

Year Twenty-Six: I choose to stay at home with my son and begin to write.

Year Twenty-Seven: I get to know the second wonder of my world … my daughter.

Year Twenty-Eight: I am diagnosed with Celiac’s Disease.

Year Twenty-Nine: My parents move, and my grandfather dies … and I feel the last bit of my childhood taken from me.

Year Thirty: We get our first puppy, who now weighs 100 lbs.

Year Thirty-One: I get my first children’s book published.

Year Thirty-Two: I taste a fairy tale and meet my husband in Cannes, France for the weekend.

Year Thirty-Three: I get published by my favorite magazine in the world twice.

Year Thirty-Four: Yet to be determined, but sure to be an adventure!

My wish?  Tell me about your most memorable year!  Share, post, comment! Give me the gift of words … they’re my favorite treat!

Elle

9.1.16 School Year Sick

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I feel like a shadow of myself.  I look like me … sort of … and sound like me … well a version of me at least, but my mind is cloudy and gray.  I am sick.  The kind of sick that comes on fast and strong and unexpected.  Okay, I lied – not unexpected.  TOTALLY expected actually.  I just started a new school year, and let me say that 5th graders are not as in touch with cold-prevention hygiene as I would have hoped or assumed.

We are on week two, but from day one I had two kids coughing so vehemently I wouldn’t have been half surprised to see a lung fly across the room.  One boy was apparently too cool or too busy to be bothered with Kleenex, so his shirt sported crusty-polkadots for three days.  Then there are the sneezers who spray as if their noses were set to mist-mode.  Gross.  Lucky they’re awesome, minus the mucus.  But add to that fact that it was nearly ninety degrees every day last week, and we created the petrie dish effect.  Needless to say, I got a combination of whatever they had (minus the polkadots, I’ve still got enough self-respect to use a Kleenex).

Henry David Thoreau once said, “Tis healthy to be sick sometimes.” To be one hundred percent honest … I admire him hugely, but I’d kind of like to slap him in the face right now.  I’d like him to take a look at my puffy, bleary, bloodshot eyes, my cherry-tipped nose from friction with two boxes of tissue, and my perpetually red cheeks and ears as though I just got sunburned.  I’d like good ‘ol Henry to shout into my eighty-five percent blocked ears, or try to understand my pubescently-squeaky voice, or watch me pant as I climb a flight of stairs, and see if he feels the same.  Now, someecards I agree with. “Being sick can seem like all fun and games until you no longer live with your mom.” Or listen to their other divine truth, “You just don’t appreciate breathing out of both nostrils until one suddenly is taken away from you.”

Thoreau?  A fool.

Someecards?  Genius.

The best part is how we always get sick at the most inconvenient times.  I’m two weeks into a new job, so I can’t take off because it’d be more work to write lesson plans than to mask my fevered state with Advil and carry on.  Apparently my throat has a split personality now, because I had ice water on one side of me, and hot coffee on the other side for the same raw reason.

I am not complaining … okay I’m totally complaining – but I’m also grateful that, “This too shall pass.”  Thoreau might have had a little something to his comment … I guess feeling sick sometimes makes you appreciate all the times you’re not.  And in retrospect – oh who am I kidding!?! He’s an idiot and I feel awful.  I’m going to wallow and drown myself in mint shakes and mochas.

If you’re not feeling the best … I suggest you do the same!

Stay healthy,

Elle

 

8.24.16 Laughing Stars

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I am exhausted.  Mentally. Physically. Spiritually.  Spent. I don’t like feeling this way. Not one tiny smidgen, however, I’ve rarely found anyone who enjoys being laid waste by their endless tasks of endless days.  I am not sad. I am not angry. I am not listless or uninspired … I’m simply too tired to feed the imagination that says, “Come on … it’s my turn to play.” What did I expect with a new job, a new school year?  Certainly I didn’t anticipate I’d just waltz in and know what I was doing, and when, and how.  Well … I’d hoped, but I’m coming to learn that hope and expectation do not always agree.

Things are getting done … slowly.  As my mind flits and flutters from one task to the next, beating like a hummingbird’s wings.  My productivity and mindset do not match at all.  I’d like to be more than I am sometimes.  Have you ever thought that?  I’d like to be much more put-together than I often feel I am.  To have plans, and timetables, and actually follow the slotted minutes I designated for each thing would be lovely indeed.  But that is not life.  Not my life at least. My life is much more like a bright, engaging piece of abstract art – beautiful, messy, and somewhat unfinished in its pursuit.

I am okay with this I suppose, because even when I am as I am … exhausted to the point past sleeping … I still have traces of whimsy floating like dust particles around me.  And I see them through filtered light … my own personal confetti.  I sit in my office … my blue room, and everything feels better.  I run my hand along the old worn box that holds my most-precious letters given to me over a lifetime.  I put pumpkin-spiced coffee on the antique side table I inherited ages ago.  I curl up into cozy in the chair I’ve had forever, and I dream a waking dream of possibility.  And I imagine I’m anywhere, and everywhere at once.

My creativity comes back, and the weariness of my day wears thinner. I think if it could speak, my imagination would tell me what Antoine de Saint-Exupery once said in The Little Prince. “You – you alone will have the stars as no one else has them … In one of the stars I shall be living. In one of them I shall be laughing. And so it will be as if all the stars were laughing, when you look at the sky at night …You – only you – will have stars that can laugh.”

And so take the time to hear the stars my friend … because I would not be surprised, if they were laughing for you too.

Elle

8.18.16 My First Guest Blogger!!!

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GUEST BLOG

This is my first, but hopefully not last blog hosted by a guest! An amazing writer, photographer and kindred-spirit … I am completely honored for her debut blog to be showcased on my site!  Please read through her bio at the end and encourage her with comments by finding her on Facebook and Instagram.  And now … without further delay …

Finding the Pieces Within – Courtney Johnson

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“We lose ourselves in the things we love. We find ourselves there, too.”
–Kristen Martz

I am a lover of life. I love finding the celebration in anything I can. Sure, life’s big milestones are amazing and forever ingrained in me. But I revel in the day to day! It is just as beautiful, and I desire to hold on to those feelings and moments, and relive them. It might seem ordinary to some, but to me, my life is exquisite. The prevalence of love and beauty is never lost on me. It is exactly that which I choose to center myself around.
Like any fairy tale, my life is not without its struggles; pieces of myself have come and gone, making way for what was necessary. And sometimes I put away bits of myself that no longer fit into a particular time and space. But those elements are still there, waiting for the perfect day to come back.
Unfortunately, one true piece of me that I have stifled for some time now has been the expressive part of my soul, the creator. She was right there with me for years until certain aspects of my life pushed her aside, trapping her, and closing her off from the best parts of me. Other pieces have since developed and taken over the show, but she’s been quietly watching and reminiscing … all the while hoping for a chance to show herself again.
Ever since I could write, I did. In fancy journals with vintage pictures on the cover, or old notebooks with the metal spiral poking into my skin as I carried them. I would tap away on my grandma’s antique metal typewriter, loving the sound of each key inking the paper. And Post-Its were essential; perfect, yellow squares to hold my lists, love stories, mysteries, poems, and songs.
It was no different with pictures. I documented everything with pictures … digital and physical albums containing tens of thousands of images telling the story of my life.
With a love like I had for pictures and words, I never understood why the version of me who created them could be lost. Back then writing and photography felt like something I just did – but I get it now, that version is the best version of me, she is still a huge part of who I am … and I need to keep her close.
Now I have this irrepressible urge to write, to photograph, to capture meaning in everything. Not necessarily to be heard by others, but to be heard by myself. Sometimes you just need you to hear you.
The old soul who values reverence, sentimentality, time, and music … they all rest with her … and she’s not satisfied with just a front-row seat anymore. She wants to create. She wants to perpetuate as much of my beautiful life as she can. She needs just a little stage time.
So if you notice her out and about, give her some encouragement, a smile, a hug, or a high five. Keeping her going will take some work, but it will be so worthwhile. If you feel like a part of you is missing or unfulfilled, look inside yourself. Chances are you will find a piece of who you used to be too. Immerse yourself in something inspiring and bring you out to play. Create a little space in your life to pick things up again, and don’t let the other pieces of you say no.
Here’s to you, dear one, for swooping in, befriending her, and helping me escort her out in a parade of wonder and amazement. She has been missed, and I need her more than I ever realized. She has so much to celebrate! This beautiful life I live is her muse, and she is mine.

Courtney’s Bio

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Courtney Johnson is a lover of life and a seeker of fun in every day.  As a teacher and mother of three little ones, she and her husband conquer each crazy day with love and laughter.  Along the way she pens thought-provoking narratives and captures beauty where she sees it, letting her life be her muse.

8.9.16 A “Bella” Day

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Aristotle once said that, “Hope is a waking dream.”  Can I just say that today I feel fully awake?  Another piece of mine has been published and so today you can find me on Bella Grace Magazine’s Blog!  I am always so impressed with the way words and pictures compliment one another just so … like stars and wishes, they magically fit, and the image chosen is summertime dreamy.

So here’s to Pretend, the theme of my piece, … and reality, because my words are really out there in print today!

Please pass on this post, and take a peek at my favorite magazine in the world.

Facebook: @bellagracemagazine

Twitter: @bellagracemag

Instagram: @bellagracemagazine

Elle Harris

7/28/16 For the Fairies

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“Someday you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.” C.S. Lewis

This summer, more than any before has confirmed the notion that I’ve been dreadedly suspecting for some time … my kids are getting older.  Not just older, but older-older.  You know – the kind of older where they don’t need you to be there when they jump into the deep end of the pool, the kind where they can fix their own snacks, ride bikes without you running frantically behind their rear wheel, and even lead the games of tag and hide-and-seek at the park.  They don’t need head starts, or get-me-going pushes on the swings, and they can both now play more songs on a piano than I ever could. 

They are growing up.  And the thing is, I know this is good – a blessing even.  My husband and I got married young, had kids young, and planned on growing up with them.  Everything is going according to plan, except for the ever-present ache of watching time pass and trying desperately to memorize moments and make them stay.  When I look at his mischievous smile, or her bright eyes, I could cry for missing them.  It doesn’t make any sense, I know, to miss someone who is standing right before me, but that is a parent’s heart I’m afraid.  A melancholy mix of loving every memory that has built the individual you see.  

The other day, my nine-year-old told me he had a dream.  He dreamt he was in London, sitting on top of Big Ben and reading a book.  When I said what a cool global dream it was, he shrugged in noncommittal acquiescence. “Would you ever live in another country?” I asked him. 

“Depends on the country,” he said.

“Well how about England?” I continued.

“No way,” he said without hesitating a moment.

“Why not?” I asked. “I’d live there in a heartbeat.” 

“I know mom,” he said gently, looking at me with serious eyes, “but you and I aren’t the same person are we?” 

“No,” I laughed. “I suppose we are not.” 

And that is as it should be.  As Hodding Carter said, “There are only two lasting bequests we can hope to give our children. One of these is roots: the other, wings.”  It is true, I know this, and yet there are times when I look at these two beautiful, self-assured faces that seem so ready to take on the world – and I can’t decide if I’ve done something right, or terribly wrong that it happened so soon. I am so proud … but it’s still hard.

There has been one thing this summer, however, that has sheltered my fragile heart.  It has proven that we are not there yet, and there is plenty of time still for pretend.  My daughter, nearly seven now, decided to create a fairy garden.  And after taking care to choose the best doll house furniture, a mirror for admiring themselves, and plates and bowls to serve, she created a gentle rest stop for her fairy friends.  In the early morning hours when the dew still held fast to each grass blade, I tiptoed outside and sprinkled glitter in a trail from piece to piece. 

The wonder that both of my children had at seeing the results were heart-wrenchingly endearing.  She has proceeded to write them small notes.  He has helped her set up and check them each morning.  And though I’m running out of different colors of glitter, and my hand gets cramped from writing as tiny as I’m able … we have captured a memory that will stay. 

I have reminded her that all things move on … well, maybe I’m secretly reminding myself too, but for now – we are enjoying each sun-drenched minute of summer.  We are splashing cannonball-sized splashes, chalking every inch of our driveway, writing stories, catching dandelion wishes, drawing comics, going to bed way too late, and waiting, as long as it takes, for the fairies. 

Elle