9.30.17 Let Me Be Aware

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About ten or so years ago, I came across a poem that said everything I should say to my husband on a daily basis. I printed it out, and put it somewhere “safe” and then we moved and I lost it. All I remembered of it was a line … “Someday I shall wish … more than all the world, for your return.” And I remembered thinking that I never wanted to have that feeling, that relentless ache of NOT saying what I should have. 

Fast forward ten years, and miraculously, a friend gave me a stack of quotes as a gift. One of the quotes, as you might serendipitously guess, was the one I’d been searching and combing the internet for for all of these past years. I immediately looked it up, and this week, I was so very, very glad to have it, so I could read it to the man who not only has my heart, but has fiercely protected it since we met. 

Please share this video message, this poem, and this life with someone you hold just as dear. 

8.28.17 Through My Eyes or Yours

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“Let all that you do be done in love.” 1 Corinthians 16:18

As much as I believe in love, I have to admit that this is not the easiest command. I hope you take a moment to laugh with me at this sometimes awesome, sometimes awful, always amazing life. Please take a minute to watch and share your own love stories! Through my eyes, or yours, our perspectives should always be focused on what matters most … one another.

Carry each other through!

Elle

 

8.21.17 Analog Heart

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A really good friend of mine is getting divorced. It is both as blunt and pointed as that. I think one of the hardest things is that this person is not one to whom anyone could say they, “saw it coming.” And every time I think about the hurt – I hurt. What’s more is that I’ve seen this fragile, tender soul fall in waves of believing what writer Tonya Hurley once said, “If you expect nothing, you can never be disappointed.”

But that’s no way to live – and it’s not the identity one is meant to claim. It is not what any of us should be made to deal with. We should have expectations. We should believe that love is what it says it is, and will stay simply because it promised it would.

As I’m learning, this is not so. Apparently, some love, when it is unrequited and given up on, does end. Leaning into this friendship in ways of support, and listening to broken stories I don’t understand, this poem came to me.

An analog relates to a mechanism that requires a voltage or pressure to perform; it seemed a weakened, but still beating heart applied. So this is for my friend, who knows above all things the proverbial truth that, “Hope dies last.” Let your heart beat on – weak, but steady. For someday it will be filled again. It will rise to the point of a great crescendo. It, like you, will carry on.

Analog Heart

You – now equal parts ash and ice

who stumbles between the

purity of being tested in fire –

and the bitterest chill of indifference

You – beating fiercely as your

gears remain locked …

who feels the minutes pass –

hears every tick that slowly

grinds,

yet sees no discernible change

You – built to race,

built to fill and turn keys of

crimson and scarlet –

doors closed long enough

for filaments of light to become dull

You – filled to fracture with

memory – this moment –

even if it is all you’re capable of –

… stay …

… endure …

beat one time,

and let the echo of once

remind you how to carry on again

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Please share this with anyone whose heart is, or has been near to breaking. Remember that your strength only needs to last you this day, and somehow, miraculously, tomorrow you will find another way, another day, to carry on.

From my heart to yours,

Elle

7.7.17 Publication News

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I wrote this piece some time ago with the hopes that someday it would find its way off of the shelf, and IT HAS! Live today on Bella Grace Magazine’s  blog Grace Notes, you can read my newest publication, Love Letter to a Single Friend.

I pray that you will share it with everyone that needs to hear it … because they do … they need to know how singularly they are loved – how treasured they are to you, and to this world that needs their spirit so desperately. Help me spread this appreciation, help me gift this love.

With all my heart,

Elle

4.9.17 Love for the Sake of Loving

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Sometimes I think that of all the words we can fill a conversation with, it is the smallest phrases that often have the most impact – phrases like: I trust you, I believe in you,  I love you, thank you, you mean so much to me, or please don’t go.  I don’t think we use these phrases enough. I don’t think anyone does. And I come to wonder what state this world might be in if we all heard them just a little bit more.

John C. Maxwell once said, “A word of encouragement from a teacher to a child can change a life. A word of encouragement from a spouse can save a marriage. A word of encouragement from a leader can inspire a person to reach her potential.” Though I’m sure I am oversimplifying, I really think that most problems in the world could be avoided if people just felt that they were needed … appreciated … wanted. If everyone felt even one of these things, how could feelings of ineptitude or desolation even exist?

So often I feel like I’m chasing an ideal version of myself that may never exist. I seek the writer who is able to be sustained by her craft of words. I chase the teacher who is no longer in the classroom, but who is instead sharing her wisdom in workshops or assemblies. I imagine the wife and mother who is able to do-it-all without becoming a ragged mess in the process. I desire to be the friend who always has time to write that card, answer that call, or meet up with everyone that matters to her. In reality – I am none of those things yet, maybe ever. But I wonder if that’s the point? From a handful of experiences recently, I am starting to think it might be a whole lot easier than all of those lofty ambitions.

This past week, a friend of mine was having a rough day. I didn’t have time to go out and talk for hours, but I brought him a coffee and recommended a great song to listen to. He lit up … his face filled with relief like giving oxygen to a drowning man. I didn’t deserve that response for so simple a gesture, but it was given regardless.

There’s a little second grader who hugs me in the hallway every time I see him. I am not his teacher.  Aside from giving him a nickname and passing on easily earned smiles … I cannot say there is much he could know about me; yet he hugs me still. I happened to chat with his mother the other day, and told her how much I loved his hallway hugs. She looked at me – eyes intensely focused and asked me if I had any idea what that meant. Pressing on, she told me that he is never affectionate. That he rarely hugged anyone, including his own family members beside her, and that a hug from him was the ultimate gift he could bestow. It took me a moment to catch my breath at that motherly admission, and I was humbled by the richness of lavish, undeserved affection.

There was an old man in the grocery store with the clearest blue, smiling eyes I’d ever seen. My kids and I were in his aisle, and I couldn’t help but offer him a smile and a chat about the day. His aged face became a beacon of delight. He proceeded to tell my children that there is only one place to get the “best mints” in town. He said that people called him, “the candy man,” because he loves to share a sweet and a smile with everyone he meets. After hearing about his bowling schedule and plans to make “poonchkies,” we were on our way. On impulse in the checkout, I grabbed a new bag of mints, purchased them and ran back to him, telling him that he needed to keep his pockets full for all the other friends he’d meet. He glowed. “I only give this to the most special people,” he said then, pulling a dark chocolate bar from his coat and snapping a piece off for me and my two children. Odd as it is, sharing that moment of melted chocolate and warm wishes felt as holy as communion.

And so I am left to wonder if that version of myself I’m trailing isn’t a bit of a waste of time. I’m starting to think that maybe it’s not the whole person, or the whole life, but the moments where you lean into living in the best way that make the difference of a lifetime. Jane Wagner once inquired, “A sobering thought: what if, at this very moment, I am living up to my full potential?” Funny thought. Maybe it isn’t what I have accomplished at all … my resume, degrees, and accomplishments seem of so very little importance in comparison with the memories of being in the moment when the opportunity to love for the sake of loving came about.

Lean in, and love.

Elle

 

1.21.17 Memoirs of a Wife Whose Husband Travels

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I take you back, to this … me … “Summer Me.”  Take note of the oversized sun glasses, the relaxed smile, the pool behind me, and the sun, dousing me with a healthy dose of Vitamin D.  One might say, wow – her life is idyllic.  But then comes THE SEASON.  No, I’m not talking about winter, I’m talking about the traveling season, and not a family vacation kind of travel, but my husband’s gone from November to February kind of travel with a few spotted weekends home here and there, (just so I don’t forget I’m married). 

I think it is ironically cruel that his job doesn’t make him travel during the summer months when, “Go play outside,” or, “Let’s go to the pool,” are the most common utterances out of my mouth.  My current pale-faced, dry-skinned, winter version of me also wears over-large sunglasses, but it is mostly to cover the twitch in my eye from lack of sleep, lack of Vitamin D, and – if I’m being honest – lack of sanity.  This is the time of year where we are the most contained.  Where things like indoor soccer, piano lessons, and dance lessons, and gymnastics lessons, rule my schedule and determine that I will have no time to devote to anything aside from a thirty-minute work out so I don’t go postal. 

Most of the time, I’ve totally got it together; and when I don’t, I fake it pretty well.  But this particular season is worse than usual.  You see, my husband has been in places for “work” like: The Caribbean, Trinidad, Tobago, Florida, and soon to be Dubai.  I’m not mad – it’s part of his job, and my life, but I’d love to give him just a little glimpse into what it’s like when he’s gone.  This one’s for you love … yes you, who AGAIN, is not here, and probably deserves to know what goes on without you. 

Memoirs of a Wife Whose Husband Travels:

*When you’re gone, we go out to dinner a few more times than usual.  And by a few I mean whenever I can’t get my work and their practices coordinated … which is pretty freakin often. I think we are on a first name basis with the staff at Chipotle and Jimmy John’s. 

*Idiotically, when you’re gone, I temporarily lose my sense of taste, and drink lots of lemonade. You know I don’t like lemonade, but I know you do … and sometimes (all the time) when you leave me, I order it … suddenly craving the soured-sugary concoction … because, well it’s your favorite. 

*Once in awhile when you’re gone, I let the kids watch marathon episodes of Disney Channel shows –sometimes until the Netflix shamefully asks, “Are you still watching?” I want to tell Netflix to stop judging me … it’s only been four episodes (maybe five) and everyone needs a break sometimes, right? 

*When you’re gone I wear your clothes, a lot.  As soon as I get home, I look at my side of the closet, and then yours, and immediately yours wins.  And I choose the softest long sleeve t-shirt I can find, and sleep in your boxer shorts. 

*Often when you’re gone I frequent Starbucks to get a decaf Caramel Macchiato with light ice at least twice a week. Okay, fair enough … I do that when you’re here too.

*When you’re gone our pets drive me nuts, and I swear that if I hear another bark or meow I’m going to lose it.  But then a wicked little part of me wants to go to the humane society and get another, because you aren’t here to tell me no! 

*At times when when you’re gone I get a little self-conscious. I think about the exotic people you must meet, and in my overactivity imaginative mind they are all young, accomplished, beautiful business women.  And suddenly I feel very dull by comparison. So I search my phone for the best picture of myself I can find, then I use the most forgiving filter to make it even better, and send it to you.  Now you know why. 

*When you’re gone, our pets or children inadvertently make a mess somehow.  A few years ago it was our dog and her explosive diarrhea episode.  This time it was our daughter and her projectile vomit all over our bedroom floor.  Why couldn’t either of these things happened when you were here to lug the power wash vacuum cleaner up from the basement? When I said I liked being independent … this wasn’t what I meant. 

*When you’re gone I don’t sleep well. And I know when you’re here I complain about your hot, heavy leg resting on mine … but without it, I wrestle the sheets and get annoyed at myself for NOT sleeping while I can.  I end up watching romantic comedies or romantic dramas, but sappily skip all but the romantic parts … and then I miss you more. 

*When you’re gone I go out for ice cream with the kids … sometimes before dinner, because why not right?  I know you’d do the same if I ever went anywhere … which I don’t, but if I did – I’ll bet you would. 

*Usually when you’re gone I end up accidentally hurting myself somehow, I whack my arm on the cabinet and get a monster bruise, or I sleep wrong and get a stiff neck.  This time, our son spilled water and didn’t tell me so I slid right into the wall and crunched all my toes!  And it’s no fun complaining to myself how much it hurts. 

*When you’re gone I implement mandatory nap times … though our kids are well beyond the age where they need one.  I need one, and they seem to agree, shutting their doors with a sort of, “Yeah, let’s have mom take twenty.” What smart kids we have! 

*When you’re gone I don’t really make dinner. We eat, but it’s more like a … “Hmmm, that looks like something that I could put together and call a meal.”  Oh, wait!  That’s what I do every day no matter what. Sorry. 

*Sometimes when you’re gone I get a little spiteful, and I might buy a new pair of boots, or an outfit, or a darker shade of lipstick just because.  

*But mostly, when you’re gone, I miss you. Plain and simple. And I think about all the parts of you I love best … especially the part that I know you’ll always come back. That might be the thing I do the most – wait for your return. 

Here’s to all who can relate, and to those of you who can’t, I hope you never take your local worker for granted. 

Elle

“Our journey isn’t perfect, but it’s ours, and I’ll stick with you ’til the end.”                    – Unknown

1.15.17 Tell Tale

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Yesterday I had my will notarized.  It’s official.  According to paper … my death is in order.  I’m not going to lie, there’s something significantly disconcerting about having things “finalized.”  It seems like tempting fate in some way.  But, as the character Nate Scamander says in Fantastic Beast and Where to Find Them, “Worrying means you suffer twice.”  So it’s probably better not to.  

As easy as it is to tell myself, it would be dishonest to say that the what if’s in my mind haven’t been kicked a little into high gear.  What if my husband and I don’t get to die together like we planned (I choose to be delusional okay)?  What if I died before I got to help my daughter pick out her wedding dress?  What if our four pets outlive us all out of spite?  What if my sister would go insane having to take care of my kids and her own?  What if, when I watch my life again with God, it ends up being a  total snore because the majority of my time is spent folding laundry?  Yes.  These are the things that run through my brain.  

When I’m being a bit more rational, (which I can be from time to time) thinking about death actually makes me think a lot more about life – about my life and what I’m doing with it, about the lives of those around me, and about the way we all process our own stories. Like the hundreds of books I have in my house, there are so many perspectives … so many genres … so many tales of heroes and villains … often portrayed by the same person – us.  I have to wonder about whether or not anyone maps the chapters of their lives like I do. 

What chapters do they sink into, reading slowly and savoring the memories of precious things only they know?  What sections to they skip past, too fearful of revisiting old demons?  What parts surprise them about themselves?  What parts enchant them?  Disappoint them?  Remind them to dream?  Make them feel most alive?  Do they think their stories are worth reading twice? 

Regardless of where you are in the process of looking back, or looking forward.  We’re all in the middle of our very own book of life.  I think the most important thing to remember is what Susan Statham said, “Your life is your story. Write well. Edit often.” It might just be me and my writer’s heart, but I believe there’s no such thing as a lost cause in a story … no matter how many plot twists yours may have.  Only you can rewrite the character of you … so what tale will you tell? 

Never lose faith, you are the hero after all. 

Elle 

1.1.17 Seventeen Wishes

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It is the first day of the first month of a new year, and let me remind you – anything is possible. People always say, “Happy New Year,” but I want to offer you more than happy … I want to give you my own personalized list of seventeen wishes for 2017 that have nothing to do with resolutions (thank God). Author Francesca Lia Block offered great advice when she said, “Wish on everything. Pink cars are good, especially old ones. And stars of course, first stars and shooting stars. Planes will do if they are the first light in the sky and look like stars. Wish in tunnels, holding your breath and lifting your feet off the ground.” So, from someone who believes in the power of a wish followed by a prayer … here are mine for you.

  1. I wish you the longest of weekends … and the shortest of Mondays.
  2. I wish you laughter – the kind that makes your belly ache, tears run down your cheeks, and your breath come in pants and wheezes. 
  3. I wish you luxurious baths, filled with bubbles so thick you can’t see your toes.
  4. I wish you coffee … coffee every single day in only the BIGGEST of mugs.
  5. I wish you clearance sales when you don’t expect them.
  6. I wish you loads of time for reading books that fill your spirit with the power of pretend.
  7. I wish you marathon movie nights with loads of buttered popcorn and M&M’s.
  8. I wish you adventures that lead you to discover you are braver than you ever thought you could be.
  9. I wish you loads of sweet-dream sleep, complimented only by the cool side of the pillow. 
  10. I wish you ordinary delights, like perfectly toasted toast, a full gas tank when you didn’t expect it, extra cheese on your pizza, and a day free of any computer glitches at all.
  11. I wish you ice cream on a weekly basis, especially if it involves peanut butter or marshmallow sauce, sprinkles and cherry juice.
  12. I wish you memories … the type that flit into your consciousness and make you smile almost before you register that they’re there … like a friend who came to visit, bringing you “home” once again.
  13. I wish you a chance to step into the ocean, to stand somewhere with a view, to lean into the wind, and to remember that you’re a part of a story much bigger than your own.
  14. I wish you the appreciation of others, even people you don’t know … I wish you relationships, both old and new, that stretch into friendships you’ll never outgrow. 
  15. I wish you poetry, not the kind you read, but the kind you feel beyond the page.
  16. I wish you the opportunity to nurture your curiosity, to imagine what ifs, to discover new places, and to create space in your life to play.
  17. Finally, I wish you undeniable, unquenchable, unrestrained joy.  I wish you much beyond happy … I wish you unmitigated delight in believing that this isn’t just another year … but another chance to find the best version of yourself. 

It is an honor to know that somehow, my words have found you. I pray that this year I’ll continue to have the pleasure of your company, whether in person, or here as digital friends.  Your readership is one of my greatest sources of happy … so please keep visiting me here, and share this blog if you think anyone else would like to join our weekly word party. 

Literarily yours, 

Elle

 

12.10.16 Nothing a Little Audrey Hepburn Can’t Fix

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The last two weeks have been a little rough.  From strep throat to my husband being on two business trips … it’s a bit of a challenging season so far. Yet I’d say none could compare to my morning three days ago.

So, where I live, it is absolutely imperative that we leave exactly on time.  The road I take to work is beastly, and a matter of minutes can make all the difference.  Three minutes past the best time to leave for our morning commute, my daughter was still perched on the floor with no coat and shoe laces undone.  Another minute later, and my son shouts that he needs to go poo.

“Why didn’t you go before? ” I ask flabbergasted.

“I didn’t have to obviously,” he casually replied.

Trudging agonizingly slowly up the now traffic-filled road, we made our way in a series of halting brake lights and exasperated sighs.  When we finally pulled into the school parking lot, my daughter said, “Mom! You’re bleeding!”

“What? Where?” I asked.

“There,” she pointed.

Sure enough. I had a giant splotch blooming through my favorite cream colored (go figure) dress pants. “Shoot!” I exclaimed, parking and immediately hiking up my pant leg to keep the scrape on my knee from making more of a mess than it already had! Did I mention I had heels on?  That might present itself with its own set of challenges on any given day, but that day, with pants hiked up and it being about twenty-degrees outside, it was even more so of a bad choice of footwear.  On top of it all, it was band day … and on band day, my son and his dumb drum plod and clump up the stairs nearly tipping backwards.  So, already walking like a half-dead zombie from the Thriller video, bent in half holding my own bags and now dragging a drum, we made our way to the office.

Immediately, I scavenged the last baby wipe I grabbed from my car, (they’re magic, never leave home without them) and I set to scrubbing my pants vigorously as the sweet secretary started looking up home remedies to getting blood out of pants.  As she was doing this, there were about four more people who came into the office, one of which was one of my student’s parents.  It was not my most professional moment, I might add, sitting on the ground with my pants up scrubbing like I had some sort of accident.

“You can use cola,” the secretary said.

“Um … probably will make my pants look worse don’t you think?” I replied.

“Club soda?” she tried.

“Man, didn’t pack that in my lunch today,” I said, trying my best to still be grateful for the suggestions.

“Salt water,” she shouted out.

“I can get you that,” the chemistry teacher said, waltzing into the conversation.

And about three minutes later, there he was with a little vial of salt water.  I’d hobbled up to my classroom by then, and scrubbed as fast and as hard as I could, arriving, miraculously, with nothing worse for the wear than wet pants and a funny laugh to share  at my morning meeting.

Audrey Hepburn once said, “Remember, if you ever need a helping hand, it’s at the end of your arm, as you get older, remember you have another hand: the first is to help yourself, the second is to help others.”

That night, I should have been working on the laundry that’s taking over every room in my house.  I should have been writing Christmas cards or picking up the endless trail of toys that litter our floor like autumn leaves scattered about by a strong wind. I should have been sweeping the pet hair, doing the dishes, or organizing the endless projects I begin and never finish. But I didn’t.  Instead, I took Aubrey’s advice and helped myself up, by curling up to a classic movie of hers, and laughing myself to sleep.

Sometimes that’s all it takes to get me back on track.  A bit of smiles and not taking myself too seriously.  So I embarrassed myself again … nothing new there.  I assume it’ll only happen another thousand or so times in this life of mine.

Here’s looking forward to telling you about the next one,

Elle

 

11.19.16 Half-Okay

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“At the end of the day, all you need is hope and strength.  Hope that it will get better, and strength to hold on until it does.” -Unknown

This week something happened that left me speechless.  It wrecked me a little if I’m being honest, because it forced me to confront something that I usually choose not to … loss.  A few years ago I had a “golden class” of kids.  It wasn’t that they were the most advanced, or the greatest at anything in particular … it was just that the chemistry they had with one another and with me made us so much more than a teacher and her bunch of students – it made us a family, raw and real.  I’ve only ever had one other class that affected me the same way, and that was my second year of teaching.

Needless to say, when they happen, those “perfect” years, you don’t take them for granted for a day in the life of curriculum. When you need to stop class to talk about life and the love, and the joy, and the pain of it, you do.  We had many of those conversations. There wasn’t a topic we didn’t cover … politics, war, love, hope, faith, future, life, and death.  To this day, those two classes have been the ones to keep in contact with me.  From texts, emails, and phone calls, to lunches, emergency ice-cream stops, and coffee breaks.  The hardest thing, is when that life and that future we dreamed comes crashing to a halt I can’t step into.  They’re not with me day in and day out and I can’t be there the way I wish I could or want to be.

Two days ago I found out that one of these “golden” ones lost her brother.  He was 17, a varsity swimmer, Christian youth group leader, star student, family focused … a true all American dream.  His heart just stopped.  And with it, I assume his family’s did as well.  I thank God that they know Him … it has to be a sort of a comfort, the only comfort I would guess.  Still, for all the words and the wisdom and the grand conversations we had, I don’t think I ever prepared them enough for this.  For the grittiest parts of life – the end of it.

I asked my kids to pray for their family.  I told them that mommy would be absolutely never okay again if anything happened to either one of them.  My son asked me then, “What if you lost only one of us mom … would you be half-okay?”

How can you answer that?  How can this mother live it?  It took me two days to reach out to the family … to my student.  I couldn’t find the words, and I’m still not sure I used the right ones, but saying something in the midst of it all seemed the best way to go.  Sometimes I think that when things are the hardest, the most  important thing is just showing up.

I’ve heard that the holidays can be painful for a great deal of people.  They bring up and out memories that might do better to stay in the past, but still … we celebrate and we smile.  So if this is you – if you’re just “showing up” because people expect you to, because you said you would, that might be enough.  God has a way of putting the right people in your way at the right time, and whether you’re the one hurting, or you’re the one helping … I really think that’s the point of it all.  Of this journey.  Of this life.  You might only be half-okay, but you know what?  Half might just be enough to carry you back to whole.

Wishing you all the hope in the world,

Elle