6.1.18 The Last Time

2

 

“Some people believe holding on and hanging in there are signs of great strength. However, there are times when it takes much more strength to know when to let go – and then do it.” Ann Landers

So tomorrow is the last day of my son’s fifth grade year. This is monumental for many reasons, but the greatest of which is because he has been in my class all year. Let me begin by saying with emphatic resonance that I WOULD NEVER, EVER CHOOSE THIS. It was supremely difficult for numerous reasons I’m sure you can imagine, but mostly because I was paranoid for a YEAR that I was going to screw him up (even more than the poor kid is already likely to be with having me for a mother).

Imagine having your mom see you in your most formative time of social development on a daily basis. Imagine her seeing the way you interacted with friends, with less-than-friends, with girls! Half of the year I just wanted to close my eyes to give the poor kid some privacy and the other half I wanted to give him a, “What do you think you’re doing” death stare. Either way – it is supremely unfair. I was way harder on him than I’ve ever been with anyone else in my fourteen years of teaching. And I was way harder on me too.

But somehow, after all the prayers, and the tears, and the what if’s … I’m sad that tomorrow is it. I’ll be honest … my son is amazing. His nickname from day one was Mr. Handsome Face. He gave me hugs whenever I asked for them and even sometimes when I didn’t. He forgave me a million times for embarrassing him. He told me he’s learned more this year than ever before … me too.

I learned that this boy is courage personified.

I learned that this boy has integrity, just like his daddy.

I learned that this boy does know when to fight for what’s right, he does defend the weak, and he does put the needs of others before himself … even when mom “isn’t” watching.

I learned that this boy isn’t afraid of asking why history had to be that way, and if there’s really a chance we won’t need to repeat it.

I learned that this boy internalizes way more than I thought he did, that he most definitely cares what mommy and daddy think, and has more stress to live up to an invisible standard than I gave his little heart credit for.

I learned that this boy deserves my respect, my defense, and always, my love.

I learned a lot in fifth grade.

Sometimes I look back at pictures when he was nothing but a bundle of gurgling smiles. Other times I can’t bear it because it hurts too much to think about the times I might’ve missed a “last time” without even noticing. When was the last time I lifted him into the sky for an “airplane ride” at my feet? When was the last time I played pirates in a bubble bath? When was the last time I tucked tooth fairy money under his pillow when he still believed? When was the last time I rocked him to sleep?

Did I know it was the last time?

Did I even realize it was close?

Or was I too busy DOING motherhood instead of BEING his mommy?

Well … tomorrow is a “last time.” I can’t miss it even if I tried. Tomorrow is the last time my son will raise his hand to talk to me in class. It is the last time he’ll give me a mischievous grin across the rows of desks at some private joke only we understand. It is the last time I’ll have a son in elementary school. It is the last time I’ll be afraid that “Mrs. Harris” didn’t measure up to mommy and vice versa.

I always struggle with the end of the year – with students moving on, and beyond the memories we’ve formed toward those awaiting. I hate goodbyes. And it is surreal that somehow, though I’ll take him home with me in the afternoon … I think it is my son … this beautiful fifth grade boy … that I will miss the most – for the last time.

My heart hurts a little – okay a lot.

Elle

4.25.18 Change Never Is

2

IMG_3937

“But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a savior from there.” Philippians 3:20

In the past three days, I have been confronted with a series of challenging perceptions,  presuppositions, misrepresentations, misunderstandings, and multiple-perspectives on ethnicity, racism, and personal identity. From literary discussions to student issues, faith-based revelations to immigration conversations, it has been a heart-swelling week of looking hard at myself, my beliefs, my unintended biases, and my intentions. Revelation? I am still learning. Most importantly? I still want to.

My poem “Change Never Is,” is dedicated to every individual who maybe, like me, is still trying to discover how to be their best, most loving, undeniably compassionate self through it all, albeit imperfectly … and who is willing to step through the broken glass of shattered hearts, in the hopes of finding all the pieces to put us together again.

Go heal where you can,

Elle

Change Never Is

And suddenly … it’s different.

Just like that.

With the flip of a switch,

or the bat of an eye.

In the space of a heartbeat.

You realize something new about yourself.

Or maybe it’s old, but you wouldn’t admit it before now –

when actuality is staring back at you

clearer than the reflection of the mask you’ve grown so comfortable wearing,

you’d actually forgotten your own face.

You still might not want to deal with the truth of how you feel

but you do feel

and that’s the problem

(or some sordid beginning of the solution)

You can’t ignore it anymore –

and it’s jarring,

this knowing that you can’t go back.

Suddenly the innocence you had only just before,

is nothing more than a fantasy you can’t find your way back to

because reality demands accountability –

and there’s no longer room for the callousness of pretend.

We grow in stages,

but sometimes it feels as if a lifetime of lessons are hurled in our direction

faster than we can absorb the shock of their blows.

There is hardly a line between villain and victim –

the pain is dolled in equal measure,

whether it is deflected or digested? That depends on the user

and the used.

And as much as you thought that you knew who,

and how,

and what

you were …

everything can change

when you’re challenged to accept as fact

that what you wished was just the remnant of a bad dream.

You’re awake.

So now what?

There is no rest for you in dreaming … only in shaking off your slumber.

It’s time to breathe in slowly,

acclimatize yourself one fiber at a time …

There are thoughts to be sorted –

film reels of clouded memories to look at with new lenses.

The past may not align with the present,

but the future is yours to discern.

Endow a legacy stronger than pride.

Entitle yourself to an awakening.

That shifting in your bones … that thickening of your skin …

it’s not comfortable,

but darling,

change never is.

 

4.5.18 Embracing Weakness

1

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

“It was pride that changed angels into devils; it is humility that makes men as angels.”  – Saint Augustine

There’s nothing wrong with your computer or phone. I’m aware that the video is sideways. It’s on purpose. When I originally took the video, my camera was not aligned and I tried to fix it, but then I remembered what my husband (an unbelievable skier) always tells me, “Skiing when it’s snowing is like being tipped in a snow globe.” And you know what … I like it this way. I’ve stopped trying to “fix” the video, because watching it makes me feel like I’ve been placed in a safe, slow, bubble of glass protected and stilled – visible only in the perfect way that memories preserved in a globe portray.

TRUTH? I’m awful at skiing. I take that back. I’m not awful, I’m just not awesome. My entire family is awesome at skiing. My husband was a competitive skier, wowing me from the start with flips, lincolnloops, spins, stealth, and speed. He has taken our kids on the hill since they were three, so both have had well over five years of practice. Me? I went (when I had to) with my husband before kids … then I had a blessed reprieve during pregnancy and the early years. Now that my kids and husband are all out there – my excuses are gone.

We spent Spring Break in Colorado, and I was literally near tears as my children and nieces whizzed past me saying, “Great job!” They waited for me on every lip of every run, and I was so frustrated, not at them, but at my own weakness. The more my family encouraged me, the more desolate I became until I literally asked to spend some time alone to get my bearings on the mountain. My son wouldn’t hear of it. “I’m going with mom,” he said with authority. Though trying to talk him out of it, his resolve would not be moved. He spent the next hour tree-skiing next to me as I sailed down the green runs where I was most comfortable. “Look at me mom, look! Watch this,” he would shout above the wind.

Within a few runs I felt God tapping me on the shoulder saying, “See … it was never about you.” I struggle with this; I’m admitting it. Though I wouldn’t necessarily have thought it before, I realize that I am an inherently selfish person. I didn’t want to ski because I wasn’t the best at it. In fact, I was the worst. It wasn’t fun for me to be last, when as a teacher and mother and writer, I’ve become accustomed to being “good” at things. Not. Needing. Help.

I don’t like help. I like helping. There, I said it. And even though it is the truth, I realized this trip, that it isn’t a good truth. When the rest of my family rejoined my son and I for lunch, my sister-in-law pulled me aside. “You know it means a lot to my brother that you come out here.”

“I feel so awful,” I admitted. “I’m just slowing everyone down.”

“It’s not about that for him,” she said. “It’s about his wife being out here, standing beside him and doing what he loves. I know how proud he is just to be with you.”

More truth – I’m happy to say that our trip was wonderful. I grew (not necessarily as a skier) but as a human in my IMPERFECTION which needed some reminding. There is something amazingly beautiful about stepping into humility … as Saint Augustine said, ” … that makes men as angels.”

My halo’s pretty tilted at times, like a snow-globe tipped sideways. So here’s to embracing our weaknesses angels. I’m right there, flying slowly with you.

Elle

2.27.18 Broken Crayons

6

IMG_9600

I am writing a new book, as I’ve alluded to in the past, but the thing is – I don’t want this to be about me; I want it to be about them … my broken crayons. They matter so much, and too often I feel that somehow I’m inherently selfish, and that even in my noblest of pursuits, I end up focusing on what I want and need.

Today, with this post, I’m asking for feedback to see if this piece has the potential to do what I pray it’ll have the power to do … to shout to the world the stories of those who need voice – the tales of the beautifully broken ones. 

Please let me know what you think. Share it, and help me carry on with this project through your honest opinion of whether or not others might need to read it as much as I need to write it. 

I look forward to hearing from you,

Elle

IMG_9601

When I was still an undergrad, pursuing a degree in education, I was forced to take a class on learning how to teach art. I was not aiming to be an art teacher, nor were most of the students in my class I would suppose, however, our program required that we learn how to teach music, art, and physical education just in case we were ever in a situation that demanded we wear more “hats” than our title might suggest.

I didn’t have much of an expectation, but what I learned that first day of class has stayed with me throughout my teaching career. One of our requirements was to bring a twenty-four box of crayons. As soon as our professor entered the room, she warned us that she was going to start by making us all uncomfortable.

She handed out a piece of plain, white paper and asked us to draw her something. Uncomfortable, yes – we weren’t art majors after all, but not too bad. Glancing around I saw similar pictures popping up along my row. Simple trees, suns that looked like wheels with spokes, and (from the braver artists) a few birds or people awkwardly plunked in the cotton cloud or green-grass setting. Nothing too extraordinary. The professor wandered amiably around the room, commenting on the less awful sketches, and smiling kindly at the non-progressive creators. Not terrible at drawing, I wasn’t uncomfortable at all … until she spoke again.

“As future teachers I know that you are mostly Type A personalities. You like things ‘just so’ and you like to be in control. Well, I’d like you to begin this lesson by pouring out every single one of your twenty-four crayons – and breaking them.”

A collective gasp.

She might as well have asked us to break our own fingers. This was nearly as painful. But her demeanor had shifted at this point, and it was clear that no crayon was going to leave alive. Slowly, sadly, you could hear snap after snap of little fallen soldiers giving up their lives for a cause none of us could yet understand.

After the awful massacre, we sat fairly motionless, looking around with each other at the colorful wake of our war on Crayola. The professor spoke up. “That was the hard part,” she said, “but now you’re ready to see the real lesson. Pick up one of your crayons, flip over your picture, and color with it. Press as hard as you can – no form, just scribble out the color. We followed her trail of crazy, it couldn’t be any worse than what we’d just done.

The amazing part was, the papers were beautiful. Vibrant. Bold. Suddenly the simple tools I’d been using since childhood became an entirely new form of media. Instead of the waxy, shady tone we were all used to, our papers were filled with the thick consistency of an oil pastel. Every color was rich and brilliant. It was obvious from our collective, “Wow’s,” that no one was expecting beauty from all our destruction.

“You’ll never know what a crayon is worth,” she said, “until it’s broken.”

And that did it. A cosmic shift. An epiphany. My whole paradigm tilted. Those few minutes of art class became a metaphor for my entire philosophy as an educator. To be broken, is to be useful. To be broken is to no longer be afraid to push a little harder, because the “worst” has already happened. To be broken is to be able to pour out the truest colors you have to offer, because you’re now free enough to bleed passion. Kids recognize this. Teenagers mostly.

Like a pile of broken crayons, they are the leftovers of childhood. Still bright, but messy. Most people don’t want to “go there,” wherever there happens to be. No one wants to pick up a broken crayon when they would rather have something pure and new. I’ve been asked my entire career why I choose to be with middle and high schoolers, and it’s simply because, I’ve fallen in love. Somehow when I was given the choice between the new box of crayons and the throwbacks, I chose the later.

This book is not about me. There is nothing revolutionary I have done. I don’t have a ten-step program for you to follow, no gimmicks or tricks. This is just a love story that I needed to share. After a decade of teaching, I need my broken crayons in the world to know how I feel. And I need burnout parents and teachers to remember how to feel. Because these kids exist. They are in the world – right now, positively dripping with vibrancy. I thank God for continually putting them in my way, and I urge you to pray for a few broken crayons of your own to absolutely stop you in your tracks. And when they do, I hope you’ll recognize the blessing before you and help them release their colors back into your life.

 

1.3.18 Eighteen Thoughts for 2018

4

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

“And now we welcome the new year, full of things that have never been”
– Rainer Maria Rilke

So here we are … a new year … a new set of 365 chances to do it better than we did before. This year will not be perfect, so don’t expect it to be. It will present its own set of challenges, but that doesn’t mean it will not be a grand and delightful adventure … so pack your bags … update your passport … and book a vacation for your imagination to plan the wondrous possibilities that abound. I’m speaking to myself here mostly. I tend to be the queen of fantastic plans that get booted out when the reality of my schedule comes trundling in – but this year I’m determined to do things differently. So here are eighteen thoughts (not resolutions) I will be thinking throughout the year. Let me know what number resonates with your heart. I’d love to know I’m not “thinking” alone. Be well dear ones. Be courageous as you march to the beat of your brave new heart this year.

  1. Be intentional when talking to people. Slow down enough to read their eyes and feel the theme of their story.
  2. Embrace people fully … hug with both arms and hold on with healing hands.
  3. Laugh without reservation. Giggle unashamedly and let mirth bubble over spilling into the lives of others.
  4. Listen without an agenda, timeframe, or plan to fix anything or anyone. Just hear the words that are said, and the ones that aren’t.
  5. Wait expectantly for the Holy Spirit to move. Be open to the reality of a faith that lives and breathes without my permission or direction.
  6. Allow pretend to be real enough to inspire.
  7. Be grounded. Be humble. Be real.
  8. Dance! Whenever and wherever the music moves. Disregard the audience or invite them to twirl along.
  9. Reconnect with nature. Breathe in the wind and tell the trees your story. Allow the forest to comfort you. Allow the water to wash your spirit clean.
  10. Sleep. Give up time to rest and refresh your mind in dreaming.
  11. Write daily. See what you say when you don’t force a story, push an article, or hurry a poem. Let words filter around you and catch only those that are willing to stay without a net or jar.
  12. Spend time with the stars. Be in awe and wonder at the majesty of ancient light.
  13. Talk to God. Speak to him as a friend. Interrupt yourself if needed with the things you’ve been longing to say … be silent together, as only the closest of friends know how to.
  14. Draw. Sculpt. Paint. Create. Don’t worry about finishing. Don’t make it perfect, just do. Try. Play.
  15. Reach out to that person … the one that tugs at the edge of your mind for the overdue attention you’ve been longing to give but repressing. They are worth your time, they are worth the effort of loving them. Call. Write. Visit. And go with the intention of easing the division you’ve laid.
  16. Love. Carve out time to be who you need to be … for you … for them … for the version of truth that can only come from unreserved affection.
  17. Discover justice in stepping in for causes that are small. They may only matter in the moment, but they matter. Don’t shy away or count them as trivial, walk intentionally into situations that may be uncomfortable, but that will lead to a greater change.
  18. Believe that this moment is your moment. Wait for no one’s permission to grow into the self you’ve been waiting for. Introduce yourself to the you of tomorrow and welcome the reflection you see.

Remember to tell me what number you’ll be journeying on!

All my love,

Elle

12.5.17 Believing Anyway

4

IMG_0778

“Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love.” Hamilton Wright Mabie

It was over a year ago now, that much I remember, when I fell asleep crying because I knew that someday, I’d have to tell my son the truth about Santa Claus. I remember it distinctly, because the moonlight was bright, and my pillow was salty and damp with heavy tears continuing to stream and soak in as I silently continued to weep. It was the idea of someday that pained me – the idea that someday I’d have to make him grow up just a little bit more … and it hurt, but I carried on and calmed myself with the solace that “someday,” was not today.

A few days ago, “someday” came. As a child I never understood the term bittersweet, or when people tried to tell me that pain could be beautiful. But now? As a mother? I understand.

He came to me on a Friday night, after school, after piano lessons, rumpled and boyish and wonderful. “Hey mom?” he hedged, “I know that Santa is real, but I just wanted to ask you, because … well … he is right?” And as much as I wanted to, as many times as I had before, this time was different because this time, his eyes begged to dispel a truth he already half-wished he didn’t know. Every time I’ve ever had to have a difficult conversation with my children, I’ve prayed God would just let me know the right time – and this was his.

In a series of too-short moments, I explained that Santa was a real and wonderful man. I spoke of his history, and his mission, and the way that he helped people believe in the beauty and love of giving. I said I believe in Santa, because I believe in his mission, and the magic and wonder of his mission lives on through us.

And he cried.

And I cried.

And I lifted that beautiful, long-limbed boy into my too-small arms and cradled him for just a moment. In the stretch of tears and sniffles, he turned to me with a weak smile on his now, somehow older face. “I understand mom,” he said, “and I believe in his mission too.” Then his expression shifted to something of worry and he asked, “But last year mom, when I got the new video game system – it was so expensive … I’m so sorry!”

And I cried again. Here this boy. This wonderful, God-given gift, who I would have done anything for just to give him one more day of believing, was selfless enough in his own heartbreak to worry about our bank account. After telling him it was nothing, that we gave from Santa’s spirit of giving, he looked at me with his deeply-watering eyes and hugging me said, “Thank you so much.”

I have experienced many a treasured Christmas, but this understanding, his ability to love beyond disappointment – that was a gift beyond words.

Wherever you are in the realm of the magic of Christmas … of first wishes, fond memories, or once-upon-a-snowflakes, I wish you the delicate, yet miraculously shatterproof love that keeps a broken heart beating … a tear-streaked face smiling … and a spirit believing – anyway.

Elle

 

 

11.27.17 Come Boutique With Me!

6

Tis the season … you know the one – BLACK FRIDAY, CYBER MONDAY, and every other ridiculous Christmas sale in the world! But you know what? A small part of me kind of loves it. I realize that this might seem inauthentic coming from someone who usually posts pictures of nature and family, but I’m just being honest, and a little bit girlie … shopping is fun.

Marcelene Cox once said that, “The quickest way to know a woman is to go shopping with her.” I’d say that is true half of the time. To shop for necessity is very different than shopping for fun, and this is the season of fun. This is the season of long layers, of high boots, and cute (not functional) hats. This is the season where stores present their A-Game, trying to entice, impress, and woo you – and who doesn’t like to be wooed? I love that this is the time of year when someone is hired just to say hello to me when I walk in. I love the displays that obviously took weeks to install and set right. I love the familiar melodies, the dash-of-pine and cinnamon scents, and the feel of warmth in every article of clothing artfully displayed for me to try on.

Shallow though it may seem, shopping actually holds some pretty precious memories for me. I remember being a kid and having my dad take my sister and I out to the mall at just about this time of year. Every store was literally bursting with colors and sights, sounds and smells; I’m pretty sure my dad couldn’t wait to get out of there, but he came anyway – for mom.

“Alright girls,” he’d say, “you need to help me find something special for your mom because she’s one special lady.”

One holiday season, I stopped at a jeweler and pointed to a matching pearl earrings and necklace set. Though my memory has faded out the pristine details, my dad tells me that I absolutely refused to accept any gift for my mother besides that set. Now, twenty-something years later, she still wears it.

Another milestone of holiday shopping was with my mom, sister, and grandmother. While they’d be scanning the aisles for deals, I would sometimes look right along with them and just as often ride the cart down those same aisles (regardless of the furtive glances tossed my way) just so I’d not have to walk another step. My mother always teared up a little when she saw the “generations” just being girls together.

Regardless of whether you love it or hate it, shopping is an intimate gesture, and usually done with those we love and trust the most. Sadly, though I have an abundant blessing of friends and family, I often find that they are scattered across the country and I am left to shop alone. My mom always says, “I don’t mind being alone, I like my company.” Most of the time (for myself) I agree, but sometimes my own company simply isn’t enough. That is when I find a great opportunity to make what I call “insta-friends,” random-strangers that I call on to tell me their honest opinions about whatever it is that I’m considering purchasing. You’d be surprised how many people are willing to be a friend in a pinch!

Speaking of friends, I want you to know that this is what you have been to me – all of you. You, my readers, are my silent company … my writing support system … my team, and I thank you for that. The realization of this, that you are my confidants, has made me realize that I wish I could shop with all of you! While that is practically impossible, I was inspired to start a mini-boutique on my site. THIS QUOTABLE LIFE BOUTIQUE is my attempt to put words into gifts. If there is an interest, I plan to grow the baby business with PayPal and an increased product line, including collaboration with other witty, wordy artisans, jewelers, and crafters. We shall see, and time will tell, but I am so excited for you to take a peek, share with your friends, and express your desires and wishes for what you’d like this to be.

Some come boutique with me! Let’s make this moment, this itty-bitty start our own holiday shopping memory. If you have interest in a product, simply contact me through the CONTACT ME PAGE, or on the THIS QUOTABLE LIFE BOUTIQUE page!

Love you darlings, and as always, thank you for your love and support,

Elle

11.3.17 “Wordless” a Bella Grace Post

1

Screen Shot 2017-11-03 at 5.30.10 PM

 

There are some experiences in your life that absolutely change you. This post, “Wordless” on Bella Grace Magazine’s blog Grace Notes is just such an experience. I would argue that it was one of the most significant journeys my writing has taken me on, and has bloomed into one of the most precious friendships I’ve ever had. Please read. Please share. For myself … for Michelle … and most especially, for the memory of Katrina.

Some stories have the power to change the world. This story changed mine.  I pray it will inspire yours.

Sparkle dear ones, and let your presence of light hang heavy over the sky like fireworks.

Elle Harris

9.30.17 Let Me Be Aware

8

IMG_8768.jpg

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

4

“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