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

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.

5.24.16 Stay Found (As Featured on Grace Notes)

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“We can’t become what we need to be by remaining what we are.” – Oprah Winfrey 

So today I am honored that my post is actually featured in Bella Grace Magazine’s Blog: Grace Notes! I hope that you will take time to click on the link and experience a bit of Bella! Thank you for going on this “field trip” with me!

Stay found,

Elle

5.18.16 Melancholy

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Victor Hugo once said, “Melancholy is the pleasure of being sad.” I know it is a paradox, but I think he was really on to something there. Why do we like tragically, heart-wrenching movies? Why are so many classic novels somewhat desolate? Why does it feel like such a release after a good cry? Why do we like to remember broken relationships with a sort of sweet farewell? As Edgar Allan Poe penned it, “And so being young and dipped in folly, I fell in love with melancholy.”

As ironic as it seems, I don’t find that sitting just a little inside of this hushed, “lost-in-thought” attitude is all bad. Sometimes life has too much going on and happy can seem false, like florescent lighting on a grey day. As positive and optimistic as I am ninety-percent of the time, I’ve found that it is alright to let yourself embrace just a hint of blue space.

Caught in a moment of change … of in-between and loss and gain, I am wading in this pensive pool – just for today. Tomorrow I will be, “me” again, smiling and attempting to change the world, but right now? Melancholy fits me like my favorite pair of faded jeans, holed and worn … but necessary for the flaws I love. I hope you can find comfort in the middle places, and I hope this helps you understand that you don’t always have to know, sometimes you can just be.

Melancholy Beautiful

Melancholy.

It’s that thoughtful, in-between here and there place that cannot be pinpointed

(in-descript and mysterious).

In an age so demanding and decisive,

there is something quiet, and lovely about not always knowing:

… why you feel the way you feel …

… where you’re meant to go next …

… what you want … or don’t want …

… who you might decide to be.

Melancholy is that place between good and better that allows you to

pause –

to think –

to breathe –

to accept.

It isn’t fake; it isn’t false.

It isn’t anything other than pensive – allowing time for contemplation

rather that reaction.

Some of the most formative moments of my life were born out of this place,

where what at first seemed impossibly sad,

evolved into a beautiful memory.

Like the last day of summer,

the loss of first love,

or the pain of a final goodbye you can’t change.

It might not be easy.

It might not be comfortable.

But do not mistake it for sadness …

because melancholy can grow your emotions if you let it.

Pause.

Think.

Breathe.

Accept.

That melancholy really can

be beautiful.

 

Feel whatever you need to feel today.

All my love,

Elle

5.9.16 This Version of Myself

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Believe it or not, life is built on little bits and pieces of memories, fragments of stories, and snippets of conversations that seem so important at the time, but that we fail to remember in our haste of everyday living. It is only when we are quiet with ourselves that we have the chance to let those precious fragments knit back together into things remembered and adored.

Sometimes I am afraid that my life is stuck on fast-forward. And I am dreadfully fearful of being one of the unfortunates who spend their aging years living their lives in retrospect. I don’t want to do that. I don’t want to be that version of “her.” Because I know that the “she” version of me is meant for much more than, “What could have been.”

The child poet prodigy, Kioni Marshall once said, “For I have no things to give my passion to but what I am now made of.” It begs the question, “What am I made of?” And whatever it is … is it enough?

What I don’t want for myself is sometimes so much easier to answer than what I do. I don’t want a life that is practical. Practicality tends to override possibility and that should never be the case. There should always be room for what ifs … for let’s pretends, and happily ever-afters. Life should be color-filled and laden with daydreams that enrich our reality. But this kind of perception is only possible with time – time you dedicate to you.

So let today be your start. Plan a date with yourself and imagine all the grand catching up you have to do. Post and tell me all about it.

Where will you go?

What time of day will you venture out?

Will you surround yourself and get lost in people-watching? Or will you find a quiet, remote place to fill your senses?

What will you eat, now that you’ve given yourself enough time to taste it?

What will you see, now that you can really take it in?

What complex issues might you begin to sort through?

Will you take pictures? Or will you document your day in poetic bits of prose stretched in lazy cursive loops?

Will you let yourself smile just because it feels good to let go?

Will you hold on to this version of yourself that you’ve missed?

3.8.16 Just for the Sake of Lovely

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“I’m slowing down the tune, I never liked it fast. You want to get there soon, I want to get there last.” – Leonard Cohen

So I live my life mostly chasing time.  I think somewhere between college and marriage and career and kids somehow the remote control of my fate seems to have gotten stuck on fast-forward and I cannot (for all I might want to) get the pause button to work.  Even on days off, I am over-committed with “meetings” and “have-to’s” and “I can’t believe I almost forgot abouts.”  And it’s alright.  But sometimes, like the quote above, “I want to get there last.”  I want to intentionally dawdle … waste time … or just be in the midst of it all. 

You can ask my parents, I’ve never been in a hurry to grow up.  Even going through childhood I would sometimes pause and think to myself, “This is going too fast.” Foolishly I’d try to force myself to be young, but we cannot stop it … inevitably something happens to remind us of our place – of our time.  I can’t  lessen the speed of days, but that doesn’t mean I have to accept it.  Not really. 

Instead, I’ve found ways to cope, by surrounding myself with bits of choices that refuse to run along with the responsibilities of my schedule.  They tug at the corners of my day to make me play just a little.  These choices are my illusion of slow … of stillness, and I add them incrementally (so life can’t catch me).  

So today I wore a skirt of tule, and when I slid into the car, I needed to pause to scoop up the bunches of fabric carefully, reminding me of my wedding day, and I smiled.

I wore pink ballet flats with sparkles, and when someone told me I looked like a fairy, I shared that it is my utmost wish to be one.  

The wind tickled around me, pushing stray strands of blonde about my face, and I relished in nature’s tiny game of chase.  

And when no one was looking, I let myself twirl … just for the sake of lovely. 

Elle