6.1.18 The Last Time

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“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

4.18.18 Busy People

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“Beware the barrenness of a busy life.” – Socrates 

I’m a handful; I know it. And usually I have a mouthful of words I’m holding in, ready to share with the next victim who gives me an opportunity to speak. Busting at the seams with ideas and dreams, I’m usually a bouncing-on-my-tiptoes, ready-to-go, kind of girl. But lately, this weather, this eternal winter, has got my curl-up-and-stay-warm-to-survive mentality fighting my productive self.

It is not unusual for my husband or I to work after work – to hang out with the kids, do dinner, dishes, bedtime, and then exercise, or write, or read, or plan for something essential that’s coming up in the next few days. We are “get ahead” people, “positive” people, “go-getter’s.” But sometimes, like the last few days, I’m a “tired” people. And in times like these, I realize that sometimes times like these are necessary to remind me why people should slow down sometimes.

The other night my son had soccer, and I volunteered to take him. I usually use his practice time to write because I literally need to steal time to write. I have a writer’s conference to go to Saturday. I have homework for a class that’s making me an educational ambassador to a major museum due next week, I have a field trip to plan for that is also next week, I have all these ideas for a new book, and the list goes on! I started to type, but the whirring of soccer balls was a smidge distracting. Usually I can “get in my zone” and ignore almost anything, but for some reason … nothing doing.

I picked up a book I brought along. I’d intermittently wave at my son, watching him weave between cones, look up at me, wave, and dribble on. I might’ve read three pages total when I gave in to the nagging feeling that I was supposed to “do nothing.” What surprised me was that I was watching him for a full five minutes or so before he looked up at me again. And in those delayed moments, I had the very valid fear that I’d missed an opportunity. Not to write another article to be published, or read another bucket list book, or get more homework done – but that I’d missed the opportunity for my son to look for me in the hopes that I’d be looking back. Ouch.

The good news is that instead of missing an opportunity, I got the sweetest little touch of grace. He did look up, eventually, and saw me elbows-on-knees, no book, no phone, no computer in my hands … staring at him. He literally did a double-take and gave me the most unexpected smile of genuine astonishment. With a confused grin he signed typing fingers and said, “Why aren’t you writing?”

I smiled back at him and signed, “Because I’m watching you.”

And that’s when he did it. That’s when he broke my mommy heart. With the greatest sincerity he held my blue eyes levelly with his and said, “Thank you.”

I love that he was concerned for my writing time. I love that he wanted me to watch him. But most of all, I love that without even knowing it his, “Thank you,” was really an, “I forgive you, for all the times you choose work, for all the times you choose writing, or reading, or cleaning, or planning, because this time – you chose me, and I forgive you.”

How could I deserve a love like that? Like his? It makes me think about my faith and how I can never earn the grace I receive on either side of my family, divine or earthly. I’m a little ashamed of myself, and how dense I can be in the midst of my busyness … and for the way I know I will do it again. But for the moment, I am grateful, that my slow-down-self won just this once … and I saw my son, when he needed to be seen.

I have no idea what kinds of lives you lead. I don’t know if you’re constantly busy or a slow down person. The funny thing is, we’re probably all a combination of both, but I am one-hundred percent convinced others do it better than me … they find a semblance of balance that I am perpetually chasing. Regardless, I’d love, love, love to hear of a moment that caught you in your tracks. I’d delight over you sharing a story of when destiny helped you make the right decision to be present in the presence you were drawn to. You hear so much of me … I’d love to hear a bit of your tale too.

All my love,

Elle

11.27.17 Come Boutique With Me!

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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

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