Road Trips

My friend from high school is getting married.  She’s too close to fly (in my opinion) but is several hundred miles away.  So, my husband and I are taking a long weekend and driving out.

The best part of road trips is the actual journey.   Road trips allow for stopping at odd attractions and interesting restaurants.  I always pack great road snacks so you don’t have to stop if you don’t want to.  But, I also wonder around truck stops just to see what merchandise they stock and sell.  Truck stops stock everything from stuffed animals to beef jerky to household goods.

I enjoy leaving early while it is still dark.  This avoids traffic and makes the most of the time (since I usually have a hard time sleeping the night before from the excitement of the trip ahead).  The road is quiet and everyone is settled.  You can talk to your road trip companion or take a quiet nap before the sun comes up.

Having a car, you can take extra things.  You can pack extra shoes or mementos you wouldn’t be able to fit into a carry on (or checked) bag.  A cooler is great to bring water and great to have to bring back cheese/fruit you picked up on the way home.

I’m looking forward to visiting with my friend over the long weekend, catching up, and seeing how I can serve her as she gets married.

Do you enjoy road trips?  What has been your best road trip?

-Elle

Advertisements

The Story

“All of these lines across my face, tell you the story of who I am.

So many stories where I’ve been and how I got to where I am.

But these stories  don’t mean anything when you’ve got no one to tell them to.

It’s true- I was made for you.”   -Brandi Carlile

 

What is your story?  Have you spoken it?

 

To celebrate a successful project completion, some co-workers went out for lunch.

We were talking about various topics and then started talking about how we met our husbands.  The first co-worker met her husband in grad school.  The second co-worker met her husband at a previous place of employment.  “I met my husband at a swing dance lesson,” I said.

“How fun,”  my co-worker said.  “Do you still dance?”

“Just for fun.  We did take a community class on ballroom dancing as well.  But it’s just for fun.”

And then I got to thinking about ‘our’ story and how unique it is.  Everyone’s story is unique.   And, now that we’ve been married for a long while, it generally doesn’t come up how we met.

And I reminisce about that fall night.  Walking in with friends to try swing dancing.  It was fun to be catching up with high school friends several years after graduating.  After dinner, we headed to the lesson and were partnered up with a guy.  We switched partners every few minutes.  One of my dance partners was my husband- who was outgoing and was light hearted (laughing at himself when a dance move went wrong).

He approached me after the lesson, as I had moved on several partners.    We set up meeting for dinner and miniature golfing.

It was a sweet memory.  Now I can tell you from a look what he is thinking.  And he can tell you from a pause on the phone what I am thinking.  I don’t know all of him- that will be a lifelong task; but I know his heart. . . .and he has mine.

We all have stories.  Stories of love, loss, triumph, and tragedy.  Do you tell your story?  You should- it is uniquely yours.

-Elle

Showers of Happiness

We tend to go through phases in life.  When our friends are all doing similar things.  Getting driver’s licenses.  Graduating college.  Getting married.  Buying a home.  Having children.  There have been summers when I’ve gone to a handful of high school graduations for family members.  Or summers when I’ve gone to a bunch of friend’s weddings; I have a rainbow of dresses to prove it.

Recently, I’ve been going to a bunch of baby showers.  Shopping for little clothes is my favorite.  Looking at registries to see what is newest to market is also interesting; technology has come so far.  Girls accessories are super cute and I usually over buy because I find “just one more” thing at each store.

A church friend I volunteer with asked me how my weekend was while we were serving one Sunday.  I told her I went to a baby shower the day before.  “How do you do at baby showers?” she asked, knowing I lost children.  “Oh, they’re fine.”  I said, and then paused.  I thought silently about how it is mixed emotions and I am cautious about the table I sit at.

I am excited for the expectant mother.  I am enthusiastic to see the gifts as they are opened and to see how she likes the items I picked out.  I like the gathering of women and the taste of shower cake (I’ve never had a bad piece of shower cake).

It’s the games and conversations they spark.  People talk about their own experiences, their own labors, their own children.  I’m fine in this territory.  But, eventually, the question flips and I get a “How about you? . . . . do you have children?”  [Insert pregnant pause, pun intended]  There’s no easy way to say ‘yes’; and ‘no’ feels like a betrayal of my truth.  ‘No’ is easy but will they ask follow up questions when my eyes tell a different story.

It’s a precarious position to be in.  Precarious: dangerously likely to fall or collapse.  So, I try to be intentional and steer conversations back to those with funny anecdotes or small children (they always have a TON of pictures and stories to go with them).   And, I don’t linger after the gifts are open.

How do you navigate baby showers?

-Elle

Important Days

“The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.”  -Mark Twain

Have you found out your life’s purpose?  Have you considered that you have a greater purpose?

We can get caught up in to-do lists and grocery store runs and work projects.  But, it’s good to consider your purpose in the big world.  Actions you take that affect people- positively or negatively.  Decisions you make that steer your life to certain areas, people, jobs, opportunities.

For me, a serious car accident made me consider time after that to be ‘borrowed.’  It helped me to re-orient my life (then in my early 20s) to give back more than I took.    People calculate their carbon footprint- which is the amount of carbon dioxide output by their consumption of fossil fuels.  People try to lessen their impact on the environment.  I, on the other hand, try to calculate my kindness footprint.  I want to make sure that I leave the world a kinder place and lessen the impact of my negativity (attitude, decisions, etc.).

We are given gifts by God and each of us brings a unique mix of gifts to give.  Seek ways to use up the gifts you are given.

 

-Elle

Eccentricities

I received a list of 45 life lessons from a friend.  She got an email from a high school friend.  It had a lot of simple but logical life lessons.  I have read through the list several times and shared the list with co-workers.

A few of them are:

Don’t audit life.  Show up and make the most of it now.

Yield.

Save for retirement.  Starting with your first paycheck

Be eccentric now.  Don’t wait for old age to wear purple.

I want to touch on being eccentric.  Too often we get caught up in our own insecurity.  We fit in to a khaki world, wearing traditional (read: boring) clothes.  While I am not on the fashion cutting edge, I do embrace the statement about not waiting until you are old to be eccentric.   I still wear sequined tops I had made in India, statement necklaces, and saturated colored scarves.

I never had to wear glasses until I started an office job after college and was on the computer all day.  I mourned the fact that I had glasses.  Then, last year, I was told I needed bi-focals.  It was like a four-letter word had been used.  It was a step in the aging process that I did not embrace.  But, I decided to make the best of it and consider eyeglasses as another accessory.   The place was having a special buy one get one and so I picked out a black pair and then found a red pair.  Cherry red.

They don’t match everything.  But, neither do I.  I love them.  These bright red glasses are fun and I get more compliments on them than my black pair.  People say, “Seeing you in those glasses makes me want to get a bold color pair for myself.”

I believe stepping out of your comfort zone- whether in a small way like an accessory or a large way like a career change, is inspiring to others.    Enjoy your eccentricities.

What piece of advice would you add to the list?

-Elle

The Ocean

As a teenager, my family went to Hawaii.  We enjoyed feeding the fish in Hanauma Bay with squeeze cheese and frozen peas.  Swimming in a blue ocean, as far as the eye can see, was breath-takingly beautiful.  Trying shave ice with adzuki beans in the bottom was deliciously different.

But, the saying is true: Never turn your back on the ocean.  The ocean’s undertow was strong.  I looked back at the beach to people watch when a wave hit me from behind.  At the same time, the undertow pulled my feet from under me.  One moment I was standing in reverence at a peaceful view.  The next moment, I was tumbling head over feet, not sure what way was up as I was pulled out farther from  shore.  I couldn’t gain my footing and I was in constant movement;  I was no longer sure which way was up.  But I was sure that I was losing the air in my lungs.  “I’m going to drown.”

I swam hard in one direction just to get out from the pull of the undertow.  To this day, I don’t know what made me picked that direction.  Fortunately, it was the right way, and I surfaced, gulping air, coughing the sandy water from my mouth.

 

Hard times are like swimming in the ocean.   Grief can hit you like waves.  You can either float to the surface or you can be dragged under.  It’s a fight you have to undertake.  A choice you have to make.  Every. Day.

 

  1. Find someone to talk to. A friend, family member, partner, or professional.
  2. Find something that brings you joy.
  3. Give back. Get involved in a charity or church.  Find a cause and give your time.

 

-Elle

India

I heard a woman speak this week on her experience as a Muslim post 9-11.  She told stories of being accosted and how she had to overcome anxiety from the experiences.  Her story hurt my heart.

 

I spent time working on projects in India and loved my time there.  The red soil reminded me of Arizona  and my co-workers reminded me of family.  I traveled alone, but always had co-workers to go explore.  One weekend, I visited a monument with a co-worker and his aunt.  As soon as I approached his aunt (meeting for the first time), she immediately hugged me and grabbed my hand; walking around the park hand-in-hand like I would have with my own grandmother.  She didn’t speak English but we both spoke from the heart.

Other co-workers invited me to family birthdays or dinners.  Since families of various generations live together in India, when I arrived to a co-workers home, I was quickly ushered into his parent’s bedroom.  They brought a chair into the room and motioned for me to sit down.  The door was closed and I wondered why I was sitting here without my friend.  He came in about 10 minutes later to say his family was finishing cooking but his parents wanted me to be comfortable; the air conditioning was only in that bedroom.

 

As a pale skinned, white women, I was visibly an outsider.  People would notice me as I walked down the street.  Several would approach and ask where I was from and if I liked it there.  There was a genuine interest in me, as a human being.  There was a genuine connection.  I was clearly an outsider . . . but I never FELT like an outsider.   I love India.  I left a piece of my heart there and still want to go back and explore more.

 

So, the speech of a woman coming to the U.S. who experienced ugliness and threats and adverse actions by fellow Americans hurt my heart.  As she spoke, I cried.  For, I was a stranger, and I was welcomed with open arms.  And she was a stranger and people hated her.  After she was done and we were packing up our things, I let her know that I was welcomed in India and that I was sad that she didn’t have the same experience coming to the U.S.

 

I went home with a heavy heart.  Why did she go through that, I thought?  Why is there fear and hate?   And then I did something.  When I feel like I can’t control much in my life, I DO something.  An act of kindness that declares to the universe that despite what happens, I can choose my actions.  I will choose my actions.  In the midst of strife or grief or sadness, I will choose kindness.  Not grand gestures, but small things like buying a cup of coffee for a security guard, baking muffins for a neighbor, or sending out a ‘thinking of you’ card.

 

I got online that night and sponsored a child from India.    I picked a girl from northern India.   I hope that the monthly support helps her grow into a woman who experiences a bright beautiful world.

 

What is one kindness you could do this weekend?

 

-Elle

Stars and Scars

“See I need you and baby I need to

Let my guard and give you my scars

Open my heart.

We could be stars

We could be stars

We could be stars

 

Rap on my window, come home

It’s been awhile, so stick around, why don’t you?

Till the end of time, say that you’ll be mine

An uphill climb, fighting with the heart what the heart really wants to do

See, I need you and sometimes we need to

Shed our facade and be just who we are.

All broken and torn, then we could be stars

 

Oh, we could be stars

We could be stars

We could be stars

 

Piercing lights in the dark make the galaxy ours

Kingdom right where we are

Shining bright as the morning, you’ll never be lonely.”

 

Alessia Cara- Stars

 

Relationships are complicated.  Marriage is a covenant relationship.  I have found that love is a powerful force but bringing two people together is a commitment. A lifelong commitment and a lifelong choice to choose each other.

I was talking to an older married lady at church one Sunday about marriage and the intricacies.  I voiced how different we were and was disheartened.  Her wisdom stuck, “If God brought together two people who were the same, one of you would be extraneous.”  He brings people together with differences to strengthen the union.

If two people were the same, one wouldn’t be needed.  A team needs people with different skills, different strengths, and different weaknesses to better the team.  That was a profound, yet simple truth that hit me.

 

Be a spouse who embraces the vulnerable in your partner.  Home should be a shelter from the storm. You are processing life decisions and need a partner who you can display your scars openly. And they should be able to display yours.

 

-Elle

Lost and Found

I was reading Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis.  In it, she writes a story about her experience with foster to adoption.  Their family chose international adoption which fell through.  Then, foster to adoption which fell through.  And finally private adoption.   Her experience reminds me of the path we took through foster care.

We considered international adoption and international surrogacy.  It was ruled out and we didn’t pursue these paths.  However, we, too, pursued the foster to adoption route.  It did not lead to adoption.  I have the ultimate respect for lifelong foster parents.  Those parents who have had dozens of children come through their home- kudos to you.  Continuing with additional placements was not a path I chose to follow.  But, I learned many lessons along the way.  I lost some things and I found some things.

God has a plan for you.  Live boldly and go where you feel led.

Things I lost:

A daughter and a son

A part of my heart

Sleep

Fear of the future

The need to save for 2 college tuitions

 

Things I found:

Grief

Joy

Myself

A stronger faith

Time to volunteer

Other People who were hurting or grieving

Compassion for international children

A peace in my decision to be childfree

 

What have you lost and what have you found lately?

-Elle

 

My Best Self

“Always dream and shoot higher than you know you can do.  Do not bother just to be better than your contemporaries or predecessors.  Try to be better than yourself.”  William Faulkner

Are you your best self?

What is one thing you’ve learned this week?

I have always liked the concept of doing one thing that scares you every day.  Stretching your skills, testing your strength and perseverance.   When I fail in the attempt, I am disappointed but the fire is stoked to try again.  And, when I succeed, I feel deliciously alive in a way no other experience offers.  It is a heart lifting, fist-pumping excitement.  To be alive and using all my capabilities.

I recently read about Abraham Lincoln and his early failures in business and political endeavors.  Perseverance and stick-tuitiveness helps to keep going despite personal and/or professional setbacks.

Do you have written personal goals?  Professional goals?  Relationship/ family goals?

I think it is important to write down what you want to accomplish.  Break it into tasks or smaller segments like months or weeks.  That way, you will accomplish a big goal one small step or task at a time.

Your only competition is yourself.  Dream big and work towards a better tomorrow.

What one step will you take today?

 

-Elle