Editor’s note: I skipped a post. I will get back to light.


As I was sitting here getting ready for bed after a long day, I was thinking how it was a good long day. The laundry isn’t done. The kitchen floor is still dirty. My room is a mess and will likely remain that way until Christmas break.

But the tree is in the house. Santa burner covers now grace my relatively clean stove. And a red stained glass star is hanging in my bedroom window.

More importantly, I made stuff today.

As I started cleaning the kitchen I remembered how I really wanted to get my soap-making stuff put away but before I could do that I wanted to make one more batch of soap–this time with some Christmas-y scents–before Christmas. I almost talked myself out of it, knowing it won’t be cured before Christmas, but decided to just make myself do it. And now the woodsy, minty, candy-y, cranberry chutney-y sample scents sent with prior orders from Bramble Berry are curing even as I type. I also made a tray of gingerbread. All to give away.

Next I finally got around to making glycerin soaps in dinosaur molds for James. I colored them purple, a la Barney, and scented them with kumquat. While not my favorite in the shower, glycerin soaps are fun because they set almost immediately and I will be able to present them to James when he comes for dinner tomorrow.

Finally, I tracked down some vodka–for my first time trying homemade vanilla extract. I had to be selective about whom I dared ask–as I didn’t have vanilla beans enough for a full batch and did not want to purchase an entire bottle for just 6 ounces. I took a little ribbing from my friend Jane about the bishop’s wife asking to borrow vodka. But my courage to ask resulted in a nice visit with Jane and her mother who has dementia (that is a story in and of itself, but it is Jane’s to tell, not mine), the gift of the new star, and 6 oz. of vodka, so all is well.

I was excited to find I had enough beans purchased before the prices shot sky high to make a small batch and now a small jam jar is neatly tucked away in the cool, dark of my sock drawer, and I still have half a bean left over for a couple of batches of my favorite vanilla pudding recipe. I hope I remember to shake it as often as I’m supposed to. I also hope I can be patient for the six months it allegedly takes to get a really good strength flavor. I’ll let you know how it goes.

In any case, I was reflecting on said day and how satisfying it is to make things and I was thinking how I needed my weekends to not all be spent cleaning and catching up because I feel the need to create. And then it struck me, my work during the week–my job–is to create.

I don’t know why I don’t always see it that way. Do I somehow perceive creating for a salary cheapens the creation? I generally enjoy so much autonomy in my work it’s not like it actually feels like work. Is it because no one sees it? (Well, people see it, but generally not people who know me.) That gives me something to chew on for awhile.

In any case, I realized as I was sitting here that I do have something to show for my efforts. This video showcases the work of my primary client–UFRA. I wrote the script and managed the project.

In short, this is what I do for my paid work. I work with great people who make a difference. And I love what I get paid to do:

[Day 205 of Ann Dee Ellis’ 8-Minute Memoir.]

Christmas lights

Are particularly beautiful on snow-capped branches.

Are much prettier than mush stay-puff-marshmallowy Christmas air blowy-uppy-things.

Are how I console myself for a Christmas birthday.

“Look at all the people who decorated for my birthday!”

Are better taken down during snowy or icy conditions, but before April or May.

Or July.

If you make it until September, may as well just leave them up.

Entertain small children stuck in the car for one reason or another in the dead of winter.

Assuming, that is, you still actually have winter in your state.

In my mind are associated with winter. I’m not sure if I could get into the Christmas spirit even with Christmas lights if it were 80 degrees outside.

Are extra fun if they are set to music.

Who does that? I certainly don’t. I have a friend whose son does quite a show every year and serves donuts and hot cider or hot chocolate, inviting family and friends annually for the unveiling. I’ve never been, on account of I don’t much enjoy going out in the cold and dark. Not even for Christmas lights.

Are one of the things I might pay someone else to do professionally if money were no object.

Along with keeping fresh flowers at least one place in my home or office. And setting up and maintaining a giant salt-water tropical fish tank. In my home or office.

(Money is in fact an object. So I’m grateful my husband got one of those fancy light-display things this year and usually decorates the tree in the middle of our front lawn. That said, I still think back fondly about the years we used to run red and white alternating lights around the house and red lights up the two columns that bookend our front door and line the walk with lighted candy canes.)

Are merry and bright.

[Day 204 of Ann Dee Ellis’ 8-Minute Memoir.]



I am that woman who will chat you up in line at the local Macey’s. You may or may not be very responsive. Or you might tell me about your kids or the bad day you were having or what a great deal you got on avocados or that your ex is bailing on your kids and that you are just really mad and sad.

I will wave at your baby and make goo-goo eyes and maybe even play peek-a-boo with your toddler. I promise I’m not creepy. I just have a vague recollection of how hard it can bet to try to remember everything on your grocery list when your kid is tired or bored or maybe even sick but you don’t have any choice but to be there in that line with a kid that needs distracting.

If you’re a mom with little kids in the line in front of me and you run out of food stamps before you got the last two items on the conveyor belt covered, I will probably hand the cashier my credit card and offer to cover them. You may or may not let me. But I am grateful if you do. Not because I’m special–I’m not. But because we are all in this together and I used to be the mom with little kids trying to make ends meet.

I’m the hall monitor who will go find someone if there is a spill on aisle 4 that involves liquid and which might cause a fall on the cheap linoleum. I will probably stand there and warn people to take care until clean-up arrives.

I will generally notice if the advertised sale price doesn’t ring up correctly and then I will go stand in line at the service counter to get my fifty cents back.

If you’re the manager I may come and find you and ask you to offer a comparable deal on a sale item that you’ve run out of. Or to tell you when someone took really great care of you or to nicely explain that I get it that it’s hard to keep people in the deli, but that the new guy needs a little help with best practices in safe food handling.

If I hear you saying out loud that you wonder where the canned tomatoes are found, I will tell you.

And if you come walking down the aisle talking I may think you are talking to me and greet you in a friendly way until I realize you are using a Bluetooth headset to carry on a conversation with a friend. Then I will try not to feel foolish for being present when you were not so much.

You may find me sitting on a dusty rack under the coat aisle at Walmart talking on a dying cell phone to my friend who just called in tears because she had her heart broken and she just needs someone to listen how dismissed and unappreciated she felt when a mutual friend passed her up for a project she was qualified for and super excited about in a field that is her passion.

And if you happened to have been a Shopko or Walmart employee about 20 years or so ago I’m quite sure you would have responded to one of the regular Code Adams called for my second-born.

In case you were worried, we found him. He’s 26 now. And alive and well. He may still wander, but he is not lost.

[Day 203 of Ann Dee Ellis’ 8-Minute Memoir.]

something better shared

Last night I went to see Orient Express with my friend Cyndi. It’s not a comedy, but there were moments of sweet and clever interspersed with the drama and cerebral and although I did not full-out guffaw like the woman on the back row of the theater when my husband and I watched Thor Ragnarok–who literally cackled so loud and hard I’m sure some level of motion was detected on the Richtor scale–we both found ourselves looking at one another with a quiet smile of appreciation for something subtle that amused.

Laughter is better shared.

I love me a good pun and I find myself delighted when occasionally my brilliantly creative writer friend Kel shares a pun on the wall of my Facebook page. All the more so because I know she recognized and delighted in the humor of it and then, it is implied, must have thought to herself, “Dalene would be amused. I need to share it with her.”

I am indeed amused. And grateful. Because there is nothing so awkward as to break out into a big silly grin at the recognition of something clever and then look around to see that no one else found it nearly as entertaining as did you.

Or when you say or post or tweet something you find very funny and have it lost into the void as if you had shouted it directly into a 120-mile-an-hour wind and the vibrations of your vocal chords were swallowed up as if they never existed.



Yesterday I drove to our holiday luncheon with my friend and coworker Barb. I could tell she was having a difficult time. As we talked I learned that tomorrow is the anniversary of her father’s death and that she always feels the loss of her father, her mother, and her sister most acutely this time of year. I had just spent some time the night before looking through old family photos and wishing I had something clever to add to the #lighttheworld theme “honor thy parents.” I felt melancholy, which is something I generally try to avoid. I had no words of comfort for Barb. But I shared with her the story of my mom working so hard to remember my birthday just two weeks before she died. It is a sweet story and I hoped somehow that though I could not cheer her, knowing she is not alone in her loss might somehow lift her sadness if only for a moment.

Today as I was working with the lead on my latest training project–command training for volunteer and rural firefighters–it somehow came up on conversation that he had lost his mother. Almost to the day the year before my mother died. As we commiserated, we soon realized that both of us lost our fathers at a young age – he at 15 and I at 19. As I asked about and listened to the particulars, we talked about how the meaning of the word “orphan” had changed for us and how missing our parents continues to affect us in profound ways.

Grief is often long bottled up, especially long-held grief. Time may dull the sting, but it doesn’t diminish the loss.

There is something to be said, however, for that moment of solidarity you see in someone’s eyes when they courageously reveal–even briefly–the deepness of their own sorrow.

[Day 202 of Ann Dee Ellis’ 8-Minute Memoir.]

Post edit:
Late Friday morning I got a text from one of my favorite sisters in law, Heather, asking me if I was free for lunch. As Heather lives in Portland, that could only mean thing. Heather was in Utah at that very moment! I quickly let go of all responsibilities for the day and decided my work could wait until the next day and went out to pick her up at Luke and Emily’s (so she could see the baby). Without telling her where we were going, I took her to meander through the last weekend of the Beehive Bazaar, then watched her face as she discovered The Black Sheep’s divine bleu burger, street corn, and one true sweet potato fries.

This! I thought. This too is something better shared. Sharing my love for food perfected with love and care. Sharing the uniqueness of the town I have grown to love and which Heather once knew so very different and long ago! Seeing Heather’s excitement as the server explained to her how they made their street corn made it oh so much more rich.

I walked her through here Provo! which we had parked in front of, then, having given our stomachs a moment to rest after our amazing lunch, I introduced her to Rockwell creamery.

“There’s always room for ice cream; it just melts down around the rest,” I reminded her.

Christmas Crack and Gingerbread (2 half scoops side by side) for me.

Brown Butter Pecan and Milk Chocolate for her.

It was the perfect day, so much sweeter shared.


Just now I was listening to a talk in the Christmas devotional and the dear sister (whose talks I love) told a story of rounding up used dolls and toys she no longer wanted as part of a Primary class service project. Her mother asked what she was doing and when she told her, suggested she find and give a doll she cared about in order that her gift might mean more.

I’ve thought about that in various ways a lot the past while. Asking myself is it too easy to give $10-25 here and there for gofundme accounts of family and friends in tragedy and for various refugee organizations or to micro-loan to women around the world on Kiva?

How do I give more from the part. Does service only count if it hurts? I do not know. All I know is to follow my heart. If I feel compelled, I give.

I love Kiva. I fund women supporting their families, often through farming or teaching or shops. I love when my donation is doubled through matching funds.

While I’m starting to rethink gofundme (I think it would be better to set up accounts at a local bank), I still give what I can there. It’s a little overwhelming sometimes, so I try to go where my heart tells me.

Lifting Hands International is a wonderful organization and I loved that on this past Giving Tuesday the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation matched donations to them. Facebook has made it so easy to share and recruit more fundraising, my small donation was increased by a few friends and family and then doubled by the Gates.

Speaking of Facebook, my birthday is coming up this month. I’m toying with the idea of doing one of those birthday fundraisers. I wouldn’t–for fear it is somehow presumptuous–but I loved seeing the response to Giving Tuesday and so I’m a bit tempted. I guess I’ll have to a little research to make sure 100% of the money donated goes to the charity of my choice.

Speaking of the charity of my choice. I love donating through my church. I love knowing that 100% of the money–yes, there is no overhead–goes directly to help those in need.

Speaking of donating through my church, this is brilliant. I want the church to fill the world with these machines. (And yes, I’ve seen this at least 4 times and it still makes me tear up.)

[Day 201 of Ann Dee Ellis’ 8-Minute Memoir.]

finish line

Crawled to the finish line (another National Blog Post Month in the books) after an 11-hour day at work. This is where I am and what I’ve been doing the past two days. Met and worked with some great people.

Best part was when Shane texted me a photo of James wearing his firetruck pajamas I gave him for his birthday I sent back a photo of this firetruck for James.

“That’s Grandma’s firetruck,” James said.


letting go

I have recently discovered that I am both good and bad at letting go. It is easy to forgive a vulnerable, genuine, sincere apology, which is good, because in my book it is a rare and wonderful thing to offer such an apology. It comes from a place of raw honesty that few brave.

What is harder to let go, even once forgiven, is the sting. I’m not sure why this is. Is it part of a broken heart? Is it part of an true heart? Is it the price one pays for empathy? Does the ability to feel others’ hurt along with their happy require a certain sensitivity that leaves one’s one heart vulnerable? I don’t know.

Recently I was thinking of my mother-in-law (forgive me if I already wrote about this). Someone was interviewing her for a video that we watched together at the family reunion last summer. She mentioned wondering if perhaps she was too sensitive to the teasing that seemed to run in the family. And it struck me to wonder why we consider sensitivity a negative attribute. If our own feelings are tender. If we are cognizant of the power of words to wound as well as to heal. Can that not help us be conscious of tempering our own words with care not to wound another? Is that not something to strive for?

In any case, letting go.

I sometimes find myself recalling in complete surprise something that was so awful and hurtful and pain-full that I have completely put out of my mind and when it does glance up to the surface I find it is a brief, harmless thought, without any remembrance of the searing sting that once accompanied it.

And yet there are other moments for which the heartbreak still lingers. Deeply. Profoundly.

What is the difference?

Is it a sincere apology in a world devoid of personal responsibility and #sorrynotsorry?

Is it godsend?

I do not know.

But I will keep asking to be able to more fully forgive. To let go of the hurt buried deep.

To pray for the atonement to heal and soften wounded hearts.

[Day 200 of Ann Dee Ellis’ 8-Minute Memoir.]


As I’ve been reading the last heart-wrenching words of Mormon, along with current heart-breaking news of our day, I kept asking myself what is going to keep us from succumbing to pride and turning away from God so completely as did the Nephites, even to complete destruction? The answer that came to me is The Book of Mormon. We have greater access to the word of God and to this testament of the love of God through the Savior, Jesus Christ, than any other people throughout history. I am grateful for the iron rod that will—if I lay hold and hold fast—help me return to the love of God. It seems to me every time I have a question, the answer is love. And where better to learn to love than the book that is a witness of our exemplar, Christ.