One time

overwhelmed

One time I typed the writing prompt at the top of my post and was all set to hit go on the stopwatch but I realized I am still so emotionally spent that what I really want to do is roll over and bury myself in blankets, close my eyes, and sleep.

But I will prop my eyes open and skip over the series of one-time events I can think of that may be interesting to write about and return to yesterday and the day before.

To that one time a seemingly quiet and unassuming woman was taken from us before we were ready and we were overwhelmed.

We were overwhelmed by the grief. The first-time unimaginable grief for her husband and children and sisters and brother and grandchildren who have never experienced such a loss. The still unimaginable grief for those of us–primarily in-laws who even though we do know that this unimaginable grief you don’t think you can possibly survive is in fact something you will live through, also know that losing a mother is a loss like no other.

We are overwhelmed–and even humbled–by the show of support by family and friends. By the food pouring in at everyone’s homes. By the phone calls and visits and texts and Facebook messages. By the friend who bursts through your door and runs up your stairs to give you a real hug even as you are both still on the phone with each other as you are in the midst of breaking to her the bad news. She jumped in her car and drove straight over so she could give you a real hug.

Overwhelmed by the lines of people spilling down the hall, out the double-doored church entrance, down the stairs and into the church parking lot when you arrived at the viewing Tuesday night. A crowd that was undiminished even half an hour past the scheduled end of the viewing, but finally dissipated an hour past.

The crowd that resumed the next day before the funeral. The crowd–as your brother-in-law puts it–inclusive of almost all walks of life. Family, friends, teachers, classmates–some we’d seen recently, some we hadn’t seen for ages. The Native Americans who stayed in with the family during the family prayer and also came to the cemetery and the family dinner because they were indeed welcomed and loved as family by this woman and who told my father-in-law, “you asked us to be here and we are here.”

Overwhelmed by the same bursting-through-the-door-while-you’re-still-on-the-phone friend who drives nearly two hours while still suffering from a concussion to be to the funeral and to stay to the cemetery and take lots of photos because she knows you will be busy talking to family and not be able to take all the photos you want–or even know the ones you will wish you had taken later, because she has lost both her parents too in recent years and she knows.

Overwhelmed by the cousins from California who always show up and are there for you. You thank them for coming and let them know how much it means to you that they would be there and when they say “We wouldn’t miss it,” you know they mean it, because they always have and always will be there with you and for you.

Overwhelmed when you see your stake president who works closely with your husband and who has also lost his mother and who took time off of work and also drove that nearly two hours to be there for your husband. (Nearly two more hours back home again afterwards, of course.)

Overwhelmed again when you see your brother and his wife who still mourn the loss of your mother and who also took time off work and drove the same distance to be there for you and your husband and your kids even though they knew with so many people you would hardly get a chance to visit with them. They just needed you to know they were there.

Overwhelmed again when you learn your Relief Society president and your neighbor down the street–both who have lost their mothers–who had no idea where they were going and who had to stop and ask for directions, twice–also took time from their busy days to show up for your family.

Overwhelmed again to learn that not one but two of your husband’s coworkers (one is now retired) made the long drive to and back to show up for him and to let him know they’ve arranged for his class for extended days so he can have more time with his family.

Overwhelmed and again humbled by the reach of this wonderful matriarch whose mortal resume may not have been long by the standards of the world, but whose faith and service surpassed what any of us likely imagined and whose mark on the world was overwhelmingly good and beautiful and worthy of such an immense tribute.

Overwhelmed by the knowledge you can work harder and love more and serve better and by the desire to do so as you are once again reminded in a powerful and beautiful way that “…by small and simple things are great things brought to pass.”

[Day 94 of Ann Dee Ellis’ 8-Minute Memoir.]

joy and sorrow

In just a short time ago some people I love, who only a couple of months ago buried an angel granddaughter, have experienced what must feel like a lifetime of joy and sorrow, much of it in just one weekend. And it’s not, by any means, over.

My nephew drove home from North Dakota with his wife. Such visits are rare and welcomed. So much so some of my own kids drove out to be with them. JOY!

Within hours of knowing they were coming, the same family got a call learning that another son was coming home from his mission early. Apparently this is not something you learn until your child is put on the plane to come home and you receive directions what time to pick up him or her. -sorrow–the kind of gut-punched, “I-don’t-know-what-hit-me” kind of sorrow, and yet also possibly relief at being reunited and to be able to wrap your arms around someone you love in order to travel this road together-

That same day half the family (the extended, anyway, because there is more a less a corner of their small basin town that is either a clan or a dynasty of our family) went to a funeral for (if I overheard correctly) the last member of their grandfather’s generation.-sorrow-

And the other half of the family attended the baptism of another nephews. JOY!

I wasn’t physically present on this particular weekend, but this family I love was in my thoughts constantly. I prayed for them. I held space for them in my heart.

Oh, and why did the first son and his wife come home that particular weekend? As I guessed in the moment it occurred to me they must have had a reason, it was because they had an announcement.

They’re expecting their first baby. JOY!

The next weekend (because we do not always or even often have a moment to catch our breaths), and, as the story goes, after not just one but possibly two fridges went out, I happened to see on Facebook a happy engagement announcement from the cute boy dating one of my cute nieces. JOY!

I was amused to learn later that the social media post went up before my niece had a chance to call her parents, so I think there was a little bit of surprise amidst that joy as well.

Cut to this past week where the unthinkable, unimaginable happened. We were not prepared. We are still in shock. And we are mourning the loss of the heart and soul of our extended family. My father-in-law missing his wife of 58 years. My husband and brothers- and sisters-in-law missing their mother. Their aunts and uncle missing their sister. And so many nieces and nephews missing a grandmother who loved them so dearly. -sorrow, seemingly unending, un-mendable sorrow-

Yes, I know this is not the end. And yes we–at least some of us–have felt the sweet peace the gospel brings. We can only imagine her sweet reunion with her parents and other loved ones. But that does not remove the sorrow or the hole in our hearts. sorrow upon sorrow upon sorrow

[Day 93 of Ann Dee Ellis’ 8-Minute Memoir.]

Post Edit: After writing this post I’ve been reflecting upon how both our greatest joys and our greatest sorrows are generally connected to family.

bathrooms

[note: everything feels superficial and inane, but I made a goal and I want to keep it so I’m going to skim the surface for awhile until the rawness of the past week wears off and I find the right words to do it justice.]

When I was at BYU I had lots of great roommates (and a few interesting ones too) but one was so much fun I lived with her two years in a row. In fact I lived with her until she got married, I think.

In any case we have lots of happy and fun and crazy stories together, but also a sad one. And one in which I learned a valuable lesson.

There was a time in our friendship when things shifted. There was a wedge between us. A feeling of resentment and eventually anger. And I had no idea how or why.

One day it all finally came out and it had to do with our shared bathroom.

Apparently I was a slob. I thought all young people were slobs. But I was insufferable.

Excuse the graphic detail, but apparently the detritus of Q-tips and cotton balls involved in my early morning beauty routine that weren’t tossed directly in the trash–and possibly even those that may have piled up in the overflowing trash bin, as seems to occur even in my grown-up life bathrooms (although, generally, not on account of me), as annoying. Even irritating. Even wedge building.

And I get it. That’s obnoxious. But I was oblivious. And the sad part–at least to me–is that it was an easy enough fix. I should have been taking my basketball skills more seriously and worked harder on my bank shot, or even any kind of shot. At the very least I could have rebounded and neatly handled the my missed shots.

Only I didn’t fix it until it was almost too late.

Because I didn’t know about it.

My lesson learned was what can happen to a relationship when a teeny tiny frustration or resentment is left inside to grow and build and fester until it has become something greater than itself. And the painful takeaway is that the sore, ugly, swollen wound will take even more effort to heal because it went so long untreated. Growing bigger and worse and even more bitter.

And that’s why I try to be in the moment and aware of how and I feel and why. Be frank about that with those who allow me to. And sometimes even with those who don’t. And why I have great respect for those times when people choose to honor our relationship by telling me how they really feel about something that could easily grow into a wedge and allow me to address it best I can. Or at the very least reassure them no harm is ever intended and work on doing better.

[Day 92 of Ann Dee Ellis’ 8-Minute Memoir.]

there are no words…but i tried to find some anyway

barbararowley
Please don’t miss the lovely twinkle in her eyes, which we now surely will

It’s not lost on me that I recently wrote about keeping vigil, never intending to keep vigil again–or at least so soon–in such a personal and tragic way.

Tuesday night Shane and I and his parents, Keith and Barbara, his sister Rochelle and her husband Bill met for dinner as they came to town to prepare for Barbara’s back surgery the next day. We invited our kids as well, but only Luke and Emily and James were free to join us. We wanted Barbara to choose where to eat, as she would be going hungry for awhile after dinner. She chose Chuckarama, because she wanted mashed potatoes and gravy. We enjoyed our time together–made even more delightful with the presence of James–and especially appreciated the extended daylight, warm temperatures, and cheery daffodils as we all walked out together.

The next morning I was assisting with some training and got a text about 10:12 that the surgery had gone smoothly and Barbara was doing great.

At 1:17 I got another text stating that Barbara was still not awake from the anesthesia and the docs were doing a CT scan, as they were a bit worried.

I left work at 4 and went directly to ICU, where the family was gathering because Barbara was still unconscious.

It’s too soon to write about the roller coaster of emotions we’ve ridden the past 4 days. The images I can’t un-see. The big hole in my heart over our loss. The heart painfully wrenched by witnessing unexpected tragedy and mourning with those who mourn. My husband and his losing his beloved mother. My father-in-law his wife of 58 years. My children and nieces and nephews their dear grandmother, who knew how to make each one of them feel special. All my in-laws losing someone who treated them like her own.

In short, after two grueling days of a vigil like I’ve never before experienced (and never want to experience again) at the NCCU at University of Utah Hospital, we learned the damage from an anoxic event in her brain was irreversible. We were given time for anyone less than two hours away (and who wasn’t already at the NCCU) to arrive and to say our goodbyes before they would take her off life support.

At 2:29 this morning, Barbara slipped through the veil and returned to her parents and other loved ones, along with Heavenly Parents.

We are still in shock. Reeling. Heartbroken.

In time I need to write about the kindnesses too. The lady in the elevator. My friends and relatives who reached out and prayed and lifted and carried. Who visited. Who texted. Who posted messages. The friend who unexpectedly burst through my door and ran up my stairs this morning to give me a hug even as I was just beginning to explain what happened to her over the phone. She literally dropped everything, jumped in the car, and came to truly be there for and with me. The members of my congregation whose profuse offers to help became bold and impossible to refuse.

Until that time, here are the words that came to my heart this evening as tribute to this dear unassuming mother whose heart reached beyond where any of us imagined and whose loss we feel deep into the very fibers of our hearts.

Heaven shines brighter today at the return of the warm bright light of our dear Barbara Rowley. Barbara welcomed me into her family long before Shane and I married and has continued to love me like one of her own ever since.

Our bond deepened when she and my mother courageously battled breast cancer together a few years back, being diagnosed within a month of each other. Because of Barbara, we knew exactly what to do and which doctors to see from the moment my mother was diagnosed, which expedited my mother’s treatment. At times my mother’s appointments coincided with Barbara’s hospital stays in the same facility, helping them develop a special bond between them.

No words were needed when my mother’s cancer returned a year or so after remission. Barbara’s eyes would meet mine and I knew from her expression of deep love, understanding, and sorrow that we would not be alone in this journey.

Like my own mother, Barbara supported my quilting habit, even appreciating the mismatched prints, imperfect points, and rounded corners of my beginner quilts. She once surprised me with a blue ribbon after submitting one of my earliest efforts, which I had made for her, to the county fair. A few years later she surprised me again with another blue ribbon, having forgotten she’d already submitted the same quilt once before.

I will perhaps miss Barbara most on Thanksgiving mornings when, as tradition would have it, we often worked together in her kitchen while the rest of the kids were out in the mountains counting deer and elk. I would make pies while she prepped the stuffing and put the largest turkey you could imagine in the oven. I’ll forever cherish watching her lovingly write out on lined paper the 45-50+ names in her beautiful cursive as she figured how many tables and chairs we would need for the day’s feast.

Barbara is one of the beautiful matriarchs I’m privileged to know who has literally worn herself out in the service of others, opening her heart, pulling up chairs to her table, and feeding and caring for everyone within her reach.

I love you, Barbara. Thank you. Rest in peace. You are already dearly missed.

buying stuff you don’t need

I.
A friend of mine just started selling Tupperware. And now her Instagram is full of shiny photos of colorful plastics.

“I’m so relieved I went through all my ‘consultant’ phases before social media was invented,” I said to myself.

I can’t recall if Stampin’ Up* or Tupperware came first.

*See previous post on crafting.

My cousin sold Tupperware, so I had a party for her. And the words “free stuff” lodged themselves deep in my heart and I couldn’t stop.

When you sign up to sell Tupperware, you get this big giant duffle bag large enough to hide not one, but two bodies (should the need arise) stuffed clear full of free Tupperware.

And who among the young moms crowd doesn’t need another gadget in which to store Cheerios?

In any case. I can attest you can, in fact, have too much Tupperware.

It may not, however, be possible to have too many stamps. You wouldn’t even need a mini-sized duffle bag to hide all my wood stamps. And of course I was buying ahead for the zombie apocalypse, so I have not one but two full-sized ink cartridges of my favorite colors.

Note to self in hindsight. Ink doesn’t last forever. Even when shrink-wrapped. Don’t hold your break for a Life Hack tutorial with 50 ways to upcycle a dried-up ink cartridge.

II.
Just tonight I was telling my friend Melody’s husband Jeff about how Melody literally saved my life once. I’d been quite sick with the flu (note to everyone: If you are only sick for a day or two, and if your bones don’t hurt, and if you don’t feel like you got hit by a train, it’s not the flu). I saw my doctor and she was a bit concerned, but she sent me home. She told me, however, if I got any worse, to call her back.

I got worse.

I called her back.

And the bouncer at her front office brushed me off.

So I asked Melody to drop by and check on me after work. And you know, since she is a nurse, work for her is a 12 hour shift.

Whatever she saw in me gave her pause, enough so that she went back to her office for more serious diagnostic tools.

“You need to go to the ER,” she said.

“Tomorrow?” I asked.

“Right now.”

So I did. And my oxygen was at 80.

I remember lying on my back on the gurney with oxygen tubes in my nose trying so incredibly hard to bring it up to 90. Because they told me if I could keep it at 90 I could go home.

Instead I was admitted and stayed for a week.

As they admitted me I told Shane, “Whatever you do, DO NOT LET ANYONE IN OUR HOUSE!”

Because I had three young kids. My husband had just finished his master’s degree. I had been sick for at least a couple of weeks. And the house was a mess. A disastrous mess.

Of course by the end of a week in the hospital with double pneumonia when I finally got to come home on oxygen for what would be another month, I was still embarrassed, but also quite grateful to see my piles of laundry had been tackled, my kids had been fed, and my house had been deep cleaned.

The I can still hear the echo of my good friend Lynda:

“You have too many candles.”

“Do not buy any more candles.”

The culprits there were not just one retail candle and bath and body product maker that held semi-annual warehouse sales, but also the candle equivalent of Tupperware–PartyLite–that had lured me in with so many promises of “free stuff.”

While I’m happy to report I, eventually, stopped buying candles, I will never divulge how many I still have left.

Although I’m certain they, like my craft supplied, will come in quite handy during the zombie apocalypse.

[Day 91 of Ann Dee Ellis’ 8-Minute Memoir.]

waiting

winter waitingThis has been a favorite photo of mine for some time now. I just now noticed the timestamp. I took it the day before my mother died. The last day I saw my mother. The day I didn’t realize I was saying goodbye.

Winter 2014/15

So much waiting.

Waiting for Zack to come home from the Middle East. Waiting for family to come for Thanksgiving. Waiting to decorate my Christmas tree until Christmas afternoon, when I would finally be home for a couple of days. Waiting. Wondering how much time was left.

Just yesterday I was thinking about my mom and how I stressed over the last few weeks over her life waiting and worrying, not knowing how long she would be with us and not knowing if I should leave to go on my first work trip (she said “Go!”) or make alternate plans (even though there really wasn’t anyone else who could have taken my place) because I did not want to leave when her time was short or not be with her to say goodbye.

Saying goodbye was a big deal to me. Especially since I missed saying goodbye to my father by one day. And so we waited. I waited to make plans–or not make plans–or cancel my plans. I waited to say goodbye. Even though I couldn’t possibly know when. And I thought we would have some warning. The hospice nurse said she would know. And we intended to keep a bedside vigil.

Juxtapose that seemingly endless waiting with a couple of tender sweet hours spent with my aunts and uncles and cousins gathered in a similar vigil–or at least similar to what I imagined–at the hospital, as one of my aunts–my dad’s sister–was also dying at the same time as my mother.

A rather loud, busy, but anything-but-lonely vigil by my aunt’s side–full of hugs and stories and laughter along with the tearful eyes.

As opposed to the quiet, lonely, vigil by my mom’s side at her home, as I tag-teamed–primarily with my brother and his wife–to grant my mother her wish to stay in her home.

Yesterday I was reminded about despite all our efforts “to plan,” how my mom went quietly, but not unexpectedly (because who really knows what to expect) but still on her own terms–when no one was looking–just a couple of days after my aunt died.

This meant both my brother and I could attend our aunt’s funeral. In fact I ended up flying out to D.C. next to one of my cousins and her husband afterwards.

And then I flew back at the end of the week just in time for my mother’s “viewing” (as she forbade us from having a funeral).

Anyway, the waiting–impatient waiting–and the not knowing–impatient not knowing–what was going to happen or when or what I should do was all for naught. And I regret not having relaxed a bit more (although not for a lack of trying) and trusted that everything would work out.

What occurred to me yesterday was how my mom meant it when she said she wanted me to go to D.C. and do this thing for work–this scary thing I had never done before and had worked hard to prepare for–and she very possibly went when she did in order that I could go. It wasn’t about the travel, although she wanted that for me too. It was about the opportunity to stretch myself (in many ways) and do something I’d never done before. Something I didn’t know if I could do. I know my mom wanted that for me. And she gave it to me. And I am the better for it.

[Day 90 of Ann Dee Ellis’ 8-Minute Memoir.]

Note: There is another post to be written about waiting. It is a raw post. A hard post. And apparently it still waits to be written.

True worship

This morning I’m preparing a Primary lesson I almost forgot about because I had an entire week’s notice, as opposed to the last-minute notice I usually get when someone has an emergency and needs a substitute.

In any case, our Primary is reviewing LDS Conference talks so I had lots of choices for subject matter. This is the talk I chose, and for two reasons. 1. I never walk away from the opportunity to read from the account of the Savior’s visit to the Americas after his resurrection. It’s holy and the spirit speaks freely from those verses in 3rd Nephi. 2. It so beautifully captures how and why I’ve come to love communion with God and saints through worship.

For anyone who might wonder why I go to church, even when it means I go alone, this talk sums it up so perfectly.

I know God lives. My heavenly parents love me. And I love them. I look forward to gathering with my congregation–with these people I love–to renew our covenants and fill our hearts with the sweet feeling of love and peace that comes from true worship.

True worship transforms us into sincere and earnest disciples of our beloved Master and Savior, Jesus Christ. We change and become more like Him.

We become more understanding and caring. More forgiving. More loving.

We understand that it is impossible to say that we love God while at the same time hating, dismissing, or disregarding others around us.9

True worship leads to an unwavering determination to walk the path of discipleship. And that leads inevitably to charity. These too are necessary elements of worship.

I want to open my heart to the healing power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. I want to gather the heavenly light into my soul. I want my life to become the token and expression of my worship.

A street you love

mystreet
eastward from my street

I wanted to write about the streets I grew up on. So many memories. I almost wrote about the street I now drive twice a day two and from work. So many heaven-sent views.

But to do so would have been a disservice to the street that has been my home for the longest. The street I love so much that when it was time to move into a bigger home, I could only bear to move across the street.

1320 North.

We’ve been here since the early 1990s, when we moved here with two tow-head toddler boys in tow. So many birthdays, bbqs, and homemade ice cream parties.

That time my kids drove out of my driveway and put a big TV through my rear windshield. Well, not all the way through. The TV was fine. But the windshield shattered into a million tiny pieces.

Our neighbor Bill’s rose bushes. OK, so his wife–the one we’ve never met because she died before we moved in–but his wife’s rose buses adjacent to ours.

The sandbox in house one. So many lakes and rivers and dams and dikes. So many cases of pinworm from the neighborhood cats who played by night in the sandbox my kids loved to play in all day.

Not one but TWO fires. One across the sweet on the 24th of July. The other right next door on New Year’s Eve Day.

Too many deaths. So many of them unexpected. My friend Alice’s toddler, Taysom. Our friend and neighbor and former bishop Merril, to name a few we lost too soon.

So many sunsets and sunrises and rainbows. So many storms. Rain storms and snow storms. I think I mentioned how I used to shovel the driveway of our current home a time or two when we lived in our former home simply because I loved to shovel snow.

So much lightening. We have a lovely view of the valley southward from our living room.

But even more than the quiet street in what was once a brand new subdivision right next to the Beltline (?) in Eugene Oregon and the long two-lane farm road at the end of our long gravel driveway in Junction City, Oregon, this street is home to me.

These people are my people. We’ve loved, laughed, and wept together through all the seasons over and over again. And the people who live here are the same ones I want to see on the other side someday.

[Day 89 of Ann Dee Ellis’ 8-Minute Memoir.]

empty

women's day
Provo Women’s Day

Today’s prompt is “empty” and I know about empty and I’ve written about empty but because it is women’s day and I really don’t do bleak I’m writing about “full.” Because my heart is full.

Last night I dragged myself to a Utah Women & Leadership Project event at UVU because I’ve been wanting to learn about Crucial Conversations. I went by myself. After backing out of at least the last 5 events I meant to go to by myself. And I’m so grateful I did. Hopefully I can write about the substance of both the events I’ve attended the past to days another time. But what I want to write about today are the people who made a difference in the way I experienced these events.

At the breakout session on Crucial Conversations, I sat on the end and two women filed in next to me who had obviously come together. They were bilingual and visited together comfortably in their native language when we were to take a few minutes to talk to the person next to us and since I was on the end I kind of sat there with nothing to do. After talking with her companion for a bit in Spanish, the woman turned to be and invited me to converse with her, so I could participate in the class as directed.

She didn’t have to do that. But she did. Both that time and the next. I was grateful. And because being inclusive is important to me, I was sure to thank her for being inclusive.

As I was walking out of the breakout session I thought about just going home, but I decided to take a look at the social gathering for refreshments on my way out. A friendly man walked up the stairs with me, said hello, introduced himself to me, asked me my name, and then asked how I’d heard about the event. Apparently his wife is involved with the group who sponsored the event and I just figured he was surveying people for her and that was that. But he–his name is Craig–kept pace with me. And kept talking. He introduced me to his son who was at the top of the stairs. And kept up with me as I walked through the refreshment line by myself. He asked me about my job and about my family and told me about his job and about his family. Then he stood out in the hall next to me while I munched on fresh fruit and cheeses and we talked about entrepreneurship and the challenges of following your dreams and other things. And he was kind and gracious and made me feel like it mattered that I was there participating.

He didn’t have to do that. But he did. I wished him well with his startup and we parted ways.

Today was the 2nd annual Provo Women’s Day event celebrating International Women’s Day. I wanted to go, but didn’t think I could take work off. A couple of weeks ago my calendar cleared up so I got the day off work only to find the event was full. I sent the mayor a comment thanking Provo for their efforts to provide such a great event but asking that they consider finding a bigger venue for next year. The mayor emailed me back and asked me if I would still come if he could find me a seat. Of course I would still come! Within a couple of hours I got an email from his staff saying they had a seat for me and inviting me to please come.

This morning as I parked my car west of the city building a tiny older woman waved and smiled at me as she pulled up next to my parking stall. As we walked in together we talked about where we were from and how we were happy Provo hosted such a great event. We visited as we navigated the long halls trying to find the council chambers. Because she had a ticket and all I had was an email, she got in ahead of me, but found me as I entered to let me know she had saved a seat for me, a stranger, as if for a friend. She didn’t have to do that, but she did. And it meant something to me, which I was sure to let her know.

Before the event started I went over to find the mayor and thank him for making a place for me today. He told me that he had to after learning I had taken off work. I reminded him that he didn’t have to–because he didn’t–he chose to. And the fact that he did meant a good deal to me. Because it does.

One of the speakers today talked about feeling invisible. It may be hard to believe that someone tall and large and strong–very physically visible–could possibly feel invisible, but I often do.

My heart is full of gratitude for the people who notice and care and who treat strangers as though they were friends.

[Day 88 of Ann Dee Ellis’ 8-Minute Memoir.]

Post edit:
Writing simply for my own memory: I don’t have so much an opportunity to work with students in my job at UVU, but am forever looking for ways to make a difference. I learned today that sometimes by small and simple things you can help others without even knowing.

A couple of years ago I bumped into a friend I made when our kids were friends together at school. I hadn’t seen her for a few years and didn’t know she too was working at UVU. As we caught up I she mentioned her son-in-law was wanting to be a pilot but didn’t know how to get his hours in. Because at the time I did our social media, I was able to tell her about a bridge program we have with an airline that helps student pilots get their hours in a queue up to the front with seniority. I didn’t think anything would come of it. In fact, if I recall, her son-in-law lived in another state at the time.

Today we connected again at the Provo Women’s Day event. She pulled me aside to tell me that not only had my advice helped her son-in-law, but also another family member, in a significant way. They are both involved in the program and this much closer to working for the airlines. #thingsthatmakemehappy

Hotel rooms

hotel rooms
View from my window, Florida, 2016

I.
We don’t have cable. So our kids were, for the most part, raised on Sesame Street and Arthur and Reading Rainbow, and the like. They probably didn’t know what they were missing until they got a bit older and discovered there was a whole new world out there called cable TV.

This was never more clear until we had occasion (rare occasion) to share a couple of hotel/condo stays during certain cable TV marathons. The first was a Mythbusters Marathon. My older, science geeky kids (ok, we are all a little science geeky) ate it up. It’s not to say we didn’t leave the hotel room. It’s simply that when we were in the hotel room, we were glued to the TV watching Mythbusters.

Our next marathon was during a condo stay at Lake Tahoe for a family reunion (the one to which I hauled a giant Costco-sized birthday cake from Utah to California so we could properly celebrate Lindsay’s birthday only to drop the cake in the gravel driveway while taking it in from the car. Which meant my ox was in the mire and I had to go to Albertson’s on a Sunday to buy her a new birthday cake. Because if you have to be away from home (read: friends) on your birthday, you at the very least deserve a good birthday cake.). That happened to coincide with an NCIS marathon. OK, not a cable show. But at the time we didn’t watch much TV so we had never seen it. Again, it’s not to say we stayed in to watch, but if we were in, NCIS was on.

True story, I still watch NCIS. I usually close my eyes during the opening segment because I know someone is either going to be murdered or find a dead body and I don’t much want to watch. But the mystery part–even the unrealistic forensics miraculously rendered by the delightful Abby Sciuto in less than 22 minutes–draws me in.

II.
It was during the Lake Tahoe stay I discovered something about myself. I/we crave simplicity/have too much stuff. Shane and the oldest two boys had to leave after the reunion to get back to Utah for youth conference. But I decided to keep the two youngest for the rest of the week (the way my mom’s time share worked, you booked for an entire week) and help my mom drive home.

It was heaven. No clutter. We had maybe a suitcase each which tucked neatly away in our closets. The minimal amount of carpet could be easily vacuumed every day (because, kids). We were down to bare bones in the kitchen, so cooking and therefore messes was simple.

As noted earlier, I rediscovered said love of being unencumbered in 2015 and early 2016 when I had some 7 week-long stays (along with a couple more shorter ones) away from home for work and also went to Finland. The simplicity of having all my possessions reduced to what I can fit in a small carryon and a bright colored backpack is indescribable.

III.
I know I wrote about this before, but it bears repeating. Hotels allow you to be closer to places you could never afford to live.

Two examples.

One: While staying in Alexandria–with just about a 20-minute commute into the city–I relished crossing the river and seeing the monuments each day. “I could live here!” I said.

No. The reality is I could not afford to live anywhere near there. Most of the people I worked with during those weeks–people who make way more money that I do–had anywhere from an hour (by train–it would have been longer driving) or two commute. That’s one way.

Two: There is something to be said of standing in the ocean, bare toes digging into the sand for a foothold against the waves, and washing away your cares at the end of a long day. Also something I could never afford to enjoy every day. But a memory I will hold on to and appreciate forever.

[Day 87 of Ann Dee Ellis’ 8-Minute Memoir.]