the beach (although, where i come from, we call it the coast)

You already know how I feel about the ocean

Gritty sand sticking between my toes
The way sand sucks at and holds your feet to the earth stronger than simple gravity
Crashing waves
Earthy salt spray taste in your mouth
Power
Energy
Serenity
Insignificance
Yet also, somehow, significance
Memories
The warm (some days, anyway) comfort of sand
Rugged
Cold
Cool
The way even after a long hard day at work standing in cool waves with your eyes closed refreshes and energizes not just the body, but the soul
Seagulls
Sea lions
Rocks
Sand dollars
Shells
Seaweed
Starfish
Jellies
Coral
Steady
Ageless
Eternal

[Day 199 of Ann Dee Ellis’ 8-Minute Memoir.]

my people

and the next generation begets a new generation. james’ tiny hand holding lyla’s tinier hand is everything

stalling while i’m trying to decide how honest to be. but this is my space so let’s just see where it takes us.

yesterday was, like most of life, complicated. it was good and beautiful, but it wasn’t perfect. i’m not talking about the food. (the food–even with the gravy fails–which story i will tell later–was good, but it’s not about the food. it’s about the people.) yesterday was full of good and full of sweetness, but to keep it real, there were also moments of carelessness, sharpness, and ingratitude from people who know well enough to choose better, that worry and that sting, even amidst so much goodness, kindness, helpfulness, and gratitude. i’ll leave it at that. because the truth is, this mortal world and its mortal people are not without briars. what is left to us is to choose to acknowledge the reality of their presence but spend more effort appreciating the roses growing from them.

my people.

siblings:
my siblings’ whereabouts could be traced, as per usual, across three neighboring states. my only sister and her husband brought her boys down to utah this year to open her oldest’s mission call and gather with her in-laws. my oldest brother’s wife just welcomed her parents home from a mission back east and had their first holiday together in over a year. two of my brothers gathered in idaho with friends over a 25-pound home-grown turkey one of them provided. my remaining brother’s family gathered in friends who have been down on their luck and celebrated the day at their home in oregon. even though we were not together, and don’t traditionally get together for holidays, our thoughts were drawn toward each other during the day. there has been an increase of that since we lost my mom, and i’m grateful that each one of them makes an effort to keep us connected, even in small and simple ways, such as the occasional text message.

it took some effort, but most of my immediate people gathered together with shane’s dad and many of his siblings and some of their offspring in duchesne for our first holiday without shane’s mom. as I sat for a minute in the hogan–its first time empty on that day since i can remember–before walking across the rough path now worn between the hogan and shane’s youngest brother and his wife’s home next door–i considered the role of matriarch and the truth of the matter that if you feed them, they will come. i remembered the years working with barbara in the kitchen as the men and kids went for their traditional drive up in the mountains and how barbara wore herself out on that day (and many others, to be sure) preparing food as an invitation–that could not be refused–for the family to gather. i thought of my paternal grandmother, who for years–well after the family grew so large in number for it to be prohibitive–insisted the extended family gather for either a thanksgiving or christmas meal together. and we did. while that tradition eventually ceased, i’m sure the annual gathering in the summer for the rex reunion was also at her hands.

and now the torch was passed. instead of spending the morning alone with barbara in her kitchen, i spent time with toni both at her kitchen and back at barbara’s (it will always be barbara’s kitchen). toni’s daughter madison made rolls–impressive anyway at her age, but especially in the quantity the day required–while i made sour cream lemon pie and simmered the giblets for the traditional (my mom’s recipe, passed down from the red and white plaid of better homes & gardens) turkey stuffing. then back over to barbara’s for the chopping of onion and celery, as toni’s two ovens would be kept full with turkey and rolls (while the smoker outside handled more turkey). the other sisters–teresa and gini–both busy in their own kitchens.

like hens to their chickens and ducks to their ducklings, mothers are gatherers. i know this. we all know this. but yesterday i felt it keenly and was determined to continue to keep feeding people when and how I can. being together in this way build memories and strengthens bonds that extend through generations.

children:
because our day for the people pictured above is actually thanksgiving 2.0, i don’t worry over us not being all together for thursday thanksgiving proper. but that doesn’t mean i don’t think about all my children, wherever they are.

relationships are worth it, but complicated. perhaps rough edges and bumps are more keenly felt with one’s own children because one somehow feels responsible (did i not teach them better)? perhaps we are more willing to make allowances for others’ agency–even our own hard-fought–but struggle with this more, somehow fearing lesser choices may be a reflection of our own imperfections?

in any case, i’m grateful for and hold to reminders of a lesson learned a long time ago: step back and look at the person. i know their hearts. they are good people, even when they sometimes forget to be good to each other or to their parents. remembering this softens the occasional sting. eventually.

perhaps it is good to remember my people are god’s people. they are loved infinitely and beyond. as am i. i have made my imperfect offering as a mother and they remain, as they always have been, in god’s hands. my job is to love. and to keep trying. and to work every day to overcome weaknesses and build strengths. to take the goodness i was given and raised with and become better. something i can only do with god’s love.

husband:
i didn’t see it until this morning, but this simple text from my husband means the world:

“i’m thankful for a good wife.”

i am thankful for a husband who is a good man.

perhaps a significant part of this mortal life while we are here with our people on this earth striving toward godliness is simply about learning to be content with and even grateful for goodness. to let ourselves and those we love be good enough even while we continue to learn and grow together.

[Day 198 of Ann Dee Ellis’ 8-Minute Memoir.]

Happy Thanksgiving!

Turkey day was a little bittersweet today as we bid farewell to a familiar and much-loved ritual and moved our feast from the hogan to the welcoming home next door. Grandma Rowley’s presence was missed, and not just on account of the gravy fails (long but funny story). Thank you so much Toni and Brandon for bringing us together. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! May all your days be full of good food, family, and friends.

random thoughts

Sweet memories of Thanksgiving past

This morning I got up early (well ok, I’m always up early, but I went OUT early) to get my oil changed and asked our mechanic what maintenance I needed to do now my car has rolled over 100,000 miles. I figured I should start saving now and take care of it at the new year. The big ticket item was the timing belt, which, along with the other items, will put the bill up close to $1000. “Yikes! That will hit me right when I’m paying for Christmas and getting ready to take a hit for taxes! I thought to myself.”

As I was leaving the owner’s son walked me out and we got to talking about it and he asked me what year my car was. “Depends on the year, but some of them have a timing chain instead of a timing belt.”

He popped the hood, and sure enough. Mine has a timing chain.

“Merry Christmas to me!” I said.

Maintenance should run me about $150-200.

Whew! And thank you!

***********

Gassed up on the way home, cleaned my windows–at least the important ones–inside and out, then came home and decided to make use of the far too nice and warm for November–especially this late in November–weather and clean out my car.

Got the Folex out and cleaned the seats, for which Scotch Guard offered little protection. Got the Clorox wipes out and cleaned the surfaces and many (but not all) the nook and crannies. Nook and crannies in cars are the literal WORST!

Now I’m ready for a short ride out for Thanksgiving dinner, I thought!

Then Shane reminded me we are taking the truck.

Ah well. My car is now ready for a little road trip I get to take to Bryce Canyon next week for work.

***********

Now I’m off to pack up recipes and ingredients for the only two things I need to bring to Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow: Stuffing and 1 pie.

I won’t know what to do with myself with so little to bring. (Besides be grateful, of course.)

Nor do I have any idea how much stuffing to make for 40 people. Many people do not eat stuffing. Will a 9×13 do? A crockpot full?

I guess we’ll see.

I’m spoiled by the “loaves and the fishes” type magic (written about here before) that always made Barbara’s family feasts turn out with just the right amount of food, even for 40 or 50+.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours wherever you are. May you have plenty of food and plenty of love enough to go around and then some. Thank you for reading my little random and oft rambling corner of the world wide web.

Post Edit: Despite this being the first year of the quantities being calculated by the inexperienced Next Generation, the “loaves and fishes” karma was strong, we ran out of nothing, and there were leftovers. Whew!

misc.

One day I would like to try my hand at a short story. Or two. I enjoy reading short stories and think it would be fun to write one.

An idea came to mind one day a couple years back on a day where an interaction with a particular coworker left me feeling a little frustrated or, in colloquial terms, stabby. As I was texting said person in an attempt to resolve the situation, the knife emoji–or, as I like to refer to it–the stabby emoji–appeared in the middle of a word mid-sentence. Fortunately I caught it and deleted the emoji before sending the text, but I was left a little startled.

I have never, in my life, used the stabby emoji. I knew it was there. I’m not sure, however, I even knew where to find it. But somehow it was there in my short rows of “recently used” emojis and it popped up, unbidden, in my text to said coworker.

I started to imagine a world where we were so synched with our devices that predictive text (which I only just turned on and most of the time forget to use) evolved into something deeper and our true feelings expressed themselves in emojis in our day-to-day conversations with others.

I could think of a few scenarios where that might make things interesting.

In any case, to this day I’ve had occasion where emojis popup unbidden (my favorite is when you mean to hit the smiley and your chubby fingers send the heart emoji–oops!), but since I generally at least try to think kind thoughts, nothing so sharp as that one time before.

That said, I’m still not sure how random emojis I have never used pop up in my recently used selection.

What if while I am sleeping random texts are somehow sent out into the void full of unexpressed emoji?

a moment

so many moments that take my breath away during my short commute to work and that still, even 4 1/2 years later, make me stop, turn around, and go back to try to capture and hold on to it

If you could pick one moment that could be bottled like a scent.

I’m greedy. I want them all.

The moment–all the moments–smooshing my nose deep into damp-dried tousled toddler tow-heads–one. two. three. four–at the end of a long day.

The crisp crunch crunch crunch of fall oranges, reds, and yellows underfoot. They somehow sound not unlike the crunch of denim sliding deeper into a leather saddle with every stride of a good horse.

The feel of the sun on my face on a drive as the earth thaws from the bleak midwinter, springing into early summer.

Knowing. Deep belonging knowing of truth penetrating resonating, simply stating, “I am not new. You knew me from before.”

Petrichor. Heavy grey, blue, green, skies dark from a good storm. Mountain mists. Rain on my face on my nose and eyelashes.

The moment a long-forgotten Oregon mint field symbolizing home and my whole family before we lost my dad comes back to mind and heart fresh like yesterday when I catch the brief earthy aroma while driving through farmland in Idaho.

Arrivals. The first moments each child–one. two. three. four–and grandchild–one. two–was set into my open arms and heart as if we’d been waiting for eternity to reconnect. And that way your already-full heart has room enough for all.

[Day 197 of Ann Dee Ellis’ 8-Minute Memoir.]

courage

courage is my friend meridith, come back from the brink of death, or maybe even just a little bit past the brink, and enduring, loving, giving, carrying on, turning it over to God, remembering every. single. person. brother. sister. child. on their birthdays.

courage is my mother, Janet, who started chemo the same day she met with the oncologist after hearing the words, “you have cancer,” then, acquiescing to the killing drip just hours later, without even time to think. and then again began another round the monday after hearing the chilling words “your cancer is back,” again without time to think or feel.

courage is my mother-in-law, Barbara, who beat breast cancer and then kept moving forward, usually in pain, and then bravely went into back surgery, not knowing she would not wake up.

courage is a tiny baby girl born too soon, but living, learning, eating, growing, never complaining, even though the world outside was not nearly as comforting quiet, warm and quiet and her world inside. the tender grasp of tiny fingers around a loving digit extended from those of us loving, praying.

courage is the mothers, so many mothers, risking all to house and grow another child, fully knowing they will, at some point, become so sick to the brink of death. and then do it again a few years later. and then again.

courage is my friend pam, paralyzed since high school, who gets up each day and, with the help of an aide, out of bed. who shops and cooks and cleans for herself since her mother died, fiercely as independent as she possibly can be and more than most of us could imagine.

courage is so many friends and some family who, at least on most days, push through pain, the heavy, hopeless darkness of depression, to get themselves out of bed to face another day.

courage is a refugee girl whose story i heard on npr, or maybe ted, who watched as grown men gave up and let go of whatever life-saving flotation they could grab when their boat was sunk by wicked, hateful men. who watched as the love of her life said goodbye and let go. who bravely, possibly numbly, took the baby another woman–a stranger–pushed into her arms, begging her to save her, before letting go. who hung on to her own salvaged flotation. hung on to the baby. hung on to her life. and made a new one in a land unknown, having lost all but her soul and a stranger’s baby.

courage have i not, as i turn away and refuse to look at the body of the boy in the red shirt, washed up on the beach. as i only take in one face, one story at a time, when there are hundreds, thousands, tends of thousands more.

[Day 196 of Ann Dee Ellis’ 8-Minute Memoir.]

this is real life

Wedding in Payson at 9:30am.

Family funeral in Midway at 11:00am. Followed by a graveside, then a family dinner.

Two-hour window in between to help Zack make and bake pies for his ward dinner tomorrow (along with some for our dinner, because why not?!). Shane did the Costco run with Lindsay. His sister from New Mexico stopped by, as she was up for the funeral.

My nephew opened his mission call at 5:30 in Cedar Hills. He’s going to Costa Rica!

Shane ran into one of the two wedding receptions we’d been invited to tonight. He had less than five minutes, because we had to be to stake conference at

7:00pm. Full two hours and then some with a general authority from Fiji.

Joy. Sorry. Laughter. Tears. Love. Loss. Hellos. Goodbyes. Life.

Dear Natalie

My husband’s cousin Natalie died this week. She would have been 45 years old on New Year’s Day. We don’t know how she died. Her father said she died of a broken heart.

And we believe him.

Natalie has a special place in my heart. Because her family lived in Heber, Shane and I would often stop by their house on our frequent trips to Duchesne and back. So I remember watching her grow up during her teenage years. She was one of four delightful girls and we very much enjoyed watching them grow into beautiful, strong women. It was harder to keep in touch when our visits became less frequent as our own family grew, and then her family moved away. But Natalie stayed in the Heber Valley.

Natalie had a vibrant, sunny smile, a great sense of humor, courage, strength, and a huge heart. She kept getting up every time life beat her down–and beat her down it did, over and over again. And oh how she loved her boys. They were her heart.

Natalie suffered from painful, difficult, and mysterious health problems that took forever to diagnose and properly treat. During this time she ended up in Provo quite a bit in the hospital near my home. I would go visit Natalie, hoping to cheer her up, but she was always the one doing the cheering. Even when she suffered in horrible pain, Natalie was gracious, grateful for my visit, and always left me feeling better for having spent time with her.

One day I was traveling through Midway and stopped to get some gas. To my great surprise Natalie happened by at the same time and we got to visit a little bit. It was a simple thing, but it made my day. I recall visiting her at her house a time or two and then, as her health improved, I only saw her occasionally at the family reunions.

We kept in touch on Facebook after that, but eventually I missed her presence there, and I didn’t really know how she was doing. It’s been awhile since I saw her. And we had just missed her at the last family reunion.

Her father said they found Natalie snuggled up in her bed with a look of content on her face. My greatest hope for her is respite from her pain and peace in her heart.

I feel so grateful for what I can only call her friendship–even though we were kin. But also some regret. I was a friend to her when she came to Provo, or was on Facebook, or when we saw each other again at the family reunion. But I wish I had reached out to her wherever she was in the last couple of years when, it appears, she retreated, and it wasn’t so easy to find her.

As we left the viewing tonight, I recalled how each one of Natalie’s sisters had, independently, and in their own time of mourning I cannot imagine, offered me words of comfort.

“Natalie really loved you.”

Dear Natalie, I hope you know how much I love you, too.

Rest in peace, dear cousin. Till we meet again.

bedtime

Favorite young mom moment – smooshing my nose into soft tow-heads sniffing in the cleanness of freshly bathed toddlers, willing the scent and sensation to sear itself into my mother-heart memories, for I knew, even on the longest of days, it would fade too quickly.

Like the washing off of dirt and sweat from a busy day, the bath and bedtime ritual seemed to wash away any faults of the day as well, and leaving clean fresh full hearts in its wake.

So tired, though. My kids never missed a beat when I would fall asleep first, slurring the words of their favorite bedtime stories mid-page.

Sleep is my favorite. Filling up the reservoir and strapping on the mask of my CPAP. Snuggling down into my blankets–for I’ve somehow lost the cover of my old, patchy comforter and am currently making do with a small soft pastel quilt made with love for me on my 50th birthday, topped by a cream waffle-weave summer blanket. I curl up on my left side–which has always been my favorite, and turn on a TED Talk down low in order to distract my brain from the worries of the day or the ever-running and always overdue to-do list in my head.

I can fall asleep in five minutes and relish a bread from the buzzing of monkeys in my brain and the relentless background buzz zzz-ing through my head these days. It’s brief but delicious respite from aches and pains of the joints and of the heart.

Staying asleep is the trick. Once I wake up, it takes awhile. Last night it took me 3 TED Talks and at least 50 minutes into a TED Radio Hour podcast. And then I woke up again a couple hours later.

Oh well. Sleep is still a sweet oblivion, even if brief.

Goodnight.

[Day 195 of Ann Dee Ellis’ 8-Minute Memoir.]