plain simple help

Since I am still in recovery on week 8 of what I expected to be a 6-week recovery, said recovery is still very much on my mind. Here are some things people said to me that encouraged me and made me feel better. (And let me tell you, this experience has been humbling. I can think of few times when I have needed encouragement more.)

1. I was talking to my friend Jane about operating from a place of fear. Like me, Jane has knee issues and has a serious knee surgery or two under her belt. I am generally not a fearful person, so I’ve been frustrated with myself for being so fearful, as well as puzzled by why this experience has been so different. Jane said, “It’s because we are older and we’ve been through a few things. We know how much time it takes to heal and we just don’t have time to go through it again.”

One, it felt good to know I was not alone. Two, coming to an understanding of something feels better, even when it doesn’t change things.

2. I did not bounce back from this as quickly as I expected and found my strength and my stamina nowhere what it was during my ACL surgery 14 years ago. My friend Cyndi and I were discussing the humbling effects of aging and the experience of finding yourself physically weak, when you are generally accustomed to being strong. Cyndi just finished training for occupational therapy, and has a lot of experience rehabbing people in a facility. She reassured me I was strong enough. “You’re stronger than you think. I’ve had a number of patients your age who were not strong enough to be released to recover at home.”

A perspective from someone with a broader experience than my limited one helped me be more grateful for the strength I did have.

3. Strength and stamina round 2. Still frustrated, I was lamenting over the effects of my desk job to my brother. (Again, comparing myself now to myself 14 years ago.) He too had another perspective. “I do physical labor.” (He is an electrician, but also now runs a small ranch primarily by himself.) “I have noticed a difference in my muscle mass just in the last 5 years.”

Hearing understanding and empathy was just what I needed to not feel this was somehow my fault.

4. My friend Vonda Gren told me emphatically in church on the first Sunday I was able to return, “I pray for you every day!”

And so it was when a physical therapist came knocking at my door later that evening and I heard a voice in my head say, “This is a direct answer to a prayer,” I knew exactly whose prayer it was.


The gist of it is this.

Listen. Connect. Love.

Help, plain and simple.

[Day 156 of Ann Dee Ellis’ 8-Minute Memoir.]

things I do that annoy people

monkey photo credit: Syed Ikhwan (

I leave cupboard doors open, lose my keys regularly and my phone often, repeat myself sometimes when I’m trying to explain something or feel passionate about something, but perhaps my most annoying trait is that I like to be right. This is not in a proud or an “I’m better than you” way, it’s simply in an “I’m passionate about my convictions” and a “truth matters” or “words matter” way.

Unfortunately, the expression of my convictions and my desire for truth and understanding are often misconstrued. And painfully, the fact that I recognize this in myself and consciously try to tone it down and let it go is often lost on the people who are the most annoyed by me.

I still recall and inwardly recoil over moments in my youth and my past in which I failed to let something go. But I’m also aware of a number of times I stopped myself and walked away, yet the effort went unnoticed. Perhaps it is easier to notice the presence of an irritant than the absence of it?

True I deserve demerits or detention for every time I needed to have the last word. But I also would hope the scale could be balanced if at least just a little for every time I let someone say “irregardless” without correction, bit my tongue clear through while people praised a leader I’ve witnessed painfully disrespect nearly every minority group I can imagine and, in recent months, display a disassociation from the truth–yet defended those same people from the other side that derides them.

And all those times I’ve carefully worked to discern what is worth speaking up for and what is not.

What do you do?

You keep trying every day.

[Day 97 of Ann Dee Ellis’ 8-Minute Memoir.]

Things I buy


I’ve been a bit stuck on this prompt. I guess I’m not the shopper many seem to be. Retail therapy generally–but not always–is lost on me. Although I do love to buy a good book now and then.

In any case, Saturdays are generally shopping days, and my husband usually asks for a Costco list and a Macey’s list. The Costco list almost always includes milk, “berries if good,” and a roasted chicken. I once had him pick up the raw chicken and roasted my own and that’s when I noticed the price is the same for a raw chicken as a roasted chicken and since then my life is much easier by having the meat from a Costco rotisserie chicken in my fridge on a weekly basis.

The Macey’s list always begins with “small green bananas.” It used to read “greenish,” but now he knows what I mean. Small because no one ever eats a whole banana. Too much sugar. But those tiny short ones–when you can get them–are the perfect serving size.

Sometimes when I’m asking for something new I have to Google and image of it and text it too him. Yes, we are so spoiled in this day and age in more ways than we can count.

Generally my Sunday dinner menu (sadly, I’m not one of those wise women who has her entire menu planned the whole week –or even the whole month–out) is based on the following conversation, which works best with a fully charged phone battery:

Call or text me when you get to the meat aisle.

What’s on sale?

It’s all for sale.

(Halfhearted hahaha.)

Then commences a run down of the price-per-pound for either a shoulder (or cross rib) roast, boneless chicken breasts (much less often now that Macey’s stopped selling their hand-trimmed boneless chicken breasts for around $2-2.50/lb), pork chops, or a pork roast. If I’m desperate I ask for the Family Pack of 80-20% ground beef, but I just learned they don’t sell that anymore.

When prices are high–or, as I say–ridiculous–and I’m lucky, I’ll go downstairs and find a frozen uncooked meatloaf in the freezer and have him pick up potatoes.

Of late two standards on the list are also

“Whatever Kyle will eat,” and

“What Lindsay* needs.”

*Lindsay is now essentially a vegetarian and now an almost-vegan. (She still eats eggs.)

Perhaps my life would be easier if there were things I always kept on hand. But as I said, I have an aversion to planning. Maybe I’ll write about that another day.

In the meantime, I’m grateful my husband generally has time to go to Costco on Saturdays and enjoys doing his home teaching at Macey’s on a Saturday night. I used to wonder why it took him two hours to do the grocery shopping and then one time he was out of town and I had to go myself and ran into so many of my neighbors (Saturday is a special day it’s the day we get ready for Sunday) I needed to visit with for a few minutes it took me two hours too.

Bonus round: If I had to make a list of non-food essentials to never be without, it would include the following:
Charmin’ extra strength toilet paper
Brawny paper towels
Puffs with lotion facial tissues (can’t call them Kleenex because they are the wrong brand)
Trader Joe’s lemon kitchen liquid soap and lavender liquid soap (for bathrooms)
Altoids wintergreen minds (of course I meant “mints,” but I’m imagining the world with wintergreen minds and it’s a refreshing thought)
NyQuil Severe Cold and Flu and Airborne (for emergencies only)
and a good herbal tea.

If money (and calories) were no object I’d also keep my house stocked with the following:
Fresh flowers
Artisan bread
Artisan cheese
Pebble ice

The end.

[Day 77 of Ann Dee Ellis’ 8-Minute Memoir.]


www.justinhackworth.comThis is Halloween/Sweet Baby James – photo by Justin Hackworth

Yesterday I dressed up for Halloween as Waldo of “Where’s Waldo” fame and went to work. I was the only one in my office who dressed up and it didn’t bother me one bit. Although our dean (whose office is in my hangar) did dress up long enough to attend the potluck I went to for Utah Fire and Rescue Academy, and another Waldo was present at said lunch, so I was not entirely an outlier. As you may have guessed, I love me a good Halloween.

I have no photos of my two favorite Halloween costumes (hence the gratuitous cute grandbaby pic), but I will forever remember them in my mind.

My sophomore year at BYU I was roommates with Janelle Jorgensen. She remains one of my favorite roommates of all time. She had two brothers with her at school and they were all spontaneous and hilarious and up for anything. That Halloween we were all going to a party and we decided to collaborate on a costume. We went as a one giant mess of a ghost. Three heads joined by one body. Looking back I have no idea how we actually did it. I’m sure they don’t make sheets large enough for the three of us. But we pulled it off and it was fun, if for no other reason than the company.

Also while at BYU I worked at the BYU Bookstore. The Bookstore always had an employee costume contest and the the grand prize was twenty-five dollars. Back in the day, twenty-five dollars was some serious cash.

Since the original film had recently come out, I decided to be a ghostbuster. It wasn’t terribly hard. I rounded up some sort of camo gear. One of my roommates at that time worked for a green house and had one of those fancy hazmat-type respirators, which she was happy to lend to me. I took an industrial looking backpack and rigged it up with a vacuum hose or two and wore the respirator and a hard hat and I looked like I meant business.

Such serious business, I won the costume contest and was very happy to take home the $25.

Since then I’ve been satisfied with the less obvious. Recent (but not all-time) favorites include a serial killer, one of the Black-Eyed Peas, a Neon Tree (which was supposed to amuse because two of my coworkers at that time were close friends with members of the band), and a Freudian slip.

Hmmm. I know it’s 364 days away, but I wonder what I will come up with for next year.

[Day 33 of Ann Dee Ellis’ 8-Minute Memoir.

Also, today is the first of November. It’s been awhile since I have done it justice with any sort of serious attempt, but since I’m somewhat in the habit anyway, I will see how I do with NaBloPoMo.]

NaBloPoMo November 2016


I wrote a great post for this. It was raw and real and beautiful. I know I hit publish, but even if I didn’t, I could have sworn–in fact I know because even now I see the “Draft saved at 8:54:28pm at the bottom of this page that drafts autosaved.. But my photos wouldn’t load. So I quit my browser and went out of the post. And when I came back in an empty text box was staring me in the face.

It’s gone.

I lack the energy to try again.

What was intended to be Day 24 of Ann Dee Ellis’ 8-Minute Memoir.]

For Luke, on his birthday

One of my brothers and his family were in town unexpectedly over the weekend. All of my kids (and grandbaby!) were here, along with those adopted in from across the country and those attached to them. One of my sister-in-laws was also here with my niece and nephew, so it seemed like a good time to get everyone together for homemade ice cream.

We totaled twenty some. Sprawled across furniture throughout the tiny living room. I meant to let the overflow spill out onto the front lawn, but we were loosely cohered together and couldn’t be drawn down another floor and out the door.

As I watched clusters of cousins and aunts and uncles and in-laws, I caught snatches of various engaging conversations. I noticed my brother Keith’s hands as he reached out to grab Heather’s. He has Dad’s hands, I realized. I’d forgotten how big and strong Dad’s hands were. They are work hands. Helping hands. Saving hands.


I was just a kid. No one was near. My parents were on the beach and my siblings scattered along the shallow shoreline. It was still shallow enough where I was. Surf crashed gently against my waist as I walked away from the shore, out towards infinite blue. I must have hit a hole, as before I knew it was head over heels under, chest clamoring for oxygen, saltwater stinging my eyes, having lost all sense of direction and how to right myself. “This must be what it feels like to drown.”

Out of seemingly nowhere–I am certain no one was near me when I fell–a strong hand yanked me out of the water just as I reflexively gasped for breath. Dad righted me and steadied me on nearer, firmer ground.


Today a text from Jon. Ever since I got word of the divorce I’ve felt compelled to go see him. To wrap my arms around him in a big hug. To do something, anything, to help. This weekend I finally have a chance to drive to Idaho to lend him a hand as he settles into his small, 60-year-old ranch house.

“Just your luck to have the vet schedule to come over Friday to vaccinate the little ones and castrate the two bull calves.”

“That will bring back memories,” I replied.


I was a gangly teenager. For whatever reason my brothers were unavailable that particular day. So Dad came looking for me when he finally decided it was time to castrate the overgrown Angus bull calves. Though still calves, they were heavy, powerful, and not inclined to be messed with. The first procedure seemed to go off without a hitch. Dad pinned it down and moved over as I replaced him, kneeling over the calf to hold it in place while Dad wielded snippers. It was more difficult than it looked, and by the time we got to the second calf, my quad muscles were burning. The second proved more complicated and by the time Dad was finished the now steer was angry and my legs were numb. I couldn’t move. I willed myself to get up and get out of the way of the kicking hooves, but nothing happened.

Once again, a pair of strong hands reach down and I found myself yanked out of harm’s way.

Happiest place on earth


Words will have to come another day. But for now I’ll just say I hope I never grow so old that Disneyland doesn’t make me scream at Thunder Mountain, get giddy over Indiana Jones, giggle at Goofy, and take the racing portion of Radiator Springs Racing VERY seriously.

Also, sunshine IS good for the soul!

apple – tree


Yeah. I know that most girls are horrified at the thought they are somehow like their mothers (so shhh. Don’t tell!), but I found this throwback while sifting through some old photos and couldn’t resist the side-by-side! I totally stole the other photo off Facebook ages ago and it’s what I see every time my daughter calls me on the phone. Because I love everything about it. And unlike the photo of me, which is so staged. This one is so real. And so very much Lindsay.

We share a lot of similar characteristics and maybe that’s what makes us butt heads now and then. But I admire her heart and her strength and her sense of self. I also love her energy and the way she goes after the things she loves to do. It’s a wild ride with a bit of sass but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

of good report

One of the great things about having kids is that your family expands exponentially when they start bringing home friends. I love having them in my home. They make me laugh. Sometimes they make me cry. They bring this wonderful energy into our lives. And we love them like they were our own.

Here are a couple of great things some of our favorite “adopted” kids are doing right now. It’s so great to see them take a chance, really go after something the want and love, and make it happen. I wish them the best success!


Finding rainbows

taste the rainbow

I love walking across the ramp every morning. Today was a little eerie because the fleet was all locked up tightly in the hangar due to expected high winds. (Undesired lift can get a little crazy.) But generally the quiet days are the best.

I also love a good storm. I was at peace bracing for it as I walked along, appreciating the darkening clouds. Then I saw it! A subtle hint of a rainbow. Can you see it? Just to the right of the tower. I quickly snapped a shot of it and then hurried to my office.

Before too long I was mired in the seemingly impossible challenges of a particular project, whose details don’t matter. And then I got word of a young friend of mine whose four young children lost their father unexpectedly last night. Suddenly the day darkened, as I couldn’t get her and her family out of my mind. I felt the darkness of their hour and the weight of sorrow on my heart all through the day. I feel it still.

But I keep coming back to that rainbow. I remembered how during the darkest days of this past year there was always a rainbow, a sunset, a perfect (in the good sense of the word) storm, or heartfelt encouraging words from a friend reaching out at just the right time. A hint of light against the darkness. Even when I had to look for it.

I hope my friend and her family will see rays of hope, in whatever form they take. And that light will cut through even their darkest days.