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

2005

Back in 2005 a small handful of women of varying ages began blogging. This was before blogs were monetized or made the morning news. Before Facebook and texting and Instagram and Twitter.

Some of our posts were silly. Some were funny. Many skimmed along the surface of our lives. But some were real and raw. And when we had the courage to reveal a true part of ourselves, we began to connect.

Some of us had begun as strangers. Distanced acquaintances several times removed. Friends of a friend. Some were already longtime friends. But our stories build bridges and friendships and a community.

Over the years a couple made names for themselves. Some made money. And a lot more friends. Some of us quit blogging altogether. None of us has time to read blogs so much anymore. In any case, there are now far too many to read.

But for a couple of years there and through a regular look into one another’s daily lives in a way that had previously been unprecedented, we had something special.

Most of us met each other in real life at least once. Some of us got together for lunch once in awhile. We took meals into one friend when she had a new baby. Cried with another when her mom was diagnosed with cancer. And literally screamed full voice in a crowded restaurant when another announced she was by some miracle pregnant after years of broken-hearted infertility.

Eventually we grew apart. The significance of our daily lives diluted in the swelling sea of women blogs and mommy blogs and marketing and monetizing.

Drama tore us apart in ways that we would never have imagined or wished upon ourselves.

Most of us still hung on to the fragments, and loved and supported and connected best we could when swells of pain and sorrow rolled over one or the other of us.

And yet. This week when one of our own was horribly injured in a weight lifting competition and another’s ex husband took his life, I watched us rally. I got messages and texts. Our hearts stretched back out to one another. We checked in. We prayed for each other. And we loved.

And I am reminded the bonds of friendship are not to be taken lightly. Or for granted.

When I hurt someone, parts 1 and 2

Pt. 1: I’ve been avoiding writing this post all day. It pains me just to think about it. Because I seem to have inherited my mother’s empathy, it literally pains me to wound another. While I would never do so intentionally, I have, at times hurt people I love and care about inadvertently. And I’m sorry.

One time that comes to mind is when a friend shared with me a very private family tragedy. She told me to tell no one. Which was not a problem, because as another friend once said, I am a vault.

My mistake, however, was in not realizing that I was this person’s only confidante in this matter. There were two other people with whom this person was close–I dare say even closer than she was with me. So when one of those people asked me where our friend was, I assumed she knew.

She did not know. And my friend was devastated that I had revealed a part of her story. I had inadvertently betrayed her trust. I was devastated that I had betrayed her trust, because trust is something I take very seriously (hence why I am a vault).

This happened many years ago. And this person has remained my friend and put trust in me again. But I will never, ever forget the horrified look on her face or the heavy sick weight in my stomach when I realized what I had done.

Pt. 2: One day when I was just a punk kid, my younger (by only 14 months) sister and I were walking home from school. My mind tends to blend two distinct events into one, but in fact this was one of two incidents when someone was bullying my little sister. I don’t recall which one happened first, but I do know that this one is the one where I stood up and did something about it. (Pretty sure I yelled at the guy in my grade who threw a rock at my sister and hit her in the head, wounding her and causing her to bleed just a little. But yelling seemed sort of passive and ineffectual and makes for a boring story.)

This time we were walking home and a girl–I vaguely remember there was more than one girl in this group of older girls who were bad talking my sister, but only one who became physical and began pushing her around.

Something snapped. I was not going to stand for that. I lit into that girl like someone had shot me out of a gun. And while I imagine we both gave as good as we got, I am neither weak nor frail and I did not hold back.

While I used to embellish this tale with the line “and the construction workers working nearby had to pull me off of her,” the truth is more along the lines of “the nearby construction workers broke up the fight, most likely without laying a hand on either one of us. And we were probably about done pummeling each other anyway.”

I’d like to think this story makes me look good–like a good, protective sister, who would defend her sister to the death. But the truth is like most (but not the good) big sisters I sometimes gave my sister a hard time. And instead of saying “Hey! Nobody picks on my little sister,” what I may really have been saying was “Hey! Nobody picks on my little sister but me!”

[Day 49 of Ann Dee Ellis’ 8-Minute Memoir.]

Leaving

I have issues with the subject of leaving.

I wrote my husband a thank you note in his birthday card when he turned 45 thanking him for sticking around past the age my dad died.

Over the year my mom died, many–even most–of my closest friends moved away from me.

So many people I love–too many–have left the church where we once worshipped together and where we still need them.

In fact, this topic strikes such a nerve with me, I keep deleting my post and looking for a new prompt somewhere.

I do a fairly decent job of staying in an abundance rather than scarcity mindset, except for on the subject of people in my life. And there, past experience tells me I’m going to lose people, and I tend to expect the worst.

And this may go down as possibly the lamest blog post ever, but that’s really all I have to say about leaving.

I’d really rather write about staying.

[Day 44 of Ann Dee Ellis’ 8-Minute Memoir.]

NaBloPoMo November 2016

privilege

Still processing here (apologizing in advance). No real safe place to talk about it in between angry finger pointing in an ever increasing us vs. them world where everyone feels superior in their own sense of being right and extremes where either the sky is falling (perhaps it will) or that their wildest dreams will come true (they will be so disillusioned). So I’m back to trying to understand who and why, even though I feel powerless to do anything about it.

I may or may not have previously referenced Hillbilly Elegy, but what I’ve read about it has been nagging at me, because I am a part of the society that is standing by and doing nothing to help. In any case, these two articles (one which also references Hillbilly Elegy) struck me in different ways today.

One is here: What so many people don’t get about the US working class

And the other can be found here: The real bubble is rural America, where I found this to chew on:

“When you grow up in rural America, denying rights to people is an abstract concept.”

I guess this hit close to home because these are my people. I grew up in rural America. Where I knew no minorities, no marginalized people who needed defending (although in hindsight I’m sure there were silent women who needed defending, but I was too young, too naive to recognize it).

I know what changed me was having the opportunity to get an education and to serve as a missionary in culturally diverse countries where I learned to appreciate and love people of all cultures and religions. And where I first felt the sheer helplessness of watching a man physically abuse a woman in the name of his religion and I knew it was wrong. And I knew that while I was helpless then–still really a girl on a virtually deserted street with no phone to call 911 and no bystanders to rally to assistance (although it is likely at that time and place any effort to do so would have been in vain)–I wouldn’t always be. And I knew I would not be silent.

I know that while I do deal with sexism and unconscious bias, it is nothing next to what others endure every day and becoming aware of my privilege has been a journey accelerated simply by the opportunities I was born with and with which I could have easily been born without.

And so I continue to seek to understand.

NaBloPoMo November 2016

I found my words

apocalypse-now#apocalypsenow

I’m realizing I have a good deal of processing to do and putting words to what’s going on in my heart and my head seems to help.

Often when times get rough, I seek to find a silver lining. When I feel like crying I look for a laugh instead.

Lots of us having to dig deep for that about now. The best I got was tonight when I was checking out with my selection at the “friends and family” sale at the mom & pop outdoor retailer store where my daughter works I finally found my words.

Apocalypse now.

Most of the time I’m too much of a stubborn optimist to really believe that. Yet I can’t dismiss the pain and fear in so many of my friends lives right now.

I’m not the only one resorting to desperate humor.

Today a cousin posted a criticism of some of the more destructive protests going on. His post incited more negativity to which I responded as follows:
“Not to condone, but to be fair, this was a particularly volatile election cycle and violence was likely with either outcome.

I’m only one small voice, but maybe it’s time for both sides seek to understand where people we write off as “other” are coming from and build bridges instead of pointing fingers.”

Too late, I realized my poor word choice when my cousin, who lost all the fingers on his right hand to a saw blade 30 years ago, did me the courtesy of liking my response and reminding me with gentle humor “I do not point fingers.”

Bless him. Bless us all.

NaBloPoMo November 2016

there are few words

screen-shot-2016-11-08-at-11-03-21-pm

I’m shocked and sick to my stomach. I cannot abide by the hate and fearmongering evident in tonight’s election results.

Earlier in this election cycle I posed the idea that those of us who’ve read about the atrocities of World War II and always wondered if we would have had the courage to stand up to hate and evil now had our chance to find out. I still believe that to be true.

In the wake of fear and hate, I’m just going to share a powerful story I listened to in the middle of the night last night when I couldn’t sleep.

I pledge to not be silent. I will continue to work to be an ally. It is all I can do.

Finally, this from a Justin McElroy via Twitter:

“I’m going to wake up and keep trying to do good and so are you and nobody gets to vote on that.”

NaBloPoMo November 2016

God bless Dave

“God bless Dave for his graceful departure,” was Melody’s response to my text informing her of the passing of our friend Dave.

“Amen!” I responded.

Not just for, but from my perspective God blessed Dave with a graceful departure. And thank heaven for that.

Another friend summed it up, “He went on his own terms.”

Certainly he did.

In a blog post from nearly ten years ago, I once compared my feelings about cancer to how the protagonist in Twister felt about tornados.

“You’ve never seen it miss this house, and miss that house, and come after you!”

I’ve watched it hit my house, and then hit this house, and that house, and this house, and that house and then come after my house again.

And once again cancer has snuffed out the mortal life of a good, good man too soon.

Dave has been a friend to our family for well over 15 years. I have lots of stories of how we grew together and of love and support extended and services rendered throughout the years as he has been my family’s home teacher.

But let me just record the most recent.

A few months back I was having a rough day. My heart was heavy at the particular suffering of a few people close to me. The weight of sorrow was a bit overwhelming. I happened to drop a loaf of cinnamon bread by for Jane and Dave. I’m not sure I even talked to Dave, but in my conversation I had mentioned a little of what was weighing on my heart. Jane must have relayed it to Dave, because a little later I got this text:

text

Aside from the fact that someone so entrenched in middle of this years-long battle with cancer spent hard-won energy thinking about me, what touched me most was that Dave remembered. He had clearly paid attention to some tiny detail of my life from not one, but two summers ago. And then he remembered.

Jane and Dave and I went to Yuki the next evening. It was hot. And the heat took its toll on Dave. But he enjoyed his shaved ice. And we made a good memory together.

And I learned an important lesson about paying attention. And remembering.

***********

Speaking of remembering…

Earlier this day as I was driving towards the Stewart home to take some food in for the family and I said out loud even as I remembered. “I owe Dave a key lime pie.” Key lime pie is one of Dave’s favorites. And I do in fact owe him one. I certainly hope they have key limes and sweetened condensed milk in heaven.

NaBloPoMo November 2016

Postscript to my previous post

Let it be known that despite the world seeming (at least to me) a much less kinder, gentler place than I remember as a kid, and the burdens borne much heavier and longer lasting, it’s still a beautiful world.

Even in the midst of the deepest sorrow (someday I will write about the recent experience of losing my mother), I feel joy. Even the midst of tragedy and loss, I see goodness and hope.

I am just as easily brought to tears by the kindness of others and the beauty of this earth as I am by the surrounding pain and suffering. Forever I will be grateful for this wild ride.

Finding words

MomDuring my time with Mom I’ve been having fun going through the shoebox full of old photographs while she’s resting

I stopped writing the day my mother confided to me that she knew her time was short. I knew the truth of her words. It’s not that there were no longer stories to tell, it just became harder to find the right words. And easier to retreat from the reality in the moments it wasn’t staring you down in the face, rather than dig a little deeper into the raw to tell it like it really is.

It became easier to tell the story in pictures (Thanks Instagram), but memory is often fleeting for me and those still-frames in my mind will fade along with the photographs unless I find my words. I need to record some of the bitter as well as the sweet. Lest I forget.

So I will try to find the right words to paint the moments that strike me to the heart throughout this journey.

They won’t be in any particular order – maybe I’ll sort it out later. Maybe I won’t.

***********
I’m standing at her fridge, helping her find room in her freezer for the groceries I just picked up for her after work. Marie Calendar frozen dinners (Mongolian Beef, Turkey Pot Pie, etc). and another year’s supply of Häagen-Dazs (white chocolate raspberry truffle, vanilla swiss almond, milk chocolate almond covered ice cream bars) and Ben & Jerry’s Cherry Garcia. (note to self: write Häagen-Dazs a thank you note. She came to love you late, but I’m pretty sure you added months of quality and life to her shortened time here as your ice cream became the one thing that always sounded good to her.)

She mentioned her obituary, which I had offered at the middle of the summer to write for her. Her words caught in her throat and tears welled up in her usually sparkling eyes,

“I feel my time is running out.”

Sensing her fear for the first time at this stage of the battle – she has fought bravely and stoically this whole time – I looked her in the eyes.

“You will not go this alone. And there will be a sweet reunion. I know this.”

“I will have to trust your knowing.”

I hugged her, no longer able to fight back my own tears.

“You have been holding this in. You don’t need to carry this alone. We are here for you. You need to talk to us.”

“I’m not holding it in.”

“Look me in the eyes. You are holding this in.”

I hugged her again, then we turned back to fitting the Häagen-Dazs ice cream bars into the packed freezer. It was easier to move on.

***********
Last Friday the hospice nurse brought up the hospital bed. There was resistance. She knows what that means. We know what that means as well. It’s time for round-the-clock care. Her sister, my Aunt Jean, has been there this week. My SIL D’Dee and I schedule the weekend until my sister, Jayne Anne is set to arrive Wednesday. D’Dee and I tag team the weekend until I get sick and D’Dee has to go solo.

Häagen-DazD’Dee sends a fuzzy cell phone picture of Mom with her ice cream (which she was still holding when she later fell asleep)

Mom:

“I am amazed at how things come together. Ready or not, here it comes.”

***********

(note to self: someday recount the game of telephone that was played as we tried to run interference for Mom to reduce the number of incoming texts and calls that were overwhelming her. Nurses orders: reduce stimulus, help her simplify her life.)

As Saturday night draws late and Sunday morning draws near, ideas pop into my head of ways we can simplify and shorten Mom’s bedtime routine – both for her and for her caregivers. Sunday morning is the first fall. Mom’s legs gave out from under her. It’s a good thing she still has some upper body strength, because I can barely get her upright again. I couldn’t have done it if she weren’t helping. First I say a prayer of thanks I was here – falls have been our worst fear, particularly as Mom has insisted she continue living in her home alone. Next I wonder what I would have done had she not been able to help a little. I wonder what D’Dee would have done if Mom had fallen on her watch. “We need a short list of neighbors we could call,” I think to myself. We take the door off the bathroom. I run home long enough to shower and find a ward I can join long enough to take the sacrament and then head back out to Mom’s. Until D’Dee comes to take the night shift. Later that night I realize I’m coming down with something. Worst possible time. We’ve only just begun and things are about to get more difficult. I do everything in my power to fight it. Monday morning there is another fall. The hospital bed becomes mandatory and a wheelchair is recommended. Resistance is futile. Hard reality checks are coming by the day now. Both are delivered on Tuesday.

Acceptance juxtaposed with denial. Mom talks freely and specifically about her wishes for “after.” Yet says things like “My drivers license expires on my birthday (Jan 31, 2015). I hope the swelling in my cheeks goes down before I have to get my picture taken.” and worries over whether she canceled the long-term health policy too soon (warning – read the small print. Waiting through 90 days of helplessness before becoming eligible for the help you’ve been paying for isn’t so helpful with cancer). Sad truth, she doesn’t have three months. We are down to weeks. Even as I type this and knowing what I’ve witnessed this week, it is difficult to accept.

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Week before last (out of order, I know) my SIL told me Mom said, “I hope I make it until Christmas. I would really like to have some carrot (steamed) pudding Dalene makes every year.” That Saturday I let go of some of the cleaning and took the time to mix up a batch. She was on bedrest that weekend due to the fluid seeping out of her swollen legs and D’Dee and I were taking her meals in.

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Shirley'sPhotobombed by my friend and foundation, lady Timpanogos who was brilliant at such an early hour

Yesterday I got up and dragged my still-sick self to Shirley’s bakery at 6:45 am. Thanksgiving dinner at Mom’s is a go and since I am sick I won’t be baking pies, but have been assigned to bring the rolls. Shirley’s are not only the best, they are Mom’s favorite. But I found out Tuesday afternoon that you have to start ordering them in October and they stopped taking orders three weeks ago. First come first served when the doors open at 7. There is already a line when I arrive well before 7. Bug hugs and special love for the sweet beautiful woman – younger than I – who shed a tear for my mom and hers (whose last Thanksgiving was last Thanksgiving) as we shared a tiny piece of our stories while we stood in line together. And for the kind woman ahead of us who lost her dad this past year. The consensus “Holidays are hard.” I love a stranger who will share a piece of her soul with me.

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That’s enough for today. Except two images I wish never to forget. One I caught the after effects on camera, the other I did not, so I rely on memory. There is nothing like watching the process of going from the blank look of surprise, to recognition, and then the mixture of tears and a big joyful smile as a loved one surprises Mom with a visit. This spring it was Aunt Jean, who braved the long solo trip from her mission in Hong Kong to see my Mom at a time we were afraid she wouldn’t make it until Jean came home in June. She has fought hard and long past June and continued to surpise us all with her strength. Then again last late November night as my baby brother and his family walked in after driving straight here from Idaho. Pure joy. Families are forever!