Lawn mowers

To this day I love that fresh green smell of newly clipped grass. I think that’s why the whole wheat grass juice craze appealed to me back in the day. It was the flavor of fresh mown lawn.

I remember when we lived in the Junction City house we eventually had the use of a John Deere riding lawn mower to use to cut the grass. (Not that any of us kids hadn’t already done our time pushing a push mower before. I even recall pushing one of those old non-electric lawn mowers–I think they are called reel or push reel mowers a few times.) Dad would often hire out us kids to take a turn mowing the lawn at his work–Fischer Implement Store in Harrisburg. That was a nice neat square lawn and much easier to mow than our backyard, which contained a number of tall fruit trees to circle around.

The mowing part is fun. As long as I can mulch the grass. I have mixed feelings about messily digging my hands through the warm sticky sweet wet clippings every time I have to change the bag.

I used to be afraid of killing the engine when I had negotiate choke and throttle. Looking back, I’m sure it was simply the risk of not being competent to which I am to this day adverse.

A sidestep is on order to steer clear of another, less positive path. Instead I will flashback to the image of every child at one age or another pushing a colorful plastic bubble lawnmower down the same lawns we painstakingly trimmed summer after summer after summer.

If grass clippings were bubbles…

[Day 168 of Ann Dee Ellis’ 8-Minute Memoir.]

Questions

Did Aaron have any daughters, and did they, too visit the tabernacle on the day when he took his sons?

If sour cream is already sour, what is the tipping point wherein it becomes bad?

Was my partial tear in my achilles tendon old or new, how did it happen, and should I have just let it be?

Why does it sound like my husband is lifting weights or doing floor exercises in the kitchen right this minute? I would go in and see for myself what exactly it is he is doing, but I’m trying to recall a lifetime of questions in just under 8 minutes and I don’t have time.

Why does sleep hate me?

If I tried to be the opposite (at least in some ways) of my mother and my kids try to be the opposite of me, am I, in fact, raising my mother?

Why are kids so hard on their moms?

What really happened to my dear mother-in-law?

Where did I put my daughter’s tax return–the one from April with which she was going to make her monthly payments for her cell phone?

What is the true definition of “increase” or “interest annually” in terms of being tithed?

What can I/should I frantically squeeze in during the handful of hours I have to myself in D.C. a week from next Friday before I have to head to the airport and fly home?

Where would I be had I applied to law school when I was 25 years old?

What’s the best mattress for the money?

Why are people so hateful?

Where do the dinosaurs fit in in terms of the creation and evolution and such?

Should I transfer my 401K from my prior job into a Roth IRA before the stock market crashes again?

How do I address unconscious bias in the workplace?

What are people supposed to do when a governor commands them to evacuate but they have no car or they can’t get gasoline or they have nowhere to go? Isn’t it worse to be stranded on the road or out in the elements?

Why must we be estranged from our mother in heaven during this mortal existence? (Although, truth be told, I think she is closer than we know.)

Why do I all of a sudden have ringing in my ears and how can I get it to stop?

What can I do to make the world a better place?

What’s the best way to teach a bunch of fairly young firefighters to wrap their heads around theoretical hydraulics and prepare them to do field calculations?

Where are we going to find a contractor who will return our calls and who can build us a new fence and fix our old bathrooms and how can we most affordably get rid of the mold?

Why is it so hard to decide what to fix for dinner?

[Day 167 of Ann Dee Ellis’ 8-Minute Memoir.]

Dumpster Diving – aka garbage

When I was a teenager working at Abby’s Pizza Inn I once had to–well, to be fair, I didn’t have to, nor did I want to, but I felt obligated to–dig through a giant trash bin full of half chewed pizza, beer-soaked napkins, and other non-desirable and aromatic items looking for some kid’s $500 retainer. I don’t know if retainers actually cost $500 to replace, but that was the generally agreed-upon amount all our parents used to warn us it would cost them if we lost or, as was most often the case, threw away our retainers.

I found it.

The parents were grateful.

The kid was mortified, but probably grateful deep down, too.

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I keep a wicker trash basket against the wall, right next to my headboard. The trouble with such a location is that it’s not unheard of for me to knock valuable–such as my Breathe, and Serenity essential oils, among other things–off the shelves of the headboard and into the trash in the middle of the night. Along with the occasional pen, travel-size lotion bottle, or other such bedside essentials.

Those I will go after. At least when I either hear them fall or they turn up missing. They are easily cleaned once retrieved. And I’m washing my hands dozens of times a day anyway, so what’s one more time?

One time, however, I accidentally–and inexplicably–knocked the last two cookies of my most favorite Walkers shortbread my friend Sam shipped over from England into the trash.

I thought long and hard about how badly I wanted to retrieve those, but, maturely, left them be in the pile of used Puff’s Plus with Lotion tissues.

#sigh

tear emoji

#sad

[Day 166 of Ann Dee Ellis’ 8-Minute Memoir.]

stories about my home

fallsMultnomah Falls, the time we didn’t miss the exit!

I’m going to go a little off script because all the good stories I know* are not about my home, but a place I love near my home has been in news stories of late and has been in my heart and on my mind.

My beloved Oregon, particularly the magnificent Columbia River Gorge has been burning up this summer. Most of my friends and family report little or no rain for months. And now fires are raging through the state. The Eagle Creek Fire, according to one report, jumped the river at one point. I’m not quite sure how that is even possible, but I can’t stop thinking about the horrific photos I’ve seen of the raging fire even as (reportedly) here in Utah I breathe in smoky particulates–remnants of the once-majestic age-old trees from home.

Somewhere along that same forest, my oldest son lost his first tooth. We were visiting family and had stopped to take in a scenic view at the top of a ridge somewhere along the Columbia River Gorge and we were simply sitting there enjoying the overlook when Luke pulled out the tooth he’d been wiggling all the long drive from Utah. I’m sure he was a surprised as we were when it finally popped out. Now that’s a story to tell.

We meant to stop at Multnomah Falls on our way home in June. But usually we stop on the way west, and I had no idea that traveling east the exit is on the left, not the right, so we drove right past the exit before realizing it and, as it was raining then (perhaps that was one of the last times?) quite heavily we opted not to turn around. It’s hard not to regret one last look.

The story today is a better than I initially hoped. But the truth is it will never be the same.

Still praying for rain.

*The best stories of my childhood were about the Bear Lake Monster–kin to Nessie, I was always sure. I was both terrified and enamored with the Bear Lake Monster. I swore I felt the gentle brush of a fore-fin across my ankle one time when I was eight. But she did me no harm.

[Day 165 of Ann Dee Ellis’ 8-Minute Memoir.]

Face(s)

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me at the ranch closeup

My sister visited me this week as she brought her son down from northern Idaho to attend BYU. I was sitting here in my handed-down cream leather chair with my foot elevated on to the adjacent sofa watching my sister just a couple of feet away from me and seeing my mom.

We both are very much Rex women, but my sister also looks like my mom. And never before as much as she does now.

I once mentioned how my mom’s lips disappeared when she is unhappy with you. My friend told me my lips disappear when I smile. Which makes me sad, really. Because I want my smile to be open and welcoming, not disapproving. And I want to my smiles to be way more abundant than my frowns.

I have my father’s eyes. I see my eyes in the eyes several of my aunts and uncles–his sisters and brothers. They are hazel. And the color green sets them off like nobody’s business.

On numerous occasions I’ve had people interrupt me mid-conversation to make a statement about my eyes.

One time, as a new missionary in Belgium, I earnestly told the story of Joseph Smith to the frite man selling frites from the frite cart and he interrupted both me and the spirit with “You have the most beautiful eyes.”

I can take no credit for this fact. They are my dad’s eyes. I hope I manage to keep the twinkle he often managed to keep in his eye, even through hard times.

I remember when we were first married and had insurance and I could go to the dentist again. I was having my teeth cleaned and the dentist told me, “We can fix that gap in your front teeth.”

“I have a gap in my front teeth?”

I didn’t know. But I refused to see it as a defect–something that needs to be fixed. It is what it is and it’s part of my smile, which, disappearing lips or no, is still my smile.

My skin is somewhat oily, but, like my paternal grandmother, that keeps people guessing about my age.

Like my mother and my sister, I have some degree of alopecia where my eyebrows are patchy (I rarely have to shave my legs as well), but I found a wonderful powder–meant for covering roots if you cover up your greys (which I refuse to do)–that, at least for now, fills in what’s there enough I still have eyebrows.

I used to tease my daughter about how funny it was that all that effort girls made in my day to perm and otherwise curl our hair seemed wasted as we watched our girls spend an equivalent effort to straighten their hair. In any case, and as stated in a previous post, I can’t be bothered with hair. I like my color. Embrace the greys. And, on most days, simply want it up out of my face.

[Day 163 of Ann Dee Ellis’ 8-Minute Memoir.]

things as they really are

Good and Evil.

Light and Darkness.

Happiness and Sadness.

Yin and Yang.

I don’t understand how it works, but what I know is that we are both strangers risking (and, sadly, sometimes losing) their lives to help strangers in Texas and white supremacists spewing unimaginable hate at their brothers and sisters in Virginia.

Even though I often find it overwhelming, I want to see the world as it really is and not deny the duality, while still finding a way to seek all that is lovely, praiseworthy and of good report.

So while I mourn and protest the expected rescinding of a humane and compassionate program meant to help law-abiding children of immigrants in good standing who were brought here by no choice of their own and who have been working and pursuing an education free from fear of deportation and with our blessing, I choose to take a moment to also acknowledge acts of charity and kindness that have brought me to tears over the past few days.

My son’s 2nd grade teacher nearly 20 years ago recently messaged me on Facebook with an offer to help my dear friends the Cuells as their home was flooding from the incessant rains of Harvey. She sent me her phone number and offered to open her home to them, even though they had never met (she married and moved away well before their kids went to school).

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Let me restate. Upon learning their cars were in standing water and they didn’t expect to be able to get out, she offered to go get them as soon as safe passage was possible.

***********

This is my cousin on my dad’s side who fell 35-40 feet off an oil rig and landed on face on a 6″ steel beam and is in a world of hurt in North Dakota away from family (family on my dad’s side is huge and primarily in Utah) and friends. His wife, Jody, has had to leave their 4 kids and is staying in a hotel somewhere near the hospital in Minot. She is extremely worried over Will and missed her daughter’s 12th birthday the other day.

In the middle of the night I saw a comment one of my cousin’s wife (from my mom’s side, which is much smaller and spread out all over) left on my Facebook post informing me that my cousin David and his wife Jenny live in Minot. They are just reunited after months apart while Jenny and the younger kids have been caring for Jenny’s mom, who has ALS, in South Carolina.

I PM’d Jenny to see if I could send her some money to out together a little “living in the ICU” care package and take it to Jody. Because little kindnesses in the ICU make a BIG difference.

Jenny responded with an immediate concern and an enthusiastic Yes! and informed me that my cousin David, who is an eye doctor, examined Will just yesterday. Jenny refused any form of payment and went about doing everything she could today to find out more and offer whatever help they could. In short, Jody and Will now have family in Minot and my heart is so grateful. ❤️

The reality is there are GOOD people in the world and every day we get to choose whether or not to be counted among them. Sometimes our efforts may not be noticed or anything to write home about. But there are no small things or kindnesses in my book. I can and want to do better.

[Day 162 of Ann Dee Ellis’ 8-Minute Memoir.]

Natural disasters

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Natural disasters make me rethink my life choices and wish I’d been trained in emergency management (which, incidentally, happens to be in my college at UVU) or didn’t work full time so I could volunteer with the Red Cross. Or had some amazing skill and/or super human strength or didn’t pass out at the sight of blood because all I really want to do is help people!

This was the view outside one of my best friend’s house in Dickinson on Sunday.

When I talked to her Thursday she was dealing with the hurricane barreling down upon her family alone because her husband–who moved them to Texas to take a job helping rebuild after natural disasters–has been commuting between Texas and New Jersey for months on end rebuilding after Katrina.

I was wracking my brain trying to figure out how to get her out of there. I offered to crowdfund an evacuation for her and her kids. I even offered to fly in to wherever I could get to and help her drive if she needed.

When I checked with her on Friday he had told his boss he needed to get home to his family and had caught a 6am flight out, making it home just hours before the Harvey hit.

When I talked to her Sunday morning their home had flooded–you can see how deep the water is on their car–and her husband was out helping people who needed rescuing from their attics.

My 26-year-old son’s 2nd grade teacher saw my comment about Becky’s situation on Facebook and sent me her contact info with an offer of a place to stay if Becky could get out. She even offered to come pick her up whenever the flood waters receded enough to make safe passage possibly (which they still haven’t). I cried with gratitude at such a generous offer for a stranger.

Today the water has soaked in a bit, but they are still socked in by flood waters.( Unless someone came to pick me up in a boat, I wouldn’t want to go anywhere.)

Tonight there is a tornado warning.

I will send money, of course, but it doesn’t feel like enough. I want to go feed people and hug people and let them cry on my shoulder and help them find clean clothes and play with their kids so they can take a nap and forget about how awful it is even if for just a few minutes.

[Day 161 of Ann Dee Ellis’ 8-Minute Memoir.]

Thrifting, buying, selling, donating…

Two stories.

I don’t do yard sales. Too much work. And I’d rather donate to our locale thrift store–Deseret Industries. When I was working with the young people of my congregation, I had an opportunity to go up and tour my church’s welfare facilities about an hour or so north of my house. It was the first time I had the tiniest glimpse of our humanitarian efforts and outreach. I learned so much and felt so good about the wonderful work that was being done with our donations I feel completely confident it’s where my donations do the most good. So I love dropping off things I no longer need (or sometimes never did need) at their door.

One time before my enlightenment, however, I did take a few items I had up to a friend’s yard sale. She always had the best yard sales because her house was on a corner lot and everybody who was anybody drove by. I don’t recall anything else I took up to sell–and I generally try not to care for material things at all–but there was one thing in particular I cared about that day. It was an white with blue-stitched eyelet comforter that I’d had for years. It had been on my bed when I lived at home but had been too big to take with me to college and was one of the few things that had made its way back to me even after my mom packed up house and sold everything (including the unused sand-candle kit I got for Christmas one year and all my 8-tracks and my favorite vinyl (think Heart Little Queen, Fleetwood Mac Rumors, and a number of Foreigner and Journey albums) off while I was away at school so she could move the family to Utah.

In any case, I remember I priced it at $20 and reluctantly let someone bid me down to $10 and sold it to one of my neighbors (from whom, incidentally, I later purchased (at very good prices) beautiful black antique rocking chair and a rather large piece of hardwood furniture in which I now store my quilt fabric, while she was going through her e-bay, estate buying/selling phase).

In any case, I had seller’s remorse so badly.

I still have seller’s remorse over that blue eyelet comforter.

And yes we didn’t have a lot of–or any, really–extra money, but I’m quite sure that $10 (I’m doubtful even the original $20) was worth what it felt like to let that go.

It was, after all a comforter. And it was a reminder of time, place, and home I could never go back to.

There is no price on that.

[Day 160 of Ann Dee Ellis’ 8-Minute Memoir.]

Things that have changed over my lifetime

My version of the “I walked 4 miles to school in the snow uphill both ways” story my dad used to tell us kids is this, “I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in English before we had computers!”

Because I typed every single one of those 4-20+ English literature papers by hand on an electric typewriter. Manually adding footnotes. And using whiteout for every mistake. And there were mistakes!

Looking back, I truly don’t know how we every managed. I think about this in particular when I’m copying a pasting a huge paragraph–or more than one huge paragraph–to somewhere else in my paper because it flows better that way. How did we do it? Perhaps our papers weren’t as good because maybe we just didn’t do it at all because it sounded like way too much work!

Truth be told, however, I did have the luxury of using a computer a little bit my very last semester. It was a giant box of a computer that my mom had at her house. And we saved everything on a floppy disc. That really wasn’t very floppy at all.

So yes, computers happened. Cell phones happened. 24/7 news cycle happened. (I really wondered how so many people knew about the eclipse I witnessed in 1979 without incessant and pervasive real-time digital media!) I feel like color TV happened, but it could have, but it’s likely we simply weren’t early adopters. Microwaves happened. And digital cameras! (I have mixed feelings about this–I love seeing my photos real-time, but I’m only marginally a fan of filters and I don’t at all like the way many people over saturate their colors.

So yeah, not much at all has changed since I was a kid. You?

[Day 159 of Ann Dee Ellis’ 8-Minute Memoir.]