needing assistance

Just after Shane’s mom passed away I found myself coming home to a neglected house–as we had spent several days in various hospital waiting rooms–at 4-something am Saturday morning and finally crashing for a couple of hours of sleep. We had recently finished helping with one funeral and I was supposed to take dinner in to a family in our congregation that night. I had not one but several sisters reach out to me and ask if they could help. Friends who genuinely love me. The kind of friends I KNEW meant it when they said they wanted to help. I started typing the response letting them know it would be helpful to me if someone else took over that dinner assignment.

I typed it three times.

And deleted it each time.

And then one of them texted me and said “We are taking care of dinner for so-and-so and will be bringing Sunday dinner to you tomorrow.”

THAT was what I needed. Not to have to ask. Or suggest. Or specify. Just to be able to say, “Thank you. That will be so helpful.”

The thing is, I KNOW BETTER!. I find myself practically begging others to let me help them when I know they need it. “You are blessing others’ lives when you allow them to serve you,” I tell them. Because I know it’s true.

And yet when I find myself needing assistance, I can’t bring myself to ask. Even when people ask “Can I help?” I find myself resorting to evasive maneuvers. But when someone tells me “This is what I’m going to do to help you,” that makes it so much easier. And means the world to me.

I found out today I will be having foot surgery sometime this week. Three weeks on crutches (NO weight-bearing. I’m opting for the little scooter). Then three weeks in a boot.

I’m going to need help. But it will be hard to ask. My brother and sister-in-law want me to fly back out to their home in Portland to take care of me during my recovery. I know they are sincere in their offer. And I know they would completely spoil me. But I also know that’s not very practical or realistic. So I’m going to stay here. And work on articulating what I need. And to ask when I need help. Wish me luck.

Post Edit: I just texted my Visiting Teachers to let them know. If for no other reason than because I know what it feels like to find out a month later after someone I visit teach had surgery or something. I promised myself I would never do that to my VTs. Baby steps!

gardens

IMG_9834 Well hey, I’ve got this little garden going this year, so there’s that!

I’m sort of in an awkward spot about gardens, so I will mention two of my good neighbors’ gardens and my clever brother’s garden and also how much I enjoyed hoeing my other brother’s garden yesterday even though he forgot to amend the soil before he planted.

1. My friend Jane is a wonderful gardener. We took a master gardener class together with Larry Sagers at Thanksgiving Point and Jane went on to garden in a way that would make Larry proud. First of all, the back of her house is lined with an eclectic assortment of pots all well planted flowers well suited for lots and the particular light that falls at the back of her house and everything is watered with a tiny sprinkler line that runs up into each pot and is perfectly monitored to thrive. It’s paradise just right there. Then she has plum trees and heirloom tomatoes and more flowers and more vegetables all playing beautifully together on both sides of her backyard and it’s really a little piece of heaven. The kind of heaven that also tastes good come fall.

2. Our neighbors the Hindmarsh’s have a well kept, immaculate garden. But the brilliant thing they did (among all the brilliant things they did up front that keep their yard and garden practically weed and care free) is raised beds made with brick. So it’s thick. And sturdy. And just the right height to warm up quickly in the spring and to not hurt your back should you find and have to extract the occasional weed. Also drip-lined for easy watering of just the plants and not the dirt or the pavement.

3. My brother took raised beds to a new level and actual made a square foot garden table, if you will. So it’s table high, but doesn’t require 4 feet deep of soil. And it’s portable, so he can move it wherever he wishes. It’s really cool and the truth is, square foot gardening is so efficient, he gets a hearty supply of vegetables from just a little bit of accessible and convenient, weed-free space.

4. So my dream garden. I think we get so worried and overwhelmed about making a whole great big garden we never started and don’t even have one garden. Which is sad, because you can put quite a bit in one little garden box. But could I start with one, I would have planted peas on St. Patrick’s Day. I’d have one of those little shoebox fence lettuce gardens on a not-hot side of the house where I could stagger a little bit of lettuce in each “box” just enough to have on hand for dinner. I’ve about decided corn is not worth the space and it’s just as easy to go pick up a dozen ears at the local stand on my way home from work come corn season. But I miss tomatoes. And I would have all the root vegetables in as soon as the peas were done. Especially beets. And I sure loved the pumpkin patch we planted one year on the berm between our house and the neighbors before the grass invaded. I wonder if it’s too late?

[Day 131 of Ann Dee Ellis’ 8-Minute Memoir.]

Letters

Riverside Shakespeare

I want to write a letter to my high school English teacher, Jim Schweigert, and tell him thank you for giving me the world when he led me to discover good literatures. In particular, for making me read One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Maybe my letter to him is a collective letter to all my high school English teachers. Because whoever made me read All’s Quiet on the Western Front opened my mind to how sometimes we find ourselves on opposing sides for reasons we don’t understand but we are more alike than we realize. And also whoever made me read Man’s Search for Meaning, because that book gave me power over my life and taught me how to choose happiness.

I’d like to write a letter to two math teachers I had. They taught me the why behind the what and if you know the why, you can figure out the how, and math makes sense. I loved math with those two teachers. And gave up on math my senior year when I asked why and the teacher simply replied, “Just because that’s what you do.”

I’d love to write a letter to a number of my BYU literature professors. Shakespeare. Renaissance Lit. And the man who helped me read Moby Dick like it was meant to be read. Something I’ve been unable to duplicate since.

And Marilyn Arnold. Who introduced me to Willa Cather. And who taught me not in English class but in another lecture I attended after I graduated simply because she was presenting, that it’s ok, even warranted, even a calling, to sing loud and speak up when you are the only female voice in an all-male anything. I truly loved every one of my literature professors, but I have a special place in my heart for the women who taught me the right kind of feminism for me–looking after, speaking up and working on behalf of those trodden upon and whose voices are stifled. The were strong, not strident. Sure, not shrill. They lived and spoke truth and I didn’t even realize it until after, looking back. And knowing from when came those truths that grew in my heart and compelled me to want to hope for and work for a better world.

[Day 130 of Ann Dee Ellis’ 8-Minute Memoir.]

trees

treehug
When I learned this tree was over one hundred years old I gave it a great big hug and talked to it for a moment, because, well done!

Speaking of childhood adventures in giant tall fruit trees, I think I will write about my dream orchard. I want to lose (kill is too strong a word) all the grass–the messy, deep rooted (or is it rhizomed?) grass that relentless invades the berm I built next to the neighbor’s driveway in which I futilely planted lots and lots of plants (flowers or vegetable or fruit) year after year only to see them overtaken by the grass. Blue Flax. Purple Coneflower. Melons. Eggplant. Summer squash. Pumpkin. And eventually an entire row of earthy-scented lavender–all to no avail.

In any case. I want to get rid of all that relentless grass and plant an orchard. One plum. A pear. Maybe a nectarine. Possible a small apple, but only if I think I can devote the time to keep it pest free. And not one. Not two. But three peach trees. The idea is simple. I have a catalog recommended to me from Allred’s Orchards. After carefully getting rid of the pesky grass I want to amend the soil and prepare the ground (looking for something that is easy maintenance, will remain grass and weed free, and yet will be easy to tidy up after the inevitable fruit dropping), I want to plant an early peach. A mid-season peach. And a late season peach. Yep. Three peaches. Peaches for days. And as many fresh peaches as I can manage in one hot Utah summer.

The trick to orchards, or so I dream, is to manage the pruning so the trees do not get too big for their britches. Or the spraying (hopefully I could mostly get by with an appropriately timed dormant oil spray). And the proper picking.

greenhouse
Trees are wonderful, magical, life-giving things.

I would also grow a small forest in my backyard. Or at least as much of one one can grow in the hot desert that is Utah. But I’d like to give it a go. Lush, green, breeze-rustled, shade-giving, trees.

treebed

[Day 129 of Ann Dee Ellis’ 8-Minute Memoir.]

things i prefer to do alone

I might be better of writing about things I prefer to NOT do alone. Like exercise (I realized why–seriously–just the other day–when a friend told me the reason she is never home is because she does not want to be left alone with her thoughts for fear she may spiral.) And cook. (I realized–seriously–just the other day–as I was dreaming about how I would remodel my upstairs–that while I love to have people over for dinner, what I don’t love is how my current kitchen isolates me and leaves me [generally] alone in the kitchen while everyone socializes in the living room.) And clean the house (No deep reasons here. Mostly because it’s easier and more effective with help.) Although, to be honest, I don’t mind being alone in a clean house for at least a few hours after it’s clean so I can enjoy the few minutes where it stays clean. I don’t like going to church alone. Especially on holidays. Or Mother’s Day. I’m very good about not sitting alone. I have a few people who are happy to make room for me on their bench and if they’re not there, I don’t hesitate to look for someone else who may be sitting alone. But not. I’d prefer to not go to church without my family.

But let me see if I can stretch.

I think I can get to things I don’t mind doing alone.

I don’t mind driving alone. This is something I learned about myself when I started to travel a little bit for work. I don’t mind being able to stop where I want to stop and take the scenic route if I want to take the scenic route. And I don’t mind being able to listen to whatever I want to listen to and to turn it up loud and to belt out my favorite songs like no one is listening. Because truly they aren’t. Nor do I mind Sunday mornings alone when my husband is in meetings and my other kids are sleeping. I like a quiet morning. A non-rushed, quiet morning.

Things I prefer to do alone?

Nope. I’m not there yet.

[Day 128 of Ann Dee Ellis’ 8-Minute Memoir.]

picking fruit

jamesinthestrawberrypatchJames picking (and eating) organic Mt. Hood strawberries in Oregon this month

I’ve mentioned before the merits of growing up with a backyard full of fruit trees and fruit bushes. The trees were primarily cherry. We had a small pie cherry tree and at least a couple Bing cherry trees and my mom’s favorite–Royal Ann. I’m not even sure if that’s correct, but that’s what my memory tells me so it’s true for me. I liked picking the tree fruit on account of no thorns or prickly anything. And also because when I was a kid I was not afraid of heights. In fact I was not afraid of much except for one of my younger brothers. I’m not sure if it was just us or if the primary thinking of the day was “the higher the tree the more fruit on the tree.” In any case, our cherry trees were big and tall and not just because as a kid I was not either of those things. They were truly huge. And I loved climbing in them fruit or no because fearless and free and up in the sky was pretty cool.

We also had raspberries (which, to this day, I’d rather have someone else pick for me). We may have dabbled in strawberries, but I remember my first paid child labor was picking fruit in a strawberry field and I may have made mere quarters but my tummy was full of sugar-sweet vine-ripened strawberries, so I looked past the non-existent child labor laws of the day and thought I came out pretty well.

But one of my favorite things about growing up in the land of the most abundant growing season on the planet (or so we were told) was the blackberry (which, in our case, I believe weren’t actually blackberries) bushes that grow wild everywhere in the Pacific Northwest. We had a couple of thick and mighty high bushes growing wild at the west edge of our pasture and I will tell you this, nothing makes better pie. Nothing.

There were a few serious thorns and some deep cuts and scratches in my childhood, but the sweet juice salve made of memories of summer fruit staining my fingers and running down my chin seems to have smoothed over some of those scars to the point I can say I had a good childhood.

[Day 127 of Ann Dee Ellis’ 8-Minute Memoir.]

Something I’d like to try

I was hoping it would be easy–like “I want to try a new cheese I’ve never tried before.” (Which I actually intend to do soon when I visit my brother and his wife in Oregon, as I have already begged them to go here and eat this!)

But no, something I want to try to do. Which is hard, because generally I’m loathe to try something new unless I already have a fairly good idea I’m going to do it well.

Yesterday I met the mother of two Brazilian sisters who live in our ward and who is visiting them here in the U.S. this month. Her name is Lina Miotta and she is an artist. This month she is going to do a painting class with us. This should be very interesting, because 1. She does not speak English and 2. I cannot paint to save my life. Painting is right up there with caulking in the “things I can do much better in my head than in real life.”

I know this because I have tried. When I tried caulking my friend Lynda’s moulding she told me. “You can never do this again. Let’s find something else for you to do.” Lynda loves me enough to not say this in a mean way, but in an honest way, and to keep loving me even though I am terrible at caulking. (Lynda is also my friend who forbade anyone from every bringing me another rooster. Which is fine, because it didn’t really stop anyone.)

But I was looking for an excuse to stop caulking badly, so didn’t feel a bit badly when she redirected my efforts to cheerleading and moral support. Two things which I am capable of doing consistently well.

But back to painting. I did a class with my Segullah sisters when Leslie Graff was in town. Poppies. I thought I would paint poppies. I like poppies. In my mind I can paint poppies that looks like this.
1024px-Poppies_again_5_(5781808652)photo credit Tony Hisgett

That was not, in fact, what my oh so rebellious hands produced once I got brushes and a palette of pretty red paints in my hand. In fact I’m pretty sure my poppies were so bad the canvas had to be destroyed. (I jest–you can always paint over canvas.)

And yet. There I sat. In Relief Society. Naively optimistic. And signed my name on the roll of people who will attend, intent on learning to paint. Hoping that somehow this time it will be different.

Even though I know better.

[Day 126 of Ann Dee Ellis’ 8-Minute Memoir.]

summer gear

flipflops (aka thongs), swimsuits, towels, sunscreen.

Oh to be a kid again. It really is remarkable we didn’t roast ourselves silly for as much as we fought off or forgot about sunscreen. But those early days when we lived in Eugene and somehow were deemed mature/responsible enough to trot off to the community pool in our cheap summer sandals and overly-patterned bright-colored knit homemade swimsuits with a makeshift terry wrap or robe.

It wasn’t long before I traded in the play-wear for work-wear and headed off on my bike early in the morning in shorts and tennis shoes and a tank top–no hat or sunglasses to protect my eyes–to hoe weeds all day long. Sometimes with a zip-up hoodie tied around my waste as if it were remotely possible it was going to be cold. (I say that now because was 97 degrees here today–just cooled down to 88 at 9:38pm–and I’m wondering how long I will have to stay up in order for it to be cool enough outside I can throw open my windows and let in a little cooler night air so I can sleep and cool down my house sufficiently it will take its sweet time getting too hot again tomorrow. I feel I have always been and forever will be too hot.) And yet as I recall June in Oregon isn’t always hot and it’s likely I was cold in the overcast and drizzle more than once while hoeing. Rain days in Oregon were, apparently, like snow days in Utah. A figment of someone’s imagination.

When we traveled to Randolph for branding season, long-sleeved cotton shirts and long pants were a must–despite the heat–but the most familiar accessory was a can of OFF! I still associate the scent of DEET with dry sagebrush and dusty red dirt.

And now my summer gear is generally business casual as I find myself going to work while most everyone around me enjoys summer break. Birks. Forget the sole-less flip-flops of yesterday. Birkenstocks forever.

IMG_9420

[Day 125 of Ann Dee Ellis’ 8-Minute Memoir.]

Bad photos

jrhighOnce when I had 26 Beehives (or was it 28?) I told them how beautiful they were and that it just wasn’t fair because no one was meant to look good in junior high.

And I say that in the way you would tell a dog that had just gummed your favorite hen half to death, “Bad dog!”

I can’t decide if this will be easy or hard, because the truth is, while I love to take photos, I’m not at all photogenic. In fact I’m shocked when I see photos of myself–shocked and dismayed. And not because I think I’m heinous to look at, but because the person in the photo is not the person I see reflected back at me in the mirror several times a day. If photos could capture that person, well, I’d be fine being in the picture. But they don’t and I’m not.

We–or at least I–are/am particularly bad a selfies. I have a pained expression on my face in every single selfie I’ve ever taken. OK, except maybe not the one where I’m buried in a faux-fur lined down hat because it was in Green Bay and the wind chill factor was a number too low to count down to, so I’m fairly certain my face was frozen and couldn’t bother being pained.nope-stillpainedNope. Still somewhat pained. But also frozen.

In any case, I have noticed something interesting about photos. Often the ones we hate the most are the ones our friends and others who love and accept us unconditionally love. It’s like they see something in us we cannot see ourselves. I do not know why we are prevented from seeing that in ourselves. Or why, perhaps, we hold ourselves back from seeing that in ourselves. But it is a beautiful thing to have people in our lives who do see it and who love us in such a way that to them there are no bad photos of us.

I hope that I can see and love people as they really are. And recognize and appreciate the light in their eyes and the brightness of their smiles.

Recently I found myself in the uncomfortable position where I had to send some photos to a sister in our Relief Society to be features in a spotlight. Know what made me surprised me? There were a number of photos of myself I loved. That were not bad photos. In each one of them I was with people I love and I was visibly happy.

wearebadatselfiesI have no one to blame but myself for this one. We are bad at selfies. Generally I have a pained look on my face when I take a selfie, which means it’s better if I just don’t.

[Day 124 of Ann Dee Ellis’ 8-Minute Memoir.]

Cemeteries

cemeteryphoto credit: my brother R.D., who did visit the graves along with other relatives this weekend

Ones you visit. How often you visit. What do you do when you visit.

I’ve wondered all day whether or not I should feel guilty about this post, but I’ve decided I’m good with where I am and it was not intended to make me feel guilty.

As stated previously, I don’t do death days, I do birth days. And, apparently, I don’t really do cemeteries either.

I’m not entirely sure why. But at the moment I’m wondering if it’s because we grew up so far away from family that until I watched my father be buried in the family plot in the Randolph Cemetery when I was 10 years old I hadn’t spent much time in any cemeteries, so I did not know until I dated my husband and we went early one Memorial Day morning to a service in one of the two Duchesne cemeteries that that’s what one does.

It’s not to say I didn’t remember my uncle, who was MIA most of my childhood* on Memorial Day. I just had no graves to decorate, and so I did not.

Now both my parents are buried 3 hours away and I still don’t decorate graves, unless I’m going that way anyway, in which case of course I would. Now that my mother-in-law is buried in the Duchesne Cemetery, I fully expect to leave flowers for her when I’m in town.

So I have to ask myself, why don’t I do cemeteries?

One, it may simply be habit – the way I was raised, as a result of being so far away from any to which I was connected.

Two, it may be avoidance. Death touched my early in my life and shaped me and maybe, especially after the last two months of so much loss and of and for the people I love, I’m not as ok with that as I thought.

Or Three, it may be simply the way I think. I recall the words heard by Mary at the empty tomb: “He is not here.” I don’t think of my loved ones–both loved and missed–hanging around the cold marble stone waiting for me to visit. Nor do I believe they would want me to mourn their deaths. I believe they would want me to celebrate their lives and honor their memories in what way speaks best to me and in spending time with loved ones still here.

I thought of Barbara Friday when I dropped by the Fabric Mill, which is right next to the Chuckarama where I last saw her alive, enjoying family and the warmth of the spring sunset. I thought of Barbara and my own mother Saturday as we attended the Payson Temple as one of our nieces–one who Barbara loved like a daughter–received her endowment. The Payson Temple was a solace to my mother during its construction and holds special memories of our family during Mom’s last months with us. I thought of my dad Saturday as I attended a garden party at a friends and found myself surrounded by lovely Brazilian women all speaking Portuguese–of which I understand all of 3 words–and sampled some favorite flavors from Brazil and recounted to the hostess how I was very nearly baptised in Portuguese.

I spent today fixing cinnamon French toast breakfast for what family could be here this morning and then later today fixing homemade potato salad (my dad’s favorite recipe I used to make for him) and baked beans for a small family BBQ. It was a good day to appreciate time spent with those who remain.

*Captain Robert Alan Rex
(For the first time ever, I realized the error in this article. My father passed away in 1983. Thank heavens it wasn’t in 1962, or I would have been an only child!)

[Day 123 of Ann Dee Ellis’ 8-Minute Memoir.]