Chaos Theory: Life’s messy, but you can’t always clean it up

Dark Heart of the Milky Way – Wikimedia Commons

This is a hard one for me because the older I get the more I realize life’s messy, and you can’t always clean it up. We are all broken, most of us in ways that won’t be fixed until the next life. That is the painful truth. We are often entangled in other people’s messes, simply because we love. And it’s a lonely road because it’s one thing to write about your own hot mess, but bringing other people into it is infringing on someone else’s story, and it’s just not done. So everybody’s messiness stays inside our heads and our hearts instead of getting released into the world and feeling lighter. Sometimes all you feel is the heaviness of reverberation as it weighs on your mind and in your heart.

Even though sometimes we find ourselves needing a break from the messiness, because we love we stay. (My friend Angela wrote a beautiful and honest book about this theme, I recommend.)

What is the answer? Is there an answer? I don’t know. I just know that whenever I ask, my answer is always not to abandon and it is always to love. Or at least love the best I can.

[Day 10 of Ann Dee Ellis’ 8-Minute Memoir]


in a pear tree
When I was eight years old I lived right next to the freeway in Eugene, Oregon. My 4th sibling (3rd brother) must have been born when I was eight, so I didn’t even have all my siblings yet. I was the oldest of those siblings, took piano lessons, was not fond of theory and therefore was a bit resistant to practicing. I can visualize where the piano was in the living room along the wall that separated the space from the kitchen. It was a tiny kitchen for a family of 7, or soon be 7 as the case may have been.

I spent my days either in school, which I loved, or roaming the neighborhood until dusk. I remember being friendly with the couple across the street, but don’t recall they had any kids. But like kids did in the late 60s-early 70s, we roamed the world until sundown as if it were truly ours. It was ours. In those days our parents worried less (or maybe more about the cold war and less about the tiny details of our lives) and we grew up fearless.

I recall finding pollywogs in the ditch* along the route we walked to school. I used to sneak shorts under my dresses, which for a time I was still required to wear to school. I drew pictures with the juice of what I now know as chicks and hens leaves I would grate over cement sidewalks and driveways, and toss mixtures of those, some reed-like grass that reminded me of those pencils composed of a dozen or so individual leads stacked upon one another, and various weed leaves and grasses as if I were a chef making a fancy salad for dinner. I liked Kraft Macaroni and Cheese (still do). It might have been too early for Pee Chees, but then again, maybe not.

I remember Peter, Paul, and Mary and singing all the folk songs in school and everywhere else, along with anything ever sung by my new favorite thing, the Partridge Family. I wanted to be Laurie when I grew up.

*we didn’t call it that. I remember calling it something that sounds like “slew” but that (to us at least) designated the water runoff at the bottom of a big bank.

[Day 9 of Ann Dee Ellis’ 8-Minute Memoir]

Mowgli–see also, why I shouldn’t binge watch Netflix

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My favorite cat has gone missing. The last time I saw Mowgli was early in the morning a week ago Friday when I shooed him away from the front door with my foot (something that while I always do gently, leaves me with some amount of guilt, wondering if that will be the last time I see him and the last memory he’ll have of me–see, I had it coming) just before pouring a cup of cat food in his bowl before dashing off to work.

Shane says he saw Mowgli on Sunday morning as Shane too filled up Mowgli’s bowl.

The bowl still sits, full of food, under the table on which is an extra cup of cat food in the event he is hungry again.

“Mowgli? Mowww-gli? MOWWWWWW-gli?” I pop out my head and call, just for good measure, every night as I check the front door, more desperate every day.

“Do you think he is stuck somewhere?” I ask Shane.

“He’s such a good cat, someone may have taken him home,” Shane responds.

He is a good cat. And that is why we are both working so hard to avoid the worst case scenarios.

“If someone would have taken him he would have found a way to get out and he would have come home,” I said. Wistfully recalling every single story I’ve heard or read about a cat traveling weeks, days, miles, and years, to return to its beloved family.


This morning I was down in Zack’s old room working on Zack’s quilt. Zack’s room was also the sick room where Mowgli recuperated when a big chunk of his tail got chewed up in one of his fights. And also where he recovered after we got him fixed, hoping to curb the cat fights. It is also there, curled up on Zack’s bed, where we most often found Mowgli all those times when he snuck into the house.


It was faint and at first I thought I was imagining it.


I turned off my music to listen again.


I jumped up from my table, yelled to Zack, who was upstairs, and called “Mowgli?”

I looked under the bed. Pulled away the big box along the wall, thinking maybe he was somehow pinned behind it. [note: at the same time I was desperately searching, hoping, the logical part of me is completely aware that a). if that’s where Mowgli had been all this time we would definitely have heard from him before now and b). if he had been trapped there for a 10 days he would not still be alive.]


I frantically started ripping open the box. [I stopped just short of stringing up Christmas lights and painting the alphabet on the wall, but the desperation was real.]


And then it hit me.

Because Mowgli had spent so much time in that room, I’m allergic. So we had opened the windows before getting to work down there.

Still, I [or at least the wanting, hopeful part of myself] thought. Mowgli has come home and he knows we are down there and he is calling to us.

I excitedly pushed aside the vertical blinds. “Mowgli!” I cried.

But it was Capone, Mowgli’s mother, rubbing her fur up against the window screen. Even though they didn’t get along and chose to live separate existences–Capone on the back porch with our lab, Ginger, and Mowgli out front or curled up in the garage or wandering the neighborhood, looking for a potted plant in which to sun himself–I wonder if Capone misses him too.

No words exist for the disappointment I felt. Still feel. He has a piece of my heart.


Still holding on to hope.


happybirthdayI joke about being too young for a memoir, but the truth is, the title of my memoir has been in existence for quite a few years now. “We may as well eat that darn cake.”

It’s not a pretty story, but it is the truth. And amidst the pretty travel photos and posts about funny things our kids said or did, there is certainly room for the rest of the stories that compose our existence. Being real about our sorrows seems capable of connecting us even more deeply than sharing our joys.

My birthday is three days before Christmas. While the story before I recall it is all about how excited my parents were for their firstborn child and The Best Gift song on Barbra Streisand’s Christmas album annually reminds me how much joy that first birth day brought, the truth since is that my birthday smack dab in the one of the busiest seasons of the year has also generally been a source of stress for people already busy and stressed over Christmas. (post edit: I guess I’m in good company?)

This particular birthday was important to me simply for the fact that it would be my last for a very long time with all my kids home. My oldest would be leaving on a 2-year LDS mission the next summer. The second would leave before the first would return. And it was very important to me we have at least a few minutes all together to celebrate. (Weird, I know, that I should want to celebrate and find meaning with those I love on my own birthday, but it remains so.)

The window through which to accomplish this was narrowed by the fact that someone had to go to work later and we had only about an hour and a half in which to pick up takeout from the local Cafe Rio and gather together to enjoy a little white cake with buttercream frosting purchased at the local Macey’s grocery store.

I don’t recall what the fight was about–one rarely does. But teenage drama ensued with one of my children who didn’t get his or her way. Emotions, tempers and words flew freely through the atmosphere. Said child stormed out of the house, slammed the front door, and left. Just left.

I didn’t go after him or her. Knowing that soon enough the barometric pressure would stabilize and this weather event would blow over just like all that preceded it and those yet to come.

I curled up in the fetal position on my left side and felt sorry for myself for awhile while everyone ate their burritos enchilada style with black beans and mild salsa. The plain white cake covered in bright red, blue, yellow, and green balloons and confetti sat abandoned on the table.

And my mother heart broke inwardly with the shattering of unrealized expectations. Again. The capacity for a mother heart to break and break and break again and still keep beating astounds.

Eventually whoever it was who had to go to work left for work.

The angry teen returned, oblivious to the rift he or she had torn in my unrealistic expectation for the day.

Night fell.

The cake sat.

The sun rose again.

Cue the time lapse of the various members of our family rising in the morning, coming and going throughout the day.

The sun set again.

The next day my sister arrived in town for Christmas. She dropped by the house that afternoon to catch up. It was Christmas Eve.

She sat on the sofa. I sat in my blue leather recliner. We picked up where we had left off last and revealed to each other how the various threads of our lives had woven something a little deeper since the last time we’d been together.

Across the room the cake sat, alone on the dining room table, continuing to slowly decay in the dry Utah air, made drier by the constantly running heater.

Our conversation wound down. There was still much to do to get ready for the traditional clam chowder dinner and Christmas breakfast of braided breads, Chex mix, and ham and egg strata.

I glanced at the cake.

“We may as well eat that darn cake.”

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