My early reading years


Just the other day I was thinking about some of my favorite books as a child and what it said about me that two were about characters that had been orphaned/abandoned finding a new home and someone who loved them, of those two, one was about tending a garden, and the third was about children who ran away from home.

In any case, the joy of this story is that I still have copies of these books. Not the well worn much loved original copies, but new copies I excitedly ordered from Amazon in anticipation of my first grandchild.

They are, in no particular order:



From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler

Corduroy is the sweet, illustrated story of a lost Teddy Bear missing both a family and a button.

Mandy is the story of an orphan girl who stumbles upon an abandoned secret garden and brings it back to life.

And From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankwieler is the tale of a great mystery and adventure had by a brother and sister who run away and live, for a time, a the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

I read them all countless times and have enjoyed revisiting them again since.

Thinking of books reminds me of how my maternal grandmother used to encourage reading by inviting us to track the books we read over summer vacation and paid us a dime for every book we read. It was a lovely tradition and a great incentive until I was mature enough to read on my own simply for the pure joy and love of a good book.

I read to all my children when they were young, and watched as at one time each one of them would devour books as fast as I could provide them, but then, one by one, got busy or distracted by other things.

As they’ve grown up, it’s been a joy to watch as each one of them has turned back reading again. Some intermittently and each in varying degrees and genres. I have great hope that the love of reading and learning will never leave them entirely, even through various stages of life.

Among other of my sweetest memories is of when my second son left to serve a two-year mission in England. He left a stack of books on the desk in his room and ask that I share them with his then best friend. I noticed that all but one had been books I had introduced to him. That made my mother heart grateful for the love of a good book.

[Day 22 of Ann Dee Ellis’ 8-Minute Memoir.]

Friendship: Jane

When I was a young SAHM of two toddlers, I felt a little buried in the day to day-ness of it all. Cooking, cleaning, caring for young people is a lot of work and there is little time to oneself.

And that’s when I met Jane. I was actually looking for Adrienne and went to the wrong house. It was fall, and almost dark. I walked up to a beautiful home, one that reminded me very much of the time I lived in Strasbourg. I knocked on the door and was met by a dark-haired woman maybe about 7 or so years older than me. I didn’t go inside, but the house smelled of fall soup and felt homey and welcoming.

A short time later Jane and I worked together with the young women in our congregation–our neighborhood, really. We became friends.

We talked a good deal of books. Good books we both read and loved.

We talked politics. Her mother and my grandmother knew each other. Both at one point or another had a reputation as “The most powerful woman in Utah politics.”

Sometimes, back when she would work for her parents and I was a citizen lobbyist, we would meet up at the Legislature for a day during the session. Jane took me for crab during Crab Fest at Market Street Grill.

She passed down perfectly good and hardly worn Birkenstocks to me.

I remember Jane would introduce me to people. “This is Dalene. She is a good writer.”

Jane had never written any of my writing. But she is one of those people who lift up instead of push down. She saw things in me I had either forgotten or hadn’t yet discovered about myself. She was interested in what I thought about a variety of topics. She treated me as if I were already the person I am trying to become.

Jane is one of a handful of people of whom I will say, “I want to be like her when I grow up.”

That was over 20 years ago.

Jane and I are still good friends. Even though her kids are grown and she has daughters who wear a European size 39 shoe, she still hands down a pair of Birkenstocks once in awhile.

She still cares about what I think. And she still makes me want to be a better person.

We have lost friends and family since then. Jane and her husband Dave brought dinner in and gave us gift cards with which to feed our family when Shane was diagnosed with cancer and had half of the roof of his mouth and jaw removed. And again when I was juggling a job, being a mom, and taking care of my mother as she was dying of cancer. Jane’s husband Dave has a stubborn prostate cancer than has now spread. He often doesn’t feel well at all.

On rare occasion she will just look at me.

Our hearts and our eyes will well up.

“I know you know,” she will say.

And I will nod and say “I’m sorry. I hate this for you. But I am here for you.”

And we both know.

[Day 21 of Ann Dee Ellis’ 8-Minute Memoir.]

Decorations: This is used to be Halloween


October is one of my favorite months of the year. In part because of fall harvest and the fact that it’s not too hot or too cold, which moments are far and few in between in Utah and meant to be savored. (I actually feel most human in this month of the undead.)

But also because I love Halloween.

In particular, I love decorating for Halloween. The company I used to work for had a wonderful Halloween decorating contest and the rest of the departments hated my department because we went all out and slayed everyone every year. Only sometimes literally. (You can see pics from our last effort–the last before I left–here.)

But my favorite part was that my youngest son also enjoyed going all out and used to decorate our house and yard like a haunted mansion. The ghosts and ghouls and monsters, coffins, and graveyards–complete with cobwebs (often real ones, for I don’t dust) and fog machine–was such an improvement over my earliest years of cute painted wood pumpkins, black cats, and ghosts. The neighbors loved it. I loved it!

But what I enjoyed the most was spending time with Kyle doing something we both enjoyed. Half the fun was the anticipation. Although over time we accumulated some lovely creepy props, we enjoyed going out each year to pick out new additions. And as new Halloween stores popped up in the area as time went on, we had more choices than ever before.

Sadly, his interest waned as he grew older, and last year was the first in many, where there was no spookiness at the Rowley house. Not even a tiny bit. This year my only contribution to the spirit of Halloween is a newly acquired piece of zombie art from my friend Charlotte’s talented daughter. I will hang it today, along with cute orange and purple cat and spider pillow (which will only make me sad, on account of Mowgli), somewhere in the living room. Mere tokens of Halloween spirits past.


Ah well. It was fun while it lasted.

In any case, today is the first of October.


[Day 20 of Ann Dee Ellis’ 8-Minute Memoir.]