Someone I’ve never met

Zina Diantha Huntington Jacobs Young

There are a number of great matriarchs in my family, but one in particular who has influenced me is my great great grandmother. Looking at her photo, I imagine I would have found her quite intimidating. And I know reading of her history isn’t a true picture into her life and who she is–it’s simply a compilation of varying perspectives into who she is.

Even our own words are just another perspective of the world as we experience it.

That said, I love knowing that she was a strong voice for and advocate of women. She fought for women’s suffrage. She spoke up for the rights of her friend, Jane Manning. She was educated. She became a midwife and eased the suffering of women who labored as she delivered their babies. I’m still looking for the source, but one of my friends once shared a story she’d read in which Zina had delivered a daughter and one of the men in the home at the time expressed disappointment the baby was not a son. History (somewhere) records that Zina disabused him of that disappointment without hesitation.

She served in the Relief Society, a women’s organization in which I too, although on a much smaller scale, am privileged to serve. An organization that advocates for and looks after women and families.

I love reading that Zina was not at all fond of silkworms but accepted the call to be the president of the silk industry for a time nonetheless.

One of my favorite stories of Zina (besides the one where she once had to sleep with four Egyptian mummies hidden under her bed) is when she went back east represent the women of Utah at a women’s rights meeting. Allegedly another woman looked her up and down and then huffed, “Hmph, you certainly don’t look oppressed.”

There is much controversy over the history of her marriage to my great great grandfather. Many of versions of the story are told, and I don’t believe we truly know. But from what I have read of Zina in her own words, she was not at all oppressed. She did not proceed without her own witness as to her intended path. And her testimony was sure.

When my daughter was in third grade I helped chaperone the Utah history tour and had the opportunity to visit Brigham Young’s home in St. George. I knew from her history Zina had visited there often and entertained there. I looked into the tiny rooms and observed the rustic kitchen and wood stove. I tried to imagine the kind of work required to care for a household and a number of guests.

And it is hot in St. George.

The experience gave me a deeper appreciation both for the hard work of our forbearers and also the modern conveniences we take for granted.

Zina gave birth to my Grandpa Jacobs’ father on cold, rainy day on the steep muddy banks of the Chariton River. And when she was done the party moved on towards Salt Lake.

I know I am in no way remotely equal to this strong, spiritual, hard-working, charitable woman of God. And yet I can’t help but wonder if perhaps she is part of where I got my desire to stand up for truth and to be a voice for women whose voices stifled or muted. And I want to be more like her.

[Day 50 of Ann Dee Ellis’ 8-Minute Memoir.]

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.]

Childhood Toy

sorry – this was the only wiki commons pic I could find–photo credit: Missouri History Museum

Funny, I was just looking to buy James a Christmas present and I found myself Googling toys I remember – if not from my own childhood, those from my younger siblings.

Cute little chunky Fisher Price Little people, particularly those with cute chunky animals (I thought the farm and the multi-level parking garage–was that FP?) were the best. Although now, thanks to NCIS and Bones and who know what other crime dramas, I’m always half afraid of getting blown up by a car bomb in parking garages, so maybe not that.

That little wooden cobbler’s bench where you got to beat the pegs down with a hammer, then flip it over and beat them the other way. This toy is best for the first child, because after that siblings seem to be fair game for the hammer.

There is a cute little wooden stool with some sweet verse about growing up.

And those big yellow indestructible plastic Tonka Trucks? OK, maybe now I’m taking it another generation further and thinking about my kids’ favorite childhood toys.

In any case, I remember one of my favorite childhood toys was the Crissy doll (except I think I got the Kerry, because back then I was dishwater blondish). You could make her hair long or short by pushing a button on her back or belly button (you know, because that makes sense). To this day I have no idea why I wanted her so badly–as I was not much of a doll person (easy bake ovens – those were the best!) nor, as you may remember, am I much of a hair person. But for some reason I really truly wanted a Chrissy doll for Christmas and I actually got a Chrissy doll for Christmas and that was awesome.

If you’re going with iconic, must-have toys, I still recall the year my now husband was able to pull off the impossible and procure me a Cabbage Patch Doll (mostly because he worked retail and he did really like me and wanted to spoil me for Christmas and boy did he) and the other time when I was able to procure a Tickle Me Elmo by calling Shopko every morning to check on their latest shipment and darned if I didn’t drive to Shopko immediate in my pajama pants (are they still at thing) and slippers on the morning when they came in and I snagged one of four.

[Day 48 of Ann Dee Ellis’ 8-Minute Memoir.]


in my dreams – photo credit: Sgt. Edward Garibay

For some reason as kid–maybe because I was one of six kids–I always wanted to be really great at something. I wanted to be special. (I’m pretty sure I still want to be special.)

One year – maybe I was 8 or 10 or something–I saw a flyer about a novice swim meet pasted up on a bulletin board or a glass door or window. I must have somehow known what the word “novice” meant (because we couldn’t just Google everything on our smart phones a-way back when) or maybe I just asked someone to make sure what it meant, or I could have even looked it up myself in one of those ginormous faded-red covered dictionaries which served as our Google a-way back when, but I knew since I didn’t have a clue what I was doing beyond those generic group swim lessons everyone takes at the locale recreation center pool when they are 4 and 5 and 6, I was a novice.

And so I begged my mom to sign me up.

For some reason she did sign me up and I found myself for the first time ever, a gawky awkward kid–probably in a bright-colored but likely ill-fitting home-sewn knit swimsuit, standing on a starting block with that sticky sandpaper stuff across the top you could stub your toe on if you weren’t careful because its sole purpose was to keep you from slipping into the pool before the starting gun went off.

The starting gun went off and I’m sure I somehow–but awkwardly–entered the pool and swam however many laps and finished the race. I know I didn’t win or break a world record. Or any record. And I wasn’t special. And that day ended all the dreams I barely knew I had of joining the swim team and being an Olympic swimmer and winning something–anything–right there.

But looking back now I would say,

“Good for you kid. You tried something new. And that’s something.”

[Day 47 of Ann Dee Ellis’ 8-Minute Memoir.]

Light the World

It’s been out for awhile now, but I waited to watch this until last night because it felt like a perfect way to more thoughtfully jump into what is already a very busy December. I kind of lose it about 40 some seconds in when it cuts from Jesus giving a hand up to the sick man on the steps of the pool of Bethesda to the boy giving a hand up to a younger boy on the dusty soccer field and I remember that we can love and serve our brothers and sisters as Jesus did.

Today is the kickoff of to light the world 25 ways in 25 days. I can’t guarantee I will have 25 things to say about it, but if I do, I will say it here.

Today’s theme, Jesus Lifted Others’ Burdens and So Can You was timely in a number of ways.

I’ve been Martha’ing about trying to help coordinate food for a family luncheon after the funeral of a longtime neighbor who, as a builder, literally helped build my neighborhood. He is a well loved neighbor, father, husband, and friend to many. I didn’t know him particularly well, but I’m told he built our house long before we moved here (we are the third family in this house since we moved into the neighborhood about 25 years ago, and we’ve been here about 16 of those years).

One thing I will remember him for is his soft-spoken ways and the sweet tenderness with which he always spoke about his wife and the gentle attentive way he cared for her. And the times I felt the spirit whisper the truth of his testimony.

In any case, I’m responsible for organizing the luncheon for his family (and sometime, if I haven’t already, I will write about how I learned this is a sacred and special time when the healing gently, quietly begins). Due to my day job, I have a person on my committee who is generally the point person for the actual serving of the luncheon, but she suffered a fall may have broken her ankle. Bless her though if she didn’t call and call to line up help and do all she could. We had about three days to put this together–coordinating her calls and my Facebook signup on the ward Relief Society page and since I bear the responsibility mantle more heavily than I need to sometimes, I’ve been worrying over it like a Martha and missing the part that Mary would see.

Mourning with those who mourn.

I’m still mourning with the Stewart family. Mourning for families who’ve lost babies this past week. Mourning for a friend who sweet boy just finished leukemia treatment only to find more cancer just as his hair was growing back. Mourning for an unimaginable number of victims of war who no longer have any access to medical care. Mourning for those suddenly and tragically lost. Mourning for those who are lonely, hurt, bullied, and afraid. And this is just a small, small part.

But when I bury myself in busy I forget to feel and you can’t truly mourn without being willing to feel.

So today I took time to remember why we are signing people up for funeral potatoes and Jell-O salads and cakes and rolls.

Why someone who fell helping at the last funeral (just two and a half weeks ago) and whose knee still hurts is stepping up to take the place as point person.

I went to the viewing and looked into the eyes of the people who are saying goodbye to their husband, father, father-in-law and grandpa and I shook their hands and hugged them.

I took a moment to appreciate the generous sisters who, when they saw we were short signed up for two cakes and two salads.

And, remembering that we can rejoice with others as well as mourn, I said a silent prayer of thanks when I learned that sweet Wyatt’s sister is a 100% match for his bone marrow transplant and his mother’s hospital and insurance worries seemed to be resolving themselves. And felt again the joy of learning one of my best friend’s biopsies came back benign.

And I gave thanks for miracles. For I know from whence they come.