Refugees – “No one puts their children in a boat unless the water is safer than the land”

This is all going to be a jumble since my heart has been in a jumble over this already.

My eyes sting with tears when I see images of their faces. I’ve read a few of their stories. But not too many. My heart was too heavy.

I deliberately avoided the news and social media for weeks because I could not bear to see the body of the little boy in the red shirt washed ashore on the beach.

I saw the photos of the traumatized dirty-faced boy from Aleppo–an ancient country many of our presidential candidates did not even know existed. Did not even know was a country. I tried hard not to look to closely, but the vacant, hopeless stare in his eyes is haunting.


My son Zack recently graduated in Arabic and Middle Eastern Studies. He lived six months in Turkey and Jordan. This is his friend Abu.


And Zack’s Facebook post on September 6, 2015.

Every month I have the chance to fast and pray for something particularly troubling or a trial in my life or someone else’s. Last night it was clear what I should dedicate today’s fast to. This is my friend Abu Rashad. He is a Syrian refugee living in Jordan. He works in a small vegetable garden behind a school and sends the money he makes home to his family. He is the father of four children who were all severely injured when their house was bombed, most are now missing limbs. One day he showed us a photo of his two year old nephew who was killed in a bombing. Abu Rashad is one of the kindest and loving people I’ve ever met in my life. We’ve laughed, worked, eaten, cried, and prayed together. He is my friend and my brother. This fast is for him and for his people.

A mother, separated from her children.

A 5 year old boy, separated from his mother.

A trusted man who has risked and sacrificed much to serve our country as a translator for nearly a decade.

A girl who was coming here to care for her sister who had to interrupt here studies here because was in a bad accident and has no one else to help her.

Two elderly people who were denied access to critical meds while they were detained.

Two children, US citizens, traveling with their mother, who was detained because she is from Somalia.

A distinguished scholar who was coming here at our invitation to help fight HIV/Aids.

Families. Professors and students from universities across the country. Doctors. Professionals. Scholars. Employees. Mothers. Fathers. Children. Sisters. Brothers.

People who were traveling here legally. People who in some cases have already invested and sacrificed much in order to comply with an already rigorous vetting process that takes a couple of years. People who in some cases literally have nowhere else to go and no one to turn to.

These are just a few of the people who were immediately affected by the executive order on immigration and refugees.* When, without any credible threat that had precipitated such measures in times past, we up and changed the rules with no apparent thought as to the people whose lives we would put in a tailspin.

Detained. Deported. Desperate.

I literally cried late Saturday evening when I saw the crowd attorneys dedicating their weekends, pro bono, to help these stranded travelers.

And again when I saw the news and realized there were still people being detained and deported on Sunday.

And again when I saw the news and realized there were still people being detained and deported today.

We are a nation of immigrants and refugees.

This–turning them away without forethought or good cause–is not who we are.

Note: Yes, I am aware that this has been done in the past by other presidents. Yes, I support safe borders and careful vetting. Here’s a link to the current vetting procedures.

Here are my primary objections:
1. This action was taken without credible threat. 2. We have actual video (not media reports) of this administration calling for a Muslim ban and of Giuliani boldly stating that Trump specifically asked him how to put a Muslim ban in place. No matter what they call it, I vehemently oppose a Muslim ban. If history has taught us nothing else, it should have taught us the perils in religious discrimination and persecution. 3. Due to the hastiness of this action there was no plan in place for those who are here legally but who were en route from other countries and those who have worked hard to comply with the already rigorous vetting process currently in place.

[Day 72 of Ann Dee Ellis’ 8-Minute Memoir.]

Liken unto us

[I want to be better at recording a few thoughts that have strengthened my heart of late. I will pre-date them so as to note when the occurred.]

For the first time in a bit I had a slow Sunday morning and made time to read the Sunday School lesson for this day. One of the passages struck me in a particular way:

8 During this time of great excitement my mind was called up to serious reflection and great uneasiness; but though my feelings were deep and often poignant, still I kept myself aloof from all these parties, though I attended their several meetings as often as occasion would permit. In process of time my mind became somewhat partial to the Methodist sect, and I felt some desire to be united with them; but so great were the confusion and strife among the different denominations, that it was impossible for a person young as I was, and so unacquainted with men and things, to come to any certain conclusion who was right and who was wrong.

9 My mind at times was greatly excited, the cry and tumult were so great and incessant. The Presbyterians were most decided against the Baptists and Methodists, and used all the powers of both reason and sophistry to prove their errors, or, at least, to make the people think they were in error. On the other hand, the Baptists and Methodists in their turn were equally zealous in endeavoring to establish their own tenets and disprove all others.

10 In the midst of this war of words and tumult of opinions, I often said to myself: What is to be done? Who of all these parties are right; or, are they all wrong together? If any one of them be right, which is it, and how shall I know it?

11 While I was laboring under the extreme difficulties caused by the contests of these parties of religionists, I was one day reading the Epistle of James, first chapter and fifth verse, which reads: If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.

12 Never did any passage of scripture come with more power to the heart of man than this did at this time to mine. It seemed to enter with great force into every feeling of my heart. I reflected on it again and again, knowing that if any person needed wisdom from God, I did; for how to act I did not know, and unless I could get more wisdom than I then had, I would never know; for the teachers of religion of the different sects understood the same passages of scripture so differently as to destroy all confidence in settling the question by an appeal to the Bible.–Joseph Smith History 1

As I was reading, I suddenly felt this passage in terms of politics instead of religion. The cry and tumult are great and incessant. Everyone is zealous in endeavoring to establish their own tenants. I am laboring to understand and yet at a loss to discern what is true.

If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.”

And for the first time in awhile, I felt at peace. I remembered that I do not have to sort it out from the clamoring. All I have to do is step away from the noise, sincerely ask, and then listen to the spirit in my heart.

small awards

“…things you do that you think should earn you a reward.”

Before I spend too much time getting hung up on the semantics of award and reward, the first thing that came to mind simply because I first read the prompt as “reward” is how some days, not very many, and especially not now that I’ve shelved my crockpot for an Instapot, 6pm me used to be very happy with 6am me (let’s be honest now, my 6am days have dwindled in recent years) 7am me when I plan ahead well enough to have thrown a pork roast and some Liquid Smoke and a generous amount of Pacific sea salt in the crockpot before I went to work.

But if we are talking about small awards (and by “small” I mean postponed and by no means small and by “award” I mean extra stars or whatever awards they hand out in the next life for those moments when the battle is internal and you conquer the sometimes natural impulse to defend yourself and instead choose kindness), I would have to say every time I return unkindness with kindness. It isn’t easy. And it’s not to say there are not times when the right thing to do is to speak up and defend yourself, which, I fully believe, is possible to do kindly.

It’s more about the times when you take it on the chin for something that was not your fault, or even worse was an error on the part of your accuser, and often, despite your very best efforts to be a team player and to support people and to give them what they need.

Even if they sometimes reject it like a magnificent block in volleyball or basketball. You know. The ones that make the highlight reel because they seem to shove your shot or your hit right back down your throat as if it never even happened.

Those moments take courage. And I don’t always have courage. But when I do I feel good inside my heart knowing I’ve been true to my best self.

And on a good day, that’s really all the award, or reward, I need.

[Day 71 of Ann Dee Ellis’ 8-Minute Memoir.]


…is a great name for a cat.

And maybe one of those horses that have one or two or three white feet.

But not four, because that just looks like it was on purpose.

In any case, I remember a funny story my mom told me once about my dad when they were looking to buy a new washer and dryer and he told the salesperson “I want the one that doesn’t eat socks.”

Because unpaired socks are the bane of my existence.

Smart people–kind with clean houses–just buy new socks.

But I can’t toss them (there is nearly a full laundry basket of single socks taking up space on my laundry room floor even now) because I keep hoping that somehow, someday, the other half will mysteriously return anxious to be reunited.

The sad–I can’t even find funny in this–thing is that the almost-basketful downstairs is so old that it’s not likely anyone in my family even wears those socks anymore.

But neither can I bear the thought of not having a matched pair to send to the local DI (thrift store) to someone who might really need a complete pair of socks.

That said, my fun daughter taught me long ago the joy and value in not caring if your socks match (this is easier to digest as a personal practice, than to expect anyone else in the family or and recipient of your hand-me-downs). It’s less stressful. Saves you a little bit of time. And it’s fun. But I think you can only truly pull it off if you can get away with making it appear you did that on purpose, not if you come off looking like it was carelessness or accidental.

Socks are one thing. But shoes are another. One time one of my colleagues picked me up to attend a meeting for work and noticed for the first time while standing at my front door that he was wearing one brown shoe and one black shoe.

I’ve done it myself–just once–with my Birkenstocks. One brown blog and one black clog.

Given I’ve spent a little time lately immersed in the stories of refugees and a poor boy from Malawi, I’m reminded to simply be grateful I have enough Birkenstock clogs–and socks–to make such a mistake.

[Day 70 of Ann Dee Ellis’ 8-Minute Memoir.]

Something old


Something old that gives me strength.

Shortly before my mother died, she became anxious about making sure Aunt Jean (her sister) and I went through her jewelry box. My younger sister already had first dibs and had, appropriately, chosen the diamond wedding ring she helped my father pick out for my mother after I went away to school.

I’m not much of a jewelry person. In fact, my own diamond wedding ring is tucked away in a safe place while a plain gold band makes what I expect to be a permanent indent on my fourth left finger. I picked out a few fun strands of fake pearls I expect might be fun for grandkids someday, and gratefully claimed the two mismatched wedding bands of my mother and father.

Sadly (and I’m a little mad at myself for this), I failed to record the audio when, one night as my mother and I were talking, she told me about the mismatched bands. It may have been bedtime. We were both tired. And the details are a bit fuzzy.

Something about how their bands didn’t match and they tried on numerous occasions to get things together enough (time, money, will, who knows?) enough to pick out matching bands together.

She mentioned their trip to Hawaii. I don’t remember if this was a time they tried again, or what?

I do seem to recall a story–which may or may not be true–of my father either spraining or breaking his finger playing church basketball and having to have his ring cut off.

If true, that would be one more impediment in their 20-some year long quest to match.

In any case, as you can tell, my mother’s fingers were so tiny her entire band fit within the circumference of my father’s. (Incidentally, I have my father’s hands.)

How do these two mismatched old wedding bands give me strength?

Because marriage is more complicated than “I do” and “Happily Ever After.” Marriage is the hard–and often painful–work of taking two mismatched hands–male and female, independent individuals with completely different childhoods, personalities, emotional baggage and perspectives–joining them together, with an eternal commitment, a covenant, to see it through. Even if, somehow, you never manage to come together quite enough to find matching bands.

Without airing dirty laundry that I fully expect is now white linen crisp from being washed clean and line-dried in the full sun, I’ll simply mention how as a youth I spent more than one weekend away from home–siblings farmed out elsewhere–wondering if I’d come back to a whole or broken home.

How my aunt used to tell my mother how sorry she was my dad died before they got through the hardest part–so many kids, so much hurt, so many teenagers–and had a chance to turn and grow back towards one another again.

And how my brothers and sister and I so many times worked to find the right words to assure Mom that Dad would indeed traverse the confines of time and space and the mortal experience to meet her when she crossed to the other side. That she would not be left standing there alone, found wanting. That despite their different sizes, mismatched bands and misunderstandings, once they both were free from the mortal trappings of mental, physical, and emotional differences; because they each kept their covenants they would have a joyful reunion. A celebration of their eternal union.

When I wear this necklace–the only other jewelry besides my own band–my fingers sometimes slide and turn the bands as they dangle from the heart. I notice the tension as the metal edges scrape across each other. The subtle scissor blade-sound of edge against edge. I move them back into alignment and rest them, nested, one inside the other, over my heart.

These two old mismatched rings give me strength because they give me hope. They remind me of the gift the atonement–at-one-ment–that promises to refine the metal of mismatched rings, and to heal hearts and minds and unions.

[Day 69 of Ann Dee Ellis’ 8-Minute Memoir.]

This day


Fortunately for writing purposes, I’m getting to “this day” prompt today instead of yesterday.

Today I’ve reflected on the power of women. I’ve thought about a number of quotes that have resonated with me the past couple of days:

We were scared, but our fear was not as strong as our courage.–Malala

It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness –old Chinese proverb, often attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt

The connections between and among women are the most feared, the most problematic, and the most potentially transforming force on the planet.–Adrienne Rich

I know this women’s march means different things to different people. And I don’t pretend to agree with all the reasons people are marching–I don’t believe I have to. For me and for many of us it’s about using our voices for those who do not have a voice. For speaking up for civility, respect, empathy, compassion, and civil and equal rights.

By being silent I could not reconcile the many times during the past couple of years I’ve asked myself where I would have stood had I lived during the civil rights and women’s suffrage movements or Nazi Germany, or how I would have responded had I lived during a time when this country locked up Japanese men, women, and children in internment camps with how I feel in my heart about current happenings.

And so I even though I’m away from home and had to work today, I have supported my friends and family in their various marches in whatever ways I could. And since I believe we can stand up for what we care about and believe without being hateful towards others who see the world differently, I have used my voice where and when I could. And I was happy when someone I know promised to write my name–along with so many others–in henna on her arms as she marched in D.C. today.

I know some will judge me and assign certain beliefs to me to which I do not ascribe simply by association. Others will not see what I am standing up for because they cannot distinguish standing for something from standing against America.

I can’t help but remember how a few years ago after a number of high-profile brutal rapes in India a group of women I don’t know organized a march at consulate in Canada in order to peacefully request their native government be more vigilant in protecting women from rape and in prosecuting the men who violently violate women, often in gangs, while everyone looks the other way.

In solidarity, a friend and I organized a similar vigil and invited our friends and family who would to join them in spirit by having a moment (or many) during their vigil to think about these women and show our support for the safety and protection of women.

After their vigil I saw a newspaper article that stated only 50 people attended. Not wanting them to feel alone and unsupported in their worthy cause, I found the newspaper on Facebook and left a comment about our sisterly vigil from across the borders, told them how many people had joined our group prior to their peaceful protest and how unbeknownst to them they actually numbered just over 200 from across the world.
Perhaps that is a small number. But 200 is greater than 50. And I have to believe that knowing people you’ve never heard or or met or who are not personally affected by your heartbreak stand with you might mean something.

It did.

We’ve never met, but since then the two organizers friended me on Facebook. We share in one another’s joyful moments and also, sometimes, one another’s sorrows. We appreciate the beauty in one another’s occasional vacation photos. We wish each other Happy Birthday. “Blessings on you,” we say. And we mean it.

Never underestimate the power of women who share and listen to one another’s stories. Who have compassion on the world. And who, without necessarily being the same race or religion or having the same political beliefs, have the courage to stand together and speak up for common good. –me

[Day 68 of Ann Dee Ellis’ 8-Minute Memoir.]


“Write about a time the way you thought about someone changed.”

This is my favorite thing. And also why I believe and love how stories connect us. And why BrenĂ© Brown’s work on vulnerability resonates so strongly with me.

Several years ago I found myself reentering the work-force and finding myself catching up from 17 years of technology that advanced without me. I answered an ad for a temp job in a newspaper I wouldn’t normally have seen and only because the spirit whispered to me that I should.

Four months later our department took on new responsibilities, my job–while still flexible–became much more than temporary, I was hired as one of the supervisors and I found myself working with a young kid (most of the employees there were 20-something kids) who, even though our job titles were equal maybe 8 weeks seniority over me.

At first our relationship was a bit combative. He was smart. Much smarter than me in many things. And he was brilliant with computers. I find that often people who know their way around computers make assumptions about the intelligence of people who don’t, even though computers are just one thing among all the things there are to know in the world. Even though he was smart, he wasn’t always right. And I wasn’t afraid to speak up when I saw things another way. Sometimes that put us at odds with one another.

Then one cold snowy day I caught him in a moment of transparency. He spoke briefly about his little sister who had just been diagnosed with cancer and I caught a brief glance at his sorrow and worry. His heart.

Perhaps in part because cancer has left its mark on so many people I love, or perhaps because I have a place in my heart for rough people whose tenderness is buried deep, that was all it took. I found myself driving down Bulldog Avenue with windshield wipers swishing madly and tears running down my cheeks as I prayed for his sister.

And our working relationship thawed.

Another time–his last semester of school–I caught a brief look at insecurity and stress as he–one of the brightest people I know–worried over not being able to graduate because he couldn’t pass the ridiculous math class (as I recall, this class was so bad, the local newspaper wrote an article about how difficult it was to pass).

I left him with a few words of encouragement and may have prayed for him again.

And we became friends.

For a short time before he did pass that bear of a math class and graduate and move on, his wife taught school with my husband. And we used to laugh about how each one of us spent more time with the other’s spouse than we did with our own.

He did move on and has gone on to have a brilliant career. Which is mostly on the down low, for reasons I can’t discuss.

But once a year he comes back to town and we go to lunch with our former boss and catch up on old times. And we inevitably remark how despite moving on–in his case to much more prestigious things–we are grateful for and have never found anything quite like the team of people we were way back in the early days of this 100-year-old company’s transition into the digital world.

And I am grateful for how something as simple as brief moment of authenticity can illuminates someone’s truth in such a way that binds you to them in friendship and loyalty that transcends miles and years.

Recently I had an experience I’ve gotten off on the wrong foot with someone new. This person has no idea, for I kept it to myself. But I was justified in my indignation.

And God promptly put me in not one, but two circumstances which cast this person in a different light and made it clear I am not to judge, but to love.

For a minute or two I was uncomfortable. But I will forever be grateful.

[Day 67 of Ann Dee Ellis’ 8-Minute Memoir.]



Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.–Martin Luther King, Jr.

I like this image because in it King is not standing alone. I hate the thought of anyone having to fight such a big fight as the ongoing fight for civil rights alone.

I studied history in high school.

I studied history again in college.

It wasn’t until this past couple of years that I realized more deeply than ever before that this fight for civil rights we’ve read about for so many years is not nearly as over as we–sitting cozy in our white privilege–believed.

This month two years ago I found myself looking at images and headlines from the battles for civil rights battle for equal rights battle while wandering through the national archives.

Two things struck me:
One, I wondered, as I always do, where I would have stood on the side of history. Would I have had the courage to speak up and to write and to march for my brothers and sisters who were deeply persecuted, who did not enjoy the same rights I do?

Two, I realized for the first time that when I was a young girl entering my congregation’s Young Women’s organization women had barely earned the right to apply for a bank loan on their own credit standing–without a parent or husband’s co-signature.

This past couple of years I’ve been moved by so many stories. Particularly the stories of mothers who fear for their children’s lives every time they go out in public. It’s not as simple as “if you are obeying the law and do what you’re told, you won’t get hurt.” I think we tell ourselves that only because it makes us feel better.

While I’m mindful of the sacrifices police officers and their families make every single day in order to protect the peace and I’m careful to avoid making judgments without all the facts every time an African American is killed by a white cop, I’m not naive enough to believe that bias–conscious and unconscious–isn’t real and rampant in the world. That it doesn’t have significant and devastating effects on real people and their families every day (that’s a whole other post). And that some people are powerless against injustice.

And stories of African American journalists and other professionals who’ve been profiled and accosted in places they had every business to be, for no other reason than the color of their skin. Even just last week a friend tweeted how here in my very town a friend of theirs stepped out of a home where he was an invited guest in order to take a phone call and not one, but two different neighbors called to report him, simply for the color of his skin.

A couple of months ago I found myself stopped at a stoplight with a police officer stopped behind me. I knew I hadn’t done anything wrong. It was daylights so I wasn’t worried if perhaps I had a taillight out. But for a brief moment I felt a palpable fear. And I knew in my heart that there are people in this world–in my world–who feel this on a regular basis.

This past election cycle has brought so much of this into even sharper focus. As a moderate who could no longer tolerate the intolerance and lack of compassion of the party in which she was raised, I stood alone, in the middle, watching with dismay as my liberal friends slung hate and intolerance at my conservative friends and my conservative friends slung hate and intolerance at my liberal friends.

I make a hard, hard choice and voted my conscience against a hatred, misogyny, and bigotry I had hoped we were all beyond tolerating here in the 21st century and have had my integrity and my religious worthiness challenged as a result.

Now, more than ever, I believe Dr. King’s words are true.

Without love in our hearts, when we speak up for what we believe, people will not hear us for the hate.

If we are not willing to see the good in those whose different experiences cause them to see the world differently than we do, the light of the good that is in us will not shine.

We will not come closer together, find common ground, and move forward together by hate. But by love.

Truly in every circumstance in which I have found myself worried, confused, deeply wounded, or conflicted, the answer is always to find it in ourselves to love.

[Day 66 of Ann Dee Ellis’ 8-Minute Memoir.]


troubleI think there may be a little mischief in those eyes

I may have escaped getting in trouble after the great food fight, but that does not mean I escaped trouble entirely.


When I was in elementary school I had a crush on a kid named Rance Clifton. I wouldn’t even recognize him now, but I do recall he had kind of medium-dark brown hair. And he somehow reminded me of Randolph Mantooth.

In any case, in that awkward way kids have of mistakenly believing any kind of attention is good attention, I inexplicably stole his coat. In my mind, it a blue down-looking coat. Kids these days call them puffy coats. And while I know myself well enough to say it’s unlikely I deliberately dragged Rance Clifton’s coat through the mud, it’s likely I was careless and the end result was the same.

Rance went home in a rather brown coat instead of a blue coat.

I was invited to the principal’s office to visit with him about why I would do such a thing.

And Rance never spoke to me again.


When I was in jr. high, I do recall getting called to the vice principal’s office one time. It was the end of the school year. And our school’s tradition–I should say the students at our school’s tradition, as it was not in any way sanctioned–and indeed was prohibited–was to correlate end of school year with water fight.

Said water fight was forbidden, but, much like the live chicken at the Provo High-Timpview rivalry game, was still a much-loved tradition. I don’t recall details, but water guns may have been involved. For some reason I think I may have gotten called out of math class. But I may be blurring memories with how Cyndy Smith and I used to be in trouble with the math teacher rather frequently because math was after lunch and we had energy to burn in a math class that despite a wonderful teacher was not challenging enough for us and we talked and giggled too much.

In any case, I don’t remember the vice principal’s name, but he was whatever the male version of petite is, was rather stern, and wore glasses.

And he knew exactly the right thing to say to this otherwise responsible and obedient student (due to that “responsibility” mantle most oldest children take upon themselves).

“I’m disappointed in you.”

Those same words, on very rare but somber occasions uttered by my father cut me to the quick.

That doesn’t mean I didn’t, get into trouble at least once or twice more with my parents (mostly staying out too late, which resulted in severe grounding, or sometimes being a little sassy, for which there was zero tolerance).

But I never got called down to the principal’s office–vice or otherwise–again.

[Day 65 of Ann Dee Ellis’ 8-Minute Memoir.]

a table


Not too long after we moved into our current home a friend of mine who has a knack for finding furniture on the cheap and then painting it colorful fun picked up a large table she wanted to resell as was and without painting.

She sold it to me. Along with maybe six matching wheat-back chairs. Most of which have somewhat fallen apart over the years.

It’s a simple table, solid wood block-style base with a (what I didn’t realize was a veneer until after was almost done refinishing it) oak finish.

It fits in my dining room. With no room to spare.

With its two leaves–which now are permanent fixtures–it can seat ten. But often sits more.

As with most horizontal surfaces in my house, it has a difficult time staying clear and has to be cleaned off weekly. At times the south end of it has served as a sewing table and as my desk. Currently it serves as my husband’s desk.

What I love about this table is how easily people will gather around it.

It somehow handles the excess of Thanksgiving 2.0. My Grandpa and Grandma Jacobs used to sit around it. I loved how they would tell me how dinner tasted so good–especially after having told me that when you get older you can’t taste so well. Along with my mom, who came for a few years more after they died. A few neighbors now and then.

It’s survived–along with all my tables–numerous cub scout activities.

It’s held hor d’oeuvres for parties a time or two.

Maybe served a softball or volleyball team dinner or two.

It serves as a great workspace for pie making.

But most importantly, it’s a great place for Sunday dinner. We’ve promised a seat at it to any nieces and nephews who move here for school. Along with those friends of our kids who are like family to us.

Sometimes what’s served on it is well planned. At other times it’s thrown together (sometimes rather desperately). But it doesn’t seem to matter.

As long as they feel the love.

[Day 64 of Ann Dee Ellis’ 8-Minute Memoir.]