War

Michael Jackson said “But I’m a lover not a fighter.” I’m not afraid to fight the good fight. Truth is, my hackles raise like those on any good mama bear worth her salt. I’m prone to stand up and speak up when I need to, but I’m working hard to tame my temper and to open my heart and become generous, thoughtful, and diplomatic. I am weary of polarization and rancor. I seek peace.

I remember when the Lord of the Rings movies–which I love–came out. The battle scenes are larger than life. I couldn’t help but feel, however, that they were also aptly symbolic of the terrible greatness of the mostly unseen (are our heads in the sand?) battle of good against evil.

Over time, I’ve struggled with the prevalence of war metaphors and imagery in our hymns and scripture. Not because I’m afraid to fight, but because I crave peace. To the point that tears flowed yesterday at church during the first lines of the opening hymn when I realized it was “Onward Christian Soldiers.”

Onward, Christian soldiers!
Marching as to war,
With the cross of Jesus
Going on before.
Christ, the royal Master,
Leads against the foe;
Forward into battle,
See his banners go!

Yesterday I’d awoken with a heavy heart. I later reached out to a good friend who collaborates with her husband to create wonderful art. Angels appear frequently in their work as they fight the good fight. But they do not shrink to name the adversary. “Not TODAY, Satan!” is their cry.

I thanked her for the many ways she encourages and inspires. She sent the following:

war

I was reminded if one must go to war, one is greatly blessed by marching with the valiant.

Today she posted this on her Instagram, in memory of times she has been deeply discouraged and plagued by the devil’s doubts and I would tell her, “You just need to punch him in the face.”

Screen Shot 2017-04-24 at 10.36.47 PM

Mostly I’m grateful that our war hymn yesterday, one of many to be sure, somehow ended on a happy note:

2. At the sign of triumph
Satan’s host doth flee;
On, then, Christian soldiers,
On to victory.
Hell’s foundations quiver
At the shout of praise;
Brothers, lift your voices,
Loud your anthems raise.

3. Like a mighty army
Moves the Church of God;
Brothers (Sisters), we are treading
Where the Saints have trod.
We are not divided;
All one body we:
One in hope and doctrine,
One in charity.

4. Onward, then, ye people;
Join our happy throng.
Blend with ours your voices
In the triumph song:
Glory, laud, and honor
Unto Christ, the King.
This through countless ages
(Wo)men and angels sing.

Remember

Just a couple of times when I’ve lost people I love, I’ve had intense periods of remembering them, as if every time I turn around some physical reminder of them–like that time after Kate died when I could smell her patchouli in the entry way of my house–is right there.

This weekend it was Barbara’s turn. Below is a series of texts I sent my sister-in-law Rochelle on Friday.

I’m making a quilt for our friends’ wedding. So yesterday found me at the Cotton Shop, where I did the block of the month I gave to your mom (and that she submitted to the country fair. Twice!)

I found myself telling the clerk who cut fabric for me about how their scrappy Block of the Month became an award winning quilt and actually pulled up the photo from the display at her (Barbara’s) funeral to show her (the clerk) the quilt. Which I’m sure she didn’t need to know, but apparently I needed to tell her about.

Then last night we the family over and had Navajo tacos and frybread from a Navajo family trying to earn money to send their girls on tour with BYU’s Living Legends.

Both those were happy things, I guess. (But while the frybread was excellent, your mom’s chili is still the best thing to ever grace a Navajo Taco.)

Right now I’m at Fabric Mill in Orem, which is just next to the Chuckarama. And I’m remembering our dinner together the night before. That was a happy time, but being here now I can’t help but feel sad. Still grateful we had that time, but also sad it was the last time.

We miss her.

Yesterday I was waiting in line next to someone I thought was a stranger and I learned that a friend (not a close friend, but one who has become dear to me as her family as taken on a familiar fight–the fight against cancer–the fight no one ever seeks or asks for)’s sweet courageous and hopeful son is out of remission after just barely being able to return to school after yet another round of treatments. The cancer keeps returning–and this time so quickly–to his brain, thus rendering the hope of the bone marrow transplant for which they have a perfect match, ineffective. There is nothing more they can do. The sure faith which which this sweet child of God met this impossible news was humbling. Yet my heart breaks for him and his family.

I couldn’t hold back the tears and was crying silently, when the person next to me recognized me and said hello. When she could see I was grieving, she gave me a hug and expressed love and support that I would never have expected to find in such a random place. Except I’m sure it was not random.

Later this afternoon, the familiar wail of sirens drew close. I looked out my front window and saw a series of first responders head south on the main road perpendicular to mine. “Please keep going,” I silently pleaded, knowing, of course that pain and sorrow is pain and sorrow wherever it lands.

Soon I got a text from a neighbor one street over, informing me where the ambulance was parked. I texted Shane, who, as bishop, was receiving a flurry of texts and calls.

It was, of course, someone we know and love, someone beloved by so many here on the hill. “A spitfire of a lady,” as described by her son. A powerful matriarch who has been a force for good her entire life and who is so strong, it seemed impossible she would even age, let alone be taken from us.

In a freak accident, she fell down a short flight of stairs in the worst possible way and within a couple of hours we got word she has been taken home.

We are in disbelief. And our hearts are turned to this dear family–three of her sons and their families live in our immediate neighborhood–another and a granddaughter within just blocks beyond. We mourn their loss along with our own losses, and those of several friends who’ve lost brothers, sisters, fathers, and mothers. Whose wounds are all fresh.

So grateful to come across this sweet reminder this morning in my reading.

mosiah 14

Hope. Pray. Love.

lists

Riverside Shakespeare

Riverside Shakespeare – signed by Jim Schweigert
The Book Thief – signed by Markus Zusak
Peace Like a River – signed by Lief Enger
Beyond Survival – signed by Kevin Rahm
Blood Rose Rebellion – signed by Rosalyn Eves

The other day I was thinking about how that one time I loaned a book to a friend–not just any book, but an autographed book–and after reading it she gave it to a stranger on a bus and I will never see it again.

The book, Beyond Survival, was about a prisoner during the Viet Nam war. It was signed by my brother’s friend and fellow student, Kevin Rohm in the BYU theater department after they finished an amazing production “Prisoner” at BYU. Kevin was the lead. Now he is a professional actor and has been in films and also a recurring character (at least in previous seasons) in Madam Secretary.

Then I remembered how I have terrible luck with signed books and perhaps I should stop having people sign books altogether.

I attended a lecture at BYU with Wendy Shalit and purchased two copies of her book A Return to Modesty. She addressed one to me, and the other to my daughter. I let someone in book group read my autographed copy, and never saw it again. Of course I still have the autographed copy for my daughter, but she couldn’t be less interested, so I maybe I will send it to DI eventually?

Speaking of DI, I always wonder if someday someone will find any of my missing books with their personalized autographs and Google “Dalene” to see if maybe I wanted them back. Because surely everyone knows people don’t discard autographed books specifically addressed to them on purpose.

The Book Thief

The most heartbreaking (don’t worry, there is a happy ending) personalized autographed book tragedy was when I loaned out my autographed hard copy of The Book Thief to a dear friend. She was helping take care of my grandmother at the time and actually brought it back to return to me one time when I visited my grandmother, but then we got to visiting and I forgot to take it with me when I left.

Then she went on a mission. And thought the book may have been left in her car with some skirts that were supposed to go to DI. Her family looked and looked. But never found the book.

I actually prayed over that book. I wanted it back. I’d waited in line until 1:00 in the morning to have Markus Zusak sign it (he is adorable, by the way, and had given one of the most moving author lectures ever when he came to the Provo Library). I LOVE that book. It’s story haunts me in the same way death is haunted by humans.

In any case, a couple years after said friend got home from her mission, she showed up at my house with a great big smile on her face and her eyes lit up like it was Christmas!

She found the book!

It is right up there with my copy of The Riverside Shakespeare that was presented to me and is signed by my favorite high school English teacher when I received English Student of the Year as only a handful of “things” about which I care a great deal. (Which I also lost at one time, but eventually found, because it was just lost in my house, which is a whole other post someday.)

rosalyn

Three weeks ago I posted a photo on Facebook while I was in Cedar City for work (when we burned down a house). Someone I know from Segullah, who, as it turns out, also grew up in my current neighborhood, replied to my post and asked me when I’d be down that way again because she’d love to say hello. As it was, I turned around and went back to Cedar City just a couple of days later. Turns out, I was there the same night as the book signing of her first published novel. My class finished just in time for me to sneak up on her and say hello.

One more little anecdote about signed books. The first time I went to an author signing event at the Provo Library, I went to have Leif Enger sign my copy of Peace Like a River. As I neared the front of the line I searched earnestly to say something that would express how much I loved his book. Finally it came to me.

“I had to get this back from my son’s ex-girlfriend’s* little sister in order to get it signed. That’s how much we love your book.”

He got it!

*Same girl–whom I still love like a daughter even though she’s married to someone else’s son–who lost my autographed copy of The Book Thief. ;)

being the bad guy

I’m the mom. In my experience, moms are often the bad guy. I’ve learned to choose my battles, but it still means that I experience more conflict that I’d like when I do have to stand up and say, “This is how it is,” or “That’s enough.”

How and when is being bad a good thing? Perhaps–at least I hope–when it means people know where you stand.

My favorite–not–is when one of my kids will ask me my opinion about something. They know I will tell them what I think. When they don’t like what they hear, I remind them 1. they asked, and 2. they don’t (now, anyways, because they are almost all adult children) have to do what I advise, but they should know by now if they ask I will tell them.

When, um, one of my children shaved the side of his or her head unexpectedly, he or she came bursting into my room to see what I thought. The truth is, that’s not my favorite style. And I couldn’t help but think that the eventual growing out stage would be a royal pain.

How did I react?

I didn’t get mad – I’m kind of a big fan of agency and hair is not one of the battles I chose to fight.

But I didn’t exactly love it.

I didn’t want to hurt any feelings, but nor could I lie. So I said what came to my mind,

“Do YOU like it?”

While I still maintain that my honest answer was the right answer, it was also the wrong answer. Said child became quite angry, then put it back on me saying I was angry (I was not).

Said child did not talk to me for two entire days.

However, when said child cooled down, we had a very honest conversation in which said child expressed to me that he/she was struggling with his/her choice and needed reassurance. He/she needed me to love it.

But I didn’t. And while my answer was supportive in the most honest way I knew how, it was not reassuring.

How is this a good thing?

Since then, in other conversations, said child often wants to know how he/she looks–either for an important occasion or in something new.

In this too I am honest.

So when said child needs reassurance even after I’ve replied in the affirmative, I can easily reply with,

“You know I won’t lie to you.”

And I feel pretty good about that.

[Day 106 of Ann Dee Ellis’ 8-Minute Memoir.]

eggs

chasingchickens
The good ole days.

When I was a little kid, I learned how to spell “egg” by watching Sesame Street. E-G-G. I remember being so surprised there were two “g”s!

Deviled eggs took awhile to grow on me, but every now and then I have a craving. They are one of just four dishes* where I will tolerate a little bit of mustard.

I loathe mustard.

The second dish in which I will tolerate mustard is potato salad.

When I was in high school I worked for Abby’s Pizza Parlor. There are lots of good (and a couple bad) memories associated with Abby’s Pizza parlor, but one in particular was how much my dad loved the potato salad at the salad bar. I used to make that potato salad by the tub full. (Note: that requires A GOOD DEAL OF EGGS.) One year my dad was hosting some sort of BBQ at the Fisher Implement store he managed and he paid me good money to make him an entire tub of that same potato salad. I loved knowing that he was proud of me and liked my cooking (although that kind of food prep isn’t so much cooking as a whole lotta peeling and chopping) and also that he trusted me to feed people. His people. And especially something as particular as potato salad. I’d wager potato salad is one of the most frequent offenders when it comes to food poisoning after a picnic.

But the other thing that comes to mind is chickens.

Apparently, in this case the eggs came before the chickens.

I’ve been thinking a good deal about chickens lately (possibly because I’ve taken a gander at baby chicks not one, but two weekends in a row now). How excited I was when I first got my chickens. How fun it was to raise baby chicks. How much I loved–once they were old enough to move into their tin-roofed coop–to gather eggs each morning and to let the chickens out to wander the yard every evening.

How much I’ve missed that since we got Ginger and she killed most of my chickens.

For a bit I’ve been jealous. Watching out the back window as Shane’s pigeons play about the yard–pecking at the insects, seeming to have free reign. Unbothered by Ginger.

But recently Shane called me to the window to look outside. And there was my last remaining chicken–one of the Rhode Island Reds–giving herself a dust bath in my flower garden. Completely unbothered by Ginger. I couldn’t believe it. She’s had free reign of the yard ever since. Although I did catch Ginger chasing her across the back 40 once. She (the chicken, not Ginger) sought refuge behind the old turquoise Little Tykes kiddie pool propped up against the fence.

She (again, the chicken) also started laying eggs again. Which is pretty amazing considering how old she is (we’ve had Ginger over 4 years). We were just getting used to them enough to miss them now her nest is empty again. We figure she’s gotten comfortable enough to just lay them willy nilly (as opposed to henny penny) out in the yard.

Ah well. Eggless or no, at least she’s free from the boarded up sunless confines of her coop.

And that makes me happy.

[Day 105 of Ann Dee Ellis’ 8-Minute Memoir.]

Post edit, for what it’s worth, dishes three and four (in which I will tolerate mustard) are my Christmas breakfast frittata and meatloaf. Both which also, coincidentally, contain EGGS.

practicing

pianoWhen you give your piano that is simply gathering dust to your son and his wife for Christmas because you know they will actually play it

Practicing. I feel like I already wrote about this in my post about gymnastics, but I know in my heart of hearts is that what almost all of us think about when we hear the word “practicing” is the piano.

I was a reluctant practicer. And would be as much of a disappointment to Malcolm Gladwell as I must have been to my mother.

I was also a failure at making my kids practice. Although to be fair, we did faithfully try. We paid for lessons for all of them even when we could hardly afford it. And eventually, because life was crazy and my husband was working nights and weekends and we were truly madly deeply just doing our best, we quit. At the end of the day I think kids have some responsibility to be accountable for their own choices to practice or not to practice. (Read: I cannot logically beat myself up both for being a lousy practicer as a child and for my children choosing not to practice without bribing, threatening or cajoling, so I’m going to absolve myself of at least one of those baggages of guilt.)

In any case, here’s something I did and am and will continue to practice:

Trying to be a decent human being.

Kindness.

Service.

Charity. The real kind, that’s a lot harder than simply writing a check.

I began practicing that as a child, watching both my parents continue their lifelong practice.

And I will keep practicing. Even when I am tired. In pain. Sad. Or empty.

At the pearly gates may I be forgiven for not having become a professional, or even a truly proficient piano player or accompanist (and even for having fallen out of practice from when I could play) and for the fact that only half my children pursued music (but somehow even those who didn’t managed to have their synapses form and become sassy smart intelligent anyway).

But most importantly, may I not be found lacking in charity.

[Day 104 of Ann Dee Ellis’ 8-Minute Memoir.]

Lost

corduroy

Love that today’s prompt includes a photo of Corduroy, a story of being lost and also found. Things I have lost include so many books–including library books and the money it cost to “buy” them from the library, my Young Women’s medallion that I lost in my huge backyard in Junction City Oregon and looked for frantically to no avail. I even prayed to find it, but didn’t still. Good thing my faith was built in other ways. All my favorite records on vinyl were lost in a move that happened without me while I was away at school at BYU and my mom moved my family from Oregon to Utah because we had, more tragically, lost my dad.

If I had a dime for every time I’ve lost my keys, I’d be buying some cool gadget that prevents you from losing your keys. And maybe a new car to go with it.

There are times I’ve been worried I was losing my mind. Or I would lose my mind if things didn’t change. Things don’t usually change, but I learned to adapt, which taught me that I can change. Even when it’s hard or I don’t want to.

Yesterday I got a call from my friend Becky Cuell at 9:16 am. Of course I was at work. The last time Becky called me at work she didn’t know I’d be at work because it was a Saturday, but I was driving home from a class I’d worked on in SLC and she called to tell me she thought she had breast cancer. I cried and prayed all the way home.

Fortunately the next week Becky called me to tell me her tumor was benign. And I shouted with joy and prayed some more.

Because I lost my dad to cancer when I was 19 and that kind of loss shapes you.

In 2015 I lost my mom to cancer and, as a number of people will tell you (most recently, Dan Rather), losing your mother changes you.

That same year a good friend and mentor and two of the people closest to me moved away. I’ve many friends and try to be a friend to all, but I’m not so much BFF material. But you could say these two women were some of the best friends I’ve had my entire life.

So, to put it mildly, 2015 was a year of deep and abiding loss.

I’ve been thinking about Becky. We haven’t talked since she visited in January (I think it was January?) to bring her daughter Megan back to Provo to finish her senior year of school. But I’ve thought about her often and have been meaning to text her for a couple of weeks.

When I saw her number of caller i.d. I was worried something was wrong. Usually when people call me when they know I’m at work, something is wrong.

Fortunately nothing was wrong. It was simply this:

“I know you’re at work but I miss you and I wanted to call you right now even though you’re at work and tell you how much I miss you.”

There are no words to express how those words filled my heart.

This mortal existence takes its toll. We lose things. We lose people we love. But the bonds of family and friendship we form overcome time and space and fill our hearts forever.

For this I am grateful.

[Post edit. Apparently I got so excited seeing Corduroy I didn’t realize that was the Kids Day prompt from Ann Dee Ellis’ 8-Minute Memoir. Oops.]

Concert

When my two oldest were in high school, I had the opportunity to attend a great many concerts. Choir concerts, jazz band concerts, and regular band concerts. Most likely that was orchestra? It’s all a blur.

They were wonderful concerts. Talented and passionate kids. Directed by talented and passionate conductors. In fact, I would often find myself closing my eyes so to give the music the full focus of my senses, because good live music is right up there with acts of genuine kindness in experiences that make me feel closest to heaven.

But one concert comes to mind in particular. Luke was performing in the St. George Tabernacle. So that sounded like a great excuse for a road trip down south. In fact, I’m guessing it might have been in the late winter/early spring, because that is when I’m itching the most to go down south. There’s something about the red rock, blue sky, and beds and beds of already blooming spring bulbs and blossoms set against the green grass while all the world up north is still grey.

In any case, I loaded the other three kids in the mini van and we must have all had our fun before finding ourselves on a Sunday night at the tabernacle.

Now that I think about it, it’s unlikely there were strict dress requirements for the public at the tabernacle. But for some long forgotten reason I must have been scrambling for Zack to have nice clothes. And I happened to recall that I had my recently deceased (and by recently, I mean really recently, as in perhaps a week, tops) grandfather’s suits in the back of my van.

And for some reason I encouraged Zack to grab either the pants or the suit coat. The details escape me, but what I do recall was the look on his face when he reached into his pocket and pulled out a couple of used tissues. (They may have even been hankies. Grandpa was definitely a handkerchief kind of man.)

We laughed about it later, but Zack was not just a little horrified. And I had no response for my thoughtlessness.

But from that day forward, I know to check the pockets of deceased people’s wardrobes before passing them on to the next unsuspecting soul.

[Day 103 of Ann Dee Ellis’ 8-Minute Memoir.]

ancestor

friend
Jack Small

Sunday night I was in Brigham City for my friend Jane’s father’s viewing. I wondered if I would see my Uncle Dee (his friends, apparently, call him Ron) there. I’d been on the road all day and hadn’t tried to reach out. And we arrived at the end of the viewing and so it was very likely he’d been earlier. He arrived with his second wife, who I don’t know very well, and we caught up on family for a few minutes before we moved up in the line and he headed to the back of the line.

A few minutes later someone tapped me on the shoulder.

“Are you Dale Rex’s daughter?”

“Yes I am!”

“I’m Jack Small. I used to work with your dad.”

It took me a minute. I was trying to put into context when that might have been.

“At the BYU Dairy. When we were both at BYU. I knew Bob,* too.”

He didn’t really have much more to say than that, in fact I should liked to have asked him some questions, but I thanked him profusely.

“They’ve been gone so long, it’s so good to meet someone who remembers them.”

It was clear he remembered them fondly.

This is the thing about losing someone you love. The world keeps spinning. Life moves on. Everyone else moves forward just the same today and tomorrow as yesterday.

Eventually time moves forward for you again too. The planet still spins. But the tilt of the planet will forever remain just a little bit off to you. And sometimes you wonder how everyone else goes on as if nothing happened.

So when, nearly 35 years later, someone stops for a moment and seeks you out to acknowledge the altered universe–that this person you cared about existed and was known and loved and is still missed–well words are insufficient to explain how that settles in your heart.

[Day 102 of Ann Dee Ellis’ 8-Minute Memoir.]

*Bob is my uncle who was shot down in Viet Nam when I was a toddler. He left behind a pregnant wife and a a toddler even younger than I was. She doesn’t remember him. Her younger sister never knew him.

p is for packing and preparing for trips

falls

Thursday morning I called in late and ran up to the Salt Lake Airport for something I felt compelled to do, but will write about later. While I was there my oldest son called. He wanted to go to Idaho. That afternoon. I had thought about going earlier in the week – I needed to see my brothers. And I wanted to see the baby pigs. And the older cows before they went to market this summer. And also Shoshone Falls in full spring runoff. But I talked myself out of it when my brother Jon texted that he would be in California.

Except his trip got rearranged.

And then I talked myself out of it again because I had planned to do my taxes this weekend.

But when Luke called. And then texted. I couldn’t get the idea out of my head. I was itching to go.

I talked Luke into waiting until morning so we could see the falls in daylight. And took the rest of the day off, did most of my taxes that afternoon, and put my house in order.

And then I packed.

If I have clean clothes I can pack in about 15 minutes.

Packing is easy for up to a week. I picked up a bright Cotopaxi backpack for myself after my daughter let me borrow hers when I was traveling to D.C. so often for work in 2015.

Undergarments go in the roomy inside pocket. Then I layer clothes, putting whatever I’m going to wear last in first and working my way up. There’s always room for my makeup bag at the top before I cinch up the drawstring. I generally have a bag of Clorox wipes in the outer pocket, along with assorted herbal teas, a few hair ties, and some tiny headphones. I usually squeeze a few sample-sized bottles of my favorite essential oils (On Guard and Serenity) along with any seasonal allergy meds (if the timing is right, or wrong, as it were) into my CPAP bag.

My still-muddy tennis shoes in a grocery bag under the seat, and a couple of pairs of socks and a sweatshirt get tossed in my shoulder bag that stays up in the front seat, and I’m good to go.

If you travel light, then there’s more room for good company.

[Day 101 of Ann Dee Ellis’ 8-Minute Memoir.]