Screen Shot 2017-07-31 at 9.01.14 PM Photo credit: Jeff Kubina

I don’t really care for blueberries. It’s not that I don’t like them. Or question their nutritional value. Or don’t appreciate them in homemade muffins with just the right amount of lemon zest. Or in jelly–one of the few instances in which I prefer jelly as to a chunky, fruit-filled jam–smeared across good generously buttered toast.

But they’re not my favorite. Strawberries. At least sun-ripened strawberries. Or blackberries. Or wild-growing marion/loganberries. Now those are real flavors. And that’s just the berries. Give me citrus. Tart, lip-puckering lemon, cool lime, or sweet orange (or even blood orange). Those are flavors.

Cherries. Peaches. Plums.

Something about blueberries always seems too easy (smooth skin, no seeds of notice). Too sweet? No tartness whatsoever. Or devoid of texture. Where’s the challenge in that?

I don’t recall if we ever grew blueberries (yes, it’s possible I was that disinterested). If we didn’t, it’s likely I’ve never even picked them for myself.

Blueberries are right down there with melons (with the except of the perfectly sun-ripened Green River cantaloup, which I will relish for a time in its season.

Couldn’t be less interested.

Except for when that spoiled child grew into a giant blueberry in Charlie in the Chocolate factory. That was not forgettable.

[Day 150 of Ann Dee Ellis’ 8-Minute Memoir.]

Watching movies

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I wish I’d watched more movies with my mom. She enjoyed them and was always good company. I’m glad my kids would go with her once they were older. And that we often invited her to join us even though we went infrequently. And especially that we did go with her that one last time.

Now I mostly miss movies while they are still in the theater (too many to mention, but note to self: go see Wonder Woman even if you have to go by yourself! In fact, just start going to movies by yourself so you stop missing them in the theater!).

But one of my favorite things about watching movies is how not every year, but more often that not, a new Star Wars or Star Trek movie will come out in December. That is just awesome. Because it’s my birthday in December. And one of the things I most like to do in all the world is get my entire family together to go see a movie. And to go see a new Star Wars or a new Star Trek movie is one of the things I second (or at least third) most like to do. So it’s a great excuse to get everyone together and to do something at least most of us enjoy.

Aside from that, here is what else I recall about watching movies:

Bambi was in the the theaters when my little sister and I had chicken pox. So my parents took us to see Bambi at the drive-in. In our pajamas. My mom may or may not have made us Bambi pajamas to wear in the car at the drive-in theater while we watched Bambi. (Even if that didn’t happen, it is a generous memory about something potentially wonderful about my childhood, so I’m going to let it stay.) Two sad things, however. Bambi, like Dumbo, is traumatic for a child. I can still hear the retort of the gunshot when Bambi’s Dad (or was it his Mom? I don’t recall, just that losing a parent is traumatic even in animated forest animal fantasies) was shot. As is having your baby elephant torn from your trunk simply because you are a mother bear protecting said baby elephant. I cried during both. But somehow went on to forgive Disney anyway.

The second thing–and this was, perhaps, my first lesson in the fact that life isn’t fair–is that when my sister and I got chicken pox, my sister was terribly sick. She had the pox all over her body and between her toes and inside her ears and her nose and down her throat and who knows else where. And I had all of maybe 3 pox. One on my chest, opposite of where I put my hand on my heart. So she was miserable. And I was only mildly and minimally itchy. And yet I got an undeserved share in all the wonderful attempts my mom made to comfort, distract, and otherwise help my sister endure her miserable affliction. Including watching Bambi at the drive-in in homemade Bambi pajamas.

And that’s what I remember about watching movies.

[Day 149 of Ann Dee Ellis’ 8-Minute Memoir.]

things i’ve ruined

Screen Shot 2017-07-31 at 8.33.12 PM photo credit, united art and education

This might be too deep of a subject for me. Perhaps it’s too painful. Or perhaps I, perpetual optimist that I am, never really give up on things. Or people. Or relationships? Or perhaps it’s all those things wrapped up in one.

In any case, I’ll see if I can think of a short list.

I’ve ruined a few of my favorite t-shirts and sweaters by snagging them on the pointed brass handle of the one red door that is hanging on my linen closet in the hallway. I painted the hall and main living area and the kitchen once–with bad paint that has since been peeling–and when we went to rehang the linen closet door it has never been the same. I couldn’t tell you where the other one–the one we never hung after we realized what a disappointment the first one was–even is. Except that is somewhere. And it will be rehung, crooked or not, someday.

Since I am the kind of person who never gives up–and who has to be cut out or ghosted or abandoned because I will never be the one who stops trying and just gives up–I would at least hope I haven’t ruined any relationships. Especially since, as imperfect as I am, the words “preserve the relationship” are indelibly etched across my brain, my heart, my soul.

I ruined every single canvas on which I’ve tried to paint. Apparently I can tole paint. I can paint by number. (I can, just now, envision the smattering of tiny numbered sections of browns and auburn and roan reds with a little patch of white on my first paint-by-number horse. I was always drawing horses. And that was my first choice for my first paint by number. Back in the day before all hopes I might have had of being an artist were dashed.

I don’t consider the very first quilt I made ruined just because my kids splattered black craft paint on the back. First, I wasn’t fond of the back anyway–it was my first and last time using sheets instead of a modge-podge of leftover fabrics for a crazy back, if you will. And stains, like scars and grey hairs, are simply stories of things that happened to you or someone or something you may have invested yourself in and therefore cared about. Sometimes at the hands of people you also care about. So you simply let it go.

[Day 148 of Ann Dee Ellis’ 8-Minute Memoir.]

my childhood journal

I don’t recall ever keeping a journal as a child, per se, however I do recall various fits and starts trying to keep one in my tweens, early teens. I know that just as I did when I was a young mother and thought I would–could–remember all the important things–baby’s first words, steps, funny things they said, funny things they did–I would have been just as wrong as a youth as I was as a young mom.

That said, I do know that at some point along the way I had some bit of success writing with some regularity when I was around 13 years old.

The reason I know this is because when I was in my late twenties and asked to serve as a leader with all the girls in my congregation who were 12 and 13 years old (there were just over two dozen of them) I stumbled upon that journal and had a read.

I cried. I laughed. But mostly I cried. And I felt. I felt again how it was to feel so insecure. So wanting. So wounded by the world. I felt fleeting hope over the most superfluous things. I felt embarrassed. Disappointed. In adequate. Unsure. And still joy over the simplest of things. And still a less fleeting hope–an optimism–that I could be better. That things would be better. That cup-half-full kind of girl was somehow present in the messy scrawl across the pages even amidst all the teen angst.

And it was good–and not by chance–I stumbled upon that angsty journal. I fell in love with those girls easily. Because I remembered. I judged less and loved more when they came before me with their own heartbreaks and drama. When they were sassy or–walls up over wounded hearts–rude. And now–through the gift of Facebook and that way kids have of coming home once in awhile–I get to see them all grown up–amazing and wonderful resilient women–friends and wives and mothers and all–well past all our teen angst, but no less tried and proven by the world. They are truly amazing women and I’m grateful to have known and loved them as I did, connected through the trials of being 13.

[Day 147 of Ann Dee Ellis’ 8-Minute Memoir.]

Something I don’t want to lose


Nothing is ever really lost to us as long as we remember it.–L.M. Montgomery

I don’t remember the sound of my father’s voice. I’m not sure, really, what to make of that. I remember his words. I remember the way he stole our caramel frosting off the spice cake when we weren’t looking. I remember the twinkle in his eye. But I cannot remember his voice. It is only the sure knowledge I have that I will see him again that makes this loss somewhat bearable.

I keep a voicemail or two from my mother still on my phone. One of them, I haven’t even listened to yet. Because I called her back. Back when I could call her back. I can’t bear to listen to them yet. Even though they are over 2 years old. I don’t know when or if I will be able to. But I know that they are there. And I won’t forget.

I remember when my kids were little. It didn’t matter how messy the chaos that was my house or my life. It didn’t matter how tired I was. But there was always a moment at the end of each day when I would snuggle them before bed and nestle my nose in the top of their tow-topped heads, close my eyes, and breathe deeply, willing the moment to sear itself in my memory, willing myself to never forget their smell, their sound, their energy. Those moments of closeness now too far past, but which I still keep in my memory. Even know I lure the very curious, active James into my lap on the pretense of reading a story, but mostly to snatch a near-still moment in which to nuzzle his head with my nose and breathe him in, sealing up the memory while I can.

There is one other (you see–I still have trouble following the rules and have failed at limiting myself just to one) ? of my mortal experience that I desperately try to sear into my heart in the hopes of never forgetting. The warmth of the sun on my face and my arms, breeze in my hair, big skies in my view and whatever nature has to offer–mountains, streams, fields, or farmlands– lit by that perfect light of early morning or just before sunset–grounding me to the earth. These are the moments I want to hold on to. In which I tell myself that whatever turmoil or worry is in my head, whatever anguish or heartbreak or loss is in my heart, it was worth it to come to earth just to experience this moment. This reminder that God created this beautiful world–a world so beautiful it almost hurts to take it in–for me.

[Day 146 of Ann Dee Ellis’ 8-Minute Memoir.]

sand castles




I can’t tell you the last time I made a sand castle, but I would bet it was at least 20 years ago. At first I thought it would have been when I introduced Shane to Florence. Florence, Oregon. And the Heceta Head Lighthouse and Devil’s Elbow. But on second thought it would likely have been on one of the many endless summer days my two oldest boys spent out in the sandbox at our old house. They literally lived in that sandbox. And we let them run the hose in it so they could build rivers and streams and moats and castles and whatever to their hearts’ content.

And because I was then and still am a kid, I’m sure I took a break now and then from the dishes and laundry to build right along with them. Only, of course to have them washed away or knocked over to be shaped and molded and built back up again. (Kind of like my younger brother R.D.’s mashed potatoes and gravy, shaped and molded and built back up again. Over and over until they ended up on a spoon and into his mouth and down his throat.)

But the first thing when I thought when I saw the prompt was “sand between my toes.” Because that is a thing. And whenever I go within an hour or two of an ocean or sea, I will go to great lengths to make sure I have a few moments to dig in my toes, let the relatively tiny ripple remains of the incoming or outgoing surf wash over my feet and pull the sand between my toes while I inhale deeply of the salt sea air and reming myself I am alive. And I am both big and relative and part of the cosmos, but also tiny and insignificant. And before I was and long after I will be, the water will wash in, turning the sand as the sands of time, and wash back out again. Even. Steady. Never ending.

[Day 145 of Ann Dee Ellis’ 8-Minute Memoir.]

a moment I realized I was very small

My graduating class from Junction City High School was barely 120. In the same way my husband says he is 5’12,” stretching to own every last available increment.

We didn’t have a salutatorian, but in that way you know everyone else in your small classes GPA along with who they’ve kissed, and, well, other things that maybe you didn’t really want to know about them, I knew that if we had, it would have been me. I wore a Gunne Sax dress I’d sewn myself (which may or may not have been adorned with thin strips of blue and green satin ribbon) to graduation, and accompanied–very poorly–I am not a good accompanist–my friend Kellee Bradley for her musical number. (At least that’s how I remember it. It may not have happened that way at all. But then, you’ve seen plenty of disclaimers from me about my memory before.)

Graduation was followed by a summer of long days and nights hoeing by day and slinging pizzas by night–well into 1-2am before being back to sharpening the hoe by 8am the next day.

And then I found myself living the dream I’d proclaimed aloud in my sophomore (or possibly junior, but my money’s on sophomore) year English class.

“I’m going to BYU and I will major in English.”

I set off to BYU, presidential scholarship in hand (or in the bank, or BYU’s bank, as it were), ready to take it by the same storm I took good old JCHS.

And there I was mistaken.

Slowly over the next couple of semesters I learned the painfully hard way exactly what it meant to go from being a big fish in a small pond to barely measuring up to baby-sized guppy in a veritable ocean.

It wasn’t for a lack of trying. I was INVOLVED!

I had a job. Eventually two jobs (just not simultaneously).

I was not shy. I said hello to people (in a way that is no longer possibly on account of everyone is glued to their cell phones) in between classes and on the way to and from school.

I was assistant hall president (or something) for Bowen Hall. (That might have been my second year, I don’t recall.)

I became friends with the hall residents.

I volunteered for some sort of council where we met with student representatives for all the other schools in the WAC. Where, for the first time, I realized people really truly think we are weird. (We are weird. I’ve just always thought it was a quaint or charming weird and didn’t realize that there are people out there who don’t actually like us. Like not at all.)

I asked boys to preference.

I was an instigator and DID THINGS.

I had my first caffeine in the form of a Big Gulp of Pepsi from 7-11, which made me so hyper I’m sure I made even more friends.

And nothing worked.

I got lost.

People were not as enamored with me as they had always seemed to be back home. Nor were they as enamored with me as I was with them.

I was no one. Invisible. Forgettable.

I started sitting on the back row of all my classes. Not just Physical Science and American Heritage classes populated by literally hundreds of students, but also my English lit classes.

I stopped raising my hand and asking or answering questions.

I got my first C in a class. And said goodbye to the easy A s I’d been so accustomed to.

I felt insignificant.

And very small.

Eventually I got used to it. I realized I was not going to be salutatorian or make the dean’s list or receive an award for Outstanding Student in English or be nominated Most Likely to Succeed by my graduating class or even get asked to Homecoming.

And I became ok with that.

[Day 144 of Ann Dee Ellis’ 8-Minute Memoir.]

Going back




This summer I made a trek back to the Oregon coast of my childhood. We journeyed along rivers and train tracks and through mountains and forests that, unlike the university I attended when I first moved to Utah and the city in which I still live there, seem to remain unchanged.

Although I didn’t have a chance to see my hometown this visit–and haven’t been there for over 20 years–seeing as how it is Oregon, I imagine it, like most of the coastal towns we passed through on our way up the coast are not as drastically impacted by the years as many other places I know and no longer recognize. The state of Oregon is intentionally careful and deliberate about change. Last I know they had an actual organization led by people dedicated to preserve the green space and particularly the family farms I still remember from my childhood.

In any case, what’s beautiful to me is how familiar the windy path along the river still felt, even after over 25 years. How comforting I found the lush thick growth of forest, the safe green canopies of trees overhead, the damp, wet air. I breathed better than I have, well, probably since I returned to Finland two summers ago. Perhaps one of the reasons I love Finland so is that it reminds me of home.

For many it is easy to enjoy a calm light blue ocean on a clear sandy beach where you are warmed through and through by sun-soaked sand from below and a warm sun shining down from a near cloud-less deep blue sky.

It takes a special soul to fall in love with the rugged rocks, roaring surf and sometimes piercing cold wind of the usually grey-skied NW coast. Passersby may enjoy its scenic beauty from afar. But to love it enough to spend a day there. On the cold wet sand. To walk or even swim in the water cold enough to make the Pacific in San Diego in December feel balmy.

And to want to spend another day there.

And more days every chance you get.

It’s soul-deep, whatever it is that makes that home to a person.

But my favorite thing about going back this time was being able to share this place with two more generations for the very first time. To note that to them it was just the same as it was to me when I left it some 30 years ago.


Even though we were only there for a couple of hours, it did my heart good to watch as Luke and Emily and James made their way up to the lighthouse. And then back down to the water. And as James, who loves sand, but generally runs away from the ocean, slowly made his way to the waterline. And didn’t run away. But found a stick. And dug in the mud. And laughed.


[Day 143 of Ann Dee Ellis’ 8-Minute Memoir.]



I’m maybe barely through about one third of the thank you notes I want to write. Notice I didn’t say “need to write,” but “want to write.” One of the most important ones I did write already was to a dear woman in my neighborhood who deals with chronic pain and has limited mobility and who sent me the sweetest get well card. In the mail. With a stamp. In it among the kind thoughts she sent my way she revealed feeling that she is of no use to anyone. That demanded an immediate response with a reassurance of how much her friendship and thoughtfulness makes a difference in my life. Because her card arrived on a particularly challenging day. And her kindness does make a difference in my life.

This is just one example of the many ways in which we been loved and supported and served through this time. We are blessed. I am blessed. And I am grateful.

Today, however, I’m thinking about gratitude for something more personal.

Right now as I sit here with my foot propped up, waiting to get up my strength and courage to tackle one more task best I can with partial weight-bearing (hooray!) and two crutches under arm until I return to full weight-bearing, it would be easy to make a list of everything I can’t do. In particular, today, Saturday, 3+ weeks in, a list of all the things that need to be done to put my house in order but which I cannot do.

Instead, I’m remembering one of the favorite lessons yoga has left with me. I don’t recall for sure which instructor it was–I think it was Lacey–who most frequently reminded us to not compare our practice to that of others, but to always be grateful for what our respective bodies could do.

In a world where women are constantly objectified, held to an impossible and unhealthy standard, and in so many arenas shamed for not being perfect, gratitude is essential. I’m grateful that in a revelatory–and also sad–video bolding addressing the challenges of being a woman in our day, given a prompt to think of one word that describes how I feel about your body the first word that came to mind was “strong.” It’s not that there isn’t room on for any number of negative thoughts, but I know that coming up with a positive first is a result of internalizing all those lessons on gratitude. Indeed, one could say, I have a witness–a testimony–of the significant impact gratitude can have on one’s life.

During my recovery I’ve been mindful of being particularly grateful for my left leg and my left knee. It was born the extra weight, extra strain, and unusual contortions as I have negotiated the recovery of my right foot. Just as I pray out loud for strength and safety on the particularly challenging tasks, I regularly say “thank you” aloud to my left leg.

Here are a few other things on my short list of what makes me feel grateful:

I’m thankful for relatively mild pain–especially compared to the only thing to which I have to compare this experience, my ACL repair.

I’m thankful that scars don’t worry me much, because unlike my ACL surgery scar, this one is more gnarly than neat.

I’m thankful that yesterday I took my first light, maybe 25% weight-bearing (crutch-assisted) steps safely and seem to be none the worse for wear.

I’m thankful for strong arms and shoulders to wield these crutches as needed (you can tell I’ve been spoiled somewhat by the cute (and speedy) little scooter, and the luxury of having a basket).

I’m thankful to know that despite having been disillusioned somewhat by the reality check that learning to walk again is a painstaking process and wasn’t just an immediate result of transitioning from cast to boot, today is another day.

I’m going to take more steps today than I did yesterday.

And even more the next day.

And Monday I will get to start massaging vitamin E oil into my gnarly scar, smooth away the dry skin, and sooth and settle the scar tissue.

One more step to healing.

I’m grateful for good medical care and strong bodies that heal.

[Day 142 of Ann Dee Ellis’ 8-Minute Memoir.]

Write about a time you were pleasantly surprised

s and p notice how the focus and framing here are all about the ginger cookies because I fully expected those to be my favorite

When I bit into Josh Bingham’s Salt & Pepper cookies with strawberry balsamic fruit leather (because while I like pepper I’ve never had it in cookies–nor did I think I wanted to–and as rule I don’t generally like fruit leather) and. Well. There are no words. Except to say that is one darn good cookie.

And I ate three.

When my niece showed up at my house last Friday with a shake and onion rings from Burgers Supreme because she wanted to do something nice for me. (OK – and a whole lot of other nice things people have been and are doing for me while I’m laid up.)

When my aunt and uncle drove 3 hours from South Carolina my first time in the south to meet me in my hotel in Atlanta just so they could a) see me and b) make sure I had a proper introduction to both Southern hospitality and Southern food (perhaps those are somewhat synonymous). And then turned around afterwards and drove the three hours back home the same night. (Props also to my cousin who drove with small children 3 hours from Alabama two days later to show me even more Southern hospitality.)

Any time it rains when there was not rain in the forecast.

Ok. To be fair. Any time it rains. Period.

When the unending line of 100-degree days in the 10-day forecast miraculously disappeared into high 90-somethings.

Every time I get a card or a letter (that is actually to me and not to my bank account) or a present in the mailbox.

I would also add any time I get an email that is actually to me from someone I actually know instead of some entity to whom I had to give my very special (dalenerowley no numbers because I was the first) email address just so I could buy something from them. But let’s not get carried away.

When my friend Melissa showed up at my work with a big bag of fresh garden peas she had hand picked herself. (Because picking peas is a lot of work even for yourself. Extra sweet to put that kind of effort out for someone else.)

Surprise visits from friends and family. Which, let’s be honest, are beyond pleasantly surprising and downright make my day.

How writing about happy things can turn around a discouraging day right on its head.

Hold on to the happy and pleasantly surprising.