graham crackers

Let’s talk about s’mores.

I don’t love s’mores.

It’s not about the marshmallow. Melty marshmallows are good. In fact, just the other day I ordered a roasted marshmallow shake from a burger joint in the Regan National Airport in D.C. and it was so yum.

It may or may not be about the chocolate. Depending on whether you splurge to purchase chocolate with a decent percentage of cacao and real, not artificial ingredients. Hashtag, just say no to Hershey’s.

But what it’s really about are the graham crackers. While a veritable HoneyMaid can be delicious dunked in milk, it offers nothing to the s’more. And the cheaper Keebler graham cracker is contributes even less.

Keebler does, however, redeem itself, by providing the perfect alternative.

Fudge-striped cookies.

Those are the perfect foundation for a good s’more. Just make sure you don’t set your marshmallow on fire.

*****

As a side note–among the many clues I note wherein inflation is killing the modern family right in the bank balance, the price of graham crackers is one. You used to be able to buy two boxes of graham crackers (and boxes were much larger back then mind you) for $5 on sale at Macey’s on a regular basis.

Those days are long gone.

*****

You know what calls for a good crushed HoneyMaid graham cracker stirred with a touch of sugar and a generous amount of butter? Not my sour cream lemon pie, which is more perfectly paired with ginger snaps. But a homemade from scratch (because going to that much effort bears repeating) cheesecake.

I used to skip the baking the graham cracker crust in the oven because whoever has the patience to let it cool? But then I discovered the science of caramelization and those extra 15-20 minutes are so worth it.

So yes, graham crackers.

[Day 173 of Ann Dee Ellis’ 8-Minute Memoir.]

hiring a driver

While a missionary in Belgium–particularly in the place in Liege–I discovered taxis. The taxis there were all Mercedes Benz. I’d never to that point ridden in a taxi, nor in a Mercedes Benz. In my dreams we found good reason one day to hire a taxi. But it may have been only in my dreams, because as I recall far too well even decades later is that missionaries–even young people in general–don’t really have the budget to hail a cab. But perhaps we did it anyway. Just once. I’m not entirely sure.

In June of 2015 I found myself soaking wet dragging a carry-on bag, a CPAP, and a backpack through the cobblestone streets by the Baltic Sea in Helsinki. I was trying desperately to scout out where I was supposed to meet my husband and the rest of his tour group to take the ferry to St. Petersburg (I found out later I didn’t even have the correct name of the pier where we were to meet). I was determined to locate it and estimate the time to get from there to the market and back again–as I hadn’t eaten since breakfast–when I stumbled into some other cruise ship’s port and bumped into another American. He was tall, dark, and friendly. And told me he was a tour operator, gave me directions to where he thought the correct dock would be found, and offered to drive me back to the market for about $20. At that point, it was so worth it. But as I followed him to the parking lot I realized his “tour bus” was simply a plain black unmarked sedan. And I had no way of knowing if he was legit. I asked for more information about his “company” at which point he dug out a flyer and then I dug deep into my gut to see how I felt about this man who seemed like the nicest guy and felt just fine about it, so got in the passenger seat and asked him all about how he had come to live in Finland as he drove me to the market where I ordered a hot crepe and watched the steam come off it while I ate. He had given me his number for a return trip to the dock, but I resorted to more public means of transportation and did a lot of running to catch what I hoped were the correct buses until I made my way there and found more Americans who, like me–but way less drenched like a drowned rat–were waiting to meet up with this group of educators from America.

In February of 2016 I found myself in Chicago, wanting to make the most of the hours until my late flight out that afternoon. I mailed off the batteries that were either too hot or too powerful to take on the plane and downloaded the uber app from my hotel lobby–despite the fact that I still had a rental car which I would later return at the airport. And there was my first uber. It was the first of two ubers I took that day–as I prefer to experience a new place afoot and I couldn’t get enough of feeling both buried and protected by the tallest buildings I’d ever seen in my entire life. What I enjoyed the most besides a relatively affordable ride where the driver came to me was meeting new people and getting tiny glimpse into their lives as they told me about their families and why thy drover strangers around for a living.

Just last week my experience with uber was not so positive. Our first two rides–which I and my colleague shared, back from the national mall and then to our meeting in the federal building at 7:30am, were just fine. But as I stood, in pain, on the steps of the Air & Space Museum and watch not one, but two uber drivers cancel my request because they couldn’t seem to make it to the correct side of the street (the second one driving right past me and then–just as I caught him after running to find him–pulled out).

And I was done with uber.

I hailed a cab.

It was worth paying twice the price.

[Day 172 of Ann Dee Ellis’ 8-Minute Memoir.]

What job would I love to try just for a few weeks?

cheesegromit

In my other life I’m a wildlife biologist. Or a microbiologist. Or a marine biologist. Or a project manager. Or someone who gets to travel all over the world and see all the things and meet all the people and try all the foods.

But a couple of years ago when one of my best friends’s husband was deployed to South Korea and I wanted to help her and what she needed most was a ride to Disneyland, I discovered this wonderful place called Center Street Cheese Shop and I ate things I don’t like and savored them simply because they were perfectly paired with just the right cheese and I ate cheese made from the milk of water buffalo and it was divine and I thought how much fun it would be to combine my love of cheese with my love of a good food truck and go wherever one goes (because it certainly is somewhere other than Provo and even Utah, which both have a shocking lack of cheese boards) to become trained on cheese pairing and buy and fix up a little old food truck (one with character!) and sell cheese boards and well as actual cuts and blocks of cheese from Provo’s very own Center Street!

The thing is, I wouldn’t have to do it all day. Most people don’t crave a fine cheese first thing in the morning. So we could open for lunch and close down in the evening and wouldn’t that just be the most fun?!

I think so.

Because who (besides the lactose intolerant) doesn’t love a good cheese?

[Day 171 of Ann Dee Ellis’ 8-Minute Memoir.]

fire

Fire

The second part of my mid-life journey into an unanticipated career change (see previous post about flying) pushed me right into the fire. I have no more idea how I got here than I do how I got to the flying part.

Three weeks ago–September 11–I found myself standing in a room full of people who have dedicated their lives to the fire service in a moment of silence for those first responders who gave their all that fateful dat in 2001. I found myself fighting back the tears, as I can think of no better remembrance of that day.

Day to day I find myself working on some sort of fire training or another–from hazardous materials, driving and maintaining the apparatus, to fire safety inspections, fire behavior flashover, and firefighter mental health. I love working with the firefighters–they are passionate about what they do and what they do is help people. But like a moth, I am also drawn to the flame.

My favorite days are when we got to light an entire room of furniture set up in an empty shipping container on fire. I got to see first hand how a room goes from a little smoldering to flashover, how the particles in smoke provide more fuel for fire, and how even items outside the room will off gas and combust.

Or that winter day we drove all the way down to Cedar City to watch a rather large and once-nice house burn down, literally to the ground.

I love working with firefighters who are always excitedly teaching–long after the project is completed.

And I appreciate knowing that my primary reason for existence is to make sure someone empties the lint filter in the dryer to protect us from a laundry room fire.

[Day 170 of Ann Dee Ellis’ 8-Minute Memoir.]

walking

Walking

Back in the day before A). all my workout partners left me and B). I hit this wall where I can be awake at 5:30-6am, but I have not the will to drag myself out of bed, let alone out the house and C). my achilles tendon became my achilles heel, I used to start my day with a 3-mile walk with my good friend Nancy–or sometimes Lil or a group of women from my neighborhood–down off our little hill, along 820 North, across the Provo River Trail to Columbia Lane, and back up the hill again. (In a perfect world, the uphill part would come at the beginning of my walk and the downhill part more towards the end.)

Our pace was not particularly rigorous, but it was moving and calm, and peaceful and spending time with these great women and dear friends was therapeutic and lovely and contributed towards my mental health as much as towards my physical health.

I miss this time together with my friends and also with the river trail.

Other days–often a Saturday or occasional Sunday when we had 1:00 church, Melody would call or text me. “I need to talk.” Or sometimes “Let’s go for a walk.” We would drive down the hill past Geneva Road, join the trail towards the back end, and walk to the lake and back. These walks and talks were a deeper kind of nature/sister/friend therapy full of heartbreak and heartache and where breakthroughs and epiphanies and revelations were not uncommon. These walks could be spiritual walks through darkness into light.

I miss these walks, too.

I hesitate to walk by myself because I don’t know how to turn off the monkeys in my brain. But I hold on to the hope that my heel will heal and mornings will stop being my nemesis and that someday I will learn to walk alone.

[Day 169 of Ann Dee Ellis’ 8-Minute Memoir.]

notes to self

Screen Shot 2017-09-18 at 11.22.23 PMIt’s been far too long. Long enough I’m more apprehensive than excited. At least for now…

Don’t forget to put the glue traps in all the basement windows before you go. And water your plants.
Disinfectant wipes. Check.
EmergenC. Check.
Ibuprofen. Check.

Remember to bring your cell phone charger.
Find your cordless charger and actually remember to charge it before you go.
Please tell me you did not give your mini crossbody bag to D.I., because it’s going to be so awkward getting your wallet out of your backpack everywhere you go.
Don’t forget your CPAP. Thank GOODNESS they are so much lighter and smaller now. Too back you can’t afford the mini. That would be AWESOME!

Find that list of top 10 cheese boards in D.C. Figure out the best noodle house in Chinatown. Figure out when and where to grab some good seafood on the fly. Maybe for lunch before you catch the plane home Friday. (Please bless I get bumped and can stay another day!)

Laundry done tonight so your line-dries will be dry in the morning. Check.
Headphones. Check.
Water bottle to empty tomorrow so you can carry it empty on the plane. Check.

Remember to download some podcasts for the plane, just in case the entertainment system isn’t working. Four hours and 15 minutes.

Hydrate super well tomorrow so you can endure dehydrating yourself Wednesday so you can minimize awkward trips to that tiny gross box of a thing they call the airplane restroom.

Make sure to check with your brother about Diamond Parking.

Check in, 10 hours away.

Get some sleep. Two hour time differences hit hard.

Lawn mowers

To this day I love that fresh green smell of newly clipped grass. I think that’s why the whole wheat grass juice craze appealed to me back in the day. It was the flavor of fresh mown lawn.

I remember when we lived in the Junction City house we eventually had the use of a John Deere riding lawn mower to use to cut the grass. (Not that any of us kids hadn’t already done our time pushing a push mower before. I even recall pushing one of those old non-electric lawn mowers–I think they are called reel or push reel mowers a few times.) Dad would often hire out us kids to take a turn mowing the lawn at his work–Fischer Implement Store in Harrisburg. That was a nice neat square lawn and much easier to mow than our backyard, which contained a number of tall fruit trees to circle around.

The mowing part is fun. As long as I can mulch the grass. I have mixed feelings about messily digging my hands through the warm sticky sweet wet clippings every time I have to change the bag.

I used to be afraid of killing the engine when I had negotiate choke and throttle. Looking back, I’m sure it was simply the risk of not being competent to which I am to this day adverse.

A sidestep is on order to steer clear of another, less positive path. Instead I will flashback to the image of every child at one age or another pushing a colorful plastic bubble lawnmower down the same lawns we painstakingly trimmed summer after summer after summer.

If grass clippings were bubbles…

[Day 168 of Ann Dee Ellis’ 8-Minute Memoir.]

Questions

Did Aaron have any daughters, and did they, too visit the tabernacle on the day when he took his sons?

If sour cream is already sour, what is the tipping point wherein it becomes bad?

Was my partial tear in my achilles tendon old or new, how did it happen, and should I have just let it be?

Why does it sound like my husband is lifting weights or doing floor exercises in the kitchen right this minute? I would go in and see for myself what exactly it is he is doing, but I’m trying to recall a lifetime of questions in just under 8 minutes and I don’t have time.

Why does sleep hate me?

If I tried to be the opposite (at least in some ways) of my mother and my kids try to be the opposite of me, am I, in fact, raising my mother?

Why are kids so hard on their moms?

What really happened to my dear mother-in-law?

Where did I put my daughter’s tax return–the one from April with which she was going to make her monthly payments for her cell phone?

What is the true definition of “increase” or “interest annually” in terms of being tithed?

What can I/should I frantically squeeze in during the handful of hours I have to myself in D.C. a week from next Friday before I have to head to the airport and fly home?

Where would I be had I applied to law school when I was 25 years old?

What’s the best mattress for the money?

Why are people so hateful?

Where do the dinosaurs fit in in terms of the creation and evolution and such?

Should I transfer my 401K from my prior job into a Roth IRA before the stock market crashes again?

How do I address unconscious bias in the workplace?

What are people supposed to do when a governor commands them to evacuate but they have no car or they can’t get gasoline or they have nowhere to go? Isn’t it worse to be stranded on the road or out in the elements?

Why must we be estranged from our mother in heaven during this mortal existence? (Although, truth be told, I think she is closer than we know.)

Why do I all of a sudden have ringing in my ears and how can I get it to stop?

What can I do to make the world a better place?

What’s the best way to teach a bunch of fairly young firefighters to wrap their heads around theoretical hydraulics and prepare them to do field calculations?

Where are we going to find a contractor who will return our calls and who can build us a new fence and fix our old bathrooms and how can we most affordably get rid of the mold?

Why is it so hard to decide what to fix for dinner?

[Day 167 of Ann Dee Ellis’ 8-Minute Memoir.]

Dumpster Diving – aka garbage

When I was a teenager working at Abby’s Pizza Inn I once had to–well, to be fair, I didn’t have to, nor did I want to, but I felt obligated to–dig through a giant trash bin full of half chewed pizza, beer-soaked napkins, and other non-desirable and aromatic items looking for some kid’s $500 retainer. I don’t know if retainers actually cost $500 to replace, but that was the generally agreed-upon amount all our parents used to warn us it would cost them if we lost or, as was most often the case, threw away our retainers.

I found it.

The parents were grateful.

The kid was mortified, but probably grateful deep down, too.

**********

I keep a wicker trash basket against the wall, right next to my headboard. The trouble with such a location is that it’s not unheard of for me to knock valuable–such as my Breathe, and Serenity essential oils, among other things–off the shelves of the headboard and into the trash in the middle of the night. Along with the occasional pen, travel-size lotion bottle, or other such bedside essentials.

Those I will go after. At least when I either hear them fall or they turn up missing. They are easily cleaned once retrieved. And I’m washing my hands dozens of times a day anyway, so what’s one more time?

One time, however, I accidentally–and inexplicably–knocked the last two cookies of my most favorite Walkers shortbread my friend Sam shipped over from England into the trash.

I thought long and hard about how badly I wanted to retrieve those, but, maturely, left them be in the pile of used Puff’s Plus with Lotion tissues.

#sigh

tear emoji

#sad

[Day 166 of Ann Dee Ellis’ 8-Minute Memoir.]

something i’ve lost that i still feel badly about

When I was a teenager living on a big 6-acre farm with a giant grassy backyard bordered by a half-acre vegetable garden and numerous fruit trees and berry bushes and vines my Young Womanhood medallion must have come unclasped or the chain might have broken and it became lost in the endless grassy backyard that required a John Deere riding lawn mower to mow.

I don’t recall what I was doing when I lost it. I could have been mowing the lawn. I could have been turning handsprings or cartwheels in the grass. I could have been romping with our dogs Pepper and Spike.

I just remember absently reaching up to touch it and noticing its absence as my fingers brushed across bare skin before landing on the finished edge of my shirt collar.

I fell to my knees, searching frantically. Fingers grasping for it’s cold part smooth, part brushed gold. Eyes narrowing hoping to see a shiny glimpse. I searched until after the sun went down. To no avail.

These days I don’t wear gold, except for my plain gold wedding band. Which, despite a drawerful of pretty earrings and bracelets and a handful of colorful necklaces, is the only jewelry I wear. But that simply necklace meant something to me. Because I earned it.

I’m sure I could go buy a new one if I really wanted to, even though all records of my having earned the original are surely long gone or forgotten. But that wouldn’t be the same.

That grassy yard and house are long since sold. Perhaps they’ve had more than one owner since then.

I wonder if someday it will turn up somewhere. And someone will have no idea what it symbolized.

Or what it meant to me.