Natural disasters

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Natural disasters make me rethink my life choices and wish I’d been trained in emergency management (which, incidentally, happens to be in my college at UVU) or didn’t work full time so I could volunteer with the Red Cross. Or had some amazing skill and/or super human strength or didn’t pass out at the sight of blood because all I really want to do is help people!

This was the view outside one of my best friend’s house in Dickinson on Sunday.

When I talked to her Thursday she was dealing with the hurricane barreling down upon her family alone because her husband–who moved them to Texas to take a job helping rebuild after natural disasters–has been commuting between Texas and New Jersey for months on end rebuilding after Katrina.

I was wracking my brain trying to figure out how to get her out of there. I offered to crowdfund an evacuation for her and her kids. I even offered to fly in to wherever I could get to and help her drive if she needed.

When I checked with her on Friday he had told his boss he needed to get home to his family and had caught a 6am flight out, making it home just hours before the Harvey hit.

When I talked to her Sunday morning their home had flooded–you can see how deep the water is on their car–and her husband was out helping people who needed rescuing from their attics.

My 26-year-old son’s 2nd grade teacher saw my comment about Becky’s situation on Facebook and sent me her contact info with an offer of a place to stay if Becky could get out. She even offered to come pick her up whenever the flood waters receded enough to make safe passage possibly (which they still haven’t). I cried with gratitude at such a generous offer for a stranger.

Today the water has soaked in a bit, but they are still socked in by flood waters.( Unless someone came to pick me up in a boat, I wouldn’t want to go anywhere.)

Tonight there is a tornado warning.

I will send money, of course, but it doesn’t feel like enough. I want to go feed people and hug people and let them cry on my shoulder and help them find clean clothes and play with their kids so they can take a nap and forget about how awful it is even if for just a few minutes.

[Day 161 of Ann Dee Ellis’ 8-Minute Memoir.]

Thrifting, buying, selling, donating…

Two stories.

I don’t do yard sales. Too much work. And I’d rather donate to our locale thrift store–Deseret Industries. When I was working with the young people of my congregation, I had an opportunity to go up and tour my church’s welfare facilities about an hour or so north of my house. It was the first time I had the tiniest glimpse of our humanitarian efforts and outreach. I learned so much and felt so good about the wonderful work that was being done with our donations I feel completely confident it’s where my donations do the most good. So I love dropping off things I no longer need (or sometimes never did need) at their door.

One time before my enlightenment, however, I did take a few items I had up to a friend’s yard sale. She always had the best yard sales because her house was on a corner lot and everybody who was anybody drove by. I don’t recall anything else I took up to sell–and I generally try not to care for material things at all–but there was one thing in particular I cared about that day. It was an white with blue-stitched eyelet comforter that I’d had for years. It had been on my bed when I lived at home but had been too big to take with me to college and was one of the few things that had made its way back to me even after my mom packed up house and sold everything (including the unused sand-candle kit I got for Christmas one year and all my 8-tracks and my favorite vinyl (think Heart Little Queen, Fleetwood Mac Rumors, and a number of Foreigner and Journey albums) off while I was away at school so she could move the family to Utah.

In any case, I remember I priced it at $20 and reluctantly let someone bid me down to $10 and sold it to one of my neighbors (from whom, incidentally, I later purchased (at very good prices) beautiful black antique rocking chair and a rather large piece of hardwood furniture in which I now store my quilt fabric, while she was going through her e-bay, estate buying/selling phase).

In any case, I had seller’s remorse so badly.

I still have seller’s remorse over that blue eyelet comforter.

And yes we didn’t have a lot of–or any, really–extra money, but I’m quite sure that $10 (I’m doubtful even the original $20) was worth what it felt like to let that go.

It was, after all a comforter. And it was a reminder of time, place, and home I could never go back to.

There is no price on that.

[Day 160 of Ann Dee Ellis’ 8-Minute Memoir.]

Things that have changed over my lifetime

My version of the “I walked 4 miles to school in the snow uphill both ways” story my dad used to tell us kids is this, “I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in English before we had computers!”

Because I typed every single one of those 4-20+ English literature papers by hand on an electric typewriter. Manually adding footnotes. And using whiteout for every mistake. And there were mistakes!

Looking back, I truly don’t know how we every managed. I think about this in particular when I’m copying a pasting a huge paragraph–or more than one huge paragraph–to somewhere else in my paper because it flows better that way. How did we do it? Perhaps our papers weren’t as good because maybe we just didn’t do it at all because it sounded like way too much work!

Truth be told, however, I did have the luxury of using a computer a little bit my very last semester. It was a giant box of a computer that my mom had at her house. And we saved everything on a floppy disc. That really wasn’t very floppy at all.

So yes, computers happened. Cell phones happened. 24/7 news cycle happened. (I really wondered how so many people knew about the eclipse I witnessed in 1979 without incessant and pervasive real-time digital media!) I feel like color TV happened, but it could have, but it’s likely we simply weren’t early adopters. Microwaves happened. And digital cameras! (I have mixed feelings about this–I love seeing my photos real-time, but I’m only marginally a fan of filters and I don’t at all like the way many people over saturate their colors.

So yeah, not much at all has changed since I was a kid. You?

[Day 159 of Ann Dee Ellis’ 8-Minute Memoir.]

The ApocEclipse that wasn’t

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Today in my “sent” mail I found an email I sent to some of my family in November 2013 in which I recalled seeing a solar eclipse in totality in 1979 and I stated, “The next one is in 2017. Let’s go!”

I since tried a couple of other times to drum up interest and failed.

And then August 21, 2017 drew nearer and I was recovering from surgery that consumed my entire summer and no one else was interested but even if they were the hotels were all booked up or required a 3-night stay minimum.

And the ubiquitous “they” issued dire warnings about people getting stranded because there would be so many people and traffic would be so bad that grocery stores shelves would be emptied, McDonalds would run out of food, cell service would be disrupted, and gas stations would run out of gas.

I had one friend from Idaho predict that people would die.

So I felt smug in my wise decision not to settle for 90%.

Until Wednesday. I became curious and googled my brothers in Idaho and Oregon’s zip codes and realized that at least one of them was in the path of totality. I figured if I left at 6am Thursday morning I might miss the worst of the traffic. Then I could hunker down at his house and leave for my return trip sometime later this week.

And then my coworker shared stories of how grocery stores in Idaho had lines out the door since Monday and were already sold out of milk and bananas.

Bananas.

Turns out I could have left at 6am Thursday. Or 6pm Thursday. Or any time Friday (although, as is typical, it was a little messy and slow during peak Friday hours). Or Saturday. Or Sunday.

Or even this morning, but that would have had to have been well before dark.

The mayhem and disorder, at least from what I hear, BECAUSE I WAS NOT THERE TO SEE FOR MYSELF, never materialized.

The experts were wrong.

And I learned something important.

Next time I want to do something, important–like maybe twice in a lifetime important–I shouldn’t worry that no one wants to go with me. Or that “they” are predicting the worst. If I really want to do something, I should just do it. Even if it means I have to do it by myself.*

*my coworker told me today that her little mom drove all my herself to some campground in Wyoming and pitched her little tent and watched the eclipse in totality all by herself.

Brava!

[Day 158 of Ann Dee Ellis’ 8-Minute Memoir.]

Feeling tired

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Note: This prompt was posted on a Friday. I saw it on a Friday afternoon. Friday is usually my night to unwind from the week and (hopefully) get a good sleep so I can hit the weekend running (well, as of late, not so much the run) Saturday morning and at least put a dent in thingthatgetneglectedthroughouttheweek.

True story. I keep hearing these commercials on the radio for Low T (testosterone) and as the guy lists the symptoms one by one my one thought is always, “Every woman I know has all these symptoms. Why are they only helping the men?”!

The biggest one is fatigue. Sometimes I am actual bone tired. Tired down to my bones. I don’t know why. But since, as I said, most every woman–particularly every MOTHER–I know is also this tired, I suspect it is just life. Or the fact that women are born with low testosterone.

In any case, the prompt asked for how we overcome. And my response is simply that we don’t. We just keep forcing our tired selves out of bed each day and lather, rinse, repeat. Off to work (rarely, but on a good day, some dishes or–even more rarely–meal prep in a crockpot might occur). Come home to hear “What’s for dinner” as we are mindfully picking up one foot and forcing it up the stairs before forcing ourselves to lift the other and will it to the next step. On most days (the exception sometimes being in spring or fall when I actually feel human for a few weeks while it is neither far too hot or far too cold) I find myself wishing I could walk straight through to my bedroom and pull on my pajamas and go to bed.

But I don’t.

In other words, I am still in that period of my life where I am always tired.

And I don’t know the answer. If I did, I certainly wouldn’t be tired any longer.

The end.

But wait. Here is what else I have to say about being tired. Remember when you were in nursery school at the presbyterian (or some other) church and you had to take an old, frayed, raggedy towel to class were told to lay down your head and nap for ten minutes and you never did because you thought a nap was the biggest waste of time in the history of the world?

You were wrong.

And little did you know that half a century later you wish you could have every single on of those refused naps right back.

[Day 157 of Ann Dee Ellis’ 8-Minute Memoir.]

Today’s prompt: what books made a difference in your life when you were a kid? Why?

All Quiet on the Western Front impacted me in that I realized as I read it and found myself feeling empathy for the characters that my empathy was for people I had grown up believing were my enemy. There are two takeaways from this. Sometimes people may be forced to do things they neither understand nor have their heart into. I’m sure the disillusionment was felt on both sides. So it’s entirely possible we may have more in common with someone we see as our enemy or at the very least “on the other side” than we realize. And two, Seeing things from someone else’s point of view can evoke compassion and empathy. I’ve felt this time and time again through reading. As noted by Azar Nafisi in Reading Lolita in Tehran:

Empathy lies at the heart of Gatsby, like so many other great novels–the biggest sin is to be blind to others’ problems and pains. Not seeing them means denying their existence.

I found Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl both humbling and empowering. It kind of punched me in the heart with the realization that our happiness is not a product of our circumstances. We have the power to choose happiness even when others try–or go to great extremes–to rob us of basic necessities and human dignity. This reminds me of a number of other books I’ve read about WWII and the Holocaust whose message is that when all is lost–or, more honestly–taken from us–we can still choose kindness.

Favorite concert going experience

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One time my friend Tressa, who I met almost accidentally when I got together for lunch in The Basin with my friend Christy* one Thanksgiving, texted me out of the blue to tell me she had an extra ticket to see Lyle Lovett and His Large Band at the Red Butte Gardens.

I knew who Lyle Lovett was, of course. He was that guy who was married–for a little while–to Julie Roberts.

I’d never been to a concert at the Red Butte Gardens.

But Tressa is good company and I was feeling adventuresome and I said yes.

And I went.

And it was a great time!

First and foremost, Tressa is actually great company. Two of her lovely friends joined us and, as it was the first time I met Tressa, they put me immediately at ease and we had a good time.

Second, the Red Butte Gardens are lovely. You really can’t go wrong with an intentional garden in the foothills looking out over the Salt Lake Valley.

In addition to being lovely, the Red Butte Garden has ambiance by the great big bucketload. I would be lying if I didn’t say that good spirits likely improved upon the already good spirits people were in. But essentially people who love the outdoors and good music are generally a good crowd overall and this crowd also seemed to have an affinity for fine friends, fine food, and a little fine wine. Everyone was simply happy to be there, and it feels good to be surrounded by happy people. (To be honest, a stark contrast to that Styx concert I attended in the Salt Palace as a freshman at BYU when I realized for the first time that the band Styx got its name from the River Styx and, while I grew up on Styx’s music, their concert gave off a completely different vibe.)

Finally, Lyle Lovett is a solid good show. There was a good energy. The music was fun.

And, as my friend Tressa stated, he has a really big band.

Where did your family go to eat for special occasions

(I need a new tag for my Ann Cannon prompts!)

Being the oldest of 6 kids, I don’t find it in any way surprising we did not go out to eat very much. But when we did, there were two places I remember as a kid. My dad’s favorite place was a buffet called The Kings Table. It had kind of medieval castle kind of feel and it must have been pretty a much meat and potatoes, European smorgasbord type of place. I’m sure we must have only eat there 2 or 3 times tops, but those 2 or 3 times stayed with me.

Another place we went on very rare occasion was a steak and seafood place. I want to say Black Angus, but I don’t think the original chain would have been around a way back when. Part of me wants to say it was the Sizzler, but that too would have been a very different Sizzler. Because this was quite good. I do recall going there with my dad at least once. What I mostly remembered was that he enjoyed a good steak. This was good, as we raised black angus on our farm.

But my primary memories of the good steak and seafood place were with my seminary teacher. Sister Wirrick made a special deal with all her seminary students that if we read the year’s scripture from cover to cover, she would take us out for steak and seafood at the end of the year.

And that’s how it came to be that as a naive youth I slogged through the Song of Solomon and what else have you.

When I first moved to Utah to attend BYU my maternal grandparents were still living in Southern (way Southern) California. I remember my Grandpa Jacobs taking me out to the Chuck-a-rama (at least once on a Sunday!) when he came to visit.

Family gatherings at the Chuck-a-rama (or somethings at the Golden Corral) likely merit their own blog post, so we’ll skip to Brick Oven.

My mother enjoyed Brick Oven. We, like much of the rest of Provo, went there to celebrate special occasions such as a graduation. When family came to town, we gathered there a few times with my mother once she was on hospice and feeling up to it, before she died. Those were good times.

El Azteca probably merits its own blog post as well, so now I have a prompt or two for a rainy day.

plain simple help

Since I am still in recovery on week 8 of what I expected to be a 6-week recovery, said recovery is still very much on my mind. Here are some things people said to me that encouraged me and made me feel better. (And let me tell you, this experience has been humbling. I can think of few times when I have needed encouragement more.)

1. I was talking to my friend Jane about operating from a place of fear. Like me, Jane has knee issues and has a serious knee surgery or two under her belt. I am generally not a fearful person, so I’ve been frustrated with myself for being so fearful, as well as puzzled by why this experience has been so different. Jane said, “It’s because we are older and we’ve been through a few things. We know how much time it takes to heal and we just don’t have time to go through it again.”

One, it felt good to know I was not alone. Two, coming to an understanding of something feels better, even when it doesn’t change things.

2. I did not bounce back from this as quickly as I expected and found my strength and my stamina nowhere what it was during my ACL surgery 14 years ago. My friend Cyndi and I were discussing the humbling effects of aging and the experience of finding yourself physically weak, when you are generally accustomed to being strong. Cyndi just finished training for occupational therapy, and has a lot of experience rehabbing people in a facility. She reassured me I was strong enough. “You’re stronger than you think. I’ve had a number of patients your age who were not strong enough to be released to recover at home.”

A perspective from someone with a broader experience than my limited one helped me be more grateful for the strength I did have.

3. Strength and stamina round 2. Still frustrated, I was lamenting over the effects of my desk job to my brother. (Again, comparing myself now to myself 14 years ago.) He too had another perspective. “I do physical labor.” (He is an electrician, but also now runs a small ranch primarily by himself.) “I have noticed a difference in my muscle mass just in the last 5 years.”

Hearing understanding and empathy was just what I needed to not feel this was somehow my fault.

4. My friend Vonda Gren told me emphatically in church on the first Sunday I was able to return, “I pray for you every day!”

And so it was when a physical therapist came knocking at my door later that evening and I heard a voice in my head say, “This is a direct answer to a prayer,” I knew exactly whose prayer it was.

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The gist of it is this.

Listen. Connect. Love.

Help, plain and simple.

[Day 156 of Ann Dee Ellis’ 8-Minute Memoir.]

America

After months of great anticipation, I finally made it to see Wonder Woman on Saturday. I loved it! I was so moved by it I wanted to stay still right there in my luxury lounger chair and watch it all over again.

As I reflected on the experience, I realized that particular day was the perfect time for me to have seen the film. Because as I watched the disillusionment spread across Diana’s face–not just her face but her whole self–I was, for the umpteenth time, feeling a similar disillusionment.

Here we are again, fighting Nazis and their terrible brand of hate. In my country, land that I love. In 2017.

I’m not naive enough to be unaware that this kind of hate persists, still continues to exist. What gut punches me is that to so many this brand of hate is simply seen as free speech. That it should somehow be accepted and even protected.

And while it wasn’t surprising–based on past experience, I knew better than to expect compassion–I was nonetheless disappointed with a complete lack of leadership when a bold and clear response was so clearly needed to call evil by its name and to declare it would not be tolerated.

For my friend Carina, calling it out was simple: “There are two sides, one has Nazis. You decide.”

And there we are.

Apparently among all the wonderful and terrible things we, as a country, are, we are still, also Nazis. I’m still working really hard to wrap my head around that.

But because I really don’t do bleak, I’m holding on to this–one of my favorite takeaways from the film:

Yes. Sadly, we may be all that. But we are also so much more.

So many of us are, hope to be, and are actively working to become so much more. These are not mere words. It is what we believe. And, to quote my friend Maria, “I have to believe that my choices matter.”

I unequivocally choose the side without the Nazis.

And once again I turn to the words of Dr. King:

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.

I unequivocally choose to seek the light.

I unequivocally choose to keep loving.

[Day 155 of Ann Dee Ellis’ 8-Minute Memoir.]