Dear Mom,

The special thing about a mom that you don’t realize until she’s gone is that your mom cares about things no one else cares about, simply because they matter to you. –me

Today I got to attend an important board meeting with a number of groups of important people who are vested in the care and keeping of firefighters in the state of Utah. As the group I work with presented their annual report, several projects our team has worked on were highlighted and my team and I were identified as “the secret sauce” in the work that is going forward to train said firefighters.

I love what I do. And I care about the work we do. And seeing our work recognized, at an especially crucial time (university politics-wise) was validating. Especially when one of the board members with whom I’ve work with closely came up afterwards and told the director of the organization I’m currently working with that he needed to whatever he needed to keep me.

Definitely something to write home to mom about.


I met Jen in 2005 when by some force of fate or alignment of the stars a bunch of us in Provo started blogging and somehow connected with a few select friends of one another and formed this crazy sisterhood of the traveling pants-type friendship.

The kind that last.

At least for those willing to stay.

Jen is strong, wicked smart, clever, fierce, funny and has a heart of gold. Among many other of her talents, skills, and abilities. But what I love most is her essence. You can just feel Jen. I met her online through a friend of a friend but it was years before we met in person.

But first, part of Jen’s story is the heartbreak of infertility and the crazy mashup of the joys and heartaches of adoption.

And after the adoption long heart-wrenching years of more infertility in which one’s remaining hopes and dreams, once boldly defined in vivid color and liveliness, surely fade into soft-edged pastel stills unrealized. None of which I know firsthand, but both for which I could glimpse a feel deep in my heart on account of Jen and her beautiful honestly and brave vulnerability about this part of her life.

That’s the kind of real that dives itself deep into my heart and seals itself firmly to my essence.

One day, years later, it was with great anticipation I awaited an opportunity to meet Jen in person at last.

We were going to meet for dinner at Texas Roadhouse. It must have been the one in Lehi or somewhere, because there wasn’t one in Provo at the time.

There was line dancing.

And rolls.

Endless fully white rolls.

A small group of us met there and hugs, laughter, and stories ensued, flying as freely as places outside of Provo flow drinks on tap. I’m surprised there was even a moment to draw a breath. When all of a sudden someone dropped a quiet but sure,

“Jen’s pregnant.”

You could have heard a pin drop as our tumbling stories and words all stopped in their tracks as we tried to digest the words.

“Jen’s pregnant.”

And then we screamed.

We literally screamed in a chorus abundant with joy and disbelief and gratitude for mighty miracles. Right there in Texas Roadhouse.

Tears ran down our cheeks as we squealed, giggled, hugged and bombarded Jen with a million questions!



“How are you feeling?”




And we didn’t care who heard us. Because Jen’s prayers and dreams of a decade or so come true deserved full-volumed screams of joy and gladness and gratitude.

Our screams of joy and gladness and gratitude may not have been as loud or as public the next time.

Or the next time.

But the sentiment was there all the same.

Every time.

And every time I see the faces of her kids–all her crazy beautiful remarkable sweet (and sometimes sassy) kids–in the pages of my Instagram feed the memory of them still hits me just so and I scream and scream all over again right in my heart of hearts.

[Day 194 of Ann Dee Ellis’ 8-Minute Memoir.]

Welcome to the world, baby girl

This sweet little fighter couldn’t wait to see life on the outside and arrived about 6 1/2 weeks early at about 3 3/4 lbs. and has captured all our hearts in a very short couple of weeks. I’m grateful for the sweet strength of this little one, for all the love and prayers and how I’ve had glimpses of some of the ways they are working in the lives of this dear family. I’m grateful to have read this scripture shortly before Lyla was born and to know that God is watching and loving and providing. Grow, baby, grow!

28 …Consider the lilies of the field how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin;

29 And yet I say unto you, that even Solomon, in all his glory, was not arrayed like one of these. –3 Nephi 13:28-29


childhood memories of balloons:

crying over this every single time they made us watch it in elementary school:

At least annually wanting to be a balloon wrangler when I grew up thanks to Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. My favorite was always Snoopy.

young adult memories of balloons:

Discovering the joy–and also the sting–of water balloons

Probably destroying brain cells at least once or twice inhaling helium gas so I could talk like Daffy Duck.

Appreciating balloons in theory more than in application, because they always smell bleh as they deflate.

young mom memories of balloons:

Learning the hard way why you pay a little extra for high float.

Discovering mylar. Shiny!

Realizing my heart might be just a little too soft as watching a child let go of a balloon and wail as it sails into the great blue yonder or startle when it inadvertently pops can bring tears to my eyes.

Waking up one morning to a mysterious and loud intermittent roar only to realize a hot air balloon was unexpectedly landing on a nearby lawn.

Watching my husband go up in a hot air balloon at his elementary school one year. And praying all the way he would land softly and gently at the appropriate time, because by then I’d already read too many runaway balloon horror stories.

Getting up way too early on what was inevitably the longest day of the year by the time you had to get up early to get a good place at the balloon fest, then make your way to (hopefully) snag a decent place to sit along the parade and then hit the arts festival, fit in a BBQ, and stay up late to watch the fireworks–all part of America’s Freedom Festival (which, by the way, I’m boycotting until they let Encircle have a float in the parade).

Loving how bothmy mother and also my kids enjoyed the giant colorful billowing balloons, and the way you can really get up close and personal with them at the balloon festival.

[Day 193 of Ann Dee Ellis’ 8-Minute Memoir.]

Favorite Piece of Clothing Eulogy

As I’ve watched and waiting for prompts this week I’ve been a little worried about Ann, thinking she must be having a busy week. Hoping it’s a good busy week, not just a bad week. Sending good thoughts. In the meantime, I’m going with this little prompt I picked up here.

Last month, on perhaps one of barely two days where temperatures dipped low enough to hint that it should be fall and with great anticipation, I went looking for my favorite shirt.

My black 100% cotton knit Croft and Barrow mock turtleneck I bought on sale at Kohl’s a few years ago. On such a good sale I purchased too–one black and one red.*

It’s perfect.

Not too short. Not too long.

Not too big. Not too tight.

And the mock turtle is just the right amount of mock and the right amount of turtle.

Very Steve Jobs, I think.

And easily casual or dressy.

I pulled the mock turtleneck over my head and excitedly stretched my arms up over my head and through each sleeve, reveling in the familiar comfort of a perfectly worn and well loved shirt.

And then I noticed the holes.

A series of what look like bite marks wrapped around the left sleeve just an inch or so up the arm.



There are no other signs of either in my drawer. In fact there are merino wool blends in that same drawer. And the red turtleneck was folded right next to the black one over winter.

I still have no idea what made the holes. And I unapologetically keep wearing the shirt. But as I examined my bare skin exposed through the randomly scattered holes around my forearm–holes that seem to grow just a tiny bit larger each time I wash the shirt–I decided it’s time.

Not time to discard the shirt. It’s literally the most comfortable shirt ever. And my attempts to find a replacement via Kohl’s or Amazon have failed miserably.

It’s time to come up with an interesting and clever–and yet somehow not tacky or sloppy–way to mend the shirt.

I’m reminded of Zack’s friend who mended well-loved jeans with bright-colored patterned-fabric face up, proudly and happily declaring to the world its unique splash of zing and power to save what once was lost.

And my imagination wanders. Could I pull it off on just one sleeve of my shirt? What if I cut off the lower length of both sleeves, folded the edges over and sewed them over interesting fabric or maybe even a comfy black lace? Neatly enough to appear it was meant to be that way.

I don’t know.

But I’m thinking about it.

*The brief vision of soft pink brought to memory the possibility the sale was so good I purchased three–black, red, and pink. And now I wonder, whatever happened to the pink one? And how is it I totally forgot about it? Or did I only imagine it? I don’t even know.

Post Edit: On a whim I searched again, even though I’ve looked in store and many times online. I was looking for turtleneck, not mockneck. And I failed to realized they consider it a tee. Simply a long-sleeved tee.

Normally $18.99, I just purchased 3–black, a creamy color called “pristine,”and–get this, black with dots!–on sale at $13.99 each. Plus an additional 15% off. Free in-store pickup saved me $9. So with tax they are $12.70 each. I almost ordered two in black, but I’m kind of liking my intentional layer-look mend idea, so I’m going to give it a go. Oh happy day!


I recently inherited two puzzles from when my brother and I cleaned out my mom’s house. One of them was a big red covered bridge. The other may or may not have had a John Deere tractor in it.

Naively I snatched them up, thinking, maybe I’ll actually sit down with my family and we can relax by the fire (j/k, we do have a fireplace but it hasn’t had a fire in it since long before we bought this house some 17 years ago) and put these back together.

But before I let nostalgia completely take over my senses, I thought I should count the puzzle pieces, just to make sure we still had them all. (Right. Like a family of six was going to somehow miraculously keep all the pieces together for over 30 years.)


One day I decided to stop and visit a couple of sisters from my congregation who have Alzheimer’s and now reside in a care center not too far from my work.

I’ve visited Frankie before, but am usually unsure as to whether or not she remembers me. When I go there, Frankie was, apparently, sleeping. But JoAnn, who had just recently moved there, was sitting at a table with another woman putting together a lovely fall scene of a blue pond and golden fall leaves set against a deep blue sky.

I asked if I might join them and they somewhat lukewarm-ly allowed me to pull up a chair.

JoAnn and I talked while the tall, strong woman to my right, who at one point about 20 minutes in sadly asked me, “Have I met you?”

Alzheimer’s is a brutal memory-stealing beast.

No we hadn’t met, but I was impressed with her puzzle-putting-together skills and told her so. Hoping somehow, it was a drop of solace for memories lost.

The three of us kept plugging along at the puzzle. I found corners and edges and tried, gently, to frame the scene in one direction so the familiar directions of top and bottom might guide their attempts to interlock odd-shaped loops and sockets into one another in the hope of discovering a whole picture.

Frankie must have awakened from her afternoon nap and eventually came out to join us. She was not interested in puzzles and was, perhaps, still puzzled over who I was, but she sat down next to us and watched.

And we continued to flip and turn and move tiny pieces and make sense of them.

JoAnn still wasn’t sure where she was. Or how she had gotten there. At one point she was worried about her what had happened to her car. I told her her daughter, Dana, would take care of it for her. And reassured her at least a dozen times, everything would be ok.

And the afternoon wore on.

At one point I had gone through all the pieces searching for corners and edges and come to the horrible realization that pieces were missing.

And somehow the thought of giving an incomplete puzzle to these women with huge gaps missing from their lives. Women who’d forgotten their husbands had died and couldn’t figure out how they’d arrived at this place where no one was coming to get them (so many of the older women I know with Alzheimer’s come to the conclusion that their husband’s have left them for other women, and yet they wait, still hoping for their return). It was a huge cruel twist of fate and I was powerless to correct it.


One day I sat down to count the puzzle pieces from my childhood to make sure they were all there before I searched for a safe place to store them in my already full house.

“About 500 pieces.”

“About 1000 pieces.”

Said the bottom of the boxes.

Making it impossible to ascertain I had all the pieces without attempting to put them together.

I gave in to the futility and threw the puzzles of my childhood into the trash.

[Day 192 of Ann Dee Ellis’ 8-Minute Memoir.]


Blue tortilla chips
Turquoise blue
Baby blue eyes
That bright baby blue eye shadow from the 70s
Robin egg blue
Vibrant blue skies ribboned with thin wispy clouds
Deep blue-grey stormy skies
Blue-green oceans
Sad blue
bleu cheese that I thought I didn’t like because of bad (Kraft) roquefort dressing
Bleu burger at Black Sheep Cafe
Blue healers
Blue veins
Azure blue
BYU blue
Crisp clean blue cotton sheets
Deep blue fast-running rivers
Iridescent blue
Purple-blue bruises
My favorite blue cotton shirt
Old blue jeans
Blue-light specials
Blinking blue connection from the router
Soft baby blue flannel blankets
The blue-hairs
Blue velvet
Baby blue on black velvet
Tardis Blue
The blues


When I saw this prompt come across the wire right before I crashed into bed I thought “fall.” Of course I thought fall. It’s been a clear, warm, golden fall that lingered so long we almost thought it would last forever.

But today I looked again right before I crash into bed and I see the prompt is “seasons.” And my first thought is not even of the usual autumn, winter, spring, and summer.

It’s this.

There is a good reason that generally women don’t give birth well into their 50s.

We are too tired to chase two-year-olds around for extended periods of time.

Even the most delightful ones.

I remember being so tired when I was in my 20s. Well, late 20s, to be sure.

And I remember being so tired when I was in my 30s. Well, later 30s and early 40s to be sure.

But this is arthritic bone tired, which too shall pass.

And so, yeah. Tony Randall and Billy Joel can be dads well into their 60s. But as for me and my body, I’m glad to be grandma and not mom.

And blessings to all those women who are both!

[Day 191 of Ann Dee Ellis’ 8-Minute Memoir.]

ball drop

Right about the same time the opportunity came up to apply for my current full-time job, my mother was diagnosed with Stage IV metastatic breast cancer. Knowing I still had a teenager at home and would also be one of my mom’s primary caregivers gave me pause. But my mom loved her years working at BYU and was so happy when I was hired part-time at UVU, she meant it when she encouraged me to apply for the job and then to accept the position when it was offered to me.

So since I’ve had this job I’ve gone a year helping to care for my dying mother. I’ve helped my kids when our first grandchild was born early–right as we hit deadline for a huge contract project with a federal agency. We stood watch during that time we hoped my mother-in-law would just wake up from her surgery. And I’ve dealt with foot surgery and a much longer-than-expected recovery from that. I’ve also helped bail out a few people when they either over committed themselves or life happened to them, all while managing my own projects.

And while I may have gingerly juggled a few balls and desperately grasped them just before they hit the ground, until today I’ve never dropped the ball.

And today* I just blew off a phone conference call with a major player in another federal agency with whom we wish to partner for not just an upcoming project, but also the possibility of future projects.

Fortunately, it’s not urgent, and the man has been quite understanding.

But for someone who takes responsibility seriously and just doesn’t blow off people (except maybe, occasionally, my visiting teachers when I truly forget not hours of last remembering an appointment).

And I felt badly.

I owned it. No excuses. Just “I apologize.” Because I sincerely do.

And here’s hoping I never drop such a big ball ever again.

*This was after laying awake half the night worried over dropping the ball after the arrangements I had for someone to hang out with my grandson for at least half my workday so I could hit some important conference calls fell through last minute. The first conference call was a disaster.


I didn’t even try the second one.

And then I forgot the third. Which was probably the most important.

Oh well.