A kindness outing (kinda like a mercy date only different)

The prompt is about doing something you didn’t care to do simply because you cared about the person who invited you.

I’m going to flip this a little bit and write about the last time I attended a movie in the theater with my mother.

Mom enjoyed movies either in the theater or at home and found it was a great way to get to spend time with her grandkids, particularly her older grandkids.

At some point in the late summer, after enduring two painful lung procedures that stopped the fluid from compressing her lungs and signed up with hospice and actually started feeling better for a couple of months, mom wanted to go to a show with my youngest, Kyle. I took the afternoon off work and she let Kyle pick the show.

Guardians of the Galaxy.

And nothing could have prepared any of us for the opening scene:

But aside from being gut-punched up close and personal at the beginning, my real takeaway was learning from my mother how to be a great grandmother.

This film wasn’t on my radar to see and I’m quite sure it wasn’t on my mother’s. But that’s what Kyle wanted to see and so we went. And we had a great time. Once we got past through the heart-wrenching opening scene, we laughed and hung on for the ride.

It was a beautiful “last” memory that I think of fondly not just because we had a good time, but because I will remember to spend time with people I love doing what they want to do, even if it’s not what I would have chosen.

I’m forever grateful.

[Day 112 of Ann Dee Ellis’ 8-Minute Memoir.]

Hands

hand

When I was young, I didn’t appreciate my hands. They are not silky smooth, even on the best of days. They are small. Fingers short. And tough. Working hands. Hands made for hoeing weeds 40 hours a week all summer long. Weeding a half acre garden. Petting horses and cows and dogs. Climbing trees and picking fruit. Rapidly slicing pizza with a giant chef’s knife. Turning thousands of pages of hundreds of books over the years. Typing and English degree’s worth of essays on an electric typewriter.

As I grew older, I learned to appreciate their strength.

They are not gloved or protected hands. They are feeling hands.

Today, the same as then, these hands like to feel the dirt, even if that means it gets in between my fingernails or stains the recesses of skin over my joints.

Nor are they slender, tipped by long, smooth, shaped nails.

The moment the nails grow long enough to block the sensation of feeling from the rounded pads of my fingers, I reach for the clippers and cut then back.

They are feeling hands.

Hands made for holding babies, stroking cheeks, wiping bottoms, wiping away tears, doing up buttons, tying shoes, combing hair (although that was usually the first to go when life was too crazy), holding toddler hands as long as I could before my hands were abandoned. Writing notes. Turning more pages of books–fewer this time–until I fell asleep first over Mercer Mayer’s “Just Go To Bed.” Smoothing back fine, bath-dampened hair as I kissed my babies goodnight.

They usually dry hands. No amount of lotion seems to help. Dry from the desert air. Dry from dozens of washings throughout the day. Water hot enough to disinfect dishes disinfects these hands.

Hands made for washing and scrubbing and cutting and chopping and stirring and pressing and stitching.

They are scarred hands.

Invisible scars from when I went to week-long Outdoor School in 6th grade I tripped on a tree root and pierced my palm with a knot protruding from a tree stump I hit as I reached out to stop my fall. I started to get an infection and remember the red trail working its way down my palm towards my wrist. When the camp nurse told me how serious it was, I passed out for the very first time.

Visible chicken track scars trailing down the center bottom of my right palm from carpal tunnel surgery I had done on my right hand, but never got around to having done on my left hand. That hand still goes numb at night if I sleep wrong.

A few years ago I noticed knots on some of the joints of my fingers. I used to think they were Bouchard’s nodes, but, in fact, they are Heberden’s nodes. A symptom of osteoarthritis, it is, apparently, untreatable and incurable. I recognize them from my mother’s hands.

Hands made for lifting my mother, helping her settle into bed, rubbing–at least when I remembered–lotion into her hands. Smoothing back her hair as I kissed her goodnight. Dressing her body, just as I had her mother’s–before we laid her to rest.

[Day 111 of Ann Dee Ellis’ 8-Minute Memoir.]

temper temper

It does not give me any solace to admit I come by it honestly. I have unseen scars from the belt and the boot tip to prove it. But albeit mother bear or alpha female or simply a product of being overtired and overwhelmed, when my children were younger I had to work to temper my temper.

Perhaps it goes back even further. To my own younger years. When my mask for being hurt was a secondary emotion–anger. This is completely counterintuitive, you know. People are sympathetic to the wounded. But not much love is lost on the angry. When my little sister and I squabbled or I otherwise got myself and/or my feelings hurt, I would hide it under a wall of anger. Perhaps it was pride–wanting to be strong? I have no idea why. It was just what was. And so, too often, I would be scolded or punished more harshly because of my own hardness.

Which, now I think about it, is entirely different than the unleashing of frustration that often surprise young mothers who found them generally perfectly composed through their adult years. Until now.

I’m not proud of my temper (belt-free and boot-free that it was). But I am grateful for all the times I was reminded by the spirit to apologize. “I’m sorry. It’s not your fault. I didn’t handle that well. And I’m sorry.” It was the apology I always craved as a child. And I gave it freely. It wasn’t always. I hope it was enough.

I’m grateful too that whatever it was–experience, age, the spirit, or maybe simply throwing my hands up in the air and admitting I have no control over anything and I’m legitimately tired–that tempered my temper over the years. I’m not perfect. But I’m better at choosing my battles. Not being the one to escalate a situation. And learning to, when I can, simply extricate myself from the conflict.

Sometimes I still have defensive wounds. But I’m more likely to forgo the secondary emotion and simply be at peace with the hurt. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. It just is.

[Day 110 of Ann Dee Ellis’ 8-Minute Memoir.]

Your day

perfect day

Stan Fields: Miss Rhode Island, please describe your idea of a perfect date.
Cheryl “Rhode Island”: That’s a tough one. I’d have to say April 25th. Because it’s not too hot, not too cold, all you need is a light jacket.

Perfect date. Perfect day. Your day.

What would make my day? Another day like my 50th birthday.

What I wanted most that day was to spend time with people I love. So we started the day taking our kids to the Mt. Timpanogos Temple (which was the only one open three days before Christmas) to do baptisms. Having my entire family in the temple together would be top on my list for any day. It is indeed heaven on earth. It was on that day, and my deepest hope is that it will be again someday.

Also on that day a bunch of my friends and family got together at a party I organized myself (because if you want something, you have to be willing to make it happen). Having so many people I love gathered together was perfect.

My friend Lindsey of Cafe Johnsonia made me not one, but two absolutely perfect birthday cakes. Having a homemade birthday cake was a dream come true that day but continues to be a dream come true since Emily has joined our family, as she makes me delicious homemade vanilla cakes* on my birthdays.

My friend Scott Shepard brought part of his band Book on Tape Worm to play for my party. Good live music always makes my day. And the generosity shown by taking time out to come, to haul and set up instruments and sound, and to play the perfect set–including my favorites and also one with the lyrics “growing old is the slowest form of time travel” was one of the best gifts.

My friend Corrie made me a quilt. When someone makes a quilt for a quilter, it is a perfect gift.

Speaking of quilts, another day I would consider “my day” would be a rainy day where I was not at work (most people want to skip work on a sunny day, I want to be home when it rains). The temperature would be moderate enough I could have the window open. Such a day would need to be partly productive–providing a chance to put things in order at home is perfect on a rainy day–but also partly relaxing. After getting stuff done I would want to curl up on the sofa, wrapped up in a cozy quilt, cozied up to a good book.

Aside from good people, good music, good food, and a good book, what else would make my day? Kindness, love, and laughter.

[Day 109 of Ann Dee Ellis’ 8-Minute Memoir.]

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.

[Day 108 of Ann Dee Ellis’ 8-Minute Memoir.]

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. ;)

[Day 107 of Ann Dee Ellis’ 8-Minute Memoir.]

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.]