things I listen to

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Found a new podcast the other day (see above). I do love podcasts–you can learn so much! Some favorites include Nate DiMeo’s the memory palace, TED Radio Hour, and Hidden Brain. Unfortunately, I generally use podcasts along with TED talks to help distract my brain when the monkeys go crazy when I wake in the middle of the night and are unwilling to let me go back to sleep. Most times it works and I’m nodding again before I finish. I’m sure I’d get more out of them if I listened to them when I was awake. ;)

When I’m at work or on the road I listen to a playlist of primarily acoustic music–some of it a little folk-y–and a few other eclectic favorite pics just for fun. As a side note, I’m not ashamed of playing it loud and singing along–belting it equally loudly–as long as no one else is in the car. I sort of live for 4pm when the rest of my coworkers (who come in at 7) leave so I can unplug the headphones and just listen freely.

This morning I’m enjoying silence. I don’t mind silence, particularly in the morning.

I keep meaning to listen to audio books–the handful I’ve tried are very good, as producers tend to choose voices wisely. My problem is I’m a better reader without multitasking and get more out of a good book simply reading the print version.

Baby giggles are pure pleasure. Truly any kind of laughter. I love listening to people I care about, or even someone I just met, who is willing to be real and genuine and vulnerable and honest with me. Frankness is music to my ears. Visiting with friends is always balm for the soul. Friends are generally open and honest tend to love you for who you are working on becoming while also being willing to accept you the way you are.

I also love the wind–water when and wherever I can find it, be it ocean waves, roaring spring runoff, or a trickling spring. I know I’ve said it before, but storms are good too. Unless it’s too soon after the flash, thunder is comforting.

But rain. Oh rain. I will forever love listening to rain.

[Day 136 of Ann Dee Ellis’ 8-Minute Memoir.]

the bright side

Andy

Off the top of my head I don’t have any anecdotes of my own where something good happened as a result of something that went awry. That said, since I’m a “cup half full and thank goodness I still have a cup!” and silver lining kind of girl, and I’ve been meaning to write down some of the bright spots of my recovery, this place and moment are as good as any (if a bit late anyway).

Day 1
Thursday I had foot surgery. It happened rather suddenly, but needed to get done before the calendar year on my high-deductible plan was up, and so I jumped. Without having cleaned the house thoroughly or filled the freezer with frozen dinners or strengthened my quads and core and upper body in preparation. Oh well.

On the bright side, my doctor is a good man and a family friend (distant kin, in fact, on my husband’s side) and actually rearranged his schedule to get me in on a non-surgery day and took good care of me.

I came home feeling discouraged over how weak I was (how difficult it was to get up the 7 stairs of my split entry house) and a little stressed over not having the right equipment (namely a knee scooter and a toilet seat booster, among other things) to make things easier on me. I had to send Shane on all sorts of errands and even goose chases trying to secure all the things, some of which really could have been picked up ahead of time through better coordination with the doctor’s office, insurance company, and home health providers. I felt badly about this, as he had had to be up at 5am as well to get me to surgery at 5:30 sharp and he did not get knocked out for a couple of hours of surgery.

On the bright side, I have a pretty purple cast. Due to the nerve block, I was weak, but not in pain. And because I wasn’t in pain I enjoyed a full day recovering from the effects of anesthesia, but not addled by narcotics. And when things fell apart in regards to the scooter, I posted a note on our ward’s Relief Society Facebook page and had a shiny pink scooter with a basket within a couple of hours. (Thank you, Dana. Truly a lifesaver!)

Day 2
This was my hardest day. My foot was the least of my pain, as all my muscles–even muscles I didn’t know I had–reacted badly to being used in new ways and I struggled to figure out the logistics of getting around. I hurt all over. I felt weak. I kept comparing myself to post-op me 14 years ago. I was stressed about my other knee having to overcompensate and over basic self care and the logistics of even getting in and out of a chair. By that time I was on pain meds and I wonder if they had a depressive effect, because I was not myself and for the life of me could not find any silver linings. I truly felt bleak and made the mistake of convincing myself it was going to be this bad for the remaining three weeks I am in a cast with orders to avoid all weight bearing on my left foot.

On the bright side, several people checked in on me my day began with a sweet and tender visit and a hug from my friend Evelyn (who brought me a lovely hand-written card and some beautiful flowers) and ended with a visit and a hug from my friend Holly who brought in a delicious dinner (why is it that potatoes and gravy are the perfect comfort food post-op?). I was starting to figure out the scooter and gave thanks for one of those bathrooms that is so tiny you could use the toilet, take a shower, and wash your hands all at the same time, which provides me with lots of grips and support on nearly every side.

Day 3
I still spent most of the day in bed, determined to give myself a full 72-hours being diligent about keeping my foot raised above my heart in order to mitigate the swelling (something I learned the hard way with my ACL repair 14 years ago). I was too tired to read, which was sad, because I even remembered I had a good book (or two or two dozen) to read. I still struggled getting up efficiently and still felt a little like it would be this way always.

On the bright side, this was the day I decided I was going to conquer one thing a day. And that would be not just ok, but even brave and good. By the end of the day I conquered getting from my bed to the bathroom with less fear and with minimal impact on my left knee. (Mostly I prayed every time that it would be ok.) I was able to go off the pain meds already–which is both a miracle and a blessing and slowly felt my brain clear. My friend Heather brought in a delicious dinner from Bam Bam’s BBQ, and well, their brisket is divine. On this day as well as the last, people blessed me with encouraging words, which I thought I would remember, but unfortunately did not. But they were simple words–single sentences–that lifted and brightened and gave me hope. I want to remember the power of words to bestow hope.

Day 4
This was a day of juxtaposition. Quiet morning. Busy afternoon. Calm and chaos. Kindness and sass. Encouragement and frustration. Confidence and a panic attack in the middle of the night over knowing that tomorrow I would need to negotiate the stairs in order to get to the follow-up appointment with my doctor.

On the bright side, I discovered a new Podcast, cleaned up the space around me a little and learned how to (mostly) negotiate without panic getting in and out of my favorite chair in the living room so I could spend time with my family when they came to Sunday dinner. My friend Jan brought a lovely chicken dinner over with the most delicious rolls and Lindsay made a yummy fruit salad–I crave fresh fruit in recovery. I relished how the simple act of checking in on someone means so much.

Day 5
The morning was a little stressful with an intrusion of work (I was supposed to have a full week off for focused recovery), changing plans and trying to coordinate things I’d committed to while in a drug-induced state.

On the bright side, I shampooed my hair from the kitchen sink which Shane had been so kind to empty when he did the dishes the night before. Foolishly realized mid shampoo that I was essentially home alone (Kyle was deep asleep downstairs), bent over the sink with the edge of my knee resting lightly on the very edge of a wheeled scooter with only a hand brake on a tile floor. And that if the scooter should slide out from under me I would certainly be in trouble. (The bright side is that my brain figured that out before I learned it the hard way.) My friend Nancy, whom I’ve missed greatly as she and her husband served a mission in Boston dropped by and we had a good visit. Then my friend Deena dropped by from Las Vegas, bringing a lunch of savory soup and a colorful salad and full of rich anti-oxidants. Later that day my friend Morgan brought in delicious dinner from Zupas (complete with extra chocolate covered strawberries) and was also–as always–a delightful visit. All visits did my heart much good. And I was gratefully cognizant of the one-day reprieve from the stairs. My big strong (and younger) brother kindly reminded me not to beat myself up over becoming weakened by a desk job because he does manual labor (and runs a small ranch) and even still has noticed a decrease in muscle mass over the past five years himself and my friend Cyndi told me she had patients my age who have to recover in a facility because they are not strong enough to recover at home. Again, the simple power of words to encourage and lift and brighten. Kindness is a powerful force for good.

Day 6
My son Zack came to take me to my doctor’s appointment, as Shane had jury duty a day earlier than he thought. The initial trip down the stairs went well. Our railing is sketchy, so I decided going back up would be safer and only slightly more awkward on my hands and knees.

On the bright side (notice how these sections are getting longer every day?), I got out of the house! All went well with the doctor who took at look at the incision to make sure it was healing well and replaced the purple cast with a fresh bright blue one and told me I get to graduate to the boot two weeks from the day (shaving off two whole days!). Lindsay couldn’t resist the promise of a blank canvas and wrote Andy on the bottom of it, which will amuse me (and others) for days to come. My friend Maria dropped by with her cute kids and a beautiful posey and a good hug and cheery visit. The stairs went so well the first time (a cautionary tale–I overdid it and it was too much for me the second time) I felt brave enough not to miss a wedding dinner and a life celebration I truly wanted to attend. Shane–bless his heart–drove up to the graveside in SLC and then came right back to pick me up and turn around and drive right back up to SLC for the other events, which were, fortunately, right close to each other. A change is as good as a rest and surrounding myself with good people and good food (because I had mostly forgotten to eat that day) was healing even though I wore myself out. It was a long, full, exhausting, but good day.

I am learning (again) not to compare, to look for and celebrate baby steps, to be patient and grateful and hopeful. I say the words out loud. “You’re going to be ok.” “Thank you, strong knees, you are doing a good job.” etc.

Shane has been a great support managing the house and bishoping and jury duty even when he doesn’t feel that great himself, not to mention Lovanox shots in my belly and fetching things when I can’t fetch them for myself (though I do try and succeed with many things and even managed to do most of the dishes yesterday) and chauffeuring me to SLC and being patient when I ask for one more thing at the end of the day. He has made me laugh out loud a couple of times and a good belly laugh is the best medicine. So many people–too many to name–have checked in and up on on me, some of them nearly every day. This too is a powerful force for good. I am blessed by good people in my life and so very grateful.

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[Day 135 of Ann Dee Ellis’ 8-Minute Memoir.]

the sky

finnishsunsetlightsunrise

Sunrises and sunsets are special and always remind me that God (in the plural sense of the word) created this beautiful world for me and for you and for all of us to find joy in and reminders of God’s love for us. But me, I love me a good storm. Most of my favorites are on my Instagram feed, but the greys and the blues and the darks thrill me as much as the pinks and the blues and the lights.

y favorite thing about a storm (besides the life-giving rain) is the way the sky can be so dark and lightless and yet be cast in sharp releif against the light at the same time. I find this deeply symbolic and reassuring. The world can be dark and dangerous and mean and yet if you look you can always find some light somewhere. And light means the most when cast against the dark. For this I will always be grateful.

[Day 134 of Ann Dee Ellis’ 8-Minute Memoir.]

summer skin

white
brown
red
blistered
freckled
moley
baby oil
coconut oil
hawaiian tropic
sticky sweet aloe vera
skinned kneed
peeling

When I was a kid I think summer was more forgiving of my skin because of the lower elevation (or something). I hear it only takes one good burn to really damage your skin (and increase your chances of skin cancer) and I have two that I recall. One when I spent the night at a friend (not one of my close friends) house (pretty sure I also got bedbugs there) and we spent the day sprawled out over inner tubes slathered in baby oil in the Willamette River. Not smart. The other time was when my mom and my sister and I took a little girls trip down to St. George shortly after my mission. I didn’t realize that 18 months with no sun left my skin more vulnerable to sun damage than it had been just a few years prior when my friends and I used to lay out in the sun on top of the water towers at the side of the mountain.

I’m so over it. While I’m still in a quandary over the proper balance of life (vitamin D)-giving sun and the dangers of sun damage (I have a family history and had several dysplastic nevi removed and at least one mole in changing stages of transition), I’m past the vanity of needing to be bronzed and perfectly content to keep the sun limited to occasional exposure to my face and my arms. There is not quite anything light the warmth of the sun on your skin. That said, a friend of mine was just reminiscing (and as she spoke I could just feel it as if I were there) of the feeling of the sun-warmed and just a little gritty cement on your swimsuit-clad body after you get out of the pool dripping wet and lay down–towel or no–on the pool deck as a kid.

[Day 133 of Ann Dee Ellis’ 8-Minute Memoir.]

needing assistance

Just after Shane’s mom passed away I found myself coming home to a neglected house–as we had spent several days in various hospital waiting rooms–at 4-something am Saturday morning and finally crashing for a couple of hours of sleep. We had recently finished helping with one funeral and I was supposed to take dinner in to a family in our congregation that night. I had not one but several sisters reach out to me and ask if they could help. Friends who genuinely love me. The kind of friends I KNEW meant it when they said they wanted to help. I started typing the response letting them know it would be helpful to me if someone else took over that dinner assignment.

I typed it three times.

And deleted it each time.

And then one of them texted me and said “We are taking care of dinner for so-and-so and will be bringing Sunday dinner to you tomorrow.”

THAT was what I needed. Not to have to ask. Or suggest. Or specify. Just to be able to say, “Thank you. That will be so helpful.”

The thing is, I KNOW BETTER!. I find myself practically begging others to let me help them when I know they need it. “You are blessing others’ lives when you allow them to serve you,” I tell them. Because I know it’s true.

And yet when I find myself needing assistance, I can’t bring myself to ask. Even when people ask “Can I help?” I find myself resorting to evasive maneuvers. But when someone tells me “This is what I’m going to do to help you,” that makes it so much easier. And means the world to me.

I found out today I will be having foot surgery sometime this week. Three weeks on crutches (NO weight-bearing. I’m opting for the little scooter). Then three weeks in a boot.

I’m going to need help. But it will be hard to ask. My brother and sister-in-law want me to fly back out to their home in Portland to take care of me during my recovery. I know they are sincere in their offer. And I know they would completely spoil me. But I also know that’s not very practical or realistic. So I’m going to stay here. And work on articulating what I need. And to ask when I need help. Wish me luck.

Post Edit: I just texted my Visiting Teachers to let them know. If for no other reason than because I know what it feels like to find out a month later after someone I visit teach had surgery or something. I promised myself I would never do that to my VTs. Baby steps!

[Day 132 of Ann Dee Ellis’ 8-Minute Memoir.]

gardens

IMG_9834 Well hey, I’ve got this little garden going this year, so there’s that!

I’m sort of in an awkward spot about gardens, so I will mention two of my good neighbors’ gardens and my clever brother’s garden and also how much I enjoyed hoeing my other brother’s garden yesterday even though he forgot to amend the soil before he planted.

1. My friend Jane is a wonderful gardener. We took a master gardener class together with Larry Sagers at Thanksgiving Point and Jane went on to garden in a way that would make Larry proud. First of all, the back of her house is lined with an eclectic assortment of pots all well planted flowers well suited for lots and the particular light that falls at the back of her house and everything is watered with a tiny sprinkler line that runs up into each pot and is perfectly monitored to thrive. It’s paradise just right there. Then she has plum trees and heirloom tomatoes and more flowers and more vegetables all playing beautifully together on both sides of her backyard and it’s really a little piece of heaven. The kind of heaven that also tastes good come fall.

2. Our neighbors the Hindmarsh’s have a well kept, immaculate garden. But the brilliant thing they did (among all the brilliant things they did up front that keep their yard and garden practically weed and care free) is raised beds made with brick. So it’s thick. And sturdy. And just the right height to warm up quickly in the spring and to not hurt your back should you find and have to extract the occasional weed. Also drip-lined for easy watering of just the plants and not the dirt or the pavement.

3. My brother took raised beds to a new level and actual made a square foot garden table, if you will. So it’s table high, but doesn’t require 4 feet deep of soil. And it’s portable, so he can move it wherever he wishes. It’s really cool and the truth is, square foot gardening is so efficient, he gets a hearty supply of vegetables from just a little bit of accessible and convenient, weed-free space.

4. So my dream garden. I think we get so worried and overwhelmed about making a whole great big garden we never started and don’t even have one garden. Which is sad, because you can put quite a bit in one little garden box. But could I start with one, I would have planted peas on St. Patrick’s Day. I’d have one of those little shoebox fence lettuce gardens on a not-hot side of the house where I could stagger a little bit of lettuce in each “box” just enough to have on hand for dinner. I’ve about decided corn is not worth the space and it’s just as easy to go pick up a dozen ears at the local stand on my way home from work come corn season. But I miss tomatoes. And I would have all the root vegetables in as soon as the peas were done. Especially beets. And I sure loved the pumpkin patch we planted one year on the berm between our house and the neighbors before the grass invaded. I wonder if it’s too late?

[Day 131 of Ann Dee Ellis’ 8-Minute Memoir.]

Letters

Riverside Shakespeare

I want to write a letter to my high school English teacher, Jim Schweigert, and tell him thank you for giving me the world when he led me to discover good literatures. In particular, for making me read One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Maybe my letter to him is a collective letter to all my high school English teachers. Because whoever made me read All’s Quiet on the Western Front opened my mind to how sometimes we find ourselves on opposing sides for reasons we don’t understand but we are more alike than we realize. And also whoever made me read Man’s Search for Meaning, because that book gave me power over my life and taught me how to choose happiness.

I’d like to write a letter to two math teachers I had. They taught me the why behind the what and if you know the why, you can figure out the how, and math makes sense. I loved math with those two teachers. And gave up on math my senior year when I asked why and the teacher simply replied, “Just because that’s what you do.”

I’d love to write a letter to a number of my BYU literature professors. Shakespeare. Renaissance Lit. And the man who helped me read Moby Dick like it was meant to be read. Something I’ve been unable to duplicate since.

And Marilyn Arnold. Who introduced me to Willa Cather. And who taught me not in English class but in another lecture I attended after I graduated simply because she was presenting, that it’s ok, even warranted, even a calling, to sing loud and speak up when you are the only female voice in an all-male anything. I truly loved every one of my literature professors, but I have a special place in my heart for the women who taught me the right kind of feminism for me–looking after, speaking up and working on behalf of those trodden upon and whose voices are stifled. The were strong, not strident. Sure, not shrill. They lived and spoke truth and I didn’t even realize it until after, looking back. And knowing from when came those truths that grew in my heart and compelled me to want to hope for and work for a better world.

[Day 130 of Ann Dee Ellis’ 8-Minute Memoir.]

trees

treehug
When I learned this tree was over one hundred years old I gave it a great big hug and talked to it for a moment, because, well done!

Speaking of childhood adventures in giant tall fruit trees, I think I will write about my dream orchard. I want to lose (kill is too strong a word) all the grass–the messy, deep rooted (or is it rhizomed?) grass that relentless invades the berm I built next to the neighbor’s driveway in which I futilely planted lots and lots of plants (flowers or vegetable or fruit) year after year only to see them overtaken by the grass. Blue Flax. Purple Coneflower. Melons. Eggplant. Summer squash. Pumpkin. And eventually an entire row of earthy-scented lavender–all to no avail.

In any case. I want to get rid of all that relentless grass and plant an orchard. One plum. A pear. Maybe a nectarine. Possible a small apple, but only if I think I can devote the time to keep it pest free. And not one. Not two. But three peach trees. The idea is simple. I have a catalog recommended to me from Allred’s Orchards. After carefully getting rid of the pesky grass I want to amend the soil and prepare the ground (looking for something that is easy maintenance, will remain grass and weed free, and yet will be easy to tidy up after the inevitable fruit dropping), I want to plant an early peach. A mid-season peach. And a late season peach. Yep. Three peaches. Peaches for days. And as many fresh peaches as I can manage in one hot Utah summer.

The trick to orchards, or so I dream, is to manage the pruning so the trees do not get too big for their britches. Or the spraying (hopefully I could mostly get by with an appropriately timed dormant oil spray). And the proper picking.

greenhouse
Trees are wonderful, magical, life-giving things.

I would also grow a small forest in my backyard. Or at least as much of one one can grow in the hot desert that is Utah. But I’d like to give it a go. Lush, green, breeze-rustled, shade-giving, trees.

treebed

[Day 129 of Ann Dee Ellis’ 8-Minute Memoir.]

things i prefer to do alone

I might be better of writing about things I prefer to NOT do alone. Like exercise (I realized why–seriously–just the other day–when a friend told me the reason she is never home is because she does not want to be left alone with her thoughts for fear she may spiral.) And cook. (I realized–seriously–just the other day–as I was dreaming about how I would remodel my upstairs–that while I love to have people over for dinner, what I don’t love is how my current kitchen isolates me and leaves me [generally] alone in the kitchen while everyone socializes in the living room.) And clean the house (No deep reasons here. Mostly because it’s easier and more effective with help.) Although, to be honest, I don’t mind being alone in a clean house for at least a few hours after it’s clean so I can enjoy the few minutes where it stays clean. I don’t like going to church alone. Especially on holidays. Or Mother’s Day. I’m very good about not sitting alone. I have a few people who are happy to make room for me on their bench and if they’re not there, I don’t hesitate to look for someone else who may be sitting alone. But not. I’d prefer to not go to church without my family.

But let me see if I can stretch.

I think I can get to things I don’t mind doing alone.

I don’t mind driving alone. This is something I learned about myself when I started to travel a little bit for work. I don’t mind being able to stop where I want to stop and take the scenic route if I want to take the scenic route. And I don’t mind being able to listen to whatever I want to listen to and to turn it up loud and to belt out my favorite songs like no one is listening. Because truly they aren’t. Nor do I mind Sunday mornings alone when my husband is in meetings and my other kids are sleeping. I like a quiet morning. A non-rushed, quiet morning.

Things I prefer to do alone?

Nope. I’m not there yet.

[Day 128 of Ann Dee Ellis’ 8-Minute Memoir.]

picking fruit

jamesinthestrawberrypatchJames picking (and eating) organic Mt. Hood strawberries in Oregon this month

I’ve mentioned before the merits of growing up with a backyard full of fruit trees and fruit bushes. The trees were primarily cherry. We had a small pie cherry tree and at least a couple Bing cherry trees and my mom’s favorite–Royal Ann. I’m not even sure if that’s correct, but that’s what my memory tells me so it’s true for me. I liked picking the tree fruit on account of no thorns or prickly anything. And also because when I was a kid I was not afraid of heights. In fact I was not afraid of much except for one of my younger brothers. I’m not sure if it was just us or if the primary thinking of the day was “the higher the tree the more fruit on the tree.” In any case, our cherry trees were big and tall and not just because as a kid I was not either of those things. They were truly huge. And I loved climbing in them fruit or no because fearless and free and up in the sky was pretty cool.

We also had raspberries (which, to this day, I’d rather have someone else pick for me). We may have dabbled in strawberries, but I remember my first paid child labor was picking fruit in a strawberry field and I may have made mere quarters but my tummy was full of sugar-sweet vine-ripened strawberries, so I looked past the non-existent child labor laws of the day and thought I came out pretty well.

But one of my favorite things about growing up in the land of the most abundant growing season on the planet (or so we were told) was the blackberry (which, in our case, I believe weren’t actually blackberries) bushes that grow wild everywhere in the Pacific Northwest. We had a couple of thick and mighty high bushes growing wild at the west edge of our pasture and I will tell you this, nothing makes better pie. Nothing.

There were a few serious thorns and some deep cuts and scratches in my childhood, but the sweet juice salve made of memories of summer fruit staining my fingers and running down my chin seems to have smoothed over some of those scars to the point I can say I had a good childhood.

[Day 127 of Ann Dee Ellis’ 8-Minute Memoir.]