You were a California boy living near the ocean in Encinitas, sand between your toes, a smile that went on for miles but started in your eyes. I was the girl from Massachusetts trying on new states like pairs of shoes.
We met on a job in Phoenix Arizona in November 1993. A week later we flew to Colorado Springs, pulled onto the same team.
A little over a week into the Colorado job, just days before Thanksgiving and only a little over two weeks after we first met, you asked me to marry you and I said yes. That’s all it took.
Our families thought we were crazy, possibly a little drunk, definitely foolish, but they loved us and stood with us.
We didn’t know where we were going, where we were planning to live, or what we wanted to be when we grew up.
25 years ago, on a morning filled with sunshine and promise, we held hands and dove into the sky and into the vast unknown, and held tight.
Happy anniversary to the man who didn’t blink, didn’t swerve, just held my hand and jumped.
Every day that I work I kick off my shoes in my car at lunch. I roll the windows down, lean my seat all the way back, and stare up at the sky through the moon roof.
I take slow, deep breaths in the quiet, my feet sticking out of the driver side window, and let a little calm wash through me.
It doesn’t matter that it’s only thirty minutes in an eight and a half hour day. It doesn’t matter that I’m sitting in a slightly battered old car, or that it’s parked in a lot at the hospital. I can let go immediately, wherever I am, it’s free and easy and it feels like a little vacation for my soul.
My distress tolerance was very low by the end of the day when I stopped to pick up a few things on my way home from work. I Spotted bright, cheery yellow flowers on my way in and decided to treat myself to two or three to plant later on.
I was having trouble pulling apart the little plastic plant sections and getting very frustrated. Soil spilled and the containers refused to part and words slipped from my lips that ought not be used in polite company.
I stopped to take a deep breath and I asked myself
“Ellie , what would help you feel less frustrated and better able to control your anger?”
And I said to myself,
“not trying to pull these @#%! damn things apart, and getting all pissed and mad as hell, and just buying the whole damn thing. THAT would help me feel less frustrated and better able to cope with my anger!”
I started my chores wearing my spirit animal, the turtle, to remind me to take it slow and steady today. I’ll let the audience decide how THAT went…
One of my dogs had a vet appointment (well check) today. While I was paying, the vet stuck her head out and said “I don’t suppose you’d be willing to take a duck home with you ? Someone brought a Muscovy duck (full grown, female) in injured that they found a few days ago. She’s healthy and just needs a home. “
I kept signing, didn’t look up and said “sure.” They said “Do you want to take a look first?”
I never looked up, I just said “Nah. We all know I’m taking her home no matter what she looks like. “
They carried out a cardboard box taped across the top and asked “are you sure? You haven’t seen her.” I waved it off as I grabbed the box against my hip, papers tucked under my arm, a dog on a leash in my other hand and keys dangling from my teeth and schlepped everyone out to my car.
My only requirements are ‘does this creature need a home?’ and ‘how soon will hubby notice another critter following the feed bucket with the others in the morning?’ Beyond that, it’s a safe bet it’s coming home with me.
I sent a picture of the sealed box to Dale and told him “I had to spend all your money on vet bills, so happy birthday (his birthday is Saturday), I got you a used duck.”
So now I have a used duck in the kitchen, hissing at bunny who is eating his feelings at a buffet of dog food bowls because the hissing duck won’t let him go past to his hutch, and the dogs when they come close for a curious sniff. The used duck keeps trying to fly out the kitchen window.
I’m giving her an hour to settle down and feel safe before I take her out to the Coop. I’ll keep her cooped up for about a week (gives her time to finish healingabd acclimate), then open the door and let her decide if she wants to stay. At least I’ll know she feel safe and has food and water.
I stepped out to pick up a kid from classes and came into an empty kitchen, and open empty box, and no sign of the duck or any one else. All I could think of was “Goddamnit! That duck is on the loose somewhere in this house and the kids aren’t even watching!!!”
But then I heard muffled guitar music and followed it into the bathroom where I found Caleb, perched on the toilet playing gentle guitar music for the new used duck, now swimming in my bathtub and looking very zen. Caleb….that kid is a duck whisperer and a sweet soul. My bathroom is a disaster. But the duck seems chill.
Dale arrived home, delighted with his used birthday duck, and snuggled her contentedly (after chasing it upstairs and back down stairs mind you). She’s now out in the coop, chilling with the chickens, a pool to swim in, piles of food, and doing well.
Yes. We definitely are that family. I wouldn’t have it any other way. And now to assign cleaning the house to various children and spouse while I collapse into a soft blanket and hug my favorite bucket. Day two recovery on the books, Ellie style!
Anesthesia is both my favorite friend and worst enemy. I’m nauseous. Everywhere. Even my curls are nauseous. Inside my body it’s like standing on the deck of a ship in a storm and I definitely don’t have sea legs.
I love bright colors but green is not my BEST color and It’ll take a few days to get the meds out of my system. Each day will be better. So I hug a couch and try not to shout groceries at the walls (my favorite descriptive euphemism for vomiting), hug my dogs, cuddle chicks, and sleep packed in ice.
Even my funny bone is nauseous but I’m still gonna crack jokes because this is still better than lots get to feel and this too shall pass. Crossing fingers and hoping like hell the seasickness patches dotting my neck, and the Zofran I swallowed will keep the Ben and Jerry’s Chubby Hubby ice cream Lucy brought home for me from passing my lips twice too.
Just you watch me. I’ll be up and swinging at the world before long. I’ll start slow, and work my way up to less slow. I’ll do my end zone dance around telephone poles, walking further and faster and freer.
I never liked my eyebrows or my nose when I was a kid. It was a time in society you just didn’t see representations of me in magazines or on TV. I wanted to look just like the California gold standard that graced every cover, commercial and lead role.
No matter how hard I plucked and tweezed and tried to contour my very Middle Eastern features to more closely resemble the blonde blue eyed, aquiline lovely models I saw wherever I turned, it just wasn’t gonna happen.
I was teased relentlessly for the shape of my nose for the first 25 years of my life, and dreamed of the day I could have it “fixed”. I wished and exercised away my teen years desperately wanting narrow hips and the waif-like figure of Kate Moss.
No matter what I did, my nose was still big and my thighs were too thick. At an audition I was told that I was wonderful but really didn’t look like a “lead”. The man gently explained that girls like me are cast as the funny supportive character, and the “ethnic ones”.
I felt like the ugly duckling. The one who would never grow into a swan but was secretly actually an ostrich. Don’t get me wrong, I think ostriches are pretty cool birds, but they are not the bird you visualize when you dream of becoming something beautiful.
He was right at that time too. No matter where I turned, the reality of how beauty was defined showed me I was an ostrich, and not a swan. I decided to hide behind a pen and keyboard, and to pour my words out to the word where it didn’t matter what I looked like.
Oddly enough I was an adult, a mom to five incredible kids, aging gracelessly when I really learned to love myself. My appreciation for my body grew out of an appreciation for how easily it could betray me. Suddenly I saw myself as an important vessel that was essential to bigger and much more important things than my own vanity.
I wanted to be able to walk and move and do more than just watch my children grow, I wanted to grow with them. I learned to love the moments I moved without pain. The days my face didn’t looked weary and low. I looked at my reflection and wanted my face to show tenderness and compassion.
The world is a bumpy place and life can knock you ass over teakettle so many times you have trouble catching your breath before tumbling again. I wanted people feeling thrown and embattled to look over and see hands stretched out through my eyes.
I’ve been lifted up and dusted off by complete strangers. People who saw struggling in me and wordlessly communicated “I see you and you are not alone. It gets better.” I began to shed my down and let gorgeous feathers replace them. I stretched my neck towards the sunlight and like a swan, set sail.