A Day In The Life Of Ellen

Hi! Look For Updates about my everyday, but comedic life!
Hope you enjoy!

Community Projects

I am currently working on two community projects this year that I'd like to share. You don't have to have a lot of money to make a big difference in someone's life. Just an opportunity and a little creativity.

The Scarves for the Homeless Project

A friend on Twitter has befriended a group of homeless folks here in town. As we head into cold season they need warm things to wear when temperatures dip. I know many people that knit or crochet and we are always complaining at the amount of leftover project yarn we have laying around unused, so I organized a group of several of us and we have started making scarves with it to donate to my friend who will get them to his friends.

If you don't know a group of these people in your area, I am sure that your local homeless shelters would be more than happy to take and distribute donations. Don't knit or crochet? Consider hitting the fabric store and buy a 60 inch length of fleece. Cut it into widths of about 5.5 inches wide and voila! No-sew scarves.

This will be a constant need through the winter I am sure as these people are very transient and there are always new faces showing up at the shelters.

**UPDATE (11/18/10): Since initial post the number in need has risen to over a thousand. I am in desperate need of help. I need volunteer knitters/crocheters and donations of fleece and yarn.

**UPDATE (11/25/10) Please see list added below this post. These are items that the camps are in need of. A wish list. Please consider a donation of any of these items to get these folks through the winter. I do have a safe drop location and will be dropping off donated items once a week so they can be distributed.

My Family's Christmas Plan for the Central Food Bank

I first introduced this idea to my family last year and it was such a huge success that it's the plan again for this year. It used to be a pain to buy for all the adult members of my family for Christmas gifts. A pain because we are all thankfully able to buy what we want or need and so it was usually just a round of the exchange of cash or gift cards when we did our holiday gathering.

Although we will be buying gifts for the kids to open, we take all of the Christmas budgets for the adults, pool it together and then make a large donation to the Central Virginia Food Bank. In a couple of weeks my mom, my sister and I will meet up somewhere for lunch, write our checks and put them in a sealed envelope together. None of us know what amount was donated by the other and we get a pleasant time together and get the satisfaction of knowing that we are giving other folks something to eat in a time when so many are going hungry.

For our holiday gathering, we draw one name each and limit the gift purchase to $5 so everyone still has something to open. Most creative gift with the $5 wins a prize.

Consider giving back to your community this winter season. It really feels good to give from the heart.

Thanks for reading!

Wish List of Donation Items:

Hats, gloves, coats, long johns, heavy socks, underwear, long sleeve shirts, hoodies, scaves and booots and shoes.

Backpacks, heavy trash bags for wet weather, blankets, sleeping bags, flashlights, batteries, radios, lanterns, canned goods, instant coffee and tea bags, water pots, frying pans, dark tarps, tupperware/ziploc bags and rope/string.

Towels and wash cloths, soap, lotion, sanitary napkins, toilet paper, baby wipes, feminine products, condoms and cold medicine.

As we move into the gardening season I have to admit that I start to get excited. After a long winter of greenhouse produce there is finally a whole lot of REALLY fresh stuff available. It's one of my favorite times of the year when the Farmer's Market finally opens up downtown.

We take full advantage of local produce in our house and it is not unheard of for me to walk into the office on a Monday to find that a coworker has brought in excess bounty from their backyard garden. Zucchini, squash, peppers, tomatoes...the list goes on.

I also think of those less fortunate though who hardly ever have such access to fresh produce because they rely on the local food bank for their food needs, most of which is strictly canned and packaged.

Most people don't know that many food banks will accept donations of local produce. I encourage you to get in touch with yours if you do garden. If they accept these gifts put in an extra tomato plant or two and donate your harvest. It'll make you feel good and help give back to the community.

Thanks for reading!



Helping a Friend

Below is a guest post from a friend of mine, written by her as she faces foreclosure due to prior health and employment problems. To visit her original post with links (I'm not sure why they don't all work...I am still trying to figure this out) please visit www.lalayu.com

Every little bit can help her and her family. Let's show some Twitter Love and spread the word.

From @lalayu:

Where do I start?

I don’t know why it never occurred to me to do this before. But I was tweeting this morning about working on my taxes, and I mentioned all I had lost trying to save our home…and a writer named Beth Wareham who tweets as @PowerofNo responded to me, sparking a tweetstream soliciting donations to help raise money to save my home. I explained that it wasn’t just one months mortgage payment but closer to $42k that I needed.

When I first started on Twitter, my intention was to gather information about foreclosure and loan modifications, and to educate myself on the best way to go about trying to save my home. What has happened in a year is completely different from anything I ever expected. I have connected with others who have helped me helped me look for a solution, vent about the obstacles I face, and celebrate every tiny victory I have had along the way. Working to save my home dominated my life, and become almost a full-time job…..the connections I have made helped me start living instead of worrying. For the first time in a long time: I felt energetic and excited, and could see beyond the doomsday foreclosure. We have a long way to go before we save our home, but the idea that life can go on regardless of what happens, resounds to me in the echo that the Twitter community provides on the daily. Here I am, a year later…. humble and thankful for the real friendship, inspiration, and pep talks that got me from there to here.

My hardship letter hasn’t worked with my mortgage company, maybe it will help on the web. I feel like I have to preface my request for donations and help with a little more about my story. The easiest way is a timeline.

March 2007 I was diagnosed with a bone tumor in my knee. It’s an uncommon condition called Pigmented villonodular synovitis (PVNS). The surgery was invasive & left me with a foot long incision in my left leg. It took me months to walk again and I used most of my sick leave. Mortgage: Current

April 2007 I found out I was pregnant with my second child. I was hospitalized for exhaustion several times, and went into heart failure right before I gave birth to Olive. (I was diagnosed with a heart disease ten years earlier when when I was 22 years old.) Mortgage: Current

January 2008, I lost my job because of my employers leave policy. My cardiologist said they would help me file for short term disability, the HR office said I would quailify for unemployment. I was sick, tired, still in heart failure, had a newborn, and was suffering from postpartum depression. I did not file for any of it. Mortgage: Payments deferred for six months.

March of 2008, my mother asked me to take over and close our family business, which my mother ran for 26 years. She was ill and ready to retire. They have legal custody of my two nieces, (my sister is unable to care for them) ages 12 & 15 at the time. They asked if I could take them and I agreed. This is how I ended up with five kids. I have a son, a stepdaughter, a daughter, and two nieces. Mortgage: Subprime adjustable went up approx $400, we could not make payment.

August 2008 to May 2009, I returned to work part-time. With five kids — one in daycare, the money I made wasn’t even close to what we needed, and most went to the cost of childcare. Balancing it all started to take a toll on my health and I left my job to try and figure out how to work for myself from home doing consulting and promotion. Mortgage: We started our first loan mod, made payments & then they wanted a balloon payment. We couldn’t afford it. We started it again.

May 2009 to Present: I have an established clientele. I have four of the five kids full time, serve as home base for the different sets of co-parents, try my best not to get hospitalized again, and I work….as much as I can. Even if I worked full-time…it’s not enough to catch up on how far we fell behind. Mortgage: We have been under review for modification several times since we fell behind in March 2007. We have tried two different programs and are now under review for third. The first two times, it failed because of balloon payment requirement. The third time it failed because my husbands salary dropped dramatically for six months. Calling and waiting, waiting and calling. I think our mortgage company knows less about what is going on than we do. The problem I have is one lots of people are going through. A series of posts on my “progress” with our mortgage company is here.

Like most of American families, I make difficult and humble choices to make ends meet. My experience with illness has taught me to be thankful, creative, and balanced. If we can catch up on our mortgage payments, we won’t have to continue to live in limbo while we negotiate a loan modification. I want to raise $42k or as much as possible to bring us current. I haven’t filed for bankruptcy, haven’t applied for welfare, haven’t filed for unemployment. While these resources are available to me, I simply can’t feel good about it, when I know there are others who need it more than me.

What followed the mentions by @PowerofNo was a list of suggestions from others on what I could do to help raise money…a list of incredible suggestions that I plan to follow up on. Until then, thank you so much for the donations that you have sent, the ideas that you have shared with me, and the generosity that I continue to find in all of you.

If you have extra, I would appreciate it…if you don’t? I appreciate you still.


So this is a crazy easy recipe, but it was requested a couple of times on Twitter so I am happy to oblige. I like to share. I don't know why it's not made more than just around St. Patrick's Day here in the US.

Corned Beef And Cabbage Dinner

1 corned beef brisket with spices (they are usually vacuum packed in the meat section of the grocery store)

4 medium potatoes, peeled and quartered

1 1/2 lbs baby carrots

1 small head of green cabbage cut in wedges

Remove corned beef from package and place in a large stockpot with the juices from the package. Open and add the spices from the packet. Cover the brisket with water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover and simmer for two hours.

Add potatoes and carrots. Bring back to a boil and reduce heat to simmer. Simmer 20 minutes.

Add cabbage and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to about medium and continue to cook for an additional 20 minutes.

The trick to the corned beef with the spice packet is that you should need no additional seasoning until it is served (salt and pepper on the vegetables to taste and can be passed at the table to suit individual taste).


Thanks for reading!



Lessons Relearned...

When I was in high school I had a very wide variety of friends. Don't get me wrong, I definitely had an inner core of friends, but I also sought people out from outside our little circle who seemed interesting to me and I was glad I had the opportunity to get to know them. Those people came from all kinds of different "clique" groups and made for an eclectic little mix of people to talk to about a wide range of things.

It was the same thing when I went to college. I joined a sorority my freshman year. The girls in my sorority were fabulous, but I again found myself not only looking to them to bond with but also friendships outside of that circle. All of the people I interacted with enriched my college experience to some extent and for that I am forever grateful. I was an Anthropology major in college and that fostered an interest in me to learn about different people, cultures and beliefs.

In the corporate world, it is somewhat compulsory to practice this because of course you cannot choose your co-workers. Most of my friends since college have been gained through work relationships and unfortunately with a child and a busy job I have not had much opportunity to branch outside of my work friends to seek new relationships to cultivate, something I sorely missed.

In the early days of "internet" relationships, AOL was the big thing. I explored, but found the chat rooms to mainly be a conduit to practice pickup lines with no way for a meaningful conversation to take place. I did not stay long.

Classmates came along next, and although a good way to find old pals, unless you exchanged personal email addresses it provided no real way to stay in touch.

It was a while before Facebook came on board. Although much better than Classmates, I was still pretty much only limited to reconnecting with old friends and getting status updates. Chats were mostly boring (I disabled the feature, in fact, so no one knows when I am online). I needed more and I wanted more.

It wasn't until I checked out Twitter early last year that I finally found the ability to once again build a network of friendships that is diverse and satisfying. I'm pretty picky about who I follow. I like a good conversationalist, someone who has a sense of humor and someone who enriches my Twitter experience. Some of my friends follow other friends in a group, but there are some that I follow who don't know anyone else that I know at all. Each and every one though has sparked an interest in me and has qualities that I like in a person.

We don't all have to get along. We don't always have to agree. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. I try to look at how someone treats me as a person. I tend to keep out of negative conversations that don't involve me and because of that, I have forged ahead with some really great followers.

In a way, Twitter is kind of like high school. There will always be groups battling each other. That's a fact of life. I try to look beyond all of that to see the potential of the real person underneath. I am grateful that Twitter has taught me that life's lesson all over again.

Thanks for reading!


I grew up in a typical, middle class suburb of Richmond, VA. For the first three grades of elementary school I attended a private Catholic school. When my parents moved, they gave my sister and I a decision to make. Do you want to continue at private school or would you rather attend public school? Hint: If given the opportunity to not have to wear a uniform to school, what do you think your average 3rd grader is going to choose?

I was amazed at how many activities were available to me in public school. There was a club or a class for just about any interest imaginable. After seeing it all my first year, I decided I wanted to take violin in the 4th grade, so my mother signed me up for the class. That was where I met Karen.

Karen was a shy, quiet girl but because the strings class was so small (gee, I wonder why) we became fast friends and were virtually inseparable at school. We hung out together at lunch and at recess and introduced each other to our circles of friends.

There was one thing about Karen that made her "different" from the other kids at school, although I didn't really see it with my 4th grade eyes. Karen was one of about four "black" children at our mostly "white" elementary school. I didn't notice it because she was my friend.

We graduated from elementary school and after having the summer off, I started off to junior high. I arrived my first day, but Karen was nowhere to be found. Our circle of friends asked around, thinking she may have moved to another school district. She was being raised by a single mother and they had moved before. However, after checking with a few of our former classmates at other schools, no one had seen her. I didn't hear from her again until...

Fast forward about 35 years. I was sitting in my office one afternoon at work and I received an email. Upon opening it, the sender was asking me if I was the Ellen from strings class at Chalkley Elementary School. The sender was Karen. She had found me through my maiden name posted on my college alma mater's website. I was absolutely thrilled. So thrilled that when I went home that afternoon and told my daughter about it we dragged out my elementary school yearbook from the attic so I could show her Karen's picture.

We exchanged several emails and it became clear to me how much my friendship with her meant, even though I hadn't known it at the time. I never knew how she felt like an outsider at her own school. The fact that she remembered me and sought me out after so many years just absolutely floored me. Her mother had moved to the northern part of the state after elementary school, and Karen had to start all over again in what are probably some of the most difficult years of trying to win acceptance among your peers.

Karen lives in another state now, but we remain in contact (she's even on Twitter!). She and her husband still have family here though. About four years ago, she and her family were coming to town for a funeral and we made arrangements to meet for breakfast. I took my daughter, who was about the same age that Karen and I were the first time we met. The morning came and I was SO excited to see her.

She finally walked into the restaurant and I looked at her and she looked at me and it was just like we were kids again. After huge hugs and introductions all around we eased right back into our friendship and sat down to break bread with our families. We laughed over old times and caught up on the new and we were both disappointed when our short time together came to an end.

I guess there are several points to this blog entry.

1. My belief is that prejudice against any so-called "group" of people (whether it be race, religion, sexual orientation etc.) is taught by example. Children do not know prejudice until it is introduced to them by others.

2. True friendships really do last a lifetime. Cherish them.

3. You never know how your actions affect the lives of others. Be kind. It may come back to bless you in ways that you never dreamed.

I love you Karen. Thanks for teaching me so many valuable life lessons. You truly are my oldest and dearest friend and I am so very proud to know you.

Thanks for reading!


Toys For Tots

I know a single pencil is an odd picture for the subject line of this post, but you will soon understand why I used it.

As Christmas has past and all of the kiddies are enjoying new toys (and no doubt have them strewn all over the house) I thought I would share a childhood memory of mine that is as crystal clear in my mind as if it were yesterday.

When my sister and I were little we lived for Sunday evenings when Mutual of Omaha and the Wonderful World of Disney came on TV. Mom would get us bathed and dressed in our pajamas early enough so that we could watch the Shasta soft drink sponsored programs before we went to bed.

One particular Sunday, my sister and I had made a complete and total mess of the living room. After bathtime and dinnertime and before our shows came on, my mother and father asked us to tidy up our toys from the living room and get them into their proper places. My sister and I both balked and continued to play despite their warnings about what would happen if we didn't.

We abandoned everything when our shows came on and went to bed leaving the living room a hot mess. We awoke the next morning to find that the living room was completely clean and there was no sign of anything we had left out the night before. We went to school completely unsuspecting and came home that afternoon only to discover that we could not find anything anywhere.

My sister and I asked our mother where our playthings were and she responded nonchalantly that she and my dad had thrown them out the night before after we had gone to bed because we hadn't cleaned them up as we had been asked. My sister and I were dumbfounded. All of the crayons, the blocks, the Barbies, the tea sets....all GONE?

For the next several nights, my sister and I braved it out. We played with the "second choice" toys that had been left in our rooms that Sunday night. We colored in our coloring books with pencils (you see where I'm going with that picture now, right?). Finally, our little hearts just couldn't take it anymore and we cried over the loss of our beloved playthings.

The next morning we woke up and were having breakfast at the kitchen table. Our father entered the room with a massive garbage bag and opened it. We squealed with delight to see everything that had been all over the floor in our living room. We asked how he had gotten it and he told us that he had rushed to the junkyard and had managed to procure the bag just as the junkman was getting ready to toss it into the incinerator. Our father was our HERO!!!

Of course, now I know that the things were just stored in the attic to teach us a lesson. And what a valuable lesson we learned.

Thanks for reading!


Hi! I'm Ellen.

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