Fat Girl Wearing Thin

Life beyond the loss.

   Dec 17

Keeping Promises

When I was around 6 years old my parents left for the weekend to visit some friends.  At first they hesitated leaving my 16 year old brother and 17 year old sister in charge of me, but ultimately left feeling fairly confident as my siblings assured them that I’d be in bed by 8 and that they would make sure the house was as neat as a pin upon their return. Little did Mom and Dad know that those promises were code for Ellen will be in bed by 8 because we don’t want her in the way when our friends come over and, the house will be neat as a pin because we’ll have some major cleaning to do so you never find out about our groovy party (yes, groovy.  Hey, it was the seventies!)



My sister holding me during the ‘good old days’, aka: before I could talk!


I don’t remember a lot about that Friday night but I do remember coming into the living room where my sister was doing ‘The Bump’ (a super cool dance step back in 1976) and asking me to go back into my room to make another ‘really pretty, detailed picture of the dog.’  The thing was, I’d already brought her a picture of every member of the family – and the house, the car, the yard, and my favorite food.  Was she trying to get rid of me or something? 

After another ten minutes or so I came back with another drawing of our dog Cocoa (an incredible likeness, I might add) to a whole house full of teenagers singing along to Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody.  Finally my sister, who loved me but was clearly getting frustrated with me constantly badgering her, pulled me off to the side and stepped up her game. “Ellen, you know that question you’re always asking Mom and Dad about? The one they always tell you you’re too young to know the answer to and then make you go outside to play?  Well, I’ll tell you if you promise to leave us alone for the rest of the evening. Deal?” 

Sis was playing hardball now.  I glanced over at my brother who was staring at her with newfound awe and admiration for coming up with such a brilliant idea.   Clearly this was information that I had to have – needed to have because everyone else already knew the secret to where babies came from – everyone but me, that is, and I hated being left out of things.  “Okay!”  I said as I eagerly followed my sister back to my room. 

Sitting at my desk I listened as she explained how babies were made.  My eyes grew wider and the look on my face went from excitement to confusion; then, ultimately – horror.  I sat silent as my sister wrapped up her lesson on the male and female anatomy and then said, “Now, remember – you promised you’d leave us alone, remember?  Oh, and don’t tell Mom and Dad that I told you.”  With that, she opened the door and wandered back to the sound of the Bee Gees blaring in the other room. 

I kept my promise…sort of.  I did leave them alone for the rest of the night.  I was too embarrassed to go back into the living room where my brother and sisters friends were, instead choosing a coloring book to get my mind off of such yucky information. 

Mom and Dad arrived home to a clean and quiet house on Sunday night, clearly impressed by my brother and sister’s caretaking skills.  That is until my six year old body couldn’t hold onto my secret any longer (I think I lasted a couple of hours though, so YAY for me, right?) and I recited nearly every detail of my newfound knowledge with my mother who looked at me in shock, then at my sister in anger. 

My sister got into trouble for that one, though I don’t remember whether she was grounded or had the phone taken away.  She got over it pretty quickly though, because I never did tell my parents about the party.

I’m proud to say that I wasn’t emotionally stunted by having had ‘the talk’ at such a young age, nor did that event lead me into a life of chronic promise-breaking; in fact, I’m pretty stellar at keeping promises when it comes to other people.  It seems the only person I have trouble keeping my promise to is me, which is why I’ve never been a big fan of New Year Resolutions.  I rarely set specific plans into motion for the simple fact that I don’t want to feel like a failure if I can’t follow through.  Beginning January First, however, I am making one promise that I fully intend to keep for the entire year.

I’ve written about my gratitude journal and how positive it’s been in helping me notice the good even when things such as surgery and recovery have taken up a big part of my life over the past several months.  I wanted to take this idea one step further and create more of a visual reminder of the many things I’m grateful for, so I’ve decided to write out every good thing that happens during 2013 and jot down each experience on paper.  I’ll fold it in half and drop it into a container (which I’ll likely keep by my bedside so I don’t forget to do it) and at the end of the year, read through all of the positive things that happened during 2013.  What a powerful way to end the year on a good note while bringing perspective to my life. 

Like this idea?  I hope so, because we will be incorporating this act of mindfulness into our Hate Loss Challenge next month.  Start searching for your gratitude containers because there’s only a couple of weeks left before we ring in the New Year! 


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  1. I’ve seen a similar project on Pinterest (proving once again that you are brilliant), and it makes a lot of sense to me. I enjoy flipping back through my journal periodically and reminding myself of all the joyful things that happened.

    • Ellen says:

      I have a solid love affair with Pinterest. It showed me why I simply could NOT get into Twitter. I’m just too visual a person. And why am I just now learning that YOU are on Pinterest? Seriously, I need to pay attention more.

  2. Roxie says:

    OMGEE! – As if I didn’t need another reminder that we are twin sisters from different mothers. I already have my container picked out and I’m working on putting together colorful paper to use so that it looks beautiful sitting on my counter. I’ve already got a reminder set on my phone.

    That story is adorable.

    • Ellen says:

      I am still looking for my container – I’m thinking it will be something pretty and found at Hobby Lobby. I LOVE that you are doing this, too! Great minds think alike :) Phone reminder also an excellent idea, btw….

  3. Jenn @ Cooking Aweigh the Pounds says:

    I love this idea. It’s so simple and forces your perspective on life when you feel down. (I have a tendency to focus on the negative at times.)

    • Ellen says:

      I think I just need something a bit ‘extra’ – a bit more visual than only spotting things when I bring my journal out from my dresser drawer. Plus, it will help me remember to do it every day. It is SO easy to focus on the negative – I know exactly what you mean, Jenn.

  4. First of all, I am thinking your sister and I must be around the same age because I very clearly remember doing “The Bump” 😉 And I have to say that the party sounds rather tame…no drinking or drugs, right?

    And I love your idea! I recently saw something like it, in which you write down what you want to happen on pieces of paper and put them in a jar on New Year’s Day and then at the end of the year, see how many came true.

    You know that I am not a Resolution girl either, but I plan on doing a Word of the Year, and I have something else up my sleeve, as well.

    • Ellen says:

      My sister is 51, Karen. And she used to do a mean Bump! From what I remember, the party was pretty tame – possibly some alcohol, but no drugs. All of us were on the border of being terrified of our father so we each only pushed the envelope ‘just’ so far 😉
      Your word of the year sounds like a great idea, as well. Looking forward to seeing what else you’ve got cookin’ over there…..

  5. Munchberry says:

    Your siblings were a lot nicer than mine. I would have been threatened and told to split the scene. Only later did I discover the threatening and blackmail can go the other way.

    I love your gratitude jar idea. I will do it! Right now I write it in a spiral, but having the visual reminder of it at my bedside I think is way more powerful. What a great way to start the challenge. This is the start right?

    • Ellen says:

      Nice mostly because I was a big tattler back in the day. I’m surprised I never told about the party, actually. Any attention was better than none at all and my brother closest in age to me is 9 years so I was more of a nuisance than anything, I think. Oh, the things I used to do – you wouldn’t believe.
      As far as the start of the challenge – do you remember last year when we had the positive reinforcement sheet? Repeating positive words to ourselves throughout the month while we worked on other things as well? This is going to take place of that, and I’ll be asking participants to commit to the Gratitude Jar for the month (and hopefully it will be rewarding enough so that everyone will want to continue to do it for the rest of the year). Official beginning will be January 1st, but I’ll have a full post on it before then….glad you’re in :) YAY!!

  6. Lisa says:

    Love the gratitude jar idea and the suggestion to place on the bedside table so it won’t be forgotten!
    Great sibling story! My favorite older sibling story is a female I know who has older sisters that were dating when she was just starting elementary school in the early 70’s. Her sisters would come home from dates and if the guy wanted to kiss goodnight, they had to kiss the little sister first! Haha!

    • Ellen says:

      Oh, Lisa – that’s a great story!! I used to hide behind our couch right before my sister and her boyfriend would come in to sit down. I’d wait until they were ready to kiss and then jump out from behind the couch and yell ‘SURPRISE!!’ It’s a wonder she never strangled me! lol

  7. teresa says:

    Great Idea!!! I just saw something like that and put it on the list of things to do with Em this year. I think we’ll decorate a container on New Years Eve.
    And that is one of the BEST childhood stories ever!

  8. LauraJayne says:

    I love this idea! I’m not sure if I can commit to doing it comepletely, but I want to try!

    • Ellen says:

      This would work with highlights for the year too, Laura. Any time you have a particularly good day or if something special happens you can put the memory in the jar :)

  9. Hanlie says:

    I like this idea a lot! Am going to look for a suitable container.

    • Ellen says:

      I don’t know why, but it has to be just the ‘right’ container, too (has to look PRETTY, right??) My husband suggested a plastic bowl with a lid from the kitchen. Um….no. lol

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