Spotlight: Ella (Starlight1153)

By Nancy Polanski (nap) on June 9, 2014

The Who's Who Spotlight cubit is pleased to return for a special interview. We would like to introduce you to someone who is probably already an old friend. Does the term Piggy Swap sound familiar? If so, you have no doubt been to Ella's Garden Cubit. I gave Ella an open invitation long ago, and she has finally consented to share her life, her hardships and her joys, with you all. Here she is, in her own words, with no interruptions from me.

Don’t faint now, but yep it’s me finally dragging my muddy shoes and dirty fingernails over for your Spotlight Cubit.

Get yourself nice and comfy. Put the feet up and grab a pot of coffee. You’ll probably need it by the time you get done reading this. I’m probably the wordiest person you ever met, so when you get tired of my chatter just hit the delete button.

I’m known as Starlight, Star or Ella. The screen name came to me because I enjoy sitting out at night looking at the stars, and when I do I think about the childhood rhyme about Starlight, Starbright, first star I see tonight…. And yes, I have wished on a few.

Many years ago I used to go by the name Ponytail in the Daylily world. The nickname came because my hair was always in a ponytail. Long, straight and thin. Always looked a mess and scraggly on me, but it was kept that way so that every so many years I could cut it off for the Locks of Love to make wigs for cancer folks.

I think when you’re a teenager, you find yourself wrapped up in appearances, but once I got a bit older I realized it's just hair. Shortly I will be getting another ponytail cut off to send.

When I get stressed, want to relax or take time for reflections, this is where I go.


Five steps out my front door to the porch. I pull up an old milk crate and toss a chair cushion on it, otherwise my rump is full of criss-cross indentations. Unless it is bitter cold or there's lightning, I grab my cup of coffee and start my day sitting there by the top step, thanking the Lord that I am upright and alive. I bow my head and pray and take time to look to the heavens. Then I look around at the trees and listen to the birds and all the other critters that are waking up. I check to see what critters are around and if there is enough natural food for them. If not, I do what I need to do to help them survive. And in the evening as the creatures are getting ready for the night, I watch them. I look through the trees to the heavens, and good or bad, I thank the Lord for the day.

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I came from a middle class background. At least that's what they say we were, but seeing how there was never any money for extras I question that. The highlight of the week was when we walked an hour to the local drugstore and grocery store. If we behaved, mom would buy one cherry cola, the old-fashioned kind, with real cherries in the bottom that would get stuck in your straw, and it would be split 4 ways, each of us kids checking to make sure nobody got two drops more than anybody else.

We never took real vacations, as in pack a suitcase and go visit some place. Our vacations were a bit different. On the weekends when money permitted, we were loaded into the station wagon and traveled about an hour away from home. Mom would find these small out of the way places were we could go and spend some time, see something and it only cost a quarter or fifty cents per person to get in.

We visited small museums, a lighthouse, beaches, petting zoos and places like that. Some days it was just a drive to the country where we would stare at the cows and horses for awhile, and grab an ice cream cone for on the way home.

When mom had to work on the weekend and dad had to babysit, he would load us into the station wagon, drive to the park, pull off to the side of the road, push us out the doors, drive a quarter of a mile up the road and park. We ran wild through the woods, playing among the trees and leaves while we worked our way up to the car . Dad was always reading one of his western paperbacks, but kept an eye on the rear view mirror. As soon as we were close in sight, he would start the car and down the road he would go again. Eventually, when he could see we were dragging, he would let us into the car and back home we would go. We slept good at night, that was for sure.

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Folks know me today as somebody who is chatty, friendly, always having go-rounds with critters or trying to get myself out of some sort of jam or another, or having something weird or unusual happen to me, but the few people who really know me know that I am who I am today because I'm a survivor.

I'm not a survivor of cancer or some other disease. What I am is a survivor of abuse. Mental, physical, sexual. Pick one or pick them all. I have by the Grace of God survived them all. My story is not a pretty one; abuse never is. Poor Nap, she been waiting three years for me to write this profile and it's taken until now for me to actually open up.

Like most folks who are abused, especially children, nobody ever knew about it. A few neighbors may have suspected, but back in those days most folks kept to themselves. And children were raised to be seen and not heard. No matter how bad things got, no matter how much pain I was in, physically or especially mentally, and when I thought I didn't have a friend in the world, I always had Jesus to lean on. He always heard my cries. Most folks know I am a religious person. Am I a perfect Christian? Nope. I struggle everyday to do right, but whenever I feel beaten down I look to those heavens again and find peace and solace in my forever Best Friend.

The abuse started out when I was just a tot. I had a brother who died a few hours after he was born. He was born prematurely, his lungs weren't completely formed and he had other medical issues. Back then they didn't have the medical teams and cures like nowadays. When he died, I died in my father's eyes. Oh, he would appear to treat me like my siblings, but every night for 16 years my brothers got hugs and kisses before bed. When I would try for a hug, I'd get pushed away. He blamed me for my brother's death, as he wanted a son but I came first. I am 60 years old and to this day have never received a hug from my father. I think I can count on one hand the number of times I have been given a quick peck of a kiss on my forehead, but that's it. Every night I went to bed and silently cried. It wasn't that I was a problem child or anything like that; my dad just couldn't get over the death of my brother. Even though my several younger brothers eventually came along, I guess he never could forgive me. Most nights when I knew my parents were finally asleep, I would sneak out of my bed and look out the window to the heavens for my friend Jesus, and talk to him

I will forever be grateful to the one neighbor who thought something was wrong in the household and took me to church with her on Sundays. She introduced me to God.

Besides dealing with the lack of my father's affection I had to deal with my mother's physical abuse. After my youngest brother was born, something snapped in her mind. It wasn't until I was an adult that I was able to realize that in part was all the meds they gave her that made her flip out.

I became a workhorse. While my brothers were out playing I always had to do some chore. If it didn't meet her standards or if I forgot some tiny thing, I was punished. To this day I still can't stand pink dish soap. Squirts in the mouth were one of her favorite forms of punishment. As I got older, she would light cigarettes and put them out on my hands. It's only been maybe about the past 5 or 6 years that the scars have finally faded, but I will carry them inside of me forever. I was one of the lucky ones though, because a lot of abused children go on to become abusers themselves. I survived and moved on instead, helping other children and folks in need.

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When I was 16 or 17, after being kicked down the steps for forgetting to finish my brother's homework, I ran away from home. I didn't get far. I was caught a few towns over. It was something I will never forget, sitting in that police room behind a two way mirror and hearing my mother say to the police officers, “I don't know why she ran away.“ They found out why when they took my coat off and saw the blood that had seeped through my blouse, and the stripes on my back and my arms. That is why Easter means so much to me. Not the candy or the eggs, but back then I realized I had stripes on my back like Jesus did.

Well, they gave me the choice of going back home or into foster care. I went back home; better the devil I knew than one I didn't, was what I figured. Nope, things didn't get better, but I survived. I did a lot of praying for strength in those days.

I went back to school and as soon as I graduated, I moved out.

Life was not easy. I got married, and divorced not long afterward. The person I married was not what he seemed to be and I found myself in another abusive situation. At one point, to get out and away, I found myself homeless, jobless and trying to survive on the streets . I know what it is like to go hungry and be wet and cold.

I eventually remarried and ended up with an abusive alcoholic husband. The abuse got even worse and I was so mentally beaten down and isolated from folks that it took me a long time to escape. When I did, I was finally free and didn't have to race home from the store for fear of being two minutes late and having a fist waiting for me, or some other sort of punishment.

Oh I could go on and the details get even uglier. Most of my life has been filled with pain and hurt, but I managed to survive because I had my Faith to keep me going. When I got older I realized that God was preparing me for what was to come. I know now that I was meant to experience and survive what I did so that I could help folks today. So that when I say, “I know what you're going through,” I can know firsthand their hardships, despair and hopelessness, and can help.

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I would be dead if it weren't for God and his many earthly angels who lent helping hands. I now spend my time trying to pay back, the best I can. I support fund raisers for various associations in hopes that maybe my little contributions will help somebody else. I fight for battered women and children, and have fought for a few battered men in my time too. I fight against those who would abuse animals and other things. If there's a cause that I feel is just, I'll be in there trying to help. It's not unusual to find me gathering toiletries and food and passing the stuff out to homeless folks who live under the downtown bridges. It's not unusual to find me trying to help one of the organizations I believe is doing good and helping folks.

After my last divorce, I had a child to feed, no job, no real skills anymore and no self esteem or confidence. A neighbor who would bring food to my son and me decided I needed to go to college. I am like, ya right! Then one day she loaded her kids, my son and me into her car and drove to the nearest community college. I was pushed out the door and told to go take the entrance tests. I started for the testing room, but ran back to the car thinking, “I can't do this.” They locked the car doors on me and told me to march my body back to the testing room.

I stood in front of that door, scared to pieces with my knees and hands shaking. About the time I was ready to race back to the car and beg them to let me back in, the instructor opened the door. She asked me if I was here for the testing and I said, “Yes, but I think I need to go home instead.” She gave me a push on the back, shut the door and escorted me to a seat. She said, " Nope you need to be here."

I guess they were all right, but let me tell you, it is not easy to go back to school when you've been out of it for 30 years. Eventually I moved up from the community college to a university. I originally wanted to get a degree to become a middle school math teacher, as I had spent several years tutoring at my son's school in thanks for the tutoring he was given when we moved here. The university had a program where you could get a degree in one major and then go on for a second to save on courses. I was told to go for a major you love. I loved plants and nature, so planned on a degree in Horticulture first, then my math teaching degree.

I never did get to the math teacher part. I became fascinated with Horticulture. I don't think there's a course in Horticulture, Mycology or Plant Pathology that I haven't taken. I was learning and being prepared for my final goal in life. A Garden of Hope.

In order to survive, I tried my hand at a lot of different jobs. The most interesting job I ever had was traveling with the carnival. Yep, I spent several years being a carnie. During the day I ran several joints like the mouse wheel, the basketball hoops and the fish pond, to name a few. I spent my nights sleeping on the merry-go-round. In the evening, which is 1:00 and 2:00 am for a carnie, we would gather together and socialize. I mainly hung out with the Lobsterman and his daughter, the Hairiest Woman Alive, Lizard Lady and other folks like that.

It was the most eye-opening time of my life. I learned that just because somebody may look different from you or have some sort of disability, doesn't mean that they are not good people or have good, generous hearts. I learned to look at the inside of people rather than the outside. Those folks taught me how to laugh at myself and share that laughter with others; that life has its ups and down but if you can laugh at yourself, the downs don't seem quite so bad. I think my time working and living among those folks was what gave me the patience to tutor and help disabled and academically challenged children. Someday, when I slow down enough to find the time, I hope to write a book on my adventures.

I spent 5 and a half years in Gelnhausen. Not too far from Hanau. The day we took the salt mountain pics was the day that we got lost and thought we were in East Germany. It was so scary, no people or dogs or anything moving through the towns we were in.

I was lucky enough to see the Berlin wall come down and have pieces of it myself. It was a very emotional time, seeing folks from East Berlin being able to reunite with West Berlin relatives they hadn't seen in many years.

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It may look like just a piece of cement with rocks embedded in it, but it is actually the piece of the wall I brought back with me. It's like 3" long and about 2" wide. I don't know about the East side of the wall, but the West side was covered with German sayings. The reason I happened to be at the wall that day was because I went with my German landlady. One of her relatives was being able to finally leave East Germany. This was a lady that I would send simple spices to as they couldn't get them, and I wanted to meet her and be there for that day.

My secret passion is seeds. Big seeds, little seeds, flower seeds, veggie seeds, tree seeds, even weed seeds. Doesn't matter that the only place it will grow is half way around the world in a tropical zone, if its a seed I gotta have it. Yes, I am a full fledged seedaholic. Need furniture moved, need weeds pulled? Hold out a little baggy of seeds and it's amazing what I will do for you.

I used to spend most of my time collecting flower seeds. Now it is mainly veggie seeds. If you have a handful of veggie seeds, you can be the richest person in the world. You not only can feed yourself, but even one ear of corn can help feed a village. I am not up to feeding a village yet, but thanks to the generosity of the many gardeners from the Piggy Seed Swap I host every year, I am able to help feed many folks in need around my community.

Let's see, some other things I enjoy. Books. I love to read. I love to watch the old musicals from the 50's and 60's. It's not unusual to find me dancing to the the music of Singing In The Rain while gardening. I love music. I'll bop along to the oldies or today's pop rock. My favorite era is the Big Bands. Me and the vacuum cleaner can really get down with Tommy Dorsey blasting from the record player.

Growing up, my mother's aunt was a female radio announcer called Sleepy Time Gal and so we had almost every one of those big old black records that folks use for frisbees nowadays. We would play them constantly, blasting the neighborhood.

If I see something that looks interesting to me, I will give it a try even though I know in the end it may be a disaster. I love fresh baked cinnamon rolls, but won't try to bake them after once turning a whole kitchen, the counters, floors, tables, chair and stove into something that looked out of the movie The Blob. I would love to learn how to sew and especially embroider. I've given it a try. Another fun project that turned into a nightmare. I'm probably the only person who can take a 3" by 3" piece of needlepoint and have more knots in it than there are holes to poke through.

I enjoy crafting. Wood, lace, flowers. I enjoy taking bits and pieces of things and creating something out of them. Several of the designs I have created I have used as fund raisers for different organizations.

It not unusual to find me doing something for somebody. I'm getting old now and while the mind is still young, the body isn't. Before I meet my Savior, I want to feed as many hungry children, homeless, widowed, seniors, etc as I can.


Thank you from the depths of my heart, Ella.  I think the story of your life was worth the wait.  You are someone I admire and respect, and I believe the pain you have lived through and your willingness to share your experiences may be helpful to many silent sufferers.  You are a strong lady.  God bless you, sweet friend.

To our readers, to visit Ella's Cubit please click 'Ella's Garden' below and, "Pull up a chair and sit awhile."  Then come on back here and leave her some kind words.

Ella's Garden

The Who's Who Spotlight cubit would love the chance to tell our readers about more of our wonderful fellow Cubits members.  Won't you consider nominating someone you would like to see highlighted?  And if you're new to this cubit, you'll find a list of former Spotlighted members on our homepage.

Have a wonderful day!





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About Nancy Polanski
I live in Western New York. I'm retired, after working for 30 years in the Microbiology Labs at our county hospital. My time now is spent mostly with the Karen refugee population in Buffalo, advocating for them, teaching, helping and enjoying them. I've twice traveled to their camps in Thailand and experienced their culture. It seems they have taught me more about life than I have taught them.

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Finally! Zanymuse Jun 21, 2014 8:22 AM 13
Glad to know you better Mistirose Jun 9, 2014 6:44 PM 0

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Who's Who Spotlight features weekly quotes of inspiration, information and humor. We also have a collection of interviews with various Cubits members.

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