Toby Dorr: Hello and welcome to Fierce Conversations with Toby, the show where we talk about the hard things. I’m Toby Dore. We’ll offer listeners a special surprise at the end. Be sure to listen all the way through for the details. In today’s episode, we will find the beauty and grief. Our guest today is Wendy L, who can be found in the frozen woods of Canada, or chilling at her second home – the Fish Shack on Stoney Island in (Nova Scotia) where she shares early morning beach walks with Ralph, the most famous dog in Canada. Grounded in her faith and driven by a passion for design and writing, Wendy has been honing her creative craft since childhood in diverse ways. Her creative practices have blossomed into a lifelong dream of being an author, telling her own stories and the stories of others. After significant deaths in the family, including her precious five-year-old son, Wendy is writing her first book, her Life Story of Beautiful Flaws and Perfect Mistakes to share a million How-To’s on surviving anything.
Toby Dorr: Hi, Wendy. Thanks so much for joining us. I’m so delighted to have you here.
Wendy Elle: I’m so happy to be here. This is gonna be a fun chat.
Toby Dorr: I think so, and it’s something that people don’t usually talk about, and it’s an important part of our lives because you can’t avoid grief. It’s part of who we all are. And to try to sweep it under the rug and pretend it isn’t there, just doesn’t benefit anyone. I like to ask all my guests a question that gives us a peek into who you are.
Toby Dorr: I think I already know the answer to this one, but my listeners don’t. What’s your favorite color and what does color say about you?
Wendy Elle: Oh goodness. Well, with a design background for the last 30 years, you hit me on a really soft spot there because my favorite color is any shade of white.
Toby Dorr: And there’s millions of shades of white aren’t there?
Wendy Elle: So I’m kinda a neutral, neutral girl. I do love color, but if I have to pick a favorite, it’s any shade on the white spectrum.
Toby Dorr: And what do you think white says?
Wendy Elle: For me, white is a clean palette. It allows me complete freedom. There are no borders. Even in the peripheral vision. There are no distractions, and I think for the way that I want to live my life and that I am developing as I get older, a clean slate, a clean pallet, and a clean canvas allows me to pull in and gather. All of the things that I do on purpose. Whereas when I find, when I find a life that it’s messy with color, um, I feel a bit claustrophobic.
Toby Dorr: I see. That would probably be my life. Messy with color.
Wendy Elle: Well, and that’s why opposites attract Toby.
Toby Dorr: Yes, that’s true. And you know, I don’t think I’ll ever look at white in the same way again as just a nothing color. You know, there is a lot of warmth to it. There are a lot of whites behind you, and they just have different feelings. So I’m gonna have to reconsider perhaps.
Wendy Elle: Can you actually really look at, when you, sorry, when you really look at the white, they have all the colors of the rainbow within the white, and that’s the really awesome thing.
Toby Dorr: That’s pretty cool. Can you tell us about a crossroads in your life that pushed you in a different direction?
Wendy Elle: There are many so this is a really difficult question to answer, but I’m gonna answer the most significant one, obviously within the subject of what we’re speaking about, the most significant crossroad which was the death of my five-year-old son because it was an accident. It was unexpected. It wasn’t a sickness or an illness where we had the time to process. It was one minute he was here and the next he was gone. And I would say of all the crossroads that I have that we intersect in our life, that is pretty major.
Toby Dorr: That is a major one. I can relate. I’ve lost two kids myself, but it isn’t the same. Everybody’s loss is different and every loss feels differently. You can’t compare them.
Wendy Elle: No, I think as I’m right now, as I call it, I am actually in my season of grief and I identify that time period. Quickly between DOB and DOD, which is date of birth to date of death. So I am in between Josh’s birthday of February 5th and his death day, which is May 22nd. That period of time in every single year is pretty significant for me, and for our whole family. Everyone identifies like whether you’ve lost a mother, a father, a sibling, you know, a best friend, a marriage, a grief extends and blankets over all of those experiences. I really have learned to listen when people are talking about their pain as it applies to them. And the important thing for me is to not ever relate my story of losing a son to their story of losing a beloved parent or a mom. They are completely different and they all need to be really dialed in and paid attention to, and that’s the beauty of our human experience as we get to share those.
Toby Dorr: I so agree with you. You know, I lost two children. One as an infant and one as a young adult and you can’t compare them. They’re totally different experiences, and when you try to compare ’em, you kind of take something away from them. People you’ve got that have passed. I hate when people say, I know how you feel – like nobody can possibly know how anyone else feels.
Wendy Elle: And I think when we, when we make that statement, I know how you feel, we actually end the conversation,
Toby Dorr: Yes. Yes. Cause it’s not very open.
Wendy Elle: Yes. So I see that sentence, I know how you feel as a bit of a Hallmark statement. Meaning that it’s not really a platitude or something that we say to comfort someone, but in order to really comfort someone, if we wanna really pay attention, it would be tell me about your… and then fill in the blank.
Toby Dorr: Yes. And let them have the stage.
Wendy Elle: I would like to eradicate the sentence, I know how you feel from the planet.
Toby Dorr: Yes, I agree. I think it doesn’t have a place, it just doesn’t fit. So can you tell us about Josh, about who he was, about what he brought to your life, and can you tell us about that day?
Wendy Elle: I would love to. Before I do that, I wanna premise two things. One is as we talk about how to deal with people who are grieving, I would much rather talk about Josh’s life his death. Because as you know, losing an infant, the memories stop on their day of death and no new memories are ever made yet. When we’re in groups of people with friends, with family, or whatever, it’s okay to talk about your kids and their accomplishments. And you know, the degrees that they’re gathering or the sports that they’re playing. And for a parent who’s lost a child, they’re out of that conversation.
Toby Dorr: And it hurts. You know, it, it kind of gets in there and kind of starts twisting things up because it reminds you of what you’ll never know.
Wendy Elle: And I’ve had some people say, oh, I don’t like to ask about Josh. Because I don’t wanna make you sad. And I’m like, I’ve already sad about that. So when I get to talk to talk about Josh, it makes me happy. So thanks for asking that.
Toby Dorr: Yes. You’re welcome.
Wendy Elle: So Josh died on, um, May 22nd, which he was, he had just turned five in February. He was an unusual little human. And that is spoken from me as a parent, but also as a collective community. So we live in a small town and Josh had the ability to touch many, many people. He saw people and I, I’ll give you a quick little example of that so you can get to know him. We would have dates because I have three older daughters that were involved in everything you can imagine. And so him being the youngest, we had to fill time when they were playing piano lessons or skating or whatever. So we would have dates at our local restaurant and he had one waitress that he just saw her and one day he was standing up peeking over the little divider that separated the booths. And he watched her and he looked at me and he said, Mom, she’s beautiful. And I – it stopped me in my tracks because I looked and society would not identify her as being beautiful. Yet Josh was identifying her as beautiful.
Toby Dorr: Because Josh saw her and not her features, he saw what was inside. I think kids have a beautiful ability to do that.
Wendy Elle: Yeah, and that was his little superpower, and so he was able to make people feel very special, disarmed, and it was just like everywhere he went, he had open arms to love people, including us. I’ve never been loved so perfectly, but that told me a little bit about how he lived his life. He died on a very, um, he was so excited. My husband’s a commercial pilot. Um, we had an absence of an airplane for about six months. While it was getting checked out by government regulations and this was the first flight after it had all been cleared as safety and everything was fine. So it was a bit of a competition between all my four kids as to who got to have the first flight, and because we all adored him, so. And he was in the kitchen just jumping up and down. He had his little briefcase ready. He had his headphones ready. And so of course my older three daughters said, Josh can go. And literally within 15 minutes, he died. At the airport, there was a blockage in the fuel line that starved the engine. My husband, the pilot, was not up high enough over the trees to recover the airplane and the engine stalled and it headed to the earth.
Toby Dorr: I had never heard before that all of your daughters gave up a place on the plane to Josh. Did, did that trouble them afterward?
Wendy Elle: It didn’t really, I think the whole experience was so, hocking, traumatizing, and still has far-reaching fingers into our lives today. There’s one significant event that was about two weeks later after the accident. I was lying in my bed. It was early in the morning, and one of my precious sweet girls came to my bed. And her little face was about level with the mattress where my head was, and she said, Mom, I wish it would’ve been me because you still would’ve had a son and you have two other daughters. And so that, that even shows the depth of her heart as to what she was going through even at that time. You know, I, I think I have kids with big hearts.
Toby Dorr: Yes. I think you do too. So how do you even begin to move forward from an event that tragic and that sudden and that heartbreaking, you know, what’s the first step
Wendy Elle: The first step for me was, and that’s, that, that’s very clear to me. One of my best friends is a doctor, and she came to my door the next day with a bag full of medications and said, Wendy, what do you need? And I knew at that moment that I needed complete clarity as to how to move forward. And I think that’s a really important thing to note, that no emotion, no grief, no trauma can ever be delayed or ignored. And so my way moving forward would be to say, start dealing with it right away, no delay.
Toby Dorr: Don’t try to cover it up. Don’t try to medicate it. Don’t try to pretend it’s not there. Just face it. Head on.
Wendy Elle: Yep. Because when you wake up, when you stop medicating, guess what? You’re brought right back to that very second that you tried to make it go away. I think my first step was, was to really pray if you have a faith. To really pray and ask. I needed to know what to do. I needed clarity. I needed to know how to look after myself, how to look after my girls. My husband had been flown to a trauma hospital three and a half hours away. I needed to know how to do that. I needed to know how do I make the phone call to my mom?
Toby Dorr: Josh was, the apple of her eye.
Wendy Elle: And I needed clarity. I needed the words on how to do that. So that would be my first thing was to just, you know, muster all your bravery, all your courage, all the experiences that you’ve ever had in your life to say, I can do this too. I can do the hard thing. And so it was just one step forward and sometimes it was like the next breath, I, I can’t breathe, I just have to take the next breath. Or I need a shower. My plan for the day is to have a shower. You know? Um, so yeah, those next steps. And I was really inspired by Elizabeth Elliot. If you look up the books that she’s written and her, her famous go-to line is just do the next thing.
Toby Dorr: I love that.
Wendy Elle: Yeah. And so that is, I lived by that. The next thing,
Toby Dorr: I think that’s something you can grasp. If you set your goal too high, you can’t do it, and then you feel like you’ve failed. But if you just do the next thing, that’s a little enough bite, you’re right. It could just be taking a breath. It could be taking a shower, it could be going for a walk. So you know it moves you forward, it gives you something to focus on. And I know you live in a small community where everyone knows everyone else. What was it like to go out in public for the first time when the whole town knows what you’ve experienced?
Wendy Elle: So this was one thing that I was completely unprepared for. And I wish that I could have read it in a book, and that’s why I’m writing a book. You know, one thing that will be forever in our grief is the willingness to pave an easier road for those who come behind us. And that is what inspires me to write because the first time I ever went into the grocery store, I was actually having an okay day. And until I was in an aisle and I looked up and I saw two people who saw me. And they disappeared from the aisle. And I understood then that I created a discomfort for others just by my presence and just by my experience. And I compare it to it was, my pain was obviously so obvious. So it’s like walking into a place with a broken leg in a physical sense. Everybody’s gonna ask you what happened.
Toby Dorr: Yes.
Wendy Elle: When you walk into a public place and you have experienced the most monumental loss that you hopefully ever will have, people aren’t comfortable saying what happened. First of all, you’re in a public place everything is is just, you’re just wearing your pain – alienated by it. You’re alone, I was not expecting it.
Toby Dorr: And people don’t know what to say, they know you’re hurting and they’re afraid they’re gonna say the wrong thing. So what do you think might be a good thing that someone could kind of keep in the back of their mind, if they ever encounter someone who’s in tremendous grief, what do you think something they could say that would, you know, open a dialogue.
Wendy Elle: I think you’re tossed at that time between, you need to be alone in your grief because there’s some of grief that’s very private. Yet, you also need to grieve publicly so that your friends can see that you’re okay. And a lot of things that people said to me, some things were really offensive. I wasn’t prepared for that. But I think in, in a generous way, grief also includes it. It requires us to be generous to those people who don’t know what to say. Generosity covers the offense that happens when people say the wrong things. So I probably was one of those people at a certain point who, when people suffered. To say, oh, what can I do? Tell me what I can do. And in actuality, I don’t know what you can do for me,
Toby Dorr: And that kind of puts a burden on you. You know, like, now you’re dealing with this, now tell me what you want me to do. So you can’t even think sometimes how to put one foot in front of the other, let alone try to tell somebody else what they can do.
Wendy Elle: Right. So I think, I think words like I’m here.
Toby Dorr: Yes.
Wendy Elle: I see you, I’m here – or you know, can I come over sometime and can I give you the space just to talk about your son? Or come over and can I shed some tears with you?
Toby Dorr: Yes!
Wendy Elle: When you look back in history, not in North America, but in other countries, grief was a community event. People gathered and cried and wailed, to know that your pain is shared. And so I think for somebody that you feel close to – engage in somehow sharing their pain, because then the burden is not all yours alone.
Toby Dorr: What about just walking up and giving them a hug?
Wendy Elle: Maybe not cuz I would’ve completely fallen apart.
Toby Dorr: Yeah.You know, sometimes when you’re shown compassion, you’re okay and then somebody shows you compassion and then you’re not.
Wendy Elle: So I would, that’s why I, to say I’m here or can I come over? Here’s my number. Then you can do that in a private space,
Toby Dorr: I think that’s a great idea. I like that because you know, my inclination would be to walk up to somebody and give them a hug, but you’re right, it kind of opens that emotional window for them and they may not be comfortable with that in a public place. I like your suggestion. Can I come over and just sit with you?
Wendy Elle: Or when can I, when can I call you? Not call me if you need anything. Turn the question to when can I call you? I’m in grief, I don’t wanna call people.
Toby Dorr: Right. And you don’t wanna have to remember it. You can’t even remember to brush your teeth some days. How are you gonna remember that? You need to call somebody cuz they asked you to. So you can’t really put any of the burden of the act on the person that’s grieving. You have to turn it around so that you have the action to take.
Wendy Elle: Maybe the answer to all of those questions is whatever your default answer is or question, try to turn it around and as you said, turn it around to take the responsibility off of the grieving person. Call me anytime. Turn that into when can I call you?
Toby Dorr: Yes. I like that. I like that because really the worst thing you can do, I think, is to turn around and leave the aisle or walk past the person and act like you didn’t, don’t see them there, because I know that feels. Isolated, you know, in my loss and it was obvious to me that nobody knew how to deal with it, and I certainly didn’t know how to deal with it. I mean, you don’t expect to lose a baby before they ever come home from the hospital. And yet those people who were so uncomfortable and didn’t know what to say made my grief even harder because I needed to talk about it, and I didn’t have anyone to talk about it. So it just kind of stays bottled in. It is a difficult thing.
Toby Dorr: It is a difficult thing to know how you can best serve someone who’s grieving.
Wendy Elle: Yeah. But I think if, if we follow the rule, and I think it just came about in this, this conversation, the rule of flipping those sentences.
Toby Dorr: Yes.
Wendy Elle: we make it like, I call it a no hallmark zone. Like, no cliches, no platitudes, you know, and so yeah, if we flip it around, maybe we need to reinvent those hallmark cards.
Toby Dorr: I think so. You said something to me the other day that has really stuck in my mind. And that was, I didn’t lose Josh. He’s not lost. And you know, people say, I’m sorry for your loss, or I’m sorry when did you lose your son? That really opened my eyes. how would you think is the kindest way for someone to express that without using the word, loss?
Wendy Elle: I think it’s okay for us. I mean, I’m a human that faces things head-on. I want to use the language that is appropriate for the occasion. If somebody gets married, I’m not gonna say, oh, congratulations on the time that you walked down the aisle and set a vow – instead of on your marriage. However, we can’t say the word death
Toby Dorr: People don’t wanna say it, do they? Yeah.
Wendy Elle: It’s one of the most, we are all going to die. And so I. I am one to say my son died.
Toby Dorr: Yes.
Wendy Elle: I didn’t lose him. And I, I know that word used to bug me because as a five-year-old, that’s a thing. You go into the grocery store and they take off, or hide in the racks. They’re lost.
Toby Dorr: And you do lose them. That’s right. But you can find them and you can bring them back.
Wendy Elle: Yes, and that’s right, Toby. Loss signifies finding someone. And you’re not gonna find them here on this earth. And I know people, you know, there’s comforts that we use. He’s watching over you. He’s an angel. He’s in a world that is so filled, with pain that we all have to deal with. I never like to think of Josh as hovering over and looking down. I like to think of him as he is free of this, of looking down on the pain of this.
Toby Dorr: Oh, I like that.
Wendy Elle: So yeah, he died on this earth. His body died. I love the verse in the Bible that says, when we’re absent from this earth, we are present with the Lord. That verse is like a lifeline because one of Josh’s, um, we’re obviously a family of faith and taught our kids about Jesus. And, you know, as you do with language that is appropriate for your children. I used to call Jesus – He’s like your best friend. He’s always there. And Josh’s constant question was, if he’s my best friend, then why can’t we go see him? And I remembered one day we were driving to town and I said, Josh, we’re gonna, the Bible says we’re gonna see him in the twinkling of eye. He was behind me in the rearview mirror and all the way to town. He was blinking his eyes open, closed, open, closed. And the week after he died, I did find out from the coroner about the accident, and how he died, I needed to know, I’m a curious person. And I said, if you don’t tell me, I’m gonna imagine. I do know that he died instantly. There was no suffering that he went through. He hit his head and severed the two vertebrae. That there’s no room for error. There’s, you’re just here one second gone the next. So I realized that the week before we had the conversation that said, in the of an eye, we will be standing before our best friend. There was so much comfort in, in knowing that I had just told him the week before and then the event, and I realized, you know, that he’s not on this earth anymore. He is not lost. His body died. And his soul is looking into the face of his best friend.
Toby Dorr: I think that’s beautiful. And I know Josh remains a part of your life. It’s not like no one talks about him. It’s not like he’s not there. So what are some of the things that your family does to include him in the things that you do?
Wendy Elle: Well, on his birthday, we actually all gather the kids, the husbands, the dogs, everybody comes back home and we actually have chicken fingers and fries and lots of ketchup. And even if you don’t like those foods, you’re eating them. We have a cake and we celebrate his birthday because he was born into our family. And that is, I am a big, opportunist when it comes to celebrating. If there’s a reason to celebrate, we’re dancing and on on the death day. The DOD, we have done all kinds of things. Some days we go for a walk. Um, other days we’ve, you know, gone to the airport and hired, another pilot to take us all on a pleasure flight. That was the most significant thing. It was really hard to do, but it was something I think we all had to conquer. So do something significant on that day. Cause it’s the day that, you know, we said goodbye to a perfect little human being. And it cannot go, it cannot go past without acknowledgment.
Toby Dorr: I think that’s beautiful.
Wendy Elle: I do realize that one of my habits is I always do a great big Facebook post, and sometimes I beat myself up for it because I’m like, oh my goodness, like, who wants to read about this one more year? I’m like, I do it anyways. And so many people are blessed by the experience and I have had random people come out of the woodwork and share memories with of Josh with me. And I can’t highlight that enough that if you have a memory of someone who has died, please, please, please share it with the people who are living because it’s such a huge gift.
Toby Dorr: Yeah, it is. I mean, I kind of envision it as, you know, giving water to a dying person. I mean, you give them something that is so beautiful and so heartfelt and gives them something else to look at with joy in a very tragic circumstance.
Wendy Elle: Cause your memories are limited. I just had a girl reach out to me last week that she went to high school with my daughters. And she just randomly messaged me and said, I remember Josh sitting in the bleachers when your daughters were giving a speech, and he was yelling, Hey Ity, which is my oldest daughter’s name, He was there cheering her on and I was like that, that stuck with me the whole day and I was just so thankful. Share your memories. Don’t ever think a memory is going to make someone sad. It’s not.
Toby Dorr: That’s so true. The memories are blessings, I think. And you know, I, I think you told me yesterday when we talked, you said a sentence that I wrote down and I thought it was so important, and that was, grief is not qualified or quantified or comparable. Every grief is its own thing and I think that is so true, and it’s kind of eye-opening. So, you know, we may all lose a parent, but when you try to tell someone else who’s lost a parent, you know, well, this is the way to do it. You can’t do that. Everybody’s different. Every loss is different, every loss, every death. I’m gonna take loss outta my vocabulary, but every death is different, even if it’s the same family, every death is.
Wendy Elle: Yeah. It’s kind of like grouping people together and saying this whole group of people, they all look alike because they all have white skin or brown skin
Toby Dorr: Or blue eyes, right?
Wendy Elle: Yeah. Or a snowflake. There’s not one snowflake that you can duplicate. And I think that’s also comparable to our stories of death. No two stories are the same. And I think that’s why when I considered writing a book and I’m like, oh, what am I gonna write a book about? My story is just, you know, but no, everyone’s story is significant and worthy of our ears and worthy of us listening to, um, yeah. Giving us an opportunity to tell those stories.
Toby Dorr: Yeah, and I so believe you know, and I tell women all the time, you need to tell your story because your story is unique and your story might reach someone that someone else’s story about the same type of thing does not. Because we all have our unique ways of sharing and I think it is so important to share your stories.
Toby Dorr: So I know you’ve written a children’s story. Oh, go ahead.
Wendy Elle: And to know that you survive. And part of my tagline is that you can survive. Well, we all survive. But, how do we survive? Are we just, you know, my mom lost a daughter, which was my sister, and I thought the grief was all hers. I thought that was hers to deal with. And then realizing that I needed to give myself the luxury of grieving as well. How do we put an adjective of luxurious in front of grief? Grief is the medicine and it’s a privilege to have penicillin that heals us. And grief is like, it’s such a word that people don’t wanna chat about, but yet it’s such a healing word. It’s a healing process. It’s a gift.
Toby Dorr: Yes, it is.
Wendy Elle: Grief is a continuum that starts at the DOD and will die with us. We keep it with us, but there are some things of grief, like isolation, emptiness, and all of the negative things. They don’t have to stay with us – we can enter in and revisit memories. And the good part of grief, which brings you to the common thing of good. But there is good.
Toby Dorr: There is good grief. I do agree and I think grief really tunes us into the world. It really strengthens us and it really binds us together And to ignore the grief and to not talk about it and to pretend that it isn’t there denies yourself of so much growth and so much introspection and so much wisdom.
Wendy Elle: Well, I have a whole, this is for a whole other podcast, but I don’t believe that we all have to live with broken heart. But I do believe that what breaks our hearts is when we don’t deal with stuff.
Toby Dorr: I so agree. Yes. I can so relate
Wendy Elle: That’s a whole other podcast.
Toby Dorr: Well, we might have to schedule that one. You know, when my daughter died, no one knew how to deal with her death, least of all me and members of my family decided the best way to deal with it is to just never talk about it. You know, she was just here briefly. They hoped we would all forget and move on, and not talking about it was way more damaging than the grief itself. So I think it’s important that you bring it out into the open and make it be a part of your life. And it’s not a thing to shy away from, and it’s not a thing to be embarrassed about, and it’s not a thing to try to keep from everyone. It’s a part of your life and it’s a part of what made you who you are.
Wendy Elle: We’re afraid to be sad, but yet we’re not afraid to be happy. But on the same line of from happiness to sadness, it is the same line. We can only be as happy as we are sad.
Toby Dorr: Yes, I agree.
Wendy Elle: to, I want to deeply feel both, it’s scary to pay attention to it.
Toby Dorr: Yeah, I agree.
Wendy Elle: It opens the door for really big happiness.
Toby Dorr: That’s so true. Another thing you said yesterday, or maybe I said it, I don’t remember, but I wrote it down. I thought it was beautiful. Who made the rule that grief is one emotion we have to get over? You know, you can’t get over it, so don’t even think you can, and don’t even try. Just embrace it and let it be part of who you are. I think the dark parts of our lives and the wounds of our lives, give us so much more opportunity for growth and wisdom and love and compassion, and honestly, they’re not negative things in our life. It’s just part of our life and it, and they’re powerful parts of our life.
Wendy Elle: They are. Yeah, you said that really well. You should write that down.
Toby Dorr: I should, but I’m, I’m talking and I, if I write it, I mess up. I know you’ve written a children’s story and now you’re working on a memoir. Would you like to give us an update on those two projects?
Wendy Elle: Yep. The children’s story is done. I’m waiting for an illustrator. That’s my search right now. I would really like one of my daughters to illustrate it because they’re all very creative. And it is the story of a rock named Peter who starts on the top of a mountain with just a beautiful view, and he gets dislodged by a mountain climber and ends up rolling around in the ocean. And I talk about his story, um, his journey of being angry at the polishing, but then he’s found and treasured. and so it’s a, it’s a story that’s personal too. Um, you know, and my story that I’m writing my memoir, it kind of supports that whole thing that from the age of six I really was dislodged from a very loving home. And here I am, you know, in my almost sixties. And, I’m thankful for the polishing and I’m thankful for the education that I’ve had. Of a classroom. Um, and I guess I, I like to call it God’s classroom, where he’s been patient with me, he is taught me things, he’s loved me, but he is also allowed me to go through some really crappy stuff where at points in my life I’m like, God, how, how can you love me? Like you don’t love me? If you really loved me, you would not let this. But as I look back and think, without those things like you just said a few minutes ago, we would not be, we would not have the depth of, um, humanness that we have. We wouldn’t, um, be able to pave the way for others, show empathy, have compassion. can’t be compassionate in a circumstance that I can’t really identify with. So that’s what the memoir is about. Um, it’s also just a really crazy interesting story of things you can’t make up.
Toby Dorr: Those are the best kinds of stories.
Wendy Elle: Yeah, because I love to write and it fulfills a creative side. I’m going for it.
Toby Dorr: I think that’s beautiful, and I’m sure, I know that your words are gonna reach people who really need to hear ’em and help them get through something they’re going through. So I think that’s beautiful. So how can people reach out to you?
Wendy Elle: Well, I am, uh, in the process of dividing my website into wendyelle.com.
Toby Dorr: And that’s E L L E?
Wendy Elle: And that will highlight the writing side of what I’m doing. And then WLS Design will highlight my day job. So I’m in the process of breaking those two apart and just working towards it, and it’s Instagram. I love Instagram because Instagram, it shares the good parts of life. We don’t so often highlight, you know, the hard things. But in the messaging is where the hard things are shared.
Toby Dorr: That’s true. That is so true.
Wendy Elle: I have 40 or 50 people that I engage with who, you know, have built relationships with where they’ve been willing to reach out and ask the hard questions. When I make a post about death. So I love that. I love the it’s not confined by a room or a town or a, you know, the world is actually pretty small.
Toby Dorr: is pretty small. It is pretty small. And we’ll have links to your sites on in the show notes as well. So what’s one question you wish I’d asked
Wendy Elle: Oh, I forgot about that one. Oh.
Toby Dorr: if there’s nothing, but is there just something else you’d like to share with us that we haven’t talked?
Wendy Elle: Wow. I think you will understand this maybe deeper than a whole lot of people because of, the pod group that we share in and how we met is never assumed that the person that you. Um, in daily contact, in weekly, contact the person that you work with. Um, never assume that you really know their backstory. And that allows when you never assume, it always leaves the door open for complete kindness.
Toby Dorr: Ah, I like that.
Wendy Elle: Yeah, because as I write my story and share it with the group of authors that are kind of encouraging me, pushing me along, there are things that we all assume about each other. And then when you really find out the back story or the truth you do open the door for compassion and kindness. That maybe what you said, the outside, there’s a whole lot more going on on the inside.
Toby Dorr: Yes. I, I think that is so true.
Wendy Elle: As humans, we need to make room for that. And that is a non-judgmental space. And I think right now we’re a world that hashtags kindness, but yet we’re all on the streets honking at each other.
Toby Dorr: Yes. Yes, I agree. Everybody just seems to be at the boiling-over point all the time.
Wendy Elle: So I think coming outta a pandemic when we’re angry. When we’re trying to figure out what the next steps are, it’s just give people space, give them room. And I think the most important thing for me growing up in a Mennonite home where I was surrounded by loving people, but also the message is, you know, there’s a pretty heavy foot of judgment in that, in any faith realizing, Judgment. It’s not our job.
Toby Dorr: That’s true.
Wendy Elle: Yeah. And as you say like we’re not our worst mistake. I love that tag. Now I’m kind of like I’m eating that in as I’m writing.
Toby Dorr: Yeah.
Wendy Elle: some of the things that you know, that I’m gonna share in my story are pretty significantly horrible. I need to give my space to forgive myself, to not judge, and to forgive others,
Toby Dorr: Yes.
Wendy Elle: To leave, to leave the offenses, you know, if somebody didn’t say the right thing to you after your mom died, cover it with grace and kindness.
Toby Dorr: Yes. It’s not worth being mad about something that takes a lot of energy and you can use that energy to do something beneficial in the world. So, Yeah, it just isn’t worth it at all. Well, thanks so much, Wendy. I’ve loved having you on, and I knew we would have a really deep conversation, and I think that some of the things that we’ve discussed really will help people in their daily life when they encounter someone who experiences a death in their family or a death in their community.
Toby Dorr: So thank you so much for being one.
Wendy Elle: Thank you. Thanks for the great conversation and uh, as always, huge admiration for you. I’m following in your footsteps.
Toby Dorr: Thanks, Wendy. We’ll be back in a moment.
Wendy Elle: Okay. Love you Toby.
Toby Dorr: Love you too. Remember, none of us is our worst mistake. We all have so much more to offer the world, and those so-called mistakes are blessed opportunities to learn and grow. Next week we’ll continue to bring you inspiring stories by people who’ve identified a need for change and are working to make a difference in the world.
Toby Dorr: Subscribe to our Patreon channel, fierce Conversations for Special Access and Behind the Scenes Info. Go to patreon.com/fierce conversations or click on the link in the show notes. 10% of the Patreon proceeds are dedicated to providing workbooks to women in prison. The show notes also provide a link to purchase my book, living with Conviction and a link to get more information about Wendy and her work.
NoToby Dorr: In my memoir, Living With Conviction, I recount a conversation I had in prison where my friend Lisa told me. In here we can talk about all the hard things. In fact, I think we must, and so we shall. This is Fierce Conversations with Toby – until the next time.