LDSWP: military service

Jen Hardy contacted the Project to offer her story, and I’m glad she did because it was a very different perspective than any we’d shared before. She joined the National Guard as a senior in high school, and when all of her friends were serving missions for the LDS Church, she was on her way to Afghanistan with the U.S. military.

I appreciated that she called out this cultural problem Mormons have – we are so kind to people outside our church and faith who are different, but someone INSIDE the church who is unique? Not so much. Mormons do NOT like it when other Mormons do not fit neatly into our stereotype, to the point that the “foreigner” is treated quite poorly and openly told that they are wrong for how they live their life. It’s really pathetic.

Something I’ve noticed within the Church culture – when we meet somebody who breaks the mold or doesn’t fit in, a lot of times, we just don’t know how to find common ground. Working with someone from another country and another culture is almost easier than meeting someone who is different within our own culture or our own society. In our mind, we have a category to put them in. If they’re from a foreign country, we can dismiss anything that might not align with our personal thoughts and feelings because it’s different, it’s foreign. But when you have somebody who is different within your own ward or social group that may challenge your thoughts and feelings, we haven’t quite figured out how to compute that.

Finding common ground and creating understanding – I think that’s what has really helped me speak with people who are outside my own culture. I’ll be honest, I don’t think I even have a culture – I live in both the military culture and the LDS culture. My feet are in two different cultures and I bounce back and forth. Common ground and understanding are how you find a way to communicate your feelings effectively, because while different, I’m a sister just like you.

35 LDS temples I’ve been to

I once had a goal to attend every temple on the West Coast, but the Church keeps building more! I don’t even know where they all are – I have to look at the website map. Now I have a goal to get to just get to fifty.

The ones in bold have been, at some point in my life, my “home” temple.

West Coast

  • Seattle
  • Columbia River, Tri-cities, Washington
  • Spokane, Washington
  • Portland
  • Medford, Oregon
  • Oakland
  • Los Angeles
  • San Diego

Mountain West

  • Salt Lake
  • Provo, Utah
  • Bountiful, Utah
  • Jordan River, Utah
  • Draper, Utah
  • Mt. Timpanogos, Utah
  • Logan, Utah
  • Idaho Falls, Idaho
  • Boise, Idaho
  • Billings, Montana


  • Winter Quarters, Omaha, Nebraska
  • Nauvoo, Illinois
  • St. Louis, Missouri
  • Dallas, Texas
  • Houston, Texas
  • Baton Rouge, Louisiana
  • Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

East Coast

  • Washington DC
  • Hartford, Connecticut
  • Boston
  • Palmyra, New York
  • Manhattan
  • Orlando, Florida

outside the US

  • Cardston, Alberta, Canada
  • Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
  • Sydney, Australia

Last but not least – the temple that I visited for the open house but have not yet been back to do ceremonial work: Philadelphia.

9 writing books

I’m homeschooling myself in writing and editing. My curriculum so far:

  • The Well Educated Mind by Susan Wise Bauer
  • Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport
  • Why We Write About Ourselves by Meredith Maran
  • The Art of Memoir by Mary Karr
  • Scratch: Writers, Money, and the Art of Making a Living by Manjula Martin
  • What Editors Do by Peter Ginna
  • On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King
  • DIY MFA by Gabriela Pereira (do it yourself Master of Fine Arts)
  • Big Magic: Creating Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert

reading list: Italy

Yay! I finally finished another book!

Under the Tuscan Sun is a movie that I despise, so I was really hesitant to read the book. But the two are not similar at all.

Under the Tuscan Sun 1st (first) edition Text Only: Frances Mayes: Books

The movie is about a woman who had her heart broken so to rebuild her life, she goes on vacation to Italy and buys a run-down villa on impulse. That sounds cool enough, but she’s so whiny and sleeps around in an attempt to get personal validation. At the end of the movie, it seems that she has found happiness within herself and in celebrating the joy of others. If the movie had stopped there, it would have been great. But wait! Here comes a hot young man (seriously, like 20 years her junior) through the gate of her villa – he read something she wrote and published, and was so moved by it that he had to get on a plane and come to her side! The movie ends with them making eyes at each other, so we know this is her new true love. Gag. So much for the theme of “Women can be fulfilled in their own lives, whether or not they’re in a romantic relationship.”

I hate that movie.

The book, on the other hand, is about the villa itself. Frances Mayes and her partner Ed deliberately went to Italy to buy property, looked all over the place until they found an old villa to restore, and then she wrote the book about their adventures of that process. Totally interesting to me, both the process and the beautiful descriptions of the land and the house.

Two things I would have liked differently:

At the beginning of the book, she barely mentions in passing that on their first night in the house, she has a dream about finding 100 angels. I loved that – it made me want to watch the people in my life and find my own 100 angels. But it was never developed as a feature in the narrative, but just got a second passing glance later in the book. I would have liked to have seen that better developed.

The thing I would have liked to have seen less developed, on the other hand, was that the most overused adjective in the book was Etruscan. The Etruscans were apparently the people who developed and built Italy (or at least Tuscany) before the Romans took over. So she was forever finding Etruscan roads, Etruscan buildings, Etruscan shrines. And she never describes what Etruscan actually is – what it looks like, what makes it different from the Roman design … just that it’s really, really old. It got really boring by the end.

The book is better than the movie.

38 places for travel plans

My last post is some of my favorite places around the US, but really – my FAVORITE place is anywhere these people are, grumpy faces and all:

Caudle “family portrait,” Rexburg ID, July 2019

The places I want to go with them, but haven’t yet, are

  • the Freedom Trail in Boston
  • Rocky Ridge, the Laura Ingalls Wilder farm in Mansfield, Missouri
  • Alaska
  • Yosemite National Park
  • Outer Banks, North Carolina
  • Hawaii
  • more of the coast in Maine
  • Silver Creek Falls, Oregon
  • Amish country, Pennsylvania
  • Stowe, Vermont

Adam wants to go to:

  • Yellowstone and Tetons again
  • Yosemite, Sequoia, Kings Canyon
  • the redwoods on the California coast
  • Mt St. Helens
  • Olympic peninsula
  • back to Seattle
  • San Francisco
  • Alaska
  • Hawaii – the volcanoes
  • Mesa Verde – Native american cave dwellings
  • Grand Canyon, Arches, Zion, Bryce Canyon – that whole area
  • Rocky Mtn national park in Colorado
  • Not Mt Rushmore
  • Smokies
  • the Adirondack mountains
  • more of the White Mountains
  • Acadia again
  • Florida Keys
  • Glacier National Park
  • more of the Shenandoah Valley
  • Mammoth Cave in Kentucky
  • Crater Lake

Outside the US:

  • back to Prince Edward Island
  • Halifax, Nova Scotia
  • Buchart Gardens, Victoria BC
  • Iceland
  • Ireland
  • Scotland
  • the Alps
  • Mediterranean – Malta, Croatia, maybe Greece
  • Australia and New Zealand

11 places I love in the USA

I love this country. I love the variety of locations, both natural and manmade. I’ve visited over half of the states, and driven through most of the rest of them – I’ve touched down in 42 of the 50. I’ve lived in eight states – California, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Virginia, Maryland, Mississippi, and Connecticut, plus the District of Columbia.

the Kankamagus Highway, Conway NH

Rocky Gorge, 2021

the Library of Congress Jefferson building, Washington DC

touring around DC, 2009

Grand Teton National Park, Jackson Hole WY

family vacation, 2019

Pike’s Market, Seattle WA

work trip, 2005

the Sacred Grove, Palmyra NY

weekend spontaneous trip, 2005
We’ve also taken our kids there twice.

the Oregon capitol building, Salem OR

stock photo, I worked in the building 2001-2003

New England fall colors, Ellington CT

view from the apple orchard, 2013

Disney World, Orlando FL

family trip with four babies, 2012

San Francisco CA

stock photo of Lombard Street

Nauvoo IL

Nauvoo LDS Temple, 2014

Acadia National Park, ME

family vacation, 2018

12 favorite memoirs

I love memoirs! I love to read them. I love to help people write them. I love that the LDS Women Project is a series of mini-memoirs. Some favorites:

  • The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch
  • The Year of Living Danishly by Helen Russell
  • Garlic and Sapphires by Ruth Reichl
  • Becoming by Michelle Obama
  • A Walk in My Shoes by Ben Schilaty
  • Letter to My Daughter by Maya Angelou
  • The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry by Kathleen Flinn
  • Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver
  • The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin
  • The Only Pirate at the Party by Lindsey Stirling
  • Traveling with Pomegranates by Sue Monk Kidd
  • This is What America Looks Like by Ilhan Omar

I notice that only two are from men. I’ve read lots of memoirs by men, but they were not my favorites. I apparently connect more strongly with women’s writing.

I notice that they’re about life – here’s this situation I found myself in, and this is how I dealt with it.

There are three a bit more tailored to food, which is quite hilarious to my husband and me because I hate cooking. I cook for the utility of it, to eat, not because I enjoy the act and art of cooking itself. But obviously I like reading about people who do! Ha!

When I reviewed my entire reading journal, I noticed a lot of memoirs about hiking … but they did not make the cut for favorites. Huh.

7 quilt projects

I do like to make pieced quilts. I just rarely take the time for it. Plus, my teenage daughter took over most of my sewing table with her jewelry making beads. She’s getting quite good at making bracelets and earrings, and I’m happy to share my CRAFT table … but I still need part of it for the sewing machine.

Quilt projects in process:

1 – Extreme Reader – for daughter 2, and will look like a bookcase.

2 – Tenleytown – Adam and I met in the Tenleytown neighborhood of Washington DC, and daughter 4 wants a quilt of house blocks. I bought blue fabric for the sky, and all the houses are being made of scrap fabric I already have. (Yes, these are the last two of my children who have not yet received a Mommy Made It quilt – the other three are done and on their beds.)

3 – Christmas log cabins – one year during Christmas break, I randomly started sewing fabric strips into log cabin blocks to use up the Christmas scraps that had piled up. I made a dozen 12.5 inch blocks before I set them aside to, you know, make the quilts for my kids … that still aren’t done …

4 – holiday postage stamps – this was one of my first attempts at quilt blocks. I found fabrics that aligned with the twelve months of the year and started cutting them into 2.5 inch squares, and sewing them together. The blocks are not lined up at all because my seams were all over the place, so I need to start over on the whole thing. But I like the idea, so I will.

5 – blue yabba dee yabba doo – a friend gave me a whole bunch of blue quilt blocks she made/collected in a quilting group … but then didn’t actually want to make a quilt with them. One of these days, I’ll actually put them together, make however many more it needs to get to a good size, finish it, and maybe give it away.

6 – scrap jeans – I have an entire bin full of worn out jeans, just waiting for me to cut them up and make them into 48×48 inch picnic blankets, to sit on outside. I’ve made one so far. I originally wanted an eight-foot square blanket out of jeans, but thought that might break my washing machine with the weight. So I divided the idea into quarters, and when I have four, we’ll just put them all together in a big square.

7 – scrap bombs – I randomly started sewing very small scraps together that were in the same color family, and worked it out until I had a 12.5 inch block. My sister Mindy (who is my sewing partner) and I ran with it, and now we’re working on an entire scrap bomb quilt in purples and blues.

LDSWP: antiracism for kids

My next LDSWP interview is with Alexandria Scott, founder of the brand new Ditto Kids magazine, an antiracism education resource for children and their grown-ups.

In all of the social justice unrest of 2020, Alexandria looked for resources to teach her small children about antiracism but couldn’t find any, so she made one herself. Her own educational background is in nonprofits and education, so here we go!

Every kid wants to be loved, wants to learn, wants to play, wants to feel and know that they’re special. We want kids to learn that when they meet people who they might not think they have much in common with, to remember that actually, “ditto,” they do! We can embrace our similarities, celebrate our differences, and care for and support each other and advocate for each other’s fair treatment.”

reading list: nope

The book Home Edit Life: The Complete Guide to Organizing Absolutely Everything at Work, at Home, and on the Go is on its way back to the library.

One word: pretentious.

The photos, while very pretty, are all the same: rainbow organization on a bright white background. Because people only own things in a rainbow spectrum, right? (Also, the only people who organize their books by the cover’s color aren’t actually planning to read them.)

The locations and demos in this book are only of the exceptionally wealthy – clothing closets the size of a shop with lighted shelves for hundreds of pairs of shoes, pantries are entire rooms, a “morning beverage station” the size of one of my apartment kitchens … They even included a multi-page description of organizing someone’s tour bus, yeah, that’s TOTALLY how I travel! This is absolutely useless for a normal middle class person who is trying to organize a typical suburban house.

The name dropping is ridiculous. This actress, that athlete, lots of them. And to make sure readers know who their clients are, they put the name in bold type. “We arranged a closet for a big dog, because Laura Dern has a big dog.” And Laura Dern’s name is in bold. Along with Reese Witherspoon, Katy Perry, a Kardashian, and more. UGH.