LDSWP: angels

New interview on the LDS Women Project! Kathy McArthur wanted to do this interview for her 33 grandchildren and I was happy to get it down with her.

The main thing that stood out is she believes in angels. She believes that people from the Other Side have helped her throughout her life. She believes that we can be angels to each other.

Kathy the angel

From the interview:

I’ve taught them to fast at critical moments in their lives – we call it two out of three. For example, if you’re considering marrying Susie, you need to think about it logically. You might write down everything you like about Susie, everything you don’t like about Susie. Look at the things you don’t like and think – can I live with those personality traits for an eternity? I’m not ever going to change Susie – this is what she is, can I live with these traits? Then do a fast three times, maybe a month apart, and ask, “God, is this the right decision? If this is right, please bless me with peace of mind.”

That’s how I taught them. To use fasting, prayer, and listening. I think the answers come but we get up too quickly from our prayers. We need to stay on our knees a bit longer and think more, listen, and just see what our feelings are. Sometimes in our busy, busy lives, we say a prayer and jump up and go. We’re busy. Sometimes the answers are coming, we’re just not listening.”

11 middle grade books

Today is one of my kiddos’ birthdays, and she is 11. So in her honor, these are 11 middle-grade books that I have loved to read as an adult:

1 – Princess Academy trilogy by Shannon Hale. The potential princesses are not sitting around waiting for a boy to sweep them off their feet, but take the initiative to do things for themselves and their communities.

2 – Dragon Slippers trilogy by Jessica Day George. Spunky female protagonist and dragons and fighting against evil magic. What’s not to like?

3 – Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling. Because duh, it’s Harry Potter.

4 – Ban This Book by Alan Gratz. One of my kids brought this home from the school library – about some kids fighting back when an overzealous parent gets hyped up about censoring their school library. The reasons people give in real life about banning books (Shel Silverstein encourages children to throw food) are replicated by the characters in the book and some are hilarious.

5 – Blended by Sharon M. Draper. Middle school biracial girl dealing with her parents’ divorce, custody and visitation, and race issues including a police shooting.

6 – We Are the Fire by Sam Taylor. It’s a pretty dark story about kidnapped child soldiers who have been transformed to breathe fire, and how they get out of it.

7 – Under the Egg by Laura Marx Fitzgerald. An art mystery in New York City involving the Met.

8 – Wonder by R.J. Palacio. Kid with facial deformity deals with school classmates. The follow up of Auggie and Me that tells the story from the perspective of the other kids really adds to it.

9 – The Green Bicycle by Haifaa al Mansour. A girl in the modern Middle East is not allowed to own a bike, or even to ride one. But she figures out a way to get around the rule. This was SO eye-opening about life for females in other parts of the world.

10 – Red Berries, White Clouds, Blue Sky by Sandra Dallas. A Japanese family is taken from California to an internment camp during World War 2, told from the perspective of a 12-year-old girl.

11 – Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery. This is my favorite classic literature, even more now because my family went to Prince Edward Island as part of our vacation in 2018. We went to the places that LMM lived and based the Anne books on. I always thought the language of describing the scenery was a bit over the top, but now that I’ve seen it – it’s NOT! It’s really, actually that pretty there! And Green Gables is a real house! It belonged to LMM’s aunt and uncle, and they really lived there! And now it’s decorated to be like the Anne books, including with a brown dress with puffed sleeves hanging on the closet door. I about burst into tears when I saw it.

5 podcasts I listen to

I’ve never been much of a podcast listener, but that’s changed a lot over the past year. And is it just me, or is it that every time I turn around, someone else has started a podcast. I don’t have the brain space to listen to everything, so I’m holding it to five. This is what I listen to:

1 Listen, Learn & Love, hosted by Richard Ostler. I suppose you could say that I “have” to like this one, since I’m working on a second book spin-off of this podcast. But I loved and supported the podcast before books came into the picture. Richard talks to people about real situations that are difficult and gives them a platform to share their stories … which is pretty much my entire focus in writing and editing. The only difference is that he does the audio version and I do the written version of helping people share their experiences.

2 At Last She Said It, hosted by Cynthia Winward and Susan Hinckley. At last. Seriously. There aren’t a lot of ways for women to speak out in their own truth about the lack of voice and representation in the LDS Church, and these two women are done with that. They’re saying the stuff that hasn’t been said out loud, just whispered in corners if it’s acknowledged at all.

3 Beyond the Block, hosted by James Jones and Derek Knox. The name comes from how we refer to Latter-day Saint Sunday church meetings – they’re in a “block” of time, because we have multiple classes consecutively. Their discussion goes outside that block of time, and the block of U.S./Utah Mormon culture, frankly. U.S. Mormon culture – to be super blunt – is an odd combination of American Puritanism from the 1700s (every hymn is a slow motion dirge) and British and Scandinavian immigrants in the late 1800s (blond. The majority of Mormons in Utah are blond.) James is a Black man who was raised within the Church; Derek is a gay man who converted a few years ago.

4 The Faithful Feminists, hosted by Channing and Elise (last names not listed). More women saying their truth … the At Last podcast is more general. This one specifically follows the “Come Follow Me” scripture study curriculum. They started last year with the Book of Mormon, and have continued with the Doctrine & Covenants.

5 First Name Basis, hosted by Jasmine Bradshaw. She talks about teaching children about antiracism and anti-bias, so be ready to confront and deal with your own white fragility, if that’s a factor in your life. I also love her “untold story of…” episodes – real history, instead of the myths I’ve been taught my entire life.

3 things I like about spring

— Flowers. Flowers flowers flowers. My husband doesn’t buy me cut flowers from the store very often. Instead, he gets flowers to have in pots and planter boxes on our back deck, and plants bulbs in our front yard like these. Our front flower beds usually get to Jungle status around the end of May.

— Sitting outside on my deck in the sunshine, with a book or a hand-sewing project. I don’t usually do anything with the book or sewing, besides hold it. I’m just soaking in the sun and the WARM.

— Wearing sandals. Don’t get me wrong – wool socks in the winter are AWESOME, and I love them. But it’s so refreshing to let your feet breathe after they’ve been wrapped up for so many months!

6 things I did like about the quarantine

1 telework. It’s nice to have my husband in the house four days a week, even when we’re both working online and not even interacting directly.

2 masks. I know I said I didn’t like them, but I also do like them – no one got sick during the winter. Sinus infections, strep, and bronchitis are typical winter illnesses for us, and we had zero this year! Masks work! Masks every winter forever!

3 family game time. We play games a lot more than we did before. We still want to get our kids into Dominion, but Pit and Ticket to Ride are frequent options.

4 the quiet holiday season. I love Christmas parties and I don’t mind being a room mom at the elementary school to plan and run Christmas parties. But the pressure of December was substantially decreased in 2020.

5 limited attendance at church services. This seems counter-intuitive, but limited church attendance dramatically changed my one-to-one ministering, for the better. I can’t talk to people in the church foyer on Sundays and call it good – I have to actually call them on the phone, or go to their house (masked, and based on their comfort level, of course.) Yes, it takes a lot more time and pushes me out of my comfort zone, but it’s so much more effective in actually – you know – helping people feel loved. Which is the whole point.

6 the stimulus money. I will openly acknowledge that we took those checks and dumped them straight into the student loans, and paid them off. After 15 years of slogging away at them. I know you’re “not supposed” to pay off debt with the stimmy money, we’re “supposed to” just go buy lots of junk to “stimulate the economy.” But the mental freedom of no more student debt is AMAZING.

9 things I did not like about the covid-19 quarantine

1 the disease. I didn’t like that we had to do a quarantine at all. But we needed to until scientists and doctors could figure out what this thing was and how to fight it.

2 the unhealthy amount of screen time my kids got sucked into, just to do their school work.

3 being the gatekeeper for when people could attend in-person church, because of limited numbers at services. It feels utterly wrong to tell people when they are “allowed” to go to church, even when you’re telling them YES.

4 no traveling. We had some awesome plans last summer, and we did none of them.

5 my kids fighting over individual Legos, out of the millions we have. Okay, so they do this all the time, not just during a quarantine, but it was a lot more often.

6 masks. I believe we SHOULD wear masks, and I believe they have been effective. But that doesn’t mean I actually like wearing them.

7 a woman with some dementia issues called me every week – “Can we go to church yet?” Church services hadn’t restarted yet, so I had to tell her No. And she cried every time.

8 the politicization of the whole situation. Americans are awesome at banding together for recovery efforts from natural disasters. THIS was a natural disaster – why all the lies and conspiracy theories? (Don’t answer that. I know why.)

9 the library was closed for four months.

LDSWP: year-long pandemic

It’s the anniversary this week of the World Health Organization declaring the COVID-19 global pandemic, so I went there … and published an interview with a nurse on the LDS Women Project.

She lives in Washington, so the virus got to her first. And she got sick from it pretty early also, but fortunately recovered well and was back to work. We got into the weeds of what changed in her hospital work when the pandemic was announced, and she gave me some pretty graphic descriptions of what exactly it means to put someone on a ventilator.

If you needed a reminder, this virus isn’t a game. I know there’s fatigue. I KNOW. This is one of the challenges of our generation, and let’s come out the other side as better people.

31 women of history I admire

It’s Women’s History Month, and I am posting CURRENT women’s accounts in my Instagram feed every day this month. Why? Because statistics show that history is written by men, about men. Approximately ONE PERCENT of recorded history in the world is about women, and I’m really not okay with that.

There’s only so much that can be done to backtrack and learn women’s perspectives from time already past. I am grateful to historians who are making that attempt, and support those efforts. My personal strength lies in collecting and recording stories NOW, so future generations do not have such a dearth of information about our time period. So that’s where my Instagram feed comes in.

Even though I’m not writing about women of the past (at least not at this point), I do still love learning about them. In no particular order …

  • Eleanor Roosevelt
  • Nellie Bly
  • my grandmothers, Erma Peterson Beers
  • … and Severa Knobloch Palmer
  • Shirley Temple
  • Jane Addams
  • Ruth Bader Ginsburg
  • Sandra Day O’Connor
  • Harriet Tubman
  • Sybil Ludington
  • Abigail Adams
  • Emma Smith
  • Susan B Anthony
  • Elizabeth Cady Stanton
  • Katharine Graham
  • Madeleine Albright
  • Ida B Wells-Barnett
  • Katharine Hepburn
  • Jane Goodall
  • Frances Perkins
  • Katherine Gobel Johnson
  • Laura Ingalls Wilder
  • Julia Child
  • Phillis Wheatley
  • Maya Angelou
  • Jane Austen
  • Princess Diana
  • Amelia Earhart
  • Erma Bombeck
  • Freida Khalo
  • the Gees Bend quilters

LDSWP: name change

The Mormon Women Project has changed its name to the Latter-day Saint Women Project, and has an updated website at LDSWomenProject.com!

The name change is because of Church rebranding a couple of years ago to decrease the use of “Mormon” and focus more on the Savior Jesus Christ. We certainly are not decreasing our use of the actual Book of Mormon, just not identifying ourselves with that moniker. The people of this particular church are the “Latter-day Saints” – LDS – part of “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” so we went with that in finalizing the name change. We belong to the Church of Jesus Christ, and we are Latter-day Saints.

The website has gotten a total overhaul, but the Project is the same. We will continue focus on Interviews and gospel Essays in Discipleship as our primary publication. We also have special series and other resources for women, and men working with women, within this specific faith structure. We hope to be more consistent with podcast episodes going forward, and begin to provide online seminar events.

reading list: changed perspective

Reading is supposed to change your thinking, right? I recently finished “The Hate U Give” and part of the story is that some Black teens are involved in gangs that commit crimes because they have literally no other resources for support – emotional, financial, or otherwise.

I learned yesterday that last weekend, there was a robbery two towns over from where I live (and is in my church congregation boundaries). It was in the middle of the day in a pretty populated area, committed by some teens who were carrying handguns. The perpetrators were caught and arrested. I saw many comments about the “boldness” of these youth to do such a thing, and I wondered … so I looked up a media article to get more details and the photos showed two young men who are Black.

I have two thoughts that are 100% the results of reading this book:

1 – We’re a year into a pandemic in which the middle class has felt the squeeze and the wealthy have been inconvenienced and annoyed. But those in poverty have been virtually destroyed. Were those boys bold? Or just totally desperate? Has anyone bothered to find out?

2 – Two of the teens were “adults” – 18 and 19 (others were under-age), so their charges were publicly listed in the article. They were charged with fully a dozen things EACH, with bond set for $50K for one and $500K for the other. While I am not excusing crimes or saying they should not be charged, that seems obnoxiously excessive. At that young age, why are we tossing them in jail and throwing away the key? What rehabilitation services will be provided so they can be helped to lead a more productive life in the future?

The photos of the boys were NOT evil people who wanted to hurt others out of greed or just for fun. They looked frustrated and beaten and probably hungry. The juxtaposition between their treatment compared to a white man who murdered nine people in the middle of their church and the cops bought him a Burger King dinner (Dylann Roof); a white man who was caught in the act of rape but the judge lamented that he was not enjoying his usual steak dinner (Brock Turner); and a white man who committed insurrection against the United States and is now getting organic food in jail (Jacob Chansley) …

THIS is systemic racism.

I have not engaged on social media with the people who were quite eager to have these boys “punished” very harshly, and I won’t. There is no neat and tidy way to wrap up this post … but that’s what I’m thinking about today.