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.

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.