Peculiar Treasures: Libraries , Learning, and Life

A library makes a place.  Let’s sing its praise. We all need the library. I also happen to want a little one of my very own, and turns out it’s not so uncommon. Have you seen the free little libraries in your neck of the woods?

How about a video library of things to make you smile and say “yes!” in minutes, seconds even?

And/or say yes to just this one: a perfect video bite of students learning a Led Zeppelin Medley on xylophones.

And this beautiful film trailer that affirms life and love.

Zen Pencils draws out what a life of learning looks like, and feels.

Maybe the best part are the dreamy places you can buy the supplies at.  Dreamy real-life bookstores, anyone?

Now back to the library with Shannon Hale (Mormon YA author extraordinaire) talking to kids about her books and the writing process, and no boys allowed, say what?! 

This week’s first draft poetry is brought to us by Melonie.

Us

Winter takes a final stroll on my city street
exhaling the fog from a long cigarette.
He stops under the streetlight
and stares up at my window
like a forlorn lover.

 

I distantly focus on the white of his eyes,
the row of small teeth,
moons in the fingernails,
Creating small remnants of memory
to cover
the nights we shared
in the bed of the last few months.

 

The sleeping slope of a shoulder,
the tuck of the head,
The bony hip adjusting itself
into the mattressed ground -

 

I see his outlined form
through the cold window between us -
a menacing comfort.

 

He inhales
on the promise of a return
and steps out of the round light,

 

one more ghostly breath
and the pane would shatter.

 

What inspired you to write, read or pause this week?

 

Sabbath Revival: “Condemn Me Not Because of Mine Imperfections”

Today’s Sabbath Revival was originally a guest post published March 23, 2007 by Emily M before she joined the staff of Segullah.  I enjoyed reading it, especially after having written about the children’s picture book series Girls Who Choose God  published by Deseret Books…the first volume is Stories of Courageous Women From the Bible, and they are in the process of publishing the next volume about women in the Book of Mormon. The lessons Emily points out can be applied in so many facets of our lives.

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The Book of Mormon mentions five women by name: Sariah, Abish, Isabel, Eve, and Mary. It refers, without naming, to various wives (of Nephi and his brothers, of King Lamoni, of Jacob’s philandering people); to an abused servant girl of a dissenting army leader; and to a conspiring, dancing daughter in Ether. We also have the wives who inspire the men to fight, and the mothers of Helaman’s army.

As a teenager I read the Book of Mormon. I knew it was true. The Spirit spoke to me through it. Still this lack of women bothered me. We can focus on the ones that are there, but so many of them aren’t, or don’t have names. And there are many men, minor characters, that do get named: Zeram, Amnor, Manti, and Limher, for example.

This all boiled inside me one day in a BYU religion class. The teacher encouraged us to ask gospel or missionary-related questions at the beginning of class. He would, he promised, answer them all either straight out of the scriptures or else using recent General Authority quotes.

This particular day a girl raised her hand and asked, “What if you’re on your mission teaching a feminist and she wants to know why there are so few women in the Book of Mormon?”

Well, the teacher went off on feminism. He quoted 2 Nephi 13:12: “And my people, children are their oppressors, and women shall rule over them,” as a sign of the evils of feminism. He ranted about how an LDS book publisher had forced him to use equal examples of males and females in his recent book. A student raised a hand and said, “This even happens at BYU! Here, at BYU, in a writing class, I couldn’t just use he!

And so went the discussion. I got more and more upset as I listened to it. I was angry that the teacher saw using gender-neutral pronouns, an obvious need to me, as this harbinger of evil. I was angry that he lumped all feminism together with the far-left crowd, when really there was much good feminism had accomplished (voting, owning land, wearing pants).

But mostly I was angry because, even though I knew the Book of Mormon was true, he had dismissed this question that was my question too: why are there so few women in the Book of Mormon?

I ranted over it to everyone I met that week. I was still ranting when Sunday dinner with my family rolled around. “It’s a legitimate question!” I said. “The worst thing you could do when an investigator asks a legitimate question is go off on the evils of feminism.”

“I agree,” my dad said. “It’s a real question.” Then he diffused my anger with Moroni’s words, in Mormon 9:31: “Condemn me not because of mine imperfection, neither my father, because of his imperfection, neither them who have written before him; but rather give thanks unto God that he hath made manifest unto you our imperfections, that ye may learn to be more wise than we have been.”

I thought about this a lot. Dad had the right words for me. I looked up the scripture and read it over and over. It brought me peace that day.

Since then, the more imperfectly I have served in the Church, the less inclined I am to condemn anyone because of their imperfections, especially not people I honor as much as I do Mormon and Moroni.

I hope that one day, in the scriptures yet-to-be-revealed, we will have more stories of Book of Mormon women. I want to read the words the wives prayed as their husbands fought to protect them. I want to know the faith-inspiring life stories that strengthened Helaman’s army. I want to find out about Mormon’s wife, who saw with him “a continual scene of wickedness and abomination”and yet stayed faithful, raising Moroni in righteousness while Mormon commanded the Nephite army.

Nephi and Moroni tell us that one day we will stand face to face with the authors of the Book of Mormon. I hope we get a chance to meet their wives, too. I need to thank Mormon’s wife for sustaining her husband, and her son, as they carved out the words in my Book of Mormon.

Surprise: I like Fantasy Novels

I first heard about the Whitney Awards four years ago, but that year I did not read all the finalists like I have done in the years since then. I particularly avoided the Speculative category because it would have required reading The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson, and I just could not imagine myself reading a thousand-page-long high fantasy novel. Then, this year, the follow-up to that novel, Words of Radiance was picked as a finalist for both a Whitney Award and the Association for Mormon Letters novel award. After years of avoiding Sanderson’s work, I decided it was finally time to dive in.  A few weeks ago I went to the library, grabbed a copy of Words of Radiance, and furtively checked it out—even though it’s hard to be sneaky when you are carrying around a book that has a thousand pages and weighs several pounds. I brought the book home and stared at it for about a week before reluctantly cracking the cover. Although I’ve long been an avid reader, I’ve also secretly looked down a bit on people who read epic fantasy. I worried that my decision to start reading Sanderson would be the first step on a slippery slope that would end with me making my own chain mail. Thankfully, I have been proven wrong and I now repent of my previous snobbishness. Continue reading

The Sun

Our life of late has been a rush and swirl of light, in varying degrees.

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Hospital visits, a child with a  broken leg, twin birthdays, baptisms only a week away, a friend juggling new babies in arms, a new niece about to be born, my mother in the ER, mercies, disappointments, sunsets that stop me in my tracks, and love riding carefully against harsh words – unseen, maybe even unknown.

I could write about each of these, for paragraphs and more. Continue reading

Taking a Leap of Faith

Seven years ago, I sat in a small office, surrounded by several smart, supportive faculty members who were serving on my dissertation committee. I had just (successfully) passed my dissertation defense, and thankfully, the revisions they wanted me to make were minor.

But one of the women had a question. “Where do you see yourself in five years?”

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I was quiet for a moment. The truth was, I had worked hard to get here–but I had an almost-two-year-old son and I was pregnant (though I hadn’t announced this yet) with my second child, a daughter. In five years, I saw myself teaching part-time and otherwise staying home with my children. But this wasn’t an answer I could easily give to this woman in particular, who was pregnant with her first, and who would continue to work full-time while she raised her. And it wasn’t the answer the committee expected, these wonderful people who had invested so much time in me and my potential career.

To be honest, I don’t remember exactly how I answered. But I do remember that paralyzing moment, and the doubt it spawned.

Was I doing the right thing? My husband and I had prayed about it, and while finishing a PhD was right for me, continuing into a tenure track position immediately was not. The real question was not: where did I see myself? But, where did God see me?

Continue reading