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Blog Segullah has been fortunate to have some excellent posts by Guest Authors.

Riches That Unite Us

1clbp946kfzfr Kristin Goodwin is a mother of four on the East Coast. Among other things, she thrives on reading, cooking interesting meals, spending time in the outdoors, and playing her flute. She’s learning to accept her messy house and chaotic life with a sense of gratitude rather than resentment, as she realizes that it reflects what she treasures most after all. 

A long time ago, when I had just two little ones, a picnic-table conversation with friends veered to the question, What clues signal to you that someone has plenty of money? Everyone laughed at my response, which was curtains and zip-top baggies; but having been long-time poor students, my husband and I almost never used anything but fold-tops or even repurposed bread bags. Seeing a mom sit down with a whole bunch of food items in their own zippered pouches made me assume they must be dang well-off.

For some reason I’ve hung onto that mentality of scarcity a long while. Items that friends take for granted still feel like huge splurges for us, as we remain resistant to consumerism large and small. I must admit that deep down, I presume that a person who expends effort to be trendy in some way must not be thinking clearly about their values; they must be caught in a trap of fleeting, unimportant things that get in the way of the ‘real stuff’. I even initially discount someone if they seem too stylish or popular. Continue reading

Guest Post: A Flash of the Celestial

Le Soleil, Van Gogh

Le Soleil, Van Gogh

Today’s piece is from Sherilyn Olsen. Presenter, adoption advocate, and author, Sherilyn, resides in South Ogden, Utah with her quiet husband and four wonderfully noisy children. She appreciates stories in all forms, and is especially interested in how art reflects culture. 

Bulging and securely tied garbage bag in hand, I hurried from the noisy gym into the boxy church kitchen. Feeling some relief from the near-ending party and focused on the dumpster destination, an unexpected, rushing sensation stopped me right in the middle of the tile floor. I stood fixed, gripping the trash, while my whole being brimmed with unrestrained joy. Almost stunned, I scanned my surroundings for a reason for this sudden burst.

From just several feet away, I observed the backs of my husband and his brother, who quietly chatted, while tackling the sauce-stained Crock Pots and dishes that filled the industrial-sized, stainless steel sinks. From behind me, echoed sounds of a basketball bouncing, shoes squeaking on the waxed floor, as children and grown ups played, laughing and shouting. Through the service area opening in the kitchen, I watched my brand new adult daughter smiling and talking with a group of her closest friends. We had gathered to celebrate her eighteenth birthday—all four of her families (two parents, and two step-parents, with extended families) and a few friends in the same cheerful room. She hadn’t wanted a party in years, and I aimed to make this meaningful for her. As I recognized her happiness in that motionless instant, pure love seemed to course through my veins. Continue reading

Guest Post: Marilyn, Katharine & Me

1uvc289cw6t6eStephanie Farr has lived in Utah, Michigan, California, Idaho, Nevada and Ecuador. She currently lives with her family in the shadow of a mountain side temple. Her childhood was defined by repeated readings of “Harriet the Spy” and dreams of becoming Sherlock Holmes. However these days, the only mystery she ever encounters is why dirty socks disappear in the laundry one week and reappear the next.

In the musical Wicked, good-hearted but overbearing Galinda decides it’s time to give hopelessly unpopular green skinned Elphaba a makeover. Convinced her hand will change Elphaba’s life, she tells her:

POPULAR!
You’re gonna be popular!

I’ll teach you the proper poise,
When you talk to boys,
Little ways to flirt and flounce,
ooh!

I’ll show you what shoes to wear!

How to fix your hair!
Everything that really counts to be… Popular!

Looking back at my dating years, I realize if anyone needed a Galinda in their life, it was probably me. Flirt and flounce? What does that even mean?

The topic of flirting has come up lately in various conversations. I’ll admit I bristled a little when it was suggested to my daughter’s Laurel class that they need to flirt more with the Priests. Then a friend mentioned that her brother had advised her teenage daughters to flirt more if they want dates. Finally, a dear friend, divorced and recently entering the dating world again, was told by a man she had dated for several weeks, “I can’t really tell if you like me, you don’t flirt enough.”

These three scenarios leave me feeling frustrated. I don’t consider myself a hard core feminist, but somehow I have had ingrained in me that flirting is demeaning to females. Clearly, flirting was never one of my strengths.

I suppose I associate flirting with a Marilyn Monroe type girl; a girl who flirts using Marilyn’s signature breathy voice and a wide-eyed look of bewilderment whenever a man is around. Marilyn is reported to have had an IQ in the 160’s, higher than Albert Einstein, but she was generally typecast as a dumb blond. I am fairly confident that when people think of Marilyn, “valedictorian” is not what comes to mind.

I much prefer Katharine Hepburn and her smart, witty persona. In real life, Katharine was known to speak her mind and was often considered stubborn and difficult to work with. Yet on the big screen, even while playing a wide variety of parts, she always managed to get the guy without portraying herself as a complete bimbo.

Confident in my flirting assessment, I brought the topic up while eating lunch with my husband. I felt sure he would agree with my opinion.

“What do you think about flirting?” I asked, completely out of the blue.

Caught slightly off guard with his sandwich halfway to his mouth he replied, “What do you mean?”

I briefed him on the Laurel class, the advice-giving uncle and my dating friend. Brought up to speed, he replied, “I think it’s important.”

Wait, what? Important?

Now it was my turn to ask for clarity, “Important? Don’t you think it’s demeaning?”

“No, I think it’s nice. A guy likes to know if a girl is interested.”

“But it’s so gross to act like Marilyn Monroe. It’s insulting.”

He then explained that you don’t always have to act like Marilyn Monroe to flirt. In his opinion, friendly smiles and genuine interest could be considered flirting. “Men appreciate the actions that show you’re interested,” he said. To be honest, I had trouble wrapping my mind around this concept. But if it is true, I guess I did know how to flirt back in my dating years, I just didn’t realize it.

I appreciate his male perspective. Despite having a husband and four sons, I don’t claim to have any understanding of the male side of life. I am often amused and bewildered by their actions. So the fact that my husband thinks flirting is good and I’ve thought you have to lose a few brain cells to do it properly, is not a big surprise.

It does seem however, that some men prefer the overt Marilyn approach to flirting. My dating friend was caught totally off-guard by her date’s conclusion. She felt she had been friendly, interested and encouraging. But she is a Katharine and he apparently needed a Marilyn.

My daughters are six and seventeen. One is clearly a Katharine and the other, probably a Marilyn. I hope I can help them understand that flirting is ok, even important. I want to teach them to use their natural strengths, but if necessary, the middle ground of a softened Katharine and a confident Marilyn can help forge relationships too.

By the end of Wicked, Elphaba (a Katharine) discovers she doesn’t need to flirt and flounce to get the guy. She finds love by being herself, green skin and all.

If you are a Katharine or a Marilyn, do you ever wish you were the other?

Continue reading

As Ye Have Done It to the Least of These

Piano_KeyboardThe author of this post lives in the Mormon corridor and owns two pianos. And a keyboard. Because even though her piano skills are Primary-song level, her children must. practice. every. day.

He’s sitting on the piano bench, utterly refusing to play anything. We wait, the piano teacher and I. For twenty minutes, twenty minutes which cost about three dollars a minute, till he decides to play the sightreading. With those tedious practice instructions. And we can finally get to the songs he and I have labored over all week long, hurrying them into our remaining ten minutes of lessons.

At the end of it I feel drained. I wonder if wrestling my ADHD son with piano lessons is worth the power struggles. But he was named after his grandmother, a musician, and when we first started this journey he talked about that. “I’m just like Grandma, and I’m named for her,” he said. “I’m playing the piano and composing music too.”??That was when I knew we had to stick with it, in spite of the practicing battles, in spite of the challenge of helping his ADHD monkey mind to stay focused and still. In spite of twenty long minutes of time without him playing a note. I want him to feel connected to the woman we named him after, my husband’s mother, who he’s never met, and if piano does that, I will keep going.

But I can’t do it alone, helping this wild and brilliant child tame his inner demons long enough to focus on rhythm and notes. The piano teacher who sat patiently beside us, encouraging him, applauding him with sincere joy when he finally complied, she’s a part of this too. Continue reading

Guest Post: Daughter

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Amy Felix Stewart grew up in a large family in a small Utah town. She earned her BA in English from BYU and is an intermittent editor, technical writer, and piano teacher, but she spends most of her time either trying hard not to mess up her three darling children or sneaking off to binge-read beautiful prose. She recently started posting at wordsandawindowseat.blogspot.com, and now she knows that life is a lot better when you write it down.

We move from the theater to the minivan in a happy little group, kicking loose rocks and giggling about the antics of Lego guys. I slide open the door and everyone scrambles in. Everyone but you, that is. As I look down on the top of your golden head, I can almost hear your tiny teeth clench. You flash me the look that sets my own teeth on edge and then stare at the ground, heels digging into the gravel.

Danger.

“C’mon, let’s go get pizza! Yum!” I chirp.

“No,” you declare. “I don’t want to.”

“Everyone’s waiting. Get in the car. . . . Okay, I’m going to count to three and then I’m going to pick you up. One. Two . . .” You climb in with a growl and slump into your car seat. I move to fasten the chest clip.

“NOOO I WANT TO DO IT!” you shriek. I stand back to let you try, but you don’t. You fix me with your steely baby blues and move not one single muscle.

“That’s it,” I huff. I click your buckle and dive into the passenger seat before the maelstrom can begin. But begin it does.

“Noooooooooooo!” you shrill as your dad pulls the minivan out of the parking lot and I slowly close my eyes. My eardrums protest as you pause to refill your lungs. Your next blast puts the first to shame.

Your siblings, who have inconveniently low tolerance levels for sudden, distressing noise, react as I predict. Your brother immediately slams his palms against his ears and yells at you to stop. Your sister yells at him to stop making it worse. Soon we have three kids in tears, one of them under so much duress that he gives himself a nosebleed. And still you scream and flail, kicking the back of my seat, growing hoarser yet louder by the second. Your dad mutters something, eyes on the road, hands at ten and two, intent to reach the end of this happy family outing.

I make no effort to quell the rage. My voice would not be heard if I tried. I slouch in my seat, my powerlessness engulfing me, the walls of the minivan closing in as we move too slowly and sit too long at stoplights. I know this is just a tantrum. Because you’re three. But it feels like a warning siren, a harbinger of some dire future. If I can’t handle you now, what will become of us?

The second the engine turns off, your sister flies out of the van and takes off on her bike, as far and as fast as she can go. Your brother runs to his bedroom and slams the door. Your dad stomps into the house in frustration. As I hastily unbuckle your cursed straps, I spend one second thinking about that Internet article entitled “Parenting Your Strong-Willed Child,” the one that told me to remain calm, to sit with you and hug it out and give you a safe place to release your emotions. The very next second I flee, leaving you to wail and gasp in a soggy heap on the floor of the van.

It’s the next afternoon. Sunday. We’re sitting on the creaky old bench on our front porch, just the two of us. The hazy sunlight warms our skin and makes jewels of the nail polish bottles lined up at our feet. Just when I’m almost too hot, the late-spring breeze comes along, rustling the leaves that hide us from view of the street. The light seems thick and lazy, like a golden blanket muffling the sounds of distant children and lawnmowers.

You plop your grubby little feet with their flip-flop-shaped tan lines on my lap. “I want pink sparkles on my toenails, Mama.” (“Pink spock-ohs on my toe-nay-ohs.”) I apply said sparkles to your specks of nails, and while the breeze lifts the purple leaves and trails your long, wispy curls across my face, we converse. We talk about birds, and Elsa, and the sounds of trains and ice cream trucks. Your nose scrunches up as you scrutinize my work. When I’m finished, you rest that creamy cheek against my arm and announce with a sigh, “Well, actually, I wanted blue on my toes.”

Not again. “No, you can’t change your mind once I’m finished.” I brace for a meltdown. Wait a beat. Then—

“Okay. I will get blue next time.”

I look at you, this little creature I know intimately, who is in my face for half the day and at my feet the other half, this flesh of my flesh, this chocolate-mouthed monster with whom I have shared my oxygen, my minutes and years, and my last bite of everything, whose tears mingled with mine in the colic days, when we would pace the floor together, me trying every shushing technique in the book.

I gaze at you, this perfect little stranger.

And now you are on your feet, smudging your still-wet pedicure, performing a new dance that is all the rage in nursery. “You put your hand in, you put your hand out, that’s what it’s all about!” You hokey-pokey around, toenails sparkling in the sun, hair lit up in a halo of tangles, eyes alive with everything. You’re not three; you’re just you. Timeless. I flash forward to other years, other new songs, other Sunday afternoons of talking and nail polish and wonder.

This is the picture I’ll keep. The next time you’re straining against the belts that hold you in, curled up in ear-splitting anger as the walls threaten to bury us all, I’ll reach into my emergency reserve and call you back, this you in the sun, arms outstretched, eyes alight, turning yourself around as though the world isn’t big enough to contain you.