All posts by Shelah

About Shelah

(Editor-in-Chief) lives in Salt Lake City with her husband and six kids. She has a BA in English Teaching from BYU, an MA in American Culture Studies from Washington University in St. Louis, and an MFA in Creative Writing at BYU. Her work has been published in Dialogue, the Mormon Women Project, Irreantum, BYU Studies, and Segullah. When she’s not writing or wrangling, she can often be found running through the city in the pre-dawn darkness.

How to: Get stuff done!

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My son’s birthday cake, made by my mom

When I was a girl, long before the advent of Mommy blogs and Pinterest, my mom knew a thing or two about awesome birthday parties. One year I had a cake decorating party where she made all of the girls their own individual cakes, and then she sewed aprons and chef’s hats for all of us to wear while decorating the cakes. Another year, she created a replica of the Millennium Falcon out of cake, frosting, ice cream cones and candy for my brother’s birthday, which was served to a group of totally unappreciative four-year-olds.  When I turned sixteen, she threw me a surprise party, and I thought she had a stomach bug because she locked herself in the bathroom for two days to decorate the cake.

Yes, you read that right, two days.

When my mom takes on a project, it’s invariably creative, beautifully executed, and perfect. She doesn’t take shortcuts, and it shows. Those aprons my nine-year-old friends and I wadded up into balls when we finished our cakes didn’t have a stitch out of place. Whenever I have a project where I know that details count, she’s the first person I call.

But she would be the first person to tell you that all of that perfection has a cost. She pays in time.

Yesterday was my daughter’s birthday. She got half a dozen cheap presents I bought on Amazon and her older sister wrapped while I was getting the oil changed (in between trips to the orthodontist and the bakery, where I ran in and grabbed a cake). She didn’t have a birthday party, because she said she didn’t want one, which was fine by me.

I’m not quite sure how to say this without sounding full of myself, so I’m just going to say it: people often ask me how I manage to do the things I do in my life. I’m not the CEO of Facebook or anything, but I do keep six small people alive, work part time, hold a church calling, volunteer at my kids’ school, exercise, read, write, and (with lots of help) keep Segullah moving forward from day to day. Most days I even go to bed before 10pm, with the laundry folded and no dirty dishes in the kitchen sink.

How? Continue reading

Surprise: I miss winter

IMG_1006Usually, by the time March rolls around, I am ready to shed my skin. After months of running in subzero temps, my hide is literally chapped.

Usually, but the time March rolls around, I’m eager to welcome daylight savings time, because it means that the snow might finally melt.

Usually, by the time March rolls around, I’m hoping that the grass might make an appearance before school gets out, that I might be able to cross the back yard on the way to the chicken coop without slipping and sliding, that I might not have to buy another case of handwarmers from Costco.

I know that those of you in the East and South have been dumped on this winter. I’ve watched the news and seen all of your photos on Instagram. I know most of you are still shivering in your Uggs. But here in the west, the daffodils are in bloom, my skin is nice and soft, and my three-year-old begged to turn on the sprinkler this afternoon.

I hate it. Hate, hate, hate it. Continue reading

A Journey to the Heart of Africa: A Conversation with Margaret Blair Young


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lisowski at well celebrationMargaret Blair Young is an award-winning short story writer, playwright, essayist and novelist. Several years ago, she also took on the mantle of filmmaker when she and Darius Gray created the documentary Nobody Knows: The Untold Story of Black Mormons. After centering her writing and research on Black Mormons in America for so many years, it should come as no surprise that she’s now turning her attention to Black Mormons abroad– her new film, Heart of Africa, is currently in production. It centers on the question of whether a former revolutionary from Congo and a farm boy from Idaho can transcend their pasts to become mission companions. There’s a kickstarter campaign for the film going on right now, and Margaret joins us at Segullah today to talk about the story.

What inspired you to undertake the Heart of Africa film?
My husband and I were in a French-speaking MTC branch, and sent many young men to the DR Congo mission.  I adopted these particular missionaries.  (Anglo women are not yet called there.)  I wrote to at least fifteen LDS missionaries and to their companions over three years, and so I went through at least fifteen missions in the DR-C via email.  We are STILL family, and these young men are very much involved in the film.  When I began writing to Aime Mbuyi, a Congolese companion to one of “my” young men and a former revolutionary, I saw the rich possibilities for a film. Aime had been a revolutionary, trained at a boarding school to distrust white people, and he’s paired with a naive kid from Idaho who doesn’t realize how deep his own prejudice is. Continue reading

Looking down the road not taken

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Photo Credit: Crooked Pinkie Photography

A few years ago, we were your stereotypical Mormon family: a husband, a wife, and four kids born in a span of six years. Our youngest was five, old enough that we could vacation without a stroller, and starting a PhD program or going back to work were definitely part of my five-year plan.

Then we stepped onto the road not taken.

I was pushed onto it by a force I hardly recognized, and within little more than a year, we had adopted two babies from China.

We are not the kind of people who do things like traveling around the world to adopt orphans. We’re a little selfish. We’re introverts at heart; the kind of people who like quiet, who need down time, who crave creature comforts, like sleeping in on Sunday mornings, and urinating without company. But when the little voice in the back of my mind told me that we should adopt, it didn’t stop pestering me until we had both of our kids safely home. Continue reading

Passion: Christmas songs you love, Christmas songs you hate

IMG_4884Over the next two weeks, we’re all going to hear a few Christmas songs. Make that a LOT of Christmas songs. Between next Wednesday night and next Friday morning, I will have the pleasure of attending one junior high Christmas concert, two elementary school Christmas concerts, and two preschool Christmas concerts (in case you were counting, that makes five concerts in 36 hours). By the time they’re all over, I’m sure I’ll be vacillating between cuteness overload and wanting to wear noise-canceling headphones through the New Year.

One thing that most of us can agree on is that Christmas songs are awesome. Part of it is probably because we only listen to them for six weeks out of the year (if we adhere to the “only after Thanksgiving” rule, and I refuse to acknowledge any other kind of people). Part of it is probably because we associate them with all kinds of happy memories. In my mind, Amy Grant equals baking cookies. After performing for a season with The Nutcracker, the opening strains of Tchaikovsky’s ballet will always be linked with the musty smell of my mouse costume as I watched the party scene from the wings. I associate listening to The Forgotten Carols with holiday road trips when I was a teenager (although I gathered my kids to watch a video of the production a few years ago and I was sort of shocked at how bad it was). I’m getting ahead of myself here.  Continue reading