Category Archives: Slice of Life

Reflections on the &

th-1747 years old this week. It’s a strange place to find myself. I am definitely not considered young anymore and I am (hoping) that I wouldn’t be considered old. 24 & 13, 20 & 17, 40 & 7. It is a space “in between,” – the “and” of a compound sentence. My life before this time was focused entirely on young children, diapers, meals, cleaning, carpooling, grocery shopping, etc. It was so busy that there was never much time for reflection. Conversely, I can see the future laid out like a long line of train cars. My oldest is leaving home in the next year. Things have shifted. I can feel it in every moment. I am waiting for the day when he walks out the door and the heavy dark void walks in and takes up residence in the corner bedroom. Then, all the children will quickly follow – one by one they will leave until my home becomes one of silence. No one ever talks about being here. It’s a moment in my life where I am curling and crossing in on myself. I am living in the ampersand. Alfred Corn critiques a poem where he runs across the & in the middle of a phrase. He finds it irritating and that the & breaks his concentration. “It sparks a cognitive blip, which I immediately get past, but I’d actually rather not have to go through the process, even though it’s very short,” Corn says. This sounds achingly familiar.

How can the pain of separation be so mixed with happiness? I want my children to move on – grow up – have wonderful lives. But I also want them to stay and cuddle with me on a lazy Saturday morning, talk in the kitchen late at night, or take different characters’ voices while reading fairy tales together on the sofa. I want them to have relationships and jobs and grandbabies, but I never want them to leave my house!

Perhaps John Reibetanz said it best in his poem,
“the plump, open armed ‘&’ waving goodbye
from the end of the old-world alphabet
like an innkeeper framed in doorway candlelight,
farewells swelled with hopes of come again.”

How have you dealt with this “in-between” space in your own lives? What advice can you give a woman to face the future with joy and not longing?

Book Recommendations Galore From Segullah

award shows for books

Behind the scenes (and often right out the front too!) we at Segullah love books, and will often discuss and recommend them left right and everywhere.  Just before Christmas there was a discussion around what book recommendations we all had for certain types of readers.  Each dot point is a staff member’s suggestion, with stars after a title indicating how many additional staffers recommended it as well. Note that some areas overlap, with books only listed once.

Hopefully the list here will provide you with some suggestions if you’re looking for great reads and/or to use that Audible, book voucher or discretionary funding!

1) loves history, biographies, and literary fiction

  • I found Swimming to Antarctica to be a little known gem that has stayed with me for a long time. It’s a memoir from Lynn Cox, an American long distance swimmer who set the world record for the English Channel twice-once when she was 15, and the she went back to reclaim her title when she was 16. Her crowning achievement was swimming from the U.S. to Russia (there are apparently 2 islands a mile apart in the Bering Sea, one is American, the other is Russian– who knew) during the Cold War. It’s a pretty cool book for somebody who likes autobiographies.
  • I also thoroughly enjoyed Katherine Graham’s autobiography about her life as the editor of the Washington Post, but I don’t know if somebody without ties to DC would enjoy it as much.
  • Pope Joan (Donna Woolfolk Cross) is a cool historical fiction based on a legend of a pope who gave birth during a processional. Meticulously researched, it’s got very nice prose.
  • At the end of last year there was also an annotated biography of Laura Ingalls Wilder called PIONEER GIRL published by the South Dakota Historical Society that would also be a great gift book.
  • ROSEMARY (Kate Clifford Lawson) was a fascinating look at the life of Rosemary Kennedy. H IS FOR HAWK (Helen Macdonald) was a beautifully written memoir, albeit a little slow and ruminative in places, but would be good for a more cerebral reader interested in single female British college professors who turn to falconry to help deal with grief (as well as the life story of T.H. White, author of “The Sword in the Stone,” who was also a falconer.)
  • THE BOOK THIEF (Markus Zusak), or THE CURSE OF CHALION* (Lois McMaster Bujold), but most of all I recommend OLD MAN’S WAR (John Scalzi). I recommend Old Man’s War for lots of people, especially guys. Yes, it’s usually found in the sci-fi section, but it’s clever, witty and deals in humanity.

2) literary fiction or beautifully written creative nonfiction Continue reading Book Recommendations Galore From Segullah

To Be or Not To Be In the Photos (This Christmas/Year/Life)

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I took a lovely selfie on the weekend. I’d just had a make-up tutorial, and was looking (and feeling) awesome. I rarely take pretty photos – I’m just not built that way or so inclined. But the pretty opportunity present, so I took the pic, and entered into the philosophical question of our year – whether to put it on social media or not.

It made me think of earlier in the year, when I was scrolling through Instagram, being delighted and amused and in sympathy will my friends who are living all over the world. I saw summer sunsets, children, clouds, messes and weddings and dogs and the carbs of my dreams… but not a lot of my friends. (Feet and shoes not counted). Back then, I took a picture of myself, did no filtering or magic with it – just posted it with this note:
I rarely take photos of myself, but I’d love to see all your faces today so advance reciprocity it is! I love Insta for the glimpses it gives me to what you’re looking at, but frankly I love you! So, take a pic of you for me? Luvies, me. #friendsareawesomesauce #prettyplease #luviessmoochesetc

Then, over the course of a couple of days, I got to see my friends! I got side eyes and bed hair, diva poses and action shots, blurred edges, winged eyeliner and deliberately hilarious angles. I also got oh-i-never-get-my-photo-takens, and you-don’t-want-to-see-me-right-nows and so-good-to-see-you-its-been-too-longs! I was tagged in some photos with “As promised!” and “Just for you!” I had a couple of pics shyly tiptoe into my messages, my email, for my eyes only and not for the social media world’s stare. Every single picture I saw of my friends – wherever in the world and whenever they took it – made me grin, and I went back over the pics again and again looking for the clues, the subtleties that told me of how my friend was doing, feeling, going at that particular random everyday moment. My friends, their faces and worries and hearts and choices all visible on my screen, a moment from a world away.

I have a box of everyday and momentous moments, filled with photographs spanning decades. I’d gone through three boxes of photos a while before my selfie request, thinning out the herd of sleeping baby shots, tracing the evolving jawline and hair of my sons, seeing family members in some and vanishing in others, never to be seen again. Multi-generational shots, posed shots, running out of frame shots, friends and family shot in the wild of the moment and stuck to glossy paper – pictures and events I’d forgotten about, but that flooded back just by looking.

I’m not in many of those photos. When I was in my late teens I was busy, awkward, and the photos were rare. When I had kids, I was the one behind the camera, focusing on the people I loved through the lens, hoping at least one of the shots would be okay once the film was developed. Going through the boxes was bitter-ashes chilli-sweet – so much history, chaos and glorious everyday breaths that I could remember but not see myself in. “I was there,” I tell my boys “I was there, looking at the most important people in my life.”

I take more photos of myself now, though usually it’s with my sons in the same shot. I want there to be proof, visible and tangible beyond a .jpg file that I was present in my sons’ lives, to see my smile copied in glorious variations besides my friends’, to show that I was not – that I AM not – ashamed to be alive and present and willing to mug terribly for the camera when the opportunity presents. I don’t take selfies often. I did on the weekend, capturing a moment when I was both wearing makeup and when my mascara wasn’t abseiling down my face. I posted it on Instagram, shared it to Facebook, as a reminder and statement and nice picture. But then, as much as I liked the first selfie, I took a shot of my usual goofy scrunched grin, laugh lines carved deep and slant into my face.

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It’s not a serene shot, but it’s definitely me – the squidgy messy real life me that people I love recognise. It’s the me I recognise. It’s my profile picture too, until I share something else important to my here and now. I still don’t like my photo to be taken, but I’ll get over myself. Get over myself to take a family picture at Christmas time, multiple times to try and get us all with our eyes open at once. Get over myself and my curves to have my son take a shot of me running into or out of the ocean, get over myself enough to be on both sides of the camera, to be present now and in the future.

Being the “Bad Guy”

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Recently my oldest son and I watched a show on Netflix called Daredevil, and it lead to many weird and deep conversations.  Most conversations involved – at least to some point – the fact that we were strongly disagreeing with each other about a character called Fisk.  On first glance, Fisk (a rich guy with flunkies, body guards, car conveys and huge anger management failures) and his nemesis Matt Murdock (a blind freelance lawyer lying to his friends and also being a masked vigilante beating up criminals and thieves) both actively made their decisions and actions based on their total belief that they were doing it for the good of the city they loved and the people who lived there.  I think Fisk is a sociopath, or a combination of serious psychological diagnoses, whereas Patrick thought he was determined, focussed, using his money and power in intelligent, precise ways Matt was too poor and grass level to even dream about accomplishing.

The series is over, we still disagree about Fisk, and while I’ve forgotten most about the show, there’s one piece of dialogue that I can’t get out of my head.  I keep gnawing at what Fisk says, and it’s guided my scripture study and self-examination ever since.

Fisk said:

I was thinking about a story from the Bible… I’m not a religious man, but I’ve read bits and pieces over the years. Curiosity more than faith. But this one story… There was a man, he was traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho when he was set upon by men of ill intent. They stripped the traveller of his clothes, they beat him, and they left him bleeding in the dirt. And a priest happened by, saw the traveller, but he moved to the other side of the road and continued on. And a Levite, a religious functionary, he came to the place, saw the dying traveller, but he, too, moved to the other side of the road, passed him by. But then came a man from Samaria, a Samaritan, a good man. He saw the traveller bleeding in the road and he stopped to aid him without thinking of the circumstance or the difficulty it might bring him. The Samaritan tended to the traveller’s wounds, applying oil and wine, and he carried him to an inn, gave him all the money he had for the owner to take care of the traveller, as the Samaritan, he continued on his journey. He did this simply because the traveller was his neighbor. He loved his city and all the people in it. I always thought I was the Samaritan in that story. It’s funny, isn’t it? How even the best of men can be deceived by their true nature.

FBI Guard #1: What the hell does that mean?

Wilson Fisk: It means that I am not the Samaritan. That I’m not the priest, or the Levite. That I am the ill intent who set upon the traveller on a road…

I was floored by that sentiment, that self-study and awareness, and that scriptural angle. I often poke at myself: my persistent soft belly, evaluating how I’m doing as a parent, how much my calm is damaged in peak hour traffic, if my anxiety or depression needs professional help, which fictional character I’d most like to be… it’s all part of what I consider and try to be regularly aware of.  The same with scripture study – I try to liken the scriptures to myself, so that I’m the repentant prodigal son AND the oldest son AND the father waiting and watching the road… but I had never considered being the bad guy. Not the “before” guy, the ignorant, the uncaring. At least, not unknowingly. Continue reading Being the “Bad Guy”

Becoming Fluent

Little Language Teachers
Little Language Teachers
This week my family is on a few days vacation with some friends visiting from Switzerland. Their two daughters are near the ages of my youngest two children. When they stand together, they could be siblings with their dark hair and wide eyes. There is one problem between them, my children do not speak Italian and their children do not speak English. “How will they talk to one another?” I thought. It has been interesting to watch them come together. At first, there were timid smiles and head-nodding acknowledgment. This changed to speaking at each other in their own language and hoping the other person understood. I watched them jump on our trampoline together. They pointed and acted out what game they wanted to play. Slowly, as they have spent more time together, they started to teach each other words. Yesterday, their 10-year old daughter hopped in the back of our car and sat next to my kids. They opened an Italian teaching app on the Ipad and talked and laughed and laughed. They wanted to meet in the language gap. The space filled with love and somehow, despite the barrier, they understood each other.

As I watched their interactions, I started thinking about the language obstacle I sometimes feel between the Lord and I. Some days I feel like I can hear His desires for me so clearly and sometimes weeks can pass where I do not feel like I am hearing the Spirit. Too many times the Lord has to speak to me in my language rather than me making the effort to learn His. Should it all be one-sided? Do I talk at Him instead of reaching to Him? Will I understand Him more when I become fluent in His tongue? Few of us on the earth have heard God’s voice directly into our ears, but He has left us a powerful testimony of His existence. There are messages all around us that are sent without speech. His voice is the voice of allegory and it began at the moment of Creation. This is when He spoke the word as Logos and the earth began.

“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. In the heavens he has pitched a tent for the sun, which is like a bridegroom coming forth from his pavilion, like a champion rejoicing to run his course.” – Psalm 19:1-5 (NIV) The Lord is in the sky, the stars, the planets, the trees, the plants, and even the smallest blade of grass. He is talking all around us. He proclaims silent truth through his symbols.

With these same “bilingual” children, I have been walking barefoot through the rich, brown sand that is scattered throughout southern Utah’s unique rock formations. It is like stepping into the palm of God. He cradles you in stillness and in that silence He demands to be heard. “Listen! Look around you! Feel the wind picking up the sand and moving it down through the canyons. Be the wind and be able to bend and move where I take you. See that smooth, crooked wood on the ground? That is you aging. Some would cast you aside for being dry and useless, but I will make you into a work of art or the fuel for fire. Sit for a moment by this small creek and watch the water. It once flooded the banks and fed all the small plants around it. Sometimes it is full beyond its boundaries and can care for others, sometimes it is small and timid, but it moves forward and finds its way home, just like you. Trust in the ebb and flow.”

God is never silent concerning His nature or the messages that He wants to give us. I desire to learn His sacred language. It begins with a smile and nod of acknowledgement. I then prattle on in my own language and then move to gestures. But this weekend, because of the example of young children wholeheartedly jumping into communicating with each other, I just learned God’s first vocabulary words.