Segullah Mormon women blogging about the peculiar and the treasured 2016-07-29T07:00:47Z WordPress Elizabeth Cranford Garcia <![CDATA[Why I don’t garden]]> 2016-07-29T05:09:09Z 2016-07-29T07:00:47Z Yesterday, as I was spending an idyllic 5 minutes in the backyard with the kids, without my phone, I noticed: there are weeds growing on our roof.

I’m not talking about those little dandelion roots that are mildly annoying if you actually care about your lawn. I’m talking about those 3-4 foot, fat marijuana looking plants that usually prompt a nasty note from your HOA. Perched happily at the ledge of our 30 foot roof.

The fact that they’re so tall, and I’ve just noticed, tells you just how much I like being outside in the summer. In Georgia. Where it’s usually at least 85 degrees, but feels like Satan’s armpit.

Of course, that never stopped my mother, who lovingly adorned the yard of my childhood home with daylilies, azaleas, a camellia bush, hanging impatiens, and hydrangeas under the sycamore. And in their retirement home, a garden: raised bed with an assortment of vegetables, her heirloom Texas roses–and peonies, still in infancy, which she gushes over every time I visit. They even have a plum tree in the front yard, which leaned over half the driveway for weeks, heavy with fruit. And when it was ripe? She canned jam and plum ketchup.

Then there’s me. When I went to college out West, I thought it would be nice to have a little plant in my dorm room. I thought, “It’s a desert, I’ll get a cactus.”

It died.

I had a roommate once who had a plant. When she moved out, she left it behind–and it turned into this yellow arthritic looking . . . thing. I never even knew its name.

At one point in my life, during my long stretch of singlehood (long for a Mormon, at least), I briefly contemplated the implications of the over-used metaphor that there is a “garden” inside every woman.

I decided it was a stupid metaphor.

When I got married, and spouse had a yard, I thought, Maybe there’s hope for me yet! So I made a simple plan: take out huge, ugly juniper, add grass, add plants that don’t need me. This is the South, I thought. Surely there are some flowers that will grow despite me.

Fast-forward one year. The hosta have shriveled to paper from too much sun. One lantana didn’t come back. But the bulbs: for two weeks in early March, while the grass is still brown, the little green shoots come up, and blossom into white daffodils and purple hyacinths, and smell heavenly. Then, when spring is really starting to get going, their heads wilt into sad little brown commas, like those footies at DSW that you use if you don’t have socks.

Now? We have TWO ACRES. Because my husband wanted “land.” So we can have a garden. And “animals,” which he somewhere along the line upgraded from “dog” AND revealed at a group gathering, which was HILARIOUS.

So in addition to the weeds on the roof, we have about 100 pine trees to take out so that grass actually might grow, so that the mosquitoes don’t eat us alive, and 3 dead ones that have been hanging out for a year, one steadily becoming its own ecosystem.

(In my defense, I had my second child 3 months after we moved in. Moms: you understand.)

When my 4-year-old daughter, who loves “watering the weeds” all because of an episode of Curious George, was given a watering can and seeds for her April birthday, I thought, There’s still hope for our family! She’ll be great at this! And went out and bought a planter and potting mix, we planted green onion seeds, and watered every day for 10 days, and saw little green shoots come up!

And three months later, said planter shows zero signs of life.

I LOVE the idea of walking out into a cute little raised bed plot, situated at the bottom of our sloping backyard by the cypresses, perhaps surrounded by some chicken wire to keep the deer out, and picking fresh tomatoes for dinner.

I LOVE the idea of teaching my daughter where food comes from, how to tend to living things, how to love the feel of life between her fingers.

But I have also come to accept my limitations. As a SAHM of two kids, I can’t do everything. So what do I hold onto? What do I let go of? I ask myself, are there REAL spiritual ramifications for this temporal choice, or are they fabricated by the culture (family or otherwise) around me? Whenever possible, I teach my children gospel principles in ways that don’t require suffering; God will give me plenty of that when it’s necessary.

So I buy a canned food rotation system and a bread machine and a generator and a deep freezer. But I don’t garden.

I choose playing the piano and writing on Thursdays. I crochet baby blankets (usually while watching something from Netflix), and shop for random things on Amazon that are impossible to find at the store, and figure out an inexpensive way to one day decorate that junk room. I take my kids to the park and playdates with mom friends so we can complain about our kids and go to the gym so I have energy to do all this.

But I don’t garden.

What things have you “let go” of to find peace and balance? How do you decide which commitments are a burden, and which contribute to the well-being of yourself or your family?

Rosalyn <![CDATA[Aaron Burr is my spirit animal]]> 2016-07-27T18:33:04Z 2016-07-27T11:56:14Z 459px-NSRW_Aaron_Burr

“I think Aaron Burr might be my spirit animal,” I told a friend recently. She laughed, as I meant her to.

But I’m not so sure I was joking.

I’m referring, of course, not to the historical Burr (who was likely better than rumor paints him), but to the Burr who plays the antagonist in Hamilton, the musical so many people (including me) are obsessed with.

Burr’s mantra in the musical is the advice he gives Hamilton, “Talk less, smile more. Don’t let them know what you’re against and what you’re for.”

Hamilton asks him, “If you stand for nothing, Burr, what will you fall for?”

For weeks, I’ve been thinking about the role of these two men. In an increasingly heated election year, I spend lots of time reading social media posts by people who are more confident in their opinions than I am. I read, and I listen—and I don’t say much.

A lot of times, I feel like Burr, with Hamilton’s accusation ringing in my ears: if you stand for nothing, what will you fall for?

It’s not that I don’t have beliefs—I do. But I struggle to share my strongest beliefs in public forums, hesitant about my ability to do justice to my thoughts and reluctant to expose that much of myself. (And yes, I’m aware of the irony that I’m making this confession in a public forum). Often, I’m still listening, weighing ideas, working slowly toward my own conclusions.

I’m also much more comfortable as a bridge, someone who occupies a middle ground ( a position I’ve written about before). After all, rhetoric—using language to achieve social goals—can’t happen without some kind of common ground between speakers.

But increasingly, I’m feeling like I need to own my stance, even if it’s uncomfortable. I won’t post it here, because I don’t think Segullah is the right forum for a political post—suffice it to say that I oppose rhetoric that demeans God’s children, and it sickens me to see how many people use the current political climate as justification or validation for hateful attacks on others. Surely there’s a way to remain principled without having to resort to name calling, a way to take a stance without denying others a foothold.

I’m not sure I have a clear-cut conclusion—even here, I’m still only reaching tentatively for my stance. But I do know that if Aaron Burr is my spirit animal, I’d rather it not be the facile political creature of early acts, but the vulnerable, open-hearted Burr of the end of the play, who, after Hamilton’s tragic death, realizes “The world was wide enough for both Hamilton and me.”

How do you approach politics? Is there virtue in simply listening? How do you decide if, when—and on what issues—to take a public stance?

Lisa G. <![CDATA[BEGINNINGS]]> 2016-07-20T18:13:25Z 2016-07-20T18:13:25Z I love Mondays. And New Years Day. And the first day of school. I’d like to say I feel the same about mornings, but that’s more of a love/hate relationship. What I love are Beginnings. I love pregnancy and birth. I love newly opened camellias, and puppies, and boarding the plane for a welcome journey, and snow that’s still pristinely still. What I love is the possibility inherent in newness. What can I create this year, or this day? Who might this baby grow up to be? What do I hope happens? How can I help it happen?

I’ve learned to honor this trait in myself. I’m great at starting things, but finishing takes more focus and discipline. That’s why I like to begin with as much intention and clarity as I can, because when my energy lags, as it inevitably does, the Plan is already right there; I just need to keep following it. This is true whether I’m making a meal or working toward godhood.

I’m terribly inconsistent with the discipline of planning, but I’ve learned a few things over the years. Firsts are important. The first day of the year, the first day of school (which often falls on my birthday — double creative energy), the first day of the week (Mondays, in my mind.) At the beginning of each year, I generally go on a solo retreat for 2-3 days and sit and think and pray and plan. My family expects this; they know I’ll be gone for a few days in early January every year. This time is sacred to me, and I believe it’s just as valuable for my family as it is for me, because it so restores and centers me. I come home with a holistic plan for the year, a clearer idea of my Big Picture, a “theme” and/or affirmations, and a doable list of projects, goals and habits. I come home with renewed energy and commitment to the life I am trying to create, the person I am trying to become. I focus a lot of attention on the systems and habits that I intend to continue or introduce, knowing that it’s our daily habits that create who we are and what we achieve. I think about all the areas of my life: spiritual, emotional, mental, physical, creative, work, family, social life, contributions I want to make to the world. I discuss it all with God. I write it all down.

And then — because by the end of summer, some things have inevitably slipped — I retreat and review it all again in depth in early September. I revise the plan, I renew my commitment, I recharge my energy. Retreat, review, revise, renew, recharge.

I use Sundays the same way. I find an hour or so to retreat and review the Plan, to schedule the daily habits and weekly activities that will keep things moving toward my goals. Every week is different, depending on the priorities of the week. But my view is always on the Big Picture.

I mess up every week. I often get lazy, or succumb to depression or irritability or any number of other mortal challenges. Rarely, some real emergency occurs. (Most “emergencies” are not real.) Which is why I love Mondays. It’s do-over day. Monday’s slate is completely clean, free of last week’s errors and disappointments. It’s a blank page, except for that word HOPE emblazoned across the top. I’ve used the day before to retreat, review, revise and renew and I am recharged to go at it again.

Mornings are just as important. The beginning of the day. In my experience, these beginnings are hardest to manage, because so many things can interfere with the plan, the intended flow of the day. Early-rising kids. Last minute “emergencies”. Pure exhaustion. Every stage of life brings different morning challenges. If you’re lucky enough to be a “morning person”, this may not affect you as much. For many of us, though, it has to be an intentional, constant effort. But the benefits are enormous — well worth the effort.

Here’s a little list of tips to help you manage mornings, because if you can get control of your mornings, you’ve got a much greater chance of having peaceful, productive days — one after the other.

1) Get enough sleep. Most of us don’t. Go to bed earlier, because you’re unlikely to find that extra hour of sleep in the morning. This is vital.

2) Do NOT look at your phone, computer, tablet, TV or newspaper within the first hour of being awake. Trust me; this one practice will change everything.

3) Begin the day with water — a couple of glasses full.

4) Next, move your body. Stretch. Do some yoga or Pilates. Go running. It doesn’t have to be your workout of the day (though if you can fit that in now, it’s a great way to maintain your exercise routine.)  Just move, even if it’s only for a few minutes.

5) Meditate. More and more evidence is coming out about the many benefits of daily meditation. And it’s most effective in the morning. Meditation is similar to, but different from prayer. There are tons of resources. Here’s just one:

6) Set an intention for the day. It can be one word. JOY! PATIENCE! PRAY! Or you could use affirmations or mantras or just a centering thought to remember throughout the day.

7) Pray. Communing with God at the beginning of the day will do more to move your life forward than anything else. It’s hard to know how long to schedule for prayer. It would be great if we could always schedule a whole sweet hour of prayer. Whatever works for you, don’t forget to pray.

8) Read or listen to something inspirational. Again, a little goes a long way, if all you can spare for now is a little morning time.

9) Strategize your day. I actually like to do this each night, but if you haven’t done it the night before, it’s imperative that you take time to plan your day. What are your priorities today? Use your weekly plan to create your daily plan. Make a list. Do the hard things first. This applies whether you are CEO of a company or a family.

You can do all this in just an hour each morning. When I had a house full of young children, I would get up at 5:00 a.m. so I could have that one peaceful hour of renewal and centering. (OK, I did that for ONE year of my young-kid years. But in retrospect, that was my happiest year.) Now I have just one teenager at home, and my morning routine is built around the early morning seminary drive to the chapel and then the drive to school. During seminary, I walk the dog (and me) for 2 miles and do some stretching. I’ve already had my 2 glasses of water and strategized my day. While walking, I often converse with God, or use affirmations to set the tone of my day, or listen to scriptures or conference talks. I get home by 7:45, which typically gives me time for yoga, meditation, reading, prayer, maybe some writing, even a shower and breakfast before the day’s appointments and tasks begin. I am amazed at what a difference it makes when I stick to these habits and routines. I do not like to get up early. But I use the current “have-to” in my life (get my daughter to seminary) as a trigger for all the habits I want to incorporate into my mornings. And once I’m up, that early morning magic takes over (which sometimes involves ignoring the grumpy teen) and I am so GLAD to be alive and awake and present to the gifts of the new day.

Do you like Mondays? Mornings? What habits have you found to be most helpful in creating a purposeful, productive life?

Kellie <![CDATA[Guest Post: Moving On]]> 2016-07-26T14:51:40Z 2016-07-17T06:34:44Z I opened the closet door and looked again at the clothes that defined the man I had loved and been married to for almost 45 years. Dress shirts and ties for his dental office; jeans and flannel shirts for work at our farm; suits and sports jackets for church and special occasions. Touching them one by one, I saw him as he had been before the cancer reduced his wardrobe to whatever could easily be slipped on and off his ravaged body as he lay waiting for what treatments could not halt. Here was the shirt that brought out the blue in eyes that often twinkled with mischief. Here was the shirt he’d worn on vacation to his beloved Canada. Here the orange one chosen for our last family picture on his birthday. And here was the flannel one I’d buried my face in at night to inhale his scent and catch my tears. They were all there but one— the one I had buried him in a little over a year ago.

Now I had to decide what to do with them. Because I knew I could not keep them any longer. I would soon be moving. Others could use them. Besides, they were just things, right? I didn’t need his clothing to keep alive my memories. And so I took them out and began the process of sorting. These dress pants to consignment. These jeans to Goodwill. These hunting clothes to the friend who had been so attentive and kind during those last months. The Harley Davidson jacket that he’d bought when our children were grown and he indulged his dream of a motorcycle was too worn to be of use to anyone. But putting it in the trash seemed like a sacrilege. Almost like throwing away a part of him that even I hadn’t fully known.

“You’re not getting rid of Dad’s things, are you?”

The accusing voice of our son interrupted me. A grown man himself with tastes so different from his father’s that he had passed on all but a few items months before, he stood in the basement looking at my piles in disbelief.

“They’re just taking up space. Somebody could use them,” I told him, reiterating the words I had told myself.

“Maybe you’re ready to move on but I’m not,” he said, an allusion to my recent re-marriage. The words stung, though I had long since given up trying to explain to my children how I could find new love and still grieve for their father.

“I have letters and cards and pictures to remember him by,” I said, surprising us both as fresh tears betrayed feelings not fully resolved. “Besides, I don’t want to be like Grandma,” I added, thinking of my 89-year-old mother who had saved everything and was now coping with the overwhelming job of dismantling a house cluttered with the flotsam and jetsam of stuff that had long since outlived its usefulness.

“There’s no comparison between the things Grandma saved and Dad’s clothes,” my son insisted. “I’ll store them.”

We left the matter unresolved and I went upstairs to make dinner. When my new husband came home I told him about the conversation and the feelings it had brought up for me. He, too, had lost a spouse. He, too, had been faced with the task of deciding what to do with her things.

“There comes a time when holding on to things no longer brings comfort,” he observed. “There comes a time when they simply become painful reminders of what we have lost.”

And now I knew the real reason I was able to give away my sweetheart’s things, the reason I hadn’t wanted to acknowledge. The memories they evoked were more bitter than sweet. Hanging in a closet he would no longer use, they spoke of times that would never be again. Each item was a pinprick to a heart that would always mourn his absence.

Psychologists are fond of terms like “moving on” and “letting go.” So, too, are the writers of articles on decluttering our lives by decluttering the spaces in which we live. There is, they insist, a freedom that comes when we rid ourselves of all that weighs us down.

They may be right. Or not. For my mother, the result of letting go has been emptiness, a tearing away of the fabric that had held her life together. Their loss evokes its own kind of mourning. But surveying the piles of clothing that surround me, I know it is not the things my husband wore that connect me to him. It is not even the cards and letters and pictures, treasured though they may be. No, other than our children and grandchildren, what connects us is not tangible. And like all things intangible, they elude words or even images to give them substance. They just are. They exist in the heart, as real as the clothing I gently touch one last time.

All I know is this: he lived in them once, but doesn’t any more. And if he no longer needs them, then I don’t either. True comfort comes not from things but from the knowledge that we loved and were loved. That love continues still.

Karen <![CDATA[Do You Want to Build a Friendship?]]> 2016-07-25T17:03:19Z 2016-07-16T12:14:36Z  

3382147567_8081049721_oMaking friends at midlife seems to be more challenging than making friends when I was younger.  My perception might be skewed.  Maybe it’s always a challenge.

Many women at midlife are busy with full-time or part-time work as well as with volunteering work.  If they have children, they are busy launching them and perhaps caring for grandchildren as time allows. If they have husbands, they are supporting them. If their parents are still living, they are supporting their parents.

[Photo credit: Bekassine via Creative Commons,]

Women at midlife have many long-term friendships, spanning decades.  These established friendships need maintenance. Why would they take the time and effort to form new friendships when most women feel spread too thin already? And I moved during the summer when many midlife women are traveling to visit their adult children and grandchildren.

Maybe making friends was challenging when I was a teen, a young adult, and a new parent?  Am I overstating the life stage constraints?

I moved to Indiana seven weeks ago. In that time, I’ve been reaching out to women in the neighborhood, to women at the university where my husband works and to women who attend my church.  I’m very outgoing and willing to take risks by starting conversations with people. I’m also open to being friends with people of all ages and interests. In Kansas, I had friends ranging from 4 to 104.  Granted, I had eight years to develop those friendships.

I’m probably trying to create an instant community: add water and mix. Voila! It’s not that easy.  I should remember this.  Over my 54 years of life, I’ve moved on average every six years.  These things take time. But if the pattern hold true, I only have six years to enjoy these friendships, so I can’t sit at home and sulk about the challenge.

So far, my suggestions about getting together with people to socialize are falling flat.  That all-purpose “I’m busy” is damning my efforts.  We all know that “I’m busy” when offered as a retort to any commitment really means “I have other priorities.”  I use “I’m busy” as “I have other priorities” myself.

I have been focusing on reaching out to women who moved to town this summer, too.  Maybe that’s the problem.  Being “new together” might not be a good enough foundation.  I keep making dramatic statements in my head: “That’s it. I’m done.  I’m retreating. I’m detaching socially!” But my gregarious nature keeps pushing me to pick myself up, dust myself off, and extend myself to others—even if the percentage of successful connection is in the single digits.

I probably just need to be patient and let relationships form over time.  In the meantime, this gives me an opportunity to think extensively about friendships.

How have your most meaningful friendships formed? Common interests? Similar ages? Kids the same ages? Husbands in the same vocation? Working together in paid work or volunteer work? Living near each other?  Mutual friendships?  Serendipity? And how long has this taken? Weeks, months…years?

Heather O. <![CDATA[Doing the best that I can]]> 2016-07-15T12:55:21Z 2016-07-15T09:14:12Z I took a shower at the church building on Wednesday. It wasn’t because I’m dying to know how good the water pressure is at the chapel, or even if they have enough hot water. It was because my day was so slam packed that I didn’t have time to shower at home before attending Wednesday night youth activities as YW president. I had been working with and riding horses all day, and I was a hot and sweaty stinky mess. I had planned my day pretty much in 10 minute increments, but when another rider asked if she could get a ride home from the barn, there went my 10 minute window for a shower at home. Hence, I found myself at 7pm taking a 3 minute shower at the church to rinse of the layers of grime and sweat accumulated throughout the day before we started our YW activity. (And since I know you were wondering, the church has excellent water pressure and quite adequate hot water. No shower curtain, though, so watch your step getting out, lest you slip and fall. Nobody wants to be found by the bishop naked on the floor of the church bathroom.)

Thursday went pretty much like Wednesday did. At around 6:30pm, after having a nonstop day that began at 6:30am, I was muttering around my kitchen, getting stressed while thinking of all of the things I hadn’t had time to get to that day. I then sort of laughed a little and said out loud, “When would you have gotten to them? You barely got into the shower today.” It was true. While I did manage a shower in my own bathroom, it happened about 30 seconds before people started showing up at my house for a surprise birthday party for a YW. I was, again, covered in a day’s worth of sweat and barn grime, and again, found myself struggling to find time for basic personal hygiene.

I’m not always very emotionally kind to my own self, and I am often my own worst emotional bully (side note: this is a common problem I’ve seen among many women. It’s not particular to Mormon women, but we seem to be particularly good at it.). But this time I tried to exercise some mental self care and instead of berating myself for not being good enough to accomplish all I want to accomplish, I simply reminded myself that I am, truly, doing the best that I can.

But what if I could do better?

(Stay with me. This isn’t going where you think it is, I promise.)

I was processing some emotional garbage with a friend recently and mentioned that my prayers in the morning lately have been pretty simple: “Heavenly Father, help me get through this day.” That’s it. Just get me through the day, help me put one foot in front of the other, and I will thank You for Your help as I collapse back into bed at the end of it.

But my friend told me something I’ve been pondering. What if I embolden my prayers? What if I ask more than just getting through the day–what if I ask for power? For spiritual renewal, for physical strength and healing of body and soul, and to see the hand of God in my own life and how the power of God is manifest in what I do?

That, ladies and gentlemen, is a way, way cooler prayer.

And in that prayer, I ask the Lord to increase my capacity. So doing the best I can becomes something way beyond me, better than what I could do on my own, something that is way more meaningful than just getting through it.

Trust me, I’m not trying to downplay how important just getting through it is. I have white knuckled my way through many a day lately, and there is a certain power in getting through something that is just hella hard. But asking the Lord to make me better? That almost feels like I could become, like, a spiritual super hero, or something.

And I really hope spiritual super heroes have time to shower regularly.

Have you ever asked the Lord to increase your capacity? How did you manage it? How did you feel? Were you able to shower on top of everything else?

Shelah <![CDATA[Christmas and Easter Mormons]]> 2016-07-15T07:39:07Z 2016-07-13T22:27:28Z Growing up, my favorite church service of the entire year was the Christmas Eve service. Our minister would tell the story of Christ’s birth and we’d sing all of the carols. When the service was nearly over, we’d sing “Silent Night” and the lights would go dim as we lit our candles from the light of the person standing next to us. Afterwards, there would be lots of hugging and exchanges of “Merry Christmas” among old friends.

The really great thing about the Christmas Eve service was that so many people showed up, that the minister had to do the whole thing twice– once for young families at seven, and once for everyone else at eleven. There were no greetings of “long time, no see,” or guilty looks given to people who made a point to come for Christmas Eve but who didn’t often come on Sunday. There was no shame in being a “Christmas and Easter Congregationalist.”

It surprised me when my family became Mormon that weekly attendance (even on vacation?!!!) was considered compulsory. What if we didn’t feel like going one Sunday? What if we had something else we wanted to do? We quickly learned that boredom, bad talks, even worse lessons, distance and bad weather were not considered good enough excuses for the Mormons. My parents were quickly given responsibilities in Young Women and Sunday School that necessitated their attendance every Sunday. We fell in line, and even though I grumble about 1pm church every time it’s our assigned year to have it, I’ve been an all-in, active participant (except on vacation, because I still think that’s weird) practically every Sunday for almost thirty years.

I feel nourished by the ritual of taking the sacrament. I respect the fact that going to church forces me to do something that isn’t always comfortable but is usually good for me in one way or another. I love being part of a strong community, and weekly attendance reinforces that community for me. Being fully invested works for me, and if you’re reading this blog, it probably works for you too.

But it doesn’t work for everyone. I have a friend who loves baptisms and missionary farewells and the rituals she grew up with, but who has serious issues with some Mormon doctrines and weekly attendance feels disingenuous. I know someone else whose guilt over having to occasionally work on Sundays sometimes makes her not want to go to church on the Sundays when she doesn’t have to work. I know lots of parents of young kids who duck out of church early to give their kids naps, and even more who wish they had the guts to follow them out the door. There are so many Mormons for whom weekly activity is an impossibility or a burden, and sometimes I wonder if our “all or nothing” attitude makes more people chose nothing. Isn’t there a way that we can help the people who would be “Christmas and Easter Mormons” or “Baptisms and Farewells Mormons” feel like they belong among the community of Mormons and not inactive pariahs? Or better yet, can we get rid of the qualifiers altogether? Can’t we get rid of the titles of “less active” or “nonpracticing” and just be Mormons?

My family, sightseeing at London's Hyde Park chapel on Easter this year.

My family, sightseeing at London’s Hyde Park chapel on Easter this year.

I’m the Primary President in my ward right now, and we spent the first six months we were in the calling dutifully taking attendance every Sunday until the clerk asked us why. “As long as a kid is here once each quarter, it counts,” he said. This makes me feel like the institutional church gets something that the rest of us might not: sometimes good enough really is good enough. Coming sometimes is better than not coming at all.

And while we’re at it, can’t we give callings to people based on how active they want to be? If someone finds it difficult to come to church each Sunday, a calling leading the Activity Day girls once or twice a month might make a lot more sense than teaching Primary every Sunday. I know this is a lot easier in the big Utah ward I live in now than it is in other places, and I recognize that giving people a calling that’s a stretch for them is really motivating sometimes, but I think that more often it’s best to meet people where they are and use their talents in a way that they feel comfortable sharing them.

I know this is a touchy subject. As active Mormons, we feel that two parts of the three-fold mission of the church is tied up in concerning ourselves with the level of activity of our fellow ward members, and honestly I think this is usually motivated much more out of love and concern than it is out of trying to keep tabs or outdo the neighbors, but it often doesn’t feel that way to the people who are on the receiving end of outreach.

On the one hand, there are things I really miss about my old church. In the summer, Sunday School was cancelled and attendance dwindled to a trickle, which made sleeping in feel like a good alternative to showing up on Sunday. But then, once a summer, we’d have church on the beach, with chairs set up on the bluff overlooking the ocean. I’m not sure I’ve ever felt closer to God. On the other hand, I loved the strength of the community when I became a Mormon. I knew who I was, where I’d come from, and where I was expected to be on Sunday. And I know it’s hard to have both flexibility and strength, but we come from a people who know to do hard things. Why can’t the Mormon chapel be a place of genuine welcome for all Mormons, not just for those who wear calf-length floral skirts and come to church every Sunday but also those who wear tank tops and tats and who really dig coming once a year for the Primary Program?

Sandra <![CDATA[Self Creation]]> 2016-07-14T00:59:01Z 2016-07-13T04:57:44Z 290H (1)

I’ve been trying to name something I’m willing to put my name on and leave it there; something I’ve created that I’ve been proud of, and I’m certain I’ll continue to be. It’s hard. I realize the irony in that statement. I make things all the time. Most paychecks I’ve earned in the last few years have rode in on my creative capacity: writing, cooking, recipe development, design, etc. The act of creation is not an overwhelming task for me. I love the challenge most of the time.

But then there’s the rest of the time, down the road (sometimes far out and sometimes immediately after) when I look back at what I’ve done, and fault-find. It wasn’t as good as it should have been, or could have been or close to the merit of someone else’s something.  The first I kitchen I designed was not as well-planned as the second, the collection of recipes I started writing a decade and a half ago seem unrefined and unskilled compared to my current cache; even the outfits I once wore, thinking myself so stylish at the time, now seem pastiche. Old writings, old versions of myself. I willfully shred past creations at the benefit of betterment. Surely, I can do better than I’ve done in the past? How can the next thing be better, be more something?

I do the same thing sometimes in my head, trying to try back on my old brain from many revisions past, wondering how was it that I thought that way back when? How did it feel and was I really as sure back then as I am unsure about those feelings and ideas now?

Sometimes I feast on my past self for my future self. I realize the product is good- progress! Yay. But the process I go through, cannibalizing my past is not so good. I’m seeking for expansion, improvement and increased understanding, but I’m often pecking at my earlier efforts, diminishing them from what I thought they were or they once were to me.

Even in my problematic approach, I’ve had an epiphany lately. That the things I create are nice, sometimes beautiful or worthy, but ultimately don’t matter. They wear down, wear out of fashion for me or for others; stuff fades. It’s the practice of creation, being willing to tear apart what I once upheld and thought “this is my best,” and opening my mind and hands to attempt again at creation for better, more authentic, more me.

Ultimately it is, just me.

I’m the real creation.

Yet, odds are, I’m going to look back in a few moments from now and decades in the future at myself at this time and long to be doing more and better, faster and stronger, with more compassion and grace, more productively and with more merit. Given my history, this is inevitable. But still, I’m grasping at my most notable creation- a forever work in progress and process.

And that realization, that the things I create are just evidence of my progression, makes it okay.

True satisfaction can’t be externalized in accomplishments. It is something rooted in the only authentic and unending creation I have: myself.

So, I guess this means it’s fine to continue looking at myself and creations critically, it is for my own betterment; that’s good. But if I am my ultimate creation- my mind, my body, my spirit, my heart, my joy, and my depth- then it would certainly help if I attuned to nourishing my past self to become my future. Feeding on myself, cannibalizing myself certainly yields results, but nothing balanced or healthy. I can’t steal from my past self and hope to regurgitate them into something new. True progression, real creation is expansive, additive; outward, not in.

What are you creating? How do you feel about your creative progression?

Shelah <![CDATA[July 2016 Editorial and Table of Contents]]> 2016-07-12T21:18:15Z 2016-07-12T21:18:15Z anniekblake uncoveredThere used to be nothing better in the entire world than a long summer day to fill with books, afternoons at the beach, and fresh vegetables straight from the garden.

Then I grew up, had children, and my feelings for summer, like my feelings for most things, grew increasingly complicated. For a few years, our family lived in Houston, Texas, where every summer day dawned scorchingly hot and devastatingly humid, and my little family and I spent most afternoons spread eagle on the cool tile of the kitchen floor. I couldn’t understand why we didn’t take our big break from school in the winter, when the weather was gorgeous, instead of the summer, when all we could do was sweat, make plans to get out of town, and try not to commit hari kari on each other.

A decade later, my Texas toddlers have grown into teenagers, and I spend most of my summer days driving them places and supervising their friends in the swimming pool. Once again, it’s a far cry from lying on my bed reading books all summer, but I’m trying to find joy at this stage in my life.

The pieces in Segullah’s July journal highlight, for me, the yin and yang of summer life. First we have Meghan Flinder’s poem “Explaining Love,” in which she shows how it’s often hard to talk about the ways we show our love (like sharing my cool spot on the tile or driving to the dance studio yet again). Melissa Young’s archived essay “The Garden of Eaten” shares some of the more traditional summer delights in her awakening desire to garden. I found that both pieces resonated with this summer me, the one who is trying to find joy and express love in ways that often go unrecognized.
Shelah Mastny Miner

Meghan Flinders <![CDATA[Explaining Love]]> 2016-07-12T20:47:24Z 2016-07-12T20:31:20Z anniekblake where there is light

“Where There is Light” by Annie Blake

I can’t explain love to a dog.
I come home to a fragmented couch,
to yellowed and shredded upholstery.
I sigh as the dog struts its win,
sofa hanging damp from its jaw.
I groan and let the dog stay.

I can’t explain love to a child.
I sang to my wailing babe whose
snot rained down and knotted my hair.
When she finally yielded to sleep,
her little mind rested and eased,
I followed her into her dreams.

I can’t explain love to myself.
My husband sits in his chair
and the clock marks fifty years.
I see in the mirror what time has revised,
as his hand gently reaches for mine.
I look up and realize he stayed.

Meghan Flinders is a student at Utah Valley University, working on her BA in creative writing and writing studies. She is currently the Managing Editor of Essais, UVU’s student journal for critical literary analysis and literary theory. She is also serving as a prose editor for UVU’s creative writing publication, Touchstones. Meghan married her sweetheart a year ago and will try to explain her love for him for the rest of her life.