Why We’ve Been Opening the Door So Fast Lately

A couple nights ago, we came home to find a package on our doorstep. It contained a book, which contained $175 in smaller bills tucked in the pages. We asked the babysitters if they’d heard anything, and they said they’d heard a knock at the door, but didn’t know who’d left it. Then we argued for about 10 minutes about whether or not we were allowed to pay them for watching our kid. (We compromised by giving them a book instead.)

Then they left, and we just kind of stood there looking at each other. “Are we poor?” we asked. “Like, are we poor enough that people think they need to leave anonymous donations on our doorstep?” We knew it was a goodwill gesture (it’s Christmastime in Mormontown, after all,) but we still had a hard time thinking that someone thought we might need help.

Then the next night, we heard a knock at the door and opened it to find—nobody—and an envelope on the ground. With a Wal-Mart gift card in it. And we looked at each other and said, “No, but really—whose list are we on? Do they know we still have money in the bank?” And then a few minutes later, someone else knocked and Ethan whisked the door open in time to see a kid running away and two Hot Wheels cars on the doorstep. Apparently, our upstairs neighbors got the same thing that night. So that made us feel a little better. At least we’re not the only people getting gifted.

It’s not like I don’t appreciate gifts. I mean, free stuff, right? And holiday cheer and giving and all that. It’s just that it hurts my pride a little when it’s anonymous, and when it’s money. It makes me wonder if people think we can’t make it on our own. Like we need charity to survive. The fierce, independent young woman in me roars, “Don’t open that door for me! I’ve got arms!” …and forgets that it’s just a kind gesture, not a condescending one.

So a couple hours ago, when our bishop knocked on our door and said, “Wait right here; I’ve got some stuff to bring in,” Ethan and I looked at each other like, “Uh-oh.” And then a small parade of boxes entered our living room, full of groceries. Like, full full. And while we stood there a little awkwardly, Bishop said, “Look, I want you to know you’re not special. I mean—you’re special. Of course you’re special. Please feel special. But please know that we’re doing this for other families as well. You’re not a project. We just wanted to make sure you have a good Christmas, and that means making sure you stick around.”

“Like, in this neighborhood, or like not dying?” I asked.

“Yeah, some from column A and some from column B,” said the bishop’s son.

And that was it. They left, we unpacked a ridiculous amount of groceries, and then I cried a little bit. From relief,  mostly. And from finally being in a neighborhood where people actually notice if we’re struggling. And, I guess, because it finally clicked that if Christians are supposed to be so dang nice to each other, someone has to be on the receiving end. Right now, we’re on the receiving end.

It’s been a blow to my pride, but probably one I needed. And when I stop to admit it, we really have needed some help. So thanks to all the anonymous donors. And just FYI—if your neighborhood hasn’t noticed you yet, and you’re struggling, hit us up. I’m a pretty good cook, and we’ve got a lot of hot chocolate mix now. Come chill. ♥



Fixing Books

Today, my son finally ripped a library book. I’ve been expecting this for the past year or so (as long as I’ve been getting him library books), but he’s been surprisingly respectful so far. Today, however, he got bored waiting for me to read G is for Gzonk (which I was hoping not to have to read at all), and he experimentally ripped a few inches of the page.

So I gave him a time out (which he loves), then considered making him return all the library books without checking any out (which would be torture for me, because I would have to read the same old books we have), and at my husband’s suggestion, settled on making him “pay” for the damages.

And by that, I mean I made him do some extra chores and paid him small change for them. Then we took a little plastic container (filled with his glorious 40 cents) to the librarian.

“Will you tell the librarian what happened?” I asked.

The librarian patiently waited while I prodded a “I ripped a book” out of him.

She started to tell him it was no big deal, but I gave her a look and whispered, “I know, but I’m trying to teach him a lesson.”

She nodded knowingly, then wiped the smile off her face and said thoughtfully to my son, “Well, thank you for telling me. We’ll fix it with some tape.”

“Give her the money,” I said.

She started to protest again, and I whispered, “It’s just 40 cents. Just take it.”

She nodded again and took the money, thanking John for his responsibility. John actually looked really concerned about the book, and I gave him a hug and thanked him for fixing the problem. And then we went about our normal library activities of checking out about a bazillion books. ♦

Setting the Record Straight: Blacks & the Mormon Priesthood

Up until 1978, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormon church) restricted priesthood ordination. That’s not all that odd; most religions have some restrictions placed on ordination, such as sex, education, or behavior. But the odd thing about this restriction was that all worthy male church members were permitted to be ordained except those of African origin.

This policy was, and has been, controversial, and led to speculation and false doctrine. If the policy wasn’t inspired, why was it in place? And if it was inspired, why would God restrict a certain race from exercising the priesthood? Some speculated that Black church members were (for some unknown reason) unworthy of ordination. Others speculated that God was waiting for the right time to lift the ban.


Setting the Record Straight: Blacks & the Mormon Priesthood is part of a larger series (Setting the Record Straight) that addresses some of the controversial issues in Mormonism, both cultural and doctrinal. I’ve read a few books in this series, and I’m going to go ahead and say the quality of the book depends entirely on the author; some of them are great, and some of them are not. This one is great.

Marcus Martins, the author, is a prominent Black church member who grew up before the priesthood ban was lifted. He talks about his own bitterness about the ban, as well as his father’s faith that he should live worthy to receive the priesthood as soon as the ban was lifted. He talks about what a privilege it is for anyone to be able to exercise God’s power. He talks about some of the blatantly false doctrine he’s heard as a religion professor, and some of the questions he’s had to answer from people who questioned his faith. He also talks about how strange it was for his family to convert from another Christian faith to one where the White church members often looked down on them for … reasons. Reasons that nobody could really define, but everyone assumed were there.

I think the power of this book is that it doesn’t have answers—and doesn’t pretend to. What Martins does is point out that most of the false doctrine floating around in Mormon circles comes from “finding” answers where there are none. Martins doesn’t know why he wasn’t allowed to hold the priesthood until 1978. He doesn’t pretend to know why. And he still believes this is God’s church. But what he does do throughout the book is show how people insisting on finding the answer (and then imposing their answer on others) led to misunderstandings of doctrine.

I think this is a great book for anyone—regardless of whether you’re LDS or not—who’s interested in learning about other faiths. It talks about how wrong we can be, and how much better it is to admit we don’t know everything. It also has a very forgiving tone; he points out the racism he’s encountered and encourages everybody to be better. He talks about how important diversity of races, cultures, and experiences can be in a growing worldwide church. But he isn’t bitter; he’s just helping to solve the problem. I love his attitude of moving forward, rather than dwelling on pain. ♦

An Embarrassment of Pandas

I don’t usually tell people what my works in progress are. This is for several reasons. One is that I want the creative license to dramatically change my writing at the drop of a hat. That means I don’t want people to say, “But I really liked that idea! (or character, or what-have-you.)

Another reason is because I figure there are only a few select people who really care about the writing before it’s finished.

But the biggest reason is probably that when people know I’m working on a project, they ask me how it’s going. And then I stress out about it, because sometimes it’s not going so well. Or not going at all. Or I’ve completely abandoned it and started something new. Long story short, I don’t tell people about my works in progress because I’d rather give someone a pleasant surprise than look like a flake.

So… I have a pleasant surprise! I’ve just finished a book! It’s a poetry collection inspired by the absurd names we have for animals. For example, a group of crows is called a murder. A group of sharks is a shiver. Monkeys literally come in barrels. And the book is called An Embarrassment of Pandas. (Yes, that’s the real name for a group of pandas.)

And—added bonus—my good friend Holly Black agreed to do the illustrations for me (which is why that panda on the front cover looks so svelte and put-together.) The whole thing ended up with a kind of Shel Silverstein flavor, if I may flatter myself.

I’ve got a book signing here in Provo on Dec. 2 (and I’m only freaking out about it a little bit.) The event is at 11am at Pioneer Book (450 W Center Street), and there will be snacks. Obviously. The book is perfect for poetry readers of all ages, so everybody’s welcome.

And if you want to buy it online, click here!


I Explain a Few Things

i explain a few things

I Explain a Few Things is a collection by the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda. I read a collection of his love poems earlier in the year (or was it last year?) and I liked it okay—but I felt like I might like him a little more if he were being a little less romantic and more matter-of-fact. So I picked this one up, hoping it would be a collection of non-love poems.

Here’s my impression: Pablo Neruda really liked Federico García Lorca. I figured this out because he wrote an ode to Lorca. (I’m clever, aren’t I?) But in addition to writing about Lorca, he also writes a lot like him.

I read Lorca’s collected works a while ago for my world-reading challenge. Lorca is a well-known Spanish poet, who wrote some brilliant lines and then buried them in a mountain of absolute garbage. Forgive me. But I really didn’t like Lorca. He just didn’t make any sense.

The good news is this: Neruda made sense. He still used a lot of the unexpected word combinations that Lorca inspired. And Neruda still wrote sentences that didn’t make any sense. But when you look at the poem on the whole, you at least get a full picture of the mood, the idea that Neruda was trying to convey. A few poems lost me, but most of them were fairly easy to follow; I could even follow a few of them in Spanish. (This is a bilingual edition.)

So if you want some good poetry dripping with metaphor, pick up Neruda. And if you want something even less mundane, go ahead and try Lorca. ♦


¡No bájes al sótano!


Okay, guys. I’m learning Spanish. And I’m reading books in Spanish to help. But I’m kind of new at writing in Spanish, so here goes.

¡No bajes al sótano! es un libro de R.L. Stine, el autor de la serie Escalofríos. Son libros muy buenos para niños que les gustan libros de horror, y los leía cuando era niña. Ahora, estoy estudiando español, y leí este libro en español para practicar.

El libro cuenta de una niña, Margaret, y su hermano Charlie. El padre de ellos es un científico, y durante la mayor parte del día, está en el sótano. Pero cosas extrañas comienzan, y el padre de ellos comienza a cambiar…

Para un niño, es terrorífico. Para un adulto, es aburrido. Para un estudiante de español, es buena práctica. ♦

The Best Fruit Snacks

John and I were at the grocery store last night, stocking up. He was helping me make decisions, like what flavor of yogurt he wanted (strawberry and raspberry), and he was in charge of holding the shopping list (which he dropped several times before it finally ended up in his pocket.) And, since he’s the primary eater of fruit snacks in the household, I asked him what kind he wanted.

I parked the cart in front of the fruit snacks and he looked them over, then said “peecha!”

That didn’t sound familiar, so I asked again, and he pointed. “Peek-choo!” Pikachu fruit snacks. That’s what he was pointing at. And they were 3/$6, which is more than I usually spend.

I looked at the $1 options again and told him, “No, let’s get Curious George, or fishies, or Snoopy, okay?”


“Great. We’ll get Snoopies.” I put them in the cart, and then realized he would eat his way through that box in a matter of hours if I let him. “Let’s get another box, okay? What kind do you want?”

He didn’t beg or whine. He just kind of sat there, looking at me, looking at the Pikachu box, and then back at me; he had this look on his face that said, “I want those ones, but you already said no, so…..”

And then it hit me. I had $80 worth of food in the cart, and I was arguing with a 2-year-old about one dollar.

We got the Pikachu fruit snacks. And—added bonus—they also have Squirtle, Charmander, and Bulbasoar shapes in there. And Gengar, for some reason. I guess they needed something purple for the grape flavor. Anyways. They’re the best fruit snacks I’ve ever bought. ♥