Meet the NMW

Hi friends, we’re really going out on a limb here (for us, anyway), stepping into this blog. I should warn you, this is not a Mormon Mommy Blog. We’re too old. And we’re not cute.

We’re a book club of 17 very good friends. We love each other, look out for each other, and get together on the first Thursday of each month for book club. We shed our pretenses decades ago (literally) which translates into a whole lot of liberation.
(Such a pleasure to be middle aged.)

[ABOUT OUR AGE: if you tried to put us in age order, you might just get it backwards, but here’s a hint at our average: we’re so old we like to use punctuation and capitalization—even online—that’s how old we are!]

We won’t impress you with snarky wit. I don’t even know if we’ll be able to throw out some decent craft ideas. (What kind of Mormons are we, anyway?)

We will tell you about the books we read and maybe share some original poetry, art, and a few Deep Thoughts. If there’s a prize out there for this group, it will be for longevity. We just passed our 25th anniversary last year. (Don’t we look awesome?)

That picture above is from our 25th anniversary meeting.

We’re all committed mothers (some of us grandmothers) and we love to read. So, assuming those priorities . . . here are few other details about us.

(Back-left to front-right.)

Denise pictDenise was a sex therapist before she became an attorney—now she’s a judge. Are you intimidated? . . . Good, then we understand each other. Denise keeps us from being too conservative. She chimes in on legal issues and has the most incredible childhood stories you’ve ever heard: her mother was Fidel Castro’s press secretary (no kidding), and she became a Cuban refugee at 8 years old when her family refused to post a sign on their door saying, “This house belongs to Fidel.” (Again, no kidding!) Late at night, Denise’s Cuban accent—non-existent during the day—leaks into her English, and she sounds like Ricky Ricardo. It’s awesome.

Julee Kowalis pictJulee is a Grande Dame of Kindermusik, David Archuleta blogging, and high fashion. She gives excellent dating advice and has a soft spot for gourmet cupcakes. Julee is living proof that protecting  your skin from the sun really pays off—she grew up in Wisconsin—the lady has no wrinkles.

Catherine (with a C) works at a local university in the MPA program. (We think she unofficially runs the place.) She’s so full of love and good will, you could be a gladiator from Mars, and she’d throw her arms around you and say, “I’m SO GLAD to know you.” And you would believe her because she means it. She’s also brave enough to jump into high adventure activities like float tube fishing.

dvv6gr7_63qb997qgg_bSally: that’s me, dressed up as a shepherd for a nativity picture. (Note to self: take some pictures—the selection was scant.) I’m the youngest, which I NEVER flout because I have more grey hair than the rest of the group put together. I’m having a baby in June, and we’re fairly confident that this will be the last child born to the NMW book club—on to other projects!

2008-12-responsible-womenPat: If you have any nonsense in you, purge it before you meet Pat. (Don’t ask. Just trust me.) If you’re ever stuck in the wilderness, she’s the girl you want at your side. After 20 years running a lodge in the backwoods of eastern Canada, she can do things that no other person I know can do. For example:

  • Tan a bear hide using the bear brains. (Need I say more?)
  • Fell tall trees and skin the bark
  • Fashion a log cabin by hand
  • Shoot—with a rifle—a rodent off the ridgepole INSIDE her cabin. (Pat, Elmer Fudd bows to your awesomeness.)

caroleCarole (with an e) is the original “Responsible Woman,” represented by that beautiful woman floating in the art at the top. Her husband, painted it for her, and it’s one of our favorites. It represents perfectly how she glides through life making the important things happen. She creates beauty everywhere she goes—flowers bloom under her feet, and butterflies twitter about her head. (Ok, I’m exaggerating, but it’s how we feel about her.) Her home is a visual feast—everywhere my eyes land, there’s something nourishing to look at. Thank you, Carole.

tammyTammy runs a hopping pre-school, and I don’t care how hard you work, she can work you under the table and into the ground until you’re begging for mercy. No task is too large: she laughs in the face of hanging sheetrock and pulling electrical wires. She directs this killer work ethic outward in service constantly—quietly, gently contributing—help for two neighbors whose homes burned to the ground, wedding showers, baby showers. For relaxation, she arranges flowers.

Jennifer is a very perceptive person. I asked her neighbor (who also happens to be my sister) how to best describe her, and she said this:


“She is very intelligent, an analyzer, a communicator like her husband, and a gardener—she loves flowers. She has a great marriage. She’s aware of others and serves constantly,  but to me her biggest strength is her spirituality. When God speaks, she listens.”

2008-12-responsible-womenShauna is one of those rare people who listens more than she talks. When she decides she has something to say, we listen carefully. She gets the prize for raw charity in the largest quantities. (When I say “charity,” I mean in the “pure love of Christ” sense.) She also has the best hair. (Am I right, girls?)


katherineKatherine (with a K) is an expert in ADR (alternative dispute resolution). After many years of being an Assistant Dean of the law school, she’s an expert at seeing all sides of an issue. She’s working on her first novel, a story about a young woman living in pre-revolutionary Mexican colonies. She occasionally reads minds and can talk to animals.

Carol (no e) is a genuine Renaissance woman. As evidence, I submit her advanced degrees: BA, Music Composition; MA, Ancient Near Eastern Studies; PhD, Psychology of Ethics and Morality. I’m serious, this is a real person. (Not bad for a blonde.)


2008-12-responsible-womenJuliana is our very own Mary Poppins. She snaps her fingers and everything around her jumps into its proper place. Every drawer, every closet in her lovely home is beautifully labeled and ordered. . . . BUT, beneath that calm exterior lurks a wicked smart gamer. This girl knows how to play! She smokes us at Boggle and Smart Ass* and has no shame outrunning her Cub Scouts in foot races. Don’t let the sweet voice fool you—players beware!

* Editor’s Note: The Mary-Poppins side of Juliana was concerned with the propriety of naming Smart Ass here.  But, since it’s a real game and perfectly G-rated, the editor is taking the liberty of leaving it up for your enjoyment until she gets in here to delete it (any time she wants).   :)

2008-12-responsible-womenOrva: That sleek figure you see there is no accident, Orva is our health and beauty expert. She’s a true vegan and does hot yoga faithfully. (That’s Bikram yoga in case you’re interested—pant, pant—I did it ONCE and thought I was going to die.) As an expert questioner, she’s the person you want if you’re doing battle with an insurance company or trying to make difficult medical decisions.

2008-12-responsible-womenSandy: Quilter and homemaker extraordinaire, religious educator (15 years teaching a community Book of Mormon class) . . . the law is written in her heart. She shuns all connected technologies as being impersonal and lazy. (We don’t disagree, we just can’t live her high standards.) Lately, she’s made a few concessions to email but only to fulfill church responsibilities.

2008-12-responsible-womenCharlotte: Everything she touches blooms—plants, people, organizations, families. When spring comes, I’ll post a picture of the daisies that grow out of the vintage wringer washer sitting in her flower garden. She’s handy to have around when you’re trying to unlock the mysteries of the kingdom. She knows the intricacies of Mormon history and doctrine, and we defer to her all a lot.


Bianca: viva l’Italia! Every book club needs a passionate Italian. Thank you, Bianca, for being ours! Whether it be about cooking (she’s a great cook), her family, books, art, or teaching the gospel, she brings great passion to the subject. Named after the Italian ship she was born on, she’s our first book groupie to go with her husband on a full-time mission—to Italy, of course. Read about her wild Italian adventure here. As her book club sisters, we like to think of ourselves honorary Italians.

Our newest addition (not pictured above):

Bonita just joined a few months ago and between some earlier commitments and the birth of a new grandbaby, we’ve only seen her once at book club.  Here’s how Bianca describes her:

Bonita is the definition of Graceful and Grace. Service is her middle name. She is a peacemaker with a gentle but powerful way about her.  She is guileless and humble.  She does not like being the center of attention and will probably be a bit uncomfortable reading these good things written about her. She is a woman of great faith.


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