Saturday, May 12, 2018

May flowers

The last couple of weeks have been full of flowers. Flowers from my bridal shower, flowers on my runs, flowers all around campus. The world seems bright with color and it makes me very happy.

[Some bridal shower gifts. And that candle smells like Utah. But not like refineries. It smells like a ski lodge in Park City.]

[Azaleas! I think? We don't have these flowers in Utah, but they are so, so pretty.]

[We don't have this tree/these flowers, either. But I think it is a dogwood tree. In any event, it is so bright and beautiful right after the rain.]

Sunday, May 6, 2018

"In gaining the man she loved, she would gain the world."

I've thought a lot about love throughout my life. Part of that comes from our romance-obsessed society. But another part comes from a deep, genuine desire to love someone deeply, to have another person so completely and comfortably by my side, and to create something beautiful with that person--my person.

So yes, I've thought about love a lot throughout my life. Through crushes, infatuations, heartbreak, cynicism, hope--it's one of those important threads of life that is impossible to disregard, though there are time I have tried. And in thinking about love throughout the years, I've thought about what it would feel like to be in love with the person I'd marry--what that would look like, in real life. What he'd look like, what he'd be like, what our relationship would look like.

Turns out, me being in love--hopelessly, comfortably, beautifully in love--with the man I will marry looks like Sam Dearden.

I would not have guessed that our story would have turned out the way it did. Neither of us did. It wasn't love at first sight (or even second or third or fourth). Far from it. But rather, it was a story of stars finally aligning. Of meetings and re-meetings and realizations. Of finding out that love can increase. People can change. And that first impressions don't have to be the last.

For me, love has come more slowly than I expected. It took some coaxing. I had to convince my poor, tired, cynical heart that Sam was worth the chance--worth the pain--to just see what could happen:

let it go--the
smashed word broken
open vow or 
the oath cracked length 
wise--let it go it
was sworn to

let them go--the 
truthful liars and
the false fair friends
and the boths and 
neithers--you must let them go they
were born
to go

let all go--the 
big small middling
tall bigger really
the biggest and all
things--let all go

so comes love. --e.e. cummings

So comes love. And so came Sam.

Perhaps it doesn't sound terribly romantic, but loving Sam was a choice--my choice, our choice. Something we've grown together. Something that is still new and raw and beginning. It was not a perfect knowledge, for there is never a way to know perfectly. But in the choice to love him--in the choice to marry him--I found courage.

That courage was needed in an irregular relationship. I would never have chosen long-distance as the way to get to know someone or to date. But that is how our story turned out. We both took chances on each other, and we put forth the time, effort, and sacrifice to make it work. The fact that it did work--that we're getting married--is nothing short of a miracle.

The older I've gotten, the more I realize that the fact that anyone gets married--that two people decide to start and share their lives together--really is a miracle. There is a reason we put wedding announcements on the fridge (that mark of ultimate praise), because it is something we look on fondly, a reminder that miracles happen, that people can choose to be together--forever, even--and be willing to fight for their collective happiness.

And Sam in my life is also a miracle. A living, breathing, walking, beautiful miracle. Good men are, unfortunately, in short supply in this world. And to find a good man who appreciates me for my mind, heart, and beauty, a man who supports me and my dreams, who "wants [me] to have [my] own thoughts even when [he holds me] in [his] arms" . . . that truly is nothing short of a miracle.

Being in love--and preparing to marry the man I love--is both strange and exciting. But mostly, it just feels right. Perhaps that's what I'm surprised by the most--how right this feels, for all the craziness and uncertainties our relationship and life has thrown at us (and will continue to throw at us--this is life, after all, and she does love curveballs). But our relationship has been so joyful. Deep, deep joy that bubbles over and surprises me.

["When I think what life is, and how seldom love is answered by love--marry him; it is one of the moments for which the world was made." --E.M. Forster, Room with a View, p. 213] 

In less than three weeks, Sam and I will kneel across from each other in the Salt Lake Temple and make covenants--commitments to each other and God to love, support, and cherish each other. Our relationship--this new, raw, beautiful love--and our even newer and rawer marriage will be sealed for time and all eternity. My mind still can't grasp what an eternal marriage looks like. Forever is a long time. But again, it's a choice and a promise we're willing to make. To take a leap of faith, holding each other's hands, and to step into the unknown, exciting, terrifying, beautiful, messy future together. It's a sacred simplicity. Holy and good, new and terrifying.

I think eternity looks a lot like love. Miraculous, impossible, yet real.

[So we just hold on fast
acknowledge the past 
as lessons exquisitely crafted 
painstakingly drafted
to carve us as instruments
that play the music of life. 
For we don't realize 
our faith in the prize
unless it's been somehow elusive. 
How swiftly we choose it
the sacred simplicity 
of you at my side.] --vienna teng

Friday, May 4, 2018

Life as of late

I was sure that I had another blog post title called this (and, tbh, I probably do), but I did a word search and nothing showed up. So I'm keeping it.

Today was (almost) my last day of classes this term. I say almost because we missed a week on my Thursday afternoon class, so we have to make that up next week. (But next Thursday will be only TWO MORE DAYS until I leave for Utah and wedding preparation begins in earnest!)

I have been seriously been neglecting writing on my blog. I know there's no apology necessary (it's expected in a PhD program), but I would like to write more than once a month (re: see April of this year). So maybe with the end of classes and the beginning of summer, something will change.

It was summer weather today. 90 degrees, people. 90 DEGREES. Waaaaaayyyyy too warm for my taste. Like, ever. But especially in early May. What is this world coming to.

A couple weeks ago, Sam and I drove up to Boston to pick up some furniture (which his aunt and uncle kindly gave us), and I saw two wonderful friends of mine from BYU, and it made me so happy to be surrounded by friends who know me well, that we could just stand and talk for awhile and that it felt so good and natural. It made me homesick for those connections. But it made me feel like myself again. Truly, deeply myself. And I haven't really felt that way for much too long of a time.

I made the semi-unwise decision to buy a tub of cookie dough. Semi-unwise, because it's still partly wise. What wedding diet? (JK, I DON'T HAVE ONE.)

This tree is actually perfect.

I went to DC last weekend (my last trip to DC as an unmarried woman! Unless something drastic happens.), and I took some pictures. Including of the park where Sam and I got engaged. Because. You know. For posterity. And for me. Because I'm v v v nostalgic. Nostalgia is my favorite treat (and I love it more than cookie dough, which is saying something).

[Nice note in a cafe.]

[Fun fact. Sometimes I take photos for an Instagram story, but then I never post them. This is one of those pictures.]

[Engagement park. Last time I was here it was autumn.]

[Kinda fun to see it in the spring.]

Spring reminds me of Ukraine. I think it always will because spring is when I came into country, and the smells of spring--flowers blooming, the musty smell of the sidewalk, etc.--always take me back to the roads of eastern Ukraine. I don't think I'll ever get over it.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

April, she will come

Spring has been shy this year. She comes for a day or two, and then quickly hides behind clouds again. (Case in point: yesterday it was about 80 degrees, and then today it is 40 degrees and rainy. And so it goes.)

But I am grateful for the sun and the spring when it comes. And I've been enjoying the sunshine while I can--and fun for me, it's been in different areas of the country and with different friends and loved ones (old and new).

Two weekends ago, I spent the weekend in D.C. with Sam, friends, and my aunt and uncle's family to celebrate LDS General Conference and Easter (which happily fell on the same Sunday this year).

It was a gorgeous time to go to D.C. The cherry blossoms were just starting to bloom, and we all went to the Mall to listen to Conference. We spread out blankets and jackets, and after many attempts, got the audio speaker to work so we could listen to General Conference, while watching kites float lazily and gracefully (and not-so-gracefully) in the air. Yes. There were kites. It was the annual Kite Flying Festival and it was just one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen. Such a lovely way to spend a Saturday afternoon.

[Sam and I found a little hidden park en route to the temple. We were enchanted.]

[And I'm always enchanted to have him around. Cheesy? Yes. True? Absolutely.]

[Busy Saturday on the Mall.]

[Cherry blossoms!]

[Not quite peak, but still really pretty.]

[Kites! So many kites!]

[It really was such a beautiful scene.]

[Let's go fly a kite] 

[I am not sure if this will even work, but I hope it does. If it doesn't work, it's our group listening to (and singing to, since it was the congregational hymn) General Conference on the National Mall.]

Last Saturday I was in California for a conference, which I was hoping would be sunny, but it was raining nonstop (until the day I left, of course). But the conference itself was friendly and uplifting, and I would rather have a good conference environment and a gloomy day than a gloomy conference and a beautiful day. So I'll take it.

[One day of California sun is better than none.]

And then, Princeton. Princeton in spring is beautiful! There are beautiful pink and white magnolia trees everywhere, and the flowers look so striking against the grey stone of Princeton's campus. It has made studying both easier and harder. Easier, because my soul feels lighter. Harder, because I just want to be outside and soak in the day. I hope spring decides to stay this week. And that next year she comes earlier and stays longer.

[So, so pretty]

[Can't get enough of this corner.]

P.S. I totally forgot to write about being home for Spring Break. It was good to be home. There was too much to do, but it was good to be home. Highlights include family, mountains, and dear friends who organized and came to a bridal shower for me. The older I get, the more I realize how I'm indebted to that town and the people in Utah County.


[Bridal shower!]

[Cute decorations]

[The fabulous Em. The sad thing is that I got more pictures of the decorations than the actual party and the people there. But luckily we snapped a few photos before Em left. Thanks for everything, Em. xx]


[And more mountains. I will never, ever tire of these views.]

Friday, March 30, 2018

"Ride ten thousand days and nights"

A little over two weeks ago, I celebrated being alive for ten thousand days.

I calculated this when my cousin Kyra celebrated her ten thousand days. Since she is a few months older than me, I knew that my ten thousand days would come soon, and I wanted to figure out when mine would be, because, hey, it sounded fun. And ten thousand days--that's quite the achievement.

My ten thousandth day took place on an ordinary Tuesday. I didn't plan anything as I was swamped (especially on Tuesdays--they are my busiest days of the week). And, to be honest, the Monday before my ten thousandth day was pretty crummy (I got a parking ticket, I had too much work to do, I just wanted to be home for Spring Break, etc., etc., etc.), and I could feel the misery of Monday seeping into my already-crowded Tuesday.

But, that didn't mean I didn't want this ten thousandth day to be special. I did. Kind of in the way that you want your birthdays to be special. But birthdays come every year. Your ten thousandth day? Only once. Ever.

But, day ten thousand was a pretty typical day. The only people who noticed were those I told. And, to be honest, some of the consequences of Monday did seep over to Tuesday.  But for some reason, it didn't matter as much as I thought it would . . . perhaps because I noticed it as something more than just an ordinary Tuesday. The air felt different. In any case, I lived a bit more deliberately. I was a bit more aware of how how days can change, how mornings are, indeed, wiser than evenings, how days ebb and flow, how good and bad are interwoven into twenty-four hours.

My ten thousandth day was like most of the days that brought me to day ten thousand.

And it was like most of the days that will lead me into my next ten thousand.

I went to school. I had some interesting conversations, I tried to make some jokes (most of which received courtesy laughs, but hey, I'll take them), I made mistakes, I was awkward, I tried to be kind. It rained for a bit, the sun shone for a bit, the air was fresh, buds on the trees waited to blossom.

It was a day like any other days. But also a day that made me more grateful for the little things (those little things that actually matter so much).

Like taking a walk with a colleague-friend in a cool spring evening, or feeling relief and comfort when you read a new article and realize, "Yes. This is what I want to do. Something like this. There's a place for my work."

It's seeing glimpses of spring on a tree, hearing life around the canal, and tasting change in the night air.

It's crying/laughing with a friend when you've both had rough days.

It's professors who remind you that yes, you are entitled to reach out to [insert your favorite public intellectual's name here].

It's sunshine on your hair and hope filling your chest.

A few weeks ago, my dear friend Hannah sent me a passage from The Prophet by Khalil Gibran:

"Then a woman said,
Speak to us of Joy and Sorrow.
And he answered:
Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
And the selfsame well
from which your laughter rises was
oftentimes filled with your tears.
And how else can it be?
The deeper the sorrow
carves into your being,
the more joy you can contain.
Is not the cup that holds
your wine the very cup
that was burned in the potter's oven?
And is not the lute that
soothes your spirit, the
very wood that was hollowed with knives?
When you are joyous,
look deep into your heart and you shall find
it is only that which has given you sorrow that is
giving you joy.
When you are sorrowful
look again in your heart,
and you shall see that in
truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.

Some of you say, 'Joy is
greater than sorrow,'
and others say, 'Nay,
sorrow is the greater.'
But I say unto you,
they are inseparable.
Together they come,
and when one sits alone with you at your board,
remember that the other is asleep upon your bed."

Your joy is your sorrow unmasked. [. . .] Together they come, and when one sits alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed. 

[your joy is your sorrow unmasked.]

Perhaps that is the lesson of ten thousand days. We ride these ten thousand days and nights, and in the ride we experience joy, sorrow, and everything in between. Opposites come together. There's something beautiful in an ordinary ten thousandth day, since it represents the average of all of those days.

Here's to the next ten thousand.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Surviving Nor'Easters

Apparently March really does come in like a lion on the East Coast.

In the last 10 days, we had back-to-back Nor'-Easters (plus a storm today [so, when I started writing this, it was a couple weeks ago--ha]*, but it's nothing like what they're getting up in New England, thank goodness).

But I learned a lot from these storms.

First, snow is serious business.


[After the storm.]

Second, Puxatawney Phil was right this year. Unfortunately.

Third, sometimes fortune smiles upon you and you don't have class on the day of a big blizzard. And on those days, what you do (naturally) is to catch up on work (maybe), but really take a bunch of selfies of yourself hibernating, because that's the logical thing to do.

Fourth, snow is beautiful. But I'm ready for spring.

*I have so much catching up to do on this blog. But then again, I have so much catching up to do on my life. So in the meantime, the blog goes on the back-burner. And so it goes. But hopefully I'll start to breathe again soon. But to be honest, I need another week to recover from Spring Break.