Thursday, April 24, 2014

A BYU Experience as Told By William Shakespeare

If you weren't aware, yesterday was William Shakespeare's 450th Birthday! (Happy Birthday, Billy! . . . are we on nickname terms yet? If not, I just went there.)

It also happens to be BYU's convocation. I'm not graduating this year (although I did just finish finals--hallelujah!), but I do have many close, good friends who are graduating.

So, in honor of the BYU Class of 2014 and the bard himself (and for the enjoyment of everyone else . . . or at least to satisfy my nerdiness), here is my take on BYU life as told by William Shakespeare a la Buzzfeed.

Because whether your story is a comedy, tragedy, romance, or part of a four-part history, Shakespeare--like university--is filled with interesting characters, universal themes, and life lessons. (I just really hope that your BYU experience was nothing like Titus Andronicus.)

You start BYU as an incoming freshman with high hopes and expectations
                                            "What is past is prologue." --The Tempest

Everything on campus is new and exciting.
                              "O, brave new world that has such people in't!" --The Tempest 

Sure, the dorms are a bit small, 
 "He's too big to go in there. What shall I do?" -- Merry Wives of Windsor 

Your roommate is passive-aggressive (or maybe you're the passive-aggressive one),

                              "Why, I can smile, and murder while I smile." -- Richard III

And you learn that you really don't know how to cook,
"'Tis an ill cook that cannot lick his own fingers." -- Romeo and Juliet 

But you're bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and ready to take on the world . . . or at least pass Chem 105.
              "Thoughts tending to ambition, they do plot unlikely wonders." -- Richard II

The grind of the semester begins, but you're grateful for the opportunity to receive an education.
"Ignorance is the curse of God; knowledge is the wing wherewith we fly to heaven." -- Henry VI, Part 2 

You make friends,
"Words are easy, like the wind; Faithful friends are hard to find." -- The Passionate Pilgrim 

Some enemies,
"If you prick us do we not bleed? If you tickle us do we not laugh? If you poison us do we not die? And if you wrong us shall we not revenge?" -- The Merchant of Venice

And a lot of people that are neither this-nor-that.
"You speak an infinite deal of nothing." -- The Merchant of Venice. 

But you find that there are some people that will stand with you and always be there for you, thick or thin, freshman or senior.
"I count myself in nothing else so happy 
As in a soul remembering my good friends." -- Richard II 

Mid-terms hit and you find yourself begging for mercy.
    "The quality of mercy is not strained." -- The Merchant of Venice

Still, you manage to have fun with your roommates and even manage to put your flirting skills to good use (I mean, after all, we are the hottest and smartest college campus in the USA).
And even if your first BYU date isn't quite like the masquerade scene from Romeo and Juliet . . .
"O, she doth teach the torches to burn bright!" -- Romeo and Juliet 

hey, there are worse things.

Like teenage suicide. (Romeo and Juliet) 

Or having your eyes gouged out. (King Lear)

Or losing your kingdom for a horse. (Richard III)

In any case, the boys still have to go on their missions,
"We band of brothers" -- Henry V 

And you have finals to worry about . . . which really means that you have procrastination to do.
"I wasted time, and now doth time waste me." -- Richard II

Not to mention, you have to survive your first Provo winter, aka "the winter of our discontent" -- Richard III 

As you progress through your university years, life will throw you a lot of curve balls and you'll have to learn to handle life with grace.

You'll have to decide what to major in. 
"To be, or not to be: that is the question." -- Hamlet 

Then you'll have to decide what you're going to do with that major.

You have to learn to have to have the courage to try.
"Our doubts are traitors and make us lose the good we oft might win by fearing to attempt." -- Measure for Measure 

Some girls will decide to go on missions. But what used to be
"We few, we happy few"-- Henry V  

will turn into the thing to do.

You'll learn life lessons at BYU.

You'll learn about forgiveness.
"I as free forgive you
As I would be forgiven: I forgive all." -- Henry VIII

And about how you knew absolutely nothing freshman year.
"A fool thinks himself to be wise, but a wise man knows himself to be a fool." -- As You Like It

"What fools these mortals be!" -- Midsummer Night's Dream 

You'll learn about trusting yourself.
"To thine own self be true." -- Hamlet 

And trusting others.
"Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none." -- All's Well That Ends Well 

And you'll fall in and out of love multiple times,
"Some Cupid kills with arrows, some with traps." -- Much Ado About Nothing

Which means you'll experience the joys and frustrations of falling in and out of love multiple times.

"Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind; 
And therefore is wing'd Cupid painted blind." -- Midsummer Night's Dream 

Because whether it's puppy love,
"No sooner met but they looked, no sooner looked but they loved, no sooner loved but they sighed, no sooner sighed but they asked one another the reason." -- As You Like It

Or unrequited love;
"We should be woo'd and were not made to woo!" -- A Midsummer Night's Dream 

Whether you're tired of your bishop, home teachers, and long-lost third cousins telling you that you need to get married,
"Prince, thou art sad; get thee a wife, get thee a wife!" -- Much Ado About Nothing 

Or whether you vow that you never will marry, like Kate from Taming of the Shrew,

One thing's for sure: "The course of true love never did run smooth." -- Midsummer Night's Dream

And that's all too evident in Provo, Utah.

All too soon (or not soon enough, depending on your perspective), it's your last semester at BYU.

You take your final classes and final tests,
"But this rough magic
I here abjure [. . .]
I'll break my staff, 
Bury it certain fathoms in the earth, 
And deeper than did ever plummet sound
I'll drown my book." -- The Tempest 

And head to the Marriott Center to graduate and move on to the next chapter of your life,
"All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players: they have their exits and their entrances; and one man in his time plays many parts."-- As You Like It 

All the while knowing that you will be forever changed by the experiences, challenges, and people you met while an undergraduate at Brigham Young University.
"It is not in the stars to hold our destiny, but in ourselves." -- Julius Caesar 

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Happy Easter!

On Easter in most of Eastern Europe, people greet each other with a special saying. Instead of simply saying, "Hello," or not saying anything to each other at all (which is more common), people say, "Христос воскрес!" 

Christos Voskres. Christ is risen. 

And in response, people will say, "Во истинну воскрес!" Vo istininy, voskres! In truth, he is risen! 

It is a beautiful tradition. Everyone participates, and it was the one day where people would actually smile at me when I talked to them. Easter was a day of hope, joy, and peace. As it should be. 

A few of my favorite things: 

Ukrainian Easter eggs. 
 Coolest thing ever. 

Ukraine in springtime. Lilacs. And Cectpa Ahlstrom.

I am so grateful for Easter. I am grateful for the Resurrection and for Christ's atoning sacrifice for us. 

Because of Him, we have hope. 
Because of Him, we will all live, because everything Jesus touches, lives. 
Because of Him, we know how to live. 
Because of Him, we can be healed, in both body and spirit. 
Because of Him, there are no endings, only eternal beginnings. 

God be thanked for the divine gift of His Son. 

Also. This video is beautiful. 

He is risen! In truth, He is risen. 

Monday, April 14, 2014

Don't Cry For Me, Украина

. . . because I am crying for you.

Today, I think of Ukraine. Everywhere I turn, I am reminded of her.

She haunts me.

Those streets--those broken-down, dusty streets
The smells of burning leaves mixed with burnt garbage
The grey Soviet doms, with the green of spring pressing through the cracks,
and lilacs in bloom.
The rynok (market) ladies selling pickled cabbage,
dried fish,
Exiting a marshrutka and walking down those familiar streets to the branch building
to an investigator's home,
to our apartment.
Those wrinkled, tough, wonderful babushki.
My beautiful, beautiful people.
Now at war with each other.
My heart--my heart is bursting with sorrow.

They've closed my mission.
All 85 missionaries. Gone from Donetsk.
From Mariupol.
From Makeevka.
From Kharkov.
And it makes me want to weep.
(I'd be lying to say that I haven't wept.)

I know that there is time for hope. That even when all hell is loosed, hope still remains.
She always does.
And the Ukrainian people are, if nothing else, resilient.
They keep coming back.
There are promises to keep.

But for right now . . . for right now . . . my heart aches.

Because I love them. I love Ukraine. My heart aches because I care and because I love.

Two years ago on Thursday will be two years since I set foot in Ukraine. That day changed my life forever. Because of that, spring will always remind me of Ukraine. Of new beginnings.  

I just--there are no words to describe the love I have for that place. A holy place for me. A place where I grew to know God. Where I learned to love. Where I hurt more than I knew was possible. Where I learned that suffering could carve out a soul. Where I changed forever.

"I wish I had more inspiring things to say on my year-mark," I wrote in my journal almost a year ago today, "but I'm running out of time and I know new, exciting things are going to happen soon, so I'm just going to share one experience today that was so very 'Ukraine':

"Sister Erekson and I were walking on a bridge today. The bridge runs parallel to a highway, which leads to the big, looming steel factories, which have completely destroyed and polluted the air and water here. On either side of the bridge was a chastni dom sektor (private home area), with old homes and fences and blooming, budding trees. There was a railroad track running beneath the bridge and men pounding away at rocks. And another man taking care of goats with his granddaughter. And then the inlets of the polluted Azov Sea.

"It was just--Ukraine. It was one of those moments where I knew exactly where I was--Ukraine. This is Ukraine. I live in Ukraine."

How do you describe these feelings? My words fail me. Because to understand me, you would have to stand on that bridge with me and watch the flowered trees dance in the cool April breeze and hear the grandpa with the goats telling his granddaughter to watch out for the goat which bites; you'd have to sit with me in a tiny Ukrainian house, with golden-evening autumn light falling, as a beloved sister realizes for the first time that the Book of Mormon is true; you'd have to be jam-packed in the Metro, or better yet, in a green marshrytka as it careens down the broken streets of Kharkov.

To understand me, you'd have to live in Ukraine.

And you would have to leave your heart there.

Я люблю Украину. Украина, я тебя люблю.

I love Ukraine. Ukraine, I love you. 

Monday, April 7, 2014

April is the cruellest month*

. . . and it's also National Poetry Month!

*(my apologies to T.S. Eliot and The Wasteland)

Being the logophile and English nerd that I am, you knew that this was coming. I mean, I am that English major who has to restrain herself from quoting Shakespeare and Wordsworth at parties.

Oh wait . . . I do it anyway.

But there is just something so beautiful about the spontaneous overflow of emotion that can cut you to the core, leave you breathless, and sing in harmony with your soul.

Poetry is the language of the soul.

There are times when a poem expresses exactly what I'm feeling--it gives words and meaning to emotions I couldn't make sense of. Poems make it possible for me to sort myself out. Many times, interpreting a poem is something spiritual for me. Like when reading John Keats's "Ode to Autumn" or Gerard Manley Hopkins's "The Windhover."

Poetry is a part of my life. I can tell you which poets can help after a broken heart or dashed dream (Jorge Luis Borges and Pablo Neruda are some of my favorites), and which ones are perfect for a budding romance (W.B. Yeats. All of the way. Love his poetry, especially his love poetry, so so much). And then there's Emily Dickinson, Maya Angelou, and Dylan Thomas for those moments when you need an extra boost.

And then, there are just those poems which are simply delicious to read. Where phrases stick in your mind for days, 'til you can't get them out and you just have to repeat them over, and over, and over again in your mind, until they unexpectedly become a part of your vocabulary.

I could go on.

But instead, I'll just end with a poem which has stuck with me recently. Haunted me, I guess you could say. I can't get it out of my soul. So that means I have to share it.

somewhere i have never travelled, gladly beyond
any experience, your eyes have their silence:
in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me,
or which i cannot touch because they are too near

your slightest look easily will unclose me
though i have closed myself as fingers,
you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens
(touching skilfully, mysteriously) her first rose

or if your wish be to close me, i and
my life will shut very beautifully ,suddenly,
as when the heart of this flower imagines
the snow carefully everywhere descending;

nothing which we are to perceive in this world equals
the power of your intense fragility:whose texture
compels me with the color of its countries,
rendering death and forever with each breathing

(i do not know what it is about you that closes
and opens; only something in me understands
the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses)
nobody, not even the rain, has such small hands

                                         -e.e. cummings

Friday, April 4, 2014


So, I've been meaning to write this blog post for months. But, seeing that this semester has been absolutely insane, I'm finally sitting down to write it. Consider it my take on the General Women's Meeting and preparation for General Conference.

Also, you should check out Em's blog about this same topic. Because she is wonderfully articulate and because her blog is much prettier than mine.

This semester I've had the wonderful opportunity of taking a Mormon Women's History class. It's been a powerful experience for me. There really is such a need for us--all of us--to understand our past. Understanding our history gives us a sense of purpose and identity. It strengthens us and helps us know who we are and what we're capable of.

That's what learning about Mormon women has done for me. It helps me realize just how rich our past is, and the incredible examples of strength and faithfulness I can draw on--whether they were born in 1890 or 1991. There is power in agency--in making those choices to believe and to act according to those beliefs every day. There is beauty in the fact that women like Emmeline B. Wells, Eliza R. Snow, Hannah Tapfield King, Patty Bartlett Sessions and thousands more like them lived. They lived, loved, and strove to keep the covenants which they had made with God.

And that is what connects me to these women the most--that I have made those same covenants with God and that I am striving to keep them.

I appreciated the emphasis in the General Women's Meeting about focusing on covenant-making and covenant-keeping. Because that's what it's all about, isn't it? It is in making these covenants that we see the power of God in our lives and that we realize who we truly are. Making and keeping our covenants with God so that we can learn to live as He does and become like Him. This is because keeping covenants is not only doing what we know we should, but it is a process of becoming.

Mormon women are covenant-keeping women. There is strength, safety, and power found in making and keeping covenants with God. There's not just one way to be a Mormon woman. We are all different and come from different walks of life and have different desires, hopes, and dreams. There is beauty in that diversity. We are all going to have different journeys in life and we are going to disagree about politics, how to raise children, and favorite ice cream flavors. But, what can and should unite us is that we have made covenants with God and we are striving to keep them.

Striving to keep our covenants means that we choose every day to mourn with those that mourn, comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and stand as a witness of God at all times, things, and places. We strive to be an example of the believers. We try every day to be like Jesus--we choose a disciple's life, knowing that choosing to be a disciple is not an easy path.

And we help each other to keep the covenants we have all made.

It is in making and keeping those covenants which connects us all. That is what unites us as sisters throughout the world and throughout history. There is no need for division--whether single, married, divorced, working, in-school, black, white, young, or old.

Because the heart of the matter is we are all sisters.

Sisters keeping covenants.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

holding us in place is simply fear of what's already changed

just. this song. i've been obsessed with it as of late.

a kind of rainy days and mondays thing, i guess.

'til black and white begin to color in.

you can have manhattan.