Thursday, July 24, 2014

You'd think I'd have at least ONE decent picture of me dressed as a pioneer

. . . especially when I wanted to be one for more than half of my life.

You think I am exaggerating? I am not.

Growing up, I loved pioneer stories. Loved. them. I secretly always wondered why I had been born in the 1990s instead of the 1820s.

I forced my sisters to play pioneers with me and we would trek across our living room in lieu of the Great Plains.

And, of course, this:

Oregon Trail, baby. And not just Oregon Trail. Oregon Trail TWO. Best game in the history of my life. I am dead serious.

I was a PRO at this game. And when I say pro, I mean pro. I could give you advice on any situation the game . . . and I would. And still can.

For example: Merchants' packages of supplies? Not even worth it. Just go buy your own stuff. 

Sorry, Joe Schmoe with the tacky plaid suit. I will not sell you my ox for your bacon. Because we are still in town and I will need that ox when I cross Rocky Ridge. 

Hunting for buffalo! But don't hunt too much or else game will become scarce and you will probably end up accidentally shooting yourself or getting mauled by a cougar. 

"This river doesn't look too deep. Let's ford it." Famous last words. Caulk the wagons and float! That's the way to do it every time . . . unless it's like 2 and 1/2 feet deep (and even then, it was usually my luck that the wagon would still tip over). 

Oooh, the infamous dysentery. He doesn't stand a chance. 

See? Anatharon has died. Poor Anatharon. He probably died of dysentery. Let's be honest, it's Oregon Trail. We KNOW he died of dysentery. 

In short, I LOVED OREGON TRAIL. So much so that I would often act it out while playing the computer game. While wearing a bonnet and an apron. I have no shame.

The only shameful thing is that I have no pictures of this. None at all. There is not one good picture of me dressed as a pioneer.

People, I wanted to be a pioneer. I wanted to be one of those pioneer children who sang as they walked, and walked, and walked, and walked. I wrote "pioneer diaries" in correspondence with my cousins as we would pretend to be Mormon pioneers leaving Nauvoo, camping in Winter Quarters, and coming across the plains. It was basically like a Mormon Pioneer soap opera. I mean, look at this brilliant writing:

"Katherine and Melissa's father, my uncle, passed away, and we all mourn as much as we can, which is quite a bit because the winters are dismal. It's only been about a month since we've been stranded here, but how I wish for spring to come. Snow, what little there is, is depressing." 

"Dear Diary, I have noticed that Katherine seems to be a little bit jealous of me because I'm sick and I get a lot of attention. Does she know how much pain I suffer?" 

"James is getting sick again. We were talking yesterday and suddenly he started coughing uncontrollably. I felt his forehead and nearly scorched off some of my skin. It is awful." 

And, the family favorite: 

Megan (aka Melissa): "Father blessed me before he died. He said that if I would hold to the iron rod I would be able to endure." 
Kyra (aka Katherine): "Father blessed me. He said that if I would hold to the iron rod I would become great and marry a wonderful, righteous man." 
Leslie (aka Jolie): "Katherine is sweet, but she is a few feet down the iron rod. I mean that in the best way possible." 

This is quality writing here, folks. I don't know why were weren't awarded the Pulitzer. 

If you need further proof of my love of pioneers, you can look at my cousin Kyra's blog post from about two years ago where she also talks about how we would all play pioneers together. 

But despite my obsession, not one decent picture. It is a travesty. 

[okay, okay, okay. I did find one picture. But it is from my awkward stage. Which lasted from 5th grade until I was 17. Sooooo, that was a long time. And I don't think social media is quite ready to see my awkward stage.]

Oh, and I finally found this picture!!!!

So, one. One decent-ish picture from all of my time dreaming of becoming a pioneer. And I'm not even wearing a bonnet. 

All of the other pictures I found were ones where I thought it was us dressed up in cute little pioneer dresses . . . and then I realized that it was the 90s. And a lot of little girls' outfits kind of look pioneer-ish.

We're still cute, though. 

Oh, and I found this picture. It is from the sesquicentennial anniversary celebration of the Mormon pioneers making it to the Salt Lake Valley on July 24th, 1847.

Yeah, not so good. We are clearly blinded by the pure awesomeness that is the pioneer spirit. 

Still, in all seriousness, I have always loved pioneers--I've loved their bravery, dedication, and vision for the future. I am honored to be descended from some incredible pioneers--and not just those who crossed the plains in 1847, but those who came to America in hopes of a better life and in order to freely worship God. I'm grateful for the examples of my parents--both of them are pioneers in my eyes. It's not easy to be the first one; it requires bravery and faith. [FYI, President Uchtdorf just gave a wonderful speech about the pioneers. You can read it here.]

And I'm grateful that we have a day to celebrate the "builders of the nation" and remember that all will be well for us, too. 

Even if I don't have any photographic evidence.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

But there are dreams that cannot be

You know those books that are so deep that you are lost in them for hours or even days after you finish them?

I just finished reading George Eliot's Middlemarch. It started slow, but it is a beautifully interwoven story of resignation, realism, and redemption. The last 200 pages are wonderful and I've been lost in those pages and thinking about it over and over again. I have just been sighing over this book for the past day or two, just soaking in the beauty of it and in the glory of that last scene where the two star-crossed lovers finally come together at last.


So, I'll just say what I need to here.

I won't share too much detail, because I don't want to say too much if you ever decide to read the book. So I won't say names. But basically, two characters have almost no chance of getting together (and, really, I thought that they never would get together, even at the end . . . it was a possibility that they would both end up alone and without each other), but he just can't ever leave her and keeps coming back, even though he knows that it is impossible.

And they finally come together in one of the most delightfully realistic and beautiful love scenes I have ever read.

"While he was speaking there came a vivid flash of lightning which lit each of them up for the other—and the light seemed to be the terror of a hopeless love. [She] darted instantaneously from the window; [he] followed her, seizing her hand with a spasmodic movement; and so they stood, with their hands clasped, like two children, looking out on the storm, while the thunder gave a tremendous crack and roll above them, and the rain began to pour down. Then they turned their faces towards each other, with the memory of his last words in them, and they did not loose each other’s hands.” 

Bahhhhhhhh! It's so beautiful I could die!!!!! [that is supposed to be read in the "It's so fluffy I'm gunna die!" voice]

But with all of the tension leading up to the book, and then to have this moment of realization and of commitment in library during a thunderstorm. Ah. It just took my breath away.

The beauty of a hand hold. That trust. It says so much.

And I think it is lovely.

Anyway. Nerd rant over for now.

Even though there are more thoughts that are in embryo. Of impossible love. And hopeless dreams. And yet, and yet . . .

no conclusion for today. Instead, I will just bask in the afterglow of this beautiful love story. And keep on dreaming while living.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

For the Shire

I think these are kinda cool. It's an old Russian illustrated version of Lord of the Rings. And the illustrations are quasi-medieval. 

Here are some of them: 

Here's the link, if you'd like to see more: 

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Grease Meets Star Trek

I love stupid YouTube videos. I'm sure I've mentioned it on this blog before. Because I love them. It's probably unhealthy.

I was reminded of this classic not too long ago. Warning: if you watch it, you will waste 3.5 minutes of your life that you will never get back. And get a terribly banal and repetitive song stuck in your head. I mean, you're watching this and going, what is this? Because it makes no sense but you can't stop watching it. You just can't.

I mean, who would want to stop watching some Swedish or Finnish pop group in some kind of 70s Star Trek Meets Grease the Musical with dance moves from 80s aerobic workout videos and pageboy haircuts with some dude, wearing a gold chain that looks like the Deathly Hallows sign, looking straight into the camera singing about how he wants to hold you tender? I mean, it doesn't get any more twilight-zoney than this.

I am so having this be the first dance at my wedding.

Favorite part: Okay, even if you're not going to watch the entire thing, back me up on this. At 1:52, is that guy in the back rocking out to a toaster?! Because I'm pretty sure he's rocking out to a toaster.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Sunshine in My Soul

A few of my favorite things:

 Sunflowers in the kitchen. 

Girls in new dresses with blue satin sashes. 

Happy Saturday!

"The Holiness of the Heart's Affections"

*DISCLAIMER* This blog post is full of thoughts and feelings which have been searching for a way to get out for awhile now; a culmination, or rather, continuation, of other thoughts I have had about vulnerability. Feel free to disagree with my musings; I doubt that everyone will agree with everything I have to say. Still, it is important to point out that these thoughts are in no way directed at or alluding to any one or any situation. It is simply raw, vulnerable emotion--a blog post I am sharing with the world in the hopes that it is helpful to someone, somewhere. 

I do not pretend to be experienced in matters of love and relationships. I am still learning about myself . . . I always will be, I guess. But maybe being my age and at my stage of life makes me more vocal and interested in love and relationships and the concept of falling in love, especially as so many of my peers (myself included) fall in and out of love on a semi-regular basis.

We're all at different stages of life, even though we're technically all around the same age, we are at different places at life, love, and relationships. One of us might have just gone through a major break-up; another is going through the anguish of unrequited love; yet another considers him or herself ready for a relationship . . . and how are we to know how a person is feeling or where they are on the "relationship-readiness-scale" when we meet them in class or are set up by well-meaning friends? Most people don't shout their deep, dark secrets from the rooftops; it's impractical to wear your heart on your sleeve.

The differences of where we all stand on the planes of love does not even begin to cover the different backgrounds we all come from--politics, religion, culture, intelligence, family--they all play a part in making us who we are. And with all of these differences, it's a miracle people get married, really. It's a miracle they have decided to have faith enough to make a whole-hearted effort to make a marriage last and form a home.

Now wonder we put marriage announcements on the highest place of honor: the kitchen fridge. Because it truly is a miracle when it works out. A miracle.

It's the getting there that's the headache.

And I know it's not one-sided. It's frustrating for guys and girls alike. And we all add to the headaches and heartaches of others. Such is life.

And I think--I think that although most of us love the idea of being in love, we are more cautious when it comes down to the basics of it--when it becomes real and not abstract. I think that love scares us sometimes. That choice to surrender. To give all. It is terrifying . . . but it is also beautiful.

Above all, it is holy. Sacred, even.

I think I am cautious about falling in love for this reason: the regions of the heart are sacred, and I hesitate before letting someone step into the beautiful chambers of my heart. And I hesitate before letting myself try to open the door of someone else's heart. You cannot force your way in; you can only knock with excitement and trepidation and pray that you are let in.

For they must let you in themselves. And then, if they are ready, they will give you the key.

That key could symbolize many things. But I believe it symbolizes trust. A mutual trust to each other, promising to handle the other's heart with tenderness and respect.

Because entering those chambers is a sacred privilege.

Think of it--letting someone tread on your hopes and dreams; your joys and fears. You are becoming a part of their life, and that, for me, is huge. It's not something to be flippant about. It is too precious.

I've always loved this poem by W.B. Yeats:

"Had I the heavens' embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams." 

You tread on my dreams. I believe that is what we do when we love someone or when someone loves us. We spread our hopes and dreams at their feet--a magnificent tapestry of possibilities. We open ourselves up and let another person see our good parts and bad parts, our hopes and dreams and fears all rolled into one . . . and then we pray that they will still love us for who we are and who we can become. 

It is frightening--but it is beautiful. And really, I don't think there could be any other way. 

Love is about faith. It is also about hope. Without hope, we would never allow another in.  

John Keats once said, "I am certain of nothing but the Holiness of the Heart's affections and the Truth of the Imagination." 

Spoken like a true Romantic. But I do believe that the heart's affections are holy. And that is what makes love so wonderful, terrifying, and life-changing. 

"What if it doesn't work out?" 
"Ah, but what if it does?"  

Friday, July 4, 2014

Happy Independence Day!

I am so grateful to live in America. I am grateful for the freedoms we enjoy. And I am grateful to those who sacrificed and still do sacrifice to help defend these freedoms.

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness [. . .]

"And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor." --The Declaration of Independence

"It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us--that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion--that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain--that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom--and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth." --Gettysburg Address

Also, I like this video. And this song. So you should watch it and feel all nostalgic and patriotic.

I know that our history is not perfect (is any country's?), but I admire the men and women who have sacrificed their all to protect and promote freedom.

"Oh beautiful for heroes proved in liberating strife; Who more than self their country loved, and mercy more than life!" 

Happy Independence Day. May God bless America.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Missions are forever

It's hard to believe that it has been a year since I got home from my mission.

One year.

365 days.

So many moments that continue to change me and make up my life.

Of course, many of the changes which this year has brought are more subtle than the changes the mission made in me.

I would say that the biggest changes have been combining Сестра Армкнект and Megan. And then setting that hybrid loose on the general population.

This year has had its ups and downs, but one thing has never changed--I am incredibly grateful for the mission. How it made me more mindful of others. 
How it endowed me with power, strength, and wisdom from God. 
How I gained self-confidence--there is nothing I can't do; and I believe that with all of my heart. 
How it taught me to value relationships. 
How I learned to love. Truly love. For these lessons, I am grateful. 

 And Ukraine is forever in my heart. Always. My people. My brothers and sisters. Братья и сестры. Pодные.

I wanted to share some things I wrote my last Sunday in Ukraine. Because they are beautiful. Poetry, to me.

"The last day of June. Summer is in full swing. The hollyhocks are blooming. Ukraine is beautiful right now. Hot, but beautiful.

But, it's time. It's time for me to go. A "sweet passing." All souls pass into the West.

But, I'll miss it. My whole life. I'm nervous for the return. Excited, but nervous. Did I ever have another life? мне кажется нет. I think not. My mission. My life.

I am going to miss it.

But I'm calm. Calm as a summer's morning.

This is it. I'm ready.

But I'll miss it. My entire life."

Because, it was my life. Is my life. It shaped me into who I am right now. Best decision of my life and for my life. That I know, with all of my heart. And I've never looked back since.

The Lord gave me a tender mercy yesterday. I'm reading in the Doctrine and Covenants and I came to D&C 100. As I read verses 3 and 4, I remembered a young girl reading these same verses over two years ago, in a small living room in Makeevka, Ukraine, just starting her mission. I had read these verses during my very first personal study in Ukraine, and it became a mission motto for me. I am grateful that the Lord reminded me.

v. 3--"Behold, and lo, I have much people in this place, and in the regions round about; and an effectual door shall be opened in the regions round about this eastern land."
v.4--"Therefore, I, the Lord, have suffered you to come unto this place, for thus it was expedient in me for the salvation of souls."

The salvation of souls. Brothers, sisters, friends, family. My soul. I was only just beginning to understand what these words meant on that bright April morning. I still am just beginning to understand the magnitude of these words and promises.

But He knows. And the promises are sure. Someday I'll understand. But for now, I am just writing the thoughts of my heart, reflecting on a fulfilling, terrifying, confusing, joyful, growth-filled year, eager to keep moving forward and always letting the mission change my life.

You can take the girl out of the mission, but you can't take the mission out of the girl. 

One Year Older and Wiser, Too

A year ago today, I came back to America from Ukraine. I touched American soil. I saw the Rocky Mountains. I hugged my family for the first time in 18 months. And I entered into a dizzying world of trying to find my place in this world again. 

Being me, my one-year mark is a time for reflection. So, without further ado, here are: 

5 Lessons I've Learned Since Being Home A Year From My Mission* 

*All of these are in no particular order. They just are. Feel free to put down your biggest lessons you've learned since being home from your mission in the comments below.* 

1. Keep up your mission language
Just do it. Do your best, anyway. We all know that your language will never be as good as that one transfer when you were in some podunk town in the boonies of Brazil, or Russia, or Germany, or fill-in-the-blank, but it's important to keep it up the best you can, even if that means that all you can do is continue to read your scriptures in your mission language. 

2. Relationships Are Crucial to Life. 
And I don't just mean dating/romantic relationships. Relationships with family, friends, roommates are vital. Strengthen these bonds. This includes people you new on the mission--members, former investigators, and other missionaries. You have to keep your friends close and be willing to form new friendships. It will fill your life. 

3. Disappointments will come. But don't stop dreaming. 
Life is full of ups and downs. Just because you worked your tail off as a missionary doesn't mean that all of your dreams will are going to come true all at once. You'll be disappointed--but that shouldn't turn you into a cynic. "Pick a star on the dark horizon and follow the light." Sometimes dreams take time, and sometimes you realize the dream you thought you always wanted isn't really what's best for you. But no matter what, keep hope alive. 

4. Keep close to the Spirit. 
Because you're going to need the guidance of the Holy Ghost more than ever before. So keep the patterns you had on your mission. Daily scripture study. Meaningful prayer. Regular temple attendance. They really do make a difference. 

5. Never Give Up. 
This is tied to #3. But it is extremely important. You can't receive all that God wants you to have and you can't become who He wants you to become if you give up. So keep your head up, no matter what. Keep walking. Keep moving forward. You'll find that as you start walking, God will guide your steps. He will grant you peace and you will make a difference in this world if you are determined and choose to trust the Lord. 

These are just a few of the lessons that I've learned. It has been a full year, and I am excited to see what God has in store for me next.