Sunday, May 31, 2015

Two of my favorite songs in one:

What's in a name?

Once upon a time, Katy returned from her mission to Villahermosa, Mexico.

The day she was getting back, my mom sent Sarah and I to get some poster board from Wal-Mart so we could make "Welcome Home" signs.

Well, when we were there, we also saw a very colorful pinata.

And it called out to us:

"Bring me home," it said. "Bring me home to Katy."

So we did.

And I named the pinata Bob.

When Katy got home, she thought that it was ridiculous that I named the pinata Bob. So she renamed him Jorge.

Enter little cousins. One of my little cousins (who is two years old) saw the pinata and started playing with him. But, she renamed him "Mamana." Which, in little cousin language means, "Mama Horse."

And after a "Kevin's a GIRL?!!" moment . . .

the name stuck.

So Bob/Jorge/Mamana is now just that . . . Mamana.

And you just never know where you'll find her next.

Although she does like sitting/standing upside down by the couch.

And I like taking her around with me when I'm jamming out to music/pretending to exercise:

Because, why not?

Will we ever use her as an actual pinata? Probably not. I think by this point it would kind of be like killing an animal you've grown to love for food. I mean, you just don't kill Wilbur. You just don't destroy Mamana for candy. At least, I'm not gonna do that.

Not today at least.

I still love Anna Akhmatova

Remember how I fell in love with Anna Akhmatova's poetry last semester?

Yeah. Still in love.

And I think (know) I always will be.

Kind of like I will always love Tolstoy and Robert Frost and maps of the world.

One of those loves that never dies.

Because it speaks to your soul in a way that nothing else has.

Of course translation does not do her verse justice. But it will have to do, I guess.

I rarely think of you now
Not captured by your fate, 
But our insignificant meeting's trace
Has not vanished from my soul. 

I purposely avoid your red house, 
That red house on its muddy river, 
But I know I bitterly disturb
Your sunlit heart at rest. 

Though you never bent to my lips, 
Imploring love, 
Never immortalized my longing 
In verse of gold--

I secretly conjure the future, 
When evening shines clear and blue, 
And foresee the inevitable meeting, 
A second meeting, with you. 

I just love her way with words.
And how she describes those "insignificant meetings" that make an imprint on our souls.
Those meetings with people--who come and go--
and we never quite know how they will influence us.
Or how we will influence them.
Love won, love lost.
Friends made, friends forgotten.
We say that we don't care; say it doesn't matter.
But doesn't it?

what kind of heart doesn't look back? 

Here's the original Russian for those lucky enough to know this beautiful language.

«О тебе вспоминаю я редко…» Анна Ахматова
О тебе вспоминаю я редко
И твоей не пленяюсь судьбой,
Но с души не стирается метка
Незначительной встречи с тобой.
Красный дом твой нарочно миную,
Красный дом твой над мутной рекой,
Но я знаю, что горько волную
Твой пронизанный солнцем покой.
Пусть не ты над моими устами
Наклонялся, моля о любви,
Пусть не ты золотыми стихами
Обессмертил томленья мои,—
Я над будущим тайно колдую,
Если вечер совсем голубой,
И предчувствую встречу вторую,
Неизбежную встречу с тобой.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Why cleaning out your inbox is like cleaning your room

. . . because you just never know what you'll find.

Anyone who knows me knows that I am terrible at organizing my inbox. Like, I have good intentions. I'll try every once in awhile. I even have archive labels so that every email can have a home.

I just forget to use them.

Well, today was "Megan really needs to clean out her inbox day." It's a great day. I listen to music and podcasts and find gems like these in my inbox from a year-and-a-half ago:

Puritan valentines. How sweet.

Monday, May 11, 2015

There were never such devoted sisters

In just a few hours, my sister Katy will step off the plane and end her service as a full-time missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

About two weeks ago, my sister Sarah did the same thing.

Except Sarah flew in from Billings, Montana.

Katy will be coming in from Mexico.

It will be the first time our family has been together in over a year-and-a-half.

To say I'm excited to have us all together again is an understatement.

I am thrilled.

In case you didn't know, I actually have the best sisters in the world. (Don't argue with me. I will win.)

I mean, just look at us:

I mean, we're pretty much the cutest. 

All four of us darling girls.

All four of us again. No one actually knows what we're doing with the apples. Obviously they're for juggling, not eating. And this picture is also proof that nothing really changes, even after 15 years.

But besides taking awesome apple-picking pictures, we all rocked the 90s. 

I mean, look. Just look. Rocking that 90s look. Aka, I don't really know what we're wearing. All I know is that I loved that shirt and wore it with pride. Confidence. That's what matters, right? 

All of this. Just. All of this. 

I call this piece "Vegas girls find patch of snow in Provo." 


 Also typical (and yes, I still do that when I draw/write).

And a typical Saturday afternoon. Playing pretend (complete with political intrigue and entire histories of the characters and the made-up lands). My sisters were kind enough to let me direct the stories we acted out (aka be the boss). And then I became the boring, older sister. Sorry, guys. 

Anyway, if it's not obvious already, I really, really, really love my sisters. They've been some of my biggest supporters and dearest friends. And I'm so glad that Katy gets back today and that we can add to these collections of pictures and memories. 

Welcome home, Sarah and Katy. I'm glad you are mine. 

Saturday, May 9, 2015


Today (or yesterday now, because of the time difference), Russia, Ukraine, and other countries in Eastern Europe celebrated Victory Day. День Победы.

This year marks 70 years since the defeat of Hitler.

I know there has been a lot of controversy surrounding this Victory Day, especially with Putin's moves into Ukraine. And I know that no victory is clean. Especially in war. History is messy.

But for a moment, I just want to talk about what I gained from spending two Victory Days in Eastern Ukraine.

Before living in Eastern Ukraine, I always thought more about the battles fought on the Western Front--the Battle of the Bulge, Normandy, etc. I studied the battles where Americans fought and died, and I gained respect for what the Allies accomplished.

But we always forget about the Soviets.

It's easy to forget--or dismiss--what they did during WWII. There are a lot of reasons for that. One, war is messy and the Soviets certainly weren't angels. Also, we had that entire thing called the Cold War which happened right after WWII, and that made US-USSR relations very shaky. There are a lot of reasons to forget.

But we shouldn't.

Over 20 million Soviet citizens and soldiers died during WWII.

The number is staggering. Absolutely staggering.

And honestly--they bore the brunt of the Nazi war machine. I don't think it is even possible for us, as American citizens, to imagine the destruction that happened to the Soviet Union because of WWII. The Battle of Kursk. The Battle of Stalingrad. The 872-day Siege of Leningrad. The loss of human life . . . it is absolutely heartbreaking.

Without the Soviets, the Allies would not have won the war.

I saw the effects of WWII on the streets of Ukraine. I lived in apartments which had been built during that time. I talked with people whose grandmothers had been protected by German soldiers. I saw places where the Nazis had massacred thousands of Jews. I talked with babushki who had been little girls during the time of the war, and with grandfathers whose chests were covered with war medals. I watched a grown woman from St. Petersburg cry as she talked about how you never throw bread away--ever. It is too precious.

These people remember. It is a part of their national narrative.

My first Victory Day in Ukraine, I had little to no idea what was going on. I barely knew Russian, but I did know that there was a parade happening outside our window and the loudspeakers from the center of town blasted old Soviet music and war propaganda. I felt like I had stepped back in time to 1945.

My second Victory Day, I understood more. I talked to people about their stories. And I listened.

I also had an interesting experience the day after Victory Day. I went to a cultural event (a theatrical performance) which had a lot of sketches about WWII. My favorite sketch was towards the end, where they acted out the moment the war ends and the soldiers return home.

It was very moving--it was completely silent, except for old 1940s music playing in the background. The actors showed the moment the soldiers arrived home--it's a party. They all run to find their loved ones and they find them . . . except for one girl. She runs and runs and runs to find someone--anyone--familiar. She can't. They're all dead. She's the only one left. So she sits on the ground in shock and hurt . . . and then a little girl comes and gives her a shawl, and then leaves as quietly as she came. And I don't know what changes in the woman, but something comes alive again, and she stands up, puts herself together, and dances off the stage--alone.

There was something so beautifully crushing in that scene--the realization that nothing is the way it has been or that you had ever dreamed or planned. And it was important for me to realize that this happened to so many people in the Soviet Union. They were left with nothing and no one. It is a grief that I cannot even begin to comprehend. But this woman--to me, she epitomizes the strength of the human spirit. She represents despair, but more than that, she represents resilience.

And ultimately, that is what makes us victorious. We refuse to give up. We keep fighting. And we remember that there is good in this world. And it's worth fighting for.

Ukraine gave me a lot of things.

But one thing I am eternally grateful for is that lesson of resilience.

I learned it from the rynok ladies. I heard it from the stories I heard from babushki. I saw it in the eyes of the people on the streets.

Like I said before, history is messy. And who knows what the future holds for that broken, beautiful part of the world.

But today, I remember.

I remember the Donbass. I remember Kiev. I remember Leningrad. I remember Kharkov and Stalingrad and Moscow. I remember the lives spared and lost. I remember peace and conflict, revenge and forgiveness.

And I remember that victory always comes with a price.

Friday, May 8, 2015

"Your hair is still short."

I decided that when I graduated, I was going to chop my hair off.

So I did.

Here is my hair the day of graduation:

And here is my hair a few days after graduation:

Cuz sometimes you need a change, you know? 

Still, it's super weird. I haven't cut my hair since right before my mission (when I cut it to my ears--so super, super short). So having this change is, well, a change . . . especially since I cut off around ten inches. 

My favorite reaction was my four-year-old cousin. She saw me the day I cut my hair and said, "Megan--your hair is short." 

"Yes, it is short. And it will be short for a few months." 

The next day: "Megan, your hair is still short." 

She says that to me on a daily basis. And it's really cute. 

And a reminder that, yes, my hair is still short. 

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Why Ella Enchanted is actually one the best books any ten-year-old can read

It's summertime, which means that I am reading books for fun again.

And that means that I return to old favorites. I am a re-reader. It's kind of like catching up with dear, old friends.

I've already re-read a few of my favorites.

Yesterday, I had an urge to Ella Enchanted*, by Gail Carson Levine. (Note: If you haven't read the book, then you probably shouldn't read this blog post because spoilers abound. You have been warned.)

Ella Enchanted was my favorite book when I was in second grade. I remember that my mom came back from parent-teacher conferences and handed me a book to read.

"I think you'll really like it," she said.

I was skeptical. Why, I don't really remember. I think I was playing the, "I am a contrary eight-year-old girl today and there's nothing you can do about it" card. I looked at the cover of Ella Enchanted and thought it was going to be really boring:

But I took the book from my mom, opened up to the first chapter, and was immediately captivated by its first two lines:

"That fool of a fairy Lucinda did not intend to lay a curse on me. She meant to bestow a gift."

I was hooked. I fell in love with the story, I fell in love with the characters, and I fell in love with fairy tale retellings.

Rereading it yesterday reminded me of why I loved this book so much as a young girl.

-First of all, it is very well-written. Some people assume that if a book is written for children, it must be poorly written. Not true at all! Some of the very best books I have read are written for children. And Levine is a gifted storyteller and the book is rich and detailed. As an eight-year-old girl, it was one of my first forays into enjoying prose. Sure it's not Dostoevsky, but it was never intended to be a philosophical tract about the meaning of life.

-That being said, Ella Enchanted still deals with important themes, including the power of choice and the tyranny of forced obedience. Ella is cursed to be obedient whenever someone gives her a command . . . which leads her into some terrible situations. But, the power to break the curse is inside of her--just like all of us have the strength within us to change our lives and to take control of our lives--to be agents to act for ourselves instead of being acted upon. The final scene is still one of my favorites in children's literature--where Ella finds enough willpower to say no to the thing that matters most . . . and by saying "no," she gains everything.

-I WANTED THE BOOK THAT MANDY GAVE HER. I still do, actually. A book that grows with you and knows what you need to read/gives you glimpses into other people's lives? Awesome. 

-Also, I just loved the world of Ella Enchanted. I loved that the world was magical, and I loved the clever retelling of Cinderella. It led me to write my own fairy tale retellings.

Now, reading it in my twenties, I've realized some other wonderful things about the book that I didn't realize when I was eight.

-Honestly, I think it was one of my first encounters with a strong female protagonist . . . at least that I can remember. Most of the books I read before then were Encyclopedia Brown books (which I loved). But they weren't books about girls. It was exciting to read a book about a girl--a girl with a brain, a kind heart, and courage.

-And Ella is smart. She is witty and she enjoys learning (for example, she is a gifted linguist and eagerly learns any language she comes into contact with), and she's not afraid to be smart. She is comfortable with who she is while refusing to let her curse define her. Other notice her confidence, including Prince Char (who, by the way, is one of the nicest love interests out of any book I've ever read--he rivals Mr. Knightley from Emma).

-Can we talk about Char for a minute? Reading it yesterday, I noticed just how smitten he is with Ella, practically from the very first time he meets her. And it's really cute. He loves her for her bravery, intelligence, humor, and her clumsiness. Their friendship is the basis for their entire relationship, which I think is lovely. And their letters. Oh, their letters to each other are just delightful. (Except for that terrible part where Char confesses his love to her and she has to pretend to be a total dirtbag who was leading him along the entire time so that she doesn't end up risking his life and the fate of the kingdom because of the curse . . . yeah, that part is terrible. And it just hurts when she has to write him that letter to break his heart . . . yeah, terrible. I was always mad at her for doing that when I was younger. Now I understand more and I applaud Ella for her bravery. But it's still awful.)

Anyway. This post probably seems really random. That's because it is. But Ella Enchanted is one of those books I'm going to read to my children. It's quite enjoyable to read out loud . . . I've done it a couple of times. And it never disappoints.

And really. It is a perfect book for eight-to-ten-year-olds. My mom does know what she's doing once in awhile (read: all of the time).

*Now, if you've seen the movie of Ella Enchanted and if you haven't read the book, you might think that it's weird that I love this story so much. Welllllll, the movie and the book are very different. I remember the first time I saw the movie I was appalled at how they had adapted the book. It felt like a Shrek wannabe movie and the only things that were similar in the book/movie were the names of the characters and that Ella had the curse of obedience. Now I look at the book and movie as two separate stories and I can appreciate both for what they are--but I prefer the book story over the movie story.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Two great reasons why you should have been at our house tonight

1) You would have seen my mom and sister doing their most beautiful renditions of Prancercise and 80's face stretches.

2) You would have seen/heard me laughing for five minutes straight from watching said exercises. Like, I couldn't breathe, I was laughing so hard I was crying, and I collapsed into a chair from laughing so hard.

Don't you wish you had family home evenings at our house?