Sunday, January 24, 2016

Be still and know.

[london england temple.]

"Press forward. We will all, in the course of this brutal and beautiful mortality, find ourselves in dark places. We may find ourselves unsure and disgruntled and full of sincere and frightening doubt. Don't ever feel ashamed of that. Don't ever try and hide it. The question is not 'why,' but rather 'why not.' Without those moments, without those experiences, we do not and cannot begin to understand Godhood. Those times will come. Those times may be right here, right now. But the key is to press forward; to hold to the rod and press forward, however powerful the urge may be to cease our journey and pitch our tents forever in the wilderness. Just keep pressing forward.

[. . .] 

And that is why I need to tell you, with a gratitude that I cannot express, and with a surety that I cannot articulate, that the Atonement of Jesus Christ is real. I learned that the Atonement of Jesus Christ is as much for the innocent as it is for the guilty. I learned that as much as the Atonement is for those who have broken laws, and broken commandments, and broken covenants--it is for those who have broken hearts." -- Denise Wilkinson, Reading England Stake Relief Society President 

Tonight I am grateful for faith. 
For my own and for others'. 
For the experiences that we share which strengthen and bind. 
And for the way that faith can shine into a broken heart. 
God be thanked that we have each other
as we stumble, fall, and climb in this blessed, broken 
experience we call mortality. 

Saturday, January 23, 2016

How to win friends and influence people: Dorky Dancing Edition

Ready for a classic Meg story? This one is good. 

Once upon a time today, I was walking home along Cornmarket Street after a friend's birthday party. It was early evening and I passed stores that were closing up, buskers playing their guitars, and groups of undergraduates on their way to the pub.

As I passed a cosmetic boutique, I saw that it was still open. It was a store that I wanted to check out for awhile but had never had time. And I hoped that maybe the store would have some good hair products to tame my ever-frizzy hair. (Because my hair is hopeless here. Really. I have tried so many things to keep it under control, but my hair hates the humidity, and it's really bad when it rains. The struggle is very real.)  

Anyway, I decided to walk in the store and browse. 

But it wasn't easy to browse because this funky music was going on--and all of employees were rocking out to this music. 

I stood by the bars of soap, smiling awkwardly at these women who were obviously having a very good time and then smiling awkwardly at the soap, when one of the employees said, 

"You're the odd one out--you'd better start dancing!" 

So, I did. 

If you've ever seen me dance, you know that I can't. I mean. I kind of just move my arms and bob my head. It's kind of like Elaine on Seinfeld. But that's what all of the employees were doing, so that's what I did. And we all just laughed and looked ridiculous. 

Another employee came in and looked at us like we were all crazy. Her fellow employees surrounded her, pressuring her to dance. 

"Look--even the customer is doing it!" 

I suddenly found myself in this weird kind of Fellowship of the Boutique and they accepted me as one of their own as we danced in the store. I found out that one of the employees was also named Megan and all of the employees came up to me and chatted for a bit. 

Eventually I started looking at the hair and facial products again, and one of the employees helped me. She gave suggestions about moisturizers and makeup removers, and then I asked her about hair products. 

"Do you have anything that will help my hair not be so frizzy?" 

She recommended something, but it was really expensive. 

"But we can give you a sample," she said. 

"Oh, that would be great." 

"Is there anything else you would like to sample?" 

I mentioned the makeup remover she had shown me and she went to get little pots to put the samples in. 

As I waited for the samples, she ended up putting too much of the makeup remover in a pot so she had to go to a back room to get paper towels. When she came out, she was also holding the full pot of frizz-begone hair product. 

"Here, this is for you," she said. "For being such a good sport about the dancing." 

[The famous hair goo. "For when you don't want to look like a poodle." Amen. Because I don't want to look like a poodle. Even if it is a very, very cute poodle.]

Somehow I danced my way into getting free hair product. I still don't know how it happened. 

But dorky dancing was involved. 

And a bit of luck. And good humor on another's part. 

But mostly dorkiness. 

Tour de Oxford [Turl Street Colleges]

After some time in my favorite Corpus Christi Library today, I decided to attend a lecture about how women have played a role in the peace process in Rwanda. However, I wasn't able to get into the room the lecture was being held. But since it was a beautiful day today, I decided to take a walk around Oxford and go to some colleges I haven't been to yet. And I decided to go to three neighboring colleges all tucked into Turl Street: Jesus, Exeter, and Lincoln Colleges.

First up, Jesus College.

Jesus College was founded on June 27th, 1571. It was founded by Queen Elizabeth 1 for the education of clergy. 

One of the perks of being an Oxford student is that you can go into (almost) all of the colleges for free. When I asked the porter if I could just see the quad and the chapel she said, "Of course, lovie!" And opened the door for me. So wonderful. 

[Notable alumni include T.E. Lawrence--better known as "Lawrence of Arabia."]

[Queen Elizabeth 1 in the hall.]

[The Chapel.]

Next stop, Exeter College.

Exeter College is the fourth oldest college at Oxford. It was founded in 1314. 

[The famous Exeter College Chapel.]

[It really is this stunning. Even more so.]

[WWII memorial.]

Last but certainly not least, Lincoln College. 

Lincoln College was founded in 1427 by Richard Fleming, the Bishop of Lincoln (hence, why it is called Lincoln College. But if I'm going to be honest, the name always reminds me of Abraham Lincoln). Some of its notable alumni include John Radcliffe (who has practically everything in Oxford named after  him), John Wesley, and Dr. Suess. Really. 

[The chapel, where John Wesley preached.]

[This looks like a Dr. Suess tree. I can believe that he studied here and got some ideas from his surroundings.]

Any suggestions on colleges I should go to next? I have been keeping track of them and have gone to more than I've posted on my blog. I need to be better at getting all the pictures up. But if there are any you'd like me to go to, let me know!

Paying tribute to the Bard

Last Saturday I fulfilled a lifelong dream--I got to go to Stratford-upon-Avon and see where Shakespeare lived and died.

I love Shakespeare. I've loved his works for a long time--since elementary school, certainly. I still remember performing Much Ado About Nothing in 6th grade. My Shakespeare course at BYU was one of my favorites. I mean, I know that there will always be controversy and mystery surrounding the Bard, but I will always love him. Even when I have creepy dreams about Titus Andronicus. 

It was a perfect day to go to Stratford-upon-Avon--clear and cold and no tourists (except us). And I went with great friends.

"But, soft! What light from yonder window breaks? It is the east . . ." 
aka we are all babes. 

[Anne Hathway's cottage. No, not the actress. Shakespeare's wife.]

[more of the cottage. and my face.]

"We few. We happy few. We band of [sisters]." 
Plus Joe. He was kind enough to put up with all of us. Watch. He and Emily are going to have all daughters. And this will just have been preparation for him. You're welcome. 

[Shakespeare's birthplace.]

[The Old Bank. But not as old as Shakespeare.]

[Breakfast at the cafe.]

[The church where Shakespeare is buried.]

[Isn't it beautiful?]

[Love that stained glass.]

[The Bard himself.]

"I count myself in nothing else so happy
As in a soul remembering my good friends."

"I'll break my staff, bury it certain fathoms in the earth, and deeper than did ever plummet sound, I'll drown my book." 

[An original King James Version of the Bible. Just hanging out in the church.]

Jessica and I found dress-ups. So obviously we had to try them on. "Reason not the need." It had to happen. 

[We have never looked so beautiful.]

And then we all went for a walk along the Avon. And somehow these pictures happened. I'm not exactly sure how or why. But I am glad they did. 

"All the world's a stage. And the men and women merely players." 

"What fools these mortals be!" 

 All in all, really good day. And as an added bonus, we got to see Briana unexpectedly (who just randomly also happened to be in Stratford-upon-Avon and on the High Street just as we passed by), and we stopped by Warwick Castle. We would have stayed longer but we had to get the rental car back to Oxford.

"Warwick Castle will stand without you." Just in case you were wondering. 

Hurray for day trips and Shakespeare and friends and sunny days in England. 

"If this be magic, let it be an art as lawful as eating." 

(Brownie points if you can name all of the quotes--including the Warwick Castle one.) 

Friday, January 22, 2016

little by little

We've experienced some bright, cold days in Oxford recently. But this morning dawned rainy and grey with a touch of melancholy.

[holywell street.]

Which, naturally, makes me think of Pablo Neruda poems. Because what better to recite to yourself on a gloomy January morning? 

If you Forget Me 

I want you to know 
one thing. 

You know how this is: 
if I look 
at the crystal moon, at the red branch
of the slow autumn at my window, 
if I touch 
near the fire
the impalpable ash 
or the wrinkled body of the log, 
everything carries me to you, 
as if everything that exists, 
aromas, light, metals, 
were little boats
that sail 
toward those isles of yours that wait for me.  

Well, now, 
if little by little you stop loving me
I shall stop loving you little by little. 

If suddenly 
you forget me 
do not look for me, 
for I shall already have forgotten you. 

If you think it long and mad, 
the wind of banners that passes through my life, 
and you decide 
to leave me at the shore
of the heart where I have roots, 
that on that day, 
at that hour, 
I shall lift my arms 
and my roots will set off to seek another land. 

if each day, 
each hour, 
you feel that you are destined for me
with implacable sweetness, 
if each day a flower 
climbs up to your lips to seek me, 
ah my love, ah my own, 
in me all that fire is repeated, 
in me nothing is extinguished or forgotten, 
my love feeds on your love, beloved, 
and as long as you live it will be in your arms
without leaving mine.