Sunday, November 8, 2015

Faith in Greyscale

I skipped Sunday School and RS today because open forum for commentaries were just not going to be productive for me today. I went to Sacrament Meeting though. The first thing the first speaker said was "I want to talk about the church's recent handbook change." I took a deep breath and put my chin in my palms and my eyes on the floor. He continued, "My whole life I've just believed everything the prophets and apostles said was true. It just was. But this one I struggled with for a little bit, until I remembered that I know Joseph Smith was a prophet and this church is true. If we know Joseph Smith was a prophet, if we know the Book of Mormon is true, if we priesthood keys were restored then President Monson is a true prophet and what he says is true and it is as simple as that."

It was an echo of half my facebook feed since Wednesday "If you disagree with this, then go pray and find a testimony of modern day Prophets." "This is God just weeding out the unfaithful that wander as mentioned in the tree of life vision." "Really, if you don't understand, then pray, read the scriptures, look for answers, but stop criticizing. If you have a testimony then you know how to strengthen it. If you don't have a testimony start working to get it. If you want if you do nothing, don't criticize."

And I just want to grab them and say you asserting that my faith is too weak or that I am somehow the weak that God is weeding out is literally the least productive thing you could do right now. If you need to declare that you aren't struggling because of your testimony, then fine, please do that, maybe your faith will strengthen mine. But please don't pretend to know how strong my faith is by the issues I struggle with. It must be wonderfully simple to see the world in black and white, to have the kind of belief where whatever the church puts out is inherently true, to have your biggest struggles with the church be things that can be resolved in a matter of days or hours. But there are so many of us who see the world in greyscale. That does not mean my testimony is failing or my faith is less than yours. It just means that I am built differently. God can work with that. I know He can. But making the Church an unsafe place for those who wrestle with questions is to not the godly thing to do. I'm trying. We're all trying. We are hurting and struggling and we are still here. Please respect that we all want to be good and to do good. Please see that.

If this is a way of weeding out the weaklings, then some of the best people I know are being weeded out and I'm not sure I want to stay with those who "pass" this test with flying colors.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

A List of Five

A few days ago google emailed me about renewing my blog thing. It was at this moment I remembered I have a blog. I have a small collection of various drafts I started but never finished and before I knew it I hadn't blogged in a month. I'm okay with that, actually. But here's a brief summary in pictures of my life since memorial day weekend.

1. My plotting to move to Moab continues. 
I went to Moab with a group of my mission friends. We all crammed in a Suburban (#Utah) and drove down in pouring rain. It turned out to be a terribly wonderful weekend with perfect weather and all kinds of reminiscing about that wonderful little country across the sea. We spoke Russian and English and mixed them together the way I still do in my head all the time, but can't do aloud anymore. We spent a whole Saturday among the beautiful red rocks of Arches and it was perfect.

2. I regretted buying a chicken.
My darling roommate Ali broke up with her boyfriend of 14-months. In an effort to make her happier and in a stupidly impulsive move, we bought a chick at Thanksgiving point for $2. She named him Ca$hMoney and he chirped all night and pooped way more than you would think a tiny chick could. He was also impossibly fluffy and pretty darn sweet when he shut up and fell asleep inside my pocket. We pretty much all immediately realized it had been a mistake (I think the lady at Thanksgiving point realized that the moment she saw the 4 of us) so after a couple days, we gave him away. So that's how I realized I am so not ready for children. (As if I didn't know that already). 

3. School was easy so I went to the cabin a lot.
BYU has proved not too difficult (the fact that it's spring term and I'm in 2 English classes probably helped that), which is occasionally disappointing/frustrating, but mostly just really nice because it means I have this immense balance in my life where I can go to the cabin or go hiking or really do anything at any time because I'm on top of the work I do have and even then it's not all that difficult. (Last week I got a 100% on a paper for the first time since high school and the only feedback the professor gave me was #nailedit). So this is a picture of me and my friends on the RAZR at the cabin and a selfie I took with my horse the first time I saw him after my mission.

4. I got into the NBA finals.
Okay, so really I just have a real crush on Steph Curry and his adorable family. But me and my Tevas even made it to the Warriors Victory Parade in Oakland this Friday and although the highlight of that was probably the Ukraine colored confetti falling from the sky, seeing the Warriors was pretty cool too.

5. I spent this weekend in Oakland visiting Winnie.
If you don't remember Winnie, she's my best friend from Swat. She just graduated but isn't working yet, so we had a great weekend to just play play play. It was great, because when you haven't seen someone in two years, there's always the fear that too much has changed and you've just grown apart. But Winnie and I are totally still good friends, which really means something after two years. It was so phenomenally fun to spend the weekend with her. I literally just can't even describe what a good weekend it was. Here's a picture of the two of us us at the Golden Gate Bridge on a surprisingly clear day (clear in that you can actually see the bridge).

We went to Santa Cruz for a windy and beautiful beach day. For father's day we went on this beautiful hike through the Muir woods and beyond to Stinson beach. I do love a good hike. We went out for my first ever real dim sum. They ordered in Chinese and everything they ordered was delicious. One of the things that I definitely learned in Ukraine was to eat the food placed in front of me without questions or fear and that was a skill that was definitely rewarded this weekend. We ate tons of real Chinese food and it was all so darn good! Lots of the time they spoke this great mix of English and Chinese that made me smile. It reminded me of the sugic we always spoke as missionaries.

Speaking of missionaries, today Winnie and I went on an eating tour of San Francisco that culminated in dinner at a Russian restaurant! I literally just ordered all my favorite Ukrainian foods: borsch, vinigarette salad, olivie salad, potato vareniki, cheese vareniki, and napoleon cake. I'm sitting in the airport now, and my hand luggage is definitely a bag of left overs and I cannot wait to get home and share them with my family. That food tasted like home and made me miss Ukraine so much that it hurts.

Monday, May 25, 2015


Of the past three weekends, I've spent two in Moab, which is probably why my new car now has over 2,000 miles on it. 

The first time we came down, we did so because Sam and I went skydiving. When we were in Hawaii, I decided I wanted to go skydiving. A few days later, Lorin jokingly sent me a groupon with an awesome deal, but then I actually bought it and I think it was less funny to him then. So Sam and I went skydiving. It was a little place down in Moab and we both got sick in the little, bumpy airplane up. The actual skydiving part was way fun and not even scary. Sam threw up in the air because of airplane motion sickness. Other than that, though, it was excellent.

Also, while we were in Moab we climbed to delicate arch, because that's like an obligatory thing to do in Moab. Judy could barely keep up with Sam and I, but she's 73, so that's probably okay. (After all, we get into the parks for free with her sweet golden age national park pass). We had to hurry her along, because it was threatening to rain. We made it to the car and 2 minutes later the rain started. It was a great little hike.

We were down this week with the whole family. It's been a great weekend. We went on a beautiful hike in Canyonlands. Shayna has become my mini-me and we have a good time together.

Lorin couldn't hike because his back is so bad (don't worry, he's getting surgery tomorrow and hopefully that'll make it better) so he brought his Polaris RZR down to go off-roading. He insisted that I drove a loop called Fins N Things. It was only somewhat horrifying. I've discovered I very much do not like off-roading. I have like an intense physiological reaction to the stress it puts on me. I'll stick to driving my Sub, thank you very much.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

evening in the library

I walked into the library with the big was transferring the wrong decision? hanging heavy. In class, one professor hated on unions and another made fun of Bruce Jenner. It was like she had literally never encountered transgender before. Last week a third spent an hour criticizing evolution. So I have my moments here at BYU. But I also had my English professor invite the entire class over to his house to get to know each other and eat home made cookies. I like the people in my classes. I have balance in my life. I've been here 3 weeks and haven't had to stay up past midnight once doing homework. I've gotten class high grades on every paper I've written so. I go to yoga a couple times a week. I feel good on campus. I feel more like a human being than a student. In many ways it is good.

Is that kinda like saying well, he's a racist but otherwise he's a great person? I don't know. Maybe. But be the change you wish to see in the world has never been so literal or real to me. It's a good place, and maybe in my little Hannah Pugh way I can make it better.

We spent an entire english class talking about Derrida, who I read at Swat, but really didn't understand until this class. I feel like what Derrida is essentially arguing is that people see the whole world and want to organize it so they put big red circles around arbitrary groups and put a word on it. Then that word becomes the way we see the world. It creates an illusion of definition. So this is feminine and this is conservative and this is smart and this is marriage. And then there is this conflict, because those big red circles have the illusion of being absolute but they are not. So when I use a word to describe myself, it creates this assumption that I fit in a circle. And I belong in the circle, but I don't. It's not so absolute. I hate the assumption created that I belong in the circle because of the language I use. Perhaps language has finally betrayed me.

Speaking of language betraying me, I spent 40 minutes trying to come up with one single word. I emailed 3 of my Waterford English teachers. Do you know how impossible it is to find a word you don't know on the internet? I knew that the word I was looking for started with an e and referred to a poem or section of a book from which the title is taken, for example the poem "Native Guard" is this to Trethewey's collection Native Guard. I finally impossibly found it on the internet by scanning through vast lists of literary terms. Eponymous. It actually doesn't mean quite what I thought it does, but is very close. Most of all I was just vastly relieved to find the word.

I've been doing research on Vietnam for a paper on The Things They Carried. And my research that started with literary critics, led me to the Vietnam war memorial page, where I spent way too long trying to find Tim O'Brien's friends' names on the wall (I found a few, based on nonfiction pieces O'Brien has written). It also led me on a long tangent on agent orange and it's birth defects. It's both grotesque and horrifically intriguing. So if you don't want to sleep tonight, google Vietnamese children agent orange birth defects. There are still orphanages full of kids suffering from it, which is awful.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Dinosaur Bones

I am now a BYU student and this is my life.

I wish the church hadn't waged a wore on leggings. It may be worse than the war on drugs.

Things are actually going really well. I am so happy to be back in English classes again. I love English classes. I am just an English major at heart. I haven't written anything academic in two years, and I'm already writing a lot. I forgot how rewarding and maddening and wonderful writing papers is. I love it. 

I think writing a paper is like someone giving you a small piece of land and a paintbrush and saying, "We know there's some sort of fossil here. Find it." At first you dig rapidly and eagerly with your hands through the grass, sand, and snow that might be the top layer. The prospect of finding a dinosaur is both exhilarating and overwhelming. Eventually, a few pieces of bones surface. Is that a tooth or a toe? You keep digging, ever growing more wary in this blind act of discovery. The most important thing is to keep going, because even if you don't find anything, at least now you know where not to dig, which is worth much more than it sounds like. You can try to systematically search the depths of this piece of earth, but in reality it is simply a confusing and messy process. You may think you have an idea of what you're searching for - triceratops were always your favorite dinosaur after all - but the more you dig the more meddled everything becomes until the dirt seems to have permanently entered your nose and brain and teeth. That's when it's time for your lunch break. 

You come back from lunch no longer hungry, but not eager to get back to the chaotic digging, which is when you notice all the disarrayed bones you dug up in your earlier fury. You squat down to examine them. That certainly looks like a shoulder. And a hind leg. Yes, this is definitely a dinosaur. You venture to guess it's actually a Brontosaurus, but people aren't even sure they ever existed anyway. So you keep going, looking for the characteristic Brontosaurus pieces. You dig again because damn there's actually a dinosaur here! Your boss comes by to look at what you've done and commends you for  what you've found but informs you that what you have on your hands is unquestionably a T. rex. This terrifies you because it nullifies all the work you did on that Brontosaurus you were building, but it is also thrilling because it's a bloody T. rex. You know there really is no dinosaur superior to the T. rex. You pull out that paintbrush you'd all but forgotten about and go to work meticulously cleaning and looking for missing vertebrae and claws. 

Later in the day, your boss comes by to congratulate you on the excellent dinosaur you have built and to give you another paintbrush and square of land. You start to protest that you aren't done with you T. rex yet - what about her eyelashes and fingernails? I can find those! - but then realize that you'll probably never be done with her. It might take working the rest of your life to make these 85 million years old bones shine like they just came out of your toddler's plastic toy kit. And then it hits you: you could stay here with your paintbrush and dinosaur and swatch of land for the rest of your life and you'd never have the perfect, complete dinosaur you envisioned when you started the project, because the earth did not fossilize all of her bones and even if she had your only tools are your hands and a paintbrush. So you give your dinosaur a nice name, preferably one that includes a colon like Moral Motherhood: Women’s Entrance into the Public Sphere and Achievement of Suffrage Through Embracing the Gender Ideals of the Cult of True Womanhood or Complaints Against Christians: Red Jacket’s Resistance of the Vanishing Indian Narrative Through the Othering of White Christianity and you walk away, having learned once again that Valery was probably right when he told us "a poem is never finished, only abandoned," but knowing deep within you'll never stop looking for the whole dinosaur in your little square of earth. That's why you like the digging, anyway.

And that's how we procrastinate writing a paper by writing about writing a paper, ladies and gents.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Sunday evening in Texas

I'm in Texas right now, visiting family and such. My little cousin got baptized yesterday. She insisted on drawing the cover for the program. I love that.

Right now my parents are sitting in the kitchen with my neurobiologist uncle Jason who is trying to explain his research to them. There is a lot of talk about synapses and receptors and transmitters. I just heard them say "post-synaptic membrane" and now they are talking about "gabba A and gabba B receptors" and which are "inhibitory". Lorin and Judy have one son who's an educational psychologist and one who's a neurobiologist and they are both trying to figure out how humans learn. They also have a daughter who just wants to read poetry. 

Texas is pretty nice and stuff. There's a trampoline at this house and I have greatly enjoyed it. I can sort of do a flip. As long doing a flip doesn't necessitate ending on my feet, but can end with me landing on my butt. I still count it as a flip. 

Whenever I miss Ukraine, which is often, I eat beet salad. I think Ukraine tastes like beets. That sweet but slightly earthy taste and the funny pink color somehow just pull me across the Atlantic back to the world of rolled Rs and a pretty cyrillic alphabet and small dirty buses we took everywhere. I mostly miss my friends, but sometimes I miss the place, too. I want to go back. Maybe next summer?

I don't really know what I want to do when I grow up. BYU is dumb and won't let me double major in nursing and English. I am dumb and insist on majoring in English. So I guess my plan right now is to go to BYU and major in English and get a minor in women's studies (which BYU doesn't call gender studies because they are far behind the times) and take tons of pre reqs and hopefully graduate by December 2017. Then go to grad school and do an accelerated nursing program (which is a 16 month bachelors in nursing) which flows immediately into a midwifery program. Hopefully up in Portland up at OHSU, because I've always dreamed of living in Portland and they have kind of the perfect program for me. But who knows. Maybe I'll get an MFA. Or get married. (but actually I am 20 and not ready to sail on that ship).

I think it's time for school to start. I've officially had too much vacation time.

Saturday, April 18, 2015


I bought a car. Or, I should say, Lorin bought me a car. Either way, I now have a car and a car loan.

(don't worry, it's not a serious car loan. Lorin just thought it would be good for me to start building credit).

My car is named Delilah. It's a new Subaru outback in this lovely twilight blue color. That's right, homegirl now drives a sub. Next step is to stop shaving my armpits. (Not actually going to happen). I haven't taken any pictures of it yet, but here's one I found on the internet.

The best thing about my new car is that it has all these features built for fools like me who can't really drive. If there's an object in front of you, it will break for you so you don't run into it. It has "adaptive cruise control" which means it sees the car in front of you and adjusts speed to keep a certain distance between you and them. It beeps if you start to drift our of your lane (or change lanes without signaling). It beeps at you if you're at a red light and the light changes and the car in front of you goes but you don't notice because you're texting. And, unlike my previous ridiculously powerful cylinder engine Lexus, it has a nice little engine that gets a combined 28 MPG. So basically it's perfect.

Road trip anyone?

Monday, April 13, 2015

New Plan

I'm dropping out of college (is it still dropping out if you've taken two years off? abandoning might be better. I'm abandoning college) to work full time for the Hillary campaign. She's not Elizabeth Warren and she's as establishment as they come and all politicians and liars and cheaters and crooks, but I have adored Hillary for years. You know she's got my vote (and the next 18 months of my life).

Friday, April 3, 2015

Book List Hawaii '15

The best part of ditching reality for Hawaii for a month is the time to read. The second best part is running every morning. The third best part is taking naps on the beach because getting up early and running several miles every morning makes me tired.

My reading list has been good. I just asked everyone for recommendations, so I got to read some of the best books from the past 18 months and to skip the lame books. It was a mixed success pattern. So, in the order I read them:

All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. I think everyone read this book months ago, so I put it at the top of my reading list and that was not a mistake. It took me until I was on the plane to Hawaii to actually start reading a book after coming home. I don't know why it took so long. Yes I do. Downton Abbey. Anyway, this was the perfect first book coming back. It pulled me in immediately. I'd forgotten how good it feels to be addicted to a book. It's the feeling of preferring the book's world over the real world. This book also reminded me how beautiful the sad moments in literature are. I love the father in this book almost as much as any father in any book ever (he and the dad from Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close could have been best friends in another world). It's so sickly satisfying to know what's going to happen but to love the characters too much to give up hope on their behalf. Books are the best.

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. Normally I don't do post-apocalyptic literature, but I saw tons of recommendations for this. Within the first few chapters, I realized that if there's an apocalypse, I hope I go early. I'm not one of those fierce survivors. Wipe me out with the rest of them. But I liked reading the book a lot. It was fun and interesting, but it had depth. I liked the constant presence of Shakespeare. Which brings me to...

King Lear by Shakespeare (obviously). Station Eleven left me with the urge to read this play. Truth be told, this is the first time I've ever read Shakespeare "for fun" (gasp). Also, pretty sure this is the first time I've read Shakespeare since high school. I don't mean to state the obvious, but Lear is really really sad. In a beautiful way, but a really really sad one. It was a more real kind of sad for me than Macbeth or Hamlet or Othello and I liked it for that. For once, I didn't actually know the plot of this Shakespeare before reading it. Spoiler: it ends like every other Shakespeare tragedy- really really sad.

Yes, Please by Amy Poehler. I had a moment sitting on the beach when I was like it's kinda pretentious to be reading Shakespeare on the beach and right now I want to be entertained more than anything so I opened the kindle store (I LOVE MY KINDLE) and downloaded the most entertaining thing I could find, Amy Poehler, obviously. I read the book cover to cover in a couple hours, and it was super entertaining, and the end of it I was kinda tired of Amy Poehler.

Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham*. This gets and asterisk because I didn't actually finish it. Lena Dunham is all the rage so I was like "sure I'll read her book." And I read a few chapters and skipped around and read a few more throughout the book, probably reading like 50% of it, then I realized I wasn't really enjoying it. I definitely saw the awesome fearless woman everyone loves and respected her for that, but I also felt like I'd read those same stories 120 other times on the Internet. So that's why I respect Lena Dunham but did not bother finishing her book.

All the Wrong Places: A Life Lost and Found by Philip Connors. I think books about suicide are some of the hardest to write, and I have major respect for Connors for this one. I liked it because it was honest. It was sad, but it didn't try to be sadder than it was. Sometimes it was funny. It was always interesting. But mostly, it was straightforwardly honest, in a way you have to be to write a book about a suicide. It's hard to write really honestly, because there's "honesty," which is just a certain kind of show put on for readers, and then there's real honesty.

Food Matters by Mark Bittman. Last November, I had 4.5 months left in Ukraine and decided to stop eating sugar. This is the point at which missionaries typically get into I don't want to go home except that I am so exhausted I can't go on much longer mode and I was feeling it start to creep in on me. But when I stopped eating sugar, I noticed I was less tired than I had been my entire mission. Seriously, I felt so much better. This little experiment has led to me an interest in health-related things. Anyway, I really liked this book and what Bittman teaches here. Which is why I'm a quasi-vegetarian again. Here I come Whole Foods.

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling. It was funny, it was entertaining, it was fine. I think it makes a better audiobook than real book, maybe? I like that she's smart and it comes through.

A Little More About Me by Pam Houston. I love Pam Houston. Cowboys Are My Weakness remains in my top 3 short story collections. I love that she is an adventurer and I love the way she loves the West. I super enjoyed reading this collection of essays. Among other things because it bolstered my insistence that I must trek in Bhutan.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Russians on the beach

On my inter-island flight last week, I sat in a 3 person row. Sitting next to me was a couple speaking a foreign language. I eavesdropped and was like "hey that sounds like my mission." Russians. Turns out they were from St. Petersburg. We talked the whole plane ride. Then this week sitting on the beach, there was another family speaking Russian on the lounge chairs next to me. They were from Moscow. I love finding Russians on the beach. It is the best.

Today was screw the diet and catch up on American food day. It included macaroni and cheese, popcorn, root beer, and mint chocolate chip ice cream. I have no regrets.

Lorin made the mistake of emailing me a groupon for skydiving in Moab. So Sam and I are going skydiving in May. I have never done groupon before and am afraid that I have embarked on a dangerous and expensive journey. I've been really, really good about not online shopping since coming back, but I think I may be a groupon sucker.

Judy and I went hiking in the forest this week. There was a huge ruckus through the trees and we got a glimpse of a huge black wild boar!  Fortunately, it ran away, because you don't really stand a chance if it charges you. After it was gone, I realized that my reaction to the boar was to grab Judy by the shoulders and hold her in front of me so she was between me and the boar. As in, that was literally what I did. So that was pretty shameful. Danger! Use grandma as a human shield!

We went whale watching and it was the best ever. It's baby whale season! We saw two of them and it was awesome. One of them was a newborn. You could tell because it still had white marks all over it from being curled up inside its mother's uterus. The babies were super playful and jumped and flapped their tales all over the place. It was awesome.

Yesterday, we went to a sushi restaurant. At the end of dinner, Judy opened her purse and realized she'd forgotten her wallet. So I sat at the restaurant as "collateral" while Judy went to get her money. But we'd walked over (since we are obsessed with our fitbits) so it took a while. After 20 minutes the waiter came over and whispered, "I'm sorry, but can I ask you to move to the waiting area. We need this table for a reservation." I don't know why he whispered, but I think he thought it was less shameful. Judy finally showed up and he rung her card. As he handed it back, he said, "don't forget your card." We went to get ice cream next door. It cost $11.02. Judy opened her wallet and realized that she had $10.77 cash and had left her card at the restaurant. They said they'd take the quarter out of the tip jar and call it a day. So that's the story about how Judy forgot her money for dinner twice in one hour.

We almost ran out of gas on the way to church today.

We go home on Tuesday night. No trip to Hawaii is ever long enough.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

A list of ten

10. We got kicked off the beach on Wednesday because there was a shark attack

9. It's been decided that I'm the only "true Pugh" in the family, because I'm the only one who actually likes nice things like Lorin and his siblings and his parents all do. 

8. My feet are still in not-so-pretty-after-the-mission mode, but lately I've been loving how they look so small and tough.  

7. I'm thinking I'll stop eating meat again, because it's so bad for the environment. But I don't really the "vegetarian" label. Also, I'm thinking I might like only eat meat on Wednesdays or something like that, because Chinese food.

6. BYU is insisting that I take freshman English, because apparently my Swat seminars just don't compare to BYU freshman English. grrrr

5. I spoke in church today even though I'm totally a visitor. I'm still not sure how that ended up happening. Last night I went to sleep having not really written my talk. I modified my homecoming talk a little and it worked fine.

4. It was cloudy yesterday and so I didn't want to wear sunscreen. I got burned like a lot.

3. I've sporadically added to a short "future husband must-have qualities" list over the past year. The first thing on the list is He must be cool with me driving the majority of the time. 

2. I SAW A BABY BE BORN THIS WEEK. (I went to Honolulu to visit some family friends, who's a doctor and is awesome and arranged for me to shadow all day at the hospital.) Once it was over I was like Yeah, that was incredible. I could totally see myself doing this for the rest of my life. 

1. I think this is my favorite picture from my mission. Can you tell how much I adore her?

Monday, March 16, 2015

Post-Mission Identity

I've thought a lot about the word missionary these past few weeks. Until 4 weeks ago, that word was a big part of my identity. When introducing myself, I always coupled that word with my name. Привет я Сестра Пью, я миссионерка церкви Иисуса Христа святых последнее дней. I remember how long it took people to understand me when I said that word in Russian. You're what? Missionary. What? Missionary! It was like I needed extra chances to confirm my identity. I am a missionary. A missionary. ME. A missionary. Missionary.

I think I did need extra time to embrace that identity. I hated being called Sister Pugh for the first five or so months. I was Hannah. I wasn't ready to give up my identity. And then, at a certain point, things changed. I realized that I wasn't becoming Sister Pugh at the expense of Hannah. I realized that somehow they would one day mesh together into something better. I got over the fear of losing myself to my name tag. I knew I was a missionary when I referred to myself as Sister Pugh inside my own head.

And then I came home and I wasn't Sister Pugh any more. I no longer introduced myself as a missionary. I became something different. I think that in that moment of loss for identity, I started reaching for words that described me, some old and some new. English major. Aspiring midwife. Mormon. Woman. Feminist. Liberal. Daughter. Writer. Reader. Thinker. Driver. We all know the words.

As I did that, I started feeling this pressure to live up to the labels There was tension between them. A feminist is supposed to be like this but a Mormon is supposed to be like this and there is a lot of conflict between those two supposed to bes. I started feeling trapped in a way I hadn't felt in a long time. It was like trying to run towards 8 people all at once; you can't take a single step towards one without betraying another.

Which led me to really think about the labels. When I came home, one of the strongest desires I had was to be true to myself and what I'd learned. I've never felt so free to be myself as I did on my mission. I realize that probably sounds ridiculous to many, because missionaries have so many rules and in so many ways are so the same, but on my mission, I was free from all the labels I'd previously picked for myself, because they simply didn't fit into what I was doing. I felt like, for the first time ever, I was being my real genuine self. It was a self I didn't even know I had, but there she was, waiting to be exposed under all the labels of what I thought I was or wanted to be. And I liked her a lot. I felt good.

One thing I've really come to understand these past weeks is that I am so over being defined by labels. I am rejecting the labels. I'm cutting myself lose from them. It's only been a couple weeks, but already I am so tired of feeling like I have to be certain things because of adjectives I use to describe myself. I want to be myself. I am way more interesting than that walking buzzfeed list of stereotypes I so often feel like I need to conform to. I am reclaiming that freedom to be myself and to be more complicated than any handful of words. I am claiming back the right to be authentic and confident and happy.

I'll tell you one thing I know am; I am a Ukrainian-kitchen dweller. I'll ever cherish all my hours spent in the kitchens of people I love baking, praying, eating, drinking tea, talking, learning, reading, laughing, sharing stories and becoming friends. Sometimes, when I miss Ukraine, I miss the kitchens the most. (And who I was in those kitchens.)

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Rainy Days on the Island

When I got my iPhone, they gave me a free fitbit. I had no idea what a fitbit was, since I'd only recently returned to civilization, but I've quickly figured it out and like it a lot. I bought myself a new pair of Tevas and I walk for miles in them every day. Judy and I have daily steps competitions. I always win, because I'm stupidly competitive. "I walked farther today than my grandma did." 

It's been rainy and cloudy most of the time we've been here. Under normal conditions, that would be sad, but since we've got a month here, we know the sun will come out eventually. So until we have beach days, I've been reading a lot, spending lots of time with my parents, and taking long walks alone on the beach catching up on 18 months of This American Life. I have a crush on Ira Glass.

We had one sunny day. We went to the beach. I went swimming for the first time in 18 months. It felt so good. I love swimming. I've always loved swimming. It's about freedom and independence. I love the ocean. I love having the ocean near. I think I am conquering my fear of sea turtles. (They sneak up on you while you swim and it's no small matter). 

Judy can never hear/understand anything I say. Lorin bought hearing aids a few months ago. When he emailed me about it, I was horrified, because hearing aids are for really old people. Turns out, the only thing worse than an aging parent with a hearing aid is one without it. I'm taking Judy to get her hearing checked when we go home, because I don't really want to spend the next 10 years repeating myself. I realize that it might be selfish to want her to get hearing aids for me, but as the only child living at home, I take that liberty.

I've been slowly catching up on news a little bit, including the Kate Kelly and John Dehlin excommunications. It makes me sad. It makes me grateful that I wasn't here to be in on that. Sometimes, it really is nice to just not know anything. Ignorance isn't always all that bad after all.

I've been working on managing my iPhone and internet and facebook. I think I let them take over my life a little bit too much when I came home. I installed an app on my phone that tracks how much I use my phone and kicks me off after an hour of use for the day. Wasting time has become something I hate about myself. The internet doesn't make me feel good. Facebook definitely doesn't. I'm learning to set limits for myself. 

I've been thinking a lot about living authentically. I definitely figured out how to live more authentically when I was across the ocean (I'm getting tired of the phrase "on my mission"). I want to keep ahold of that. Of not worrying so much about how I look to other people or on social media. Of not worrying about fitting the certain images. I'm a liberal, a feminist, a Mormon. I like hiking and running and horses. I like books and writing. But I'm trying not to let my images of what people who like those things should be control who I am, because I think I used to do that a lot. I'm trying to be my authentic self. It's harder than I thought. It takes a lot of deliberate choices. But, at the end of the day, I think it's good, because I feel a lot more peace in my heart, and I like that. 

I love this song. My best friend has always loved me for my poor taste in music and movies. I just love what's popular.

Monday, March 2, 2015


I'm not sure if I want to keep blogging. It's kinda something I'm still deciding. But today, I'm sick, I don't want to watch any more TV (I watched 2 seasons of Downton last week), and it's Monday, my email day, so I'm going to go ahead and blog.

I've spent the last two weeks spending time with all the people I love (including some long-overdue alone time). It's been great. I love talking about my mission. I haven't been awkward or weird. It's not been hard to adjust. I've enjoyed myself. And whenever I've talked with someone, the question I've eventually been asked is: "so what are your plans?"

Immediate plans include getting on a plane to Hawaii tomorrow and not coming back until March 31. While there, I plan to enjoy the 3 mile running loop, to catch up on all the books I missed on my new kindle, and to skype as many people in Ukraine as I possibly can. In April, I've got a cool little job-thing lined up, working for an awesome family. Also, I plan to buy a Subaru in the near future.

I decided a couple months ago that I want to be a midwife when I grow up. I decided to be a midwife because I loved being a missionary. I loved being part of women's lives, and fostering relationships with them while practically helping them and working towards something. That's what midwives do. Midwifery is flexible and can fit into literally any kind of life I end up having. I can be a midwife pretty much anywhere in the world. I can work how much or how little I want to. It's perfect.

The decision to be a midwife requires a nursing degree, then a graduate nursing degree in midwifery. Which meant Swat was out of the picture because they have no nursing program. I'd actually been feeling for several months that I needed to leave Swat and go to BYU, but I didn't understand why until I decided I wanted to be a midwife. So I transferred to BYU. So I start down there April 28. I'm planning on pursuing a double degree in nursing and English (because I just can't give up English just yet), which will require like 18-20 credits per semester for the next couple years, but I think I am up for it.

I'm a little nervous to start college again. I've got 18 credits for the spring/summer semester, which will be no easy walk in the park, especially since spring I'm taking two writing-intensive English classes that I'm hoping will whip me into shape after 2 years without writing college papers. I have to take Freshman English, but I'm taking it from my awesome 10th grade English teacher, so that will be fun, I think. It's a little scary, but it will be good.

Spring/summer I'm going to live with my good friend since 2nd grade, Sydney! She's the one who picked me up at the MTC curb two years ago, and I can't wait to live with her. Then in the fall, I'm going to live with my best companion, Sister Welling (whose real life name is McCall, but I'm still getting used to that). I'm excited to live with them.

And last night, I had a dream that a cowboy from Omaha asked me out. So maybe I'll run away with a cowboy after all.

All the love, nonetheless.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Homecoming Talk

One last Monday email! Here's my homecoming talk.

All the love,

Finding Joy in the Opposition

Right before my mission, I wrote in my journal the following quote, “I’ve learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way she handles these three things: rainy days, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights.” It made me smile, but also I think it perfectly encompasses what I’d label the biggest thing I learned on my mission: how to be happy. What I learned is that my ability to be happy in life is largely determined by how I respond to struggles, setbacks, and opposition, BUT that happiness is never out of reach.

On my mission, I served in four areas, 3 of which I white-washed, which means my companion and I came in together, both new to the area, so neither of us knew anyone or how to get anywhere, and we had no investigators. So I definitely had a lot of times that plans fell through (or never were), that we were hopelessly lost, and that things just fell apart a little bit. I remember my fifth transfer we taught two lessons with investigators the entire six weeks. Yet that was one of the best times. I think that because I was often starting from scratch, I learned to laugh at the mishaps and take things in stride. I cherish the memory of my first ever Ukrainian FHE because the family spoke a crazy mix of Ukrainian and Russian, I was more than a little jet lagged, and we got stuck in an elevator for 30 minutes. 

In a devotional talk given some 40 years ago, President Hinckley quoted a newspaper columnist who wrote, “Life is like an old-time rail journey—delays, sidetracks, smoke, dust, cinders, and jolts, interspersed only occasionally by beautiful vistas and thrilling bursts of speed. The trick is to thank the Lord for letting you have the ride.” 

I think the ability to be grateful for the ride is vital, but is rarely something we can simply obtain on our own. I am personally of the opinion that happiness is a spiritual gift, which Heavenly Father gives us when we try to be happy regardless of our circumstances. I don’t think it’s always possible on our own to be happy, but I know that if we want it, He will always help us to be happy. D&C 11:13 reads “I will impart unto you of my Spirit… which shall fill your soul with joy.” The Spirit brings a resilience, and is a source of happiness that doesn’t wax and wane with the circumstances.

I had the chance to teach a 22-year old young woman named Katya a couple months ago. When we first met her, she was depressed, completely unhappy, and had absolutely no light in her life. She started spending time with the missionaries, and slowly by slowly started to feel the Spirit. I saw a bigger change in her than in any other person I taught. She started talking more, then smiling, then she’d laugh when we played games. She started to tease people and give hugs. After a few months she decided that she wanted to be baptized on Christmas day and she was as happy at her baptism as anyone I ever saw. When I talked to her about how she made that decision, she said “I just feel good here. My life situation hasn’t changed, but I am happy now.”

If we want it, Heavenly Father makes the difference for us.

As you probably know, the past year has been very tumultuous for the country of Ukraine. A revolution in February has led to a bit of a war that still continues on. Many, many people living in the cities where the war is have fled to Kyiv and other cities. I don’t claim any expertise on the political situation or these refugees, but I did have the chance to work with a some of them in the past few months. 

A lot of those that have left are, understandably, angry, afraid, and hopeless. Their mad their lives were completely uprooted by Putin and co, they fear things won’t get better, and they have no hope that they will be able to build a good life anytime soon or ever again. Among the people who have fled are many members (there were about 5 branches in the cities where the war is the worst). And the difference between them and other refugees is stark. They find reasons to be happy and things to be grateful for. They’re different.

Last July I met a woman named Natasha, who became one of my dearest friends. The city where she and her family used to live, Lugansk, has been completely destroyed by the war, and they literally fled from bombs and gunfire. It was definitely not an enviable situation. Over the next couple months, I was so lucky to spend quite a bit of time with Natasha. She couldn’t find work, so she spent her time either in the temple or with us. Because of her, two of our investigators were baptized. And in all the time I spent with her, I never once heard her complain about anything. What I heard, over and over again, was her testimony, her faith, and her gratitude. She found ways to be happy, despite having her life run over with a bulldozer. That woman is an angel if I ever knew one. 

Her life and the lives of other refugees I met exemplify a statement made my Richard G Scott - “Sadness, disappointment, and severe challenge are events in life, not life itself. I do not minimize how hard some of these events are. They can extend over a long period of time, but they should not be allowed to become the confining center of everything you do. The Lord inspired Lehi to declare the fundamental truth, “Men are, that they might have joy.” That is a conditional statement: “they might have joy.” It is not conditional for the Lord. His intent is that each of us finds joy. It will not be conditional for you as you obey the commandments, have faith in the Master, and do the things that are necessary to have joy here on earth.” 

I know that Heavenly Father really does want His children to find joy and be happy and that He has given us His gospel so we can do so. Alma described the best part of being a missionary, “that perhaps I may be an instrument in the hands of God to bring some soul to repentance... And behold, when I see many of my brethren truly penitent, and coming to the Lord their God, then is my soul filled with joy” (Alma 29:9-10). Being able to see people repent, start living the gospel, and meet the conditions on which they can find joy in this life is the greatest privilege of missionary work. 

My favorite person in all of Ukraine is named Ira. I wish she was here so you could all meet her, because she is truly spectacular. She makes me as happy as any person on the planet. I was very blessed to be able to teach her, see her change, be at her baptism, and come back a few months later when her husband was baptized. Ira spoke at his baptism. She described her parallel journey of meeting and marrying him as well as finding the church. She said, “When Makcim and I were married, life was good. I thought everything was in it’s place. But now, today, I see that everything really is in it’s place.” Ira found the joy which Heavenly Father has prepared for each of us. 

I said earlier that I believe that happiness is determined by how we respond to opposition. Which is true. But I think that oftentimes, the opposition takes the form of human weakness. We are all so wonderfully imperfect. What I realized on my mission is that people are basically good and are basically trying. We all make so many honest mistakes, but they are just that: honest mistakes. Figuring this out made me much happier and really changed the way I relate to myself and to others. It became so much easier to forgive, both myself and others, once I stopped blaming for falling short, and saw that whatever happened, we are all so genuinely trying to do what’s right. Elder Maxwell long ago talked about the importance of doing this. He described the culture he grew up in, in which “we made room for each other to grow, to make dumb mistakes, to repent.”

I served in two very small branches in little cities, one 125 miles west of Kyiv, the other 125 miles east of it. Neither branch was especially big or especially strong; there were about 30 people at sacrament meeting on Sundays, and I had lots of chances to give impromptu talks and Sunday school lessons, because either they weren’t assigned or those assigned didn’t quite get their acts together. I loved serving in these branches. I love my members there. I think I would best describe these branches as wonderful but terribly dysfunctional. There were so many instances of things temporarily going up in flames. At first, it was so terribly frustrating for me to serve in these places. I was like, “can’t you see your doing this all wrong?” But over time, I learned to see how they were really just doing their best. I frequently pondered D&C 46:9, that blessings “are given for the benefit of those who love me and keep all my commandments, and him that seeketh so to do.” In all their craziness, they were genuinely seeking to do what they were supposed to. I realized that that should be enough for me because it was enough for the Lord. That made it much easier to love them and help them, and much more enjoyable to serve around them.

This also applied to myself. When I’d make a mistake or mess something up, I initially would be really frustrated with myself. “Fool, why’d you go and do that.” But I learned to look at myself and say “well, I was genuinely trying to do what I thought was right, so it’s okay. I can’t ask for anything more.” I think I learned to be happy because I learned to give myself credit for trying to do good and to be good. I came to really love D&C 100:12 “continue your journey and let your hearts rejoice; for behold, and lo, I am with you even unto the end.” The Savior is with us and has already got all of our shortcomings covered. He just wants us to keep going and to allow ourselves to be happy.

Freedom to be happy is found when we learn to face our imperfections not with anger or frustration, but with the Savior. In general conference a year ago, Elder Bednar said, “the Savior has suffered not just for our sins and iniquities—but also for… our weaknesses and shortcomings… There is… no infirmity or weakness you or I ever confront in mortality that the Savior did not experience first.” I so love the words found in D&C 67:13, “continue in patience until ye are perfected.” Our job is not to perfect ourselves. Our job is to continue on until HE perfects US. 

I can’t say I mastered Russian in any degree. I would describe my Russian as thoroughly mediocre. I can communicate my thoughts alright, but it was definitely not one of my greatest strengths as a missionary. And for a while, it killed me that I couldn’t figure it out. Mid-mission, there was a period of time when I dreaded having to have a conversation, because I hated the blank look on their face when they didn’t understand me and I hated the way it made me feel. I said to myself “I should be better than this by now.” As I worked through that, though, the Lord helped me see that it was okay to have mediocre Russian if I was doing my best. I saw that I was more than my Russian. I will never be remembered by the people of Ukraine for my Russian or for being a super-speaker, but before I left, someone wrote me a note that said, “We’ll always remember your smile” and that meant so much more to me.

With the Russian situation, I had to learn not to have my worth as a person connected to my performance in Russian. Over and over again I thought of the words of an essay I was sent while in the MTC. “You can have worthiness apart from your performance… Your identity does not have to be rooted in accomplishments. You can be loved for who you are, not for what you’ve done.” I’m still working on embracing this, but I can say that to the degree I have, I have become so much happier. I stopped comparing myself to others. I stopped focusing on receiving praise. I was able to much more genuinely love and be loved by those around me.

Another thing I was able to do because of this is let myself fail. My worth wasn’t determined by my success. Consequently, on my mission, I learned to enjoy trying lots of different things, things I would not have otherwise tried because I feared failure. It became a lot more fun to make phone calls (no small feat in Russian), to talk to the woman sitting next to me on the bus, to teach a Sunday school lesson, because I could do my best and be happy with my efforts, regardless of how it actually turned out. I could make a blunder of the whole thing, and still walk away smiling. It became fun just to try.

As I started trying more things that scared me, I learned about faith. I used to think that the spiritual gift of faith was a really strong testimony and beautiful, meaningful prayers. And for some people it is probably like that. But for me, as faith works in my life, it’s much more connected to action. It is the moment when I do something I don’t want to do, or something that doesn’t make much sense to me, because I believe it’s what the Lord wants me to do. It’s the feeling of standing on the high dive and jumping off even though every part of me says not to. It’s living the process which my mission president often described as “conquering fear with faith.” As I have learned to do this, I have seen the fulfillment of the promise found in Proverbs 16:20, “whoso trusteth in the Lord, happy is he.”

One of my favorite quotes comes from Terry Tempest Williams. She wrote, “I learned… that what I love can kill me, knock me down, and threaten to drown me with its unexpected waves…I learned I can survive what hurts. I believe in my capacity to stand back up and run into the waves again and again, no matter the risk.” I am so grateful that I was able to learn similar things the past 18 months, and that I was able to find so much joy doing it. 

Close with testimony.

Monday, February 16, 2015

The Last Letter

It's not real that this is my last letter as a missionary. Tomorrow I get on a plane and tomorrow I take off my tag and tomorrow is the end.

I was doing alright until this morning when I put the lock on my last suitcase and it hit me: I don't really want to come home at all. I slept with my tag on last night, because, you know, не хочется прощаться.

Thank you so much for sticking with me the past 18 months. Thank you for letters, emails, packages, notes. Thank you for prayers. Thank you for remembering me. I'll see you all this Sunday, I suppose.

This past week has been incredible and terrible and full. I got to say goodbye to almost every person I've loved in Ukraine, mostly in person. I don't think I've ever felt more love (or more loved) than I have this past week. Due to a small (or not so small) miracle, I even had the chance to see several of my favorites from Chernigov and Zhytomyr. I spent two wonderful days in Voskrecensky saying goodbye to everyone I love there. I went to a funeral while I was there and sang "God be with you till we meet again" in Ukrainian and felt like I was living "the other side of heaven" and felt like my heart was being squeezed through a juicer. I went to the Kyiv temple one last time.

I don't really know how to wrap this all up. There aren't words. I haven't figured it all out. In some ways, I can't believe the past 18 months have been real. I pinch myself. I have learned so much. I have loved so many people. I have been so happy. It has truly been the best journey of my life.

I say almost daily "on my mission I have learned [blank]." That prayers are answered. That kindness helps people change. That no smile or hug is wasted. That you can love anyone. That all people are basically good and are basically trying. That it is good to be thankful. That fasting works. That He sends us the people, circumstances, and experiences we need. That saying goodbye hurts, but it's a good kind of hurt. That miracles are real. That the Spirit really leads us. That the Lord is in the small things. That working hard and setting goals brings joy. That gratitude brings joy. That repentance brings joy. That people can change. That I can change. The list is long.

But if I had to narrow it down to the single most important thing I learned on my mission, I think it would probably be how to be happy.This has been the happiest time of my life. I've learned to give up what I want and do what He wants. Before my mission, I understood this just a little bit, but over the past 18 months I have seen again and again and again how beautifully it works in my life. There have been many moments which required sacrifice and "jumping off the high dive," exercising faith to do something I didn't want to do. But time after time it held true that His way was better, and what I got at the end was so much more than what I had before. It is my testimony that there's no happier or more peaceful way to live than following the Savior. When we do that, and truly have the Spirit as our constant companion, the world becomes brighter and we take on a whole new light. It's beautiful in the most simple and pure way.

I can't say how much I love my mission. But I will forever be grateful for the past 18 months.

Со всей любовью,

Сестра Пью

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Monday, February 9, 2015

Five year mark, Chocolate, Chernigov

I refuse to accept that this might be my last email home, so I'm gonna keep pretending that somehow I'll squeeze one out next Monday, too. But, in case I don't, this is your formal invitation to my HOMECOMING Sunday the 22nd at 9am at the church on 10945 South 1700 East in Sandy. While I've been assigned a topic, I'm thinking I'll go rouge and either discuss Kolob or plural marriage. 

This week was my companion's five year mark as a member of the church! We celebrated by getting sushi (she inexplicably really loves sushi and it is adorable). She is seriously such an incredible missionary. I loved thinking about how five years ago she was a sweet little investigator who the missionaries undoubtedly loved to pieces. And now she's already this incredible strong and powerful missionary. It's just the coolest little circle of the church in Ukraine. 

Last Pday I went to this place called Lviv Chocolate with Ira. They have hot chocolate that is literally hot chocolate. They have great vats of melted chocolate and you pick if you want dark, white, or milk. I used to think a chocolate fountain was the best thing ever. Turns out it's the second-best chocolate-related thing ever. Plus everything's more fun when Ira's involved.

Oh. My elevator is broken. It's funny, because I thought nothing else in my mission could break. We live on the ninth floor. So it's fine for now. But good heavens everyone start praying that the elevator starts working before next Monday or our elders are going to have to carry my two fifty-pound suitcases down nine flights of stairs.

I went to Chernigov this week! IT WAS THE BEST. First of all, I adore Sister McInnes and was so happy to spend a few days with her. We stayed up way to late talking and ate way too much junk food and it was perfect. Plus I got to see all my favorite people. It was so good, because it was just fun and not sad. Sometimes, when you see people for the last time, it's really sad because you spend the whole time saying goodbye. But somehow it just worked out that I just got to spend time with the people I loved and then said goodbye quickly at the end. It was perfect. I'm going to Voskresensky this week to say goodbye (have an exchange #STL), so I'm hoping that will be equally as perfect.

The Chernigov sisters teach institute (because everyone else there has been baptized in the past 2 years and can't do it) so I got my hands on a D&C institute manual. That thing is like crack. Seriously, I could NOT stop reading and finding out random deep doctrine not really related at all to missionary work but still just interesting to know. When I come home I am running away to a cave and not coming out until I've read at least 12 books. 

Also while I was in Chernigov, it snowed! Winter hasn't really happened lately, but she reappeared this week. I took a MAJOR wipe-out on the ice and the next day my back hurt it was no fun to walk. I was kinda grumpy all day and now have more compassion for old people (cough cough Lorin) who get grouchy when their back/knees/hips hurt.

Right now, every single person we are teaching has a major connection to the war in one way or another, including a few refugees from Lugansk and a woman whose husband was taken into the army. Something that I've noticed with them is this fear they carry with them. Before the war, they all had nice lives they'd built for themselves, lives which have now been majorly destroyed. Now, they're afraid to build again because they've seen how it can all be destroyed. As I've worked with them, it has really increased my gratitude for the Savior and that because of Him we can build things even Putin can't destroy. Because of the Atonement, we can build without fear of it all being destroyed or becoming meaningless. We know there are things that will last forever, things that have eternal worth and value. And that is just the best.

All the love,

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Monday, February 2, 2015

18-month mark!

Saturday was my 18-month mark on my mission. WHAT. I know, that flew by. I feel like it's been 7 months. A year and a half sounds soooo long, but really it wasn't long at all. So good. Anyway, I'm pretty sure that means the next two weeks are overtime, so I get like time-and-a-half blessings, right? haha. No. I'm super glad I still get two weeks more. It's more like a Christmas bonus than overtime. Anyway.

Saturday was the best day. Ira's husband Maxim got baptized! We got to go to the baptism and it was just an awesome baptism. They're a great couple. Ira spoke and even though it was in Ukrainian and I didn't understand it all, I was so proud of her. She said, "today, it seems to me that everything is in it's place." And that summed it all up beautifully.

One of the fun things about having a companion who is new(er) in the mission (she's been out 5 months) is that you get to do things for the first time. This week I took her tracting for her first time. She was nervous and not all about it. But she enjoyed it in the end. She's awesome.

There's this American family who lives in our ward and come here even thought they don't speak a ton of Russian because the international ward is too far away. We went over to their house for FHE on Monday and it was so... American. I also bought a pair of jeans this week. So that's the update in the "preparing to come home" front.

We had a cool little experience with our investigator Ludmila this week. We gave her the Book of Mormon and randomly gave her 2 Nephi 29 to read. It's the first time in my mission I've given that chapter as a first reading, but that's how it happened. The next day we called her to see how it went. She said, "well, you know I live in a hostel with other people from Lugansk. When I brought my book home they all criticized me for it and said 'why another Bible? The Bible is sealed. You can't write any more scripture.' but I read anyway. And it was such a miracle, the Book itself answered their questions. The chapter was all about the Bible and the Book of Mormon." So that was a very neat little moment. Missionary work is the coolest.

All the love,

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Monday, January 26, 2015

A little bit of blaspheme and a monkey on the metro

This week just FLEW by. I come home in 3 weeks? What? Yesterday it struck me how much I am going to miss going to church in this country. 

During Sacrament meeting, a woman who is a photographer talked about how 5 years ago, she did a photo session for a girl and told her a little bit about the church. This past week, she ran into the girl who sense then has been baptized and whose husband is getting ready for baptism. Yep, that girl was Ira! How cool is that?

Second hour was about John the Baptist. The teacher decided to use some film clips to help illustrate the story. But she decided to use some film that was 20-30 years old and decidedly not produced by the church. John looked a lot like the Geico caveman and just went around screaming at everyone. And he baptized by pouring a hand full of water on people's heads. So that was how he baptized Jesus. I'm not sure if that constitutes blaspheme, but it was pretty entertaining at any rate.

Third hour, one of the RS announcements was the following: in case of bombing, the only safe places in Kyiv are the metro and the temple. 

Speaking of the metro, yesterday there was a monkey on the metro and it was awesome. Some guy put his pet monkey in a warm coat and put a leash on it and just brought it on the metro. The monkey ran around on the handrails.  I greatly enjoyed it.

I went on an exchange this week with Sister Steinacker, who is awesome and AMERICAN. I don't think I stopped talking the entire 24 hours we were together. Being able to communicate fluidly in English with no cultural or language miscommunication was so liberating. Which is not to say I don't love Sister Pugachova, because I adore here. We do have our fair share of miscommunication though.  

Our washing machine finally got fixed this week! Did I tell you it was broken? For the first 2+ weeks here, our washing machine didn't work. So that was not convenient at all. I can now say I've gone without electricity, hot water, and a washing machine in Ukraine. Does that count as roughing it yet?

Saturday night some of my FAVORITE members from Chernigov called me and were like "hey, what are you doing tonight? We're at the temple and have a few free hours." So we spent our dinner hour getting dinner with them. It was AWESOME. I think the hardest part of the mission is not getting to see all my friends often enough. I missed them.

Speaking of seeing my friends, I had a total miracle moment this week. Kyiv is a fairly large city, with lots of transport. At one point this week, I was sitting on a marshrutka when I saw this familiar red scarf and black hair get on. NATASHA. (Eva's aunt from Voskresensky, if you don't remember her. She's definitely on my list of top 5 favorite people in Ukraine). So I ran up and sat with her and got to talk for like 20 minutes. It was so incredible to see her, and just such a wonderful little miracle. She doesn't even live in my area. The chances of us being on the same bus are like 0. But things like that just seem to somehow happen all the time. And it is wonderful.

All the love,

PS. Metro ad word of the day - lagniappe: a small gift given a customer by a merchant at the time of a purchase

Monday, January 19, 2015

Meat Jello

Well, I finally had my run in with the worst of Ukrainian food. It's called holodets. It is meat jello. Literally. I've been fed it from time to time, but always on the table with masses of other food, so I've been able to get away with "I'll just try it." But yesterday, we visited this rockstar babuska. She's 77 and super bright and funny and awesome. We finished our lesson and she was like "and now I want to feed you really, really well." This was followed by two ENORMOUS plates of meat jello. I ate it all (mostly without chewing, obviously) and I'm pretty sure I get extra missionary points for that.

My companion talks in her sleep in Russian. Not the normal mumbling sleep talk, but genuine conversational tone, clearly formed words and sentences sleep talking. It is adorable and I love her for it. 

We met with a member this week who was just telling us about herself and such. (We've been doing that a lot since we're both new to the area and we know no one and no one knows us). She told us how she got baptized 20 years ago. Her husband was a sailor so she waited a few months for him to come back so they could be baptized together. She talked about how nerve-wracking those few months were for her, because she was very worried she wouldn't have time to get baptized before the Second Coming. I find that completely endearing and adorable. 

I spent an entire language study this week reading old letters people have sent me (yes, I know that is not actually langauge study). It made my day. Thank you all for the many letters and such. I also finished Jesus the Christ for the second time this year. I love that book. There's just so much good there. 

We were on the metro this week and it was like 4 and so we were understandably kinda sleepy... we both fell asleep. We weren't sitting next to each other, because on the metro there are never seats next to one another. I woke up one stop after our official stop and ran off at the next one to get back. Sister Pugachova woke up two stops later. Luckily, since we are leadership we both have our own phones (that could be another paragraph in and of itself; having my own phone is SO WEIRD and kinda like pseudo preparation for coming home), so we called each other and met up and all was well. But it was a weird 20 minutes sitting alone in the metro station. So weird. 

I was at the office this week and I saw Mama Gorbach from Chernigov! She gave me a huge literally-lifted-me-off-the-ground hug and it was adorable. I adore that woman. I know way too many good people.

There's an English school who has a subway advertisement campaign where they but a big English word, a picture, and a Ukrainian translation on the little add. I know what like a sixth of the English words mean and it makes me feel dumb. But my English vocabulary is growing, so that's a positive!

As everyone has taken to reminding me, I come home in slightly less than a month. But I had a wonderful moment this week when I realized that's okay. I was standing by the window, eating an apple, staring out at the rainy streets of Kyiv and I realized it's all going to be okay. We have so much good stuff going on here, and we're seeing miracles up the wazoo, and it's alright that I'm coming home soon. I feel peaceful about it. It was just a moment where I felt "it's good that I am where I am" in like all aspects of everything. It was sweet.

All the love,

Monday, January 12, 2015

Center Kyiv is good

New years is hard. It took me until the 7th to write the correct year in my journal. 

Leaving Chernigov was hard. We dealt with our feelings by eating. Everyone fed us so much. I had no complaints.

I was really worried about coming here. President gave me a pep talk at transfers. I needed it.

My companion is adorable and I love her. She's from a little city in central Ukraine. She's been a member for 4 years, and is the only member in her family. She's an incredible missionary. Our first day together, she put a ton of sriracha on her food thinking it was ketchup. Ukrainians hate spicy food. It was both pathetic and endearing. 

We spent a lot of time on the streets the past few days. It's pretty cold, but there still isn't really snow, so that is a blessing. We're working hard though. I am happy.

This ward is incredible. The first person baptized in Ukraine is in my ward. The oldest living member is in my ward. An area 70 is in my ward. This ward is full of the people who really built the church in this country from the beginning and they are simply stunning. I am so lucky to be here.

All the love,

Fwd: The Twelth Transfer

This morning was kinda traumatic. I found out I'm coming home on the 17th instead of the 18th. You wouldn't think it would be a big deal, but it just is somehow. So, since I'm dealing with a minor case of PTSD, this email will be short.

I was sad to see 2014 die. 2014 was my "tunnel year" aka the entire year I spent on a mission. Probably the best year ever. (I seem to have a lot of superlatives lately, don't I). I don't have the words, nor am I going to try to summarize all it means to me. 

In news world, my last transfer starts this week. 6 weeks from tomorrow I will be wheels down in SLC. Crazy. Incidentally, I am being transferred. Definitely did not expect that at all. I'm going to center Kyiv, Pechersky, it's called. I'm white-washing it (my companion is also brand new to the area). It's the biggest area in the mission, so that won't be hard at all (HA HA HA). It's going to be hard but it'll be an adventure. The prettiest parts of Kyiv are now my area, so that makes me happy. If I have to have many long, cold hours on the streets, at least it'll be pretty. The good news is that I'm back in leadership which means I'll get to go back to Chernigov AND to Vockresensky on exchanges, so that is a lovely little blessing. My new companion is awesome and from Ukraine! 

Chernigov has been great. I wore my vyshivanka to church yesterday and ever single member told me I was beautiful. Vyshivankas are magic. I've loved this place because I have just seen so many people change a lot, especially considering I was only here 3 months. It's been great.

All the love,