25 December 2011

Happy Sunday: Christmas Past

The following is a letter I wrote home during my mission right after Christmas.  I still look back at that humble Christmas in Moldova as one of the most poignant and memorable of my life.  Enjoy this walk with me down memory lane.  And Merry Christmas!  God bless you all. 

Downtown Chisinau with a bunch of the youth from Church on Christmas Eve

Craciun fericit from Chisinau, where the sludge piles are big and the fur hats are bigger.  I haven't given in yet, but a number of my colleagues have purchased the stereotypical Russian furry hat.  The kind that looks like a giant raccoon is just sleeping on your head.  They're quite urban and hip here, but I doubt they'll ever catch on to western fashion.  And by "I doubt," I mean, "I hope they never do in a million gazillion years."

Hat Party on Christmas day at the mall
Moldovan Public Transportation Spotlight:  Maxi Taxis.  Maxi Taxis are about the size of the big white YMCA vans we used to take on field trips. There are 15 seats on a Maxi Taxi but anywhere between 30 and 800 passengers.  I have spent a fair share of time traveling across Chisinau literally smashed up against a window or smothered in the cavity of a large Moldovan man's armpit.  During moments like these I am particularly grateful that it's not summer.  There are no Maxi Taxi stops---you can get on or off wherever you want.  But the drivers are maniacs and hardly slow down enough to let you get through the door.  A ticket is 3 lei (about 20 cents) and you just pass your money up through the hoards of people until it makes it to the driver, then he passes back your change and it eventually makes it into your hands.  A couple weeks ago, on an extra crowded ride, someone had the nerve to fart.  I won't even bother to describe how joyful the rest of the ride was. 

Elder Goodwin celebrating the only way he knows how
Christmas: On Christmas morning, I decided the best thing I could do to feel the Christmas spirit would be to read the story of Christ's birth in Luke chapter 2.  As I read, I was overwhelmed with the simplicity of it all.  A simple young woman, a simple carpenter, a simple manger, some simple animals and simple shepherds, and a simple holy infant.  Despite such a humble setting and circumstances, the birth of our Savior was nothing short of the most glorious event in the history of the world. I thought about what we have turned Christmas into.  A big, expensive, flashy, materialistic disaster.  Why do we have to make things so complicated?  Every Miss America, presidential candidate, and grocery store produce stocker has longed for world peace.  But do they really?  Do we even know where to start to attain such an ambition?  Reading Luke 2 was a sobering reminder that true peace is in the simplest of forms.  Never have I felt so peaceful---never have I felt the love of my Heavenly Father so strongly---than when I was reflecting on the simple birth of Jesus Christ, who came into the world to redeem the world because of a simple, pure love.  My challenge to all of you is to read Luke 2, in a quiet place, free from distraction, and ponder on the implications of the Nativity and how it directly affects your life---how it was indeed a personal, individual Christmas gift to you from a Father in Heaven who loves you.

My sweet, CRAZY Ukrainian companion, Sora V.

Sora Holden

23 December 2011

Progression Into Adulthood

How do I know I am becoming an adult?  Well, there are certain milestones by which I can measure my progress.  I hit one of them a couple days ago at our annual O'Brien Family Christmas Cookie Decorating Extravaganza:  I was the cookie maker.  The one who is stuck in the kitchen rolling out the dough, meticulously selecting cookie cutters based on this year's popular demand, and pumping out sugar cookies by the hundreds to keep the decorators satisfied.  I've never been on this end before.  All my life, it has been my mom.  But since she had to work a little late, I was appointed to fill her post.  I felt like a real adult.  Like I was going through some rite into O'Brien womanhood.  Like when you graduate from the Kid's Table and get to sit with the Grown Ups.  And then I just felt old and exhausted and longed to go back to the Kid's Table and do the decorating, which is obviously the funnest part.  

A toast to never growing up!

In the Spirit of Christmas

As Christmas Day approaches, my thoughts have been more and more drawn to the Savior, particularly his miraculous coming into this world. I cannot say the same every Christmas. It seems that my appreciation for the true meaning of this sacred holiday has only surfaced within the last few years. I have fond childhood memories of organizing and reorganizing all the presents under our tree. One could say it was my OCD, but I would argue it was my vanity speaking. I remember waking up at some ungodly hour in the morning to rip open the contents of my stocking, some times being disappointed that the quantity of socks out-numbered that of candy.

And how abruptly it all ends. All the anticipation and preparation of Christmas climaxes at a room piled high with new things and strewn with crumpled up balls of wrapping paper. Suddenly, holiday music seams out of season. Sure, we have our new toys to try out in the driveway, but nothing new to look forward to. The post-Christmas blues. You know what I'm talking about. So long as materialistic objects are the source of our Christmas spirit, that is how it will always be. Never completely satisfying.
My Christmas list has gotten increasingly shorter as my testimony of Jesus Christ has grown. And I've noticed how the season tends to be drawn out even past December 25th as He as been the source of my Christmas spirit. I feel so much more fulfilled. Joyful. A lasting joy. Perhaps this is a symptom of maturing. I also find myself tearing up at even the most rote Christmas song. That's probably just a symptom of woman-ness, though I'd like to think spirituality has something to do with it.

What is it that puts you in the Christmas mood? And more importantly, how do you make that mood endure into the new year?

11 December 2011

Happy Sunday: A Christmas Message

This is the Christmas devotional given by the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  Watch it with an open heart and mind, and remember the Reason for the season.

10 December 2011

The Racial Slurs I am Allowed to Say

So I'm wrapping up with a sociology class on racial minorities.  I'd venture to say it's the most diverse class on BYU campus, which isn't saying much.  But the 5 black students, the 2 Mexicans, the Kiwi girl, and a smattering of Tongans keep it flavorful and applicable.  When we watch Civil Rights documentaries we can all awkwardly stare at the black kids and see how they react.  And when we read a book called "Mongrels, Bastards, Orphans, and Vagabonds" about Mexican immigration to the U.S., we have living representatives of Mexican-American assimilation right there in the classroom.  Sadly, however, class is never as spicy as I'd expect it to be, considering the controversial topics we discuss.  I'm always secretly hoping one of the minority students will get worked up into a sort of "I Have a Dream" speech, or share some crazy personal soap-box story about how they were born in the back of a car that was speeding away from Border Patrol.  Gosh dang it, why are you all so satisfied and content to be living in Provo (which is basically Narnia, after being cursed by the White Witch)????

The first video was shared with me by my former roommate and long-time Japanese friend, Katie.  So now I'm totally allowed to say this. (Warning: language)

The second is in honor of the O'Brien side of my family, so I'm allowed to say this as well.  

09 December 2011

Lila Bieber

My roommate has the voice of an angel.  It's like a thousand caged butterflies being released into the sky.  It's like sugary, cream cheese-based frosting that spreads and melts over a hot cinnamon roll.  It's like someone delicately stroking your back during church.

I want her to go the way of The Bieb and become famous over YouTube.  So, for my readers who aren't active on Facebook, I present to you: Lila Debenham!

05 December 2011

The iPod Experiment

Last Christmas my sweet mother gifted me with an iPod.  I didn't ask for one (shoot, I hadn't even listened to normal music yet, since I had been home from my mission for only 9 days).  In fact, I never had any desire to have one.  I figure that she probably thought I was some weird girl who had trouble picking up on social cues.  "Earth to Sarah, it's 2010 and you don't own an iPod.  Most people are on their third or fourth one by now.  Get with it."  And thus, the iPod that I had been adamantly avoiding for so many years was thrust upon me.

Why be an iPod hater?  I really have only one reason.  But it's a solid one.  I find it indescribably annoying when peoples' ears are constantly jammed with head phones or ear buds or any sort of listening device that--intentionally or not--screams to the world: "Don't talk to me!."

And that is what they are saying.  That is exactly what they are saying.  "Don't bother saying hi because I am in the Josh Groban zone."  Or Celtic Woman.  Or Coldplay.  Or Fictionist.  I have a sneaking suspicion that those are the top 4 artists listened to on BYU campus.

So I'm a friendly person!  Sue me!  Is friendliness a crime???  I've never been embarrassed by my social assertiveness until the iPod phenomenon made it so that I can't yell out your name from afar and expect you to answer.  Instead, nothing but pathetic stares from other passers-by who are certainly thinking, "Poor girl, she's so desperate for friends she pretends she knows people on campus."

Also, what's wrong with silence?  It's those times when I'm walking, letting my mind wander, brooding over decisions, making life plans, etc. that I receive some of the very best inspiration.  I'm listening to myself.  And I'm listening to God.  And they are what ultimately motivate and inspire me.  Not Weezer.  But if I didn't leave those moments free of musical distraction, no one else would be able to get a word in edgewise.  Not me, not God, not you.  (Yeah yeah yeah, I know Yo-Yo Ma can ease and enlighten the soul.  I'll let that one slide.)

So, what am I to do with this new iPod?  Well, it was great for my car since it doesn't have a CD player.  And there it remained.  For 10 months. I loaded music on to it once and never charged it again since the car battery kept it juiced.  Then one day, my roommate asked if I had an iPod I could borrow while she went running.  I almost said no because I forgot I even owned one.  This got my wheels turning.  What would it be like to run with an iPod?  Who am I kidding, I don't run.  What would it be like to walk around all day with an iPod?  What would it be like to do what everyone else is doing?

I decided to carry out an experiment...

Day 1:  Purse, books, jacket, and Arcade Fire in my ears.  Ready to go.  I felt like I had entered some virtual music video.  And I was the star of it.  For the first time in my life I had my own background music.  I experienced symptoms of dizziness and confusion...and retardation, as I nearly walked straight into a telephone pole.

Day 2: Can people hear this?  Do they even KNOW how awesome my music taste is?  They'd all want to hang out with me if they did.  Am I wearing this right?  Can they tell I'm a first-timer?

Day 3: I...am...in...a...daze.

Day 4:  Why are less people smiling at me when I walk past them?  Oh, it's because I'm not smiling at them first.  Crap.  Recognition of problem.

Day 5:  I ignored someone.  I IGNORED someone!  I am a terrible person!  I failed to notice someone waving at me and saying my name.  Who does that?!  Me.  Because I was in the iZone.  It was Ben Folds!  Blame him!

I had created a monster.  In no more than 5 days I had gone from hater to addict.  Life was magical with background music!  It was edgy.  Fortunately, because I caught the problem early on, I didn't give it time to fester and spread like the mold I found in the butter tub last night.  Seriously, it was gross.

With strict self-discipline, I limit myself to the iZone on my morning walk to campus as a sort of wake-up method.  You should not find me with the buds in the ears at any other time (except for studying).  If you do, you have permission to punch me in the face.

04 December 2011

Happy Sunday: In the service of our God

Oh, the MTC.  Dropping my brother Matt off the other week was a surreal experience.  I felt like I was dropping off myself.  As we drove through the entrance with the car windows rolled down, at least 3 people yelled "Holden!"  I thought that they were trying to get my attention, but then I remembered that Matt has the same last name as I do.  Popular guy.  He looked so sharp in his suit and skinny black tie that I sent him from Romania.   

I didn't feel sad watching him wheel his luggage away as he was whisked off by the other missionaries.  Mostly, I was overcome with pride and excitement.  I'm so proud of Matt and the decision he's chosen to dedicate 2 years of his life to serving the Lord and His children in Atlanta.  And I'm excited for all the experiences--spiritual and crazy--that he is going to have in the Bible Belt (yeah, my mom forced him to study up hardcore on the New Testament in preparation...).

Within the same week, my best friend and roommate Lani Poppleton received her mission call to serve in the Kirtland Temple Visitor's Center in the Cleveland, OH mission.  Once again, I felt like it was I who was getting the call.  I had such a huge urge to put in my papers again and get a second call--to relive all the memorable moments I had in Romania.  

Missionary work is a truly incredible thing.  Focusing on nothing but teaching the gospel and helping others come closer to Christ.  No bills or grades or boyfriends to worry about.  Just peoples' happiness and salvation.  Never have I had a greater purpose than that.  Now that I have been home for nearly a year, I can see the stark contrast.  Here, it's easy to lose sight of what's truly important in life.  Sometimes that clear perspective I had on my mission is clouded by school and work stress.  This is why I love seeing friends and family open mission calls, watching them prepare to leave, and volunteering with the missionaries at the MTC.  It's refreshing, and it reminds me what really matters.

Happy Sunday,

03 December 2011

This is not a mommy blog....I swear!

Ask my roommates and they will tell you that I've been sulking around our apartment this past week because we don't have a Christmas tree.  You see, I have this thing.  I collect ornaments from all the different countries and areas of the world I travel to.  And HOW am I supposed to show my collection off without a Christmas tree upon which to display them?!  I pulled out my darling Romanian nativity set, which definitely helped, but it ain't no tree.  

Like a British street urchin from the Industrial Revolution gazes dreamily at the window display of a candy store, I would longingly look through all the living room windows in my neighborhood and get a Grinch-like urge to steal their perfectly decorated, twinkling trees. 

Today, I couldn't stand it any longer.  I was overcome with the Christmas spirit and drove to Tai Pan Trading Co., intending to solve the tree void in my life.  But...holy frick fake trees are expensive!  So, I let the creative and frugal beast inside of me take charge.  And this is what I came up with:

So yeah it's a little Charlie Brown-esque, but I really like it.  The red cube ceramic vase was $8 and six faux pine branches were $1 each.  And since the vase is trying to look like a present anyway, I went ahead and helped it out by wrapping a bow around it. And voila!

How was THAT for a DIY, Pinterest-loving, mommy blog post?  I am a little ashamed... 

01 December 2011

Giving Thanks in Gonzaga Bay

Being the bona fide American patriot that I am, I celebrated the coming together of the pilgrims and the Native Americans (factoid: my ancestor Myles Standish, the captain of the Mayflower, was present at the first Thanksgiving feast.  I'm basically as American as it gets.)...in MEXICO!

We dined on tryptophan-free carne asada, mastered the tumultuous sea with a 2-man open-air kayak, and took the quads on a joy ride through the desert.  Barely another soul could be spotted.  Mostly because the drug cartels have killed tourism.  But it worked for us, because we basically got our own private beach.  You win some, you lose some.  

Anyway, happy belated Thanksgiving. 

Sometimes I dress like i'm in 'The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air'

I actually wore this yesterday.  I was Rainbow Brite reincarnate.  A co-worker asked if I had just come from Rio.  I am not even ashamed to admit that the scarf started out as turquoise, but after my roommates gave me questioning looks, I swapped it for a hot pink one, you know, to tone things down a bit.  

A toast to fashion!  Cheers. 

For some reason in cartoon form, this looks perfectly normal. 

Best Metaphors and Similes Ever Written

I kifed this list from this blog.  For reader-friendliness, I highlighted my favs, but you should read them ALL.  Seriously. My mind hurts from laughing so hard...in my head...because I'm in the library and I don't want to be one of those kids.

  1. Her eyes were like two brown circles with big black dots in the center.
  2. He was as tall as a 6′3″ tree.
  3. Her face was a perfect oval, like a circle that had its two sides gently compressed by a Thigh Master.
  4. From the attic came an unearthly howl. The whole scene had an eerie, surreal quality, like when you’re on vacation in another city and Jeopardy comes on at 7:00 p.m. instead of 7:30.
  5. John and Mary had never met. They were like two hummingbirds who had also never met.
  6. She had a deep, throaty, genuine laugh, like that sound a dog makes just before it throws up.
  7. The ballerina rose gracefully en pointe and extended one slender leg behind her, like a dog at a fire hydrant.
  8. He was as lame as a duck. Not the metaphorical lame duck, either, but a real duck that was actually lame. Maybe from stepping on a land mine or something.
  9. Her vocabulary was as bad as, like, whatever.
  10. She grew on him like she was a colony of E. coli and he was room-temperature Canadian beef.
  11. The revelation that his marriage of 30 years had disintegrated because of his wife’s infidelity came as a rude shock, like a surcharge at a formerly surcharge-free ATM.
  12. The lamp just sat there, like an inanimate object.
  13. McBride fell 12 stories, hitting the pavement like a Hefty bag filled with vegetable soup.
  14. His thoughts tumbled in his head, making and breaking alliances like underpants in a dryer without Cling Free.
  15. He spoke with the wisdom that can only come from experience, like a guy who went blind because he looked at asolar eclipse without one of those boxes with a pinhole in it and now goes around the country speaking at high schools about the dangers of looking at a solar eclipse without one of those boxes with a pinhole in it.
  16. Long separated by cruel fate, the star-crossed lovers raced across the grassy field toward each other like two freight trains, one having left Cleveland at 6:36 p.m. traveling at 55 mph, the other from Topeka at 4:19 p.m. at a speed of 35 mph.
  17. Shots rang out, as shots are wont to do.
  18. The little boat gently drifted across the pond exactly the way a bowling ball wouldn’t.
  19. Her hair glistened in the rain like a nose hair after a sneeze.
  20. The hailstones leaped from the pavement, just like maggots when you fry them in hot grease.
  21. They lived in a typical suburban neighborhood with picket fences that resembled Nancy Kerrigan’s teeth.
  22. He fell for her like his heart was a mob informant and she was the East River.
  23. Even in his last years, Grand pappy had a mind like a steel trap, only one that had been left out so long, it hadrusted shut.
  24. He felt like he was being hunted down like a dog, in a place that hunts dogs, I suppose.
  25. She was as easy as the TV Guide crossword.
  26. She walked into my office like a centipede with 98 missing legs.
  27. The plan was simple, like my brother-in-law Phil. But unlike Phil, this plan just might work.
  28. The young fighter had a hungry look, the kind you get from not eating for a while.
  29. “Oh, Jason, take me!” she panted, her breasts heaving like a college freshman on $1-a-beer night.
  30. It hurt the way your tongue hurts after you accidentally staple it to the wall.
  31. It was an American tradition, like fathers chasing kids around with power tools.
  32. He was deeply in love. When she spoke, he thought he heard bells, as if she were a garbage truck backing up.
  33. The politician was gone but unnoticed, like the period after the Dr. on a Dr Pepper can.
  34. Her eyes were like limpid pools, only they had forgotten to put in any pH cleanser.
  35. Her date was pleasant enough, but she knew that if her life was a movie this guy would be buried in the credits as something like “Second Tall Man.”
  36. The thunder was ominous-sounding, much like the sound of a thin sheet of metal being shaken backstage during the storm scene in a play.
  37. The red brick wall was the color of a brick-red Crayola crayon.
  38. She caught your eye like one of those pointy hook latches that used to dangle from screen doors and would fly up whenever you banged the door open again.
  39. Her pants fit her like a glove, well, maybe more like a mitten, actually.
  40. Fishing is like waiting for something that does not happen very often.
  41. They were as good friends as the people on “Friends.”
  42. Oooo, he smells bad, she thought, as bad as Calvin Klein’s Obsession would smell if it were called Enema and was made from spoiled Spamburgers instead of natural floral fragrances.
  43. The knife was as sharp as the tone used by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Tex.) in her first several points of parliamentary procedure made to Rep. Henry Hyde (R-Ill.) in the House Judiciary Committee hearings on the impeachment of President William Jefferson Clinton.
  44. He was as bald as one of the Three Stooges, either Curly or Larry, you know, the one who goes woo woo woo.
  45. The sardines were packed as tight as the coach section of a 747.
  46. Her eyes were shining like two marbles that someone dropped in mucus and then held up to catch the light.
  47. The baseball player stepped out of the box and spit like a fountain statue of a Greek god that scratches itself a lot and spits brown, rusty tobacco water and refuses to sign autographs for all the little Greek kids unless they pay him lots of drachmas.
  48. I felt a nameless dread. Well, there probably is a long German name for it, like Geschpooklichkeit or something, but I don’t speak German. Anyway, it’s a dread that nobody knows the name for, like those little square plastic gizmos that close your bread bags. I don’t know the name for those either.
  49. She was as unhappy as when someone puts your cake out in the rain, and all the sweet green icing flows down and then you lose the recipe, and on top of that you can’t sing worth a damn.
  50. Her artistic sense was exquisitely refined, like someone who can tell butter from I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter.
  51. It came down the stairs looking very much like something no one had ever seen before.
  52. Bob was as perplexed as a hacker who means to access T:flw.quid55328.com\aaakk/ch@ung but gets T:\flw.quidaaakk/ch@ung by mistake.
  53. You know how in “Rocky” he prepares for the fight by punching sides of raw beef? Well, yesterday it was as cold as that meat locker he was in.
  54. The dandelion swayed in the gentle breeze like an oscillating electric fan set on medium.
  55. Her lips were red and full, like tubes of blood drawn by an inattentive phlebotomist.
  56. The sunset displayed rich, spectacular hues like a .jpeg file at 10 percent cyan, 10 percent magenta, 60 percent yellow and 10 percent black.

13 November 2011

Happy Sunday: In the Spirit of Thanksgiving

Greetings from the Salt Lake City International Airport.  With Anna Karenina in one hand and a slice of leftover Hawaiian pizza in the other (yes, I'm typing this with my forehead), I nervously await my flight to Tucson.  Not nervous about the flight, but what lies at the destination.  My boss sent me on a spontaneous mission to film a professor at the University of Arizona.  By myself.  I'm really not that excited about it, because, well...oh yeah, I'm NOT a cinematographer!  I seriously don't know more than 5 things about that $10,000 camera and audio equipment (2 of which are how to turn it off and on).  But my dear boss trusts me, nonetheless.  I don't really know why.

But the more freaked out I get, the more I have to remind myself how lucky I am to have such an amazing job. I don't actually know what my job is, but it sure is awesome!  I don't exactly know what I was hired to do when I interviewed back in January, but over these months I've learned how to produce videos, manage sets, write course curriculum, write scripts, transcribe movie subtitles, and now I'm onto filming.  I think of all the amateur photographers and videographers that are trying to make it big and pity them, because somehow I have their job when I really shouldn't. And I get to travel to cool places like Moab and.......Tucson.

As Thanksgiving approaches and at least 50 of my Facebook friends post every day something that they're grateful for throughout the month of November, I am very aware of how blessed I am.  From the little things like Dr. Pepper-flavored chapstick and  and hot showers, to the big things like having a sick job and a knowledge that my life has a divine purpose, I am one hooked-up girl.  Seriously!  Why is my life such a bed of roses?  I suppose it hasn't always been, but a positive attitude can trick myself into thinking it is.  Still, I'm waiting for tragedy and disaster to hit any minute, because all of this just seems unreal.  And like my Grandad always said, "if it sounds too good to be true, it is."

But, until a tornado sweeps up my apartment and the land is cursed with a famine, I will continue to stand all amazed at how much the Lord has blessed my life.  And even when that tornado and famine hit, I'll still stand all amazed.  

06 November 2011

Tips to Improve Your Life...

...Or, tips to make you dumber.  Either or.

Found this gem on my favorite humor blog, sadanduseless.com.  This particular post inspires me to reach out to my seriously unfortunate sisters in England who are in dire need of life-guidance. Anyone willing to organize a charity project of some sort to help these ladies out, contact me here.

Here's just one of a veritable jackpot of premium tips to better your life.  Enjoy the rest at Tips to Improve Your Life | SadAndUseless.com

Happy Sunday: A Book of Mormon Story

Over the past week, there have been 3 YouTube videos that have been reappearing constantly in my F-Boo NewsFeed: the Jimmy Kimmel Halloween Candy clip, the story about the autistic basketball player, and this one.  Typically, when a video has been posted and shared, like, 8 billion times, it's because it's really good.  The one below is no exception.  Watch it.

Listen peeps, the Book of Mormon is another testament that goes hand-in-hand with the Bible to witness to the world that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and Redeemer of mankind.  No book has ever uplifted, edified, and inspired me like this one.  Just read it.  Seriously.

05 November 2011

What a Guy!

There are 2 major similarities between Guido "Guy" Fawkes and hipsters:

1.) Fiery socio-political opinions; severe distaste for the wealthy and powerful

2.) Mustaches.

Despite these commonalities, there remains a stark contrast between the two:

1.) Guy Fawkes' extreme opinion actually led him to do something far more productive and memorable than occupy some street with a picket sign.

2.) He looked good in a mustache.

Occupy Parliament, 1605 A.D.

Occupy Wall Street, 2011 A.D.

Remember remember
The 5th of November
The gunpowder treason and plot.
I see no reason
The gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot.

Happy Guy Fawkes Day!

31 October 2011

Happy Hipster Halloween

[This enticing title fooled you into thinking you were going to immediately read some anecdote about hipsters.  I'll get there...I'll get there.]

Possibly my favorite Halloween pastime is scrolling though my Facebook newsfeed to find all the photos of slutty Halloween costumes that have been proudly posted.  I love all the sexy kitty cats, sexy high school principles, sexy pirates, etc.  It doesn't matter that all you're wearing is a push-up bra and daisy dukes, so long as you are also sporting a pair of cat ears, nerd glasses, or a pirate bandanna that clearly state to the world that you are, in fact, in a Halloween costume (and that this costume is a distinct variation from what you wear every other weekend).

Good times.  Love Halloween.

With that aside (but still on the same note of fashion), I bring to your attention an interesting New York Times article written about Mormon fashion.  Wait......What?

Mormon fashion?  Hah! When I first thought about that, it seemed a bit oxymoronic (spell check, how dare you tell me that is not a word), given the strict dress code that sets us apart from the rest of the world and often evokes such words as "prudish," "bland," and "Roman Catholic nun."  Yes.  It is true.  I guess you could say we take the "I-respect-my-body-and-want-others-to-respect-it-too" approach.  We cover our shoulders and thighs and boobs and butt cracks and try not to make a habit of draping ourselves in various cuts of meat.  We are the real freaks, Lady Gaga.  Dedicate your music to us.

So, can we possibly be fashionable and modest simultaneously?  Apparently, yes.  And we're actually good at it!  I use the term "we," though I would not venture to group myself into the category of highly fashionable Mormons.  My love of jeans and basic tees prevents me from ever being considered as such.  I actively follow this awesome modest fashion blog and sometimes think that maybe I'll apply her style advice to my own wardrobe one day.  But let's be real, peeps....

After reading the article, I thought, "hmm....perhaps Mormons really ARE more fashion-savvy than I give them credit for...I ought to look around more."  And so I did.  I looked around.  And who did I see but Elder Jeffery R. Holland chilling in Anthropologie in SLC this weekend.  Homeboy knows how to dress, too!  He was such a rockin' hipster!  Wanting to avoid being some awkward gawking fan, I didn't catch his entire ensemble, but the suede boots, suit vest with jeans, and just the fact that he was in Anthropologie proved to me that Mormons are hip.  Case in point, New York Times.  Shoulda interviewed Elder Holland to strengthen your argument and broaden your audience, but I still take my hat off to you.

Oh, and Happy Halloween:)

30 October 2011

Happy Sunday: Arches Nat'l Park (or, All Things Denote There is a God)

I had the opportunity to go down to Moab a few weeks ago to get some footage for a short documentary we're producing at work.  It was a rather spontaneous gig.  I overheard my boss talking with a kid in our lab about the fact that no cameraman is available to do the Moab shoot.  Having never been there and always up for a free trip to basically anywhere, I half jokingly suggested, "Teach me how to use the camera and I'll go!"  "Done.  You're going," he said.  "Wait...what?  For reals?"  I started getting nervous, thinking that the trip wouldn't be worth the responsibility of lugging around $10K of camera equipment.  I saw headlines: Girl Drops Camera Off Cliff and then Plummets After it to her Death.  

Well, in the end, obviously I'm glad I went.  I shot mostly film, but I do have a handful of photos (click on 'em to make 'em bigger).  Arches Nat'l Park is phenomenal and once again I was caught in the rapture of nature and the closeness to God that it evokes.  In case you've forgotten from my other posts about the natural world and the existence of a Divine Creator, let me remind you: "All things denote there is a  God...

...yea, even the earth, and all things that are upon the face of it, yea, and its motion, yea, and also all the planets which move in their regular form  do witness that there is a Supreme Creator." (Alma 30:44)

Happy Sunday,

29 October 2011

Y'all Gonna Learn Chinese!

Ok, not Chinese.  Romanian.  But there are no awesome Romanian rappers who have come out with a video like this.  Yet.

But enough of this beating around the bush.  Who's gonna be BYU's latest and greatest Romanian teacher come Winter Semester???

THIS girl.  


Call me Professor Holden.  If you want. 

Ok, just Student Instructor Holden.  But that just sounds lame.  So I'll just go by Sarah.  

My Beginning Romanian students are going to luf me.  

26 October 2011

Someone, please pay me to eat cookies

There comes a point in every young, white, middle-class, Mormon girl's life when she desperately wants money and will go to great lengths to get it (without having to work, obviously).  I already sold all my books on Amazon and have looked into the qualifications for donating plasma.  Maybe even a kidney.  So, I've decided to take the scholarly approach and apply for research grants and scholarships.  For anyone considering this option, just make sure your research costs NOTHING so you can keep all the grant money for yourself.  

Anyway, there have been many a late night of writing, critiquing, rewriting, dazing into space, and writing some more.  When I am in Will-Write-Extensive-Grant-Proposals-For-Money phase, my diet typically consists of cookies.  I'm talking Oreos by the sleeve-full.  And I have this disease that makes me think when there's still milk in my glass, I have permission to eat cookies until it disappears.  I only half blame myself because I purchase Oreos on a weekly basis.  All other cookies magically show up on our doorstep.  And they complement Oreos so well!  Downside of the Relief Society...

Given the repeated pattern of the past, like, 8 nights, I am starting to think that maybe this diet is not such a good idea. 

25 October 2011

Guest Speaker Addresses the Inner-Workings of the Female Body

I am re-blogging the following post, mostly because I laughed about it all day yesterday.  It is written by my beautiful, feminist, existentialist, neuroscience-major who is on her way to tour the country attending, like, 80 different medical school interviews.  Homegirl's got sass.  Read on.  Unless you're weirded out by stuff like this...  Read Sierra's blog here.  As I commented to her, I'm so happy that someone finally explained this to me without using the words "flower," "cherry," "hee hee," "hoo hoo," or "ho ho!"  And without further ado, I give you...

"The Cycle" Explained

Men, this post is about "the cycle." If the acknowledgment of the existence of female hormones causes you unbearable discomfort, I recommend leaving this webpage and checking out The Art of Manliness instead. Your testosterone level is guaranteed to rise by as much as 0.5%! To my female friends, you can probably commiserate on the subject.

First of all, I'd like to dispel some popular beliefs about the cycle. The cycle:
  • does not correlate with the phases of the moon
  • contrary to popular belief, menstruation is not the most hormonally dangerous part of the cycle (it's ovulation you gotta watch out for! I'll explain why later...)
  • does NOT incapacitate women from effectively serving their fellow humans :)

With that knowledge safely tucked away in our brains, I will now explain how "the cycle" can influence women's emotions and perceptions throughout its 28 days of biological mayhem!

Day 1-7: Menstruation, which means the lining of the uterus decides to exit the body in the most violent manner possible. Hormone levels are reasonably stable, so it's not "hormones" causes the women in your life to chase you with an ax; rather, the muscular cramping, low iron levels, fatigue, and sheer annoyance of perpetually bleeding puts women into a fearsome state. For women with endomytriosis, this part of the process is extremely painful and can knock them out for a few days. Be very wary of a woman on days 1-7.
Days 7-13: Proliferation. The uterine lining is fattening up, hoping to have a fertilized egg happily implanted into its snuggy warmth. Estrogen levels are on a steady incline, which means women have inexplicable giggling fits and think puppies are more adorable than usual.
Day 14: Ovulation. The scariest day in any single woman's life. Why? Because this is prime baby-making time! Every hormonal signal in a woman's body on this day is telling her to get impregnated and to do it NOW! FSH, LH, and progesterone levels all shoot through the roof. All men are attractive. Public nudity may occur. It is the only day of the month that a NCMO sounds incredibly appealing. Women on day 14 are downright dangerous, and the single ones should probably be quarantined for the day.
Days 14-28: Luteal phase. Basically, the woman's uterus starts to realize, with some disappointment, that it is not enjoying the company of a fertilized egg. Out of sheer frustration, it prepares to forcefully eject the uterine lining when the cycle repeats on day 1.

23 October 2011

Happy Sunday: Wise Words From a Russian Novelist

I just finished reading Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky.  Wow.  WOW.  The man had an incredible grasp on the Atonement.  

At one point in his life, he was sentenced to death for I don't even know what.  Probably something unpardonable, like, expressing his opinion or something. Early 19th Century in Russia was rough.  Anyway, seconds before the poor guy was about to go the way of all the earth, a messenger rode up with news that the sentence had been changed to four years in prison.  Shortly afterwards, Dostoevsky wrote a letter to his brother.  Below are some excerpts.

Never before have I felt welling up in me such abundant and healthy reserves of spiritual life as I do now.
When I look back on my past and think how much time I wasted on nothing, how much time has been lost in futilities, errors, laziness, incapacity to live; how little I appreciated it, how many times I sinned against my heart and soul—then my heart bleeds. Life is a gift, life is happiness, every minute can be an eternity of happiness. If youth only knew! Now, in changing my life, I am reborn in a new form. Brother! I swear that I will not lose hope and will keep my soul and heart pure. I will be reborn for the better. That’s all my hope, all my consolation!
I am neither downhearted nor discouraged. Life is life everywhere, life is in ourselves, not in the exterior. I shall have human beings around me [in Siberia], and to be a man among men and to remain one always, not to lose heart and not to give in no matter what misfortune may occur—that is what life is, that is its task.

Nothing like death row to make you appreciate the value of life.  The following passage from another letter he wrote deserves at least two careful readings:

I have shaped for myself a Credo where everything is clear and sacred for me. This Credo is very simple, here it is: to believe that nothing is more beautiful, profound, sympathetic, reasonable, manly, and more perfect than Christ; and I tell myself with a jealous love not only that there is nothing but that there cannot be anything. Even more, if someone proved to me that Christ is outside the truth, and that in reality the truth were outside of Christ, then I should prefer to remain with Christ rather than with the truth.

I won't try to add anything to Dostoevsky's words.  Life is precious.  Love every minute of it.

22 October 2011

Facebook Photography

I've contemplated long and hard on the phenomenon of Facebook creating a slew of amateur photographers.  In some ways (rarely), it has done wonders in producing quite remarkable photography skills.  In other ways (nearly always), nothing but narcissistic Profile Pic photo shoots on train tracks and in graffiti-adorned alleys have resulted.

Today, I found this.  THIS is what I'm talking about, peeps.

Take a gander through the following prime examples of the photography monsters that Facebook has created (I kid you not, I pulled these off of random Facebook profiles just now in about 5 minutes.  I might be friends with some of them....Hopefully they don't read my blog...).

"Man, do I really look that good in the morning?  I'm running late for work but I gotta go get my camera.  People need to see how hot I am post-shower."

"Maybe if I seductively cover my face with scraggly bangs, people won't know that I have cataracts on one eye and a pirate patch on the other."

"Look at me, I'm a contortionist!  How abnormally can I contort my head to freak people out and make myself look like a crazed Chuckie doll?!"  

"Yes, everyone, I'm pregnant!  Weeeee I'm so excited to be a mommy!  And as you can see from this super cute profile picture, my hubby and I are expecting a plucked chicken!"

"Rawrrrrr!  I'm so sexy!  Ima seduce you with my cat-like stare of death!"

"If eating sand doesn't turn you ladies on, I don't know what does."

"If chugging beer from a flower vase doesn't turn you ladies on, I better go back to using the sand-eating picture."

19 October 2011

Missing: The Tamale Lady

Cute little Mexican mamasita.  Toting fresh tamales on a make-shift wagon.  Selling them on select street corners for a buck.  Pork, chicken, and cheese. 

For months and MONTHS I saw this lady working her little biznass in the neighborhoods south of BYU campus.  I always thought to myself, "One day...just ONE DAY...I will purchase one of her tamales."  You know, help a madre out.  This train wreck of an economy leaves no one unscathed--not even the street peddlers.  But alas, my road to Hell kept getting longer as I continued to lay brick after brick of good intentions.   

Three or four weeks ago, while descending the South Campus Stairs of Death, I spotted the Tamale Lady across the street.  "ARRRRIBA!"  I exclaimed, inwardly.  "I'm actually NOT in a hurry and, whoa!, there's even a one-dollar bill in my wallet (both rarities, indeed)!!" 

I approached the Woman of the Hour, working up enough courage to practice the 5 words of Spanish I picked up off the streets of So Cal as a small child.  "Uh....unu....tamale...uh, pollo!  Muchos gracias!"

It was delicious.  Heavenly.  Best tamale I ever did eat.  And sadly, the last...

...BECAAUUSE, the Tamale Lady is nowhere to be found!  Is this some cruel joke?  Some vicious prank being played by the Mexican food gods that watch over us day and night from up on MontaƱa Olimpo?!?!  For months I saw this lady nearly every day and once I FINALLY partook of her ambrosial goods, she left me high and dry, my mouth still salivating and my mind in a trance.  

There's no other logical explanation for her sudden disappearnce other than....that....she is an angel.  She was just waiting to bless one last soul--for me to buy a delicious home-made tamale before she could spread her wings and leave this God-forsaken land of vending machine chimichangas and microwavable burritos.  Her work in this life is finished.  Well done, thou good and faithful tamale peddler. 

16 October 2011

Happy Sunday: I am a Mormon

And so is Brandon Flowers, the lead singer of The Killers. I'm pretty sure I've had a mormon.org account for longer than he has......I'm still waiting for them to make a video about me.

"I want to be a positive force in the world and I want to uplift people."

"A lot of people love to come up to me and tell me they were raised in the Church and they expect there to be this camaraderie about 'oh we've outgrown it now and we're smart enough now to not be in it.' And it started happening so often that it really made me take a look at myself, and I realized, I was raised in it and there's still a fire burning in there."

Click on the button on the right to check out my profile and read other people's stories about why we are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

10 October 2011

Unfortunate Tragedy #42 Follow-Up

For those of you who lost sleep this weekend worrying about the condition of the world's cutest Scottish wallet:



Shortly after writing that tragic post, the call indeed came.  It went something like this:

CEO of Trash:  Is this Sarah?
Me:  Yes it is!
CoT:  Are you in the library?
Me:  No but I can be in 30 seconds.
CoT:  Meet me in my office.
Me:  Pronto.

I reached his office in a jiffy lube, all ready to do me some dumpster diving!  Sadly, he informed me that I need to sign a waiver to legally throw myself into a giant garbage receptacle and that he doesn't have one of those coveted waivers on hand.  NOOOO!

All of a sudden a glowing halo formed around his head and he sprouted a set of angel wings!  This God-sent being was offering to dumpster dive FOR ME!  I couldn't believe it.  Sometimes I forget that really good people actually exist in this world.  So this served as a solid reminder.    

God-send pulled on a pair of heavy duty gloves that looked like they had been do Dante's inferno and back.  "Follow me," he said.

I followed him down...down...down...to the underground lair of BYU waste.  Just imagine the Phantom's swampy digs beneath the Garnier Opera House.  I feel like this place possibly could have served as inspiration for Gaston Leroux's novel...srsly.  On the journey to the underworld, our conversation went like so:

CoT:  So, let me get this straight.  You threw away your wallet?
Me:  Hilarious, right?.....heh.......heh........?
CoT:  I will sort through the trash and as the bag gets full I'll need you to tie it up and give me a new one.  I don't know why, but the garbage smells like fish today.  It might get a little dirty.
Me:  It's ok, I've done lots of dirty things in my life.

I regretted that last comment immediately.  He just kind of gave me a quizzical look.  Like when you're scolding a puppy and he cocks his head to one side, all innocent-like.

Long story short, after 35 minutes or so of the gnarliest trash-digging I've never participated in, the wallet was found!  'Twas a miracle of miracles, as Motel from Fiddler on the Roof would say.  Oh man, I just had the BIGGEST urge to listen to that soundtrack.  Done.

Goodnight, folks.
PS:  I realize this post is lacking a cartoon but I can't be bothered right now.  I have homework to do and Fiddler on the Roof to listen to.  Thank you for understanding.

09 October 2011

Happy Sunday: Kyiv Ukraine Temple (or, Making Lives Beautiful)

This is a video of the celebration that took place during the Ukraine Temple dedication last summer. I can't help but shed a tear of tremendous joy and deep gratitude for the faithful Latter-day Saints of Eastern Europe who sacrificed so much to be there. A handful of members from a little branch in northeastern Romania attended the dedication and were absolutely brimming with happiness upon their return. Their elation and edification could hardly be expressed in words, but it was felt by all who heard their accounts of the experience.  [For more on LDS temples, refer back to this post].

A few months earlier I had been living in a town in the more south-central part of the country. There, I met a man who epitomized Anne Shirley's classic definition of living "in the depths of despair." I won't go into the miraculous story that ensued. Perhaps another day. Or maybe I'll even let him tell it. Last month, this man was hardly entrenched in the depths of despair in which he had been wallowing about a year earlier. He had the blessed opportunity of attending the Ukraine Temple where he made beautiful and binding promises with his Heavenly Father. His life is now filled with light, meaning and profound joy from actively living the gospel of Jesus Christ.

It doesn't require a 180 life-adjustment to see and feel the blessings of attending the temple. It makes the sad happy and the happy even happier, though in my current state I feel like I couldn't possibly be happier.

On his baptism day.  He is the one with the dark hair.

07 October 2011

Unfortunate Tragedy #42

Welp.  I lost my wallet.  My precious little Scottish wool plaid wallet that my mom bought me in Edinburgh this summer is now drowning in the dregs of a cesspool, fighting for air among rough draft research papers, empty Creamery chocolate milk bottles, granola bar wrappers, and notebook paper with a 4-year plan written on one side and a game of MASH scribbled on the other.  Typical treasures found in the BYU library trashcans.  Yes.  Yes.  I threw away my wallet last night, ok.  YES.  What!  I was delirious!  It was 11:30 p.m.  I had been slaving away on a paper that I somehow thought was due at midnight (it wasn't).  My dinner consisted of one of those giant Grandmother's sugar cookies slathered with a pound of delicious pink frosting and rainbow sprinkles.  I clearly wasn't thinking straight, people!  Pray tell, what would you do in such a situation?  Throw your wallet in a trashcan, obviously.

So, I'm waiting for the call.  The one that will grant me permission to have a dumpster diving rave with myself this afternoon.  Apparently it's illegal to just dive in on a whim.  You gotta talk to, like, the CEO of garbage collection to do that sort of thing.  I hope the call comes, as I really want my wallet back.  But mostly I just want an excuse to draw a picture of me flailing around in massive dumpster.

02 October 2011

Happy Sunday: Fishing, Fall, and the Word of God

Oh hey, again.  I write to you in a worn-out, dazed, yet completely fulfilled state.

Worn out from very early mornings and very late nights.  When I was on my mission, I promised myself I would sleep in for the rest of my life once I got back to America.  Yeah, that happened once, maybe.  I realized I'm just not the sleeping-in type.  I feel like my greatest hours of productivity are in the wee hours of the morning,  There's no greater time for hiking, baking, reading, working out, fly fishing....  Yes, I went fly fishing for the first time ever with my friend Conley.  I got to tromp around in Provo River wearing waders that were about 30 sizes too big for me.  I kind of just imagined I was in "A River Runs Through It" and that Robert Redford would pop out from behind the cattails at any minute.  The setting was stunning.  Catch of the day:  two bushes, several sticks, and a nasty knot in my line.  So sue me.  Conley said I had great casting form, so the way I see it, as long as I look good fishing, the number of fish caught is of little importance.

Gone Fishin'......I've always wanted to say that

Dazed from concocting and eating an array of foods deemed "Fall Foods" for a spontaneous Harvest Fest that Lani and I threw at our apartment this afternoon.  There's something about foliage changing colors that puts one in the mood for anything containing pumpkin or cloves.  On the menu:  pumpkin scones (made from a real pumpkin, folks.  Be impressed.); baby spinach salad with cranberries, pumpkin seeds, candied almonds, apples, and home-made pomegranate balsamic dressing (which may have splattered all over the kitchen and myself when I was making it); banana bread; chili; caramel apples; apple cider; and delicious spicy wassail.  You know that feeling you get after eating too much sugar?  Like your teeth are wearing sweaters?  Yeah.  Got that right now.

Photos courtesy of my roommate, Sierra Debenham

Completely fulfilled because this weekend was General Conference, a conference held semi-annually when the prophet, his apostles, and other general authorities of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints speak.  It was great.  Powerful.  Straight-forward.  Bold.  Inspiring.  Spiritual fuel.  It was confirmed to me over and over again that President Thomas S. Monson really is a mouthpiece for God and a living witness that Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world.

Taken on my hike to Stewart Falls last weekend

Happy Sunday and Happy Fall, everyone.

30 September 2011

One Free Ride Closer to World Peace

For the past several months, I have been on a quest to find answers for world peace.  This is what I've got so far:  flash mobs, Jimmer's All-Stars, and hitchhiking.  Flash mobs made the list back in March because...well...unity is just beautiful!  Jimmer's All-Stars was added last week after I watched Jimmer and a gaggle of other NBA rookies play together for charity at the Marriott Center.  Surprisingly, it wasn't even the charity part that hooked me.  They could have been playing to campaign for Obamasaurus and I still would have been over-come with joy watching those former competitors join together as teammates to play the happiest game of basketball I've ever watched in my life.  As of Tuesday night, hitchhiking made the list.  Nothing promotes peace like picking up seedy strangers off the side of the road.  Especially when they look like this:

So, props to our kind benefactors who made it possible for Brett, Stephen, and I to tear up the dance floor (Also, dancing = world peace.  Seriously.) at Randi Olson's wedding reception.  We only had to wait there with that sign for 10 seconds.  Literally.  That's love.

25 September 2011

Siberian Stress Relief

This is what happens to me after studying too much tor a Russian Lit exam.

I also made up a song today using the 12 Russian words I know.  It's actually pretty good and likely to be performed at an open-mic night somewhere in the greater Provo area.

Happy Sunday: Be Good

BE GOOD. It's my favorite catch phrase, farewell, advice, admonition... I'm sure that I have personally told you to be good at some point or another. It just rolls off the tongue. My mantra, perhaps. I never really knew why, until I read THIS today:
"Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good." (Romans 12:21)
BAM. In the fight against evil, your greatest weapon is your goodness. Believe it or not, there are actually good things happening in the world right now. Easy to forget sometimes, but nevertheless true. We have the media and our own human desire for scandal and gore to blame for that. My friend recently posted this video. It may have made me shed a tear or two...or 30...of joy. Good people doing great things actually exist in this hand basket headed for Hell! Be one of them. Be good.