Thursday, July 10, 2014


I received a lot of valuable advice from my mission president, but there was one particular piece of advice he gave that originally surprised me and has always stuck with me. When he found out I had three younger sisters, he encouraged me to be love them, be close to them, and be a big sister they could look up to before I "grew up" and had my own family to care for someday.

Growing up, I always dreamed of having a big sister who would take me shopping, show me how to curl my hair and paint my nails, and give me hip hand-me-downs. Instead, I had an older and younger brother who I built Legos and went camping with, and three little sisters who I watched Little Women with, played house with, fought with (let's be real here), shared rooms with, and who took my hand-me-downs. I don't think I've always been the big sister I'd hoped I would have, but the bit of advice from my mission president has encouraged me to be more mindful of being present and attentive to their lives. It's easy to get caught up with "me, me, me"- my single social scene, my job, my roommates, my friends, my activities, my ward, etc., and forget about (pardon the cheese) what really matters most and what is most lasting- my family.

A few weeks ago I invited my little sisters over for a sleepover at my apartment. I'd like to think they had fun (but maybe you should ask them.) We watched "Despicable Me", which was playing at an outdoor movie night, and then we got a little wild and got ice cream after. Maybe I'm just easily entertained, but if I were 14 and my big sister took me to get ice cream at almost midnight, I would think I was pretty hot stuff.

Seesters. Me, Leslie (14) and Laura (16)
The next day we went to Bruges Waffles with our big brother Jason and talked about the other 1/3 of our siblings who are missing (missionaries in Mexico and Washington), cracked the usual Nacho Libre jokes, and made fun of mom and dad (we love them, but it's a must do). Then it was a quick trip to the SLC Farmer's Market and back home. It takes more than a sleepover once a year to maintain relationships with family, but it was a fun thing I hope they remember.

A sister post is also fitting this week, because next week my next youngest sister Alison will return home from her mission in Kennewick, Washington. If there were a "Best of the Brands" award, I think Alison might be the recipient. She is the smartest, sharpest, most creative, most witty, most talented, and most definitely the sweetest and most tenderhearted.   She's the one who woes the grandmas and charms the bosses, gets straight A's in the most impossibly difficult art classes at BYU, sings like an angel, and even tap dances on occasion in the garage. I couldn't be happier to have her back.

Ali and I. We're faiiirly hard core. 

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

June. June. June. June. June.

IT’S JUNE! Has anyone heard that it’s June? It’s June, guys. June. The best month of the year. It’s here! It’s the 11th! The 11th. That means the 15th is four days away. That means June is almost half way over. (or half way full-? ha).

I’m not really one for life lists or summer lists or goal lists, but every year I make a JUNE list. This year I decided instead of just writing down a list, that I would make a June door. I wrote down each of my June “to-dos” and taped them on one side of my door. When the items are completed, they get moved to the other side of the door- the “human na” side- which means “finished” or “all done” in Cebuano.

So what’s on my June list?
- Hike in Bountiful (It is so green and beautiful in June!)
- Hike Mt. Olympus
- Hike to see the wildflowers up Little or Big Cottonwood
- Go country or latin dancing
- Go boating
- Get a longboard
- Go backpacking or camping
- Play in a volleyball tournament
- Write my brother and sister on their missions
- Have a sleepover with my little sisters
- Make a friend a b-day present
- Make a friend a baby present
- Celebrate the two year anniversary of coming home from the Philippines
- Bake a delicious dessert
- Hang up shelves in my bedroom
- Write two friends serving missions
- Read one novel
- Read “Lectures of Faith”
- Get up every morning during the week to go jogging or do yoga and read the scriptures
- Cook a few meals
- Complete my mission photobook
- Memorize a scripture from the Book of Mormon every week
- Write or message someone in the Philippines every week

So it’s pretty ambitious, I know. How I wish there were more weekends in a month to get it all done! But it’s awfully motivating to wake up to those little bright slips of paper, just itching to transfer them to the much emptier “human na” door...

Making the most of a wonderful June morning.

About two months ago I found out my work would be sending me to D.C. for a meeting (!!) ... for one day.


I would literally arrive at 11 p.m. and leave the next day at 4:45 p.m., after a seven hour meeting downtown.

That leaves veeeery little time to wander in a place I came to enjoy and love so much... bummer.

At first I resigned to the fact that this trip would, in fact, simply be a business trip. I wouldn't be able to visit friends, and I didn't see how I could squeeze in any sight seeing. Any Capitol tour. Any office visits. Any garden wandering.

But then I got creative.

I didn't have to be to my meeting until 9 a.m... so as long as I could grab some breakfast on my way in, I could use the morning hours before then however I wished.

And I did!

So after arriving at the hotel around 11:30 p.m. last Tuesday night, I woke up Wednesday at 6:00 a.m. (4:00 a.m. Utah time!) and jetted out to the nearest bike share station. I was on a mission! There was only one bike left at the station near my hotel on New Jersey Avenue, and it was mine. I was off!

I veered up towards Union Station so that I could circle around my old office at the Hart Senate Office building, cross the street to roll past the Supreme Court, and then cross the street again to stare the U.S. Capitol in the face and wish it "good morning". So many happy memories here.

A jogger- one of HUNDREDS I saw that morning- was so kind to take my picture. It was a high pony kind'of morning.
After enjoying the Capitol front for a moment, I was back on the bike for the best part- the cruise down the Mall. It was exhilarating to fly past where I watched President Obama's inauguration, where I took photos of the spring flowers last April, where I'd wandered after so many workdays and on so many weekends. I plowed on past the Smithsonians, the Washington Monument, around the Tidal Basin to the Jefferson, the Roosevelt, and then to the Lincoln. Oh it was a thrill. It was pure pleasure to be out and about on such a sunny, muggy, early, June morning in Washington.

And a sweaty good morning to you, America!
I could have stopped there and been happy to wheel my bike around and plow back up the hill to my hotel. I could have been content. But I was on a mission, remember? A mission to make it to Baked & Wired in Georgetown for an early morning cupcake. I'd mapped out my route, and they opened at 7 a.m. With a swift ride around the Waterfront past all the rowers, I was in Georgetown and soon parked in front of the little bake shop. No one was buying cupcakes at 7 a.m. But I was. A whole box of them. They went into my purse which was then strapped onto my bike.


Baked and Wired cupcakes! Dats good stuff.
About 20 minutes later, I was back showering at my hotel. And then off to my meeting. My bike ride was a dream. It really doesn't get much better than that.

My early morning D.C. bike route. Eight miles round trip, in jeans!
I am a morning girl. Sometimes circumstances don't allow it, but for the past two weeks I've been trying to make the most of June with early rising.

Peonies and Poppies SPELL J-U-N-E. A few from an early morning jog a couple weeks back.
I won't convince you of anything, but when was the last time you walked or took a jog in your neighborhood around 6 a.m.? I can see your face souring up like a pickle, but it is glorious. It puts me in an A+ mood for my day, and gives me a shot of gratitude and joy I don't get from anything else.

Incredible. Sunrise in SLC.
Happy June, everyone, and happy mornings.

Stop the waiting, already.

I think sometimes we wait to be happy. I don’t think we do it on purpose; I think we just sometimes get so muddled down in the day-to-day and think that happiness can’t be attained until ____ happens. Until we have a new job, until we get married, until we graduate, until we come home from our missions, until we have a family, and so on.

I also think we sometimes wait for these landmarks to happen in order to start working towards or becoming the kind of people we hope to become: a better cook, more adventurous, more Christlike, a better member missionary, more positive, etc.

Sometimes life can be very challenging and discouraging. Sometimes it feels like a waiting game. Sometimes we see the skills and traits of everyone around us and don’t know how to start to change or become something better or different. But I really believe that happiness can be felt and enjoyed every day, regardless of whether graduation, the baby, new job, or husband has come. Desire, skills, and traits can be acquired with hard work and focus. Why do I believe it? Because I believe that we can control the way we react to our circumstances. That ultimately, people were made to act and not be acted upon. And although applying principles and habits of action and progress won't erase every difficulty or sadness, life's challenges can be better understood when the the real purpose of living is understood and put in perspective.

My favorite quote of all and every and any time, about what we are actually here to do and be, is this one:

"Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about it a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of- throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself."

With the perspective that the waiting game, the roadblocks to perceived happiness, that the constant struggle to better is all part of the plan to make us better people, it's much easier to understand, accept, and maybe even enjoy. I hope this becomes a space that I can record and reflect on the waiting game, the roadblocks, and the challenges, and see that there was truly joy to be found in each of these times. That I will be able to see my efforts to become a more thoughtful friend, a more selfless giver, a more committed disciple, a runner, a cook, a life-long learner, a positive influence, a musician -- that they will happen. Slowly. In time. I just have to keep working at them.

You want to come along? 
Sure, of course you can. 
See ya next time.

Friday, May 23, 2014


I wrote this on April 15, 2014, the day the National Park Service declared the Tidal Basin’s pink cherry blossoms in Washington, D.C. at full bloom. It took me back, and it made me want to write. Can’t wait to experience a spring in D.C. again someday!

D.C. blossoms, Spring 2013
The pink popcorn tree hung low over my car as I pulled into the driveway last night. It was dark but my car lights had illuminated the clean white and pink festival above. The blossoms were finally here! I had been watching the spindly, low hanging tree outside my apartment over the previous dull-weathered weekend, wondering when the small buds would burst and reveal the small delicate puffs inside.

As I stepped out of the car I remembered what I had forgotten about blossoms: they carried the sweet, clean scent of spring. It was both refreshing and intoxicating all at once. I didn’t want to go inside my apartment. I stood right under the blossom canopy that hung low around my tall frame and just breathed in blossom. The small petals tickled my nose and face as I breathed in and out, in and out. I could have stayed there all night.

The fresh scent of these blossoms outside my apartment in Utah took me back to precisely one year earlier, to the famous cherry blossoms surrounding the Tidal Basin pool at the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C. 

The arrival of the blossoms in D.C. had wreaked havoc on my hay fever, and it turned out the Jefferson was more than a mile away from where I was interning in the U.S. Senate office buildings, but I didn’t care. I made every excuse to visit the blossoms during their fleeting stay- they only last about two weeks. I visited the blossoms in the morning before work, took bike rides around the Tidal Basin at night, strolled with friends there on the weekends. Just being there was renewing. 

D.C.’s blossoms are absolutely gorgeous and breathtaking. The endless pink and white puffs outlining the water of the tidal basin is an overwhelming sight; the blossoms are everywhere you looked. And so are the tourists. But you really can't help but be happy to see so many people in wonder, enjoying the beauty and the welcome spring weather together. And the scent. The sweet, clean scent enveloped you and was detectable from blocks away; up the busy crowded roads and walkways of the National Mall.

I wish I could be there to see the blossoms again in D.C., but it is lovely to experience my own little blossom festival at my small apartment in Salt Lake City with the small blooming tree outside my door. 

Today I’m just feeling grateful for spring. Thank goodness for this change in seasons. Thank goodness for beauty: for greening grass and flowering buds and blossoms. While I can agree with most when they say they don’t enjoy the cold, bitter winter, it is almost all worth it, just to see and appreciate the earth as it transitions into summer again. To see families taking walks outside, kids playing soccer at the nearby park, to be able to wander outside in the evenings. Summer is my JAM!

Nerding out: Keyboard short-cuts

I spend an average 6-7 hours a day (or MORE) with my hands on a keyboard. And, I’m pleased to announce that with a little inspiration and research (and a little nerdy-ness), keyboard shortcuts are changing my life.

photo courtesy
On my first day at my current job, I watched as my more mature and incredibly savvy and professional co-worker edited a document I had drafted. She was a keyboard NINJA! She had mastered all these short-cuts to delete words and sentences with one fell swoop and to capitalize or italicize with just a few punches at the keyboard. I knew right then that I was missing out on a world of information.

So I started with a simple keyboard shortcut Google search, took notes on a sticky, and am slowly mastering what I’ve learned. There are about a BILLION keyboard shortcuts out there, so I’ve just started with a few, but once I learn them the sticky goes in the trash and I learn a few more!

Here are my recent favorites:

1. CTRL + ARROW (left or right) allows you to skip through a sentence word by word instead of character by character. CTRL + SHIFT + ARROW does the same thing, but highlights the selection as you go. Brilliant.

2. SHIFT + F3 capitalizes the first letters of a selection (this seems to work in Word, but not Google docs- too bad). Press F3 again and every character is capitalized. Press it again (are you getting it yet?) and you’re back to all lower case. Handy stuff.

3. CTRL + DELETE deletes one word to the right of your cursor (a whole word! imagine!). CTRL + BACKSPACE deletes on word to the left.

4. CTRL + SHIFT + </> = font size decrease/increase

5. CTRL + i italicizes a highlighted portion of text. CTRL + B bolds a highlighted portion of text. CTRL + U underlines a highlighted portion of text. I’ve known this one for a while (I think many people do) and it is incredibly useful.

6. F5 refreshes a web browser (way easier than finding the tiny refresh arrow with your mouse)

7. ALT + TAB allows you to cycle through open programs, while CTRL + TAB cycles through web browers. I haven’t got that into this one yet, but I think it would also be helpful.

8. In Excel, pressing F2 while a cell is highlighted takes you to the end of the text within the cell. Explore it. This is PHENOMENAL.

8. Okay, okay, I left my favorite for last. ALT + D highlights the address bar of a web browser, so you can just quickly type (versus click, highlight and type) your next desired web address. COOL, right!?

Alrighty, this keyboard nerd is OUT. Do you know of any I missed?

The human capacity to love.

It was Sunday night in D.C. in early spring. Reality was settling in that the work week would start afresh in the morning, and a debate was going on in my head of whether I should go to bed early (should do) or soak up the last remaining hours of the weekend reading or catching up with friends (what I really wanted to do).

But what I did instead was stay up well past 2 am, learning a lesson I have since thought back to many times. The experience helped me realize the capacity we have to love as humans is a beautiful thing, and is certainly one of our most defining characteristics.Talk about unexpected! And formative and wonderful.

My roommates at the time were a smattering of characters. We were very different. We were each pretty darn independent, and while for the most part we got along, I never became very close to them. In many ways we only knew each other on artificial, insincere level. A “How was work?” “What are your plans after your internship?” “What are you doing this weekend?” type of friendship.

But this particular Sunday night, I learned for the first time that an aunt of one of my roommate’s had recently been diagnosed with cancer. I felt guilty when I heard that my roommate had silently dealt with the worry and fear of her aunt’s condition for weeks. Her aunt’s condition had unexpectedly worsened that particular weekend, and had been rushed to the hospital and admitted to the intensive care unit at home in Utah.

Stuck on the other side of the country, my roommate was completely distraught that Sunday night and nearly beside herself. She was disconnected from her tight-knit family and the small- town community where she had grown up, desperately wanting to know how her aunt was doing.

As each of us roommates learned what was happening, we slowly gathered in the living area, awkwardly surrounding our roommate - a girl I felt I didn't really even know- in an attempt to be a comfort and support. While she waited for a text or a call- any kind of update on her aunt’s condition- we just listened as she described the cancer as well as her relationship with her aunt: that she had been like a second mother to her growing up, that she had been supportive of her school and sports, and that she couldn’t bear the idea of losing her.

After a few tense minutes of waiting, a phone call came. Her sister, I think, calling with an update. And it was clear instantly what the message was. Her aunt had just passed away. In this critical moment, it was like the dam or wall that was holding my roommate’s composure and trust that it would all work out just broke. She wailed and sobbed and pulled herself into a ball, and her face went into her hands. 

While it was incomparable to what she was feeling, for a moment I felt an ounce of the agony and grief she was experiencing. I felt so bad, and I just watched in sincere pity as my roommate, literally reeling in pain from the news, cried and cried and tried to cope and grasp that her loved one had finished her journey on earth.

But strangely, my feeling of pity and sadness was very brief, and what I felt next was surprising and almost seemed inappropriate. What I felt was awe and a strange kind of gratitude that I had never felt before. It was like I was lifted out of that terrible scene in that nasty internship apartment in Arlington, Virginia, and I was taught this unforgettable lesson:

It is a beautiful, wonderful thing that human beings are capable of having so much love for another person to experience such intense emotions when they are gone.

That powerful moment, us surrounding her trying to sympathize, me feeling this gratitude and awe, only lasted a few minutes. Once she had gained composure, she spent some time alone and then booked a flight home that night. We spent a few hours packing up her room, and she was gone before any of us even woke up the next morning. And I haven’t seen her since.

I will always be grateful for that Sunday night in D.C. to have witnessed such poignant and pure human emotion. I am sorry that it was at the expense of another person’s grief, but it offered a window into humanity and was an exhibition of the divine characteristics humans possess to love, cherish and grieve for their fellow human beings. It’s an experience I will always remember.