Sunday, January 31, 2010


on January 4th I overstuffed my station wagon with luggage, beach bags, and five amazing girls, and headed for the port in Galveston, TX, where our cruise ship, the Carnival Ecstasy, was waiting to sail us off on a five-day Mexican adventure...

Our ship

The main deck, where we ate A LOT of food. All you can eat, any time of day. Basically, it was hazerdous to our health...

Larissa, me and Flor, living the life!

The top deck, which included a track with a spectacular view I ran on one morning. Craziest feeling running circles on a moving ship!

View from our cabin window

Sunset, taken through our cabin window

Me, gazing out the window at some gorgeous scenery

Gorgeous scenery I was gazing at :)

Blurry, I know, but the best shot I have to show the "fanciness" of the theaters and lounges on the ship.

Posing with "Timmy" Pierce, talented vocal artist and performer - and our ship's heartthrob!

Flor, Larissa, Michelle, me and Tamara, decked out for the Capitan's formal dining night on the ship

These ladies were so fun to cruise with!

Our daily dinner dining spot

First stop: Chichen Itza, the ancient Mayan ruins on the Yucatan Peninsula

Next stop: Cozumel, Mexico

The port in Cozumel (you can see our ship in the background)

Pinatas, just hanging around

One of the hundreds of Kiosks

Boat ride from the port to Punta Sur, our shore excursion

Flor and I on Punta Sur's Crystal Beach

Hello Beautiful!

Flor's toes in the sand

Snorkling - my first time ever, and what a place to start!

No words neccessary...

...but I may just have discovered paradise...

One final sunset...

...and perfect ending.

2010, I love you already!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

My List

I don't know how to make a fancy video like the one above, but here is my attempt at fancy writing...

Things I am thankful for today:

*Memories that make me laugh out loud. (One I remembered and laughed about this morning: Running down a steet in Argentina with Hermana Heninger, trying to make it home on time, only to look down and realize my skirt had come unzipped, was flapped wide open revealing my whities underneath, and was slowly sliding towards my ankle. I think Hna. Heninger choked as she tried to laugh, breathe, and run at the same time...)

*Frozen cookie dough and Blue Bell Peppermint ice cream.

*Christmas, so I can spend time with my family, drink warm vanilla steamers from Starbucks, and not have to explain why the Josh Groban Christmas CD is in my CD player. Because usually it is, but only during the month of December do others not roll their eyes.

Also, I'm thankful because Christmas gives Blue Bell a reason to make Peppermint ice cream :)

*The never-ending list of things to do in Austin:

-Watching The Music Man in the park, for free

-Tasting chocolate covered bacon at The Big Top Candy Shop

-Night kayaking with glow sticks and great friends (pictured are Marci and Cassi)

-Country dancing at The Broken Spoke

-Hiking and splashing barefoot in the river in 70 degree weather in November

-Having my two favorite holidays combine as I watched fireworks being shot off in synch with Christmas music at the lighting of the Macy's Christmas Tree. So, so fantastic.

*Being with my family, eating lots of good food, and trying to squish together on one bed to take a nap together. Also, playing Cranium, Tetris, and Sniglets together, especially when it's late and our brains have stopped working.

*A mom who taught me how to serve and love others.

*My job that allows me to blow bubbles, play the Wii, don scrubs, hat and mask to go into surgery with one of my patients, help a 5 year old give an IV to a doll, swaddle an infant and comfort a sobbing teenager, all before my lunch break.

I could keep going (friends, roommates, missions, good books, inspirational movies, music that makes me sing in my car or dance in my kitchen, optimism, good citizens, fire extinguishers - yes, there is a story to tell here, in a later blog post - my health, my Body Bug, my apartment and cheap rent, etc...) but I want to end with what is most important to me:

*My understanding and personal testimony that I am a child of God, that He loves me, and wants me to be happy. In the midst of chaos, worldy catastrophies, natural disasters, war, and economic hard times, He remains aware of me, and has provided a sure path to follow, a never-faltering voice of guidance, and a way for me to have peace and joy in this life. Because of this knowledge, I know where I came from, why I am here, and where I am going. I know He sent His Son Jesus Christ to make it possible for me to change and become better everyday, and achieve my ultimate goal of returning to live with my Heavenly Father again. Yes, for this I am truly grateful.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Optimism, a La Cucaracha

My alarm clock buzzed at 6am, and my eyes shot open. I was staring at a chipped cement ceiling, and my pajama shirt clung to my skin like plastic wrap, soaked with humidity and sweat. My mind was wracked with confusion: Where was I? Who's house was this? And how did I get here? I froze as I heard someone rustle on the bunk bed below me, and then clarity came as I rubbed the sleep from my eyes: I was a missionary. I was in Argentina.

An involuntary groan escaped my lips as I sat up, literally peeling my body off the mattress. It had been one day. One day since I stepped of the plane from the comfort of the Missionary Training Center in America and stepped foot into that dusty hot jungle of foreign words and faces. My mind was exhausted from trying to make sense of the sounds and commotion of life around me, and every inch of my body ached from hours of proselyting and running from stray dogs in the street. My companion climbed out of bed and knelt on the cement floor to say her morning prayers, and as I maneuvered off the top bunk to do the same, I winced as my blistered feet made contact with the floor. I breathed in deeply, re-steadied myself and knelt beside my companion with my head bowed in prayer, wondering how I could possibly do this, every day, for the next 16 months. "Padre," I prayed, "Te necesito..."

I pulled myself off my knees and headed for the dresser, hobbling on the sides of my feet so I wouldn't pop my blisters. I opened the top drawer and stifled a scream: there, racing across my clean white underwear, was an enormous, dirty brown cockroach. He froze when the light hit him and stood there atop my silky slip, his antennas twitching and feeling, seeming to lick the air around him. I stood staring at the little beast as he stared at me, trying to decide what to do: I wanted to throw something at him, really hard; I wanted to crawl back in bed and pull the sheet over my head; I wanted to scream for my companion, who was in the shower; and mostly, I wanted to cry.

Then, of all the random things that could flash through my mind in that instant, came a story I had read years earlier, about a husband and wife who had returned late from a trip, and too tired to unpack had gone to bed, leaving several of their personal items in their car parked in the driveway. The next morning they discovered the car had been stolen. As they stood in their now-empty driveway with the wife in tears, the husband suddenly started to chuckle. The wife stared at him in unbelief, and the husband said something along these lines: "We can have a stolen car and cry about it, or we can have a stolen car and laugh about it. Either way, we have a stolen car."

I stood there in the 100 degree heat in that cement apartment in Argentina, nursing my blisters and staring at Mr. Cockroach, when it dawned at me: I could have a cockroach in my underwear drawer and cry about it, or I could have a cockroach in my underwear drawer and laugh about it. Either way, there was a cockroach in my underwear drawer. The corners of my mouth twitched a little, and in that moment I made a pivotal decision: I would laugh.

Now, that didn't change everything. I still had a cockroach in my underwear drawer, and, both literally and figuratively speaking, he would most likely be there every single one of the 455 days that lay ahead of me. It would take six more weeks before I learned to look into the faces of the Argentine people instead of down at the dusty road ahead of me as I walked. Three more months before my blisters popped and became callouses. And nine more months before I learned to roll my "R"s and actually carry on a fluent conversation. But what that experience taught me was optimism. I chose to find humor when my apartment flooded each time it rained, and when my shoes wore so thin I had to stuff the lining with cotton balls and duct tape them together. I chuckled when the Bishop's wife chased a chicken out of her house with a broom, and even attempted to smile when she served me morsilla and mondongo for dinner. (Translation: blood sausage and rubbery cow stomach).

Heavenly Father did answer my prayer that morning some five years ago, when I pleaded to him on my knees in my broken Spanish. He helped me turn my outlook from simply enduring 16 months in a foreign land, to working and serving and learning to love a people and culture and country so incredibly much. Cockroaches and all...*

*well, almost. I still want to throw up, or throw something really hard every time I see a cockroach here in Texas :)

Sunday, September 27, 2009

What Matters Most

For those of you who do not like my wordiness, you may skip to the end of the post where the pictures and video are :) For everyone else, here goes...

Last Thursday, several of my patients in the hospital where I work spent every waking moment between IV pokes and surgeries in the playroom. Some of them did not like our interior decorating job, and decided to take matters into their own hands by decorating every one-inch square of the wall and floor with various shades of paint. Others, on our younger taste-testing toddler committee, wanted to ensure that the aquamarine and brick red crayons really did taste like aquamarine and, well, red brick. They did. This conclusion was made, of course, by mouthing every crayon in the playroom. Still others, in our animal rights activist group, freed our plastic animals by dumping every one that we owned (along with the dinosaurs, Little People, and action figures) onto the floor.

Due to infection control, and the swine flu epidemic sweeping across Austin (check out the link here:;contentBody), this required that every one of those square inches touched by little fingers and every Lego, crayon, lion, tiger and bear in the playroom be wiped down (individually) with disinfectant wipes. Oh my.

Thursday evenings I am the only child life specialist who covers the hospital, (besides the ER specialist whose hands are tied juggling procedures and entertaining 350 swine-flu infected kids and family members in the waiting room). Because I am usually caught up in procedures and inpatient needs, the task of closing the playroom at night typically falls onto our extremely hard working child life assistant. Last Thursday night however things were slow as far as procedures went, and as I peered into the war zone - er, playroom - at 8pm, I knew immediately where I would be spending the remaining hour of my shift...

As I rinsed off a paint brush and she wiped off a tyrannosaurus Rex, our new child life assistant (I'll call her Jane) and I began chatting to get to know each other better. Jane asked me if I had family in the area, and when I explained that my closest family lived in Boise, Jane guessed how hard that must be, and how terribly I must miss them. I explained to her that while I grew up Miss Independent (thank you, Kelly Clarkson) and loved to move and live far away from home, when my nieces and nephew were born, it changed everything. When I took the job in Austin at Dell Children's Medical Center, thousands of miles from my family, I took it with the decision that I would fly home four times a year to be near them and watch my nieces and nephew grow up.

Jane guessed again (correctly) that round trip tickets from Austin to Boise were not cheap and wanted to know how I did it. I explained that I had evaluated my financial situation and created a budget that would allow it. Yes, this means coupon clipping while grocery shopping, buying clothes at TJ Max and thrift stores, and driving a station wagon instead of my dream Jeep Cherokee...but it's worth it when I step off the plane and my five-year-old niece Cora runs into my arms, wrapping her arms and legs tightly around me, as her 3-year-old sister Claire scampers close behind, screaming "Desi! Desi!" with a ginormous lollipop-sticky smile covering her face.

Jane smiled big at this description, wiping down piece 279 of the 500-piece puzzle she was cleaning, and stated she was impressed that someone as young as I had figured out my priorities. She said the majority of humanity figures out what's most important to them when tragedy strikes or they have a brush with death. This was true, I agreed, and discussed with her the saying that nobody on their death bed ever wishes they had spent more time at the office... Jane then explained that only in the last couple years had she truly figured out her priorities. She said she regretted not having spent enough time with her daughter as she grew up, and though she could not change the past, she was determined to live fully and give fully in the present. In fact, she explained she just left the full time work force to take on this part time child life assistant job, because her daughter and grandchild live nearby, and she wants to be able to spend more time with them. With her priorities.

As Jane and I sat there wiping off elephants and tea sets, our knees touching our chests as we squished into pre-school sized chairs, I hoped she was right about me. I hope that the people I love and the values I live remain my priorities - and stay what matters most in my life.

A few of my priorities, in no particular order...

My nephew Soren

My nieces Cora and Claire

My sister Cho and Soren

My sister Michelle, torturing me

Cora and Claire as purple things for Halloween

My brother Michael and my sisters Michelle, Cho, and Amber at Easter

Cora, just being Cora

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Miracle Grow

In September 2008 I was looking for a little change in my life. It had been six months since I'd moved to Austin, and my pattern had previously been to move every 4-six months: Boise for a few months after the mission. Then school at BYU-Idaho. Then Dallas for a practicum, and back to BYU-Idaho. Then Boise again, St. Louis for a summer internship, Boise for six months, then Austin... Needless to say, I was feeling antsy, and was itching for a change. Knowing I loved my job, roommate, and Austin, I wasn't going anywhere. So instead, I chopped my hair off. Pixy short, with millions of layers that stuck up crazy with a palm full of gel. My sister Amber told me I looked cute, like a soccer mom. Not exactly what I was going for... Anyway, within weeks I changed my mind and decided to let it grow out again. It has been a week shy of a year, and in that time I have only cut it twice to reshape it (I was feeling a mullet coming on...). Looking at the pictures below, I can not believe how much it has grown. Seriously, you would have thought I'd mixed a little Miracle Grow with my cereal each morning!

September 2008 (with my neices Cora and Claire)

August 2009 (with my sisters Cho and Amber)

(And don't worry - I just moved to a new apartment last month, so I've had my change for this half of the year. My hair is not going anywhere any time soon!)

Friday, June 12, 2009

Green Sticks Ranch, California (AKA Rancho Palos Verdes)

April showers typically bring May flowers, but this year even my May started out in a downpour! Feeling overly stressed with work projects, church assignments, personal matters, and apartment and roommate hunting, I found myself clinging to the thread shards on the end of my rope. I felt so overwhelmed that like a light bulb, I knew I would either burn out, or shatter (more like explode!) in a million pieces .

One late evening at work, as I sat with my head on my desk, trying to gather the energy to make one last round on my patients, I looked at my office mate and said, "It's official. I'm running away." She somehow knew I wasn't kidding, and scooted her chair over as I Googled vacation packages to Thailand and Tierra de Fuego. Together we priced tickets to destinations all around the world, trying to find me an escape route to Anywhere, Planet Earth.

In the midst of my determined spontaneity (is that possible?), I remembered my Uncle Doug in California, who had invited me several times to his home in Rancho Palos Verdes. With my jaw set towards the West and my time off request in hand, I figured it was about time I took him up on his offer! One week later, I was squishing sand between my toes at Redondo Beach, soaking up sunshine in my Uncle Doug and Aunt Rosie's magnificent backyard garden, and playing hide and seek with my cousins after a boat ride and day at the pier. It was the perfect, peaceful weekend away that I needed, and I came home feeling so refreshed and ready to face life again. Turns out, May did bring her flowers after all...

The view on the drive to my Uncle's house. Love the palm trees!
The cliffs at Palos Verdes Estate.

My uncle's backyard where I spent the majority of my time reading and getting sun.

The sail on our boat, on our spontaneous boat tour off Ports o'Call in San Pedro.

A baby seal we spotted

My Uncle Doug and Aunt Rosie

Me, in front of one of the cargo ships. Those things are HUGE!

My cousin Andrew checking out a lone sailboat on the Redondo Beach pier.

This cute band, playing right on the water's edge, added the perfect soundtrack to my day.

Some really large birds we spotted on the pier.

Random kids playing soccer on Redondo beach.

My cousin Andrew wrote my name in the sand, to prove I was really there!