and I miss the ocean when I go to sleep...

I have always claimed myself to be a lake person rather than an ocean lover (Might have something to do with my "happy place" love of floating and overall dislike of being sticky and covered in salt water). When I think of me and the great blue, however, I always kind of haze over the Southern California Pacific Ocean when I think of my ocean experience (which I apparently make the time to do...). This is mostly due to the fact that I have a generally bad attitude about SoCal and its hype. Blah blah blah, we won't get into the psychoanalysis of that just yet. Any Californian and California lover will just tell me I'm bitter. Maybe so.

At any rate, I have at least somewhat caved on my usually anti-southern California sentiment. This weekend I was reminded of how amazing SoCal really is.

I got a glimpse of LA suburbia- the adorable, quaint kind- in Redondo Beach. Somehow by a touch of fate and only a few detours, all my Freshman/Sophomore year roommates were in southern california the same time. Heather lives there, Brooke visiting her sister, Jessica her in-laws, and me down for a wedding. We had dinner on the pier and giggled about the high voice and other silly nights that don't make sense to really anyone else but us. We are all very much in different places right now (Heather with a newborn, Jessica a toddler [both with husbands and their respective careers], Brooke in law school and me, still working away at my undergrad) but it was so nice to see that regardless of differences, the giggles still come. Believe it or not, we really are friends!

Saturday I spent in Laguna beach, mostly at Brooke's sister's friend's condo on the beach. We walked through town and I was honestly less than impressed at the actual beach (due to the swell there was an uncomfortable amount of seaweed and because it's the O.C. there were an uncomfortable amount of tourists in bikinis that didn't suit them) but walking (and company) was great. It's a funky little town and the ocean is just such a force it's hard to not enjoy its presence.

Saturday evening was Brit's reception, which was just lovely. She was beautiful and she had hands down the most beautiful bride's bouquet of any I have ever seen. I did not catch it. (:(?)

After the wedding, Rachel and I (with the help of her handy I-phone GPS) wandered to Huntington and watched the sunset from a much cleaner, much less crowded beach then got lost back to the UC-Irvine campus to watch 500 Days of Summer at a funky little theater with some friends of hers. I Adored (with a capital A) the movie. Anyone who has been through any level of heartbreak or any position of heart breaker will identify. I laughed, I cried, I learned about myself and all my failed relationships. Better than therapy or even a rebound.

Lovely long weekend. Even the drive there was serene. I just like Rachel so much. We chased the sunset across the desert (sunset is The redeeming quality of the Nevada desert.) and rolled into Vegas in time to catch Le Reve (the Cirque du Soleil-esque plus fire and water show at the Wynn, discounted tickets compliments of the ever-accommodating Matt Phelps). The show was out of this world bizarre but incredibly impressive.

Perfect vacation. Pictures to come.


A father's little princess


Moving story of a single father just trying to make it work. I don't have any real reason to like this article so much, except that I'm a little princess ("all girls are").


I read this quote in a bathroom book.

Friedrich Nietzsche's rejection of Christianity, truth, and the potential of equality makes me a bit wary of him, but any man with a consecutive 'tzsch' in their name that doesn't alert a red squiggly spell check line must hold some clout. I hold that beyond Neecha's (go ahead, you try to spell it without looking) world-renowned philosophy and philology (not to mention his sweet 'stache and 'thinking hard' pose) he deserves attention for this lovely quote:

"Without music, life would be an error."

Frer N., I couldn't agree more.


Celebrating the Dodges.

Any returned missionary will gladly tell you that the 2 years or 18 months they spent serving were some of the happiest they have ever known. You might not hear these RMs report that they have never been more stressed, emotionally strained and virtually always on the brink of panic than during that span of time. Some argue that happiness lies amidst such chaos. A hectic missionary schedule and a purpose with eternal consequences are sure to bring both satisfaction in success and constant questioning of that success. Throw in the adversary and I'm telling you, it's a big old mess. While few admit to this dichotomy of emotions, I believe it is inherent to the nature of missionary work. No complaint, just fact. I swear I was level-headed and sane before I served a mission, but as much as the work brought out the best in me, it also brought out the crazy. I remember Sister Marsh and I would always defend ourselves of our neuroses saying "I promise, I'm not like this at home."

One of the blessings of finishing a mission, and perhaps the reason behind the infrequent reports of panic, is that the further you get away from mission life, the less you remember the emotional roller coaster and fits of crazy, and the more vivid become the moments of pure, heaven-sent love and joy as described by Ammon.

I have been home from Thailand now for just over a year and half, and have been enjoying much more of the serenity of the Alma 26-tinged memories than the ones he was blessed to haze over (you know, being rejected left and right, being cast into prison, watching the believers be burned alive). This weekend, however, I had a terrifying deja vu moment of joyful panic as I walked into the homecoming of my mission president, Karl L. Dodge and his Amazing wife, Gunda Le. I sat in the back, anti-social as I am, watching at least 50 of my former mission mates greet and I swear for a minute I was transported back to zone conference. Happy, joyful, passionate about building the kingdom!!!!! OH wait, I'M NOT READY FOR THIS. Oh the veil of forgetfulness was lifted.

Luckily, my moment of stress was quick and broken by the realization that I was NOT in pantyhose, that it was NOT 120 degrees outside, and that I could flirt with ANY boy in my eye line (a bit of a stretch seeing as most males in attendance were either the little boys that served with me or over the age of 50). And, of course, the calm of realizing that the salvation of a dozen or so individuals was not sitting in my petite, inadequate hands. What a relief.
he meeting was, of course, fabulous. The poor deacons (very slowly) struggled to work out the logistics of passing the sacrament to a ward tripled in size. I also remembered just how loud family wards are (There had to have been a familly doing cartwheels in the back of the overflow, if not fully playing a game of basketball). The Dodge's son Brian gave a great late homecoming talk about charity and the love of Christ making us pure. He had the pleasure (pleasure?) of both leaving and returning from his mission to Germany-Austria from the Bangkok international ward so it was his first time addressing his home home ward in Midway. Sister Dodge followed suit with all her zone conference addresses, focusing on small miracles and God's love for us. My favorite thing she said was, "Transitions are hard. But God is with you." She talked about some of the transitions she has gone through and that people generally go through. I swear sometimes that my life for as long as I can remember has been in transition, so this thought is particularly comforting for me.

As a special musical number, all Thailand returned missionaries got up and sang Called to Serve in Thai (Thanks to the MTC and missionaries' obsession with the song, I'm fairly well practiced). President Dodge then addressed us and focused on God's attention for the individual. It's interesting that most missionary homecomings focus on a principle of the gospel or missionary lessons, but that a mission president would zoom out a bit (or perhaps it's zooming in) and bear powerful testimony of the many ways in which God loves and looks out for his children one by one. This seems to be a lesson I have been learning over and over recently, all the more potent as taught by Karl (I'm not sure what to call him now).After church, the Dodges provided hot dogs, burgers, and that lemon-sweetened tea bread (and cake and blueberry tea bread and skittles...) and I enjoyed the desserts. And an amazing view of the valley(above). And seeing my mission president as a real person, mingling with his kids, his friends and the scores of twenty-somethings who worship him. Even this was a Thailand flashback, complete with meals on the floor and shoes off at the door.

It couldn't have been a better day. The day was so good, in fact, that I keep forgetting that Elder Jeffrey R. Holland (who just happens to be my #1 favorite of the Elders due to his sincere and unapologetic calling to repentance wherever he speaks) snuck in to preside just as the Bishop was announcing the meeting and that I snuck in to shake his hand just as he was scurrying out (I guess Apostles can still scurry) with his arm around a lucky but likely terrified little deacon.


Girls Only Camping

Before anyone berates me about the dangers of a group of girls camping alone in the woods without any male protection, I think it is important to know that Raelle brought her gun- and slept with it by her pillow. And she's a good shot. Well, a good enough shot. In her words, "I'm getting better... but my shot'll knock anyone out real good.... as long as I get him in the chest."

With safety out of the way, any other naysayers who claim men build better fires, make better camp food or set up tents with any more efficiency: Back the freak off. Our fire burned strong enough for perfectly toasted marshmallows and some (delicious, if I might brag) Kami-made tin foil dinners. And tents just aren't that hard to assemble.

  • The Cunningham's tent is entirely see-through at the top, which I love. If I had perfect vision I would have fallen asleep star-gazing, but even as blind as I am, the fresh breeze and early light was ideal.
  • I hate bacon. But somehow when it's just a little bit dirty, it tastes much better.
  • Squatting in the bushes = no problem. Thank you Asia for improving my ability to stay dry
  • Some advice: Wandering tattooed, beer-holding neighbors names Keith are not always bad. In fact, they are friendly and have well-intentioned campfire advice. If there's any doubt, however, talk about your loaded gun loud enough he can hear it. Also, have a loaded gun.

Pictures to come...


The hottest music on the radio

I've heard Rock Me Amadeus on the radio three times on three different stations in the last three days. Did Falco die and take Michael Jackson's place on the airwaves?

This video could have easily been filmed at Neverland Ranch.


Down South

I wonder sometimes if southerners are as captivated by the west as we 'cowboys' are about southern belles and plantations. We don't have hot, slow summers like in Gone With the Wind or the Notebook (Ever seen 310 to Yuma? There's nothing romantic in the dusty desert). More importantly, there are more songs about the south than about any other region (see later post). Unfortunately, seeing as the south isn't so on the way to anywhere but Florida, it doesn't make too much sense to just stop by. So, I was beyond elated at the chance to hit a few hot spots earlier this month.

After years of talking about it and an arduous qualification process, little miss Kendall joined the Air Force. She spent 3 long months in Montgomery, AL in Officer Training (left, in her army moon suit surrounded by uniformed ... hunks?) and then had a weekend to pack up and drive to San Antonio. I missed her graduation/ceremony where she was given her new rank, whatever that's called. But, to make up for it, I flew down to make the drive with her. Flights to Montgomery were outrageously priced, but I got a steal to Jackson, MS, which by the way, is an adorable little airport. I jammed to Mississippi Queen in my head as we then drove down to New Orleans, and spent the night there.

My mom lived in N'awlins for 5 years in elementary school way back in the days of segregation and pickled pigs feet (I s'pose those are prolly still being eaten). We took the Causeway across from the mainland to the city- it was like driving across the ocean. I've never seen a longer stretch of bridge in my life. The I-90 floating has got nothing on this.

I found the French Quarter charming, highlights being easter pink and yellow colored houses with fabulously intricate cast-iron balconies. Jackson Square was nothing like Mason Jennings described, but rather filled with overpriced psychics and caricature artists. A long walk down Bourbon Street reminded me just how flip-flopped my life is from the rest of the world. Apparently no other city in the world allows you to carry open glasses of alcohol through the streets. I can't imagine why not. Bourbon Street lived up to its name as the Vegas of New Orleans. More importantly, live jazz music blaring throughout the city lived up to its reputation. French cafes were also a pleasant treat for breakfast.

The drive west from New Orleans was incredibly beautiful. The freeway winds through the marshes of southern Louisiana so there is water and trees Everywhere. The second we crosses the Texas border, however, both trees and water disappeared and were replaced by flat expanses of either ranch-land or, closer to Houston, buildings. We were going to stop at the Single's Ward in Houston, but got a late start. We also spent a good amount of time trying to figure out how to get her truck weighed at the semi-truck weigh station.

By Sunday night we were in San Antonio. We got Kendall settled at the Air Force Base and her and Jered's apartment set up and enjoyed a night on the River Walk and at the Alamo (which is apparently not a region of Texas but an actual building where some hoo-ha battle went down in the War against Mexico). San Antonio has zero street parking (frustrating but it made for clean streets) but the river walk was more charming than even the Miss America Pageant made it look (besides the creepy red tunnel a la Seattle Library 2nd floor). And before I left on Tuesday, I even got to see Matt Terry!