Monday, December 2, 2013

Chile, Antofagasta!

As the video reveals, I got called to the Chile, Antofagasta mission, and I report to the Chilean MTC on January 1st! When I read my report date (as evident in the video) I was totally shocked. I had put January 1st as my availability date, but I did not think I would actually be leaving that soon. Everyone seemed to be getting called in April and I kept thinking the earliest I would report would be in February. I guess someone else has a different plan.

I truly feel that the call was a tender mercy and an answer to my prayers. After my papers were all sent in, I started thinking about all of the places I could be sent. Inside and out of the United States there are so many new areas that I have never experienced. It was exciting to daydream about all the different paths that I could be on.

However, one day I was sitting in my Spanish class and got a little worried about all of those different paths. My papers had been submitted about a week prior, and my mind again wandered instead of listening to the class discussion. This semester, my Spanish class is about bilingualism and multilingualism. Our class was reviewing a variety of studies we had read that found the advantages of being bilingual. I was in a different place mentally, but quickly it hit me how much Spanish is apart of my life. I love the language; I love being bilingual; I was amazed at how Spanish had influenced so many of my life decisions.

With all this thinking, I panicked at the thought of not speaking it for 18 months. I worried that I would lose some of my ability to speak the language that I love. My mind starting spinning with sadness at the thought of losing something that meant so much to me. I felt myself start to tear up (yes, in class), so I said a quick prayer and asked that wherever I was sent I would be able to use Spanish. I didn't care if I needed to learn a new language or speak English, I just prayed I would be able to find Spanish speaking people and families.

As I closed that silent prayer, I felt so calm and peaceful. I knew it would be alright. I was assured that I would be able to use Spanish wherever I was sent.

Being called to Chile was just another answer to that same prayer. I can guarantee that I will not lose my ability to speak Spanish, and I love that!

Still January 1st looms ahead. Only 30 days until I report!! I will be home from one adventure (Tennessee) on December 14th and then be caught up in a new one two weeks later. I am excited and nervous and a little stressed, but mainly happy! I cannot wait:)




Monday, November 25, 2013

Called to Serve

On Saturday I received my mission call in the mail! I had spent the whole day in Nashville and had a feeling that it was anxiously awaiting me back at home. Sure enough, it was!

Currently my family and best friend are a little spread out (my parents and one sister are in NYC, my best friend is in DC, and the rest of my family is in AZ) ,so I knew I wouldn't be able to open it right away. It was just important that they could Skype in and see on Sunday.

I was elated to have my call in my hands, but I did not feel too curious. After all, with the study abroad programs I have done, I have gotten used to being uncertain about where my travels will take me next. I simply set the call on the counter and headed to bed knowing I could open it the next day at 6 pm.

Well, I was thoroughly surprised when I woke up on Sunday super early with a locked up jaw. Apparently I had not slept well and clinched my teeth all night. Overall I was more excited than I realized. Of course, Sunday seemed to drag on, but it was worsened by the fact that not only did I have to fulfill my calling as Sunday School teacher, I had also been asked to give a talk. I was nervous, clumsy, and jittery as I stumbled through my talk on (of course) missionary work. Later I went to Sunday School and checked the clock every five minutes, so I would be sure to end exactly on time.

Finally it was time to head home. I invited over some friends from the YSA ward to watch me open the call, so from the instant I walked in the door I was in work mode trying to prepare dinner. At last, everyone arrived and was the family was all connected via Skype and the opening could begin!
video
 

Monday, November 18, 2013

Small Thoughts

 

I recieved news today that my mission papers for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints have been processed and that my "call" has been sent out. In just a few days, I will have that big white envelope that tells me when and where I will be going to serve and teach.

A mission was never something I planned on, and actually for many years I was vehemently opposed to going. Sometimes people at church would ask about it during a sunday school lesson or my friends would bring it up in conversation, but my answer, even from a relatively young age, was always a stern No.

It wasn't until about a year and a half ago that the thought of a mission entered my mind in a positive light. It just popped in, clearly inspired. It shocked me. It excited me. It was a small thought that said, "in a year from now I could be worthy to go on a mission". It was simple, but it stired something inside of me.

I started to get my life in order, not really giving any attention to a mission. The thought never really returned. Several months passed and new activities and friends and experiences filled my life.

Then, one day, another thought popped into my head, again shocking and probably inspired. I was sitting on a bus in Nicaragua on my way to who knows where when I glanced out my window and saw an older man struggling to walk in a straight line along side the road. He was clearly drunk and even stumbled a couple of times into a shallow ditch. I remember looking at him, seeing him struggle and just thinking, "wouldn't his life be easier if he were Mormon? He needs the gospel". This simple, seemingly fleeting thought astounded me. That small thought came to me over and over again several times while in studying in Nicaragua. (read about one other time here)

By Spring semester of 2013, I was pretty sure I was going on a mission. My life had been crazy. If life where a series of frequency waves, I was difinitely in the trough trying to climb my way out. However, that thought of serving a mission came back, and I grew more and more asure that I wanted to serve.  I debated when I would go since some days thoughts of graduation and study abroad programs seemed more appealing. Nevertheless, I eventually decided to continue with the Tennessee exchange program and then put in my papers.

In September, I was finally able to start the process. It was pretty simple really: a few doctor appointments, an online application, and two interviews. The process was all complete and submitted a week ago on Novemeber 11th to church headquarters in Salt Lake City. All I had to do was wait.

Today, as I recieved the great news that my call had been assigned and sent, another small thought entered my mind,  "I AM going to serve a mission!!" It's a thought that even as a preteen would have been unthinkable. It's a thought that in my late teenage years was not possible. But today its a thought of excitement, possibility, and pride. How grateful I am for those series of small thoughts that lead me to this moment.


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Rocky Top Tennessee

 

I remember the sheer giddy I felt as I got off the airplane in Knoxville Tennesssee. I was elated; the months that laid ahead of that moment were full of possiblities, and I could not wait! Walking through the airport, my wide grin probably revealed the my inner goof ball and my over excitement.

Since that first day in the airport (close to three months ago) that grin has remained. I never knew why I dreamed of living in Tennesse, but I think now I do: its awesome!

My weeks and weekend have been full of activities and advetnures. Of course, there is always school and class, but I try not to focus on that so much:)

I love the greenness if Tennessee. It was the first thing I noticed during the drive home from the airport. Everything was so green. Since that day, I have been able to go on a few incredible hikes through the Smokie Mountains and admire all of the beauty.

I love the attitudes of people here. The common phrase of "southern hospitality" seemed liked a joke when I thought about it before arriving. I wondered how people could be more caring and loving than in Arizona or any other place that I have been. But it is true. There is sincerely more hospitality here although I do not know quite how to describe it. I have been told several times, that if I need anything I would be helped, and that has happened so many times. People are willing to open up about their lives and struggles, and that is refreshing.

I love the school spirit! I feel like I am going to a school that people are proud to call their university. Probably about half of the students are always sporting some sort of UTK attire each day. Now I love the relaxed atmmospere at my home university of NAU too, but the change is nice. GO VOLS!

Most importantly, I love the friendships I have made here. After moving around, it feels like constantly since high school graduation, I was really worried that I was becoming too callous. I started to see each four month semester as a fleeting moment that would not matter once finals were taken. I felt myself not connecting with people and experiences around me simply because I knew it would soon come to an end. However, things have been different in Tennessee, and for that I am grateful. I feel like I have connected with so many people and really created a strong base of friends. I love being social and planning little outings and events. I love feeling like I have friends to turn to when I need to be cheered up or listened to.

I have enjoyed this semester even more than I thought possible, and the best is that I have still have one month left!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

On the Road

My family and I have all arrived home safely from our adventurous vacation, and just as it does, life has picked up pace again so hopefully I will be able to tell some fun stories about our journey to Walla Walla. 


DAY ONE: Long Car Ride

For those math oriented people

6 passenger truck+7 people+ 9 hours of driving= one loooong car ride

But in the end it was still the first day of vacation and we were all in good spirits. The road took us to the Navajo Bridge for our first stop. The bridge crosses the Colorado River at the "beginning of the Grand Canyon" (not sure if that is legit, but that is what we say). Being a water lover, I found the river and mini canyon beautiful.



Little beauty crawling out of the truck :)


I think she was just fixing her hair, but it turned into model shot. 

Near the end of our first day of driving we ran into the heralding sign welcoming us to UTAH!





Monday, June 10, 2013

Journey to Walla Walla

In just moments, my family and I will be heading off on a two week road trip to Walla Walla, Washington. Although Walla Walla is our final destination we will actually be spending most of our time in Utah! I, along with the rest of my family, am so excited seeing as my only experience in Utah has been the layover I had in the Salt Lake City airport last summer. Oh, and actually that river trip I went in Fall 2011 (read about that here). Anyways, I am super excited!

We will be checking out church history sites, touring caves, visiting waterfalls, and going to amusement parks just to mention a few of our fun planned activities.

Although spending long hours in a truck with six other family members, may test my nerves (its safe to assume more than once), I have high hopes for the great trip that lies ahead!


Our heap of vintage home decor that will be sold in Walla Walla at the Junky Trunk show. 

The Biggs family's new home for the next 12 days!

Monday, May 20, 2013

End of the Semester 2013

This post has been spent a long time in the editing process, but hopefully now it is ready. 
As this semester was drawing to a near, I began to think about how I was going to summarize Spring 2013. What could I say that would be uplifting but still capture all the pain, discomfort, and loneliness I felt for the past four months?

The Sping 2013 semester was difficult. Difficult in every way. I spent countless days wishing I had not signed up for 18 credits and countless days wishing I could just go home; countless days at home wishing I did not have to go back. I spent countless hours wishing I had someone to talk to and relate to, and countless hours upset over how certain things were panning out. 

However, thats not really what the semester was about, and thats not what I want to remember it twenty years from now. I want to remember Spring 2013 as the semester I got stronger. 

I grew stronger emotionally, physically, and spiritually. I really worked on growing my testimony by reading scriptures and conference talks, praying, spending lots of free time at the institute building, and looking for little lessons in everyday things. I loved seeing myself progress in little ways. At the end of this semester, I know I have gotten stronger spiritually. 

I also decided to improve physically this semester by taking up running. I spent a lot of hours pounding the tread mill at 7,000 feet elevation. Definitely not the easiest task, especially at the beginning. However, I grew stronger. I conquered each mile and hill with great pride. 

To finish off the semester, I chose to do a little 5k fun run to show myself how I had grown through the last four months. Even though it was just 3 miles, I had a blast and felt accomplished. 

I participated in the 1st annual Bubble Run in Phoenix! At the end of each kilometer there was a huge bubble bog to run through. The bogs were all different colors and stood about four feet tall. It was a lot of fun and I am so grateful I chose to do it. It was a great way to end the semester. 



 
The line before the beginning. About four thousand people participated, all ready to be bubbled. 

At the start line!


All sweaty and tired (and bubbled) in the Phoenix heat. 


Saturday, April 13, 2013

General Conference

 
So its a little late, but reviewing all the talks of the 183rd Annual General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints  for this post was great. I was reminded of the all the uplifting words I heard last weekend. 
 
General Conference has grown in meaning to me the last couple of times I have watched it. However, before this session, I was seeing a lot of Facebook memes of people begging for Conference to occur more often, even once a month. I was a little confused; like I said the last few times had been held more meaning, but I was not so sure I was ready for a once a month General Conference. Every six months seemed like enough for "church in pajamas" since it does dwindle away a Saturday and Sunday pretty quickly. Every month? Seemed liked a lot of time in front of a TV.
 
I just didn't get it.
 
That was until I heard this:
 
And this:
And this:
 
And this

 
and this too:
 
 
 Finally it started making sense why people would want to watch conference once a month. Have you ever heard to a song, and it just fits perfectly with how your doing and feeling and it says just what you need to hear? Conference is that (eight hour) song.
But don't take my word, watch it yourself here

Monday, April 8, 2013

Thought I Was Done??

So maybe you thought I was done talking about Nicaragua. Guess you were wrong.
 
This past Friday, I was able to participate in NAU's International Festival. I, of course, represented Nicaragua and created a little table display for hundreds of elementary school students. Most of the youngsters had no idea where or what Nicaragua is, and I even had some adults and NAU students ask me how to pronounce Nicaragua (that was shocking)!
 
 After locating Nicaragua on a map, I tried to teach a little bit of Spanish, but the real entertainment came from the stories about food. The children were so interested in the photos and loved shaking the coconut to hear the water inside.
 
 
 

This is a little coloring activity I made. Note to self: do not spend so much time cutting out paper flags!



Overall, I think the students had a good time. I just enjoyed someone being interested in my crazy stories and was grateful to talk on and on, always captivating the attention of anxious students. Who knows maybe one of them will feel more encourage to go abroad!
 

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

The Easter Pageant




I wish I had taken the opportunity to post about this earlier, but nonetheless here it is.

Every Easter season, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints puts on Jesus the Christ, the largest outdoor Easter pageant in the world.  It is performed on the grounds of the Mesa, Arizona temple (the same place that does the Christmas lights here) and displays the life of Christ. This year there were over 900 volunteer staff and cast members who spent hours of their live perfecting the play for the public to view at no cost. Every night thousands of people (normally 11,000-15,000)  gather on the grounds to watch whether sitting in the chairs provided or having a picnic with a blanket on the grass.


Mesa Arizona Easter Pageant
Two years ago, I had the opportunity to be a cast member in the pageant. It was a great experience; although I took it for granted at the time. This year, however, my whole immediate family was it. That includes my mom, dad, and five sisters. Because I am studying in Flagstaff, I was not able to audition, but I did get to support them from the audience. Although my family had to sacrifice a lot of time at the expense of a lot of nerves, I know they helped bring thousands of individuals closer to Christ including myself. I am so grateful for their sacrifice and the sacrifices of the other hundreds of people that make the pageant possible. It is truly beautiful and uplifting. Thank you all so much.

My favorite scene was the same that it has been for years. It is one of the final scenes where Mary Magdalene goes to the tomb and finds that Christ's body is not there. When she turns around and realizes that the supposed gardener is her 'Master' so much joy crosses her face. In the pageant she then begins to sing a jubilant tune as she tells her friends and other apostles that she has seen the risen Christ.  She is so happy and full of joy, and her emotions radiate to the audience, and I feel it.



I will try to be on top of things next year and let everyone know when the pageant starts. It is an amazing experience for everyone.
 

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

New Quarter

Spring Break has drawn to a close and life continues at Northern Arizona University. With the final quarter of the school year here, its time for me to buckle down and focus. My upcoming travels to Tennessee seem to have me distracted, but I am committing myself to finish strong. So I made some small resolutions to hopefully keep me going!

First, I am instating a five o'clock rule. I am going to work my hardest to accomplish everything on my to do list up until five pm. Last quarter I found myself always procrastinating by watching TV episodes or just lounging around, and then by night time I was too tired and unmotivated to do anything besides sit around.

Second, I working for a sugarless quarter. Notice I said sugarless as in less sugar. I did not say sugar free. I am just attempting to cut out all those random sugars and worthless calories I ate last quarter. For example every time I went to the grocery store I HAD to buy a package of skittles or milk duds to eat on the way home. Fruit snacks, syrup, pop tarts, I ate way too much of it all, so I have traded out some snacks for healthier ones and am reading labels carefully. But lets be honest, I don't want to go a whole quarter without skittles.

Finally, to go with the five o'clock rule there is a seven am rule. It may not seem very early for some, but its my new wake up time regardless of the day ahead. I have never been one to sleep in too late to begin with; however, even a couple hours in the morning can make a difference. I get more accomplished and am on with my day.

The several long research papers whose deadlines are starring me in the face are pretty daunting, but I feel like these mid-semester goals will keep me focused and on top of all my work....... at least I hope so:)
 

Monday, March 25, 2013

Spring is in the Air

Last week was Spring Break 2013!! I spent the week at home, which was not too epic, but it was fun. The weather was Arizona awesome which is like mid 70s to low 80s. The best part of this time of year (for those of us who are allergy free) is the flourishing citrus blossoms. The air turns sweet and the blossoms open into cute little flowers.  With spring in the air, I had to take the opportunity to walk around my own yard and neighborhood to see it in all of its glory.



 
 
 
 





 

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Southern Comfort Zone

I had mentioned at the beginning of the year that I had no travel plans, but of course I could not let that last very long. I knew I wanted to be out and exploring and learning again. Luckily, I caught word of the National Student Exchange just at the right time. Its just like studying abroad, but I stay within the United States. I heard about the program just before the deadline, so I had a lot to accomplish and decide on, but I was so eager it came naturally. After narrowing my choices down to three schools and waiting for weeks, I finally heard the amazing news last Friday: I am going to the University of Tennessee in Knoxville!!!

The placement was completely unexpected. True, it was my first choice, but last year UT only accepted one person. I felt certain that I would be attending my second choice in Worchester, Massachusetts or maybe even my third choice in Fairbanks, Alaska.

In complete shock, I listened to the voice recording from my education abroad advisor and realized that my dream was coming true. I was going to Tennessee!

My dream?? Here's the explanation:
For the past several years, I have been imagining my fairy tale life. The picture perfect future for me is a small two story house on a big grassy lot . Fruit trees line the back of the property with some big oak trees in front of the house. A tire swing hangs from one of the branches and several children are out playing in the yard. I imagine a garden and maybe some farm animals (mainly chickens, a cow maybe depending on how self-reliant I want to be). I picture living in a small community far enough away from a city to be peaceful but still close enough so that I do not have to say "when I go into town". Of course I will be accompanied by a loving husband who supports my ideas of living a simpler life and cherishes all of my goofy quirks.

May not sound like much to you, but its my dream. And its a dream that I always pictured taking place in Tennessee.  Now I have never been to Tennessee and do not really now much about it, so its kind of odd that it is part of the dream, but whatever.


Obviously the unexpected news of going to my dream location is amazing to me. I cannot wait.  Everything I have been reading about the state and the school just makes me even more thrilled to go. Every aspect seems perfect, but even if its not everything I have chalked it up to be, I know it will be an awesome experience.
 

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Nicaragua: A Review (finale)

So I am from Mesa, Arizona. We boast the second highest concentration of Mormons in the world (following Salt Lake City of course). All through high school, everyone complained of the Mesa "bubble" . Too many Mormons, too many good people, too little drama. Why would you complain of that? I do not know, but people did. Older generations, mainly teachers, talked of preparing the high school seniors for life outside the "bubble", when we all moved on to different colleges in different locations.

While Mesa has its own problems and is not a perfect bubble, Nicaragua was definitely an out of bubble experience for me. I lived with a non-member, single parent family surrounded by very few other Mormons. Drinking, theft, immorality, abuse,  poverty, and depression were rampant. I personally witnessed all of those issues in many different forms. However, I came to the very strong conclusion that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is the answer.

Salt Lake Mormon TempleThe restored gospel of Jesus Christ gives people the hope we need, the community we seek, the resolve to be better that is necessary, and the support and strength we want. It allows  us to be a little better every single day; it gives us an eternal perspective; it helps us live eternally with our families.

As I walked along the Nicaraguan streets, I constantly thought how the restored gospel of Jesus Christ would change the entire nation. Even at times when I was not contemplating the church, it would pop into my head as the solution to some situation I was looking at.

I remember one weekend when I was sitting in an old school bus in , a small tourist-y town, waiting to head back to Managua. As the bus drove around the city looking for last minute passengers to board, I sat glancing out the window. In one instance I saw this young boy, probably no older than three sitting on the ground in nothing but a pair of underwear that were too big. His mother and sisters sat a few yards away vending plates of food. I watched as he climbed a small pole and sat there begging for money. After a few moments of no success, he went to bother his mother for food. She gave him a few fried plantain chips and swatted him away. He then walked a few feet away and planted himself and his food on the ground and began to eat the now dust covered chips. Every few seconds he would put his hand out to strangers, never saying a word but looking for anything. Later he went over to a ledge on a wall and began to play with a little toy truck. My heart broke as I watched him wander around aimlessly and bored and alone. I wondered what his future looked like, what expectations would be required of him. I realized that probably neither of the answers would come close to the potential he has a human being.  But then the resounding sentence came into my head, the gospel is the answer.

 In many situations, that powerful statement leapt into my thoughts, and I realized that it was true.

 D&C 123:12-13 states "For there are many yet on the earth among all sects, parties, and denominations... who are only kept from the truth because they now not where to find it- Therefore  we should waste and wear out our lives in bringing to light all the hidden things of darkness..."

I look up to all of the missionaries currently "wasting and wearing out their lives" to bring truth to the world. I have seen how much it is needed, and I look forward to the day when I can join the ranks and spread the truth.

 
 

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Nicaragua: A Review (part three)

As you may remember, I had some bad days with my host family (you can read about it here ). That post was about one month after I arrived in Nicaragua. Honestly, things never got better in the house. I would voice my opinion when the topic came up, but I felt inadequate trying to change my host mom. I thought many days that I should just pack up and leave. After all I could have requested a new home, and there would not have been a problem. Nonetheless, I stayed. I felt a sense of responsibility to the young children, especially when they were around the easily-angered older brother. I stepped in when I could, but I think many days I cried longer than the children did as I listened to what was going on (I really learned what they mean when they say children are quick to forgive.)

From living with that crazy host family, I developed a great love for my own family. I longed to return home and see them all. Visions of walking down the airport terminal and seeing my family excitedly waiting for me often played in my head. I was so grateful for them.

I also developed an appreciation for the way I was raised. No matter how many things I might claim my parents did wrong, the truth is they did a pretty great job. I was always shown kindness and respect, and regardless of all the stupid stuff I did, I  knew that they loved me and I always felt that love. I also was very grateful for my five sisters. Although we are all pretty goofy and have had our tiffs (one of my favorite words), I love them so much.

I guess sometimes you don't appreciate what you have until you pack up and head to Central America for a couple of months.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Nicaragua: A Review (part two)

My trip in Nicaragua was great! I learned so many things like how to maneuver around a market, how to navigate the many bus routes, how to accomplish all my school work so that I can spend the weekend away, and how to live on a budget. I also got to improve my Spanish, so I feel completely confident saying that I am a fluent Spanish speaker (although I do not know everything).  I got to see amazing things like monkeys in the wild and gorgeous beaches.

However, I also learned a lot about myself and my weaknesses. I am normally a very strong and independent person. I could not wait until the beginning of my freshmen year at college so that I could move away from home. I generally believe that its easier to do things myself because I know they will get done quickly and the right way (my way). Crying is reserved for church and funerals and even then its not guaranteed. I do not ask for help regardless of how useful it might be, and even my toughest, roughest days are usually masked behind a smile.

Nonetheless, being in Nicaragua all of that faded and I was exposed. I felt alone..... a lot, and the issues I had with my host family left me in tears on several days. I missed my family and friends. I missed being able to find all my favorite comfort foods and being able to just sit on a couch and watch a movie. I came to understand that I could be dependent and weak. I learned that I liked having someone to talk to, someone I felt I could open up to when I normally shut the world out.  I learned that I should rely on a support group made of family and friends, even if I am not geographically near them. I learned that that brave smile and head held high can make a difference in my day. I understood that feeling alone and upset and sensitive did not make me a weak person, it just made me human.

 Vulnerability  and loneliness are not my favorite feelings. Nicaragua made me come face to face with my weaknesses, but like I mentioned in part one, it also made me realize how much strength I do possess.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Nicaragua: A Review (part one)

I just finished a study abroad meeting that focused on re-entry struggles to the U.S and "normal life". I got to meet some of the other students that went abroad last semester and hear about their experiences, challenges, and accomplishments. The advisors asked us some basic questions about our trips and I realized that I had not taken much time to consider what my Nicaraguan experience means to me. Sure, I blogged about my fun weekend trips and some of the cultural differences, but the things I learned are really what is important. I hope, through these next few posts,  to recount what I learned so that I remember what truly happened in Nicaragua.

First, I learned that I can do it! I can survive without hot water. I can wash laundry without a washer or dryer. I can eat whatever is placed in front of me.  I can live surrounded by the unknown. I can communicate in new language. I can get through days, weeks, and even months where I feel completely alone. I can be pressed up against several people in one vehicle and not feel uncomfortable.  I can put on a brave face when people are calling out and harassing me. I can try new things like zumba dancing or tiste. I can be different both in physical appearance, mindset, and beliefs.  I can be me. I can do it. Anything I challenge myself to, I can do.

 And there is such power and strength in that statement.
 

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Bike Ride Around Downtown

It was finally warm enough to take the bike out for a short ride. I love going to downtown Flagstaff. It is gorgeous and so close to campus. I got to visit some of my favorite locations and had a lot of fun, but I cannot wait until spring so that things do not look so dead.

The train track marks the beginning of downtown. It is also the major cause of rush hour in Flagstaff. Unlike the annoyed drivers though, I still love watching the train roll by. Fun fact: the trains that come through Flagstaff carry a lot of hazardous materials, so the second disaster threat to Flagstaff (behind forest fire) is the train derailing and spilling what ever it is carrying.

 So my favorite place in Flagstaff is this place: Wheeler Park. I do not know what is so special about it, but I always found myself coming to it last year. Something about the peacefulness and nature. It is so beautiful and there is normally something going on. Yesterday it was pretty dead looking but there were some people throwing around a Frisbee which was fun to watch since it was pretty muddy.  
 



On my way back to my apartment I saw Sugar Mamas bakery coming into view. It has always looked so cute but has never been opened when I walked by. Of course I had to take advantage of it being open, and it was so yummy. I bought and devoured a salted caramel and almond brownie and a couple of these poppy seed shortbread cookies with raspberry jam. So delicious!


Flagstaff is such a cute place. I enjoy so much about it!
 

Monday, February 11, 2013

A Weekend and Windshield Wipers

Hands down, the impromptu trips home are the best parts of going to school in state. My hometown is only three hours away and when my roommate mentioned she was going home for the weekend, I was so on board

The East Coast got attacked with a vicious storm this weekend (named Nemo, I think), but the cold streak reached all the way to Flagstaff. As a result, as Arlene and I pulled out of town, a snow started to fall. We decided instead of taking the I-17 all the way home to take the much more scenic route through Oak Creek Canyon and Sedona to see the red rocks covered in white. I witnessed some of the most gorgeous sights I have ever seen. Anyone traveling through Northern Arizona should take the Sedona-Flagstaff (Highway 89A) route regardless of the season; it is always beautiful.

Anyways, both my roommate and I had forgotten our cameras and the snowy road kept us on edge so I quickly tried to snap photos with Arlene's phone camera as she drove cautiously down the canyon. It was breathtaking the entire way; I spent most of the trip racking my brain, trying to decide if I had ever seen something so majestic. I concluded I had not.
 
 


After a quick lunch in Sedona and finishing the drive to the valley, I finally arrived at home sweet home. I was glad to have even just a couple of days away. Plus, I made sure to stalk up on homemade salsa and bread!
 
 
I also got to spend some fun time with my littlest sisters making Pumpkin Nutella cookies for the neighbors. We had a blast and the cookies turned out pretty good too. 


 

 
After just a short two days, it was time to head back to Flagstaff and the reality of school work. The ride up was really cool. I got to drive since my roommate was tired, and for the first time I drove through falling snow. An inch of snow covered the road and the falling flakes reduced visibility to about fifty feet. All the cars stuck to the right side of the road and moved slowly carving a route through the snow for the cars further behind. The truck in front of me splashed water and the snow landed on the windshield, reducing my visibility even more.                                                                      My mind was drawn back to a talk I had heard in church just yesterday. A family had moved back to Arizona after spending several years in Oregon. The wife related the constant Oregon rain to the trials of sin in our lives. She said  that we all sit in the driver's seat trying to maneuver through life the best we can. The rain may arrive subtly, drizzle, or just downpour onto the windshield and road. The windshield wipers were compared to repentance that can wipe away the water and give us increased visibility in life. They help us start anew. We can chose the speed of the windshield wipers  that we believe will keep us the most safe.
 
Now twenty-four hours later, here I was sitting behind the driver's wheel trudging through snow and always wanting to increase the visibility of the road and vehicles around me. I turned on the windshield wipers to clear the flicked-up water and snow from the glass. Unfortunately, as is common in Arizona, the windshield wipers needed replacing, so instead of clearing the glass, they rose up and wiped water. Then as they went to lay back down, they brought much of the water back with them. Therefore I had about half a second of good visibility, and then water quickly entered the scene again.  
 
I thought that this experience reflected some of my personal experiences too well to be a coincidence. There have been times in life when I turned on those damaged windshield wipers pretending to give a full effort of seeing clearly again. Although to the cars or people around me I seem to be working really hard and doing what I should, I in the end fall short. The half second of visibility, produced by my damaged wipers and half-efforts, was quickly covered up as the wipers drug the same limiting water back onto the windshield. Not until I got the right help and some working wipers did any lasting visibility occur, and I was truly grateful. I am sure we can all admit that although we may be able to drive around for months with damaged wipers, when the rain or snow storms do come having working wipers is much better and safer.
 
 


 

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Red Rocks Rock!

Almost exactly a year ago I traveled down to Sedona, Arizona to hike (read about it here.) Today, I did the same although I went on a different trail. Sedona is so gorgeous. It is famous for the red rock beauty that surrounds the touristy city. There are hundreds of different trails that bump into each other all over the place. I was just doing normal hiking, but our group also saw lots of mountain bikers.

 
I was debating whether to go or not this morning mainly because I had to get up at seven am! Maybe I have just been spoiled with school not starting until later, but seven on a Saturday was early. However, as I rolled out of bed, I knew it would be a great experience, and I was not wrong.
One of my roommates and I ready to start the hike.



The views from submarine rock are amazing. It was our destination and was so beautiful. The hike was pretty easy the entire way through. It would do uphill a bit and then go downhill, so we always switched up the muscles we were using. We saw all age groups and abilities on the trail, so everyone should give it a try!



I love the contrast of the red and green. Some areas had small patches of snow, which really added to the beauty.


This is a view from chicken point. Aww, everything was so gorgeous; I could not get over it. It was another fantastic day in Sedona.