Sunday, May 1, 2016

Pana-Rama: Four Days in Panama City

Outside of traveling to Mexico, this was my first time traveling outside of the U.S. Fun experience and fed my need to want to keep exploring! Some people have asked what I loved most about visiting Panama and I would say that I really enjoyed being in a country where I don't understand the language. It was fun to feel totally foreign and it was a surprise to return home thinking I should still be hearing everyone speak Spanish. The trip did make me want to brush up on my Spanish once again.

Here are some photos that give a little taste of Panama City. Some of these photos are made possible by friends who took more pictures than I did.

Panama City LDS Temple 
We got to stay at the temple housing, thanks to my friend, Craig's, amazing parents. Awesome housing that really made it feel more like I was in Hawaii than Panama.

Modern Wealth and Poverty 
Most of Panama City is very modern, along with plenty of pockets of poverty and crime.

Panama Viejo - Old, Old Panama
Touring old, old Panama. In 1671, the Welsh pirate Henry Morgan attacked the city, so all that remain are ruins. Panama Viejo was moved to Casco Viejo (Old Panama), which is in the middle of current day Panama City.

Crazy tall trees in Panama - Just one of many

Beautiful Orchid Tree at Panama Viejo
Panama Canal
Interesting history of how it all came about. A new canal is being built and expected to be finished by this summer.

Roaming Through The Jungle
The jungles have plenty of poisonous snakes, critters, and probably strange locals, so we just went slightly into the jungle to try and spot some creatures. We only heard birds. My friends stayed at a resort after I left, where they saw sloths, red frogs, dolphins, and other animals.

Did someone say pineapple? 
Plenty of delicious produce at the local fruit market. I wonder what they do with the produce that doesn't sell.

All around amazing, but short trip! 
Glad I got to go though, and it helped me realize everyone needs to experience being a foreigner now and then...Though, our last night was spent eating dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe. Very Americanized in downtown Panama City. Clean water, fresh food, even American currency.

Monday, July 21, 2014

No Doubt - Kid's Got Personality!

A dancing dog tatoo, Timmy, and house in Siberia...yep, TJ never had a boring thing to say. I've been reflecting today on my brother's crazy, fun personality, as I feel in certain respects I've forgotten details with how silly and free-spirited he is. He sent me the following email in 2003, which is a great reminder of how he truly enjoyed living life to the fullest. Grateful to have these reminders. 

For past posts about TJ go to:

What I've learned in 8 Years

What I've learned in 7 Years


In TJ's own words: Emailed to me on December 11, 2003

  1. IF YOU COULD BUILD A HOUSE ANYWHERE WHERE WOULD IT BE? In a state combined of Colorado, Arizona, Utah, California, New York, and Siberia. 



  4. THE LAST CD THAT YOU BOUGHT? Counting Crows: Films About Ghosts 

  5. WHERE IS YOUR LEAST FAVORITE PLACE TO BE? Next to the garbage can 

  6. WHAT TIME DO YOU WAKE IN THE MORNING? Lately around 8:39, But I like to get up at 7:00 

  7. WHAT'S YOUR FAVORITE KITCHEN APPLIANCE? A knife - Does that count? Otherwise the refrigerator 

  8. WHAT MAKES YOU REALLY ANGRY? Not much, maybe people who won't listen to you.  

  9. IF YOU COULD PLAY AN INSTRUMENT, WHAT WOULD IT BE? The Guitar. If I could play the guitar well, I would stay inside all day and just impress myself. 

  10. FAVORITE COLORS? Blue. Black and White. 

  11. FAVORITE CHILDREN'S BOOK? Shakespeare. 

  12. WHAT'S YOUR FAVORITE SEASON? Winter sometimes, Fall usually, Spring always, and summer only when it isn't really hot. 

  13. IF YOU COULD HAVE ONE SUPER POWER, WHAT WOULD IT BE? Definitely spiderman's super powers. C'mon, he's got it all! 

  14. IF YOU HAVE A TATTOO, WHAT IS IT? A dancing dog that talks to me on my big toe. 

  15. CAN YOU JUGGLE? terribly. 


  17. YOUR FAVORITE DAY? Usually Sunday. 

  18. WHAT IS IN THE TRUNK OF YOUR CAR? Absolutely nothing. I don't have a car. If I did, I would still keep it empty and clean.  

  19. SUSHI OR HAMBURGER? Both together. 




  23. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE CARTOON? X-men, Spiderman, or Batman. They were more like serious dramas for me. 

  24. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE MEAL? Peaches on top of nutri-grain almond/raisin cereal in front of a good new movie with a tv tray and control of the tv button. 

A few ways to act like TJ today:

  1. Burst into laughter in a crowded room (class, meeting) during a quite moment and ignore the heads that turn 

  2. Walk next to a busy street while reading a book and listening to your Ipod/walkman, etc.

  3. Take a nap on the floor 

  4. Drive through a roundabout five or more times 

  5. Stare people down in the car next to you while sitting at a stoplight 

  6. Stay in Barnes & Noble long enough for someone to send out a search team looking for your whereabouts  

Sunday, July 21, 2013

What I've Learned in 8 Years Since TJ Passed Away

This is an addendum to last year's post. I had seven thoughts for seven years. So, this is my 8th thought. :-) For the first part of this post, go to 

What I've Learned in 7 Years Since TJ Passed Away

Trust God & Believe in Good Things to Come When we trust God and believe in good things to come, we have no need to fear the future. We expand our perspective to know that all things work together for good. My brother's favorite talk was An High Priest of Good Things to Come by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland. TJ truly trusted in God's will for him. This was seen and spoken of continuously before he passed away. TJ knew that finishing his mortal mission early meant God needed his help to complete a greater work that surpasses our mortal understanding.

I distinctly remember heart-wrenching and faith-building times during the last three months of my brother's mission on this earth. Yet, through it all an overwhelming spirit was continuously felt to remember that no matter what trials come to us in this life, all is well and we continue to have a bright hope in the future. We have a great purpose in this life that extends to our eternal lives hereafter. This knowledge truly fills my heart with gratitude for this earthly life and excitement for the future of "great" things to come.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

How to Keep Portland Weird

This funny man thought we were taking a picture of him.
He was embarrassed when he learned that wasn't our intention.
What is so weird about Portland? It’s the land of maple bacon donuts, daily protests, hourly parades, and birds on everything. About a month ago, I traveled to the land of Portlandia with three dear friends to see how people “Put a Bird on It” and “Spare Some Weed”. I never knew Portland was considered so weird. I like it!!…well, at least some of it. A lot of free spirited people who always find a reason to start a parade or protest then call it a party! It's quite comical to see, but I would quickly get tired of minimal sunshine and the Portland lifestyle.

So, what makes Portland weird? To become a lil' more educated on the Portland way, here are a few things to do and sites to see when in Portland.

Portlandia – The Goddess of Portland who watches over the city day and night. This exquisite sculpture is like the “Statue of Liberty” of the Pacific Northwest. As the second largest repouss√© sculpture in the United States (34 ft, 10 in tall), Portlandia was designed by Raymond Kaskey in 1985 and is an iconic landmark for the city. Portlandia is also a popular TV series that provides a glimpse into the quirky Portland nature. This is the funniest episode I watched while I was there.
Is it Local?

Relish Watermelon - I'm not sure what watermelon and a man dressed like a king have to do with Portland, but this was the first oddity observed at the tourist information in the Portland airport.
Spare Some Weed – There are plenty of people who seem to have a need for “medicinal” marijuana in Portland....
Amazing Race – Naturally the best way to see Portland is by participating in an amazing race. There were a few going on downtown. As we raced through the streets of Portland, we had to dress up and dance near Voodoo Donuts, drink pineapple juice from a baby bottle, and hop around a bronze elephant while making our way through various Portland parades and parties.
Good Reminder to keep it weird.
Pineapple soda from Amazing Race. Caused rapid sugar rush.

Jump Around Da Tung (Bronze Elephant) – My roommate, Ms. Kristina Potter, so graciously demonstrated how to hop around a 12-foot bronze Elephant that is a replica of a Chinese statue from the late Shang Dynasty. During the amazing race, our team was led to this statue and asked to hop around it in potato sacks three times.

Photos & Places of Honorable Sites to See
Bring great friends to explore Portland!

Hug Point - Oregon Coast


Portland LDS Temple. Beautiful!
Saturday morning line for Voodoo Donuts
Feel like joining a parade?
Cave Climbing - Oregon Coast
Look for vikings hidden in streetcars
Goonies' Rock on Cannon Beach
Found a viking!

Portland is a posh place for fury dogs.

Da Coast of Oregon
Everyday people use stilts to get around of course.

Stop & Smell the Roses

Ice Cream shop known for its clever creations.

Portland people have a special glow that's contagious!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

What I've Learned in 7 Years Since TJ Passed Away

What have I learned in the last seven years? I should say I've learned to stop worrying, always have a cheery attitude, and look at life through rose-colored glasses. Afterall, when I think of counsel my brother would give to family and friends, it would usually end in him saying..."no worries, it will all workout". While I have yet to perfect his "everything's rosy" attitude, the following is a collection of things I've learned along the way. I write this as a reminder for myself, as well as for those who have had family and friends already graduate from mortal life.

Click on photos to enlarge
Choose Happy - We choose how we react to hard situations in life. While we need time to grieve, we must also remember to choose a happy attitude. Fake it, until you make it. No one enjoys being around a gloomy soul. It's important to have family and close friends to confide in during sad times, but I've learned it's important to share joy and happiness with the rest of the world. Everyone's fighting their own battles, so choose happy and make life easier for someone else. 

Learn To Rebalance - You learn to rebalance life when someone departs. Since my brother passed away, I have felt more eyes fall on me. It's nice to be appreciated, but I preferred him being in the limelight. I've learned I can't rely on TJ to be the talker and storyteller, while I comfortably sit back and enjoy the show. Instead, I've had to learn to balance more attention...still working on it.

Rebalancing is a tricky process, as there will always be times I wish I could call TJ to hear about his latest choices in music and movies, his excitement for a recent missionary moment, an instant replay of a funny story from school, or his thoughts on something new he learned from the scriptures. These wishing moments don't necessarily go away, but they are tender times that help me remember him.

Someone Is Always Watching - So, I better be on my best behavior. We don't always recognize it, but our loved ones do help or comfort us in times of need. After TJ passed away, I had several experiences that were only explained by knowing it was his doing. I'm sure these moments live on, but feel I don't see them as clearly as I once did. It's easy to get caught up in daily distractions and neglect to think about those watching over us. Even so when we don't see, they are always there.

Angels Among Us - In the last seven years, the Lord has miraculously placed people in my life with traits that remind me of TJ. Some of my closest friendships have more fully developed by seeing these familiarities. I am grateful for those relationships and hope those tender mercies continue to come and live on through my mortal life.

More To Share
- There's something quite amazing about getting together with family and friends who can recall funny stories and share feelings of a loved one. I'm grateful for those times of gathering to be reminded of TJ's silly ways, haphazard experiences, and happy nature.
Talk Out Loud - Elder Richard G. Scott, an apostle in our Church, told a friend to keep photos of your loved one nearby and talk to them out loud. I've had a hard time doing this, but during times of complete desperation (usually when I'm having a serious heart to heart with the Lord in my car), I have talked to my brother...just wish I could hear him talk back. I know he's probably saying, "Hey sis! No worries!"

Grand Canyon Enthusiasm!
Take Time To Grieve - I don't completely understand grief, and imagine it's different for everyone, but I have learned to be patient with grief. Don't expect to be fine three days later. If you think you are, you really aren't, and the grief will hit harder down the road. I've learned this applies to grieving that comes in any aspect of life.
Let People See Him Through Me - As loved ones pass on, some of their traits may become more fully developed within us. We may be aware of some of these efforts, but often they develop subconsciously. I only know this occurs, because I've been told by several people that I've developed certain characteristics that were part of my brother.

Remembering Loved Ones Parallels Remembering The Savior - The same way in which we remember those that have passed on, easily parallels how we should remember our Savior. Through pictures, discussions, scriptures, and sacred places, we can always remember Him. The Savior truly knows more than anyone else of our joys, heartaches, and deepest sorrows. He continually places angels in our lives that uplift and inspire.

I hope I always recognize and remember the blessing each person I've known brings into my life. I hope to someday learn how to see the Savior to the fullest capacity my brother could see. I hope to develop the same Christ-like light and positive attitude that TJ so easily shared 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Yep, long ways to go w/learning to be more like my Savior at this age. Learning to dunk TJ on his head...ok, more like trying to help him do a cartwheel.
Good words that help me remember:
"In my 90-plus years, I have learned a secret. I have learned that when good men and good women face challenges with optimism, things will work out! Despite how difficult circumstances may look at the moment, those who have faith and move forward with a happy spirit will find that things always work out." 
President Gordon B. Hinckley - Way to Be. pp.81-84

"My beloved brothers and sisters, I testify of angels, both the heavenly and the mortal kind. In doing so I am testifying that God never leaves us alone, never leaves us unaided in the challenges that we face. “Nor will he, so long as time shall last, or the earth shall stand, or there shall be one man [or woman or child] upon the face thereof to be saved.” On occasions, global or personal, we may feel we are distanced from God, shut out from heaven, lost, alone in dark and dreary places. Often enough that distress can be of our own making, but even then the Father of us all is watching and assisting. And always there are those angels who come and go all around us, seen and unseen, known and unknown, mortal and immortal." - Elder Jeffrey R. Holland