Thursday, August 09, 2018

Holiday Road


See our entire trip in 4 min or less. 

The rumors are true, you guys. This summer, the Craig family pulled off a Griswold-worthy cross-country trip across this-here land of the free and home of the highway-bathroom stops! And it was glorious.

It all started when Katie’s parents declared they wanted to hold a family reunion. We’re fans of family reunions and of our families, in particular, so we were in. Then, they doubled-down by suggesting that since we are all spread out across the fruited planes and purple mountains (Katie being one of 10 children), that we should meet in the middle.

Kansas.

Which begs the question: Is Kansas … is that … is Kansas the middle? I’m pretty sure no. I’m pretty sure Hawaii is the middle. But then we crunched some numbers and turns out that if you’re going by budgets and expenses, Kansas is for sure the middle.

Then we decided that if we were going to drive all the way to Kansas, we should just make this trip – how the kids of 2014 say – epic. Yessir, we decided to go all the way! From sea to shining sea, baby!

Mostly.

If you're counting the Great Salt Lake as a sea, then yep! From Utah to Boston, Massachusetts!

For those of you keeping score at home, Katie and I have 8 children. (If you’re really a baller, then you know that one of our children is serving an LDS mission in Brazil and was not available for this road trip. But he’ll be available in 16 months, ladies…)


Anyway, the 9 of us piled into our 12-passenger van (alias: Big Red) and drove off into the sunset! Then we realized that was the wrong direction, so we turned that bus around and drove east! Like the old saying, “Go east, young man!”

We took 3 weeks, covered 17 states, and racked up 6,270 miles.

We made 8 lip sync videos. Technically, we made nine. But we never posted this one.


If you want to see the rest, they’re on YouTube.

We saw lots, my friends. Lots. The landscapes, the cultures, the people, the foods. But not everything. And that was maddening to me. It was like ordering a sampler plate. You know how when you are eating a sampler plate and you’re like, “Well, that was the right amount of stuffed potato skins (Hershey, PA), but I could have easily eaten an entire dinner of those sliders (Washington DC).” It was like that. We were in New York for precisely 10 hours. TEN HOURS. Sure, we saw Lady Liberty and walked the Brooklyn Bridge and played in Central Park. But is that enough? (It’s not. It’s like one and half sliders.) But I think we really nailed some cities. Have you EXPERIENCED the St. Louis City Museum? (Answer: You haven’t, and you should be ashamed.) We embraced Washington DC. High-fived Boston. And gave Philadelphia a sporty bum-smack. But some places, like Chicago, demanded more of our attention. And we just couldn’t fit everything in, or we’d still be out there. I even saw a billboard in Iowa that said, “Next Exit: Ride a boat pulled by mules.” And I thought to myself, “YES. That’s precisely what I want to do!” But time mocked us right to our faces.

But, perhaps most importantly, you don’t drive across America the Beautiful without learning a few things. Here are a few nuggets from this trip:

1. Our van fits in parking garages with a minimum 6’8 clearance. Not 6’6, not 6’7. We learned this the hard way at a garage in Washington DC. Worst. Sound. Ever. The good news is that we’ve traveled in this van for 7 years, with 8 children, on road-trips, eating countless meals, and nobody but nobody is interested in buying this used van from us. We clearly do not care what it looks like. We’ll just continue to abuse it until it refuses to run anymore. Which, if it were a person, and that person were me, that would have been 6 years ago.

Parking my 12-passenger van in downtown Manhattan. What? 

2. Everything takes longer with a big family. EVERY. THING. And when I say everything, I am mostly talking about bathroom breaks. Try this with me. Hold your thumb out in front of you. Close one eye and really focus on it. See your thumb nail? Not the entire thumb, just the nail. Have you got it? That’s the combined-size of my three youngest children’s bladders. If we were a band, this would have been called The Bathrooms Across America Tour. And for reasons as varied as the urinary habits of children everywhere, each bathroom stop took 45 minutes to three days. After I realized this pattern, I had to weigh our opportunities before parking anywhere. “Hmm. Do we want to see Midtown Manhattan, or go tinkles? There’s only time for one.”

3. I am willing to spend big bucks for good treats. And we ate some good treats. We made several ice cream stops. If we weren’t stopping at bathrooms, we were stopping for ice cream, my friends. And it was easily $40 every time. But I dare you – I defy you – to drive across America in the summer and not stop at mom n’ pop ice creams shops, fresh fruit shake stands, or frozen custard places every time you see one. Never mind meals or souvenirs or toll roads or parking garages or museum tickets or subways or taxis or whatever else – you will go broke on ice cream. And you won’t care. Because it’s delicious and you’re American and if you had to, I bet you could find a bank that would let you open a line of credit just for ice cream.

4. When I’m out of my routine, and there aren’t any other demands on me, it is the most wonderful thing to sit and watch my kids. At the end of our day in New York, we were taking the subway from Central Park to Battery Park, and we were the only ones in our car. Connor (17) was flag-polling on one of the vertical subway poles, and Tanner (12) grabbed his legs and was running him in circles. Some of the kids were singing. Hillary (4) was laughing. She was just laughing so hard with Becca (10) and Lucy (7). What was so amazing about this moment? I can’t tell you. I was just looking at my people, and I was overwhelmed with how much I loved them, and how much I liked them, and how much I liked being with them. I didn’t want to be anywhere else in the world than on that subway, with my favorite people. And I missed Garren (18). 

5. Sometimes I’d just be doing my thing, lost in my thoughts – driving or sitting on the bed planning the day or wondering if there was something back home I was supposed to be doing – and I’d turn and catch Katie watching me. Just silently, intentionally watching me. And when I’d look at her, she’d just give me this huge smile, and say nothing. It is by far her most powerful way of flirting with me.

6. You may learn some starting things about yourself on road trips. I was standing in the parking lot of a Walmart on the Indiana/Illinois border when I had a moment self-reflection. It was 8 AM and the parking lot wasn’t overly crowded. The kids were waking up and stretching, and I’d already gone inside to buy fruit, muffins and a 3D Chrome VIP Lounge Toilet Seat. (Just kidding – I just Googled “weird things to buy at Walmart” and that was the first item mentioned.) Anyway, we were anxious to get to Chicago, so rather than sleep, we had driven through the night from upstate New York. With no hotel room or other accommodations, but still needing to look and feel presentable before heading to the Art Institute of Chicago ... (you can see where this is going) ... I resourcefully turned to the Walmart parking lot. I stepped outside, rubbed on some deodorant, ran a comb through my hair, and thanks to a conveniently located drain, brushed my teeth. Then I changed clothes ... in the front seat of my van. I remember thinking, “This can’t be the first time people have done all this in a Walmart parking lot.” And though my logic was solid, somewhere in the part of my brain that sorts through social mores, I could sense that this was something I should be more embarrassed about. But also, I was tired, I knew I’d never be in this place ever again, I didn't know a soul there, and kind of, I just didn’t care. And that’s when I realized who I had become.

7. I really, truly love the history of this country. I was inspired over and over as we visited these old cities and read about those who “more than self their country loved, and mercy more than life.” I felt profound respect for those who collaborated, compromised, worked, and served to create one nation under God. And I felt that plea that God shed his grace on us, and crown our good with brotherhood.

8. We did the hotel thing for a few nights, but our favorite is always the people we get to stay with. We truly appreciate siblings, cousins, even friends I’ve known since I was 4 years old. I also got to visit with a friend I hadn’t seen in 28 years, from when I lived in Hawaii, and another friend I worked with 20 years ago…about the time that Katie was the age that Abbie is now. (For reals.) Sincerely, friends. This country’s greatest commodity is its people! Not the ones you see on TMZ, necessarily, and not the ones you did or didn’t vote for, in particular, but the ones running ice cream shops and the ones riding with you on the Staten Island Ferry and the ones who welcome you into their home and feed you delicious food and the ones who sit with you in the ER and the ones that help you get your keys out of your locked car and the ones who apologize and the ones who forgive and the ones who tell you that you can buy the CD for the Gettysburg Driving Tour or you can look it up for free on YouTube and the ones who confide in you and the ones who trust you and the ones that hug you and love you.

My friend, Ann Marie, from Hawaii. We went to her Junior Prom. 
Most recently, we had lunch together at Katie's sister's house.  

My friend, Terry, and his family. We've been friends since 1974. We were both single then. 

My friend, Debby. She's great for a number of reasons - 
but getting us a table at Grimaldi's and knowing the NY subway system makes her a national hero.

Katie was able to meet up with her high school pal, Beth. 
And yes, it was as adorable as this picture makes it look. 

One Sunday, we went to the church that Katie went to growing up in Reading, PA, and drove around her old neighborhood. It was so sweet to hear people gushing about Katie's family and their influence in the area. It was also sweet to hear Katie tell this heartwarming story about the first time she fasted, and Becca's hard-hitting follow-up question, "Which stall?" 

 If you don't have any MalleyCats in your life ... why? 

Katie's cousin, Meredith, and her adorable daughters. It was minimal time, but maximum party.  

Our friend Jjana, who literally gave up her bed for us. 
And her husband Cliff (not pictured) bbq'd for us and it was insaaaane. 

Katie's cousin, Marliese, and her family!
I have a sister named Marlise. TWO Marlises in my life? Yes, please.  

Katie's sister, Shellie. Behind her? The Capitol Building. 
But if you want something done, my money is on Shellie.  

Katie's sister, Stephanie, and her kids. There was just enough room for me to sleep right in the middle, there. 

9. I love cold cereal. I do. The “free-breakfast” hotels we stayed at all featured a variety – waffles, eggs, muffins, yogurt, bagels… No thanks. I’ll just have four bowls of Frosted Flakes and Froot Loops. Breakfast of champions.

10. At some point you begin to sense that back home, reality has not pushed “pause” while you’ve been gone, and Real Life is waiting for you at home. In fact, Real Life is mounting back at home. And you’re sad to see the trip come to an end, but grateful that you have a Real Life that you’re actually excited to get back to.

So that's it in a very small nutshell. In the end, we had one minor hiccup. It didn’t seem minor in the moment, but things are looking up. On our second to last night, our youngest, Hillary, took a spill down some stairs … and broke her clavicle. A quick trip to the hospital and an x-ray revealed a pretty bad break. The ER doc said that when we got back to Utah we should speak to a pediatric surgeon. We told the ER doc he was fired. Our doctor back in Utah assured us there was no need for surgery, and Hillary is on the mend!




Hillary, after hearing she wouldn't need surgery. 
Also after eating a donut. 



Monday, April 24, 2017

Movies 8 Has Left the Building


If you don’t live in Provo, Utah, or never have, then this landmark might need a small introduction.

This is Provo's discount movie theater. It’s like a holding cell for movies, after they’ve enjoyed their standard run at the theater, but before they are released for home theater viewing. It’s a warm welcome, as far as holding cells go. “Here, La La Land, put your feet up. You must be exhausted after that long run at those upscale, prestigious theaters. Rest a bit. And don’t forget, you get one phone call.” Of course, during its one phone call, you’d find La La Land yelling at the theater, which is always full of chatty teenagers, “SHUT UP! I can’t hear anything with all your yapping!” And trust me, La La Land has a point.

You’ll notice the sign says, “Thank you for 28 years.” That means this theater was born in 1989. I remember. I was here. My freshman year at BYU was fall of 1989. This theater holds more memories, and more of my dollars, than I care to admit.


In 1989, my parents flew out to BYU with me, to drop me off and help me get settled. The night before they left, we went to dinner, and then went to a movie at Movies 8. We saw Chances Are, starring Robert Downey Jr. (You guys remember Robert Downey Jr.?) I remember my dad saying, “Three for Chances Are.” And the lady behind the glass saying, “Three dollars.” I had never heard of a discount theater, and my mind exploded. “THREE DOLLARS?! Cancel my contract at the freshman dorms, I’m living HERE!”

And I pretty much did.

You will never have an easier time finding one dollar and two hours than you will your freshman year of college.

“Dude. What are you doing?”
“Homework.”
“We’re going to see Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure. You in?”
“Of course. I haven’t seen it since last night, when I also had $1 and two hours to spare.”
“Sweet.” [Exchange of high-fives.]*
(*Based on actual events.)

My friend, Jim, and I had a Friday afternoon Psychology class my freshman year. We both learned quickly that Friday afternoons are no time for college psychology classes. The grade was mostly based on attendance, so we would go to class, sign the roll, and then leave for Movies 8. And we would watch whatever was playing next. It was like movie roulette. Sometimes we won – Uncle Buck! But usually we lost, including an unfortunate viewing of a festering turd called Ski Patrol.


One afternoon my friend Ty and I went to buy tickets to a movie that night for us and our dates. Dead Poets Society. But since we were already there, and our dates weren’t until later, Ty thought it would probably be a good idea to see something right then, as well. Something our dates would be less interested in. Count yourselves lucky if you’ve ever had a friend as smart as Ty, you guys. “Two for License to Kill, please.”

Movies 8 was the backdrop to many significant life lessons and rites of passage moments for me.

I learned about second chances. For example, when I took my date, Melissa, to see Weekend at Bernie’s, and at the end of the night, she still agreed to a second date. A date where she would choose what we would be doing, but still, a second date!

I walked out of my first movie, ever, at Movies 8. Airheads. So incredibly inane, our whole group unanimously looked at each other, stood up, and marched out. No words were spoken. The movie didn’t deserve our words. But if that movie still wants to apologize for stealing those 32 minutes from us, there’s no statute of limitations.

You may already be aware of my feelings about hand-holding at movies (I’m for it! You can read about them here), but if these soon-to-be-torn-down walls could talk! Once, during a viewing of The Abyss – the scene where Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio has to drown so Ed Harris can pull her to the station and then revive her! – my date and I skipped the entire timid-phase and immediately clasped each other’s’ hands, held them to our hearts, and stopped breathing. Then our hands just sort of stayed locked the rest of the movie. [Swoon.] Of course, another time, at the beginning of a relationship, my date kept bumping my elbow with her hand, and I kept apologizing and shifting in my seat, only to realize after the third time that she was trying to stealthily hold my hand. In my defense, I was entranced by another brilliant performance by Robert Downey Jr. (you guys remember Robert Downey Jr.?) in the magical and under-appreciated, Heart & Souls.


My most memorable moment? Katie and I had been dating regularly, though not exclusively, and things were … changing. Feelings were developing, though I, for one, was pretty ineloquent in trying to articulate how I felt about her and what direction I thought we were going. She was being a little bit vague as well. We were at Movies 8 one night, taking in a viewing of Only You, starring Marisa Tomei and Robert Downey Jr. (You guys remember Robert Downey Jr.?) At the end of the movie, I looked over, and Katie had tears running down her cheeks. She took my face in her hands and kissed me. I was a little caught off guard. “Are you ok?” I asked. “I’m in love with you,” she said, softly. “Then I’m super glad we chose this over Clear and Present Danger,” I said.

 

When we moved back to Provo a few years ago, I was so excited to be near Movies 8. For taking a family of 10 to the movies, a discount theater is the way to go.

Kind of.

It’s different now. In 1989, there were no stadium-seating theaters with such amenities as food being brought out to you by a waiter, and no lounge chairs that are essentially beds. The full-price theaters looked and felt precisely like the Movies 8 discount theater. They were all the same. Also, the lag time between when a movie left the regular theater and was released on video was much longer. Now, by the time a movie comes to a discount theater, it’s pretty much released on video at the same time. Sure, I could take my family to the movies for $10. OR I could rent it on-demand or Redbox it for $1 and watch the movie on my couch, with my own personal waiter* bringing me food while I lounge. (*Usually Roxanna, my 13-year old daughter who bakes amazing cookies.)

I feel like I haven’t shown the proper level of attention to Movies 8 since I moved back here. Like, I haven’t been going weekly, or twice in one day … and I’ve never ditched a psychology class on a Friday afternoon to go see Encino Man. But with Movies 8’s closing, I think I’d like to honor it by carrying on its legacy. Therefore, I will open my home to the public and be charging $1 admission to come watch movies at my house. I’ll provide my chatty teenagers for ambiance, and I’ll see if Robert Downey Jr. will come to my grand opening. (You guys remember Robert Downey Jr.?)



Friday, August 05, 2016

Doin' Time at Costco


I recently worked a demo booth at my local Costco for two weeks. For reasons. 

It wasn't on the first draft of my list of Things to Do This Summer; but neither was swim with an alligator, lip sync Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy or have an ongoing inner dialogue about the pros and cons of breaking up with Facebook – yet I managed to fit all of these things into this season! I guess I was just feeling productive. 



I've worked trade shows numerous times … but this was different. This was Costco. Here are some highlights of two-weeks worth of observations. 

If you stand in Costco long enough, the entire world walks by. 

98% of that world already owns a Bosch Mixer. 

80% of those who own a Bosch Mixer will yell at you, “I love my Bosch!” Most likely in an attempt to stop you from trying to sell them one. 

We live among people who will eat Costco pizza at 10:30 AM. 

There are a lot of people at Costco not dressing their truth. (Extra points if you get this reference.)

It takes three days of eating samples of pot stickers before you get sick of them. 

You can eat endless samples of Brazilian cheese bread, grass-fed beef, and Belgium waffles with Nutella and never get sick of them. 

The quickest way to reduce people to animalistic, post-apocalyptic behavior is to offer free samples. 

People offering samples don't care how many you eat, from a supply point of view. But they will judge you for the sheer amount you consume. They quietly judge you with their eyes. And sometimes not as quietly, with their words. 


If you're working a booth, and you don't offer samples, you're a leper and you should be ashamed of yourself. 

A genuine smile and “hello” from somebody passing by will absolutely make your day. You will have to exercise the greatest level of restraint to not leave your booth and hug that person and ask them if they'd like to chat for a few minutes over some grass-fed beef. 

Standing for 11 hours in one spot is not natural. Your body will hurt. In weird places. 

If you walk by a booth and the person working it doesn't at least engage you in eye contact, it is because they have just farted and don't want you to come anywhere near them. (They have to stand there for 11 hours! Cut them some slack! Let's see how YOU do after devouring 11 pot stickers!) 

Get your heads out of your phones, guys. Our country's greatest form of entertainment is other people's children. Adorable babies abound in Utah County, yes. But my favorite was the four-year old who had clearly skipped nap time (since the Tuesday before) and, through tears of rage and screams of inhumanity, was using both hands to pick up every item in the cart and hurl it at the floor as fast as he could, while the parents made a bee-line for the front doors, suddenly losing interest in actually making any purchases. I don't know the back-story of what was happening here, but something tells me it's a tale as old as time. 

Speaking of back-stories. I made one up for somebody. My first day on the job, a gentleman rolled his cart over and started asking me some genuine questions about the product I was selling. We talked for several minutes, and I observed the number of items already in his cart. He eventually wandered off. “Nice guy,” I thought to myself. About 10 min later he swung by again and let me know he'd talked to his girlfriend, and she wasn't interested in the product I had. Fine. About two hours later ... he came by again … I was intrigued. What in the world was this guy doing, loitering in a Costco for hours upon hours in the middle of a work week? And then it dawned on me. 

He's casing the joint. 

I wondered if I should tell management about this shifty dude, late 40s, Lindsey Buckingham look-a-like, that's clearly looking to move some real merchandise from this place. 

Then, several hours later … he came by again. This time, with completely different things in his cart. Like, he had put stuff back (or stolen it) and now had a fresh load of goods in his cart. That's when it dawned on me. 

He's a widow. 

He lost his wife and has become quite reclusive. He suffers from anxieties and the only thing he really does that makes him feel normal is venturing out to large, busy retail locations. He can strike up conversations with people and act like he is just your average citizen with a “to do” list. Then it occurs to me. My gosh. This man is me. If I were his age and I lost Katie, this is what I would become!!! My heart broke for this guy. I wanted to invite him over for dinner. 

Then the next morning … I saw him again. And he had a Costco name badge on. And I realized he was shopper security. And then I was embarrassed. So I decided as long as I was embarrassed, I might as well go binge on Belgium waffles with Nutella until somebody shoos me away. 

Aside from people I didn't know, I also bumped into a crazy amount of people I did know. Well over 100. 

I saw a girl I dated my freshman year in college, 1989. We laughed, played “do you remember the time,” and realized we both had 16-year olds that should go out sometime. (Because, you guys, 16-year olds love nothing more than for their parents to get involved in their love life.) 

I saw the parents of a girl I dated in 1993. The mom hugged me. She was always so kind. 

I saw … 

A guy I became friends with in the LDS Missionary Training Center who I hadn't seen since 1990. 
Young adults I knew in Las Vegas who now live here and are getting married. 
Missionaries I knew in Las Vegas who now live here but aren't getting married. 
Good friends who would visit with me for long stretches of time and act super interested in my mixers. 
People I used to work with. 
People I used to perform improv with in college. 
My good friend Matt? His mom. 
An old LDS mission companion. 
A guy I used to play racquetball with in Las Vegas. 
Neighbors, old friends, new friends.... you get the picture. 

That was really my favorite part of the Costco experience. Seeing people from my past and present, and visiting with them. I know some really wonderful people. 

Of course, visiting with them also made it so that I had to explain why I was working a booth at Costco. The real reason was boring and required a longer explanation than I cared to dive into. So I got pretty creative. 

“Research.” 

“I'm just filling in for a friend who's on his lunch break.”

“I recently bought the company and I'm interested in discovering public opinion on my own.” 

“It's always been on my Bucket List to do this, and I know a guy.” 

“I'm just doing some consulting and this is a weird part of the gig.” 

“I'm actually a secret shopper.” 

“This is just my day job.” 

“Why did you come over here? Didn't you notice I wouldn't make eye contact with you? No, I don't know what smells vaguely like pot stickers.” 



Thursday, December 24, 2015

Merry Christmas in 2015!





2015. Let me ‘splain. No, there is too much. Let me sum up. 



I had the privilege of playing the Bishop in the beloved Once I Was a Beehive! I love the friendships that came out of this amazing experience. The producers also sent me to Las Vegas to introduce the film and do Q&As. To see so many friends come out in support reminded me that a part of my heart will always be there. And no, being in a movie hasn't landed me any stalkers. I don't even have my own table at Burger Supreme! (That's my barometer for knowing I've "made it.") 

Other highlights: Working at Food for Health, serving in the bishopric, finding grey chest-hairs. 


Katie turned 40 and we had a party, with amazing performances and tributes!

I got to be the emcee...and give the final tribute. 

Our friend, Patrick, who composed an amazing, original birthday song for Katie.

Katie's sister, Rachel, giving us "Katie's Hairstyles Through the Years."

Jonelle, paying a lovely, moving tribute like only she could. 

Katie and Lisa, improv-ing what their Provo-based talk show would look like. 
It's a crime that this show doesn't exist. 

The Craig kids, performing their dance interpretation of Men in Black. 

Eric D. Snider, performing one of Katie's favorite songs from his vast library of hits.


Other Katie highlights: Year 12 of homeschooling, serving as Primary President, had a BYU Freshman Roommates reunion. It was adorable, you guys. 



Also, Katie and I celebrated our 20-year anniversary! 


This 5-minute video represents those 20 years. How do you condense 20 years into 5 minutes? You make a hard and fast rule that any clips must involve dancing or dance-like manuevering. 


Other highlights: Katie and I also went back to our roots – where we first met – performing improv! A couple of times a month we perform at Comedy Sportz! 

 

We also starred in this Doritos commercial, which did NOT get selected for the Super Bowl [sad trombone sound], but thank you all for the support, anyway. We loved making it. 





Abbie is 18. Graduated high school and started college at BYU, moved onto campus, and got a lead part in a main stage production at BYU! She also sent us this video of her and her roommate, Sariah. 




Garren is 16. Driving, dating, and working at Comedy Sportz! He sort of makes me feel embarrassed that I ever thought I was cool at 16, because he is absolutely nailing it. 


Connor is 14. I'm telling you right now, this was his highlight this year. You can read about it here. Constantly creating - either in his mind, on a sketch pad, or with tools. I'm jealous of his creativity.


Roxanna is 12. She is officially a Beehive. She loves the cello, her baking skills are off the chart, and she is a smiley soul. (Pictured here with Grandma Fillmore.)


Tanner is 10. The Force Awakens blew his mind; and him venturing out into the Pacific with his little sister on a paddle board blew mine. 


Becca is 7. Loves the violin and has fully recovered from a traumatic head injury this summer. I still don't love talking about it.  

 
 

Lucy is 4. She makes up the best songs and is at my favorite age - where they say whatever comes to their mind and assume all their observations are completely accurate. 


Hillary is 2. She is speaking in full sentences. Her favorite one seems to be when you urgently ask her to do something and she answers, "Hold on a minute." 



Biggest Adventure This Year: We made a trip to southern California, where I lived growing up. 

What it looks like traveling in our van. With Garren driving. 

When I made all of us pull over in the Joshua Tree National Forest 
so my sons and I could re-enact the cover of U2's album. 

Santa Monica Pier

Hollywood's famous Pink's Hot Dogs. Also, if you look closely, you'll see the cutest thing ever captured on film. 
20-month old Hillary pulling Becca's face close to her for the shot. Can you stand it?!

That's the Hollywood Sign behind us. Objects in photo are closer than they appear. 

Touching the temple! The L.A. Temple, to be exact. 

At the beach. I loved this day. 

Stopping at my parents' house for a quick selfie. Don't they look amazing?! 

Visiting Katie's parents, on a mission in California - almond and pistachio farms. Delicious. 
The fields were ripe and ready to harvest! HAHAHA! I'm funny. 

Sailing and seal watching!

This is my cousin Lisa. I hadn't seen her since I was probably 10. We got to catch up on the last 34 years! 
I adore her and her husband, Mark. They are generous and kind, and I love claiming them as family!



Other highlights:

Stake Pioneer Trek at Martin's Cove.

Inspired by our incredible friend, Matti. 

First Portugal Lisbon North mission reunion in 20 years! 
We waited too long to take the picture, most people had left. 
Great to visit with some incredible friends. 

Halloween: Craig Wax Museum

Thanksgiving dinner. 

When I look back on the details of 2015, I am able to immediately recognize how much would not have happened without the influence, love, and help of so many. I feel my Heavenly Father's love manifested by the people He places in my life. I am blessed to have extraordinary family and friends play an immeasurable role in the good that surrounds me. I love this time of year. I am grateful for the Savior, Jesus Christ, and all that is available through Him. Merry Christmas! Thank you for being my friends!