Monday, October 2, 2017

Monday Sorrow

Impromptu blog post in response to the tragedy unfolding in Las Vegas. As usual, I was typing up a facebook status, but it turned into something more than "just" a status.

My husband woke me up this morning and embraced me with a hug telling me there was a mass shooting in Las Vegas last night. I read a few headlines online and left it at that. I avoided turning on the news until about half an hour ago. It leaves me not only heartbroken but truly sick.

My heart goes out to everyone... those directly affected, families, first responders, nurses, doctors, blood bankers, techs, etc. I can't imagine the chaos that has ensued. I'm sure most are on autopilot, unable to sleep or relax thinking about all the trauma they just witnessed. Thinking about the people they just saved, those who are fighting for their lives, and some that they worked tirelessly to save but just couldn't hold on.

I can't help but think about those in my own profession, laboratory technologists, technicians, and phlebotomists who are racing to get the blood that they need, get it tested STAT and turn results around as quickly as possible so that the providers are able to provide the care that they need. And all those blood bankers activating mass transfusion protocols to transfuse more units than a body can hold.

It's so incredibly sad some people have the ammunition like this to cause such sorrow. What can be SO terrible that you need to take innocent lives of others to justify your own feelings? I will never understand it. And unfortunately we never get the answers or closure that families and friends so desperately need because the one who causes so much violence ends up taking his/her own life or the only way to get them to stop is to take their life. It's sad this has to be the outcome.

Our world is so volatile right now and everything is so uncertain. As my husband and I think of starting a family, a small voice in the back of my head makes me question if I want to bring a child into such an unstable world. I hate that I even have to think about that. But there is so much fear that surrounds our everyday life. Fear of unobtainable health insurance, potential war, riots. Fear of traveling and exploring this world, of enjoying entertainment outside your own front door.

Most of us don't let that fear paralyze us and prevent us from living our lives. And we shouldn't... but in a time where we have to add things like regular "active shooter drills" into our schools and work places, it's hard to not be worried about our future children's futures. I wonder what they will end up knowing? A world of violence and hate or one of compassion and love? I can only hope that we can raise them with the later instilled within them deep down to their very core, but our society far too often demonstrates the complete opposite.

I hope that they are able to grow up and follow their dreams. To live their lives without fear of social conformity and ideals. I hope they are able to express themselves, stand up for themselves, and be exactly who they are meant to be with acceptance and support from everyone around them. And I pray with everything I have that Josh and I are able to raise them with love in their hearts in a world surrounded with hate.

These are just some of my thoughts in a nutshell on this gloomy and terribly sad Monday. Please join me in not only thinking about and praying for everyone involved with the horrible events but also for our country and its leaders.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

The Old and the New

Has it been a long time or what!? Every new beginning starts with a little old and a whole lot of new.. and that new comes in the form of a different look for my blog and (hopefully) a whole bunch of posts to record this new life as a wife! ;-)

After getting married last month (I know, a lot has changed!) I contemplated starting a completely new blog. I've had an itch to write again and my husband has supported and encouraged me to get back into it. Since a new journey has begun, I wanted to start fresh. But as I struggled to figure out what I wanted to call it and what I wanted to write about, I realized that this blog has shaped me and it encompasses a huge part of who I am. Abandoning this blog and starting another seems almost like erasing a very important chapter in my life, something I'm not willing to do.

As I was trying to get a feel for what this blog became, I took the time to skim though some of my writing throughout the years. I thought back to how on earth it even began.  When I graduated 8th grade a very special lady gifted me a purple journal. That summer, for the first time, I started writing. Most weeks I journaled almost every night. I finished my high school years with 3 journals complete; one for my freshman year, one for my sophomore year, and one that encompassed my junior and senior years.

After starting my second semester at the U, I remember sitting in the HC building one morning waiting to head off to my first class. I'd been feeling stressed out with living in a new state, being a new college student, and dealing with Spencer's health struggles. Without much thought to it, I picked up my computer and quickly made a Blogger account, a blog, and wrote my very first post. I had no idea if I'd keep up with it, I honestly didn't really expect to, but I thought it might help me with expressing myself.

This blog became so much more than I ever expected it to be. It was my place to vent, my safe spot to express my fears, and my place to share some of the best memories that I'll cherish forever. It not only helped me, but it also helped so many other women who have went/are going through similar hardships and celebrations as myself which is not something I ever expected to happen. That reason within its self is enough for me to continue with what I started 7 years ago.

This blog ended up telling the story of my young adult life and the many complex emotions and events that made me who I am to this day. The young woman that I was on January 22nd, 2010 has grown into such a beautiful, loving, and complex women who just happened to have a very rough past, but who has an incredibly bright future ahead.

As I start this new chapter in my life with my wonderful husband and ridiculously nutty dog, I won't erase and forget what made me, me. Instead I want to continue to record the memories, the celebrations, the struggles, and the heartbreaks. I want to remember as much as I want to live this "new" life to the fullest.

"In the end, she became more than what she expected. She became the journey, and like all journeys, she did not end, she just simply changed directions and kept going." R. M. Drake

Tuesday, January 19, 2016


For the next year and a half there are many things that I just absolutely cannot change and I've really been letting it get to me this week. For some reason this semester seems like a more difficult adjustment for me to make than the last.

My schedule is completely different, my classes are significantly more difficult, I have a couple different professors to get used to, and I'm having a much harder time settling into a routine.

I find myself a lot more irritable and frustrated over so many things. I can't figure out how to study for my classes. My living situation is less than ideal in the dorms. I can't seem to get a good nights sleep (which definitely contributes to my irritability!) The fact that I don't have any income and can't balance school and work worth a damn. After a long day I can't lay down and watch Netflix or browse the internet because we can't get a good wifi connection in our room. That I have to jump through a million hoops with nearly every little thing I do. The list goes on.

Last night as I lay in bed for over 2 hours listening to loud bangs and the constant dribble of a basketball from the dorm above us I was livid. They've been talked to about it twice before and it's never helped, I was exhausted, I was unable to shut my brain off, and every time I drifted off to sleep I'd be woken up a few minutes later by a door slamming, a ridiculously loud bang from above and I'd have to start the cycle all over again.

All I could do was complain. All I've been doing is complaining. I've been here before. Many times. Sometimes when it seems like absolutely nothing can go right and all you can find is the wrong it's not necessarily your surroundings or your circumstances that is to blame. Instead it's your attitude.

We ALL have things we wish would change or circumstances that are less than to be desired. We can choose to be miserable or to make the best of the situation. It's like someone super special at DCH always says, "Think positive, not negative" with a big smile and thumbs up. I need to take that statement to heart right now.

I need a major attitude change. Today I have taken a step to change the things that are in my ability to change and the things that I can't I need to work on accepting the way that they are.

I know that things with my classes will improve. They aren't supposed to make sense to me RIGHT NOW. That's why I'm going to school. My situations are only temporary. I'm so anxious to be done with school, move out of North Platte, figure out where I want to be, and start my career that I'm having a hard time enjoying the process and seeing the good, not the bad.

It's not easy but I've got to try. I'm tired of being miserable where I'm at and with the things outside of my control.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Winter Break

Even though I have begun to go stir crazy after my first winter break since being back at school, it has been so nice to be able to relax, not worry about anything, and enjoy being with my family! I am certainly ready to get back into a routine again and start spring semester. I know that it's going to be a tough semester, but I'm really excited to start getting into the specifics of MLT classes!

This semester my schedule is pretty flexible with only a couple classes a day. I am done with classes by 9:15am on Thursday so I have a lot of time to study and if it allows, have a longer weekend break! Unfortunately I have to take Chemistry 2 & lab from 6-9 at night one day a week which I'm not at all looking forward to, but otherwise I really can't complain about my schedule!

For MLT we are diving into Hematology and Serology. I am also taking psychology online, chemistry, and Anatomy and Physiology. Looking forward to all my classes minus chemistry. It was my toughest class in the fall and I struggled to pull an A out of the class. But I'm going to stay optimistic about Chem 2 and aim for an A!

During the first part of my break I spent about a week with my family. We celebrated my sisters birthday on the 16th and then I celebrated my birthday on the 20th with my family. I spent my actual birthday with Josh on the 22nd. He took me out to eat at the Loop (Fun Fact: Where we had our first date!) and he got me an awesome coffee table book about the top 100 musicals which has been fun to flip through when I've been bored. He also got me the cutest stuffed sloth that we named Seymore! It's been fun, Josh takes pictures of him doing silly things in the morning before he goes to work....

Josh spent Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with my family and a good time was had by all! Christmas Eve day we spent with my mom, dad, and sister at the house playing games, eating food, and visiting. That evening we went to my grandmas, as is tradition, and enjoyed ourselves among lots of food, punch, and gifts, and family.

We did something different this Christmas and had a mini photo booth with some props. Turned out to be pretty fun and my sister got some nice shots! The following pictures are credit to Shayna!

Christmas Day was spent with my mom, dad, and sister at the house. We opened up our gifts which was so fun to see each others reactions, played around with them a bunch and played several games. Josh made friends with the dogs and we got to relax and just enjoy the day.

We spent several nights at Josh's parents cabin and got to spend time with his parents. We all watched the Husker bowl game, which ended up not disappointing like we thought it would! The cabin and time with his family was very enjoyable and relaxing, but going to the bathroom outside in an outhouse at 3am with subzero wind chills is not our idea of fun, so we were ready to get back home and relax with each other after being with family for several days in a row =)
View of the Sandpit from the Cabin
On New Years Eve Josh and I went to a small party with some people that he knows and had a pretty good time. I enjoy meeting some of the people he spends time with and getting to know them. We left around 10:30 as we were both really tired. After we got home we played Words with Friends (Our normal!) and saw the New Year in. Just a few minutes later we went to bed and crashed hard!

Josh had to return to coaching wrestling and shortly after returned to work. I went to watch wrestling a couple of times over my break; a triangular in North Platte and then a JV tournament in Gothenburg. I'm certainly getting it down. I think I hit a wrestling milestone in Gothenburg as I finally got excited enough, and understood enough, to cheer them out - out loud! I enjoyed going to cheer them on.

We also had to jump on the Star Wars bandwagon! We went to the movie and LOVED it! I'm super excited to see what the next one brings! Josh and I also watched Ant Man, which I really liked, and then I asked to watch more of the Marvel movies as I've really enjoyed each one I've seen. We watched Guardians of the Galaxy which made me excited for the next one that will be coming out! We also watched Jaws, Josh's favorite movie. He was blown away I hadn't seen it before!
Super excited for STAR WARS!
I move back on campus tomorrow afternoon and start classes on Monday. Here's wishing myself attentiveness, motivation, and patience throughout this semester!

Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015 Reflections

These end of the year reflection blogs are some of my favorite blogs to write! I love looking back on the year that I've had. I definitely slacked in blogging this year, therefore this is a bit wordy because I certainly have plenty to write about! Most of the writing I did this year I chose to keep private. I've tried really hard this year to minimize how much of my life I make public, and am happy with the success I've had!

So with that.... this was my 2015!

To Move or Not to Move
When I rang the 2015 year in, I had intentions of packing up my life and moving to California. I wasn't happy in Bird City and I wanted and really needed a change. While it was such an exciting step for me to make, it was also one that terrified me. There were so many unknowns and I couldn't shake the uneasy feeling that I got when it came closer and closer to me making the move. After countless debates back and forth in my mind between a regret of not moving and the relief of not disrupting my life and making a potential mistake, I finally realized that I wasn't making the move with my best interests in mind. I was taking the leap a little too quickly and it was just something I was not at all ready for. I think the part that held me back the most was the fear of failure. Leaving my comfort zone was my biggest obstacle. That decision came with a whole lot of tears and heartbreak as I told my friends in California that I wouldn't be moving. However they were incredibly accepting of my decision and supported me 100% even through the disappointment I'm sure that they were hiding. That's what you call true friends =)

Now I can't say that I wouldn't have been happy in Cali. I honestly think that if I would have moved, things probably would have fallen into place and worked out just fine for me. However making the choice, no matter how hard it was, to put myself first was a HUGE milestone for me. At the end of 2014 I made the decision that I needed to concentrate and work on ME this year. To uncover my own identity and figure out what I wanted and needed in life. That was just the first step of many that I have to take!

To New York!
Before January, I had never been any further east than Topeka, Kansas. My friend Bob grew up in New York and he drove cross country from California to New York to spend his first winter break with his family in Lafayette, just south of Syracuse. I had the opportunity to take about a week off of work, so I purchased a one way ticket to fly to New York to experience the east coast and do a 1/2 cross country drive back to Kansas! The flight was a nightmare, but after a 2 hour delay due to deicing the plane, a missed connection, and then a layover, I made it to Syracuse!

While there I got to experience the best coffee I've ever tasted (that's saying something as I'm not really a coffee drinker!), ice skating for the very first time (and didn't fall down!), 2 Syracuse basketball games, Funk'n Waffles, amazing BBQ, sushi and Sake Bombs for the first time, and I met a whole bunch of new people and had such a fun time!

Top and Bottom Left: Syracuse Basketball Games
Top Right: Ice Skating at Clinton Square
Bottom Right: Delicious Waffle at Funk 'N Waffles 
ASCP Certified
In February I took the ASCP certification test to become a certified phlebotomist. I had been studying for the exam since September 2014 in preparation to become certified in the state of California as a phleb. I also have been wanting to take the exam as it will help me in my goal to become an MLT/MT and also just to prove to myself that I am skilled and know my stuff! I was absolutely ecstatic when the screen came up and told me that I passed! I got almost double the required score to pass further proving that I am very competent in phlebotomy and all of my hard work has paid off.

The very first thing I did after I passed my test was to text Theresa. She replied telling me how proud she was of me and that she knew I could do it. We had planned to talk on the phone that night or the next day, but unfortunately that text was the very last I heard from Theresa before she passed away that day due to a brain aneurysm.

Another Difficult Loss
Waking up that morning to that news was absolutely devastating. I cannot even express the sorrow that was in my heart and honestly still is. Never have I let out a sob so fierce in my life. I will forever be grateful for my friend who answered my blubbering phone call at 4 in the morning... for my sister coming to sit with me that morning as I cried... for my boss allowing me to take off work that morning so I could compose myself... to my mom who took me out for lunch and let me talk and cry... and for all of the support I received from my friends and family who understood how difficult that loss was for me. Your kindness didn't go unnoticed.

Losses never get easier. Whether it is a spouse, a family member, or a dear friend, each of them strikes your heart in a completely different way. I've had my fair share, but Theresa's death hit me deep down to my very core. Nearly a year later I still struggle with her death. When I talk about her I still shed a tear. Her friendship was so real and I truly thought she'd be the constant in my life for years to come that I had been missing. I miss her dearly, and she will always be in my heart.

Work Success
I had many successes at work this year as phlebotomist and our organ donor committee president. I was nominated employee of the month for the second time, I successfully did an arterial blood gas on a patient under Karen's supervision, earned a raise, had an awesome lab week and job shadow day in the lab, and made Blue and White day for Organ donor week a success by hosting a walk and presentation that pulled in more participants than expected.

Big Move Turned Little
After deciding that I wasn't going to make a huge move to California I decided to make a little move into a cute little apartment in Benkelman. As stated before, really needed a change and moving 30 minutes north into the town that I worked was just what I needed to keep me happy and sane. I really enjoyed living in Benkelman. It was nice only having a 3 minute walk to work, being closer to the majority of my friends, and not having to drive if I wanted a fun night out!

But eventually I began to feel stuck again. I was happy working at DCH, and I loved my job and my friends, however I couldn't escape the feeling that I wanted more for myself. After having a pretty low moment and heavy discussion with my mom one night around midnight, I made the choice to look into going back to school and getting my degree as an MLT. Things moved pretty quickly after that. I applied to Mid Plains Community College in North Platte and was accepted into the MLT program.

So far returning to school has been a huge success for me! I ended fall semester with a 4.0 GPA and honestly couldn't be more proud of myself. It's an accomplishment I didn't know I was capable of. It's been very exciting actually learning the things that I want to do with my career! I can't believe that the fall semester flew by so quickly. I will graduate with my MLT degree Spring of 2017. Only 3 more semesters of classes and a semester of clinicals and I will be well on my way to starting my career... Oh, and paying off all this student loan debt!

Quitting my job was extremely difficult but the prospect of getting my degree and working as a tech alongside Karen, Mike, and Emilee is so exciting for me. It's what I've been waiting to do for the last 2 years! The decision to go back to school was fully supported and encouraged by my family, friends, and coworkers. They have had my back from day one and continue to support me through this journey!

Ed Sheeran and California
I knew that after starting school the trips that I was going to be able to make would be pretty limited so I decided to fit a few in where I could! At the end of June my sister and I went to the best concert I've ever been to! We saw Ed Sheeran at the Red Rocks Amphitheater in Colorado. We paid a pretty penny for the tickets but it was completely worth it and I don't know about Shayna, but I'd do it again in a heartbeat! Opening for Ed Sheeran was Rixton, a band that I've been following for awhile and love! I completely forgot about it and so when they came on stage I got so excited! Glad that we got to take our annual concert trip. Wonder what's in store for 2016?!

Just a day after getting back from Colorado with my sister, I left again to the airport to take one last adventure to California to visit my friends for the Forth of July! It was so much fun and I got to see nearly all of my friends who live in Cali... and then some! I stayed in LA the first half and then stayed in South Pasadena for the second half. Glad I made that trip happen. Although I wish I could see my friends more often and they didn't live all over the map, it is really fun having them in different locations so I can experience new things!

During my vacation I received probably the best ice breaker message from a guy that I've ever received! It was enough to peek my interest and when I returned back home we went on our first date. At first we were both a little skeptical that it would work out, however a first date that seemed to have no end and 6 months later.... things couldn't be better! He hooked me by taking me fishing, we went to the Benkelman and Chase County Fairs, went to a Huskers game, have had many dinners together, spent lots of time with family, and have had lots of dates since we met. I feel so fortunate to have been introduced to Josh and have him in my life. He's opened my eyes up to so many things again since Spencer and he makes me so, so happy. It has definitely been one of the best highlights of 2015! We've been taking it one step at a time and are enjoying getting to know each other and taking advantage of spending time together every moment we can. I'm very excited to see where everything goes =)

August was definitely a whirlwind of a month! I got a job working as a lab assistant/phlebotomist at Great Plains Health, moved to North Platte, and became a student again! I'm currently living on campus in the dorms as it's really the only option as I'm going through school. It's been difficult to adjust to living with people again and tough to be on campus with mostly 18 year olds... but I've met a few awesome people that make it not-so-bad! Unfortunately the job I had at Great Plains Health didn't work out for me with juggling school and getting back into the swing of studying, and so after a major viral illness that landed me in the hospital overnight, I decided that school was my full time job and I needed to prioritize to put less stress upon myself. So I am now your classic definition of that broke college student ;-)

The last big trip of the year came in October. My sister has never been to the mountains before and her bucket list consisted of hiking in the mountains during fall right as all the colors change. Well this year she got pretty lucky and I had an additional day tacked onto my weekend right at the leaves were changing. So we headed up to Estes Park and hiked several miles to several different lakes. It was breathtaking, exhausting, but so much fun and it's a trip that I'd definitely like to take again!

I am so happy with how this year has ended for me. I'm so proud of where I've ended up, the lessons I've learned, and how much I have accomplished throughout 2015. I have a feeling that 2016 is going to be a heck of a year and I'm so excited to get it started!

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

A Pinter Moment

My heart felt oddly heavy all morning and I struggled to keep tears from my eyes.... And then a good friend of mine stumbled upon this and kindly shared. I was left speechless. Timing. What perfect timing.

I'll never understand why things work out the way they do, but I'm thankful for little reminders like this that those we love and have lost are still, and will always be, in our hearts.

Comments from the photo as follows:

d.mandella Sometimes your heart is heavy and you're walking down the street in a distant land with your head down when suddenly, three old friends show up to make it all better. #SanDiego#WhoDidThis? #OldFriends #Gratitude

nikkipea12 My heart has been *so* heavy today. Wow. What timing. What perfect timing. Love you, friend! 

d.mandella I saw the cement piece and it totally surprised and confused me in a good way. Then I crossed the street to the liquor store that my brother lives over to get a Coke and that was the first one in the cooler, facing out. I was like "Oh I HAVE to go back!" So perfect. That kid never quits!! Love you, too @nikkipea12

mousethedog This is magical. We just moved into a rent house in San Jose Ca. Around the corner in the neighborhood are starlight drive and riddle ct. 

d.mandella Further proof of his promised@mousethedog haunting/stalking!

Sunday, July 12, 2015

To Good Friends and New Memories

Once again I found myself vacationing in California this year. A place that I've fully come to accept will always hold a special place in my heart. With the high prices, insane traffic, and countless not-so-friendly people I've encountered I've not always been so fond of the state; however the more I visit the more familiar I become and the more it's grown on me each and every time.

I've slowly come to learn that while a lot of the LA/California stereotypes hold true it doesn't define every area. It doesn't describe every person. I've also discovered that if I look past all those little quirks, California is so much more. It's a starting place for so many people trying to make a life and a name for themselves. Little neighborhoods that I've stayed in have so much charm and hold so much history. I've found that there are still little family owned shops, little hidden charms that remind me more of home, less of the hustle and bustle of city life. I've learned a lot each time I've stayed there and it's grown on me.

I decided to take a quick trip to Cali before starting classes again in the fall since I know I likely won't be able to the next couple of years. Not many plans were made in advance, but I tried to reach out to everyone I knew there in hopes to connect. Some plans fell through and there was a lot of downtime, but despite all of that I had a great time and ended up seeing nearly everyone I had hoped to see!

I kind of split my vacation up between two locations to maximize how many people I would be able to see. I stayed near Santa Monica with Corey, Ruben, and Jackie the first 4 days. It was definitely the relaxation half of my vacation! I think I watched more movies during those 4 days then I have all year! I don't have cable or satellite so it was fantastic to be able to veg out in front of the TV and channel surf. My three friends had to work a lot of the time I was there. The first full day I was there, which was Thursday, I spent the day between the third street Promenade and Santa Monica Pier.

I am typically not one to enjoy activities alone, especially in a place I'm not all that comfortable with. I had been to the Pier 4 times before and I've been to the Promenade once so thankfully it was a bit familiar. But despite being by myself all day I honestly had such a relaxing and fun day. I guess you can call it one of those self reflecting days. I walked along the beach, listened to the waves as I read a book, got that corn dog I'd been craving for a month, explored the pier - again, went into a ton of little shops, saw a movie (theater with reclining chairs - what?!), and watched a lot of performers and bands. I wasn't on a schedule and I didn't have an agenda for the day so I got to do things completely at my own pace. I discovered a couple LA-based bands I really liked and sat and listened to them for a good amount of time. There were some dancers, some comedy acts, a cute, smart little dog the kids just loved... It was a perfect day.

The next day, a Friday, was spent pretty much in front of the TV all day watching movies and reading my book which was perfectly fine with me! On the 4th (Saturday), I was able to see Bob for a bit and I finally got to eat at a place called Lemonade that I've heard so much about from my friends there. It was delicious! It was great to see and catch up with Bob again since January, didn't hardly skip a beat =) Glad that the timing was perfect for when we were both in LA for a few days!

I spent the rest of the afternoon with Corey, we watched some TV, went to a brief beer/wine tasting where he works and did a lot of catching up. Once Ruben and Jackie got home from work, Bertram came over and we got our evening started! We didn't see any fireworks but had a fun time hanging out. We did our own little tasting at home and tried like 8? 10? 12? different craft beers. I really wanted to experience city/LA night life and so we used Uber and went to Venice Beach and did some bar hopping. Soooo different from back home, obviously! A bit overwhelming ;). We went to 3 different places and ended up at a karaoke bar shortly before it closed. I felt like I got a little taste of home at that last bar.... Sweet Caroline and a little Journey to end the night. Californian's don't do Karaoke quite like us Mid-westerners, but still a fun time!

Sunday was another very laid back day. I went to breakfast at a farmers market with my friend Jorge that morning. Had a great Belgian Waffle and got to hang out with Jorge for the first time since I saw him about 5 or 6 years ago! The 4 of us went out to eat together that evening and that's about all aside from more movie watching!

Monday is where I feel like things started to get a little more lively! The second half of my trip began and I spent that time in South Pasadena with a group of friends. I headed to Union Station that morning and was reunited with one of my best friends, Emily! We've been trying to get together at least once a year since, I think, 2008 and so far have succeeded all but 1 year! Em lives in San Diego and I'm so glad she was able to come to LA for a couple of days! My good friend Adam flew in from Maryland for a few days and was in LA the same time we were there, so I got to spend 2 days with him as well. We all stayed at Lauren's house together and had a great time.

After picking Em up at the train station we went to lunch at this cute little Cafe called the Alcove Cafe and Bakery. Jorge joined us again and we met up a couple of friends, Marlon and Jill, who work for the Starlight Children's Foundation on the site which I volunteer through called Starbright World (SBW). Lunch was INSANE and filling.

We then headed to Hollywood to do some touristy things where Gabe met up with us! So good to see him again. I've known Gabe for many years through SBW, first met him when we shot a video I was in that he directed for the website, met again at Starlight headquarters one year, then at the first Starlight Gala Spence and I spoke at. Awesome that it worked out to meet up again! Went to Hollywood Boulevard, saw the Walk of Fame, the hand prints in the sidewalk outside of the Chinese Theater, and saw some other cool historic and famous buildings there.

Next was Griffith Park and the Griffith Observatory! We were all kind of beat at that point and the actual observatory was closed, but I'm still glad we made an effort to go! We walked around the observatory and got an amazing view of the Hollywood sign and the view looking out over Los Angeles. We walked around a portion of the park a little bit and Lauren got to play soccer with a professional soccer player there in LA. Made for some good pictures and great video ;). We ended our night with some great pizza, cookies Emily's mom made us (Thanks Ellin!), and watching half of The Goonies together before crashing hard to hit it early the next day!

Lauren, Em, Adam, and I ventured out to the LA Farmers Market for lunch the next day. Had some great fish and chips (may I add in how ridiculously FRESH the food is there?! Ahh I got spoiled!) and walked around. We sat around for awhile and decided to either go to Malibu or take a hike at the Rose Bowl. We were quite prepared for a trip to Malibu and the beach to we headed back to Pasadena and got ready to go to the Rose Bowl Stadium to walk some trails. It was a great view and there happened to be a bike race there that Adam was mesmerized by ;). We found a great trail and hiked that for about 4 miles and then headed to eat dinner at Urth Cafe and see a movie together. We ended up seeing Inside Out - such a cute movie! I felt ridiculous for tearing up at the end, but Pixar knows how to pull emotion into their films!

The movie made for a pretty late night so we crashed as soon as we got home. Unfortunately that was our last day as a group. The next day, Wednesday, we had to get up early to take Emily to the train station and Adam to the airport. We had a nice breakfast with Jorge before heading out! It was so sad to see them both go! We made a lot of new memories together. Lauren and I then ran a couple of errands, then went home to relax for a few hours as we chowed down on more of Ellin's cookies and getting reenergized with some Starbucks. I had plans to go explore South Pasadena a little bit but I was exhausted and decided to watch Reba with Lauren. =)

I think the absolute best way to end my trip happened that Wednesday night! It just so happens that a very good friend from college at the U lives in Orange County now and was able to make a trip to Pasadena to see me! I cannot even put into words how AMAZING it was to get together with her again! We haven't seen each other in about 4 years and kind of lost touch. But I'm so glad I reached out to her and we were able to make it happen. Jessi was definitely a highlight and a big part of the first and second of college for me. Trying to get lost in SLC, "study" nights, movie nights, homecoming, airport trips, and the list goes on. So many memories that we got to reminisce about together. We caught each other up on the last 4 years of our life, but I hardly felt like we were even able to scratch the surface. There was just SO much I wanted to ask her and know! There wasn't a dull moment and it was a frantic mess of trying to share every aspect of our lives with each other in just a couple of hours. Truly such a fun dinner together and I can't wait until we get to see each other again.

And as always, it always has to come to an end. But goodness, I am so thankful for the many friends I have on the west coast. It's so great to be able to say "See you later" as opposed to "Goodbye" and knowing for a fact that it's only a matter of time before our paths cross again. I'm ecstatic that I was able to see 13 (wow! more people than I thought!) of my friends during my trip. So much relaxation, so many things that I was able to see (but still SO much I have yet to see!), and tons of new memories.

After traveling so much these last couple of years I am so glad I've chosen to spend time and money on experiences rather than things. Never will I regret having done and seen so much and having spent so much time with people who I care for so much.

Thanks for your hospitality and transportation, guys! I had such a good time and miss it, and you, already. Until our paths cross again, because I know they will, see you next time!