Monday, April 20, 2015

Don't Waste Your Time on Politics, he said Chase Skirts Instead.

And old man gave me a tip he said,
"Don't waste your time with politics" he said
"Chase short skirts instead.
And life is too short, and you're almost dead" he said.
Lyrical Lies by Cute is What We Aim For

Wise wise advice.

I've been discourage for some time now.  Probably since I learned enough about history and our government to see the handwriting on the wall on where we are headed.

But today, as I have tried to make my motto for sometime now, I don't want to talk principles of good government, I don't want to debate which presidential candidate would be the lesser of two evils, I don't even want to talk about the direction of our civilization.

Today I am discouraged because I am shocked at how difficult it is for people, especially educated people, to come to a common ground of truth.

I've really tried hard in the past few years to steer clear of any type of political debate.  Sadly this has not always been the case for me.  When I first discovered what I firmly believe is truth, I used to try and shout it out from the roof tops.  I felt like I had a duty to make sure that everyone around me knew the truth!  I felt it my duty because I thought that if only people were exposed to the correct principles, the correct ideas, the truth in my opinion, they'd jump on my platform and help spread it with me.

I look back and laugh at my stupidity and how ridiculously naive I was.

Now rarely do I get involved in any type of political debate or discussion because I have learned it is just like Bible Bashing, it does absolutely no good.  No one changes their opinions.  No one walks away a winner.  And in the end there are only hurt feelings and stronger, tougher walls of opposition.

I had to learn this again this week.  I had to learn there is no use in trying to reason with people with opposing views.  There is no benefit in trying and prove anything.  It does no good.  This is really really hard for me.  It's hard for me on a daily basis to sit back and listen to, conform to, and sadly even sometimes promote things that I completely disagree with.  Because at the end of the day, I truly believe that there are absolute God given, or God followed, Truths.

And I am so sad that the more education one seems to gain, it doesn't necessarily bring a common ground, often times it takes us in polar opposite directions.  And right now I am questioning, why?

Now the easy answer would be to say, "Satan."

And you know, maybe because it is such an easy answer it is the right answer.  But honestly, I don't know.  Sometimes I feel like Satan is given far too much credit.

And so I am still sitting here wondering.  Is there such a thing as Absolute Truth?  And if so, why oh why oh why is it that the more education gained by a person is that idea of Absolute Truth so difficult to agree upon?

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Oh Paul Walker

Last night Jason and I went to see Fast and the Furious #7.

It was exactly what I expected.  I'll be honest, I'm not sure if I've seen all of the other F&F movies but this one was true to form.  Entertainment surrounded by cheesy lines, fast cars, unrealistic fights, and half naked girls.

What I wasn't expecting, how much the ending affected me.  Don't get me wrong, I knew I would cry.  I knew that it would tug at my heart strings but I had no idea how much it would.

As we walked out of the new IMAX theater by Utah Lake, golden hour was just starting.  The warm hue that casted long shadows across the valley and lake was unbelievably beautiful.  It was for a lack of better word, magical.

I can't imagine anyone of my generation being able to escape the feeling of loss and emptiness at the death of Paul Walker. But as the tears just kept flowing I kept searching for the reason why?  Why in the world was this affecting me so much?  This guy, although started with a similar background to us, was completely different in the end.  This guy that clearly was a complete stranger.  This guy that really didn't change or alter my life at all.  This guy that really is just some character I probably created in my head.  Why in the world was I so sad at his death?


I feel like Paul Walker was for better or for worse the model child for my generation.   Although my high school experience was nothing like the movie, "She's All That" it probably is the best example of what I idolized and dreamed of as a 15 year old girl when it came out in the 1999.  I am sure I feel about that movie the same as my dad feels about the movie American Graffiti.  It romanticized my generation.  I mean what girl didn't dream of turning from a nobody to the prom queen?

So my best conclusion on why the movie and the death of Paul affected me so much is because my generation, we viewed Paul Walker as one of us.  And it's hard to see one of us gone.  It makes us feel more vulnerable, more fragile, more susceptible to a similar fate.  It's like part of our youth that we cherish is gone.  And of course as one of my favorite lines of my high school experience goes, "Well I guess this is growing up."


Thursday, April 16, 2015

Faith

Often times we hear that the Gospel of Jesus Christ brings us so much happiness.  I have a hard time with the word happiness.  To me happiness is a constant state of ease.  No worries or stress.  A life of comfort.  And of course we all can attest over and over again, it doesn't matter who you are, it doesn't matter if you are the most righteous person on the planet, hard things happen.  Life is tough.  As we hear over and over again, life is a test.  So as I have discussed before I think testimonies are sometimes tested by the fact that life isn't always happy.

But faith.  Faith is so much better to me than an absolute state of happiness.  Faith is what gives us hope that no matter what is thrown our way, we'll survive, we'll be okay.

I'm sure I got this concept of faith from my dad.  I am so glad for this because it is how I love to live my life.  It's what makes it so I can sleep at night in peace.  The idea that if you have God on your side, if you are doing as much as you can to keep His commandments and follow His plan, life will turn out okay.

I would have written the introduction of this blogpost exactly the same a week ago, I would have.  I had faith that God would help us out.  I had faith that God would make sure that we were okay, and if not, He'd give us the strength we needed to overcome anything.  But man oh man oh man does it feel good when things go our way.

Jason getting into dental school is hands down one of the most wonderful and humbling blessings I've been able to be a part of.

Because it's not my story to tell, I won't go into too much detail, but just know, Jason had to work his guts out to try and overcome huge stumbling blocked to get into dental school.  And honestly, even though he's been an absolute rock star for the past 2 years he still shouldn't have gotten in.  He just shouldn't have.

But luckily God was on our side, and more importantly, this is part of God's plan for us.

I state this because, what if Jason wouldn't have gotten in?  What if he worked his guts out for nothing.  What if things hadn't gone our way?

I am so grateful for my testimony in a loving Heavenly Father that is looking out for us no matter how the cards fall.  No matter if what we pray for every night doesn't come true.  That doesn't mean He isn't there or isn't listening.  It means He has a different plan for us.  And He will be there every step of the way, if we'll let Him.



But man oh man oh man, I am so grateful that He blessed us with this one.


Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Making Lemonade out of Lemons... Spring Break 2015

It started on April 1st because of course it had to happen on April 1st.  The email from our airline stating that their pilots might go on strike so our trip to Hawaii might get canceled.  So if we wanted to get a full refund for our flight we could.  This had to be a joke right?

I need to be real for a minute.  Probably for me more than anyone.  I don't stress about the future very much. I am not one of those people who can't sleep over the world economy or how I am going to die someday.  That's just not me.  I stress over stupid things, immediate things, short term things.  Like....when we are late for something important, my wheels fall off.  Or if we are having a dinner party all the food needs to be prepared at the exact right moment.  My wheels literally fall off.  If any of my family are reading this they'll laugh because they know this runs in my blood, I love my Grandma Hyla to pieces...... am so grateful for everything she has given me.... but her automatic melt down or malfunction mechanism in short term stress..... sure wish it would have skipped me.

Now I state this because this short term stress happens before any big trip to anywhere not very familiar to me, especially when not driving.  (ie. anything not along the I-15 corridor) Mexico a couple weeks ago.... or back East.... or Europe I was a nervous wreck.  So of course Hawaii was no different.

So the night before we were supposed to leave for Hawaii we were in St. George at my parent's condo.  We were supposed to fly out of Las Vegas the next morning.  I looked at the weather of Honolulu.  Quick geography lesson again, Honolulu is on the leeward side of the island, Laie or North Shore, the windward.  Other words, Honolulu is in a gnarly rainshadow that makes it the perfect Hawaiian destination because it is almost always warm and perfectly sunny.... Almost is the key word.  I looked at the weather while we were suppoed to be there.  Here is what it looked like.

Nothing worse than cloudy and windy with a bit of rain mixed in.  My dreams of laying on the beach and sipping on pina coladas were ruined.  My stress levels were incredibly high.  So, I begged Jason to let us cancel the trip.

Luckily for us....... the April Fools joke gone bad (I am positive it wasn't an April Fools joke but still) was going to play in our favor.  We canceled our flights, got a full refund, canceled our other reservation, and were off to California within an hour.  Sadly, California was not what Jason was expecting but once again, luckily for us, it turned into a fantastic spring break all the same.

I should add we had already had an unbelievably magical weekend in St. George.  There really is something magical about St. George around Easter.  For that one weekend I don't know if there is a prettier place in the world.  (Ok, that's an exaggeration but I love it!  Kinda like Provo at the 4th of July.)  Anyway, so on Saturday in St. George we did all our favorite things,  I already talked about my amazing run in the previous post, then we went rock climbing at Chuckawalla, then we ate lunch at the St. George Art Festival (a very very fond memory for me), went frog hunting at Red Cliffs with Chad and Maddie, and ended the night with out favorite pizza from Riggatti's.  Yes, a practically perfect day.

So Sunday we headed down to California.

Monday morning I went on a run around Glendora.  There is something so amazing about running at almost sea level...... I felt like a machine.  After Jason and I headed straight to the rock quarry in Riverside.
The rest of the day was spent to just hanging out, talking, and of course lots and lots of laughing.

Tuesday
Jason headed down to visit his parents in San Diego.  I had a pretty nasty virus so I stayed in Glendora and relaxed on a beautiful raining California spring day.  We went thrift store shopping where I bought a fantastic pair of black pumps!  It's so funny... Thrift Store shopping in LA is such an art.  You have to know exactly what stores to hit and when and you have to understand their coding system.  My fantastic pumps.... practically brand new that sell for $90.... were half off that day so I got them for $6.95.  If only we went to more.  Instead we went home and made spring sugar cookies.  It was a lovely day.

Wednesday
We decided to go for an adventure Wednesday.  Jason looked up a rock climbing area up Malibu canyon we decided to check out.  Of course being so close to the Getty Villa I made reservations for us to go.... but our rock climb/hike was so amazing that we never made it to the Getty in time.  So the place we went.  It was insanely beautiful!  It has been used for multiple movies and TV shows like MASH and the rock climbing wall we went to was used in the original Planet of the Apes movie.  But anyway, these trails were UNREAL beautiful while we were there.  It was so lush and green with fields of yellow wildflowers everywhere.
then we started following a creek towards the end of the canyon with beautiful trees.
and at the top of the creek was this beautiful pond/ swimming hole surrounded by cliffs that everyone was jumping off of.
  
(Not us... because we were about climbing)

So we spent the majority of our time here....
But this place was unbelievably beautiful!!!!!!!  I had no idea it was so close and so insane.  *Disclaimer, speaking of insane, since CA is in an insane drought I am sure we were lucky to be there when it was so green and lush and beautiful.  But man it was beautiful.
After we drove down the canyon and had lunch in Malibu.  Malibu is such a weird little town but I just love the view as you drive down the PCH back to Santa Monica.
Of course we knew that trying to get across the valley back to Glendora would be a disaster at this point, but just in case you don't believe me.... here's what the traffic looked like.  It would have taken us almost 3 hours to go 45 miles.  Oh LA someday I hope you learn how to solve this problem.  Until then, I will be content hanging out until the traffic dies down.  I had never been to Venice Beach or the Canals so we headed down there.  I have heard that Venice Beach is one of the most entertaining areas... entertaining being a very nice word for dirty, filthy, scummy of all the LA beaches.  Sadly, it was super duper windy so there weren't many crazies out.  Sure many shops were set up with a "dr" to get you a marijuana card but other than that, it was really quite lovely.  
I loved this man who brought out his piano to play.  Yes, a baby grand piano.

The Venice Canals were beautiful, charming, wonderful houses.  I wish we had more time to explore because the more I know of LA, the more I love it.


Thursday
We made our official beach day Thursday and went to in my humble opinion the best beach in southern California for what I love.  Corona del Mar.  It was a lovely day.....


The waves were pretty calm so I thought I'd bust out my cap and goggles and try and swim in the ocean.  Raine and company were shocked because in all the years of going to the beach with me, they had never seen me swim in the ocean.  (I'm terrified of waves since the Huntington Beach Rip Tide incident of 2003.)
Raine even videoed me because she was so shocked.  But sadly, I was too scared to swim in the actual ocean so after a few laps came back in and did laps when Jason and I went to the other side of the beach a while later.  While Jason made great new buddies rock climbing I swam laps, then had this beautiful view the rest of the time.

After we went to Balboa Island to each lunch and window shop.  I sure love Balboa Island.... the flowers, the sailboats, and the charming little houses that are worth more than my life time salary.
Next we headed to Fashion Island.  Some of my favorite things at this outdoor mall is the beautiful ambiance and the Nike and Penguin stores.
 At the Nike store they did a whole video evaluation on how I run and what type of shoes I should be wearing.  I thought it was super duper cool.  Next it was finally head to the happiest place on earth......... of course I had to smile at the traffic.  OH LA, someday I really do hope you figure out how to fix this problem.
It took us an hour to drive 15 miles.......... but it was so worth it.  Just to get that close.  To hear the music.  To smell the delicious smells.  To feel the excitement.  I absolutely love it.

I know, kinda cruel to do it to myself....
But Downtown Disney is almost as magical as the park..... and is pretty impressive for absolutely free.

I just had to hold one..... oh the nostalgia. 
So we decided to eat dinner while there.  It was pretty darn impressive dinner and desert for $11.24.

I am pretty proud of my sprinkle cone...... it cost $1.24.  Now that is impressive for Disney.


Friday
This day will go down in history as one of the best days of my life.  But first.... I wanted to hike the Hollywood sign.  I convinced a whole crew on this adventure.  Definitely a fun activity in LA I had never done.


But the best part happened in the awful Friday afternoon traffic headed east on the 2-10.  (Rookie mistake by the way, everyone knows to avoid the 2-10 east on a Friday afternoon. Thousands of LAites heading to Vegas for the weekend.) Anyway, it was Jason, Caitlin and I riding in the car when Jason got a phone call from an unknown number.  It was Rebecca from Roseman Dental School.  Jason put her on speaker phone so I could hear as she congratulated him on being accepting into the Rosman Dental class of 2019.  It was INSANE.  I get teary eyed just thinking about it.  I cried.  Jason cried.  Heck even Caitlin cried.  But I plan on writing a whole post on this........ but my favorite part is I text my entire family the good news.  My mom called almost immediately but she had to instantly hand the phone to my dad because she couldn't stop crying.  I just love them so much.  I am so unbelievably proud of Jason.  But like I said another post.....

It was great fun getting back to Glendora and celebrating the great news with a traditional tri-tip dinner followed by another tradition.... a person who wants to marry into our family has to audition.   Someone had to audition that night.  (It is a horrible horrible tradition watching a person totally squirm as they sing for the whole group. Seriously horrible, but man I love it!)  (Jason didn't have to sing, he just played the piano and showed videos of BASE jumping)

Saturday
We headed back to Cedar with a yummy stop in Vegas.

Then we had another yummy Tri-Tip dinner and an Easter Egg Hunt.

So I'll admit, when my short term crazy stress ended, I was super sad we didn't go to Hawaii.  I am sad we didn't experience something new.  But man oh man..... this will go down in the books as one of the highlights of my entire life!

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Grateful for my FP.

Yes, FP as in "Fat Potential".

When a group of guys sit around and discuss prospective girls to date on the same list of poor qualities like low IQ, bad temper or even high maintenance is the possibility of FP. No one wants to date a girl with FP.  And more importantly, the struggle of my entire life, no girl wants to be FP.  Every time I hear that phrase I hang my head low.

I could start this story with the same dialog that we've heard a million times before about what it's like to be the fat girl.  The shame, the embarrassment, but the worst part in my opinion, the fact that it is a constant in your life.  You can never get rid of it.  Unlike other problems that hopefully we can grow out of or avoid... food is always there and it is an important part of life.

I have looked at those naturally skinny people with such envy.  You know what I am talking about.  The girls that can eat a burger and fries and never even think about it.  The people who just naturally fit into whatever clothes are in style.  The ones that joke about how they would die trying to run a mile.  So many times I have cried out that I've been robbed!   I have a gene pool full of skinny people, but somehow I got the one FP gene???!!???

I could tell the tale of any typical girl with FP of counting calories, starving myself, making myself throw up, spending thousands of dollars trying to get that ideal body.  But luckily for me, that tale doesn't end tragically because I discovered a cure.

Saturday I laced up my running shoes like I have 6 days a week for the past 10 years of my life.  I put in my head phones and hit the pavement just like every other morning.  I went to bed early just like every other night because waking up every morning at 5 am requires it.  But this Saturday was different.

I did the most glorious 12 mile loop around St. George on Easter Weekend.  I started by running down along the Virgin River.  I watched a cute old grandma feeding birds in the river bottoms with her bird watching book in hand, I had a family of quail tag along me, and I saw a hot air balloon flying over Zion National Park.  I crossed over the Virgin River on a footbridge and  saw my favorite view, the St. George Temple framed around the Red Rock of the Dixie Sign with Pine Valley Mountain in the distance.

It was a beautiful sunny day, cool temperatures with a slight breeze.  I continued to run up Main Street until I saw the temple up close as I ran towards the Tabernacle.  I ran through the booths of the St. George Art Festival with beautiful art from around the world.  I smelt sweet spicy nuts roasting and snow cones being made.  I listened as kids squealed with delight as they ran through the splash pad.  And then I made the rest of the trek passed Dixie State University as I ran through the sprinklers to make it back home.  I rocked that run.

It was then that it hit me.

You see, all this took place on a Saturday morning before 9 am.  Most people were still laying in bed, still thinking about what the day will hold.

Runs like this bring me so much satisfaction and joy.  And if it weren't for my FP, never in a million years would I have experienced it.  Because working this hard, pushing through the pain of physical exercise, it's tough.  Fun is the last adjective I would ever use to describe the majority of my workouts.  But I do it anyway.

I look back at the last 10 years of my life.  10 years of going to bed early, waking early to teach or attend a workout class or workout on my own.  I see the friendships I have built, the beauty I have experienced, and the great excitement that comes from a group of people accomplishing a difficult thing together and I am unbelievably grateful.

None of this would have ever happened if I wasn't blessed with FP.

I'm sure there are people out there that are far more motivated than me, people that push themselves because they enjoy pain or like accomplishing goals.  But not me.  I know if I didn't have to, it would be difficult to push myself physically like I have.  It is so painful to build up endurance or strength.  So many workouts I just want to quit half way through.  But because of my FP I don't.

And because of that, I have got to do and experience so much in life that I never would have other wise.  The sunrises and sunsets, the animals, the flowers, all that nature has to offer. Because I have made working out a top priority in my life, things that would seem difficult or impossible for some have been easy.  Climbing a mountain peak, biking a hundred miles, or even signing up for a half marathon a day before a race can happen whenever I want to. And it's all because of my FP.

I have spent my whole life wishing away FP, dreaming about what life would be like without it, imagining what it would like to eat whatever I want or sleep in every morning.   Until now.  I'm done hating myself for it. I'm done hanging my head low with the mention of FP. Instead I am going to relish in the joy and happiness it has created.  I am going to focus on the friendships I've developed, the beauty I've been able to see, and the sense of accomplishment I've been able to have almost every single day because I push through it.

Fat Potential - for so long I have viewed you as the ultimate curse.  I have hated you from the minute I met you.  I have worried about you, cried about you, and blamed you for so much.  But today and hopefully forever I will be so grateful for how you have pushed me to develop and grow in a way that without you wasn't possible.  So thank you.

And in a million years, who would have ever guessed a girl in her right mind would ever possibly think to be grateful for that.  :)





Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Travel Bug

Uh oh.  I'm getting a travel bug... again.  Hate that.  Ok.  Not really.  The whole time we were in Mexico we discussed traveling.  I dream of traveling the world.  I really do.  But when I really think about it, we are so stinkin' lucky to live in such an amazing country!  I feel like I could spend my whole life traveling just the United States and not see it all...  So rather than feeling bad that I'm not currently getting more stamps in my passport, I decided to come up with my top 10 favorite places I've visited in the Untied States.



10. San Francisco, California
Maybe if I visited this place when it was actually warm and sunny and not windy I'd put it higher on the list.......... but that's saying something, even with the wind, cold, and rain I still think it'spretty amazing.


9. Oahu, Hawaii : Crazy thing.  Hawaii has not been my favorite travel destination.  I know, I am weird.  Hopefully when we go next week this will change. Some of my favorite things:
Beaches: Waiamea Bay, Sunset Beach, Turtle Bay, and for snorkeling: Shark's Cove

Two Hikes:
Waimea Falls
Maunawalil Falls

Food:
Shrimp Truck, Fresh fruit street venders, Kahuku Grill, Pineapple Dole Whip, Turtle Bay Cafe
and of course lots and lots of shaved ice.

Things to do:
Laie Temple (and PCC), Dole Plantation, Segway around Turtle Bay, Stadium Swap meet, Waikiki

Things I hope to try this trip:
Diamond Head
maybe Stairway to Heaven... we'll see....
and I'm sure I'll be doing a lot more rock climbing ;)



8. San Antonio, Texas
I am far from an expert on Texas but from what I've experienced the few times I've been there I think that San Antonio is AMAZING!  The River Walk is the most charming area.
And of course we had to throw in a little history with the missions and the Alamo.


7. Yellowstone/Jackson/West Yellowstone

This area of the world will always own part of my heart.  Things I love in this area:
Jackson Hole: white water rafting, the famous antler arches, alpine slides, and my favorite not pictured things.  The art galleries.  Trailside Gallery is a must any time we visit.
Mesa Falls and my favorite fishing/rafting of all-time below the falls.
West Yellowstone has the Playmill and Arrowleaf Ice Cream.  And through Yellowstone Park you can end up in Cooke City the most charming little seasonal town at foot of the Beartooth Mountains.
Oh...... and the sunsets up there.  You can't beat the sunsets.
But besides the people and the nostalgia, my favorite part of this area are these dang mountains.  I don't know why but the Tetons will always be my favorite mountains.
(Notice I talked very little inside of Yellowstone National Park, there are cool things in there but dude a day drive through the lower loop of that park (which is what most people commonly do) is a long painful day.)


6. Victoria, Canada.

I know I know.  It's not United States.  But technically, seriously, it's not really Canada either. It's an island! And it was amazingly beautiful.  It's the closest thing I've felt to the East Coast vibe I love in my #2 pick on the West Coast.

Sadly, if I hadn't gone to Victoria before visiting Seattle, this is probably where Seattle would fall on the list, but honestly, Victoria blew Seattle out of the water.  After seeing Victoria, Seattle just seemed grungy... like I needed to listen to Nirvana and wear flannel shirts the whole time I was there.

Back to the most beautiful real life Disneyland I've ever seen..... Victoria.
 
Oh how I am a sucker for sail boats and beautiful architecture.  Throw in some amazing flowers with that and for me, it's heaven.  
The Butchart Gardens were like a real life Story Book Land ride at Disneyland.  Everything was perfectly manicure with picturesque scenes every where you turned.



5. Miami, Florida

Florida might have the best beaches, just for beach sake, I've ever been to.  They are close, they are everywhere, and the water is WARM! (I could turn into a geography geek right now and explain that the water is always warmer on the East Coast because the water currents are flowing north from the Equator where as on the West Coast the water currents are coming from the North so California ocean water... just think Alaskan Glaciers) Anyway, I went to Miami after Christmas one year.  And it could not have been more beautiful!

We went to Shark Valley in the Everglades National Park.  Who knows why it is called Shark Valley because you go there to see alligators.  And it was a shocking experience.  You just walked along this bike path and there were alligators everywhere.  I had no idea they weren't very dangerous.  (Here's a group taking their yearly family picture right in front of an alligator.)  Yes, looks nutz for us Westerns that aren't used to such large reptiles.  
Like I said, the beaches were amazing.  Beautiful.  So fun to run on, so fun to watch the sunrise, it was great. This beach I am pretty sure was Hollywood Beach but we experienced many different beautiful beaches.
South Beach was a great adventure.  Lots of shopping in the day time but at night the highlight was my first experience with restaurant hosts trying to bargain to get you to eat at that restaurant.  They offered free alcohol or free appetizers.  The restaurant we finally ate at that night was the one that offered two for one lobster dinners.  Amazing.



4. Havasupi, Arizona
Well, the pictures pretty much speak for themselves on this one.

The 12 mile hike down.
Seeing Havasupai Creek for the first time.  Unbelievable.  And then Havaupai Falls.
Mooney Falls and then hiking below the falls in a tropical wonderland with another green lush with turquoise blue pools around every turn.  


3.Chicago!
It's pathetic my image of Chicago before I had the chance to "live" there with my parents the summer of 2010.  I honestly had this image that Chicago was Gotham City.  I imagined dark and grey.  And with the nickname windy city.... I thought this was a place I never cared to visit.  Boy was I wrong!!!!! *At least in the months of June and July.
I've struggled with what I would suggest someone to do if they are visiting the city for just a few days.  But here is what I've come up with.
First: stay in downtown.  This is one of those times where I think getting a hotel right in the action is really important.  Like the Drake.  (Yes, referencing My Best Friends Wedding).

An Architecture Boat Tour.  It's so awesome how Chicago has this huge river running through the city.  The boat tour shows you the cool buildings but it also shows you the city in a way you probably wouldn't see any other way.  It was so awesome!
The thing that shocked me the most about Chicago is how in the summer it turns into a beach town.  Lake Michigan is huge so it creates an amazing beachy vibe.  Running or biking around the lake was one of my favorite things to do every day.  I would run passed the Aquarium and the Bears beautiful NFL stadium every day.  Beach Volleyball happened every night.  They had leagues that I was a part of that was so much fun!  Of course a trip to Chicago would not be complete without a game at Wrigley's Stadium.  And Lincoln Park Zoo was fun because .... it's free!

Other must dos: from left to right: visit the United Center if for no other reason than to pay homage to the best basketball player of all time, (sadly United Center was the one place that you couldn't visit using the Metro, kinda annoying), Miracle Mile (awesome window shopping or real shopping and super cool architecture, just a couple blocks from the Lake, it's amazing) Millennium Park: to see the bean and take a selfie like everyone else and during the summer during lunch hour and most nights there are typically free concerts going and yoga in the morning, Buckingham Fountain isn't far away either is Lincoln Statue, but of course I had to through in the best McDonald's I've ever been to! Not only a statue of the Man but an escalator!

Not pictured but fun: Navy Pier and Chicago Art Institute is pretty darn amazing.

Food in Chicago!
This breakfast place was AMAZING.  I went there multiple times.  As for Chicago's famous pizza... we tried it a few times but really, not our thing.


2. Annapolis, Maryland
The interesting thing about the top three of my favorite places in United States is, I've lived in each of them for a bit.  There is such a difference between visiting a place for a couple of days and really getting to live there.  Hence I dream of some day living in Sorrento, Italy (here) .....someday.  But until then, back to the list.

Annapolis.  Seriously, most people, especially out West probably only know it because it's the capital of Maryland (if they even know that much. :(  Maybe it was my first really exposure to East Coast living... or maybe it really is the dream I think it is.


I feel like Annapolis is probably what Washington DC once was but now can't be because of the tourist traffic.  Annapolis is the crown jewel of East Coast Colonial living.  It's small and quaint, the architecture is top notch, and most important the sailing... oh the sailing.

Now what to actually do in Annapolis?  The tour of their state capital was amazing, of course Maryland is famous for their crabs, but my favorite thing is their Main Street.  I love it.  It makes me want to put on khaki shorts, a button down shirt, Sperrys, and wave around the American Flag.
(I can't find my Annapolis pictures anywhere)



1. Southern California.  Shocking, I know right.  But seriously there is no where in the world that can compete with it.  (Or at least clearly that's what I believe seeing how I have probably traveled there close to 100 times in my life.)

Los Angeles:
There are so many wonderful things in LA.  But I think my favorite is the art museums.  So let's start there.  Oh LA how I love you.  Hands down my favorite Art Museum of all time is The Getty.  The location, the view, the unreal majestic buildings, and of course some pretty darn good art make it my favorite of all time.  The only real downside of the Getty, it's even free!  well besides parking, is the horrendous traffic to get there.  It is located right off of the 405 AKA the worst freeway in the universe.

Next, the Forest Lawn Park, Getty VillaHuntington Library, LA County Museum of Art, and my favorite Rembrandt painting located in the Norton Simon Museum are all top notch.  Forest Lawn his many amazing art pieces but my personal favorite... the replica for Michelangelo's David and Pieta.  The Getty Villa up the PCH is also pretty darn wonderful.  It focuses more on Greek and Roman art which never really tickled my fancy but the gardens are pretty spectacular. And the drive to get there.... gorgeous.  Anyway, back to the pictures.The Huntington Library has some decent paintings but the real reason to go there are the gardens.  Oh the gardens.  My personal favorite are the rose gardens but they have all sorts of gardens.  The downside of the Huntington Library, unlike Mr. Getty and his foundation, the Huntington foundation did not see the need to make his attraction free. And LACMA always has interesting traveling exhibits.... but the lamp posts are pretty iconic.


Shopping in LA can definitely be an adventure.  Going downtown to the Flower District and Fashion District is always beautiful and cheap.  Old Town Pasadena is probably my favorite place to window shop.  The Farmers Market is a super fun place to check out.  And The Americana Glendale outdoor mall is always a favorite.

Some of my favorite things to do:
Eat at a beach front pub in Belmont (next to Seal Beach), Pasadena City Hall, Santa Monica Pier, and of course Dodger's Games!
Random peacocks especially at LA Arboretum, and ride the 40 mile bike path that end at Seal Beach.


Orange County:
It's crazy how a place so close can feel so totally different.  Orange County to me is only good for  2 two things. But don't get me wrong.  These two things are my favorite things on earth.  The Beach and Disneyland.

Here's my thoughts on beach.  If you want the whole beach experience, you know with the pier, the shops, easy/expensive parking and the huge vast beach Huntington Beach Pier is the place.  It is wonderful.  For a more entertaining beach with tide pools, gorgeous houses to gawk at, and even a rock climbing wall Corona del Mar is unreal. (Free parking with a little bit of a hike or $15 parking right next to the beach)  But there is something perfect California Beach about Newport Beach.  Parking can be an absolute nightmare, but the cute little houses, so close to Balboa Island is awesome.  And then of course there is Laguna Beach, which to me is almost a completely different world.  Oh and Salt Creek....... beautiful.


Oh Disneyland.  How in the world can one try and describe the magic of this place.


San Diego County:
Now here's the crazy thing.  If Orange County is a different country compared to LA then San Diego county is another world.  It really is crazy how different the vibe is in each of these places.  Sadly San Diego county is my least explored area.  But some of my favorites are:
 La Jolla Cove, Potato Chip hike, Oceanside Pier, and of course the Braithwaite house.
Sailing and Paddle Boarding.
And oh Balboa Park.......... how I love that place.

I guess I should also explain that some of my favorite LDS temples are located in Southern California.  Having to pick between the three as a favorite would just be too difficult for me.  So let's just put them together to create the most beautiful favorite temple of all time.


Phew.  Creating this post was more exhaust and time consuming than a vacation!  Good thing only two more days until Spring Break!!!!