Tuesday, June 26, 2012

california coastal

We've had the ultimate California adventure the last 12 days! We enjoyed beautiful La Jolla before experiencing first-class service at the Montage in Laguna Beach, finishing off an incredible trip at my favorite place in the world - home.

While I've been to San Diego a handful of times, it was my first time in La Jolla and I fell in love. The Beach and Tennis Club is right on the beach and surrounded by fun little places to eat.

Alexis and I loved our morning runs! I forgot how much easier it is to run in the low altitude!
I had to steal this picture from Tanner because I absolutely love it. These boys are so dang cute!

Saturday we ventured to Rancho Santa Fe (another amazing place), to the Bertha's for Alex's homecoming and Andrew's farewell. Alex came home from Mexico while they were sending off Andrew to Brazil (where Michael served!). It was my first time meeting Alex, but Andrew is an incredible young man and going to make the most amazing missionary. We love the Bertha's! They have the most beautiful home and Al thought of the neatest things when building it.

The trip wouldn't have been complete without a stop at Sea World. We had the best time! Shamu was a favorite, but if you're ever at Sea World, you can't miss the Cirque show. It was incredible - a Vegas show on water.

Brotherly love, David locking Michael out of the room.  

After five fun days in La Jolla, we traveled north to Laguna Beach. We've heard countless amazing things about the Montage and couldn't pass up the opportunity to stay there. The rumors are true, it's unbelievable. 

We had dinner with a friend of Michael's and his family who live in Emerald Bay. It's a beautiful beach community in Laguna, and Michael's dream place to live. I was happy to finally see it after hearing so much about it; it lived up to all the hype! The family is taking the missionary discussions and we had the opportunity to sit in on one of their lessons. It's a wonderful thing to be out in the mission field, spreading the gospel. It's crazy how small the church can be sometimes, everyone is connected. One of the missionary's dad's was Michael's dad's trainer! Brad had a great time talking to the Elder about New Zealand. 

After a couple days in paradise, we headed north one more time for my home. It was Tanner and David's first time up there. We were sad to say bye to Alexis in Long Beach who had to come home for a final. Unfortunately, I got sick the last day in Laguna so spend the first day and a half in bed at home while the rest of the family played on the ranch, shooting trap, riding razors, fishing, and more. My mom is the kindest and stayed with me and took care of me, like always. 

The sweetest part of the trip was having Grandma and Grandpa Hammond there with us in Santa Maria. They came to speak to our ward and give a stake fireside. We are so blessed to have them, their love, and their burning testimonies of the Savior. They have experienced so much, living across the world for the church, and have an infinite amount of knowledge and faith. 

I couldn't have asked for a better trip! It's nice to be home for a little bit though, to catch up before we're off on our next adventure!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

es hai eem, i am armenian

Around the year 1900 in a village of about 100 people, called Keghi, Armenia, there lived two important families. One was the Melkonian family. They were the merchants, or store keepers, of the village. They had four children, one whose name was Satenig. She was very beautiful and everyone in the village loved her because she was so sweet. In the Narsisian family, there were four sons. The youngest was named Tosig, or Thomas. In the province of Erzurum, there was a newspaper that would go out to all the villages in the area. The people began to hear word of the Turkish government's plans to invade and take over Armenia. They wanted the rich farmlands and crops, and wanted to destroy all the people in order to obtain it. They hated the Armenians because they were Christian. The Narsisian family held a family council and decided to have Tosig and his father try to make it to America, where they heard you could get rich and have freedom. The mother cried to lose her youngest son, but knew they had to go. So Tosig and his father made the long journey to America, where they worked night and day to earn enough money for the boat ticket back to Armenia to bring the rest of the family to America. After almost a year, they made enough money for three tickets. It was decided that Tosig would return for the family while his father would continue to work and purchase a home for them. Tosig arrived in Keghy, Armenia to find that everyone was packing their belongings in wagons and fleeing to the mountains to escape the Turkish soldiers. Tosig went to his house to find his mother crying. Tosig moved quickly. There was a river in the village that had to be crossed in order to escape. He arranged for a boat, and that very night, he and his mother went to the river. She reminded Tosig about Satenig, and he quickly went to ask her parents' permission to take her to America with him. They had no choice but to let her go, even though she was only 14 years old. Her mother and little sister Savguel cried, along with Satenig. They rushed to the boat to find Tosig's brother's wife there. She knew that they only had three tickets. She was crying and asked Grama Narsisian, Tosig's mother, if she would take her new born baby girl Violet to America with them. The story is told that Grama Narisian was in the boat, and she threw the baby to her as the boat was leaving. They knew in their hearts they would never see their families again. The very next day, the soldiers came. It was said by Satenig's brother, who made it to America years later, that Satenig's mother was seen with her grandchildren being marched out of town. He hid in the bushes, ate grass and anything he could find, to make it to the boat to America. Tosig later sent money so he could come. He shared the horrid stories of what had happened back in Armenia.

Out of respect, Tosig waited two years to marry Satenig. She was 16 and he was 16 years older than her, but they were so in love. Grama Narsisian taught her everything while also raising little Violet. After Tosig and Satenig were married, he purchased a farm in Cuyler, New York where they had four children: Mary, Andy, Margaret and Marie. Tosig was a righteous good man who took care of his family and ran the farm with integrity and hard work. When Tosig was in his forties, he developed cancer. He suffered, but still took care of everyone. He passed away when Mary was eight years old. She was very close to her father and after he died, she stopped eating and talking. The family sent her to a center for children where she lived for two long years. In the meantime, Satenig struggled to feed and take care of her children. One time, she got a job cleaning floors at City Hall, and a lawyer came in and saw her. He said to her, "You are too beautiful to be on your knees cleaning floors," and he sent her home with a sizable amount of money. Shortly thereafter, she realized she would have to marry again for her children. A cruel military Armenian man, Hagop, married her, but she only loved Tosig. Satenig would sleep with Mary when she came home from the center. She would cry for Tosig and her family in Armenia. Shortly thereafter, she developed cancer and passed away. Mary soon married Philip Cook, so they raised Andy, Margaret and Marie.

Tosig did not live long, and his death was Satenig's death. She was so young when she passed away. She was not only beautiful, but her spirit was so sweet. Everyone loved her where she lived, because she was so giving and loving to everyone. They knew how mean her husband was to her and the children. When she passed, an Armenian woman said, "Ah zah dahv." It means, "God saved her."

Satenig is my great-great grandmother and Mary is my great grandma, whom I was blessed to know and love.

Something I wrote after Grandma Mary's funeral:

In those beautiful, perplexing mountains, we gathered together, hand in hand, as family tradition, around my great grandma’s grave and sang with joy the Armenian song Hingala. I looked up and around, to the soothing sky, to the unworried mountains with their dreamy white caps and captivating rocks, to this immaculate world that I live in. And as we sang the words, “a song for cheerful days” in Armenian, I knew the source of the peaceful heart I have always maintained during trying times.

To be outside and in this beautiful world and feel so alive and free, to be overcome by emotion, to be Armenian gives me strength like nothing else. We look at nature and feel, we see suffering and feel. There is an invisible rope that holds us together as great families, and holds us together as Armenians. The knowledge of being in it together, of being there for one another, warms and comforts me. An Armenian heritage- meaning a strong family. Knowing that families are forever, and that I am connected to a strong and humble people, gives me hope to share that same strength as them, who have endured so much. As an aunt has said, “We all feel this greatness inside of us, don’t we? We just feel different from others and can’t quite understand why. It is our heritage.” I could not agree with her more. I know that I come from a noble and righteous heritage. As Armenians, we feel deeply and search our souls constantly looking for something. In a crowd, we are looking up and over, exhibiting courage in all that we do. Being Armenian is more than an ethnic background, it is who I am. I am Armenian; who I am is a direct reflection of that noble and righteous heritage. I find strength in my family, peace in nature, courage in knowing who I am and where I come from. The ability to find light during the darkest times comes from my Armenian heritage.

As we pulled out of the driveway, still entranced by the grandeur of the mountains, my heart was smiling. Why me? My question was answered. Because I am from a noble and righteous lineage, because “a song for cheerful days” echoes in my heart, reminding me to look for the light, to press on with strength and courage, because I know I am not alone in the fight, because ES HAI EEM... I am Armenian.

Hingala, a song for cheerful days, translated into English:

The shepherd forlorn in the mountains,
Played a song of love
A song for red cheeks, a song for warm eyes,
A song for cheerful days.
And came a new spring
With the beautiful flowers,
Flowers of eery color, I love, ha, ha, ha
Flowers of every color.
But this is your lot poor shepherd
To be abandoned in this deep valley, hingala, hingala
A song for red cheeks, a song for warm eyes,
A song for cheerful days.

* Thank you so much to my sweet Aunt Elaine for sharing my great heritage with me.

Monday, June 11, 2012

half marathon

My sister did it! She finished her first half marathon! I couldn't be more proud of her. She is such a great example of hard work and going after goals in all aspects of life. It never ceases to amaze me with how much she achieves. I might be the older sister, but she sure is the one that sets the example!

She did it all by herself and absolutely rocked it. She is a CHAMP!

attitude of gratitude

Having a grateful heart is one of the most endearing qualities of a person. It is the fundamental root, truly the foundation, of humility. Gratitude has the power to lift the lives of those it's bestowed upon. Through living a life of gratitude, we open the doors of happiness. It's for those reasons, and a multitude of others, that I strive to develop an attitude of gratitude every day.

Life is filled with challenges, learning opportunities, bumps, surprises, and opportunities to grow. Things rarely go as planned and life is full of pressure and stresses. In a world that continually seems to stress the things that don't matter most, it's easy to get trapped in situations that cause us to question who we are and where we're going. But all it takes is a moment to step back, look around, and realize the beauty of what we've been given. There is reason to worry and be sad, but there is much more to be happy about. Don't lose sight of those marvelous and precious things each of us have in our lives.

My freshman year at BYU I made a "Gratitude" journal at a Relief Society activity. I wrote something I was grateful for each day in it. As things usually go, it eventually got lost in the busyness of life. Fast forward to my junior year. The Bishop called me Saturday and asked me to give a talk in Sacrament the next day for someone who had gotten sick. Even though I couldn't have been more busy that day, my mom taught me to never say no, so I gladly accepted the chance to talk. After driving to Salt Lake for a BYU basketball game I had to work, I got home with intentions of finishing a paper and preparing my talk. Of course, I was invited to the lake and got a call from my the guy I was head over heels for. hHe asked me to come to Park City with him. I wanted to go more than anything! I hadn't seen him in awhile and calls from him were sporadic so I never knew when the next one was coming. As much as I couldn't believe I was turning the offer down, I knew I had to stay home and work on the things that needed to get done. That night while I was working on my talk, I hit a wall and started dragging my feet in frustration. A minute later, I found something: my gratitude journal. I flipped through the pages and my eyes started to tear up when I found this page: "I am grateful for the opportunity to give talks and lessons. What a wonderful blessing it is to study the principles of the gospel, to learn and grow, to draw closer to the Savior, to feel the spirit, and to be uplifted. I love that every time I bear my testimony, my own testimony is what is strengthened most."
 I love those tender mercies in our life when our Heavenly Father reminds us of what is truly important. My attitude changed.... [and I went on to marry that boy so we can have as many Park City dates as we want :)]

Elder Jeffery R. Holland gave thanks to the members of the church and others in his talk "Because of Your Faith". When I gave my closing and farewell lesson to the relief society after serving them for two years, my heart could not have been more full. While Elder Holland clearly feels it much more than me, I did the best to echo the words of his talk.

I have struggled to find an adequate way to tell you how loved of God you are and how grateful we on this stand are for you. I am trying to be voice for the very angels of heaven in thanking you for every good thing you have ever done, for every kind word you have ever said, for every sacrifice you have ever made in extending to someone—to anyone—the beauty and blessings of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

My thanks to all you wonderful members of the Church—and legions of good people not of our faith—for proving every day of your life that the pure love of Christ “never faileth.” 4 No one of you is insignificant, in part because you make the gospel of Jesus Christ what it is—a living reminder of His grace and mercy, a private but powerful manifestation in small villages and large cities of the good He did and the life He gave bringing peace and salvation to other people. We are honored beyond expression to be counted one with you in such a sacred cause.

I am grateful. My mom coined the phrase in my life, "my heart is smiling" and my heart is truly smiling for all that I've been given. I have a full list of things I'm worried about, but life is so much more fulfilling if we will turn to the infinite blessings we have. No one is short on them.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

a real life fairy tale

I was so happy when I stumbled across these on Shelby's camera. I love looking at my wedding pictures, it puts the biggest smile on my face! What a sweet reminded of the day I married the man of my dreams and my best friend. The day was everything I could have hoped for and more. I don't know how I could love him more than I do, but I seem to fall more in love with him each day.

I loved my sparkly gold shoes!

I have always been a sucker for Disney movies, fairy tales, princesses, and happily ever afters. One of my favorite talks is Your Happily Ever After by President Uchtdorf.

Aren’t those wonderful words to begin a story? “Once upon a time” promises something: a story of adventure and romance, a story of princesses and princes. It may include tales of courage, hope, and everlasting love. In many of these stories, nice overcomes mean and good overcomes evil. But perhaps most of all, I love it when we turn to the last page and our eyes reach the final lines and we see the enchanting words “And they lived happily ever after.” 

This talk truly captures me and the words touch my heart. I could read it over and over again. I love the message that it shares; that we all have the opportunity to have our own happily ever after.

His love for you is so great that He has granted you this earthly life as a precious gift of “once upon a time,” complete with your own true story of adventure, trial, and opportunities for greatness, nobility, courage, and love. And, most glorious of all, He offers you a gift beyond price and comprehension. Heavenly Father offers to you the greatest gift of all—eternal life—and the opportunity and infinite blessing of your own “happily ever after.”

President Uchtdorf's talk reminded me when I needed it most, that a fairy tale doesn't mean there aren't challenges and trials along your journey. The greatest joy can be experienced after you've worked to get there.

For a moment, think back about your favorite fairy tale. In that story the main character may be a princess or a peasant; she might be a mermaid or a milkmaid, a ruler or a servant. You will find one thing all have in common: they must overcome adversity...

In each of these stories, Cinderella, Belle, and the miller’s daughter have to experience sadness and trial before they can reach their “happily ever after.” Think about it. Has there ever been a person who did not have to go through his or her own dark valley of temptation, trial, and sorrow? Sandwiched between their “once upon a time” and “happily ever after,” they all had to experience great adversity.

I am living a real life fairy tale, but that doesn't mean that life won't be filled with challenges, or that it was an easy road to get here. But I'm grateful every day for those trials along the way, for the opportunity to learn and grow, and develop the ability to enjoy and appreciate things so much more. The end is always so sweet.

I can't believe I got my prince charming and fairytale. Dreams do come true.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

viva las vegas

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Mike and I took a little weekend trip to Vegas for some business. Chase and Mckenzie and their cute girls were down there too so I got to play with them while the boys worked. We played at the pool and had tons of fun. Those girls are so precious and I'm grateful to have them as nieces! Mike is so great with them and going to make an amazing dad one day.

I love taking pictures, but for some reason just didn't this weekend. Mike even made a joke about it one night and said I was slacking on my instagram pictures (kind of embarrassing). So... I pulled out my phone and snapped some after dinner. I couldn't let him down :) I had never been to Brio so we went to this cute little shopping center in North Vegas and enjoyed an amazing dinner, pretty lights, and gorgeous architecture. If you haven't been to Brio, you're missing out. It's incredible!

Of course the trip wasn't complete without a trip to Serendipity! I seriously LOVE that place. Besides the fact that the frozen hot chocolate is heavenly, it just makes me happy! The movie is one of my all-time favorites which is definitely a big reason I love it so much too. Mike was sweet to take me. He said he was taking me somewhere and didn't tell me where. I was happy he had the same idea as me :)

We hung out at the Forum shops at Caesars Palace on Saturday. I love how they designed it, it's such a cool place. We picked up some silver Tory Burch sandals while we were there, I was a happy girl! We were at Mandalay Bay and we thought it'd be cool to check out the shark reef. It was really neat! I loved seeing all the sea life. Sharks are amazing to watch... Behind glass!

I can't get enough of this girl. She fell asleep with Cheetos in her mouth and her hand in the bag :)

Thanks for a great weekend Mike, Chase, and McKenzie!