Hawaii 2018


At the end of June, John had a 10-day work trip to Hawaii. He asked me if I wanted to go with him for part of the trip. I jumped on the opportunity! My Daly grandparents met and were married in Hawaii, and I’d always wanted to go. My mom graciously agreed to watch David while we were away.

We spent the entire time on the island of Oahu. We stayed in Waikiki beach and were able to tour different parts of the island. Highlights of the trip include visiting the Polynesian Cultural Center, visiting Pearl Harbor, and taking in the beautiful scenery as we traversed the island.

One thing that fascinated me was how far we could go out in the ocean at Waikiki beach and still touch the bottom. One day we were about 100 yards out and the water was only waste deep. The waves are very calm this time of year, and we enjoyed floating on inner tubes.

The view from our hotel room.

Our hotel room overlooked the ocean. On Fridays in Oahu, they shoot off fireworks around 8 p.m. We were able to sit on our balcony and watch them. We also happened to be in Hawaii on July 4. Once again, we were able to sit our balcony and watch the fireworks.


We loved all the unique foliage.



On board the USS Missouri.


The LDS Temple where my Daly grandparents were married.

Summer Trip to Iowa 2017

We make an effort to get back to Iowa (John’s home) twice each year to visit his family. One of those visits is either Thanksgiving or Christmas, and the other generally falls sometime near the summer. This year we decided to head to Iowa for the 4th of July and John’s cousin’s wedding on July 8.

On July 1, we packed up our new car and headed West. I haven’t mentioned the new car on the blog, but we did buy a new car back in May. John and I have always been a one car family (sort of). You see, right before we got married, John’s Taurus died. We decided not to put money towards fixing or replacing it. I took the metro to work each day, and so we didn’t really need two cars. Plus, John’s uncle who lives in Taiwan had asked us to keep his van at our home and drive it around every few weeks. If we ever needed to be in two separate places at the same time, one of us could drive the van. John’s uncle returns from Taiwan this summer, and with a baby on the way, we decided it was time to get a second car. Since the new car is the main car John will drive, he got to pick it out. We wanted something fuel efficient since our commute to work each day is 40 miles one way. We ended up with a Honda Civic. The gas mileage really has been phenomenal. Our roundtrip gas cost to and from Iowa was less than $100 total (we drove over 1600 miles).

The trip was a nice break from normal life. His mom and sister threw me a baby shower with family and friends in Iowa. Our little boy will be very loved once he arrives, and his impending October arrival is becoming more and more real as we begin to accumulate baby items. Sometimes John and I walk into our (currently empty) nursery and look at the few baby clothes we have hanging in the closet. It’s crazy to think that those clothes will soon be worn in just a few months.

To celebrate Independence Day, we attended “Red, White, and Boom,” the annual Quad Cities fireworks show on the Mississippi, which was very impressive. The fireworks show actually took place on the eve of the 4th. On the actual 4th of July, we watched the Quad Cities 4th of July parade and had a cookout with the extended Longenecker family.

Jenny, Marty, and John waiting for the fireworks to begin.


The 4th of July also marks the anniversary of when John and I got engaged. It’s been two years since this next picture was taken on that very day right after we got engaged.

July 4, 2015

On Wednesday, we took a day trip to Chicago with John’s immediate family. I had never been to Chicago, so it was fun to cross another major U.S. city off the list of cities I’ve visited. We spent the majority of the day in the Museum of Science and Industry (John’s favorite). There we toured a real German U-boat and visited exhibits on space, weather, agriculture, and the human body. We were able to see what a baby looks like inside the womb at 25 weeks. Since I’m 25 weeks pregnant, it was really neat. It was amazing to see how a baby at 25 weeks looks like a real baby. Afterwards, we went to a park to see the Chicago skyline and then went and visited the iconic “Bean.”

Longenecker family onboard the U-505
Sleeping quarters inside the U-505
Project Apollo
In my natural habitat…jk 😉
The Chicago skyline
The “Bean”


Our reflection in the “Bean”

On Thursday and Friday, we had a nice time bowling, shopping, eating Whitey’s ice cream (twice in two days!), playing games,  reading, and relaxing. John found his old guitars at his parents house and starting playing them again. We ended up taking one of them home with us back to West Virginia.

On Saturday, we attended John’s cousin’s wedding. Sadly, I didn’t get a picture of the happy couple to post on my blog. The ceremony and reception were beautiful. This cousin is on John’s mom’s side of the family. It was nice to visit with the extended family for a happy occasion. Last year, we saw the extended Urmie family twice but both times it was for funerals.

We left bright and early Sunday morning and made the 13-hour drive back to West Virginia. It’s crazy to think the next time we go to Iowa we’ll have a baby with us.

Until next time, Iowa!

A Weekend Getaway to the Swiss Alps

About a month ago, John asked if I’d be interested in a quick trip to Switzerland. You see, he’s been away on work travel a lot lately, and he was scheduled to go on a ten-day work trip to Europe. He has cousins in Switzerland and planned on seeing them while in Europe. Because of all his work travel, he had racked up airline miles we could use to cover my flight. It sounded like a neat opportunity to me, so I welcomed the chance to see Switzerland, spend time with John, and meet some of his extended family whom I haven’t met.

I am sitting in the Zurich airport waiting to fly home (my flight was delayed four hours) and figured this was a good time to write about my experience.

It’s Monday afternoon here in Zurich. I arrived Friday afternoon around 3 p.m. John was coming in from London that day but his flight didn’t arrive until 7:45 p.m. So I bought a train ticket and rode the Bahn train 10 minutes to the Main Station stop and then walked around the area and grabbed some dinner before heading back to the airport to meet John.

The scenery as I approached Zurich.
Main Station in Zurich.

That night we boarded a train to Visp, which is about two hours by train from Zurich. John’s aunt, uncle, and cousin Debbie picked us up. We then drove 30 minutes to Eischoll, where John’s aunt and uncle have a cabin in the Alps.

The drive was beautiful. It was a very clear night, and the stars were also beautiful. When we arrived at the cabin, we ate some delicious soup, chatted, laughed, and then headed to bed at about 1:30 a.m.

The next two days it snowed. We began our first full day in Switzerland with a European breakfast of bread with cheese and jams. We had a fun time chatting, went on a walk up the mountain, attended a Catholic Mass in a beautiful old church, and had a delicious, cheesy dinner with John’s aunt, uncle, cousin Christian, and Christan’s girlfriend Bettina. The meal was called Racklet, and it’s basically a dinner of melted cheese that you scoop up with pieces of potatoes. It was very yummy! Afterwards, we played a card game called Ligretto. I was not very good 🙂

We had two hours of clear skies while we were here. This is the view from our room in Eischoll.
Our winter walk.
The second half of the walk John’s uncle and I did by ourselves because John didn’t have the best shoes for it. We came upon this cabin, and you can see the snow is much deeper. It was a slick adventure getting back home, and I slid and fell a few times haha.
A picture after Mass. I wish you could see the town better in the picture.
After games with Christian and Bettina.

The next day we headed to a ski resort town, where John’s cousin Katrin was staying with her in-laws. We visited with Katrin and her cute 9-month-old Lukas while the others skied. We ate another delicious meal, prepared by Katrin’s mother-in-law, and then headed back to Visp, where John and I caught the train bright and early this morning. He headed to Germany, while I headed to the airport in Zurich.

Before leaving Eischoll, we took pictures in front of the mountains. It’s been a warm winter, which is why the mountains weren’t as snow covered as usual.



Katrin and baby Lukas.
On top of one of the mountains.

One of my favorite experiences of the weekend was a gondola ride we took in the Alps. Below is a video.

Overall, it was a great trip! Jet lag was more tough than I expected. I adjusted way more quickly and easily when we went to Taiwan last fall. Consequently, I thought it would be no problem. I was wrong 😉 But even with the jet lag, it was a great experience I will remember for a long time. A big thank you to the Schinders for being such great hosts!

Taiwan Trip 2016: Part 3

October 17 – October 22: Taipei, Taiwan

We returned to Taipei Monday night and headed over to Din Tai Fung at Taipei 101 for some delicious dumplings. This restaurant chain began in Taiwan and is now a world famous Michelin Star restaurant. My favorite part of the meal was dessert. We ordered dumplings filled with warm, amazing chocolate. They were awesome! This restaurant is so delicious we went back on Thursday, but on Thursday we went to the original location.

Here we are outside the restaurant taking the customary picture with a life-size dumpling.
Here we are outside the restaurant taking the customary picture with a life-size dumpling.

Black Sand Beach

On Tuesday, we went in search of a beach since we weren’t able to get down to the beach in Kenting due to the typhoon damage. One of David’s (John’s Uncle) colleagues told David about a black sand beach not too far from Taipei. So we went to check it out. It was not beach type weather at all on Tuesday – it was cloudy and rainy. But the black sand beach was beautiful! I have never been to a black sand beach, so I was excited. And this beach did not disappoint. John took a lot of great pictures. I want to frame some and put them in our house when we move.





David then gave us a tour of the coast. We took a scenic route home to Taipei. It was a beautiful drive and awe-inspiring to see huge mountains right next to rocky beaches. I loved the drive home.

Taipei 101

Once we returned home, we headed to Taipei 101 to see the city from the 87th floor of Taipei 101. Taipei 101 has 101 stories, and it is the 5th tallest building in the world. To get to the observation level on the 87th floor, we rode the world’s fastest elevator. In just 34 seconds we traveled up 87 floors (well, I think 82…we entered the elevator on the 5th floor). My ears popped on the way up.

Looking out over Taipei.
Looking out over Taipei.
John and Uncle David
John and Uncle David.
Taipei City at night.

Yangmingshan National Park

The next day (Wednesday), we headed to Yangmingshan National Park. I think this was my favorite part of the trip. I love the beauty of nature and of the sky. We went on two hikes and walked a total of eight miles. The first hike was a circular trail through grasslands. The second hike was to some falls. The second hike was much more rigorous. The first hike was definitely my favorite. I loved being able to see the beautiful sky. During the second hike, it felt like we were surround by rainforest and couldn’t see the sky at all. It was still beautiful, but I am a sky girl 🙂 It was a very windy day, which actually turned out to be a great thing because we got pretty warm while hiking. We were beat when we got home but it was well worth it.













Martyr’s Shrine

On Thursday we toured the Martyr’s Shrine, ate the most amazing shaved ice, once again went to Din Tai Fung, perused Taipei City Mall, and visited Longshan Temple. The Martyr’s Shrine has amazing architecture. We arrived in time to observe the changing of the guards. I felt so bad for the soldiers because it was super hot outside. I can’t imagine how hot they must have felt in their uniforms.







Once we were done at the Martyr’s Shrine, we needed something cold. David led us to Smoothie House, a famous shaved ice location. This place has been written about by CNN. It certainly did not disappoint. I forgot to take a picture of the shaved ice until we had already eaten half of it. I don’t think it’s worth posting haha. After the shaved ice, it was time for some more dumplings, and they once again delighted our taste buds. Then we headed to some local shops and the Taipei City Mall. It was fun to walk through the mall and observe the people shopping. It was very different than an American mall. David said it reminded him of an indoor Taiwanese night market.

Longshan Temple

Our last stop of the day was Longshan Temple. The architecture was incredible. I enjoyed sitting and watching all the worshippers who came pay their respects and offer prayers. It was a neat cultural experience. I thought a lot about faith and the role that God plays in my life. It made me grateful for faith and belief that God hears and answers prayers and that He created a plan for our eternal happiness.



Confucius Temple

On Friday, our final day in Taiwan, we headed to a Confucius temple. Once again, the intricate architecture was amazing and beautiful. Friday was super hot…92 degrees. I enjoyed seeing the temple, but it wore me out. We ate lunch at a Latin restaurant and lingered there for a while. The food was great and the air conditioning was delightful. We then hopped on the metro and took the red line all the way to the end of the line to Tamsui.






Our final evening in Taiwan we spent in Tamsui. This was a great way to end the trip. We walked along the river that connects to the Taiwan Strait. We had fun walking through souvenir shops, and then we stumbled upon a waterfront restaurant with delicious food and an elegant/beachy/relaxing ambiance. It’s hard to describe the feeling of the restaurant, but it was an absolute perfect ending to the trip. We could see the water from our table, and part way through dinner fireworks started going off. I joked that Taiwan was giving us one heck of a farewell!




And now we are sitting in the L.A. airport, and I am beat. We woke up a little before 6 a.m. Taiwan time, and now it’s almost midnight there. We still have about nine hours to go before we are home. I tried proof reading this blog post for grammatical errors, but I’m so tired I am sure I missed a few haha.

It’s been a great vacation! We loved exploring a new culture, disconnecting from “normal life,” and seeing a new, beautiful part of the world.

Click here to view part 1 of our Taiwan adventure; click here to view part 2.




Taiwan Trip 2016: Part 2

October 14 – 17: Kenting, Tawain (Written on October 17)

On Friday morning, we took the HSR (high-speed rail) from Taipei to the very last stop in the Southern direction, Zouying. It’s fairly inexpensive (by American standards) and is very fast. From the Zouying stop, we took an express shuttle bus to the Howard Beach Resort, where we’re staying in Kenting. It was about a two/two-and-a-half hour bus ride.

When we booked our trip to Taiwan, I spent time researching Taiwan beaches. Since Taiwan is an island, I figured there would be lots of beaches. However, there seemed to be only one area of the island that is famous for its beaches, and that is Kenting. Kenting is on the exact opposite end of the island from Taipei. Before our trip, I also spent a lot of time doing online research about how to get to Kenting and where to stay. I scoured websites and blogs and struggled to find information. At the bottom of this post, I’ll include information about how to get to Kenting and where to stay for all Americans/Westerners wanting to travel there from Taipei.

Sadly, there was a typhoon here a week ago, so the resort’s access to the beach was blocked off by lots of downed trees, and the scenic tour of the Botanical Gardens/Kenting National Park was not offered due to the typhoon damage. Those were the two things I really wanted to do down here in Kenting, so I was pretty bummed at first. I don’t think we’ll ever get back here again, so it felt like a major bummer.

John and I made good use of the pool and the indoor water park. The pool overlooks the ocean. So even though we couldn’t access the beach, we still had a beautiful view. Kenting is technically in the tropics and the ocean is so, so blue. The view of the ocean is such a tease since we haven’t found a way to get down there! The indoor water park is much smaller than American water parks, but it was still fun. There weren’t a lot of people at the water park, so we were able to go down the slides multiple times with no line whatsoever. The lazy river wasn’t as “lazy” as American lazy rivers. The current is much, much slower and requires you to paddle a bit. Another interesting thing is that the hot tubs here are luke warm.

Connected to the resort is a restaurant called “Rabbit Rabbit.” It’s a western style restaurant and it’s delicious and super cheap! We’ve eaten there four times haha. Saturday night we tried a Tex-Mex restaurant connected to the resort called “Smokey Joe’s.” It was interesting to try Taiwan’s version of Tex-Mex… it’s not exactly the same as in America. The smells of the food here in Taiwan (both in Kenting and Taipei) have been really hard for me. A lot of the smells make me feel fairly nauseous.

I’ve definitely felt pretty homesick while here in Taiwan. I miss being able to speak the same language as everyone else. In Taipei, there are a lot more English speakers than here in Kenting. John’s uncle isn’t here with us in Kenting, so John and I have to rely on ourselves to communicate with others. We feel pretty alone and isolated. I will be happy to be back in Taipei this afternoon.

The resort’s very blue pool.
Relaxing poolside.
Relaxing poolside.
We walked around the resort in search of walking trails. However, we kept encountering warning signs about snakes, so we decided to snap a picture of the scenery and head back to the pool.
We walked around the resort in search of walking trails. However, we kept encountering warning signs about snakes. So we decided to snap a picture of the scenery and head back to the pool.
It looks like we're standing on the beach, but we're actually standing on the road above the beach.
It looks like we’re standing on the beach, but we’re actually standing on the road above the beach.
The beautiful ocean we were never able to get to because of all the typhoon damage.
The beautiful ocean we were never able to get to because of all the typhoon damage.

Some fun things I want to remember:

  • Swim caps: Here in Taiwan, it’s customary to wear swim caps in the water. Everyone wears swim caps. If you’re not wearing one, you’re not allowed in the water. Whenever we’ve gone to the outdoor pool, the lifeguards have given us caps to wear. However, when we went to the indoor waterpark, we had to buy swim caps. So now John and I own our very own Taiwanese swim caps!
  • Please “alight” the train: All the train announcements have been in English. Instead of saying please “exit” the train, the announcement is please “alight” the train. We learned form John’s uncle that this is a British saying.
  • “Selfies” in front of the pool: A lot of resort guests don’t get in the pool, but they come and take “selfies” at the pool. They’ll stick their feet in the pool and take a picture, or they’ll sit on a lounge chair and take a picture. Then they leave. It’s fun to watch. From what David has told us, water recreation isn’t a huge thing in Taiwan like it is in the U.S. Perhaps that’s why even though Taiwan is an island, there aren’t a lot of touristy beaches.
  • “Typhoon broke the beach”: We asked one of the lifeguards how to get down to the beach. He didn’t speak English, but I think he got the gist of what we were saying. He typed something in his phone, and then his phone translated what he typed into English. The English translation was: “Typhoon broke the beach.” English translations make me smile 🙂

The view from our hotel room is beautiful! We’re on the top floor, and our view overlooks the National Forest and a picturesque green mountain. It’s beautiful down here in Kenting. I am grateful we’re able to spend a few days outside of Taipei. It’s fun to see the beach and countryside. I also very much enjoyed the HSR trip. In just a couple of hours, we were able to see hundreds of miles of Taiwan. If you come to Taiwan, I highly recommend traveling the entire length of the island. Kenting is so, so different than Taipei.

The view from our balcony.
The view from our balcony.


Click here to view part 1 of our Taiwan trip.


Where to stay in Kenting: We stayed at the Howard Beach Resort. As a heads up, the hotel’s mobile website isn’t in English. If you use a computer, you can access their website in English. If you call the resort, ask to speak to someone who speaks English. They’ll transfer you to someone who speaks English. There will always be someone at the front desk/concierge desk who speaks English. However, the individuals who work at the resort’s pools generally do not speak English, but they are very friendly and we’ve been able to communicate somewhat. The Howard Beach Resort offers private beach access, a beautiful outdoor swimming pool, an indoor water park (small by American standards), an arcade, a bowling alley, and the resort offers five different tour options of the surrounding area. Kenting is a national park so there is a lot to see. The resort is pretty old. From what I read online the top floor is the nicest, and that’s where we stayed. There are definitely many parts of the resort that seem old and worn down.

How to get to Kenting from Taipei: Take the HSR (high speed rail) from Taipei to Zouying. It’s about a two-hour train ride. Then take the Kenting Express Shuttle Bus from Zouying to Kenting. The Howard Beach Resort is actually the very last stop on the Kenting Express Shuttle. It’s about a two/two-and-a-half hour bus ride. The drivers don’t speak English, so just make sure to stay on the bus all the way to the very end of the line. The Kenting Express Shuttle leaves every 30 minutes from Zouying. To buy your ticket, just walk out the bus exit from the Zouying HSR station and the Kenting Express Shuttle ticket counter is just outside that exit. It’s so nice that the last stop is the Howard Beach Resort. The buses back to Zouying HSR station leave every 30 minutes from the resort.

Taiwan Trip 2016: Part 1

October 24 marks my and John’s one-year wedding anniversary. When John and I got married, we decided to honeymoon in Southern Virginia. We rented a cozy, quaint cabin and enjoyed the majestic fall scenery. We chose to plan an international trip during our first year of marriage, as opposed to right after our wedding. I am so glad we did this. I loved our relaxing stay in Southern Virginia, and it’s been fun to look forward to this two-week trip to Taiwan that we booked back in February. While we’ve been gone, I’ve tried to write updates every few days. I’ve broken the trip up into parts, rather than having one forever long blog post. Here’s the run-down of the first part of our trip…

October 10 – October 13: Taipei, Taiwan (Written on October 13)

On Monday, October 10 around 5:30 p.m., we boarded a plane at Dulles Airport and headed to Taiwan. We had a 4-hour layover in L.A. Our plane ride from L.A. to Taipei lasted 14 hours. I thought it was going to feel suuuuper long, but thankfully I slept a lot. After 24 hours of traveling, we arrived in Taipei at 5 a.m. Wednesday morning (October 12). Taipei is exactly 12 hours ahead of the Eastern Time Zone in the U.S.

We spent that first day seeing the local sites in Taipei. My goal was to stay awake until at least 8 p.m. I made it to 9 p.m. Although, 7 – 9 p.m. was a significant struggle…I was so, so tired. I think we’ve adjusted fairly well, and our jet lag has been minimal since we were able to stay awake all day on Wednesday.

We had breakfast at a delicious French bakery on Wednesday. We liked it so much, we went back on Thursday.
We had breakfast at a delicious French bakery on Wednesday. We liked it so much, we went back on Thursday.
Entering the grounds at Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall.
Entering the grounds at Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall.
Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall.
Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall.
On the steps at Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall.
Our great host - John's Uncle David.
Our great host – John’s Uncle David.
The LDS Temple in Taipei.
The LDS Temple in Taipei.


Outside of the “Apple Store” in Taipei 101. A very, very tall building and an ornate mall.
The view looking up from beneath Taipei 101.

The people here have been so nice and friendly! I was nervous about not knowing Mandarin, but a lot of people seem to know English. The street signs are in English (as well as Mandarin), and the announcements on the metro are also in English.

Starbucks has become a favorite spot of John and mine, even though we’re not coffee drinkers. When we go there, we know that the workers will know how to speak English. It makes us feel at home 🙂 Starbucks here has a delicious mango passion fruit smoothie. One thing that’s different in Taiwan is ice isn’t commonly served. When we ordered this delicious drink, the Starbuck’s worker let us know that there was ice in the drink and wanted to verify that was okay us. We thought this was odd until we realized that ice isn’t commonly served in drinks here. Tonight we stopped in 7-11 and the 7-11 didn’t have slurpees!  In my mind, slurpees are a 7-11 staple…but I guess it wouldn’t be in a country that doesn’t generally serve ice in their drinks 🙂

Another thing that caught us off guard is the number of mo-peds. Mo-peds are everywhere!


Tomorrow John and I are headed off to a resort in Kenting, a city located in the very most Southern part of Taiwan. It’s known for its beautiful beaches and majestic mountains.

Utah in the Spring

A good friend of mine got married on Wednesday, March 18 in Utah. I decided to make a vacation out of the trip to the wedding, and I am so glad I did. I had the best time, and it was nice to escape the dreary Winter we were having in Virginia. The whole time I was in Utah the weather was in the 60’s and 70’s. It was so nice (although I am sad for my Utah friends who feel gipped out of their Winter).

I arrived on a Saturday night and had major rental car issues. There is no need to vent on this blog, but suffice it to say, I will never use Budget as a rental car service again. If you’re reading this, believe me. Don’t. Ever. Use. Budget.

Sunday started off with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir weekly broadcast. I went to the Tabernacle on Temple Square to hear them perform live. I went with my great aunt Leah, my uncle John, and cousins Faith and Lizzie. Afterwards we ate a delicious breakfast, and then Leah and I went and visited the graves of my grandparents and great grandma.

The Mormon Tabernacle Choir.
The Mormon Tabernacle Choir.
The Sunday morning crew.
The Sunday morning crew.


That afternoon I went on a beautiful walk and then in the evening headed to my aunt Annie’s house for dinner. My brothers joined me there and we had a delicious dinner with Annie, Nick, and Emma. I know we took a picture after dinner, but I can’t seem to find it 😦

Monday was a day spent with Jen, one of my best friends and former roommates. Her and I lived together for over two years. She just recently moved back to Utah, and I actually stayed with her during this trip. We spent Monday morning at the Park City Outlets. For lunch, we went to Dairy Keen in Heber. Dairy Keen is one of the best milkshake and hamburger places of all time in my opinion. Afterwards we walked around Midway and then swam in a crater in Midway. On the drive back from Midway to South Jordan, we drove through Provo Canyon, which was absolutely beautiful. I miss that drive.

Monday evening I had dinner with my brothers at one of their favorite restaurants – Buffalo Wild Wings. Some of our Kamalu cousins joined us there as well. It was so fun to see them and catch up.

This picture was taken in Midway. The bridge was actually on top of the opening to the crater where we swam.
This picture was taken in Midway. The bridge was actually on top of the opening to the crater where we swam.
Such a beautiful drive!
Such a beautiful drive!
Dinner with my brothers and some awesome cousins.
Dinner with my brothers and some awesome cousins.

Tuesday I spent the day with my Grandma Morgan down in Santaquin. We ate lunch at The Family Tree, visited the graves of my grandpa, aunt Karen, and other relatives, and we got ice cream from the Red Barn. The weather was so warm this day, and it felt like the perfect day. We ended up cutting flowers from my grandma’s house and placing them on the graves of those we visited. I was shocked flowers were even in bloom in Utah in March! We also drove by the new Payson Temple that is almost completed. It’s only about 5 miles from where my Grandma lives. We spent the remainder of the afternoon looking through old photo albums. That night I went to dinner with John’s friends and then went to Blake’s orchestra concert. Blake and the orchestra did such a great job. Their level of musicianship amazed me. Afterwards we met up with Trevor and Kayla and went to Sodalicious (my brothers loooove that place!)

At lunch at The Family Tree. They have the best scones.
At lunch at The Family Tree. They have the best scones.
Santaquin in the Spring.
Santaquin in the Spring.
Flowers for the graves.
Flowers for the graves.
At my Grandpa Morgan's grave.
At my Grandpa Morgan’s grave.
Ice cream from the Red Barn.
Ice cream from the Red Barn.
At Sodalicious after the concert.
At Sodalicious after the concert.

Wednesday was the day of the wedding. The wedding took place at the Salt Lake Temple. Anne Bailey, one of my dear life friends and missionary friends, married Spencer Vail. Anne and I are both from Virginia and both served our missions in Nauvoo, Illinois. We also started and ended our missions on the same day. A picture of us at the airport the day we came home from our missions made it into the wedding slideshow. March 18, the day of the wedding, also happened to be the day we began our missions. This was kind of a fun coincidence.


The beautiful couple.
The beautiful couple.
The Salt Lake Temple built by the pioneers.
With the beautiful bride at the wedding luncheon.
With the beautiful bride at the wedding luncheon.

I flew back home on Thursday evening, but not before a trip to the temple with Jen and lunch at J Dawgs (I wish they had these in Virginia) with Trevor. I had a great time in Utah and very much appreciated visiting friends and family there.


Starting off the New Year in AZ

On January 2, I left for Tucson, Arizona. For work I help coordinate professional development conferences for association and chamber professionals. You can learn more about the program here. Our first conference took place January 5-9 at the University of Arizona in Tucson. Those who attend the program four times receive the IOM recognition, signifying 96 credit hours of nonprofit management instruction. Well, not only was I working the conference, but I also was a participant. This was my fourth time participating in the program, and consequently, I too recieved the IOM recognition! I am now officially Meghan Morgan, IOM.

The University of Arizona is a beautiful campus. Nearly everyday I was able to go walking down the main street of the campus. Usually it was morning time, and I loved watching the sun begin to rise over the mountains. As a girl from the east, it was fascinating that on my walks I would see both palm trees and mountains. I loved it.

My morning walking route.
My morning walking route.

After a great week in Tucson, I headed up to Phoenix to see one of my favorite people, Sara Picard! We had the opportunity to serve together as missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. When you begin your service as a missionary, you spend time in one of the Missionary Training Centers (MTC) throughout the world. Sara and I went to the MTC in Provo, Utah. She was the missionary I was assigned (blessed) to be companions with at the MTC. We were also able to serve together in Nauvoo, Illinois. Sara is one of those people who knows me well enough that without me even saying a word she’ll know what I am thinking (and vice versa).

While visiting Sara, we had the opportunity to attend a conference for LDS young adults living in the Phoenix area. The speakers at the conference were excellent. My favorites include Mitt Romney, Stephanie Nielson, Alex Boye, and Thurl Bailey. Below are some of my takeaways from the messages they shared:

Mitt Romney

“The scale of our service is not the measure of our success. Our success is the scale of our compassion.” – Mitt Romney.

Govenor Romney’s message was centered on defining success, not as the world sees it but as God sees it. He said that if we are to judge our success based on what the world would classify as success, then we are leaving our success and happiness up to serendipity and chance. If we do that, could we be successful? Possibly. Could we be happy? Possibly. But if we want sure success and sure happiness, we need to focus on that which is of God. We need to focus on loving and serving others, and humbly fulfill the duties that are ours to fulfill no matter who is watching.

Stephanie Nielson (you can find her blog here)

Stephanie and her husband were burned in a plane crash a few years back. She counseled those in the audience to remember that everyone has scars. We may not always see those scars, but they are there. Consequently, we should love everyone.

Alex Boye

Alex has to be one of the most energetic speakers I have ever listened to. His main message was to believe in yourself (and the power of God) and to seek after the things that you want and not limit your potential through doubt and disbelief. He advised us to not judge our lives in the moment, but believe we will achieve greatness. He cautioned that when we focus or become so hung up on only a snapshot of our life we limit our potential.

Thurl Bailey

I am going to be honest here and say I had no idea who Thurl Bailey was until this conference… Clearly, I am not a Utah Jazz fan (or NBA fan in general). Thurl’s message was so inspiring. He shared the story of his journey to become a basketball player. When Thurl first tried out in middle school, he didn’t make the team (two years in a row)! In fact, after the second year, the basketball coach told Thurl not to even come out for the team the next year. Well, the next year, the school got a new coach, and Thurl did try out. And he made it! But he didn’t make it necessarily because he was good, but because the coach saw great potential in him. As I listened to Thurl speak, my mind started thinking about potential and how important it is that we all look for the potential in others, and not doubt the potential of another person. It’s so amazing how when even just one person acknowledges and encourages the potential in another person, great things happen (e.g. Thurl Baily and his coach, Esther and Mordecai, Joseph Smith and his family, etc.) I imagine that all greatness that has been achieved throughout the world’s history can be attributed to the belief of one person in another person’s potential.

I had a great time in Arizona, but I am also grateful to be back!

Me and my fun coworkers at the Big Bash.
Me and my fun coworkers at the Big Bash.
The beautiful Mesa Arizona LDS Temple.
The beautiful Mesa Arizona LDS Temple.
Me and Sara :)
Me and Sara 🙂
Me and Robin (another friend we ran into who served her mission in Nauvoo).
Me and Robin (another friend we ran into who served her mission in Nauvoo).

Nauvoo in November

Jen and I outside the Nauvoo Temple.
Jen and I outside the Nauvoo Temple.

At the beginning of November, I had the opportunity to go to Nauvoo with Jen, one of my best friends and roommates. We flew from DC to St. Louis, and then rented a car to make the three hour drive from St. Louis to Nauvoo, Illinois. Nauvoo is a special place to me for many reasons. Nauvoo was built up in the 1840’s by the Mormon pioneers. Among those pioneers were some of my ancestors. Now fast forward about 170 years. In 2009-2010, I had the opportunity to serve a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. And where was I assigned to serve? Nauvoo, Illinois (as well as a short stint in Denver, Colorado…but today we’re talking about Nauvoo). While serving in Nauvoo, I gained a greater appreciation for my ancestors and for all of the pioneers. Although I’ve never met any of them (obviously), it feels like I know them. What I learned about their lives and their faith in Jesus Christ strengthens me daily. Through their legacy, I’ve learned the importance of trusting in God. Nauvoo was a beautiful city with a beautiful temple that the pioneers had to leave due to persecution. They left behind all they had built up to forge rivers and cross mountains before building up a new home. While this could have left many bitter and angry, the pioneers trusted that God had a plan for their lives and their families and that He would always be with them. While we don’t have to forge literal rivers or cross literal mountains, we’ll all have times when we have to pass through trials that could make us bitter and angry. We, like the pioneers, have to choose to trust in God and in His love. It’s sounds so simple, and yet, I know that it’s not always easy. It’s taken me over a month to write this short blog post because it’s so hard for me to put into words the feelings I have about the pioneers and the city of Nauvoo. Even today there is this most special feeling that permeates the entire city. I believe that special feeling is the legacy of the pioneers. I hope that I can live up to their legacy and their faith. How grateful I am for them!

At the pioneer cemetery by the graves of some of my ancestors.
At the pioneer cemetery by the graves of some of my ancestors.
Outside of my 4th great grandfather's (reconstructed) bakery.
Outside of my 4th great grandfather’s (reconstructed) bakery.
The leaves were SO beautiful while we were there! This is right outside of the Visitors' Center.
The leaves were SO beautiful while we were there! This is right outside of the Visitors’ Center.
Jen and I outside of Carthage Jail.
Jen and I outside of Carthage Jail.
A quote I love along the trail of hope (the road the pioneers walked when they left Nauvoo).
A quote I love along the trail of hope (the road the pioneers walked when they left Nauvoo).
Blast from the past....me in my "classy" pioneer dress on my mission.
Blast from the past….me in my “classy” pioneer dress on my mission.
One final mission picture to show I did not wear a pioneer dress every day! This is outside of Carthage Jail.
One final mission picture to show I did not wear a pioneer dress every day! This is outside of Carthage Jail.