Best Reads in 2014

31 December 2014

This year, I read a lot of self-help and personality psychology books.  Not really any novels (except a John Grisham because he's always a delight).  Needless to say, it was a huge year of progression and self-discovery for me.  As such, I forego the awards for Best Discovered Novelist and Best Writing, and I just selected a couple Best New Mentors!

Best Discovered Novelist:  ----

Best Writing:   ----

Best New Mentor:  Andy Andrews and Brene Brown.

Below is my bookshelf of best reads in 2014:

Upward and onward,

The swing of our many hearts

28 December 2014

Sometimes the past beats inside like a second heart.  When the pendulum of my emotions needs to swing that way.

But I've been studying acceptance lately.  Accepting the pendulum to swing as it may. 

Then, I breathe in deep and put my primary heart back into focus.  Pulling my pendulum back in place. Allowing my thoughts and actions to become free of all previous fear, insecurity, or withholding.   Reigning from the power of accepting myself as a fresh new person in every moment that I need.  The feeling of total uninhibition and renewal.

Here's to quiet Sunday evenings, making mini collages, and using acceptance to be in control.

Upward and onward,

One Image Source

Part 3: Beautiful Shadows

Furthering the talk of - Love.  See Part 1 and Part 2.

I texted Mace one night last summer, saying I really just needed to get out.  We were sitting on a bench outside the mall, after we had just played an entertaining social psychology game with the mall occupants, laughing ourselves to tears.  Then we went outside to the bench, and he started to ask me what was really going on in my mind, why I felt so heavy lately.  We were interrupted by a man needing to use Mace's phone, and we're pretty certain he made some sort of drug deal, or he just gives really elusive directions to mysterious people to meet him in nowhere places.  Not that we were eavesdropping by any means.

I proceeded to tell Mace that my concept of love is failing me.  Because I know what I believe about love, and I live according to that, but I get confused when the return from another is meager and their desire to improve is indifferent.  WHY don't people want to improve how they love? 

Because I believe the ability to love comes naturally for some people.  As an innate gift or successful genetic wiring.  While others struggle with it, maybe by circumstance or just laziness.  And I'm really not a fan of laziness, not like the Saturday sweats  and TV-watching-chocolate type lazy, not that I know anything about that...  But the type of laziness that promotes deflection and excuses from becoming a better person.  Basically, people unwilling to be better - and that includes being better at loving other people.

And yes, I know about the Love Languages, and how people speak their love differently, and one can be spinning at maximum output while the other feels nothing, so you have to get on the same page first.  But, simply the awareness of one's love language doesn't really do much if people aren't willing to be loving in the first place.  So yes, that book works for affectionate people.  But is there a precursory book about simply being a consistently loving and attentive person, because then there'd be no AT MINIMUM just hug them or buy them a cactus, because we'd feel so satiated and trusting in our love all the time

And I'm not talking about just romantic love either.  Loving everyone.

Anyway, so I asked Mace about his perception of love.  "What is love, to YOU?"  Which reminds me of the time I worked at Dairy Queen as a youth and asked all my coworkers the same question, writing down their answers on scraps of receipts and storing them in a napkin.  Turns out a bunch of pubescent teenagers had their heads on pretty straight about love.

But the ensuing conversation between Mace and I was the most eternal perception of love I have ever heard.  Mace told me how love can be functional at many different levels.  One level being coasting from one love language action to another.  All the way to a level where one is fully enveloped in the another's needs, two steps ahead of them, creating a safe and protected relationship for another, as Mace described, sacrificing all but your covenants with God for that person.  And as the level of your love increases, so does the intensity of your happiness.  Concluding with the thought, love develops the more you practice it.


That love is a conscious choice and effort to be improved.  That TO LOVE is something of a talent or a muscle.  So I asked God that specific question to see if He agreed, "Do YOU believe that love is something every person should be striving to be better at? That love is a skill that should be constantly developed?"

And I remember driving to Mexico, a few weeks after speaking with Mace, sitting in a van full of friends and reading my scriptures, and I remember a distinct feeling that yes, YES, love is certainly something that can developed and everyone should be willing to do so.

So I hold that conviction:  One's ability to love CAN and SHOULD be developed.

Upward and onward,

Too Crood to Remember

26 December 2014

Tonight after family games had been played and leftover Christmas dinner had been eaten, it was time to watch.... The Croods.  I honestly wasn't expecting much, but it was one of Brennan's Christmas gifts that he was eager to watch, and I wanted to hang out with him.  So I put my earlier Audrey Hepburn film on pause, and nestled into the couch with him and my parents to watch.

I loved the movie.  I'll get to that.

But mostly, I LOVED being with Brennan.  He was laughing SO much, as he always does.  It's so easy to get him laughing, and he just keeps going and going.  He's never anything but happy, calm, and easygoing.  And tonight I thought about how Brennan is one of the people I feel most happy around.  And when I see him experience any bad emotion, I can hardly handle it.  Is that what parenting feels like?  Feeling your child's emotions times 10?  Because if so, I don't think I could even handle watching my child eat a pea. For example, yesterday Trevor and Brennan were playing a video game upstairs.  I was sitting between them "meditating," which is what I tell Ryan is my Pinteresting time, ha!  But after a round of the game, Trevor started taunting Brennan - "why aren't you fighting better!" "how are you not better at this!"  The older brothers often tease Brennan.  But this time Brennan said, "Stop Trevor!  Stop teasing me!"  Which means business coming from the always-happy-calm boy.  So I stopped "meditating" and looked over at him.  His lip started quivering and his eyes welled up with tears.  It broke my heart.  Sometimes you just need someone in your corner.  So I flung my head the other way.  Protective sister mode.  "Trevor, encourage Brennan at what he does.  Do not bring him down.  Look at him, and then apologize."  Trevor looked over and Brennan was looking down at his controller with sad tears.  I saw Trevor look sad too.  "Sorry Bren."  Then I pulled Brennan close and just hugged him until he felt like playing again.  It made me feel SO sad to see him that deflated, though Trevor was noticeably uplifting towards him for the rest of the day. 

And then, earlier today, Brennan and I were downstairs just chatting.  I was asking him about school, who he hangs out with, who his friends are.  He didn't really have an answer.  "Who do you sit with at lunch?" I asked.  "I mostly just sit by myself."  "Do people come sit by you?  Are they your friends?"  "Yeah, people come sit by me and sometimes talk to me.  I don't know if they're my friends.  I don't really hang out with them."  He wasn't bothered by this, as it was just a fact to him, which is commendable that he's so comfortable and approving of himself during such a need-to-be-popular time.  And I can understand why he is this way, because we live outside of all the neighborhoods so there's really no kids around, and Brennan is so much younger than the rest of us siblings that he's used to not having people his age to connect with.  So probably at school, it feels normal to just be... more alone.

But that makes me feel so bad.

During the movie, as Brennan was laughing so hard next to me, and then as he grew tired, resting his head on my shoulder, I thought about this.  I thought what a tragedy it was for THEM, all those weirdo middle school kids.  Because of every kid at that place, I'd want to hang out with Brennan.  He's such a JOY to be around.  Move over zitty tweens!  Don't mind us laughing so hard about the caveman grandma who has nasty armpit hair.

I feel really really grateful that he is my brother and that I'm his "Best Friend."  Whether he means that truly, or because he's been coaxed all his older siblings for so long that he's primed in his answers.  But he is very much that role for me, as just being around him makes me SO happy.  Two goofy peas in a pod.

And as for those cavemen Croods, well, I was seriously impressed.  Nothing gets me like a feel-good movie with all these inspiring messages.  I mean, who knew a movie about CAVEMEN would make me feel so happy.  What I liked - besides Brennan hysterically laughing every time someone got punched in the face by a monkey or a rock, which was making it all equally hysterical for me - but I LOVED the following messages from the film:

-letting go of the way things have always been to allow for new ideas.
 (Guy being a risktaker, which kept fueling better and better innovations.  I believe in that!)

-find the differences in other people as a positive contribution.
 (Guy and the dad having a heart-to-heart in the tar, and they accept each other and note how each is offering benefit)

-moving beyond tragedy and still being a stellar person.
 (how Guy's family all died in a tar accident, and he never once let it hold him back)

-accepting ways you can be better and putting it straight to action.
 (the dad realizing he could be more open to new ideas and more loving to his daughter.  Changed the whole energy of his family.  I loved that!)

It was good.  It was all just so good.  And texting Ryan during the whole film was also fantastic :)

Here's to hilarious brothers, positive messages, and gratitude towards having just the people we need.

Upward and onward,


Happy Moments

24 December 2014

Home for Christmas!  Ahhhh..  the house is quiet.  Quiet to only the storm outside.

Except I don't feel like sleeping.  Because I feel.... really happy.  "Really" anything is the best time to write.

Below is a list of happy moments on this Christmas break:

-LOVED seeing Trevor's scriptures open on his bed.

- going to buy a bow with Devin and Brennan.  Good chat time with Devin.  His car smelled so good.  Talked about him going to PT school and joining the military.  Talked about Kara and baby and their relationship.  They are a good match.

- hung out with Brennan while we waited for Devin.  Explained to him things about working like the pallet lift, "retail," "inventory."  Love teaching him and also seeing my knowledge in business.

-came home and researched financial modeling.

-talked to my mom about it when she got home.  Helped by doing the dishes.

-Dad passed through and said, "yes you have way too much talent to just be a P-Card lady."

-Played Just Dance with Brennan.  So fun.

-Now watching Shark Tank with mom :)

Upward and onward,

Something that matters

04 December 2014

I just can't crack how empty it all feels. Work.

Was sitting numbly in the cafeteria. Big companies do pidgeon-hole you. I'm not a number-pusher. And I hate the feeling of spinning a wheel in a rut.  Ryan was telling me the other day that I'm just a puzzle piece and they have to keep me in my little puzzle spot.

Mace just sent me an email about a typhoon in the Philippines. Could be really helping.

I was perusing online just before. The way people turn themselves into a business. It's SOOOO stupid to me. Like your face and your clothes and your 1,000,000 professional photos matter.  It's so brainless.  Freaking brainless. 

I want to do something that matters.

Upward and onward,


A simple night for myself

02 December 2014

Tonight I stole some solitudinal time for myself.

First I walked to the temple, just down the campus of my office, and did my favorite work of iniatories.  Worked with a woman who had a permanently deformed neck, and as she talked to me with her head completely cranked sideways, my own neck started to itch horribly in the same spot.  I thought of those movies that are like, "when we go in to see him, whatever you do, don't stare it his unibrow."  And then the scary guy turns around in his chair and all the main character can do is gape wide-eyed at his unibrow.  Stop itching neck.  

I recovered, felt an amazing calm while doing the temple work.  That was my first time doing initiatories in the Salt Lake temple. 

Then I came home and went for a run. Runs are few and far between these days.  It is always well passed dark, which makes me long for my sunshine evening runs.... ah gosh.  So I swaddled up and sprinted down to the city park and began running laps around the mile and a half loop, dodging from lamp post to lamp post, decompressing my mind.  A few laps in, I became aware of the one other runner in the park.  A young fellow, dressed in all black spandex, running in the same spot of the park as I was.  He was running sprints and walking the hills, and I ran steadily.  So we leapfrogged back and forth, back and forth, for many laps.  The park was entirely barren, except for the two of us running close by each other, so we grow to be somewhat of comforting companions.  Though we never spoke, or even acknowledged the other, it was really nice to not be alone.  I told myself that I would just keep running until he went home, and then I'd go home too.  So we kept going and going.  Always passing each other in the sames spots.  I reached mile 8, holding myself firm down a hill.  I reached the spot where he usually passed me, and I turned around to see if he was coming.  He was gone.

Well, that marks the end of my run too then.  So I walk-danced the last part of the loop to a Chris Brown song, which is my signature thing to do when I know no one is around to see.  And then I lollygaged the mile and a half back home, texting Ryan who was still working late.

Now I write in my "unds" on my bedroom floor.  That saying goes way back to grad school when I would blog in my underwear and Leslie would sit in the hallway and laugh with me.  Some things never change I suppose. 

Here's to calming nights.  The same things that make me feel peaceful time and time again.

Upward and onward,

And some happy pictures!!

A cute little house on my run!  CHRISTMAS IS COMING! 

Happy view from my room.  My favorite scripture next to my brothers.  My mangled vision board on the left and my new vision board on the right.  And of course my two house plants that are miraculously STILL ALIVE.  

And a visual for said writing location.  Everything just feels so cozy and right tonight.

A sweet, chocolately evening

01 December 2014

I come home early from work and text Ryan, "maybe we can hang out another day.  Feeling imbalanced tonight.  Wasn't a good day at work."  He says he doesn't mind, and he arrives a couple hours later. 

After I've gone grocery shopping, stopping at Bath and Body Works next door to lather myself in every bottle of cream that my slippery hands can still open, Ryan finds me in the center of my bedroom floor, just sitting still, processing. 

I tell him we'll picnic right here tonight, eating cut-up produce that won't fit on my drawer of the fridge.  He's really kind to me, pulling me close and telling me he doesn't mind I had a bad day. 

Then we decide to watch a movie.  I make hot chocolate for us, while he follows me around the kitchen wrapped up in my bright-striped college comforter.  I forgot to buy milk so I attempt to make hot cocoa with powdered milk, and I mask the taste by adding 18 scoops of chocolate to both our mugs.  We nestle in for our movie, the insane amount of sugar pulsing in my veins. 

After the movie ends, he's cuddling with me on the couch.  And I'm something like Cinderella in times when I'm decompressing heavy emotion.  The clock rings 10, and no matter what's happening, my emotions demand their time, and I softly cry.  Though I try to be discreet.  Ryan always kindly prods me open and reassures me I can talk to him.  I'm fine.  I'm not crying.  Even though both our faces are wet.  "It's okay to cry," he says. "Want to talk?"  I shake my head. 

It's the return of the dark pains I've wrestled and battled for years now.  The surge that I know feels so real in the moment, but tomorrow I'll be grounded and I can self-talk my way through it on rational ground.  I just can't hide it in the moment. 

We stand up to clean up our hot cocoa, and I follow him upstairs giggling.  We're back in my bedroom and I tell him, it's time for my daily 10 pm scarf dance, except I keel over giggling and don't even perform a dance.  I tell him, "oh no you've never seen me weird before.  It's about to get crazy." he laughs and replies, "What are you talking about?  I see you act goofy all the time.  Every time we're together, you laugh and wheez uncontrollably for at least 15 minutes without anything funny even happening."

That is probably true.

It's a sweet night.

Upward and onward,

Thanksgiving in Boise!

30 November 2014

Thanksgiving weekend!  I woke up in a whirl of excitement, going on a TRIP!!!!  And I pack up everything I can find in every bag that is available to put more useless things.  Which is ironic because when Mace and I backpacked through the Philippines, that was all I had, one backpack.  And then we came home and went to Becky and Preston's house for a one night sleepover, and I show up with FOUR bags.  "What is in all of those?" he asks.  IT DOESNT MATTER. 

I just get so happy when I go on trips, that I irrationally pack everything.  Which is why I took all four of my Step Up movies, all three of my hip-hop abs DVD's, and my purple pajama onsie home for Thanksgiving.  I mean, those could all be used in one adventure.  I text Devin to bring warm running clothes so we can run up to Table Rock, the Boise mountain equivalent.  And I text Ryan to tell him I am downloading another audible book from his account for roadtrip listening.  And then I drove home so happily with my car packed to the brim, singing loudly to high school bands like Mae and Anberlin (because I stopped updated my CDs in high school).  And then the moment I arrive home, I swing open the front door and yell, "CAN I GET A BELLHOP OVER HERE?"  And then my twelve year old brother bolts down the stairs and clings to me for the remainder of the time I'm there.  That kid and I are buddies.

And my visit home was amazing.  Except it took me three days to get leveled out, away from the binds of work stress that I am slowly deteriorating from every day.  I really couldn't mentally engage with anyone or anything, but I quietly read my checked-out library books at the end of the kitchen table, while my family played games for endless hours.  Devin was sad that I wasn't joining, so finally I joined in for Nertz, where I ended up on the table, playing a competitive game against my mom, sis, and sister-in-law.  When I finally got out of losing place against them, I told them that as payback for all of their sharp wedding rings drawing blood from my hands, when I get engaged, I'm going to ask for a two-inch spike on my ring.  Then we discussed what movie to watch, which is mostly how we end every night. And while the ladies argued for an old classic, and the guys argued for a modern action. My mom said, but those aren't realistic. Devin replied, "Yeah?  But kidnapping seven brides into a cabin in the woods for seven brothers is?

The thing I love about my family is we just Laugh. Laugh and laugh. Especially Brennan.

Theeeeen, during Thanksgiving dinner, Devin made a toast that they're having a baby!

The next day I went to a yoga class taught by my best friend Chelsea.  I've dappled in yoga a number of times, and I even joked with Becky today over vox about how insane it all seems from the outside.  Like holding your body upside-down in extended contorted positions is somehow mind-clearing and calming.  "ffllllllow with your body. Stay relaxed with all that blood in your head." 

But Chelsea has this amazing energy for stillness.  Her voice, the way she uses a visual metaphor for every position, teaching us patiently how to get our bodies posed and balanced.  At the end, we laid against the wall and she relaxed our bodies to a degree I can't even remember feeling that mentally free and clear before.  I should note this was a prenatal class, so everything was tailored to a more immobile and off-balance body, which explains why I suddenly was good at it.

Then I spent the rest of the day with Chelsea and Emily, talking in a coffee shop by a little fire, and then drove to my friend Rachel's house, and spent well-over three hours talking to her and her parents about basically my entire life (okay just work and the Philippines).  When Rachel's mom and dad told me how special I was, and how I brought a noticeably distinct spirit into their home, I cried.  Things like that mean so much for me to hear, after everything I've been through.

The next morning, I was tired, so I justified why I could skip church and stay in bed.  Until at the very last minute I told myself to get up.  I am not that person who stays in bed.  I refuse to ever be that person.  ever.  I will get up and get going, no matter how tired I am. So I put on a dress that Trevor calls my primary dress, because he thinks I've had it for that long, and I wore my grubby glasses from college to hide the circles under my eyes, and went to church.  My whole family was already there waiting for me, and it felt really really cool to sit in a full pew with my whole family.  I forget how comforting it is to have blood-sworn people surrounding you.  And an week early fast-and-testimony began.  People shared such different stories, and with each one, I felt the Spirit stronger and stronger.  Parents figuring out how to miss kids on missions.  Young couples figuring out how to raise families.  Older families figuring out how to balance a growing number of people.  Everyone figuring out something.  ME TOO, I wanted to say.  I almost got up to share some of my spiritual evolutions as of late, but time was ending.  And then at the last minute, Brennan ran up to the pulpit.  RAN.  That is the key word in that sentence.  Oh man I love that kid.  An old woman walked up and sat down on the opposite side, and Trevor nudged me, "They're gonna brawl for the pulpit.  Who's gonna win?"  To which my mom told us to stop giggling and be really supportive.  Brennan bore a short and sweet testimony, and we he sat back down at the far end of the row, he kept looking over at me for reassurance, and I kept giving him a thumbs up.  Later he told me his Deacons Master (forget the name of that calling) would buy a pizza for any kid that would bear his testimony.  Way to incentive young boys.  Then two of my childhood friends came to me to visit.  Nick and Audrey.  So comforting to be in the presence of lifelong friends.  The friends who have seen it all, so I don't even need to hide my dark undereyes from them.

I come home to eat with my family. And Brennan and I tried to do a round of meditation in my old bedroom that my mom painted light blue and smells like the ocean. We listened to a podcast for about 30 seconds before laughing.  

Then I had to say goodbye.

Thanksgiving weekend was a blast!

Upward and onward,


Philippines Anniversary and release of PART ONE

28 November 2014

Exactly one year ago, I was in the Philippines.  As a matter-of-fact, my Thanksgiving last year was spent on a white sand Filipino beach with Mace and Preston. 

Well, I have news.  I finally posted PART ONE of my trip.  (I had to break it up into a few parts, because frankly, putting this together was far more work than I imagined.  God bless any human who has ever written a book). 

For your holiday reading pleasure:

Part One of my Philippines Journey

Chapter 1 - deciding to go
Chapter 2 - travel to the country
Chapter 3 - Walter joins and we arrive
Chapter 4 - assembling care packages
Chapter 5 - Preston and a miracle
Chapter 6 - meeting the team
Chapter 7 - the decision
Chapter 8 - grabbing hold of God

Additionally, our story is also featured in the video below.  I will forever hold these two men and this story in the most well-kept part of my heart.

Here's to now leaving my bedroom and interacting with humanity again. 

Upward and onward,

Part 8 - Philippines Journey: grabbing hold of God

You cannot calm a storm.  You can only calm yourself.

Mace and I board the boat, walking down a flight of stairs, and into a freezing indoor bunk room.  The team is already inside discussing where everyone will be sleeping for the several hours we have.  I need a moment to just be alone, so I let Mace go ahead of me, and I crawl out of sight into one of the lower bunks. 

After a few minutes, I grab my backpack and jump up, heading lightly towards the back of the room with everyone else.  Brylle shouts over at me, "Hey Chantel!  You'll be bunking right below me.  Between Mom Beth and Mace."

"Thanks."  And I crawl into my lower bunk, push my backpack against the wall, and lay down again.  As much as I'd fully like to just go to sleep, I can't get Leslie off my mind.  How could something so "noble" make me feel so sad?  Shouldn't courage feel better than this?

Mace lightly touches my back.  "Do you want a blessing?" he asks.  I roll over, and he and Preston are both looking at me from their lower bunks across from mine.  I nod.

Mace helps me up, and I follow him and Preston across the room.  I am thinking we are headed to a sideroom, as the bunk room is growing louder with more people packed in.  However, Mace stops and motions towards a cardboard box sitting between two bunks.  "Have a seat,"  he says.

I look at him quizzically, and then sit down.  Preston steps to the other side of the box, and they both place their hands on my head.  I can feel the boat rocking beneath me.  This moment is far too surreal.

The blessing reassures me that God supports the decision I have made, and I will receive a number of blessings as I continue on, even long after this trip is over.  That's the interesting thing about God - He never tells you what to do, even though He knows the path for your future.  He let's you choose for yourself and find out.

Well, I am on the boat.  I am going.

Afterwards, Mace asks if I would like to go upstairs and talk.  He ushers down the aisle of bunks towards the exit door, encouraging me to lead the way.  I thank Preston and he heads back to his bunk, while Mace and I walk quickly to the exit door of the bunk room.  There is no distinct handle on the door, so I push and pull one side, and then push and pull the other.  Mace reaches around me and pops the door open.  "Remember, doors are hard," he says, and we both laugh.

We go upstairs and walk around the landing until we find a private spot on the railing.  We lean over the side of the boat, looking out into the black ocean and the black starry night.  We stand in silence for awhile.  Then Mace asks, "What do you think about all this?"

I tell him that I feel okay.  I'm sad that I'm missing Leslie's wedding, but I'm okay.  I'm ready to move forward in our adventure and go to the island!

Mace smiles.  He tells me that he was trying to remain unbiased the whole time, and he was inspired by the loyalty I have towards my friends, but he is very happy that I chose to come.  He says, "I feel like our journey is at just the beginning.  We are only going to witness more miracles."

We continue looking out over the water.

Then Mace says, "Chantel, I want you to know that out of all the people I have met in my life, you are one of the top 3 that I respect the most."  He tells me that though I've been through a lot in my personal life, I come out fighting every time, and that's the type of person that is needed on a trip like this.

"Thank you.  That means a lot to me."  I tell him.

The horn above us blows a couple times, and we know that means we are sailing off.  Mace and I look at each other with raised eyebrows, and then I pull out my phone to text Leslie and tell her I'm going to Tacloban.  She immediately replies with her encouragement.

Then Mace and I head back downstairs to get in as much sleep as we can.  Though we first tell each other hushed jokes across our bunks and get each other laughing, before finally winding down for bed.

I can feel the boat rocking with the waves as it moves across the sea.  Unlike the waves that destroyed the island just days before.  Thunderous.  Violent.  Dangerous.  People running for cover.  Others being thrashed into the water.  The torrential waves demanding their remains.

Now the waves are are gentle and peaceful.  Rocking us slowly to sleep.  Calm.  Rhythmic. Bringing in arms ready to serve.  Goods ready to repair.  A ship full of courage.

We'll see which holds the greater power.

Upward and onward,

Image Source

Part 7 - Philippines Journey: the decision to go to Leyte

A ship is safe in harbor, but that's not what ships are for.

After grabbing dinner, the whole team heads back to ZEDRU's office to load up the relief goods and being driving to the port. 

I am consistently noting the time, waiting for 7:30 pm, when Leslie should be waking up in America.

We have divided up between the vehicles according Mom Beth's buddy system.  Mace and Preston are paired together, and I am paired with Mom Beth.

Mom Beth sits beside me in the van, and while we drive through the streets of Cebu, I keep my eye on the time.  I remember Mom Beth talking to me; I think she was sharing a story about another rescue operation when a different calamity hit the Philippines.  But I can't recall much as my mind is muddled, and my stomach clenches tighter with uncertainty.

As soon as the clock hits 7:30, I dial Leslie's number.  She answers groggily, though excited to hear from me, and I tell her the situation.  Leslie sympathizes with me, saying that is a really tough decision, but she isn't biased in either direction.  She really wants me at her wedding, but she really wants to support me in this cause.  She says she will pray for me as I make my choice, and we get off the phone.

We both know that ultimately the choice lies with me. Walter grabs my hand, and my eyes again well up with tears.

At this moment, we reach the boat dock, and without another quiet moment for me to think, Mom Beth flings open the van door, grabs me by the wrist, and pulls me out into the swarming crowd.  Hundreds of people are flooding the boat office to either get into the island, or camping out to wait for the loved ones to be saved from the island.  The noise of chatter is deafening, and the lights over the port are extremely bright against the black sky.

With Mom Beth's hand firmly grasping my wrist, she immediately begins yanking me through the crowd towards the boat office.  She finagles her way through the lines, showing her EMT badge, and getting special access to continue passed lines of people.  I scramble behind her, trying to just get one good breath from the overwhelming situation, my mind still foggy and my stomach still clenched.

I don't even have one moment to think about my decision as Mom Beth keeps tugging me further and further into the crowd.  I can't wrap my brain around anything, other than the fact that my arm was stuck in Mom Beth's pursuit, and thus, so is the rest of me. 

Finally, we reach the far side of the boat office, beyond the hundreds of people, Mom Beth flashes our tickets to a security officer, who opens the door behind her a tiny crack, and we are allowed to slip through.  We are outside behind the building, finally relieved of the noisy crowd.  Mom Beth guides us back up the port to where trucks are loading goods onto the boat.  We locate our truck with the rest of our team, and I see Mace immediately turn around and spot me.  For the first time since I was hauled out of the van, Mom Beth finally lets go of my wrist, and I walk over to him, rubbing the spot where Mom Beth's hand used to be.

Noting the look on my face, Mace asks me if he needs to arrange a driver to take me back to Cebu to stay with Apollo until my flight leaves for America.  I tell him that we'll finish loading the goods and then we can talk.  Though, I'm not much helping unloading much of anything, as I'm so distracted by what I should do.  The van driver approaches me.  "Ma'am, are you okay?"

I spin around.  "Yeah, yeah, I think I'm fine.  Well, I don't know."

Then he interjects in broken, but still very understandable English.  "Walter told me about your decisions.  Your friend's wedding.  Or your travels to Tacloban.  I just want to say that you coming to our country is very touching.  You come to help our people.  And that means a lot to us.  Your journey here means a lot to me.  Thank you, ma'am."  And then he walks away.  I stand even more numb than before.

The goods are loaded, and the team pauses for a picture.  I'm hardly present.

It's time for us to get on the boat. 

The team goes ahead, walking across the ramp and onto the boat, while Mace and I stay behind.  We both say nothing, just staring ahead into the black ocean.  "Whatever you want to do," he gently says.

And we stand for a moment longer before I turn to him.

"Let's go."  And I step onto the boat ramp, and he grins.

Upward and onward,


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Part 6 - Philippines Journey: meeting the ZEDRU team

It begins with faith.  A decision to act.

We load up our goods onto the back of several jeeps, driven by locals who agree to take us to the Cebu ZEDRU office.  After all the bags are loaded, Mace, Preston, Walter, and I climb on top of the tailgate, and the jeep takes off.

We cruise down the road, and while we're waiting to turn onto the main street, a giant bus is charging straight towards us.  The bus comes closer and closer, not slowing it's pace, though the jeep isn't budging.  We stare open-mouthed at the bus headed right for us, and just at the last second, the jeep pulls out onto the street, and the bus comes to a screeching halt on the corner.

We speed down the main road, opposing traffic whizzing by right at my elbows.  It's so exhilarating.  Each time the jeep speeds up, I grab the edge of the tailgate and push on Mace's leg to keep from sliding off.  Like a ride at the theme park, but no seatbelts.

We arrive at the office, finally able to breathe after our wild ride.   The ZEDRU team is waiting for us, and Preston introduces us one by one.  Fortunately for me, most of them are fluent in English.

After our goods our unloaded into the small room, with a little bathroom off to the side, we sit down and chat, while the two leaders of ZEDRU decide on the best travel arrangements.  Mace and I whisper to each other that we feel like we're in a movie, as each member of ZEDRU is physically distinct, and we can pick out their personality and role on the team.

Beth, referred to as "Mom Beth," is the only woman on the team, somewhere in her late 40's, and distinctly the team leader.  She holds all the information and is able to make decisions quickly.  She is the one who arranges cost and transportation.  Her hair is always kept in a tight bun, except for at night when she lets it down and it's so long and beautiful.

Willy, a father in probably his mid 30's, appears to be second in command.  He has a very playful and sarcastic side - the loud and always laughing type - and has a very big, distinct smile.  As soon as Mom Beth gives an instruction, Willy takes the lead and motivates the rest of the team to follow.  As one of the older men in the group, the younger men clearly respect him and follow his lead. I like watching the two of them work together and note how they make a good pair for planning and executing.

Then there is Brylle.  Brylle is the son of Mom Beth.  He is 23 and the jokester of the group, always goofing around and quoting American phrases that he learned from one of his American missionary companions, like "oh freak!"  Basically any phrase that endsin "freak."  I laugh every time he says it.  Brylle is a shorter member of the team, but he is notable for his hair.  Somehow he always keeps it styled in a perfect fohawk, ready for a photo at any time.

Then TJ.  TJ seems to be the bronze of the group.  He is a larger man, about Willy's size, and 28 years old.  I suspect he is the Filipino version of tall, dark, and handsome.  He speaks mostly only Tagalog, so it takes me awhile to catch onto his personality.  Mace keeps telling me that TJ is the witty one-liner man of the group.  Though he doesn't speak much, but when he does, everyone laughs.  Additionally, the more I observe TJ, the more I realize he has the biggest heart of gold. 

Arch is the next Filipino I meet in the group.  Arch is 25, right between Brylle and TJ.  Arch is a bit more reserved than the rest of the guys, as far as playful energy goes.  Arch seems a bit more introspective and observant.  Of all the group members, I become closest to him.  We talk a lot as he is curious about more of the world.  I learn he is raising a 5 year-old daughter on his own, as the mother was taken away to Australia by her father .

And finally, Jabar.  Jabar is 26, and he is about the height of Arch and Brylle, except a lot rounder.  He has small eyes and looks somewhat Asian.  Like TJ, he does not speak much English, so I don't get to know him as well either, but his personality is evident to me.  He is the easygoing, happy-go-lucky one of the group.  He seems to be the brunt of a lot of jokes, as the others always repeat his name in jest, "Jabar Jabar."  But Jabar just laughs.  He seems a bit like the kid outside of the "cool group."  Yet later in our trip, Jabar comes to pick up Mace, Preston, and I from the airport, and he pulls up in a low-rider, tinted window car.  To have your own car in the Philippines means you are doing very well for yourself.  His music is pumping, and he hops out of the car wearing sleek sunglasses.  He tells us that he earned his living as a former street racer.  Mace and I look at each other with raised eyebrows.  We were all taken aback at his "coolness."

Anyway, after Mom Beth and Willy had made some plans, she announces that we are going to buy our boat passes and head over to Tacloban tonight!

However, as Mace and I are calculating the time of transportation to the island and back, we'd only have less than a day to work before I have to return for my flight home.  As half of the team walks to the boat ticket office, Mace and I discuss what I should do.  Going to the island will not be possible for me, yet staying alone in Cebu hardly seems safe.  However, missing Leslie's wedding isn't an option.

We reach the ticket office at 4 in the afternoon.  Mom Beth, Brylle, and Walter go inside the office to negotiate prices.  Preston stands under the shade of the roof, wiping the sweat from his forehead.  And Mace and I stand on the curb of the street, in the beating sun, discussing what to do. 

Walter peers his head out of office and suggests we come inside until the pricing negotiation is done.  Only the bottom part of the door is open, so Preston, Mace, and I bend over and crawl inside.  Mom Beth and Brylle are on the other side of the counter, still discussing prices.  Mace informs the team of my dilemma, and Mom Beth secures a boat pass for me anyways and says I have until 9 pm, when we dock the boat, to decide.  Preston, Walter, Mace and I scrunch together on the other side of the counter and wait.

We are standing in front of a reflective glass.  I look at myself with Mace on one side, and Preston on the other.  Tall, white Americans.  Our determination is evident in our faces, we each look strong, confident, and ready to serve.  We came here on a mission and are ready to fulfill it.

We begin to discuss our miraculous day while we wait.  How each of our decisions to come had impacted the others - Mace wouldn't be here if I hadn't funded the trip.  If Mace hadn't come then Preston and Walter wouldn't have come.  If they hadn't come, we never would have met ZEDRU.  If we had never met ZEDRU, they would be unable to go to the island without any relief goods.  We talked about how all of our decisions to even come happened just days ago.  How people were so surprised in our haste to leave on this trip, how so many people were willing to donate, how the entire purpose and meaning behind our trip seemed far bigger than we were yet able to understand.

However, I just couldn't miss Leslie's wedding.  Leslie and I met our last year of graduate school when we moved into the same apartment without knowing each other beforehand.  I think we had exchanged one email prior to moving in, simply to introduce ourselves.  We lived with two other girls, and Leslie and I shared the back of the apartment, so we got to know each other really well when we stayed up late talking on the weekends.  However, after 8 months, we both graduated and moved away.  I moved to a city just north and got my own apartment, and she moved to Las Vegas for an internship.  After a year, she had been offered a job back at our university and contacted me to say she was moving back!  She told me that if I knew of any housing options to let her know.  I told her that my place had an extra bedroom, so she was welcome with me!  Within a couple months, she had moved in, and from there, we became inseparable.  We were there for each other through the hard, and we stayed up far too late on so many nights laughing ourselves to stomach pains.  We bought each other flowers whenever one went out of town.  We wrote notes on the mirror, made dinners together, and saw each other in and out of several relationships.  She became the greatest friend and roommate I had ever known.  We became closer to each other then we were to anyone else.  So missing her wedding just wouldn’t happen.

Finally the tickets are purchased, and we leave the office, back into the beating sun.  As we wait for a jeepney to take us back to the rest of the team, I put my hands around my eyes to block the sun and look up at Mace.  He looks at me, smiling kindly, knowing the weight of my decision.

"I'm going to call Leslie tonight."  I say.  "I'm not making a choice yet; I just need to talk with her."

He nods, and my eyes well up with tears.

Upward and onward,

Preston is found!  And the goods are loaded up.
 Mace playing with the children outside ZEDRU's office.
The ZEDRU team.  Arch, TJ, Jabar, Willy, and Mom Beth (Brylle not featured)

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