Farewell, Ventura.

Well, it’s official. My in-laws no longer live in California. It will be wonderful having them closer; and, like so many big changes, it’s bittersweet.

We took full advantage of their hospitality: from September 2012 to March 2015 we visited them in California ten times! 2013 was the record-setting year with five road trips to Ventura. It’s a place of many special memories for Mark and me: our first road trip together, the first time I met his parents and felt the warmth of their love and their welcome, the first time he gave me flowers and officially asked me to be his girlfriend.

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(Spoiler alert: I said yes.)

I’m not going to miss the grueling twelve-hour drive across the hot desert. But I am going to miss arriving, climbing out of the car, and heading straight for the backyard hammock.

I’m going to miss the times that Mark’s little sister and I snuck out her second-story window, climbed onto the roof, and lay there on our backs watching for shooting stars.

(I’m not going to miss the old-fashioned pull-chain toilet and the thundering roar it made when flushed, so terrifying on middle-of-the-night trips to the bathroom.)

I’m going to miss hikes and bike rides high up in the hills, where mountains stretch as far as you can see in one direction and the glimmering blue expanse of the ocean in the other. From up there you can see oil tankers and cargo ships moving off the coast, and the Channel Islands look like just another ridge of mountains peeking through the haze.

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I’m going to the times Mark and I borrowed my father-in-law’s Boulevard (comfiest bike ever!) to drive up the Pacific Coast Highway to Carpinteria, or to forbidden hot springs and secret swimming holes near Ojai.

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I’m going to miss the old yellow house, the one built in 1880 and lovingly maintained by Mark’s grandparents, where Mark’s parents and aunts and uncles had their wedding receptions, and we had ours.

I’m going to miss walking the few blocks from the yellow house down to the Jelly Bowl Beach, where we spent hours spotting storks and anemones and iridescent-colored fish and crabs in the tidepools.

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I’m going to miss my favorite bike ride in the world, the one that winds through the verdant hills and barrancas of Ojai, past oil derricks and graffitied industrial yards, ending on the beach and the Ventura Promenade.

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I’m going to miss beach days, and exploring the old Spanish missions of Santa Barbara and San Buenaventura.

I’m going to miss the Ventura Harbor.

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(Above and below: when I was six months pregnant!)

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It’s the end of an era, for sure.

Someday we’ll take our son there, to show him all the old haunts. We’ll tell him, “This is the house that belonged to your great-grandma Madelyn, who never got to hold you. This is where your grandpa lived and went to school and surfed those big waves.

“This is where your daddy grew up and had adventures with his brothers, who were his best friends. This is where he brought Mama to meet his parents for the first time, and she knew for certain that she wanted to be part of their family. This is where you went hiking in the mountains and paddleboarding in the ocean when you were growing in your mama’s belly.”

And we’ll make new memories, too. We’ll play on the pirate ship and the zipline at Marina Park. We’ll eat shark salad on the Ventura Pier. We’ll take a ferry out to the islands and kayak around the sea caves.

We’ll camp on the beach. When the stars have come out and our campfire is dying down, when we can no longer suppress our sleepy yawns, we’ll retire to bed, a puddle of pillows and sleeping bags and cuddly bodies squished together. Outside our tent we’ll hear the waves lapping on the sand, and we’ll fall asleep to the rhythmic lullabye of the ocean.

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Westwater Canyon, the Jordan River, and Summertime Water Adventures

Logan (age eight), Evan (age six), and me (age ten) on top of Mt. Timpanogos

Logan (age eight), Evan (age six), and me (age ten) on top of Mt. Timpanogos

The same way I spent my childhood camping in the Uinta Mountains, hiking through southern Utah’s red rock canyons, and eating tinfoil dinners “because if you’re going to eat dinner anyway it might as well be over a campfire,” Mark spent his childhood at the Pacific Ocean.

Mark and his brothers at the Ventura Pier. Photo by Michael Sears.

All the brothers at the Ventura Harbor. Photo by Michael Sears.

Growing up only four blocks, and later eight miles, from the beach, Mark inherited his dad’s love for the ocean, for surfing, and for beach volleyball. Family fun meant body boarding, tossing a frisbee or aerobie around in the sand, and catching waves. And whenever we go visit the California folks, it still does.

Photo by Michael Sears.

Photo by Michael Sears.

Photo by Michael Sears.

Photo by Michael Sears.

Now that Mark is here in my landlocked country to stay (at least for the next few years), he’s been having some water recreation withdrawals, so we do our best to find summertime aquatic adventures.

We love the Mona rope swing…

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The water park that’s only five minutes from our house…

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And the Payson Grotto with the siblings.

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Last summer we decided to go whitewater rafting for Mark’s birthday. We piled our camping gear on the motorcycle and drove 235 miles to Moab, where we set out for Westwater Canyon.

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Westwater Canyon is a seventeen-mile stretch of the Colorado River that features class IV rapids and otherworldly terrain. It’s a black volcanic rock canyon inside of a red rock sandstone one, so when we weren’t paddling as hard as we could through the rapids and trying to stay in the boat, we got to float and take in the gorgeous scenery.

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And this year for Mark’s birthday we found a good deal on an inflatable paddle boat! We’ve already taken it on some grand adventures: to the Spanish Fork Reservoir with friends and on a seven-mile journey down the Jordan River, where we saw amazing wildlife (a beaver so big it looked like a baby bear, among other things) and felt like we were in another world.

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A little catch up…

Evan is home from Germany! I’m so glad to have my smart, tough, hilarious, handsome, quirky brother home again.

On Saturday Logan, Evan, and I took the little kids (minus Violet) to hike to the Y and watch the Stadium of Fire fireworks. We stuck Julia in the baby backpack and Evan carried her. About halfway up she said, “Hiking makes me tired. I need to take a rest on your shoulder, Evan.” Yep, life’s tough when you’re two years old. 🙂 Also, we brought Natalie’s friend Megan with us, and Julia called her “Bacon” the whole night. Megan, Bacon…they’re interchangeable, I guess.

I hiked Maple Mountain for the first time with my brothers last week. (Yes, I’m a little ashamed of myself that I’ve lived in Springville almost half my life and had never climbed it!) We made pretty good time–we started hiking at 6:00 and summited by 9:15. Then we were back off the mountain by 11:00, so I still had time for a half day of work. Maybe I should hike Maple Mountain every day.

This week should be an adventure. Logan, Evan, and I are going to make an attempt at Gannet Peak, which evaded us last year because of terrible blizzarding weather. I hope we get a chance at the summit! Gannett is Wyoming’s state highpoint and is considered the second-most-difficult state highpoint (after Denali, of course!). I hope I’m ready for this.

I went to Samantha‘s bridal shower with my mom last week. Samantha has been one of my best friends since I moved to Springville and I’m so excited for her and Brandon (and I really really hope I can make it back to Springville in time for their reception on Saturday!). The funniest moment of the bridal shower was when Samantha pulled a beautiful framed picture of the Manti Temple out of a bright pink Victoria’s Secret bag. “Sorry! That was the only bag I had to wrap it in!” said the lady who had given it to her.

So, life is good. I exchanged e-mail addresses with a potential Jewish genealogy client at the FHL last week (if any of you guys have Jewish friends interested in genealogy, please direct them to my website), hung out with my awesome friend Jana, coerced BOTH my brothers into bearing their testimonies in sacrament meeting, had a good lazy Sunday with my family, cut Wendell’s hair today and didn’t make him look terrible, and went running a LOT.

Life is good.

I’m Back!

So after a long hiatus from my blogging life, I’ve decided to re-enter the blogging world so that I can record more of my random thoughts and experiences–since, it turns out, there is life after Jerusalem, after all.

So in the six months since I last posted I have:

Climbed the Grand Teton.


Me and my dad, uncles, and brothers on the summit.

Been a bridesmaid and married off two of my best friends.


Jana, Jessica, me, Heather, Samantha, and our beautiful bride Carrie. (Carrie’s mom made her dress! Isn’t that amazing? P.S. This photo is courtesy of Samantha.)


Davy Bennet and Kristi Torgerson…no, wait! She’s a Bennet now. Weird how marriage will do that to you. (Photo courtesy of Mindy Tuikolovatu.)

Enjoyed time with my delightful, inspiring, hilarious family.

And in between all that there’s been lots of school, work, football games, genealogy, rock climbing, road trips, and everything else that makes life great.