My Takeaways: Canyon Ranch 2017

Hi guys!

I wanted to check back in and write a little bit about my recent trip to a resort called Canyon Ranch in Tucson, Arizona.

When telling my friends that I was going to a resort for spring break, I described it similar to the one in High School Musical 2; the Lava Springs. After my trip, I noted that the main difference was that there weren’t any wild Javelinas strolling around Lava Springs. At Canyon Ranch, it wasn’t unusual to witness a Javelina scurrying across the path to join its friends while they were snacking on some freshly fallen Mesquite beans.

It’s hard to believe how much we did during our three day stay. We took Zumba classes, cardio workouts (deadly), yoga, meditation, boxing, cooking classes, drumming, and art classes. I know, what a variety! All I can say is, by the end of this trip, my muscles ached but my mind was a ease.

I had tried some meditation at school before (my photography teacher made us meditate for the first five minutes of each class), but I had never really felt centered while meditating. It was mostly just more time for me to continue stressing about the math test I took the period before.

From going to some classes, I saw what meditation really was and I experienced its benefits.

A lot of people think that meditating is the absence of thoughts. While this is quite intriguing, it’s not completely the case. Meditation is about noticing the thoughts that come into your brain, acknowledging them, and letting them go.

Thoughts are natural, and aren’t meant to be looked at as a bad thing in meditation.

Something that really helped me with centering mediation was breathing, and focusing my attention to each breath and how it felt. In my head, I thought of the words rising, for inhale, and falling, for exhale.

Another option is to visualize scenes in your head while you meditate. It’s nice to think things that go well with the words, rising and falling, such as tides in the ocean. Of course, this is not the only way to meditate, and I would encourage you to find out what works for you.

Although meditation may seem intimidating, it really isn’t. It’s just a time that you can set aside to relax and de-stress. And remember, thoughts are not bad, acknowledge them, and move on.

On another, more upbeat note, my mom and I tried ZUMBA! We had so much fun that we’re planning on taking more classes back at home.

It was refreshing to bust out our most crazy-funny moves, and nobody was judging us. In the end, people were more focused on their own reflection in the mirror.

My mom and I ended up taking a total of four different art classes! We learned how to make whimsical paper flowers, how to draw realistically (or somewhat realistically), how to paint with watercolor, and how to make collaged jewlery.

With the brush in my hand, a set of watercolor paints, and a white page in front of me, I let my imagination run wild and put my own creation on paper.

But first, if I’m being totally honest, I actually felt quite anxious. The questions of what I should do and how to make it look good ran through my brain. I didn’t know where to start. Once I realized that I could make mistakes, and whatever I was creating was my own creation, I let the brush do its work.

A few strokes turned into an outline of a hill in the distance, and then soon enough, I created a finished desert landscape.

I didn’t know that I could make something like that with watercolor, and now I’m definitely inspired to do some more watercolor back home!

Although I’m by no means a pro, here’s a tip for any newbies to watercolor.

TIP: Make sure to have a blow dryer in hand to dry your piece during the painting process. Dry each layer before adding another if you don’t want the colors to bleed into each other or blend.

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When my mom and I saw collaged jewelry in the class selection booklet, we knew we had to go!

I’ve always been interested in jewelry making, but I never knew how to make it. This ended up being a perfect jewelry craft for beginners, and it’s great craft for a party.

TIP: If you’re trying to re-create these necklaces, make sure that you don’t use magazine paper! My mom’s design totally bled from the glue 馃槮

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This trip was packed, literally with classes every hour, and we only took breaks for meals (which were super healthy by the way…they don’t use added salt!). I’m happy to come back home with a bag of new things that I’d like to try, and a new perspective on caring for my well being.

Healing comes from listening and loving your body.

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Mexicali 2017

Hi guys!

I would love to tell you a little bit about my service trip to Mexicali, Mexico.

Every year, my church (Menlo Church) hosts a trip to Mexicali, a city right across the border. Menlo has been taking High School students on this trip for thirty three years now, and hopefully for many more years to come.

This year was my second year coming to Mexicali, and I can already tell that it will become a yearly trip for me (hopefully even after High School). The relationships formed, the love I witnessed, and the closeness I got to God are all such incredible things to experience.

Many times, it’s easy to think of mission trips as foreigners coming to a less fortunate place to help the people there. That’s fair, but not even half of the whole picture. From being apart of the Mexicali trip, I know that my participation did more service for me than I could ever give to another person.

I learned so many things, I loved so many things, and I saw God through so many people in Mexicali.

My favorite part of the whole trip would have to be getting to play with all of the children.

In the village that I was assigned to (Nuevo Le贸n), there weren’t that many kids there on the first day. We unpacked our vans, and stood in front of the Nuevo Le贸n church with slight disappointment.

“Where were all of the kids? ” we thought.

Our concerns vanished when about fifteen children showed up at the church the next day, all of them excited to see us. It was one big reunion. Many of us from Menlo Church had formed relationships with kids from last year’s trip, and seeing each other again was so overwhelmingly joyful.

A girl named Lucy, who has gone on the Mexicali trip for the past four years, was able to reunite with her close friend named Abby (7 yrs. old). When they saw each other for the first time in a year, they ran to each other for a long-emotional embrace.

I particularly bonded with an eight year old boy named Dav铆d from my last trip, and I really hoped to see him again this trip. My wish was granted. When we were at the yearly BBQ where all of the different villages come together, I was eating my veggie burger, and I saw Dav铆d just a few feet away from me! A jolt of excitement flooded my body, and I couldn’t help but exclaim, “Dav铆d!”

I ran over to him, and something inside of me was sure that he remembered me. My gut feeling was confirmed with his eyes lit up and he timidly came to give me a big hug. That’s a moment I’ll never forget.

I was so happy to see that he was okay, and I was so happy to see his kind face. It was like no time had passed, and we were meeting once again.

The connections that I formed on this trip are set apart from any others that I have experienced. They are so sincere, loving, and good. Not to say that I don’t have great relationships back home, but in Mexicali, it seems like it’s an ongoing frenzy of love for one another.

I think that the main reason for this is because we are all coming together in God’s name. Every high five, every smile, every word shared with one another were praises to God.

I’d like to carry that mindset into every relationship that I have. Back home, It’s so easy to get caught up in all of the everyday stresses, and forget about all of the goals and lessons you have learned.

The day I got back home, I already started having anxieties and moments where I felt far from God. Although this will happen at times, I’d like to constantly keep reminding myself of the “me” in Mexicali.

The true test is if you can continue the great things you’ve learned back at home.

Another amazing highlight of my trip was hearing and sharing testimonies. All of the testimonies were so incredible, and it was interesting to learn how God has intervened and worked through so many people’s hearts, including mine. I learned more about so many different people, and their story really grew my respect for them.

Not quite as good as the amazing testimonies, but close, were the tacos.聽As many of you probably know, Mexico is home to the Taco, and it does it great justice. Just a few blocks from the Nuevo Le贸n church, there’s a taco place called Homey’s. It’s the best place you’re ever going to get an authentic taco. For all those living in the Bay Area, my recommendation would be to take a bus down to San Diego, drive a rental car across the border, and stop for a nice lunch at Homey’s. It’s worth it.

I’m going to leave you with one last memory from my trip. As I was helping to make Empanadas with some other girls from Menlo as well as a few from Nuevo Le贸n, I took a break and walked outside to see what everyone was up to.

The sight was so beautiful. There were kids flying up and down non simultaneously on swings, giggling and having the time of their lives, while others weaved around them trying not to get hit while playing chase. People from Menlo were scattered among them, smiling with joy.

These are the moments where you think, “Wow, this is truly a gift from God.”

Although the trip has come to an end, I will always cherish the many memories made and the people I met. I come out of the trip with so much to be happy about, and I have learned more about who I want to be.

I’m so thankful for all of the people who made this trip possible, and I’m thankful for the people of Mexicali, always opening their arms out to our Church.

Mexicali 2017

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Nuevo Le贸n and Menlo Church

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Emily

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Madison

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Lucy and Abby Reunite

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Blowing bubbles @ the BBQ

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Empanada Dinner

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Jump In

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So we got a lot of tacos…155 exactly.

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All group: Menlo Church

Mexicali 2016

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Me & Dav铆d

Photos in courtesy of Kat and and many more!聽

Happily Ever After

Happily ever after…take a moment and think about what this phrase means to you? What does your happily ever after look like? Who are you with? What are you doing?

At first, when I think of my happily ever after, I think that it will end with every aspect of my life being amazing. All of my relationships will be perfect, my family dynamics will be good, I’ll be doing what I love, and everything will just seem great.

Chances are, that’s probably somewhat similar to how you imagined your happily ever after.

From stories and movies that end with a happily ever after, the viewer or reader is supposed to infer that from then on, the character(s) live a problem-free-happy life. In reality, this is never true…never possible to say the least. People are always facing different obstacles, and always struggling with something-big or small.

Relating this back to my personal life, I often have the mindset of, when things are totally perfect in my life, then I will be happy. But happiness doesn’t come from your circumstances, happiness comes from what you bring.

But, how can you have happiness when your circumstances aren’t perfect? Fist of all, just look around you. You’re alive, on this Earth. That’s something to celebrate.

Another important thing is learning to be content with what you聽do have.聽To every downside there is an upside. For example, even if I didn’t make the school play, I still got the great experience of auditioning. Or, even though I feel like that person doesn’t really like me, I know people who do, or even more importantly, I聽like me.聽You could think of it as giving value to the positive things.

Another way to find happiness is to let happiness find you, and the best way that I know of for this is doing things for others. It could be small things, like helping someone with their homework, or bigger things, like providing relief to those in need. There are so many ways to make someone else’s day a bit better, and you’d be surprised at how much better it makes your own day. You get happiness by giving it to others.

I want to have the mindset of looking at “happily ever afters” not as, “everything in life is flawless”, but rather, life-even with it’s highs and lows- is good.

-m

This Fall Season

I think that I’m just starting to realize how much I love fall. I love crisp breeze in the air, the crunch of leaves on the ground, and of course, the warm cozy feeling that comes along with it all. Generally, I’m more of a shorts and a T-Shirt girl, but I have to say, wearing a nice warm sweater and some jeans also sounds pretty appealing too. Today it’s raining in Palo Alto. This may not seem like big news for most people, but here, where rain counts as a few droplets of mist, it’s a big deal. I love the rain, so it being raining just adds for my love of the fall season.

Fall also means Halloween. I’m pretty sure last year I said that it would be the last time I dressed up, but that’s a lie. In reality, I’m pretty sure that I’ll keep dressing up for the rest of my life…no joke. Dressing up makes Halloween ten times more fun, and I love to get the most out of each holiday.

Another exciting holiday that comes with the fall season is Thanksgiving. Just thinking about it makes me feel warm inside. I picture the turkey on the table, the stuffing with steam arising from it, and the festive pumpkins scattered among the house. And of course, I’m excited to give thanks for all of the great things in life, such as being with family.

Fall is here, and I couldn’t be more excited馃榿

For all you pumpkin lovers: be sure to check out Trader Joe’s to stash up on their festive pumpkin treats and snacks! They got PUMPKIN MOCHI!