Monday, September 6, 2010

Night of Sharing

Friends and Family - I want to invite you to an evening where I will be sharing my USNS Mercy experiences and lessons learned, included with pictures from my adventure.  I am excited to be able to speak to you and hope you will come.  I would feel honored to be able to share some of the wonderful, life changing, struggles and triumphs of my journey in living the Navy life and in serving the Indonesia people.

Date:  Sunday September 26th
Time:  7pm
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
2021 Redwine Road
Fayetteville, GA 30215

Monday, August 16, 2010

Home & Family

This past week I have reflected on what is most important in life. Sure adventure has it's perks and excitement, but it is home and family that matters most.  At the end of the day it is those eternal family relationships that make life worthwhile.  I am grateful for my Pacific Partnership experience and all that it has taught me. I am grateful for the joys and the trials.  Mostly I am grateful to be home.  Would I do something like this again?  Yes, the opportunity to serve others is priceless, but for now I am content to be home with my family, a place where I can focus on being a mom and a wife - the two callings in life that are the most worthwhile!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Sydney Harbor Bridge Climb

I have experienced the most amazing, serene, incredible, breath-taking experience ever! 001_1 Suzie Bramwell and I both had significant birthdays this week – both of us turned 29 – well maybe it’s a little higher, but you get the idea, so we decided that we would splurge and do the Sydney Harbor Bridge Climb at twilight.  Words cannot even describe the feelings I felt as I was on top of this bridge overlooking the Sydney Opera house and Sydney harbor with the sunset behind us.  002_2 We just could not stop smiling the whole time.  My new birthday goal is “Ever Striving to Reach New Heights – Never Give Up!”  This bridge climb inspired this new goal. We climbed 1,400 steps which was no big deal after the hundreds of steps that we were used to climbing in the Mercy. I would say that I am a pro at stairs by now.

The best thing about our whole experience is that we decided to the the Express Climb which is a 2 hour climb instead of the normal climb 3 1/2 hour and no one else signed up for our tour so we got a private “VIP” climb all by ourselves with a guide.  Our guide, Mick, was the best and he let us stop a ton and just chill and soak up all the amazing sights below.  We started at dusk and were able to experience all the colors of sunset over the harbor and then got to see the incredible view of Sydney in the dark with the whole downtown and the opera house all lit up. 003_3 Wow, wow, wow.  I was able to sit on the steps and just gaze over the edge and just contemplate the incredible sights below. Sydney is such a beautiful city – it is so clean and the people are very friendly.  I would definitely return here again.  Afterwards I just felt an amazing contentment.  Susie and I could just not stop smiling!  Going at twilight made it all worthwhile.  I felt so special to have the VIP service – what an incredible birthday gift. The only thing that would have made it more perfect would have been to have my sweetheart, Jody with me! 

Australian Blue Mountains

For my birthday I visited the Blue Mountains of Australia.IMG_4080   They are considered Australia’s Grand Canyon.  They appear blue due to all the eucalyptus trees that grow on them.  Many days they are covered by a mist and hard to see, but the day we went the skies were clear all day long.  They were so beautiful.  The weather was pretty cold. My buds gave me a “beanie hat” or ski hat for my birthday which helped keep me warm all day long. The weather was quite a contrast from that of Darwin just 2 days before.DSCI3376 We spent the day hiking along “bush trails” (Australian lingo) and exploring cool waterfalls – no swimming today!

The Blue Mountains are very diverse.  They had different trees growing on top and then a rainforest trail that was full of giant fern trees that were on the bottom of the canyon.  Wild cockatoos could be seen flying all over. Very fun.  We hiked down to the base of Wentworth falls – down 686 steep steps – yes we had to go back up these stairs also.  Stairs just seem to follow us! IMG_4098 It was a great day full of nature and hiking and being in constant awe of the creations that God made for us!


Sunday, August 8, 2010


Darwin was the embarkation site for the Mercy and the end of my amazing Navy journey. Thirty five days seemed to have flown by and at other times seemed like they would never end. Such is life – we should never hurry through today as this may leave us wishing for yesterday back. Live life to the fullest every day.

Australia is great and once again I am a fan of the country more than the busy the city. Darwin has a great marketplace that local vendors and artisans set up every Thursday and Sunday evenings down by Mindil Beach. Anything you could think of is sold there. I love to shop and browse items like this so it was a shoppers paradise for me. The best part of the evening was eating dinner on the beach and watching the amazing sunset. Nearby an aboriginal man was singing a haunting song which totally fit the beach scene filled with people from all over the world altogether watching the red ball of sun set into the ocean. IMG_0371IMG_3934

Five of us rented a car and decided to visit the National Park -Lichfield Park. I drove for my first time on the left hand side of the road. It took a lot of energy to drive as you have to think hard about where you are turning and where the other cars were. I think driving is kind of of a no thought process and I really had to pay attention so I did not drift onto the right hand side of the road or turn into oncoming traffic.  I did get to drive 130 KM – it sounds fast, but in reality I had no idea how fast I was going. The most frustrating park was the blinker was on the right hand side of the steering wheel so each time when I went to put on my blinker I switched on the windshield wipers instead.

Funny story:  As I was driving through a small town of Batchlor I was stopped by a policeman who was doing random road checks for people who were drinking under the influence. He pulled me over and asked me when the last time I had any alcohol to drink. I told him never and asked him if he had ever heard of Mormons. He said yes and was astounded that I had never even tasted alcohol. What a blessing to be able to say this. Then I got to do a first – I took a breathalizer test. He asked me to blow in this tube like I was blowing up a balloon. I did so quite forcefully and he laughed and told me to blow again, but a little slower as I had about blown the straw thing off. Yes of course I passed my breathalizer test and hopefully left a lasting impression of Mormons on this policeman.

Lichfield Park was very surprising. It is a National Park for Australia and I was expecting some sort of rainforest jungle, but Darwin is really like a desert. I reminded me a lot of Utah. The forest consisted of sparse trees and dry grasses and interspersed among the trees were hundreds of termite mounds about 6 feet tall – which were rounded and bumpy. IMG_3954 They looked like huge stalagmites to me. It was crazy to see these. In the park were wonderful waterfalls and by the water the landscape drastically changed to lush green in was uncanny the difference that water made. We were able to swim in the waterfalls and the water was pretty clear and cold. IMG_0378 We went on an amazing hike under a green canopy of trees all occupied by thousands of giant bats.IMG_3971 This was a little freaky to me, luckily it was during the day when they were supposed to be sleeping. Every once in awhile one would stretch out his wings, but not one bat took to flight. That was fine with me. We ended the day at Berry Springs which were natural warm springs and a nice contrast to the cold water of Florence Falls. 

The springs consisted of a stream flowing down to a small waterfall and then 3 pool areas connected by narrow jungle like areas where the streams connected each pool. It was a beautiful paradise. We started in the lower pools and swam through up the stream to the large pool area. The swim up the stream was a little freaky as the vegetation was thick and reached down to the water.IMG_0413 I was waiting for a crocodile to surface any moment.  Luckily this did not happen. I did get to see a whole field full of wallabies on the way to our car.  Very cute!

Lessons Learned

As I sat out on the deck during out last day at sea I started to write down all the lessons I have learned here on here on the Mercy. I'm sure this list will continue to grow as time goes on, but I want to share some on my blog. 

  1. Making new friends makes life so much better. I have met people from all over the world here on the Mercy and have enjoyed this time together and am a better person because of it. I believe that we can learn from all people.IMG_3812

  2. Don't let your fears over take you. I am extremely claustrophobic and the first day when I got assigned my rack in berthing I saw how small it was. I had to get down on the floor just to put sheets on my bed and as I did this tears ran down my face. I thought never in a million years could I sleep in my coffin like rack. I was terrified, tired and homesick and thought what have I gotten myself into. Now after 35 days of sleeping soundly in this small rack I have found that I can face my fears and not let my them conquer me.

  3. Angels are watching over us. One of IMG_3295aour LDSC group fell into the ocean between a Band-aid boat and the Ambon pier. He was coming back from liberty and it was dark and he does not see well, he had his hands full of purchases and he thought he was stepping onto a step of the boat instead he found himself in the ocean. At first I thought it was funny, but then I went back to the pier at night to go to the Soeharso and saw where he fell and I was astounded that he was not killed or crushed.  I know angels were definitely watching over him.

  4. Wearing the same clothes for 30 days – day after day after day – really isn't that bad. It has been easy to get ready each day as I don't have to think about what to wear and I can focus my energy on more important things. Material things we think we must have are not really necessary.

  5. Sacrifice brings blessings. One of our LDSC group sold all her possessions to come live on the Mercy for 4 months – her house, car and all of her furniture. She has an amazing heart!IMG_3189

  6. Walking hundred of stairs a day actually has a cleansing effect. So skip the elevators and escalators and take the stairs!

  7. Always look for opportunities to serve others. Those opportunities are there every day, but we must be looking for them. One evening we were playing games on the mess deck and they were ushering everyone out so they could stock the tables and get things ready for the next day. My little group started to leave and then something made me pause – where were we going – someone needed help. I then asked – hey can we help you? The sailor was taken back and said yes. We did all his work in record time and then he took us on a tour of the galley and gave us treats. We blessed him and he blessed us. 

  8. All children are precious unto Christ. I have looked into so many Indonesian children's eyes and have seen their purity and light and know how much the Lord loves them. He loves all his children all over the world – both young and old.

  9. I can be a morning person.IMG_3654

  10. Never be afraid to live life to the fullest. I am have found that it is best to be a participant and not a spectator in life. I loved volunteering for new experiences, learning the Crazy Bamboo game, dancing with the Commodore, trying durian fruit, being unafraid to meet new people, and sitting down by someone I did not know, at meals times or on a bus, and getting to know them has helped me make many new friends.  IMG_3626

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Perfect Day

Our last day at sea was amazing!! After leaving the protection of the Indonesian islands we headed out into open sea. The day was stormy and the waves were high.IMG_3824a This experience was the best ever. I stayed out on the deck for hours and just listened to music and watched the amazing huge waves as I felt the ship rock up and down.IMG_3831 Such a peaceful feeling and I felt in awe of God's creations.

It has been interesting to watch people walk down the ship corridors swaying side to side with the movement of the ship. I am glad that I have had no problems with seasickness.

Tonight was our last day to work in the Scullery and I really wanted to help serve. I went to the FSO (Food Service Officer) and asked if I could help serve – she said yes and then I asked if my friend, Michelle Crawford, could come also as it was her birthday. I wanted this to be a surprise for her birthday.  We both got to serve in the officers line and we had a ball. I made a birthday hat for Michelle to wear as she served. She tried to get out of wearing it, but that was a no go. I was the soup server and the soup of the day was “Tomato Bouillon” Usually the soup is a favorite, but I did not have a lot of takers so I made it my challenge to market the soup. I had quite a lot of takers once I started broadcasting the merits of “Tomato Bouillon with a touch of Celery” I suggested crackers and cheese from the salad bar. It was quite fun.IMG_3843 When the line was dying down I asked one of the sailors in the kitchen if they had candles that we could put on a cake for Michelle. He said he had something better and pulled out a lighter and set it on the counter and we started singing. Right at this moment Commodore Franchetti rounded the corner to get her meal and found us singing to Michelle. She joined right in to help us sing “Happy Birthday” – all the while Michelle was red as a beet. It was great!

At the end of the evening we went all the way up to the top of the ship by the Bridge. The navigator on watch was out checking the compass and I waved him over. I pulled out the birthday card one more time and asked if Michelle and I could come forward and watch the waves from the front – before that time we were dutifully staying behind the “red line”. He said yes and we spent the next 40 minutes feeling the strong headwinds hit us in the face and watching an amazing final sunset at sea and from the USNS Mercy. I could have stayed out there forever.IMG_3854

After playing games a group of us decided we wanted to see if there were any stars out. It had been cloudy and stormy all day. I had never seen any stars at sea as I usually I was too tired when working to stay up or even notice the stars. We went up to the highest point on the ship and the clouds were all gone. I have never seen such amazing stars. It took my breath away and I felt so content just to stare into the heavens. What a beautiful sight and such peace filled my soul as I was able to enjoy this last evening under the stars. I am used to saying when I am away from home, “My family can look up and see the same stars”, but that is not true here – I am on the other side of the world seeing stars that I have never seen before. What a concept! I was able to see the Southern Cross for the first time.  Hey, isn't that in a song? It was a perfect ending to a perfect day!