Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Maui, Maui - 1 of 3

Covid did its best to keep us from Hawaii this year. (Well, not really... it did try, but it certainly could have tried harder.) 

In order to be able to board a flight to Hawaii during this pandemic, there are two main obstacles. 1) You have to test negative for Covid, and 2) you have to find a Hawaiian approved testing place that can test you and have results within a tight, 72 hour window.

We had solved for the second obstacle with a little asking around and a lot of Google searching, but coming down with Covid just a couple of weeks before we were supposed to leave made clearing the first obstacle quite impossible.

People who get infected with Covid can test positive for a loooooong time after symptoms are gone, and even after the threat of spreading it disappears. Apparently, a person who has weathered a mild case, as we did, does not spread live virus after the first 10 days (meaning he is not contagious), but he still could have enough dead virus in his system to trigger a positive test result for a while - sometimes for months.

And we did, indeed, test positive.

But we had heard through the grapevine about an exemption route that we could explore which would allow us to fly even with a positive test result. Of course, we had to meet some very specific criteria and fill out much more paperwork to make sure we were safe (criteria involving time between a positive test result and the departure date, and a signed letter from a doctor stating that we were symptom-free).

You'd think that it would have been an easy decision for me whether to go or not to go to the beautiful island of Maui with my favorite person, but it turned out to be one of the more difficult decisions I've made recently.

Even if the exemption route made it possible for us to go, it would cut two days off of our vacation - was it still worth it? Was it really responsible to get on a plane and fly during this pandemic in the first place? And would things be open enough on Maui to enjoy our time there? And the biggest question for me, how would I get around the island without a properly functioning foot? Would I be too much of a burden? If it had just been Brian and me I wouldn't have had so much anxiety over that part of it, but it was not just Brian and me. We were supposed to be going with Brian's partner, Raymond, and his wife, Allison. And while we have traveled with them before and really like them, I didn't know how they would feel about me holding them back and was honestly quite embarrassed about the whole thing.

It took Brian and I a week of back and forth and back and forth and a few gentle nudges from both Brian's mom and mine (Lindsay - I really think this would be good for you... it's been such a hard year with homeschooling and your foot... I think you need this) before we hesitantly decided to sink our hearts into going. 

We're so weird.

In hindsight, of course going was the right decision! It's Maui!!!

So we jumped through all the necessary hoops to be cleared to go (as I mentioned, we did have to push our departure date back two days to qualify for the exemption route), packed our swimming suits, my crutches, and a knee scooter, and landed in the land of blue and green late in the night to find our rented convertible, shiny and red, waiting to take us to the Grand Wailea Resort.

A favorite from that first night was trying to fit my knee scooter into the trunk space of the red convertible. I'm kidding - it was the opposite of a favorite, and I even ended up in tears after thirty minutes of trying to Tetris our way into the tiny car with all of my bulky foot gear... something about the dark garage, combined with the late night and lack of sleep, combined with the manifestation of me being a burden I guess.

I do wonder what the garage attendant thought as he saw me wiping tears from my cheeks. He came over and offered for us to take a slightly bigger convertible that had more trunk space.

Wait, that's an option?

Yes. And it was parked right next to the one we had been trying to cram into.

It was a much better idea, and the knee scooter and crutches slid in without much of a fight. I still drove off that night wondering if we'd made the right choice in coming at all. 

But do you know what happened the very next morning?

The sun came up and touched the ocean and the sand and the trees and the mountains - and my heart expanded in a way that felt a little bit life changing.

We changed into our swimming suits, tucked my crutches underneath my armpits, met the Theodosises down by the pool, and started what would become one of the most memorable and treasured vacations.

A few of our favorite things:

The Nakalele Blowhole

Nothing makes you feel quite as small and powerless as standing at the mouth of a giant blowhole that sprays water a hundred feet into the air. This was one of two places I'd budgeted into what I called my Foot Budget. I had to leave my crutches behind, and we hiked (s.l.o.w.l.y) down boulders and rocks to get to this point. I could have stayed down there for hours watching the rhythm of the waves spray through the blowhole, but the sun was setting, and we had a dinner appointment to make. So up we went.

Mama's Fish House

Mama's Fish House served up one of the best dinners I've ever had. So good, in fact, that right after eating there on the first night we hopped right back on the website to reserve another slot for later on in the week. We were told that getting reservations to this Fish House the week of was almost impossible - so we felt pretty blessed that we were able to get not just one reservation, but two. A Covid-perk for sure.

Road to Hana

What an absolutely amazing adventure!

At almost every turn there was something incredible to see. Beautiful waterfalls, impressive caverns, and mountains and mountains of green.

We tucked my crutches into the space between the seat and the door, put down the top on the convertible, and cruised like kings down one of the most beautiful roads in the world. 

We stopped at every spot we wanted to and passed by those we didn't. It was the first time we'd ever done it but from what we understand, during non-Covid times, the road is incredibly crowded and can take many more hours to travel than it did for us. We felt so grateful for it. 

At one stop, Brian, Raymond, and Allison wanted to run down a path to see some kind of amazing tree - but that wasn't part of my foot budget, and I felt like it was a bit too far and cumbersome to get there on crutches, so I stayed back on the road with a giant leaf and had a delightful time.

Just as I put the leaf down the rain started falling, so gently, through the vines, and the sunlight hit the raindrops in such a way that the raindrops both reflected the bursts of golden light and showcased their own transparency. I stood there mesmerized by the sheer beauty of it.

Another beautiful thing along the Road to Hana, this tree. It's my favorite of all the trees.

And it was found on the most beautiful beach.

Also along the road: a black sand beach.

Did you know that there was a thing such as black sand beaches? I didn't. I don't quite know what I was expecting here, but, truth be told, I was a little underwhelmed. It was just kind of like... sand... but black.

But do you know what is cool? Black sand caves. Caves are cool. 

The black sand comes from black lava rocks that line the beach. And the whole thing really does have a beauty to it.

At the end of the road came the Haleakala National Park and in it was a hike that I was dying to take. It was the second and final thing I had planned for in my foot budget, and I cherished every single step of it.

Traveling with the Theodosises is fun. Hiking with them, driving with them, eating with them... Allison is strong and sharp, Raymond is hilarious, and when we came upon this remarkable tree along our hike, it was no surprise that we stayed for 20 minutes climbing and laughing and swinging from its branches.

The thing I was most excited about along the hike was the rumored bamboo forest. And boy, did it not disappoint!

Thousands of bamboo trees lined the paths!

It was at this point my foot decided the rest of the group should go on to the waterfalls without me and I found the most amazing spot to sit and relax in the bamboo forest. And, apparently, when I get left alone I take selfies. 

I hate taking selfies. Brian teases me all the time about being a millennial, which is either true or not true depending on which website you're reading. I prefer to think of myself as a Xennial, caught in the middle between Generation X and the Millenial generation (also, if you blend those two words together another way you might end up with Gennial - and I do not recommend you make that mistake in public. Ask me how I know). Anyway, like I said, I feel very uncomfortable taking selfies, which strengthens my argument about not being a millennial, right?

But there came a point in my life when I realized that no one else was going to take pictures of me, so if my children and grandchildren wanted proof that I was involved in any of our activities, I'd have to learn how to point the camera at myself every once in a while. And I do. Which weakens my argument about not being a millennial, right?


After my soul was filled in the bamboo forest, I decided to start daintily stepping my way back down the mountain with the hope that I would be close to the end by the time the others caught up with me so it wouldn't feel like I was holding them back too much.

But, it turns out that when I'm alone my foot is not the main thing impeding my speed. It's my camera. I couldn't stop stopping to take pictures of all the beautiful things.

And, luckily, everyone seemed happy to see me when they caught back up and no one grumbled even under their breaths about having to slow down. And in that moment on that beautiful trail my thoughts changed, and my mind relaxed, and I began to see that my foot would not have the power to ruin this vacation after all.

Sunday, April 11, 2021

The Priesthood

One of my favorite things throughout this pandemic has been watching my home turn again and again into Sacred Space. I mean, we do strive to keep our home a place where the Spirit always feels welcome, and I do feel like we have done well enough with that for the most part, but things feel different when we’re performing actual ordinances in our home... things that have traditionally only been done in church houses. The feelings of the Divine get thicker. Like when we bless the sacrament, for example. Or on this extra special day when Miles was ordained a Deacon and received the priesthood. 

He carried his own chair from our own kitchen table into our own living room. Which felt pretty beautiful and significant to me.

And then we sat together as a family on our own couches and listened as one (extremely handsome) righteous, priesthood-holding man passed the priesthood on to his boy. (And, while we're speaking of looks parenthetically, does anyone else see that Miles cloned Brian's face?!)

As I watched this happen it occurred to me in a deeper way just how limitless the priesthood is. Like a burning candle that gives fire to every new wick brought into its flame without being diminished of its own, the priesthood is passed and expanded. Though something is given, nothing is taken.

So now I have three priesthood holders in my home.

I am so grateful that they have the opportunity to be stewards of God's power. They get to learn how to use it to bless the lives of others. They get to have it settle within them and strengthen their own testimonies. They need it.

I'm so proud of you, Miles. Live worthy of this power and remember that it is given to you to bless the lives of others. Study the women around you who act with kindness and compassion and who give so much of themselves to the others in their lives. This is what the priesthood can help you develop in your own. Watch the men around you who magnify their own priesthood responsibilities, and then set these righteous women and men as examples of how. to. be. 

The priesthood is God's power. He's given it to you and He trusts you to use it well. And as you start on this path of discovering what that even means, know that I am here loving you, supporting you, and sustaining you along every brand new step you take.

Saturday, April 3, 2021

Covid-19 - Journal Entry from 1.10.21

Journal entry from 1.10.21


It's here. In our home. Sucking our energy. Meddling with our plans. Sending up fevers, throwing up dinners, making our muscles ache, stealing the sweet from our brownies and the scent from our candles, fighting our bodies while we sleep.

But we're among the lucky ones.

It's not ravishing our lungs.

We're home. And at this point in my life I don't think I've ever actually seen a ventilator.

We watch movies. We play games. We read books. We study our scriptures. We compare symptoms and commiserate together. We drive ourselves to the testing drive-thru and we stick a cotton swabbed stick up our own noses. We can do all of this because we still have much of our health.

We're among the lucky ones.

I don't mean to be dramatic... I've said again and again that I never really feared contracting this virus for myself. I knew we were in a category with odds overwhelmingly in our favor. I expected it to feel like this.

Even so. Because of Covid, there are seats in our ward that will remain empty forever. There are friends crying and pleading for miracles.

We're among the lucky ones.

It's been seven days since symptoms first arrived. I'm tired. So tired. But I'm breathing deeply through my nose without a fight. My muscles are achy. But I'm walking myself everywhere I need to be. I'm sad about our cancelled trip to Hawaii. But we'll just postpone it.

We're among the lucky ones.

New Year


What's the deal with it?

I get that the calendar shows a quarter of a year has passed since the turn of the new year, but my head seems to have gotten stuck in the page of that turn because if you told me that today was January instead of April I would be inclined to believe you. My kids swimming in the pool beside me, the buds on the trees that have long since turned to leaves, even the baby quails bouncing along my back fence still can’t fully convince me that time is marching along.

So, in an effort to catch myself up with the calendar and  to close the chapters that need closing, I have decided to catch this blog up on the happenings of this year. Starting at the new year and ending... well, we shall see.


The new year this year needed a celebration. Not because I was anxious for 2020 to end like so many others were, but because I had been stuck in my home for so long that I had begun to forget that there were such things as celebrations. Which is why we decided that, in spite of the pandemic, we would go to Flagstaff to be with the Birdno family.

It was a calculated choice. We have been so careful through this pandemic - closing our doors a bit more tightly than those around us in the name of protecting the geriatric patients that Brian works with every day. We have taken very few risks and so going to another city (in another state) was not a decision that was made easily.

We oscillated back and forth, weighing the risks involved with Covid, of course, and also with a secondary issue involving a painful foot that at this time had been plaguing me for an entire six months. It made me rather anxious about the hiking and walking that I knew I would want to do up in the beautiful mountains of Flagstaff.

But in the end, we decided that the risks of exposure and extra foot problems were less important than the risks of mental stir-craziness that were galloping through our brains. So we went.

And came back with Covid. And a painful, swollen foot that left me on crutches for several weeks.

But I get ahead of myself.

The kids and I arrived on a Thursday afternoon and met Cami and her wide open arms on her doorstep. Those Cami-hugs are so real, and as I wrapped myself into one I felt so blessed to have a friend that hugs like that. It made another entry in my head under Things You Appreciate More Because of Covid. She was congested and a bit sniffily but waved it off as allergies, which made sense to me as she's had allergies for as long as I've known her. We migrated into the kitchen and began our days-long conversation about all the deepest things in our hearts.

And the kids fell into step with each other without a single heartbeat passing.

Cami's oldest daughter, Mikayla, was working at Sonic that night and our kids, unwilling to wait the four hours for her shift to finish, hopped into the car to drive through and grab a drink so they could say hello.

Two hours later, Mikayla called from her car in sobs with terrible news. Her routine, college-required Covid test had just come back positive. She felt fine - completely symptom free - but she was sent home from work immediately and would not be able to come over that night, or for the entire weekend, to celebrate the new year with us.

Honestly, we probably should have left then but we’d only just arrived, and our suitcases had four days worth of clothing. Plus... friendship! And it felt so good to be out of the house. We consoled ourselves with the knowledge that Mikayla hadn't spent any time with her family but for one measly little hour on Christmas Day which had been an entire week previous and, who even knows if she had been positive then?!

Anyway, we stayed.

And we partied.

Even Eliza made it 'till midnight!

There was a lot more than just personal excitement surrounding the turn of this year, there was global excitement. The hearts of the world were are tired, broken, worried, frustrated, lonely and anxious, and thinking about and anticipating the turn of a new year infused those hearts with hope. For me, I’m always excited about a new year, and I'd say that I was not much more or less excited for this particular new year than for any of the other new years in my life. 

Carson caught on to the global new year anticipation and voiced his own opinions - unprompted - in words that were wise beyond his 14 years.

"I don't get why everyone is so excited for the new year this year," he said. "It's like everyone is expecting to wake up on January 1st to a world that is somehow changed. But everything is going be the same because we are all still the same. It's like they don't get that in order for your life to change, you have to change, and in order for the world to change, we have to change. Everyone is still going to be mad about politics, everyone is still going to be stressed about the pandemic, everyone is still going to be aggressively opinionated about the Black Lives Matter movement, it's all going to be the same..."

It opened up a great conversation about self-improvement and goal setting and how external cues (like the start of a new year) can provide the motivation to work towards those goals but that, ultimately, he was insightfully correct.

But we might as well party 'till midnight anyway!

The next day we slept in until the sun was high in the sky and then the men took the older kids canyoneering for the rest of the afternoon while Cami and I spent the day sitting in her kitchen. At first I was quite disappointed I couldn't join in the adventure (dang foot), but the disappointment dissolved quickly because, well, maybe you're like me and you don't even need an explanation to understand why sitting in the kitchen with one of your best friends for an entire day is the most wonderful thing.

She and I went for a slow walk that evening in the forest by her home and made a quick trip to the grocery store to grab food for poor, symptom-free, Covid-laden Mikayla and her boyfriend. We dropped the groceries at their doorstep and left without even a knock. Covid is weird.

The next day was Saturday and I couldn't stomach the thought of letting everyone else head to beautiful Sedona to do another hike without me. So I iced my foot extra well that morning, took a couple ibuprofen, laced my tennis shoe in just that way, and climbed into the car. 

The hike was full - full - of beauty on both a micro scale and a macro scale.

And my soul soaked it up like a withered, dying leaf would soak up the rain.

The pain in my foot originates from the base of my second toe - right in the joint - making it difficult for me to bend my toes in any direction. Walking, therefore, is no easy task as it requires a consistently flat foot to keep the swelling at bay. My gait is short, and my pace is dreadfully slow, and at one point where it was necessary to dig toes into rock to climb, I had to turn around and scoot up the surface on my backside using my heels instead of my toes. Here's McKenzie hiking up the rock the normal person way:

Scooting up on my backside was not so graceful.

Thankfully I was accompanied by patient, loving people who didn't seem to mind waiting for me to catch up. There did come a time, however, that I couldn't continue because the path upwards required functioning toes, so Merrill and I turned around with the two little girls and started the 2.5 miles back towards our car while Cami and Brian took the older kids on up with the charge to 'see if you can reach the top and make it back down to us before we reach the car!' Which turned out to be a pretty easy task since Merrill and I got helplessly lost and wandered around in circles through the tall bushes for about 15 minutes as we looked for the right path.

Somewhere along the hike, Merrill and his son, Josh, mentioned that they were feeling a little... off. Which, given the exposure to their daughter, got us a bit concerned. But there wasn't much to do about it right then. By the end of the hike, their symptoms had intensified and they were sure they were, indeed, getting sick. 

Cami’s ‘allergies’ had gotten worse along the hike, too, and we realized with a sinking pit in our stomachs that we had probably been personally welcomed into the new year by a highly contagious virus that the whole world was panicked about.

We drove straight to their home, packed up our things as quickly as possible, and cut our vacation a day short. I iced my foot again on the drive home and we prayed that we 1) wouldn't get sick, or that if we did get sick that 2) it wouldn't be too bad.

Well, we did get sick. And it wasn't too bad. We felt blessed that we knew exactly when we’d been exposed, so when we arrived back at home we wasted no time and started our isolation period immediately. My biggest concern throughout this pandemic was never that our family might get sick because we are not in any high risk categories, but that we might spread it to someone who was. And I felt so grateful that that didn’t happen.

My right foot, on the other hand, got much angrier and it left me hobbling around on crutches for weeks.

So I'd say that 2021 started off on the wrong... right.... well, it started off on my left foot anyway.

A Few Extra Pictures