Tuesday, February 25, 2014


As I was sound asleep at 5am dreaming of something spectacular I'm sure, I awoke to my mother, "Nicole, I hate to wake you up but did you move your car, because it's not where you parked it last night." 

Within 5 seconds I'd sprouted up, rubbed my eyes and ran to the window to look for my car, all the while thinking about getting the cash to get my car out of the impound and how it would affect my plans to go to Disneyland today. My car was there, exactly where I'd parked it, just not where my mother had thought it was parked. 

I immediately thanked God. You have to have a permit to park where my mom lives and I wasn't planning on spending the night there and forgot to move my car to the street. It amazes me how quick the mind can go into a state of worry and consider every possible situation without any proven facts. Which leads me to wonder, why do we worry...about things out of our control? Fear and faith cannot coexist. Worrying wouldn't have changed whether or not my car was towed but it was my first response. Perhaps I can train myself to have peace and comfort as my first response. If we could all just be as carefree and happy as this little buddy of mine. 

Sunday, February 23, 2014


If I could tell you one thing about myself, it's that I love giving gifts. With that being said, I'm usually a horrible gift receiver. I don't know how to accept presents from people and more often than not I'm more interested in giving someone else something that is meaningful and thoughtful. I received a gift today that really made me stop and appreciate not only the gift, but the gift giver. 

I "graduated" from the singles ward back in September- when you're single and Mormon, or shall I say, until you're married and you're Mormon, if you fall between the ages of 18-30, you attend the young single adult ward. When you get married, or in my case, when you turn 31, you move on to a family ward. Not being raised in the church I really wasn't sure what to expect with a family ward and in fact, I was actually quite hesitant to transition. 

Fast forward to my first day in the ward when I met Rob and Gretta Whalen, the most amazing couple ever. Gretta has been such a blessing in my life, truly. She's absolutely gorgeous both inside and out, with a voice of an angel, style like an Antropologie connoisseur, witty like the most educated scholars, a walking gospel brainiac, and a personality that attracts everyone. Her humorous, charming, talented, and bearded sidekick, Rob, is just as swell. Together they are dynamite. My friends are friends everyone wants and needs. 

Gretta, in addition to all of her above listed amazing attributes is a phenomenal writer and works for the Hadley Impact Consulting, who paired with a National Geographic photographer and made a documentary about forgiveness. Gretta does all of their social media and when they were planning their launch event for the film, Beyond Right and Wrong, this little angel referred me. Not only did I get to hang out with my favorite couple last Thursday, I had some wonderful networking opportunities that I'm forever grateful for and know they wouldn't have been possible without Gretta. I mention all of this because today, Gretta gave me the most adorable bracelet, elephant book, and the best card I've ever read, when all the while I feel I should have been thanking her. 

So here it is, my thanks to you Gretta, for being such an inspiration in so many ways. Thank you for being in the right place at the right time so we could meet, thank you for having confidence in my business to work with you professionally, and thanks for letting me call you my friend. I love your face. 

Friday, February 14, 2014

Forever Valentine.

I'm not much on Valentine's Day, probably because I don't have anyone to buy something for (I have a problem with buying people I date things...lots of things). I also can't stand the negative and lonely single people that cry all over Facebook or any other public social forum that will listen. Today would have came and went like any other Friday, if it wasn't for Goose.

When I had decided to do Goose's work, I say decided but I just mean, when I began planning the schedule of her work to be done, I knew I wanted to do her baptism and endowment at her year anniversary and although I could have easily done all of her ordinance work in one day, I chose to do her sealing (a marriage not til death do you part, but for time and all eternity) on Valentine's Day so she could spend her first day in the celestial kingdom on her birthday, February 15. 

Today was such a special day. My first thought was to wear the traditional red outfit for Valentine's Day, until realizing, this is her wedding day in essence, I should wear white! My friend Stevo wore an elephant tie, my grandfather loved elephants, and we drove to the temple. The spirit inside the sealing room was strong. The sealer, Brother Mardon C. Lamb turned to me and asked who the name on the card was, I replied, "my grandmother." He continued, "did you know her? Can you tell us a little about her?"

With tear-filled eyes I began telling everyone about my grandmother and grandfather and how special it was to do their work for them. I cried quite a bit during the ceremony, tears of joy of course, and as the sealing came to an end, Brother Gabbatis turned and said, "now you've gone and made me cry, I never cry." It was such a special experience to be able to be there and perform this amazing work for Goose. I have no doubt that they are sealed for time and all eternity and that this is the best birthday present she could ever have. I'm grateful for their love, I'm grateful for making them eternal valentines, and I'm grateful for the temple. 

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Clever Gnomes.

Last night I hung out with a friend I've known for almost 5 years. I figured we were just going to dinner but he caught me my surprise when he said there was more. John is headed on a trip to Ireland next week and I am headed to Sweden, Switzerland, and Russia so he came up with the bright idea that we would get little garden gnomes, take them with us and compete for who could take the best picture, creative gnome placement, and location. The winner gets dinner on the other person. 

Neither John nor I knew how difficult it would be to find a gnome, which added some adventure to the quest. We began at Home Goods, where the sales consultant had to ask what a gnome was (they didn't have any), then went to Home Depot, where John could have sworn he saw them (they didn't have any), then on to Target, (they had a small selection but nothing like a traditional gnome), and them to Wal-Mart where we found our gnomes. They were great, just a little too heavy and larger than desired but we took what we could get and left. Unfulfilled, John wanted to stop at Walgreens and CVS. CVS had some cute Disney gnomes but they weren't any smaller. 

I'm excited for my challenge and feel bad for John that he made a photo contest with a photographer, but maybe that's me being overly confident. Either way, these gnomes are about to have some fun!

Here is our first picture with the gnomes. 

Monday, February 10, 2014


I looked at the calendar and realized I will be leaving the country in 17 days. I'm usually an orangized person, having details layed out and somewhat of an outline for my trip, not this time. 

On March 1 I fly to Sweden. Sweden had never been a top destination on my radar but when a direct flight on Norwegian air was only $182, I booked a flight faster than I could think of a plan. I wasn't making lots of money with photography at home, so I figured it would be a better opportunity to go photograph overseas and sell those prints. My destination in mind was Russia, not for the Olympics, the unfriendly people, or the negative digit climate, but for Babooshka. 

I moved into my apartment in July 2013. Every day when I came home from work, I noticed this elderly woman sitting at the front steps people watching. My grandmother had recently passed away in February and the elderly woman reminded me of her. I would try to talk to her but she didn't speak. I would try to smile at her but she didn't budge. I continue to walk pastor and smile every day. After three months, I received a nod and a smile. I couldn't speak any Russian and she couldn't speak any English but I wanted to photograph her. I snuck a photograph of her from my two-story apartment building of her walking down the corridor. For Christmas, I decided to blow up the photograph and give the family. It was at this encounter that I realized Babooshka, Anna, had talked all about me to the family. She would try to speak to me in Russian because I looked Russian. The family pulled out a world globe and showed me where Anna was from, A small town about 10 hours south of Moscow, called the Voronezh. Something came over me and I had this urge to photograph her town, to get to know Anna, to know where she grew up. I felt this connection to this 97-year-old woman and I couldn't figure out why. No words that ever been exchanged, only smiles and hugs. 

I began telling my family and friends I was headed to Russia and their response was not quite pleasant. Russia is unsafe, it isn't a good place to go. Even the Russian family next-door said that they wouldn't feel safe going and hasn't been back since 1995. I began to doublethink my trip. A Russian visa was over $200, I didn't speak the language, and I was hearing that it was unsafe. Then I decided to look up the town on Mormon.org and found that we had a meeting house there as well as meeting a woman in the temple that had served your mission with a friend that lived in Voronezh. Those two simple inclinations were all I needed to book my Russian visa. 

I still remained without any plan, outside of knowing I was flying into Sweden and out of Copenhagen and making a stop in Russia... until last night that is. Last night with the second kick I received around 11 PM, I booked all of my flights and trains for the entire stay. I fly into Stockholm on March 2 and will be there in untill March 5. On March 5 I fly to Geneva Switzerland and will fly out of Zürich Switzerland on March 12. From Zürich Switzerland I will head to Moscow where I will get on a sleeper train to Votonezh and spend 2 days in Anna's small town then head back on a sleeper train to Moscow. Once back in Moscow I will spend three days exploring the city then fly to Denmark where I will spend the remaining 4 days of the trip. 

I plan on photographing everything. Thailand was such a successful business opportunity and I have no doubt this will be either. I've got my winter coat and I'm ready to learn, grow, and explore!

Sunday, February 9, 2014


About a month ago I was called to serve as an ordinance worker in the Los Angeles temple. I say called, but it was something I felt that I should volunteer my time to do since I have such an open schedule with photography. I wasn't quite sure how much I would enjoy the time spent serving but I knew that throughout the experience I would be given the chance to really learn about the temple. I work every Thursday and for the past 3 weeks, I have watched my testimony regarding temples grow immensely. There is something so special and sacred about the temple which leads me to my most recent road trip, to Gilbert Arizona.

My cousin Brittnie, who also happens to be one of my favorite people, lives in Gilbert and in 2010 when the church announced the temple they would build there, I knew I wanted to go to the open house. After having food poisoning 24 hours prior, I wasn't sure I would be able to make the trip but nonetheless, just in time I was feeling spiffy and ready to drive. I hoped in my new car- after all, there is no better way to bond with your new car than a road trip, and headed down the open highway to Arizona.

Friday night I met Brit at work then we came home and watched a movie. Saturday morning we headed over to the Renaissance Festival in Apache Junction (you can check out my photographs from the day here: Renaissance Festival Pics) and then hurried back to shower and get ready to attend the Gilbert open house. Tickets were hard to come by and even though we had a 4:45pm reservation, we waited in a 30 minute line before even entering the church building. The spirit was incredibly strong and as a short video came on that talked about why we believe in temples, I began to cry. We exited the church building and made our way across the temple parking lot with the most breathtaking view of the sun setting on Moroni. Into the temple we walked down stairs to the baptistry, through the locker rooms, into an instruction room, through the celestial room, and ending in the sealing room. It was such an incredible experience to have my cousin and her boyfriend with me. I pray that everyone can have the opportunity to enter the House of the Lord, it truly is magnificent and the things that happen within the walls are simply incredible.

The following photos were all taken with my iPhone but I am headed there for some sunrise pictures on my camera tomorrow morning.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Families Can Be Together Forever

When I joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in 2008, it pulled on my heart strings to learn that families could be together forever. In this world it seems that we are all too familiar with death and things that end abruptly, but to know that whatever the circumstances were in this life, that in the life hereafter I could be together with my family was a great belief and something I prayed was true.

As with any principle of the gospel, I have learned by personal experience that the temple is without a doubt the holiest place on this earth and the covenants made inside hold true for time and all eternity. Although I have struggled with the gospel, it is hard being obedient all of the time, we are only human, my testimony rests so firmly on the temple that I would never be able to deny the things I have seen and heard.

In 2008 I had done a bunch of family history work and was ready to bring my own family names to the temple to perform their work. I had a stack of family names and was going through which names to bring in the temple when I came across my grandfather's card. I paused for a moment and then thought, "I can't take his name in, I should have asked my grandmother." (although acceptance of the gospel and the ordinance work that we participate in the temple rests upon the agency of those whose work is being performed, it is customary to ask the next living kin if you can baptize an individual) I left the name in the car and proceeded to the temple doors when I felt a strong prompting to go back and get the card. The prompting continued and only got struggle so I decided to listen and went back for the card. Once in the temple I had a friend perform my grandfather's baptism.  As he was being confirmed the temple worker leaned over and said, "What is your relation to this man, were you close to him?" I replied, "He died when I was two." He continued, "Well he was close to you, or at least he is right now." I had two friends that went on to do his endowment that night and the worker came up to them at the end and said, "I always have a strong feeling when I perform my own family work but nothing like what I felt for that young girls grandfather."

February 3, 2014 marked the one year anniversary that my grandmother, "Goose," has been gone. I knew that I wanted to perform her work and had everything lined out. I would do her baptism on February 4, along with her initiatory and endowment and seal her to my grandfather on February 14 (Valentine's Day) so they could spent February 15 (her birthday) together for eternity! I had such high hopes since I had an incredible experience with my grandfather and my relationship with Goose was immensely stronger. I was careful with every decision down to what I would wear to the temple, including a blouse she had worn and personally made.

The baptism went somewhat array when her name was pronounced wrong, the initiatory was not as powerful as I had hoped, and while waiting for the endowment women wouldn't stop chatting about caddy things. I bowed my head and said a silent prayer that I would feel her in the temple. I went through the session and felt overwhelmed with the spirit as I entered the celestial room. I sat in a corner, bowed my head and closed my eyes to pray, when I was greeted by Goose. I saw her, in her perfect image, standing before me dressed in white with the largest smile I have ever seen. She was grateful and appreciative and beaming with light. The image of her was not like any photograph I had ever seen or any memory I had in this life, it was different, she was perfect! I saw my grandfather at her side. My tear-filled eyes couldn't stop as I reached for a tissue or something to contain my emotions. I wanted to stay in that room forever so I never had to leave her but I also knew in that moment that she would always be with me, she is always with me.

I have no doubt in my mind that families really do live together forever. I know this. I know that this gospel is true and I am forever grateful to be a part of something so amazing and to have such an unwavering testimony about temples.

My world... my thoughts

I can't apologize if you don't like what you read I can only apologize that you stumbled on my page.