a collection of certainly special, uniquely unusual, and equally momentous thoughts: memoirs of me

Sunday, August 28, 2016

The Honeymoon

Never in a million years did I imagine I'd be able to go on a honeymoon on the other side of the world, but when a friend posted on Facebook about a deal for $500 roundtrip airfare from SLC to Sydney, Australia, how can you pass it up? 

Our honeymoon was an absolute dream. Ten days, a brand new sparkling city, my new husband, and absolutely no plans. The pictures will never do it justice!

On the first leg of the trip (SLC to LA) - can't say we looked as excited ten days later after traveling back to DC and never wanting to get on a plane again.

 The first of dozens of photos we took of the Sydney Opera House. This iconic building deserves all the accolades. Our first morning we dragged ourselves off the airplane and through the metro to the main square in Sydney. Coming around the corner, the Opera House filled our view and took our breath away!

Another shot of the Opera House taken from the Sydney Harbour Bridge

I mean, we had to get a photo at every angle!

One of our very favorites spots - Manly Beach. The locals favorite beach which requires a ferry ride to get to. We loved walking along the promenade, watching the surfers, eating gelato, and admiring the strolling families while sitting on a sand-side bench. Could have stayed there for days! 

The view at sunset coming back into Sydney on the Manly Ferry.

Sydney's most famous beach, Bondi Beach. It wasn't our personal favorite but nonetheless, we loved sitting on a bench overlooking the wide beach and listening to the waves hitting the cliffs. 

One of my favorite lifetime adventures! After renting a car and getting a few hours north of Sydney we arrived in Newcastle and found a company that does camel tours at sunset. I seriously had an ear-to-ear smile the entire time. My camel's name was Syd, Jeff's was Daisy, and we rode them on the nearby sand dunes while watching the sun set over the ocean. Life bucket list item complete. 

Visiting the Sydney LDS temple. It was closed that day because it was a Monday but we enjoyed walking around the extensive grounds and enjoying the Spirit that was present. 

Visiting Australia's version of the Grand Canyon - the Blue Mountains with the iconic Three Sisters rock formation in the background. We spent several hours doing a beautiful cliff walk avoiding all the Asians with selfie sticks, and taking in all the beauty of this different part of Australia. 

Our last full day in Sydney we had the most sublime weather so we decided to take a walk to Mrs. Macquerie's chair, a lookout on the opposite side of the opera house. It did not disappoint. Between the cool 70 degree breeze, the clear blue sky, and the perfect vistas from the viewpoint, we fell in love with Sydney a little more. It was a perfect ending to our trip. 

We capped off the trip with one more ferry ride to Manly Beach to stroll the promenade, get some gelato, and watch Sydney come to life on the way back in with the light show "Vivid" in full force. 

Who knows if we'll ever be able to revisit Australia so I will always cherish the incredible memories we made there. It was so special to be there with Jeff, at the start of our lifetime adventure, and explore a new city, especially one we never thought we'd get to. I would wholeheartedly recommend this part of the world to anyone who wishes to make the trek across the Pacific to get there. It was clean, bright, easy to get around, the people were uber friendly, and there was plenty to do. 

Australia, we will always love you!

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Hannah Redford Merrell

One marriage certificate. Two hours at the Social Security Administration building. Three hours at the DMV. One new driver's license. One new name.

It's weird how you can change you name and how changing your name really does make you feel like a new person. Your name is the very first thing given to you after birth. Your parents pick something special that they think will capture your personality and minutes or even seconds after you're born you're given this name, a name that you will use to identify yourself for the first several decades of your life.

I've written Hannah Kay Redford on dozens of bubble test forms in school, hundreds of emails, all kinds of paperwork at doctor's offices, and more. My name is who I have been my entire life.

And now it has changed.

I walked out of the DMV and mourned the change. Not because I'm not excited to be Hannah Merrell but because Hannah Redford was so good to me. It represented the good life I've had and the person I've become. It represented the last 3 decades of grand adventure. It represented my single life of learning and stretching and growing. It was also a really cool name to have because of it's relation to a certain Sundance-owning movie star.

Hannah Kay Redford is the person that Jeff fell in love with and the girl he proposed to, even the girl he married. It's the name they used over the alter in our sealing ceremony. In my head I'm still that person and I'm not sure that will ever change.

Nevertheless, a couple months into this marriage thing and I'm slowly getting used to introducing myself as Hannah Merrell. It still feels weird rolling off my tongue but I'm sure soon enough it will become natural. Eventually, as life goes on and Jeff and I become "The Merrell's," there will be people we meet who will never know my maiden name, they will only know me as Hannah Merrell and never as Hannah Redford. Redford will become something that I only write on legal documents or give to one of my children as a middle name.

I'm okay with that. I love Jeffrey William Merrell and am honored to take his last name. It binds us together even more and for me, this sense of sacrifice only adds to my level of commitment to him. I just hope that I'll get to the point where I feel the same sense of identity with this new name, that I'll feel like Hannah Merrell in my soul just as I have with Hannah Redford.

We'll see.


Friday, May 6, 2016

How do I even put this in words?

How do I even begin this blog post, the one where I talk about (finally) finding my beloved and describing our love story from start to finish? I've been meaning to write this blog post for weeks months and yet every time I think about how to do it I'm at a loss for words. 

Jeff and I went on our first date the Saturday before Thanksgiving 2014. We got engaged January 23, 2016. In between there were a million moments that got us to where we are. A thousand and one feelings and emotions and prayers, dozens of dates and conversations getting to know each other, milestones that come in a progressing relationship, lots of figuring things out, moments of complete happiness and joy, and a few discouraging experiences. 

But then one day I realized I would probably marry this man. I can't remember exactly when. There was that time sitting in my car last summer with my best friend, Whitney, when I verbalized for the first time that I could see myself marrying him. 

Or there was that time when he posted a picture on Instagram with two small kids he volunteered to babysit and this feeling came over me about how great of a father he would be someday. 

Then there was that time in August when I was in charge of a big YSA activity and Jeff spent his entire Saturday helping me with the activity. He unloaded cars, refilled drinks, and threw out trash, and so much more. He did anything I asked him to and never asked for anything in return. He was even sick that day and didn't tell me till the end of the night. He worked his tail off for me and as I fell into bed I remember thinking that that was the kind of guy that I wanted to spend my life with. I knew I was in love with him. 

Jeff and I started seriously talking about marriage just before Christmas and it felt very surreal to have those conversations. Was I ready? Could I make such a huge decision? Had we talked enough? Spent enough time together? Gone through enough together that we could get through life and kids and good and bad times together down the road? For the first time in my life I grasped onto my knowledge of the Plan of Salvation. I thought about what life might bring, I thought about all the what-ifs (there are an infinite number) and I thought about choosing. Could I make this all-eternal choice? Was I selfless enough? Was what my head and my heart telling me what God also wanted? 

But in the end there was no doubt. 

One of Jeff's roommates recently asked me if I ever wavered in my relationship with Jeff. Of course there were a few discouraging days when I wasn't sure if our personalities were a match, but by and large I always knew. Whether that was because the timing was right and I was ready when Jeff came along or because of the handful of quiet moments when I just felt like it would work out, I will never know. There have never been fireworks at any point in our relationship but somewhere along our road and in the middle of all our conversations and experiences, I knew that I wanted Jeff by my side. Forever. 

It's a very interesting experience going through this process from single to dating to engaged. For over a decade I did a lot of dating and wondering who I'd end up. What did that person look like? What were they doing? When and how would I meet them? I wondered if it would ever happen for me. And then one Saturday morning I went to a stake volleyball game. It was at 8 am and my hair was in a dirty messy bun, I had zero makeup on, and I was really sweaty after playing volleyball for an hour. I knew Jeff because we'd bumped into each other a few times and I'd heard that he was good at negotiating salaries and whatnot, so without a smidgen of an agenda I waltzed up to Jeff and asked him some questions. That conversation led to a few texts and a week and a half later we were on our first date. 

Now here we are, a month away from the wedding and I'm still at a loss for words. I had 13 solid years of dating and then all of a sudden my life is changing and I found the person I'll spend my life with. Let me tell you, it's kind of hard to wrap your head around. I'm positive that the road ahead is going to be a good one. I'm sure there will be hard times, sorrowful times, times when we feel life is crumbling and we have to hold on with our fingertips. I'm also positive that it will be a really good life. One that is full to the brim of joyful moments, successes, triumphs, love, and encouragement. Together we hope for children, we hope for good jobs and good moves, we hope for our dream home someday, and a retirement full of security. In between it all, I'm excited to spend my life with this man and go through all the big and the little things together. I'm excited to come home from work to him, for the weekend road trips, the dance parties in the kitchen, the failed dinners where we throw our hands in the air and end up ordering pizza. I'm excited to pick out furniture with him, choose our baby names, travel to new places, and buy an outdoor grill with him. 

Through my loss of words I know one thing, I'm the happiest I've ever been. Life is about to radically change and it's because I found my person. Jeff completes me and make me better. He encourages and comforts. He's willing to listen and learn and serve. 

My loss of words is only due to the fact that there aren't words. I can only say that in my heart of hearts I feel like the luckiest person in the world. I can't wait for this wild adventure to begin!

A humongous shout out to our incredible photographer, Corrin Jasinski. Her work is absolutely stunning and she was a dream to work with. We would wholeheartedly recommend her for any of your photography needs in the DC Metro Area. Find her work at http://corrinjasinskiphotography.com.