Not a Typical Honeymoon

Vanessa Murillo, a sophomore studying accounting and Edison Murillo,a sophomore majoring in mechanical engineering, met on the first day of classes Winter Semester of 2017.

Since then, they were inseparable. After dating for two semesters, they set their wedding date for Aug.26.

The wedding destination was easy to choose as Vanessa confessed. Vanessa is native to Houston and Edison came from Spain to pursue his career in the U.S. The couple decided to get married in Houston.

Right after the semester ended, the couple flew straight from Rexburg, 10 days before the wedding.

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Like every ordinary couple, the future Murillos were preoccupied with the wedding plans: dinner, decorations and sealing in the temple.

“Within two days of arriving to Houston, people started telling us that there was a tropical storm coming to town,” Edison said. “They were asking us If we had a backup plan for the wedding or if we were still planning to go on our honeymoon.”

Vanessa said she didn’t think much of it, since previous hurricanes used to change directions and never got to Houston.

“Our plan before the wedding was just to ignore it,” Vanessa said.

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Even though they were determined to have their celebrations on the 26th, the weather thought otherwise. Hurricane Harvey was gaining momentum and was not going to change its direction. Four days before the wedding, the storm was already hitting Texas and moving toward the city.

To ensure the safety of people, the Houston Temple closed over the weekend, so Vanessa and Edison decided to move their sealing up two days to Aug24. The wedding ceremony and reception took place within the family circle and close friends, seeing as many of the original guests were unable to attend.

Harvey hit the night of the Murillos’ reception with heavy rain and wind, flooding all the surrounding areas next to the chapel where they held their celebrations.

“It looked like the heavens were pouring buckets of water,” Vanessa said.

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Edison and Vanessa said they cancelled their honeymoon vacation in South San Padre Island, and spent the day after their wedding serving others in the community. The neighboring retirement home flooded, leaving elderly people in water up to their necks. The Murillos, along with many others,helped to transport people to charter buses, so they could later be evacuated to the north part of Houston.

“This is not how you would imagine your honeymoon,” Edison said.

Edison and Vanessa weren’t upset by the situation, but embarrassed it as an opportunity to help their community.

“But, it was a humbling experience,” Vanessa said. “It made us see the perspective on life and what it is all about, helping those who are around. It added a new meaning to the covenants we made in the temple the day before.”

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The engraved dates on the wedding rings of Edison and Vanessa still have the original day they planned to get married, Aug. 26, the day when Hurricane Harvey hit Houston. It serves as a reminder for the Murillos that plans tend to change and life is about serving others.


Published  Oct 14, 2017 , BYU-Idaho Scroll



A day in the life of Kegan Indiana.

Kegan made the turn for his second circuit. 130 pounds, he recorded in his little shabby notepad. He moved with robotic precision, but organic fluidity, lift after lift, nailed to perfection. In the gym he had no worries, no homework, no people to care about – it was just him and cold metal of the barbels.  He wasn’t one of those body builders who goes to the gym to show off his pile of muscles. In fact, he looked like any other guy until he scaled a rock face, bulging his chest like a mountain.

The well-used gym shoes were sending the message that fitness fashion wasn’t the goal, but the result of exhausting training. He wasn’t looking for a recognition rather self-affirmation and satisfaction.

He was not sprayed on mutual courtesy. I think that day that I spent with him in the gym, was the only time when he broke his habit of silence. “You should consider exercising,” he told me, doing another squat. Ten circuits and he was stress free and ready for a day in the office.

There were two offices Kegan was a part of. First, the Reading Center, the facility that offered help for those who wanted to master college study and the second, the big call center in town, Melaleuca .

The Reading Center, as a part of the campus, carried chill and relaxed atmosphere. The average size room with big as shop front windows was a mix of all kinds of people. There were tutors, the senior or more experienced students and those who needed the help or simply, a study buddy.

Kegan was one of the tutors. He taught his students reading strategies, time management and test taking skills. There weren’t any unnecessary time gaps in his schedule and he required the same from those he taught.

Even though, there wasn’t any dress code the tutors had to follow, but fresh ironed shirt and a pair of work slacks were his usual attire. To keep it more casual, he never wore a tie. Was his look dictated by his other job or himself, is still a mystery to me. It wasn’t just his looks that were clean-cut, but his posture. Everything about him seemed so well put together, inspiring the confidence.  He was a senior, hardworking and single. That’s all anyone knew about him, until you talked to him more openly.

It was the space that they shared in their mother’s belly that made Kegan and his twin brother, Ryhs close and almost inseparable. Kegan was only few minutes older, but he’s little brother seemed always to know better. Ryhs was always the one to suggest the crazy ideas.

It was his idea, when they were three years-old, to take the hockey stick and chase their younger sisters around the house. Ryhs and Kegan were partners in crime. While the youngest seemed always to get out of every trouble, Kegan suffered all the consequences.

It’s the stubbornness that made him seemed so confident, but that wasn’t the trait his dad appreciated, suppressing his bad temper.

“I’ve learned my lesson. It’s stupid to get mad,” he told me explaining why he’s chill and laid back now.

The childhood lessons didn’t go in vain and Kegan carried his nonchalance into his adulthood. When he turned 17 and it was time to go to college, Kegan simply tagged along with his twin, starting art classes. It wasn’t his forte, but he worked hard, that just the way he was. “I worked my butt off, drawing and painting,” he shared his “love” for his major with me. It took him all his college years to realize that wasn’t what he wanted for his life career.

Part of him had always wanted to go for adventures and his middle name, Indiana, seemed foretelling his possible future. There was always a struggle between self-discipline and freedom, just like in the childhood – chasing sisters around the house or being punished. Exercising was that freedom for him, in fact that’s where the stubbornness came in handy.

Kegan is a senior in university. In a week, he will throw his graduation cap in celebration of all the hard work and efforts. What will he think of holding the diploma of bachelor of arts?  Will he pick up the brushes and pencils again?

“I’m just a person. I’m not perfect. I don’t have everything figure out,” he confesses.

All the confidence fades away denouncing a typical university graduate, with all the uncertainty and doubts about the future. But for now, he will start his day tomorrow with 130 pounds, well used shoes and a new self-record.

Just Breathe

Bags packed, snacks prepared, alarm set, last memories captured, and clutter thrown away. The apartment was sparkling clean, dark, and silent. I was scrambling my thoughts together in anxious anticipation. It wasn’t my first move; in fact this was my fifth in the last four years. Is the taxi ordered? Are the documents in order? Is he departure time and date correct? On the morrow I would embark on a new adventure, a new chapter in my life. But why was I so worried?

The morning came quickly with the feeling of emergency and panic, a last night residue of searching the web on airport departure procedure. As I woke up, I realized the ordered taxi would come too late. Rushing to my mom’s bedroom, I tried to find as many taxi service numbers as I could. Ukraine has a tendency of not having any cabs available that early in the morning. It was four o’clock in the morning. A warm, peaceful September morning still dwelled on its summer past. It was hot, stuffy, and muggy. The air was filled with the moisture of the sea, and I could feel the salty drops on my body. There were only a few lit up windows in the apartment complex across the street, people trying to catch the last hours of sleep before rushing into a daily routine of work, school, traffic, and ideas of lunch. Only a solitary, diligent town worker was outside, sweeping the first evidences of fall, the leaves, and he seemed to enjoy his calm routine. It was like the constant tide. I could hear his “swish swooshes” minting the music of the morning. I desired to stay home, to choose the easy way, to sleep in and spend another day chatting, eating, and swimming with my mom. But, I never looked for easy ways in life, and why should I make an exception this time?

 The alarm rang again, piercing the solemn silence of the room, bringing me back to my preoccupations. I rushed to the bedroom to wake my mom, but she was sleeping so peacefully that I didn’t have the heart to do it. Finally, after a couple of minutes, the pressure of the situation caused me to yell, “Mom, wake up! We’ll be late! Wake up!”

Her shocked, but intent expression surprised me. She jumped out, carelessly throwing her comforter on the still warm and so welcoming bed. She was ready to put her multitasking skills to work in the same second, rushing to the kitchen to warm up some water for morning tea. I left her in this subtle solicitude just so I can have more time to order a taxi.

After calling every taxi service in town and being rejected each time, hope slowly faded, quickly replaced by tears rolling down my cheeks. At this time of great distress, the curiosity sparked, What would happen if I missed this flight and stayed at home? I could think of different options and solutions, and that’s what I would usually do in a similar case. But the moment the thought appeared, determined logic spoke familiar words. Don’t give up! Push through! Looking at the phone as at the enemy, I started to dial.

“Hello, ‘Taxi Road’ how can I help you?” the voice on the other end sounded so calm and tranquil.

“Can I order a cab for Ilfa and Petrova Street, please?” trying to calm and hide my frustration and fussiness, but the high pitch of the voice didn’t seem to want to listen.

“Yes, we have one available cab at this time, but it can only come in 10 minutes. Will that work for you, ma’am?”

What should I say? Should I take the offer? It seemed like the only available saving grace this morning. Or, should I refuse and take a risk to find another one? But, I was tired and done with the hard ways for this morning, and I released the words, “Yes, please!”

The scurry made the time pass quickly, but the nervousness made if feel painful. The phone lit up and proclaimed, “Your taxi is waiting for you.”

We quickly put all my luggage into the car and took off. I said to the taxi driver as we got inside, “We’re running late, please get us to the airport fast!” Now, my whole life depended on the middle age taxi driver, his driving skills, and the green color of the traffic lights.

We were cruising through familiar and well known streets of the city that quickly became my home for the last year. They were so still and restful this early morning hour, not knowing I was leaving. I wanted to capture it all and save it in my memory: Market sellers putting their fresh produce on the stand, bus stops and people walking their dogs early in the morning. I knew it wouldn’t be the same the next time I was there. The mall seemed to still remember the sound of my and my girlfriends’ heels and laughter from my last night’s farewell party.

Just in time, the national anthem started to play on the radio. What a coincidence! I thought to myself. Its words rejuvenated my weak spirit and rekindled the desire to go for my dream, even if meant moving to another country.

We got to the airport, just in time, when they opened the registration. We made it! But, the opportune arrival didn’t calm my nerves down. My whole chest was hurting, and the blood pressure rapping the heart bit in my head.

Mom seemed so preoccupied with the taxi, getting to the place on time and packing the breakfast that I could hardly tell she was nervous. But I knew my mom, and I knew her world was tumbling that day. All of her kids had left the nest, and she didn’t expect some of them to go as far as they did. She was apprehensive, trying to get all of my American friends’ phone numbers and make sure she got my new address down.

The queue moved quickly, and it was my turn to check in to the flight. I was struggling to hold back my stubborn tears. Then I looked up at my mother, and her glistening eyes mirrored mine.

We awkwardly hugged goodbye as the people in the line gave us bothersome looks. “I love you, Mom!” I tried to tell her I loved her in a comforting and “it will be okay, Mom”, mood.

The first time I really breathed that morning was on the plane. Just breath! I made it! I’m on the plane!  As I took my seat, I heard the familiar words of a flight attendant, “Dear ladies and gentlemen! On behalf of Captain Green and entire crew, welcome aboard Ukrainian International Flight Kyiv-New York.”

Now I was ready, ready to embark on a new adventure, a new chapter in my life.