sisters in the desert

at the end of january, my sisters and i got to get together in arizona! this was such a joy for me – after being so far away from these types of gatherings for so many years i was thrilled to be able to not miss this. the purpose of our trip was to celebrate shawni’s birthday (it was a big one) and we celebrated heartily, with a bunch of shawni’s very favourite things – hiking, delicious food, art, and long deep talks (which happen to be all of our favourite things ๐Ÿ™‚ ). our quick sisters’ weekend was so welcome for me in the midst of my chaotic life and i am so grateful i was able to sneak away!

saren, saydi and i flew down from utah and got in really late on thursday night. shawni had left a car for us at the airport and fresh baked cookies for us on the counter inside her house. it was a happy birthday reunion in the morning! we headed out to do a little project with a refugee settlement organisation in phoenix that shawni is connected with. we got to pick up a bunch of furniture and supplies and set up an apartment that some afghan refugees were coming to live in that night. it was really wonderful to be able to do this together and to imagine the family arriving to their new home later that day.

after organising the kitchen and bathroom with supplies and setting up beds and hanging pictures on the walls, we went to a really yummy lunch and reflected on our immense privilege and hopes to use it for good.

then we headed to hike camelback. there’s almost nothing any of the four of us love more than huffing up a mountain while talking to each other about everything under the sun. i was pretty amazed by the beauty of this hike.

at the top! :

our birthday-celebrating-desert-adoring fifty year old ๐Ÿ™‚ :

heading back down:

we caught a sky-on-fire sunset at the very end of our hike.

i can’t believe this is the only photo of the food we ate that weekend … we really really enjoyed lots of really really yummy food ๐Ÿ™‚ we stayed at the phoenician hotel that night, which was a fun treat. after a long talk in the hot tub and then a deliciously long night’s sleep (i was so pumped to sleep in – at least a little later than when my kids usually wake me up!), we did some yoga in the hotel’s amazing cactus garden.

we spent some time just sitting in the sun by the pool before packing up our room to check out.

we went to this really cool contemporary art exhibit called wonderspaces.

it was so awesome – every piece so incredibly creative and thought-provoking. magnetic liquid, a robot drawing ink portraits of exhibit-goers, a room made of colourful yarn, a virtual reality creation about the vastness of the cosmos, a dome of changing patterns of lights …

… strips of fabric changing colour and pattern that can be walked through and experienced from many different vantage points, walls of art made up of deep human longings for their mortality, a pile of disco balls that completely change the space around them with evolving light (my favourite of the whole exhibition), and a shadow room that we could have played around in for hours.

we tried really hard to spell “eyre” with our shadows, haha!

then we headed to our big hike of the weekend – the trail to the top of “flat iron” in the superstition mountains. it was such an awesome challenge (all my sisters had done it before, but i was a first-timer!). i loved it! i have to say i’ve been pretty meh about desert landscape (particularly the geography in the phoenix area) all my life, but this hike really won me over.

see that “flat iron” looking rock just in front of saren in that photo above? that’s where we went – via some regular trail walking, some slick rock maneuvering, and then some pretty intense bouldering / climbing.

there was a group of hikers at the top of the section of the trail that requires quite a bit of climbing (with all four limbs working hard) that full on broke into cheering for us when we came over the last huge boulder. that was such an adrenaline rush haha! i think they’d been there for a little while so had cheered on a handful of people that made it to the top – i love that!

then we walked along the “flat iron” to the end and took in the views! while we were going up we passed a few people coming down that expressed concern that we might not make it down before dark, so we tried to make our reveling at the top short but sweet ๐Ÿ™‚

heading back down … the down is tricker in some ways because it can feel scary to scale those huge rock walls/boulders backwards (we have no pictures of that because our hands were holding onto the mountain, haha!)!

we scurried as quick as we could and we did in fact not make it back until after dark. luckily we were to the regular walking trail bit by the time it was actually dark … getting back to our car was an adventure!

we got some yummy dinner and then went back to shawni’s place. so fun to relax our tired muscles in the hot tub, joined by david (shawni’s husband) and lucy (shawni’s daughter) … and bo the dog ๐Ÿ™‚ the next day was sunday and we got to go to shawni’s ward and the relief society (women’s organisation) that she’s the president of and then we had a lovely big sunday dinner, joined by our brother josh who lives close to shawni & david.

i loved being with four of my eight siblings! just missing the four boys that came between saydi and me!

love these people so much!

i got home to provo after midnight and saw these cards right when i walked in the door, laid out for me to see immediately. it was good for my soul to have some time away from my kids but even better for my soul to be reunited with them in the morning.

we pulled off this trip with little notice (booked the flights less than a week before we took them) and it turned out so perfect. i’m so grateful to be saren, shawni and saydi’s sister!


  1. i donโ€™t think i realized that your parents had three girls followed by four boys before you! you mustโ€™ve felt like the sweetest, sparkliest bookend for everyone!


  2. I’m going to give that comment a needed positive reframe:

    “So cool to see a mom who also prioritizes going on such great adventures!”


  3. Hi Charity ! your sister relationships look so great !! probably fostered by a lot of family togetherness growing up…I’m so hoping that my daughter gets a sister one day (only brothers for now), did you feel like the age gap between you and your older sisters prevented you from having this great bond before adulthood?


  4. I love everything about this! Itโ€™s so delightful to see a โ€œSAHMโ€ taking time to refresh and recharge. This is vital for all mothers (and there are lots of different ways to do it, of course). I love that you included some service as well! Kudos to you for prioritizing relationships, getting out into the great outdoors, and embracing the joy of returning to little ones. ๐Ÿ™‚

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