Sunday, August 18, 2019

The songs of Zion

Church in Athens was awesome! There are two branches that meet in the same building: a Greek branch and an English branch.

We went to the Greek branch because of our flight schedule (we stacked up our baggage in the foyer). There were people there from all over the world: Sweden, France, Canada, the USA, Greece (of course), and others. The business and prayers were all in Greek, but the talks on this particular day were both in English.

What was cool was that everyone sang the hymns in their own language! It felt like the "unity of the faith" that the scriptures talk about. It was an awesome experience!

Saturday, August 17, 2019

That's the night the lights went out

So there we were, on the waterfront in Istanbul, just before midnight. Our rendezvous point was in front of the subway station, but our taxi driver didn't show up.

I wasn't worried yet.

There were fewer and fewer taxis, and the ones that were empty were picking up the locals.

I started to worry just a little.

And then, at the stroke of midnight, all the lights went out. Closing time for the subway — and the rest of the neighborhood ! Yikes!

We were finally able to flag down an open taxi who was willing to take us to the airport — at double fare! But at that point, we were willing to pay!

Friday, August 16, 2019

All shook up

Almost as soon as we walked out of the temple, out phones started going off with messages from people back home wondering if we were OK.

Wha —?

We soon learned that while we were incommunicado, a magnitude 5.1 earthquake had hit just outside of Athens. It shook things up a bit, but nobody was hurt and there wasn't any significant damage.

Apparently it struck while the hotel staff was servicing our room. It looked like whoever was cleaning stopped in mid-mop. There were bags and rags left in our room, and the bed was only mostly made!

The one thing that made me happy, though, was it gave me a chance to make this joke — there are few places other than Athens where it would work!

Thursday, August 15, 2019

The temple doors seem to say to me... we're closed!

The above cartoon is mostly true.

When we got to Rome, the temple was closed.

We’d checked the Tools app to see when the Rome Temple would be open. The information wasn't consistent, and apparently it's updated in real time. When it's nighttime in Rome, the app says that the temple is closed  — which was a bit confusing as we made our travel arrangements back home.

We talked to the folks in the Visitors Center, who told us that the temple offers sessions in the mornings two days a week, in the afternoons two days a week, and all day on Saturday. Today, they said, was an afternoon day.

Our original plan was to do a session in the morning, do some sightseeing in the afternoon, then fly back to Athens in the evening. We decided to bag the sightseeing. We'd probably have a chance to do that again, but this would likely be the only chance we had to see the temple.

We hung out at the Visitors Center for a while (and met some lovely sister missionaries: Sorella Hyatt and Sorella Weaver!), ran back into town to get some lunch, and made it back in time to get ready for the 4:30 session.

Despite all the changes of plans, it was so worth it! The temple was amazing, we made our connecting flight back to Greece, and all was well...

...except for the earthquake that happened that day in Athens. More about that tomorrow!

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Just one more little thing

Forget historical sites, cultural gems or national treasures. One of the most important things to do when you travel is to buy souvenirs and trinkets for everyone back home.

We did a good job at this part of the trip. No less than three stores gave Mme B parting gifts because of what she bought!

And yes, we did need to buy an extra suitcase to bring everything back home!

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

But don't leave home without it

Of the two hours we had scheduled to visit the Acropolis, about half the time was spent standing in line to get tickets to go in! As a result, we weren't able to see everything we wanted to, or spend as much time as we would have liked.

Still, it's hard to be disappointed walking alongside history, standing in the same place where Pericles, Socrates and the Apostle Paul stood. But next time, I'm going to buy my tickets in advance!

Monday, August 12, 2019

Portion control

On our first night in Athens, Greece, my brother-in-law took us out to dinner.

"Let me warn you, you'll only want to order a half portion," he said. "Seriously!"

Maybe he knew about my lack of enthusiasm for Greek food (at least the Greek food we have back home). Maybe he was being frugal. Or maybe he knew something I didn't. No matter, I took his advice.

When my order came — the half portion — it was flowing over the edges of the plate! And, much to my relief, it was DELICIOUS! Cheese! Vegetables! Fries! Bread! Kabob! Greek salad! Mouth-watering deliciousness in abundance!

I couldn't finish it, there was so much food. And that was A. Half. Portion. Did I mention the watermelon and ice cream after?

The amazing thing is that we (Mme B and I) both lost weight while we were there. I don't know how.

Yeah, I could get used to the Mediterranean Diet!

Sunday, August 11, 2019

There's no place like the temple

One of the main purposes of our trip was to go through the Paris Temple. We were not disappointed.

The people there were so kind, helpful and friendly to us. They made us feel welcome — and wanted!

The temple uses different flowers as motifs throughout the building: hollyhocks, cornflowers, lilacs and lilies. The flowers are reflected in the decor, including the stained glass windows that seem to be everywhere!

The gardens and courtyard — which feature a statue of the Christus — are beautiful, peaceful and full of many of the same flowers featured in the temple. It is welcoming, and invites you to linger longer. It is harmonious with the temple and the surrounding environment.

Not far from the temple is the Palace of Versailles, with its Hall of Mirrors and amazing gardens that stretch as far as the eye can see. It truly is magnificent. The temple, on the other hand, has a beauty that is eternal...and it feels like coming home.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

The primitive church

We ran into two wonderful sisters at the Paris Temple Visitors Center: Sis. Kleinman and Sis. Montalvo. They were excited to hear Mme B's missionary stories — stories that happened before either of them were born...making Mme B (in their eyes) an historical artifact!

Friday, August 9, 2019

An important travel tip

We stayed in a suburb south of Paris,  Vélizy-Villacoublay. We chose it because it's close to the Paris Temple, it's not far from the tourist sites, it came at a really good rate AND it has air conditioning!

Not far from where we stayed is a giant supermarket, Auchan. It's kind of like the European equivalent of Walmart. We went shopping there one night — and I got into trouble!

When you buy fruits or vegetables at Auchan (as I learned the hard way), you are supposed to bag your produce, weigh the bag on a special scale, print out a sticker and place the sticker on the bag for ease at checkout.

I held up an entire line of Saturday night shoppers because I didn't know about the whole sticker thing — and I got chewed out for that! (Not to mention the dirty looks from the shoppers behind me!).

I ran the bag back to produce, found a scale, but I couldn't figure out how to print out the sticker! Instead, I grabbed my phone and took a photo and ran back to the checkout line. The checkout gal rolled her eyes at me, made up a price, and sent me on my way.

That's not the way we do it at our local Safeway back home!

Editor's note: Ask about getting a shopping cart. It was almost as embarrassing!

Thursday, August 8, 2019

If you have a few minutes, let's talk!

I was relieved to see that the Notre Dame Cathedral looked a lot better than I expected it to! Except for the missing stained glass windows, the outside looks strong. There is a lot of work going on around and about the cathedral — note the cranes in the photo — but it's difficult to see because there's a fence all around the perimeter.

The inside is a long way from usable, however. We saw a news update on the progress of the work, and there's a lot still to be done. The story was about church officials viewing the interior. They were dressed in their vestments and hard hats.

I think that it would be very tempting as a missionary to do some street contacting in the area and really cue in on the message of the Restoration. But that's just me. 

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

It's worth a try

To be honest, most people were very patient with — and amused by — my French.*

On the other hand, Mme B (who served as a missionary in Paris, taught French at the MTC, and currently teaches at the high school level) has an accent that usually passes for Parisian. People wondered where we were from when she spoke, but when I opened my mouth, they knew I was American.

*There was an incident at the supermarket, but we'll get to that later!

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

I want you to show me the way

We were on vacation most of July — we left on the Fourth and got back just in time for Pioneer Day.

As I usually do, I took my sketchbook along so that I can share some of the highlights of our trip.

When we arrived in Paris, our driver assured us he knew exactly where we were going when we showed him the address.

"Don't you want to write it down or plug it into your GPS?" we asked.

"No, I have a great memory."

Eighty euros later, we pull off to the side of the road.

"I don't get it," he said. "The hotel should be right here! Let me see that address again."

So we show it to him. He hems and haws (in French), and then says, "We're almost there!"

Back onto the freeway we go. Another forty euros later he pulls off the freeway again.

"I had the right address — I just had the wrong city!"

Lesson learned. From that point on, we only took Uber.

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Sketchbook: Dumping grounds

As I've said before, a lot of my cartoons are based on real-life experiences. Some of them are a bit exaggerated. Unfortunately, this one is not.

A family close to me got a text from their ministering brother about how difficult they were. He was putting in for a change because they were so terrible.

I'm sure there are two sides to the story, but there are ways it could have been handled better.

The takeaway from this is: be kind and forgiving to everyone. You don't know what someone else is going through.

Friday, August 2, 2019

Bringing the heat

You never hear that descriptor on the weather reports: "What's the weather going to be like tomorrow, Bob?"

"Well, it's going to be hot. How hot? Fervent! Stay home and crank up the AC!"

Thursday, August 1, 2019

It's provident

I wish there were a way to store sleep. I could definitely go for a two-year supply!

Wednesday, July 31, 2019


There is a time distortion vortex that hovers over the MTC. The concepts of hours, days and minutes disappear. The days are long, the nights are short, and the weeks never end — until suddenly it's Sunday. And afterward, the interminable weeks turn into a blink.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

You can make the pathway bright

There are those who brighten up a room when they enter, and there are those who brighten up a room when they leave.

Monday, July 29, 2019

Sketchbook: It's closer than you think

It seems to me that as soon as Pioneer Day is over, it's time for back to school. We still have well over a month before classes begin, yet all the stores are having their back to school sales now!

Friday, July 26, 2019

Tales from the other side

Can't you just see it? A whole series of books based on the character Naughty Nephi!

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

So close, but yet so far

Everyone knows what Brigham Young said on July 24, 1847, as his company arrived in the Salt Lake Valley. But what happened in the days just before that?

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Tranquility base

Despite all the practice and training, entering the mission field feels like landing on an alien world.  It takes a lot of faith — and includes at least a few minutes of terror!

Today marks the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing. Celebrate wisely. Take an astronaut to lunch... or a space cadet!

Friday, July 19, 2019

Just plug yourself in

Some of the best testimony meetings I've ever been in have been outside, around a campfire.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Turning to antiques

Even with the social media fast, it can still be a challenge to go without. Go forth with faith!

Monday, July 15, 2019

Sketchbook: Just like the old days

Sometimes the leaders take the idea of a re-enactment just a little bit too seriously.

Friday, July 12, 2019

Check your sources

One of the first map reading skills we teach Scouts is how to orient your map to your location. Otherwise you could easily wind up off course, far, far away.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

With just a dash of jelly

Sometimes when assignments are made at Scout camp, leaders take for granted that the kids have been trained in some of the basic skills.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Protect your goodies

Kind of an inside joke for scouters — the kids with the blue uniforms and blue neckerchiefs are Bear Scouts

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

In the beginning

Sometimes young scouts can feel overconfident. It usually isn't justified.

Monday, July 8, 2019

Sketchbook: Let's talk

This was an actual quote from a sacrament meeting I was in. The names have been changed to protect the innocent.

Friday, July 5, 2019

Learning on the road

Road trips are always good for practice time behind the wheel. Or reins. 

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Things that go boom

Take care of your ears, and take care of your pets.

Enjoy your Independence Day!

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Best wishes of the season

Ah, those days of sitting on Uncle Sam's lap with my list overflowing with pyrotechnics...

Monday, July 1, 2019

Sketchbook: up close and personal

We visited a ward on Sunday where the sacrament meeting program was a report on Girls Camp — for the third week in a row, apparently. The bishop said he really wanted the ward to know what it was like. Having been on many a scout camp, I went there.

Sorry, no Canada Day cartoon this year, eh?

Friday, June 28, 2019

Best Cubs ever!

It’s an older cartoon, but I want to take one more look at some of my scouting cartoons before it’s too late!

Monday, June 24, 2019

Sketchbook: Called to visit

Remember when the angel told Alma that he was the one who visited him "with a voice to shake the earth"? It got me wondering whether other angels got assigned to visit the same people again — and how frustrating that would be for on the one who got sent to visit Nephi's brothers all the time!