Friday, August 30, 2019

And always abounding in good works

My son the lineman struggled. He loved to hit and block his opponents, but he always apologized after knocking them to the ground. 

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Leaving on a jet plane

Leaving the mission field is one of the most bittersweet days a missionary will ever experience. There's the excitement of going back home to friends and family, but there's the sadness of leaving behind the people you've loved, worked with, lived with and prayed for — and you don't know when you might ever see them again.

But like many things we experience in life, it's a just another step.

One of the elders from my mission wrote a parody of Leaving on a Jet Plane* that summed up his feelings about the experience:

My bags are packed, I'm ready to go. 
I'm standing here beside the door.
I have to wake you up to say goodbye.
But the dawn is breaking, it's early morn.
The taxi's not waiting, it's blowing its horn —
Already I'm so trunky I could die! 

So write to me and I'll pray for you,
But the girls are waiting at BYU;
When you come home I'll wear a wedding ring!
'Cause I'm trunky, that's my name son —
Going home to have a little fun.Oh, boy, I can't wait to go...

There's more, but that's as much as I remember.

We're saying goodbye to a great group of elders who are leaving our mission this week. They're fantastic! They will be missed...but a mission is only the beginning!

*This is a John Denver version, he wrote the song. It was popularized by Peter, Paul and Mary.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

The missionary circuit

It's true that missionaries often say funny things. But they're not the only ones doing stand up!

Monday, August 26, 2019

Sketchbook: The nine-iron rod

You know how the scriptures say that the Lord will speak to you in the language that you understand? Sometimes it speaks golf.

Friday, August 23, 2019

One step at a time

I know what a three-year-old can do with a Fit Bit — how much mileage could a missionary rack up on one?

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Environmental awareness

I know this happened more than once to me as a missionary; I'm pretty sure it's happened to most missionaries.

That's why member meals are so important — it protects the environment!

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

So what are you guys, anyway?

There are a couple of stories behind today's cartoon.

Our son, who is serving in southern California, was awakened the other night by the CO2 alarm. He called the mission president, who told him to call 911. The fire department came and checked their apartment and gave them the all clear. Then one of them asked if they were Christian. Our son looked around the apartment and counted no less than 77 pictures of Christ!

"I guess it was kind of obvious," he said.

The other is from our local missionaries (shout out to Elder Lindstrom and Elder Heaton!). They have a banner just like the one in this cartoon on their wall — six feet long by two feet wide. They may not have the same quantity in their apartment as our son, but they make up for it in size!

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

It just keeps on giving

Nothing gives and keeps on giving like a zucchini. I haven't planted any in years, and I still have all the zucchini I need!

Monday, August 19, 2019

Sketchbook: Speak your language

We were happy to make it back to the USA, where we understood everything. Maybe a little bit too much!

It took a few days to readjust. Still working on it, actually.

And that brings us to the end of the trip cartoons! We're back to our regularly scheduled programming tomorrow. Thanks for the indulgence!

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,  V√©lizy-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!