Thursday, July 30, 2009


Apparently I've learned how to be spontaneous- from the master, Greg.

Sunday after church I was about to settle in for a little nap when I realized I had a message on my phone. It was my sister Holly saying that she'd been on my facebook (she goes on as me so no one can find her) and that Erica's status said that she was going to meet David Archuleta at a fireside that night. (Erica is a teenage girl who lives in the Cleveland area, who used to be in the same ward with us when we lived in Michigan years ago.) I haven't talked to her in person since she was about 9 years old, but I was so glad she put her cell phone number on her facebook so we could get the details.

Finally- a chance to give Jillie her hearts desire, and off my back begging for us to find a way for her to meet David. I asked Greg to help me figure out how we could make this happen. We would have to leave in 30 minutes if we were to travel the 3 hours to Kirtland, Ohio and make it in time for the fireside.

I was already planning to go to Cleveland on Monday afternoon to take the girls to the Demi Lovato/David Archuleta concert Monday night and return home early Tuesday morning before Greg left for work. I planned to leave the boys with a babysitter.

Now plans had to change, Greg walked me through different possibilities. Hiring a babysitter to stay with the boys all day Monday was no good because the house was a wreck- coming off a week long trip to Michigan for the kids. Bringing the boys and a babysitter along didn't seem fair to the babysitter. Keeping Jackson happy and quiet in a hotel room all evening wouldn't be fun for anyone. I also knew that the boys would really like a chance to see David too. We decided to call Amanda- a 16 year old girl in the ward who we know is responsible enough to take the girls to the concert safely and who is a big Archuleta fan too.

We called her and she was in (and very excited), packed the kids and myself for the next 2 days and were on the road within that 30 minute window. We arrived just before the meeting began.

Both of my girls have blogged about it already... Jillie here and Reagan here

Kirtland, Ohio Stake Center and the car HE arrived in... (no pictures allowed when we got to meet him, so this is our only photographic evidence)
I suppose their faces are evidence as well... Everyone got to shake his hand and talk to him a bit. I even had a chance to thank him for setting such a good example for our kids. Jackson opted to hug him instead. :)
We spent the next afternoon at the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame.

Dropped the girls off at the concert...

Jillie, Reagan, and Amanda after the concert...
It was quite the adventure for us all!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Hawaii: Final Hours

Our last day in Hawaii- so sad.  Actually I was excited to get home and see the kids too though! We enjoyed a delicious breakfast under this shady tree at one of the hotel restaurants.

Then off to soak up whatever sun we had time for.  First stop the beach with the fish in the water and the crabs on the rocks.  Greg went in to shower before check out time, I went to the pool.  I wanted to spend every available minute relaxing in the sun.  It was hot out there, but that's good.  We don't get much hot in Buffalo!
When it was time to leave I went in to change in the restroom and found Greg "resting his eyes" in the lobby.  The 6 hour time difference really did a number on us.  We never really knew what time zone our bodies were in.
So off to the airport we went on a Saturday afternoon.  We got one last smile at Hawaiian happiness at the airport...
Cute, huh? :)
We left Honolulu late Saturday afternoon and arrived home at 10am Sunday morning.  I really struggled to sleep on that flight- like I said my clock was all mixed up.  It was great to finally get home and be with the kids again.  Huge thanks go out to my mom and dad for staying with the kids through a very busy week!  The kids of course had a GREAT time with Grandma and Papa, but I think they were pretty glad to have us back- or at least to get their souvenirs we brought them!  

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Hawaii: Day 5

May 15, 2009
Happy 17th Anniversary to us!
This morning we headed out for Pearl Harbor and decided to stop for a quick breakfast at McDonald's.  Check out the Hawaiian specialty breakfasts.  Eggs with rice and Spam or Portuguese sausage.  Apparently Spam is a big deal over there.   Also, along side the traditional apple pie they also have taro pie.  Interesting.
What I liked the most was that although we were not in a touristy area, after we got our order the lady said, Mahalo.  (Thank you in Hawaiian.)  It struck me that it wasn't just something cute they just do for the tourists, it is actually their culture to continue to use some native words.  Even the sign at the end of the drive thru said Mahalo instead of Thank You like everywhere else in the U.S.Then off to Pearl Harbor to go to the USS Arizona Memorial.  Since it is a National Monument, it has the same restrictions as all national monuments have had since 9/11.  
When we entered the building we were given a ticket (free) telling us what time our group would begin.  We were lucky enough to get in the next group.  First we were brought to a theater where we watched a documentary film about the Pearl Harbor attacks.  Pretty much made you really mad at the Japanese back then.  How insane do you have to be to pull this? Ultimately they ended up getting the raw end of the deal though.  Anyhow, after the film we got on a boat which took us out to the Arizona.  Very somber there.
1177 men died that day, many are still entombed in the ship below.  The Japanese  bomb that hit the USSArizona ignited the forward magazine causing an explosion that sunk the battleship in nine minutes.  They couldn't get out.  60 years later there is still oil leaking form the ship.  Apparently these are nicknamed the "tears of the Arizona".

The USS Missouri was docked nearby which is the same size as the Arizona.  We didn't tour it, but it is available for tours.  The white ball in the distance marks the front end of the Arizona.
This drawing gives you better perspective of the size of the ship under the memorial building-  the white narrow rectangle perpendicular to the ship below.
At one end of the memorial is a wall of names listing those killed in action.  Many had the same last names since many sets of brothers or father& son perished together that day.  I am so glad we went here and were able to pay our respects to those brave men.
After our thought provoking visit to the Arizona, we headed back to Laie.   The other side of the island is so beautifully lush and green.  This is not a great picture of the scenery from the car, but it reminded me of footage from the show Lost.
Our first stop in Laie was to the Temple.  It is closed for renovations, but we enjoyed walking the grounds, going to Visitor's Center and even Church distribution.  
Loved how all the little touch screens in the visitors center were in little  huts!!
Even the film viewing room had Hawaiian touches.
This sculpture was unusual to me, but it was created by the same artist who did the carved friezes atop the temple

We stopped next at the campus again.  Thought we'd have lunch at their version of the Cougareat.
Let's just say the Seasider is no Cougareat...
so we went next door to the Polynesian Cultural Center for lunch (our tickets were good for a repeat visit.)  We spent some more time browsing around the different island areas. Of course we had to stop in New Zealand so I could get a tattoo. ;)
Then to Tahiti to learn some hip shaking hula
and even to Easter Island to pose with the big heads.
We returned to our hotel in time to sit out on the beach and enjoy our last Hawaiian sunset together.  

Then off to dinner at the fancy restaurant at the hotel. What a great day- great week- to spend with my best friend.  How glad I am we chose each other all those years ago.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Bonus Blessing: The Power of Music

We interrupt this Hawaiian vacation report for a few Sunday thoughts.

This past week I sat and watched the Michael Jackson memorial on TV. I thought it was excellent by the way. Many times, especially during the Heal the World/We are the World medley I found myself in tears and contemplating the power of music. At that moment I got a call from a Bishopric member asking if I would give a short concluding talk at the end of a sacrament meeting of musical numbers. He asked me to speak on the power of music in our lives. Um, yes. I will do that.

While preparing my talk I thought I'd check my 52 Blessings Project posts from last year to see what I'd written about music. I was SHOCKED to see that I hadn't included one of the most important blessings in my life- music.

I decided to post my thoughts from my talk here today because so much of what I said is about my personal experiences with Church music shaping my testimony of Jesus Christ.

The Power of Music

I believe music is THE most powerful tool that the Spirit has to speak to our spirits. I also believe that it is a vital part of our spiritual growth in the gospel.

Only 3 months after the Church was organized the Lord, through the prophet Joseph Smith called Emma Smith to compile a selection of hymns for the Church. Why? Because as He said in Doctrine and Covenants 25:12, “For my soul delighteth in the song of the heart, yea the song of the righteous is a prayer unto me, and it shall be answered with a blessing upon their heads.”

When we sing the hymns, it is the same as saying a prayer- and it should be treated as such. We will be blessed for singing those hymns from our hearts.

Some of the finest music in the Church is taught in Primary. Children all over the world have learned the basics of the gospel through those songs… and when they learn those songs, they will never forget the principles taught because of the music.

Every child in the Church knows that they are each a Child of God.

If you ask them which Church they belong to and what they believe, they know thanks to the song “The Church of Jesus Christ.”

They know where they come from as they sing “I Lived in Heaven”

They know about temples when they sing “I Love to See the Temple” and “Families Can Be Together Forever.”

They know about modern day prophets and the ancient prophets they sing about in “Follow the Prophet”

They recognize the Holy Ghost because of the song, “A Still Small Voice”

They know that kindness begins with them, that reverence is more than just quietly sitting, how to choose the right way to be happy and they feel their Savior’s love in all the world around them.

I could go on and on about how many gospel topics our children have learned through their Primary Songs.

It is exciting to me that they learn a hymn each year too. Last year my 4 year olds favorite song was “Called to Serve”. This year they are learning “How Firm a Foundation” This music will uplift and strengthen them throughout their lives. If any of you didn’t get to be in Primary as a child or don’t know some of the newer songs, I am sure the children would love you to come down and learn with them from time to time.

I know that is where my own testimony began to grow. Singing in Primary always felt good and I knew what they taught was true. In fact as I thought about this talk this week I was overwhelmed with what an important role music has played in my own life.

When I was Primary age I remember learning that to get a bad word or thought out of my head or even the feelings after a scary dream all I needed to do was to sing a church song in my head and soon I would feel good again.

When I was a teenager I gained my testimony of Jesus Christ through music. My mom had just finished teaching an Easter Family Home Evening lesson about the Savior. When everyone went up for their treat, I sat on the couch with a hymn book opened to “I Know That My Redeemer Lives”. As I quietly sang to myself the Spirit came so strongly and at that moment I knew. I knew it and can never deny that Jesus Christ lives and He is my Savior. It is often very hard for me to get through that hymn anymore with dry eyes as those feelings return.

In college there was an incident where the spontaneous singing of “We Thank Thee O God for a Prophet” by a student filled Marriott Center calmed us in a time of fear and even helped in securing the safety of President Hunter from a disturbed intruder.

More recently I had another experience with music when my grandma passed away rather suddenly. She was seriously an angel on earth and she loved music with all her heart. A week or so after she passed I was in the basement doing laundry, not thinking of anything in particular. In my head I began to hear her voice singing her favorite hymn “I Need Thee Every Hour”. I’m not saying that she was actually there, but I’m not saying she wasn’t either. What was important was that I felt that she was bearing her testimony to me one more time. The hymn brought me comfort while strengthening my testimony of Jesus Christ and eternal families.

I’m sure we all have had experiences where gospel music has spoken to our hearts and taught us important truths. There truly is power in the hymns.

There is a lot of good music out in the world. Classical music is powerful and moving.
Even good modern music uplifts us and helps us to feel happy and positive.

But nothing is as powerful as a hymn and nothing invites the spirit but a hymn (because it is a prayer.) In the moment a hymn begins to play, the feeling in the room changes, the Spirit is present. I want to encourage all of us to know the hymns and learn from them. I challenge you to use the hymns to learn and understand gospel principles better. Use the hymns to strengthen your testimony. If there’s a topic you want to study, go to the topical guide in the back of the hymn book. Choose a hymn related to your topic. Sing the hymn and learn from it’s words. Then continue to the scripture references at the bottom of the page which take you into the scriptures for study. The Spirit will be with you. Have this music in your homes, in your cars, on your iPod- wherever you are so that you can invite the Spirit to be with you when you need Him most.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Hawaii: Day 4

Today we rented a car and drove over to Honolulu. We headed to the Hilton on Waikiki Beach to take a submarine tour. I am so glad we didn't stay down there in Waikiki. Everywhere you looked there were high rise hotels surrounded by souvenir shops. and crowded beaches and pools- people everywhere. It was still nice, just crowded and overloaded with tourist traps. I guess I liked the relative seclusion of our Marriott in Ko'Olina. I had to take a picture of this funny statue outside one of the stores though...
The Hilton had a bit of a mini zoo included in the landscape. Turtles, penguins, exotic birds, and coy ponds at every turn.

And of course the wedding chapel. I think most of the hotel properties have a wedding chapel. There was one at our Marriott too and we saw at least 2 wedding parties a day.
Wedding pictures on this beach would be tricky. Trying to get a shot without bikini clad women in the background would be difficult, not to mention all of the people out in the water. This Japanese couple had to walk past a homeless man asleep on the beach to get their "romantic" beach photos taken.
So, we got to the dock early for our submarine tour. We let the stragglers from a school field trip go ahead of us in line... only to find out that their group had under counted how many kids they had which left 4 of us without a seat on our scheduled ride. (Our tickets had been purchased in advance and our seats reserved.) They asked us to come back in a couple of hours! for another submarine. We were not too happy. We were offered a DVD of the ride for our trouble. Um, no. I don't think so. Eventually they agreed to give us back half of our payment for our trouble. Um, yes. Since each ticket cost about $100 it was nice to get some back!  We needed to figure out something to do to pass the time. We ended up at the Ala Moana Center. It was an interesting mall... all open air and every store imaginable from little t- shirt souvenir shops, Old Navy, and Claire's to Prada, Gucci, and Betsy Johnson.

Finally it was time for our delayed underwater adventure. We took a boat out to open water, then looked for a big bubble on the surface. That's where the submarine surfaced. Very cool.Inside the sub...

We traveled underwater and saw marine life in their natural habitat.  There were many man made reefs down there including a sunken ship and sunken airplane.  It was kind of hard to make out some things and even harder to get a good picture of what we were seeing. If you look really carefully you might see the turtle laying on the deck of a sunken ship.Luckily another turtle came up close for his photo shoot.
And this big guy too.
Most of the time we saw little fish like these in large groups.  Spme were yellow, but with many it was hard to make out what color they were, or even if they had a color. It was a fun experience to have had.  My 40 year old little boy really enjoyed it! :)  We had to rush back to our hotel after the ride because the Lakers were playing again (NBA Playoffs).  I spent some time taking pictures off the balcony.  I really enjoyed the peaceful atmosphere at our beach.  Quiet is nice when you don't get that often.