Thursday, January 28, 2016

Week of Poetry

Over Christmas break, I pulled out my box of magnetic poetry on the fridge and told the kids to go nuts.  I wanted to see their young, creative minds work with a limited amount of words and space.

Here's a few of them -  

Bubbs had great fun putting together randomness and asking us to read his creations out loud so he could laugh at the nonsense - 

Her not if.  Pant drive my together. 

Mom's contribution - 

Watch with smooth vision
The moon and music whisper together
Mother never sleep 

I was very fond of what Pretty Girl came up with -   

Woman is sweet
Sun girl rock out 

Roo was typically apathetic in his phrases -  

Ugly girl with peach life
 Power sweet he is shot in the juice 

Our Big Guy preferred realism (but thankfully not real realism) - 

I shot our TV mother

And then I found this one from Greg - 

Eternity together is sweet 

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Greg's Handiwork

We got a new TV for Christmas.  

By the time the new one was unwrapped on Christmas morning, the old one had already been moved upstairs to Mom & Dad's room.  We'd also been hiding an enormous box in our bedroom since November.  The funny thing is the kids didn't notice a thing.

So out with the old.  In with the new.  

And the set up Greg built by himself is genius!   

Friday, January 22, 2016

Front Cover

He told us he'd sign the poster for free.  Free.  So we said sure.  And then he went ahead and hung the poster in his room where nobody could see it.  


Sunday, January 17, 2016


Sweetie was next on the list (along with cousin, Ethan).  And Boston in October was the destination.

He got a cell phone for the extended weekend and the three of them flew first class.  I told him to enjoy it because none of those things will ever happen again (esp. the cell phone).  He just laughed.  

I have only strange, random photos from their trip.  Plus the odd ones he texted me - along with MANY photos of the food he was eating.  One afternoon I got a dozen texts within a 10 minute period - all while I was meeting with a state senator.  That made me laugh.  But only later.

Since the trip, our second son has informed us that I'll never make clam chowder good enough as the stuff he had in Boston.  The Celtics are now his favorite NBA basketball team.  And he's 100% determined to attend Harvard.

Greg and I better start saving... 

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

To My Son's (future) Girlfriend

I’m tempted to ask
what you see in him.
Although you probably
see the good that I see
I wonder if you realize
how much he is my handiwork,
or which of the qualities
you daydream about in class
are the ones that I take pride in,
his cordiality, for example,
or love of silliness.

It’s uncomfortable for me
to think of anyone else
loving him the way I do,
possessing him in a way
that only his mother and I
have ever possessed him,
and I can’t deny being jealous,
not so much reluctant
to share or relinquish him
as resolved to remind you
that he’s been around
longer than your love,
under construction if you will,
and that each cute trait
or whatever occurs to you
when you hear his name
I feel proprietary about,
like a woodworker
who makes a table
intending to sell it
but prays that no buyer
will recognize its worth.

-"To My Son's Girlfriend", Michael Milburn 

Thursday, January 7, 2016


Balcony to my room #404

This week marks 20 years since I left to live in Israel for the 6-month winter semester.  

At 15, I saw a framed photograph of the BYU Jerusalem Center in Professor Ray Huntington's office at Provo High School.  And as cheesy as it sounds, something in that stunning building with the stone arches called to me.

I knew in that moment I'd go.

New Testament Class - Dr. David Whitechurch

Fast forward to the evening of January 9th, 1996 - now 19 and a sophomore at BYU. After spending the past year working through applications, essays, interviews, and one huge lucky draw, I found myself on a plane with 90 students, waiting on an icy tarmac at JFK airport.  Our flight to Tel Aviv had been delayed by 9...10...15 hours - I can't remember.  It was miserable.  We all smelled.  We still had 10+ hours to go.  And we all prayed our allowable, single piece of luggage for the next 6 months had made it safely into the cargo beneath us.  

When the plane engines finally flared and we started racing down the runway, I had U2's Where the Streets Have No Name on my headset, and I honestly wanted to throw my hands up and cheer!  That song became my Israel anthem.    

I'd never been so excited in my life!!

Palm Sunday

Round About Entrance to the Jerusalem Center

Center Gardens

Truly, the entire experience was one of the most amazing times of my life.  

And every little moment felt surreal - like the day I finished midterms early and took a taxi to Bethlehem for the afternoon.  And the day a group of us rented rusted-old bikes and spent hours biking along the Nile countryside in Luxor.  Or the afternoon I finally swam out into the Sea of Galilee as far as I was allowed before getting into trouble with my professors.  


I miss so many things.  Like jogging in the early AM hours on the Mount of Olives over to Mount Scopus while watching the sunrise.  I miss the food at the Center and the kind Palestinian workers who always packed our lunches with cucumbers, tomatoes and pita sandwiches.  I miss the street vendor right inside Damascus Gate who sold the best falafel and hummus in existence.  I miss Aladdin - our money changer.  I particularly miss walking in the Old City - including the smells, the markets, the olive wood.  And I miss seeing the devotion of Sabbath observance every Friday night - the mass preparation at Machane Yehuda Street.  I also miss dancing on Ben Yehuda street with strangers to celebrate the Sabbath ending on Saturday nights.  

"To the right is the Nile.  And to the left is the Nile"

Downtown Luxor

Nile along Luxor

I don't miss the Haredi Jews with their constant disapproval and their shunning of me whenever I walked past.  I don’t miss the film developer at Hebrew University who lost my pictures from Egypt.    

I don't miss having to find 2 friends every time I wanted to go somewhere.  I don’t miss the rooms we shared in Nuwayba where the showers had live, electric wires going through the heads.  

And finally, I don't miss celebrating Ramadan, which equaled one straight month with no mail delivery!!  (aka one month of not hearing from Greg).

Old City
Damascus Gate - my favorite entrance to the Old City

Dad and me in April - right before I left for Jordan.

The hardest part of the experience was my personal spiritual growth.

That sounds minor, but for me it wasn't.  

It was a rocky path that took longer than I thought it would.  I've never questioned the legitimacy of Jesus Christ before - but I did in Jerusalem - many, many times.  Our classes were structured to study the material at the Center, followed by a field trip to the physical site where I found myself constantly asking, "Do I really believe this happened?  Or is this whole thing just legend?"  

I believe there comes a point to everyone - regardless of being Jew, Muslim, Mormon, Agnostic, etc. - where you have to ask yourself if you sincerely believe what you're doing.  And you either strengthen your conversion or you walk away.  

I didn't walk away.
Luke 3:17

A few items from my time in Israel that I keep close -

#1- My scriptures.  I ditched my seminary scriptures and asked my parents to get me a new set for Christmas before I left.  When I got to Jerusalem, I started fresh and wrote EVERYTHING down - all my insights, feelings, dates, locations etc.  Subsequently, I cherish my scriptures!  I will never get another set.  

#2 - Mt. Sinai rock.  The top of Mt. Sinai is extremely significant to me - spiritually speaking.  It represents a huge chunk of my relationship with God.  Which meant I had to get something tangible from the top.  Not a pebble.  Not sand.  I wanted a mini boulder - and the moment the sun rose at the summit, I found it.  I had to lug the thing all the way back down the mountain and fortunately the Israeli Customs Office asked no questions when they found it in my pack.  But I LOVE my Sinai rock!! I keep it on a shelf in my closet with the rest of my brick & rock collections.  It's been tremendously comforting over the years to wrap my hands around that rock and feel those rough edges when I'm stressing over something.  It's a steady reminder of foundational truths.  

(I've told Greg to bury me with it - because nobody is going to care about it the way I do.) 

#3 - My nativity set.  After months of begging my favorite olive wood merchant, he finally agreed to let me break up several of his nativity sets to create my own.  I didn't like any of the pre-formed groups.  I was very particular.  The set I created is very dear to me - each piece, face and age is a different, sincere representation of a soul coming to Christ.



Am I pro-Israeli or pro-Palestinian?  

I'm both.  Fiercely so.  

My BYU Jerusalem Director (Kaye Hansen) knew what she was doing.  In the morning we all had class with Rabbi Rosen and we'd go to lunch thinking the Israeli cause was completely justified and sound.  After lunch we'd have afternoon lectures with Brother Nazzal (our Palestinian professor).  And by dinner we were speechless.  Stunned.  Humbled  And slowly, slowly we began to realize that peace would never come easy.

Nothing has changed in 20 years.

Old Jaffa

Center Gardens

U2's Where The Streets Have No Name is a big Jerusalem song for me.  

So is Martin Page's The Door - particularly because I found my own version of "Hannah" at Yad Vashem.  And then I met her and her husband at a Kibbutz in Northern Israel months later. 

Slowly round, the raven flies.  Scours the trees where they hide.  
The beast he threatens, "You won't survive!"  
She raises her fist and whispers in her sleep, "I am gonna live... I am gonna live."   

But my favorite piece from that time is Peter Breinholt's Jerusalem.  

I spent many precious nights on my deck - wrapped in the malong Greg sent me from Cebu to keep warm - watching the sunset over the Old City while listening to these lyrics.   

Dome of the Rock

Now the men will bargain as they sell beneath the light...

I've never been so worn and weary...

I cannot forget the things I saw...

Somewhere there is singing in a choir in the light...

But it's quiet in Jerusalem tonight... 

Shepherds Field

Sunday, January 3, 2016


Several years ago, my sister-in-law came across a couple bits of paper stuffed into some random book.  The background stories behind these lists have long been forgotten.  I only have vague memories of writing them down and discussing them with my Dad.  But what shocked me most about this discovery was the date at the top.  

These resolutions were written two months after my mom died.

Here's my list -  

And here's my Dad's - 

It's amazing the power that comes from your own parents.  No matter what I struggle with or how exhausted I feel, this little note makes me find strength to go another mile.  To not lose faith.       

"live one more year.  ie get up 365 more times."  

"remember Katie each day."

"learn to put up Rachael's hair better"  

Love my Dad!