Saturday, November 29, 2014

Transfer Adventures

November 24-28

What a BUSY week in the Virginia Chesapeake Mission!   We send missionaries home and get new missionaries about every six weeks......and this past week was one of those weeks.   In addition to that, as it draws closer to the holidays the office starts receiving packages from home with holiday gifts and goodies for the missionaries.  

The foyer of the office looked like this on Monday - bikes ready to be shipped home, boxes for new missionaries scheduled to arrive on Tuesday, and holiday gifts.   In the background you can see two chairs....the one on the left is mine and the one on the right is Elder Ashton's.......lots of togetherness every day :)  And we can hear each other's groans of frustration when we can't find the right file or can't remember what steps to follow in the computer program.   But even with all that, we are doing well!

One of my responsibilities for Monday morning was to print boarding passes and pay baggage fees for 25 departing missionaries.   I had from 9:45 to noon to get that done, with a 1 hour interruption for a meeting slipped in there.   I did not know that I needed to print baggage receipts for each passenger (I thought the airline computer system would show that baggage fees had been paid) so I got all the boarding passes but really struggled to get the receipts in the 1 hour I had after the President told me he needed those.   Needless to say I didn't get it all done by noon - in fact it was more like 1 o'clock when we finally finished and I can't remember if we even got lunch that day.....maybe it was just late.

Tuesday was not quite so hectic as the departing and arriving missionaries did not come into the office.   However, when the President returned from the airport he told me that I had paid for two bags for an Elder that only took one bag home so I needed to work with the airline to get a refund for the second bag......I've got that process in the works.   But I have a couple of questions.....How do you only take home one bag of items?   Were all the pants and shirts so worn out that he threw them away or did he donate them to Goodwill?    Lesson learned - I will call each departing missionary a week before they are scheduled to leave and find out if they will be taking one or two bags home :)

Tuesday evening we helped the other office couple set up a meal for the 20 arriving missionaries.....the food was put out buffet style.   They had 3 pans of lasagna, 3 loaves of garlic bread, a large green salad, and dessert......sort of reminded me of our bi-weekly family dinners and I really wished my family was there!

Wednesday was a day to remember!   It was raining cats and dogs!

We had 120 missionaries come to the office on Wednesday morning for orientation and transfer meeting.   Elder Ashton and I had to talk with the 20 new missionaries and explain what we do and when they need to contact us.   The other 100 missionaries were there because the President had to make changes in companionships (who lives and works with who) due to the 25 departing missionaries and the 20 arriving missionaries.   Most of those 120 missionaries were moving to a new place.   The hallways and foyer of the church were CROWDED with luggage!

The missionaries all met with the Mission President and his wife and the new companionships were announced.   In the office we could hear squeals, giggles, shouts, etc. (mostly from the Sister Missionaries) as they received their new assignments.   I am not used to the squeals and giggles (Felicia never did much of that ) so I think that is something I need to adjust to and prepare myself for each time there is a transfer meeting ;-)   Once the meeting was over, a sack lunch was provided for the missionaries....We thought that was a good time for us to run out and grab lunch but we had only been gone about 10 minutes when my phone rang and I heard a voice of panic saying, "Are you and Elder Ashton in the building?   We have missionaries here who need car keys and information about drivers, etc."   No one told us that we needed to be available until after all missionaries had left the building so we immediately returned to the church/office and found it jammed with missionaries looking for packages, needing information about cars and drivers, needing teaching supplies.  Can I say SEMI-ORGANIZED CHAOS!   The young missionaries have so much energy and enthusiasm I almost get tired just watching them.   And the rain continued to pour down.   As missionaries grabbed their luggage and loaded it up then came back into the office to get other things they were literally dripping water!   One of the new missionaries that was dripping wet was kind enough to let me take his picture.....I told him that he reminds me of my grandson Cooper and found it interesting that his name is Elder Davis and Cooper's name is Cooper DAVIS Ashton.   He grinned and said that was interesting because his first name starts with C - he is Cameron Davis.   Interesting coincidences!

I think it is his tall thin frame and rosy cheeks that remind me the most of Cooper.

The rain continued for the rest of the day and even into Thursday.   I found it interesting to see what happened to the plants and ground after that good soaking.   The trees outside the office window got so wet that the lichen really stood out on the wet side of the tree!

The 2.5 days of rain has also caused moss to grow outside our door.....I really feel like I am back in Washington state with all the rain and gray skies.   Sure am glad to see the sun today!

We were ready for a day off by the time Thursday arrived and had a nice Thanksgiving dinner with our neighbors (the other office couple).   I made a pumpkin pie, a pecan pie, and a large green salad.   I spent most of the rest of the day cooking mini loaves of sweet bread.....I've been assigned to make 20 of those by next Saturday.  Loaf number 10, 11, and 12 cooling and waiting to go in the freezer.

Friday was a quiet day at the office and Elder Ashton and I were able to get caught up on a few things.   Today we plan to go exploring again.....hoping to see some interesting sights!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

The Adventures of Moving

November 23, 2014

In July of 1998 when we moved into our home in Gilbert I told Elder Ashton that I was NOT going to move again......little did I know at that time that I would be moving into an apartment in Chesapeake Virginia this past week.   And even though we had help from others in the mission (including four young elders) can I just say that I REALLY DISLIKE moving!    I was very anxious to get in our own place and stop living out of suitcases but it is alot of work to unpack and get an apartment set up. We are making good progress on settling in, but every day I find two or three things I don't have that I really need to function efficiently!  We started moving in on Tuesday and managed to get about 1/2 of the stuff put away and two beds set up before we crashed for the night!

We got up the next morning expecting to have breakfast at out dining table - we had purchased cereal, milk, bread, butter, paper plates, plasticware....but OOOPS, the other office couple still had all the dishes and pots and pans - we didn't have any bowls for cereal, and no toaster to make toast.  So, Elder Ashton had a small container of yogurt for breakfast and I had a bit of rice pudding (rice is a grain so that's healthy, right?)

That same couple had sent us home from dinner at their house on Tuesday night with some leftover spaghetti so I planned to use that for supper on Wednesday evening.   We got home and I started to get the Spaghetti out of the refrigerator and stopped in my tracks to say, "We don't have a microwave to warm this up! - oh, well, we can just heat it on top of the stove - no wait, we don't have any pots and pans!"   I looked at Elder Ashton and said "well maybe we could just put it on a paper plate (totally forgetting our situation) and warm it up".  He said, "In the microwave we don't have?" and we both started to we had sandwiches for supper :)

By Thursday evening I felt like we finally had most of our "required" kitchen tools.....even a toaster, a microwave and a crock pot!


The "Bike" Room

The "Master" bedroom

The "Master" bathroom

The Living Room

The "Den"/AKA Computer Corner in the Living Room

I believe this apartment is about the same size as the 3rd apartment we lived in while going to school at BYU in 1971/1972 and so far we seem to be doing fine......even though we share a cube at the office during the day and a small apartment on our off time, no hard feelings yet.  Maybe that is because Elder Ashton has been giving lots of "Yes, dear - whatever you want" responses ;-D

We continued to work at getting comfortable in the apartment in our off hours through the week and finally got internet and TV set up on Friday.  I haven't watched any TV yet but am certainly glad to have internet access....I've felt like I have been out of the loop!

While we were busy moving on Tuesday, Elder Simmons (in the maroon sweater) got a call telling him that his brother had passed away.   He and Sister Simmons were scheduled to leave this coming Wednesday, November 26, but due to the passing of his brother they left on Thursday, November 10 instead.   We took one last picture with the "office staff" before they left the office on Wednesday.   Elder and Sister Wilson (on the left of the picture) take care of the apartments, baptisms, referrals, and supplies.....they will be going home to Boise Idaho in early March; Sister Stoecker (next to me in the picture) is the mission secretary.   She lives here locally and is serving for two years.....she will be released next summer.  Elder and Sister Simmons who trained Elder Ashton and I should be back in Utah by now and they will be missed in the office and in the ward!   I already had to call Sister Simmons once to ask her where to find something in the software, but felt better when she told me it wasn't there and we had to do a "work around" to handle that process - made me feel just like I was back working with the good old court software AZTEC :)

On Saturday we went over to Norfolk, hoping to get close and see the Norfolk Navy Shipyard, but we couldn't find it.    We did get the excitement of driving through a tunnel under another arm of the bay - and I didn't even hold my breath this time!

A shot from the moving vehicle of some of the work being done on the ships.

We rushed back from our adventures and went shopping in preparation for feeding three of the young men missionaries last night.   I decided to make a pan of chicken enchiladas, have chips & salsa, green salad, and a Better Than XXX cake" - but had to go shopping first because I only had one 9x12 pan and needed two to fix the dinner.  I had also volunteered to make some pecan pies to take over to the house where we are having dinner on Thanksgiving and I didn't have any pie pans or Crisco to make the pie crust.

After more than an hour of shopping we came home, put the stuff away and I started to cook.  Oh, My, What an adventure!  As I started to mix the cake, I realized that I had only ONE  liquid measuring cup (at home I have 4) and only ONE rubber spatula (at home I have 6 or 7), and I didn't have any salad tongs or other utensils to serve the salad - ended up using two large spoons and washing the spatula and measuring cup multiple times while cooking.   I didn't realize I had been living so high with all my kitchen tools back in Arizona but I think I might need to get a few more kitchen tools if I am going to survive for 18 months back here!

Even with the preparation challenges I think the young Elders appreciated the dinner last night - there wasn't much left when we were done.   They asked us if we would go with them again at 8 o'clock to teach JaNae and we were glad to do that.   She had a rough week as she had to go to court and her two children were taken away from her for awhile (probably something that happened while she was suffering from postpartum depression).   I feel so sad for her.   She is such a quiet and gentle person and really wants to follow what Jesus wants her to do.  She said that when her kids were taken she just wanted to go home to her apartment and crawl into bed and not get back up, but then she had a thought that she needed to have faith that God and Jesus would help her through this.   I sure hope she can find some peace!   When we left last night I gave her a big hug and told her that I think she is an awesome young woman to move forward with faith even though things are very hard right now.   She tentatively agreed to be baptized on December 27th, but didn't come to church this morning so I don't know if something came up or if she has changed her mind.  Guess time will tell.

Driving away from church this you can tell the sky is gray again.   Haven't seen much sunshine when we got here - I'm wondering if we got confused and drive West to Washington State instead of East to Virginia :)

Home next to the river

Same home from different angle

Home sits on this little knoll along the Elizabeth River

We drive over the bridge that spans the Elizabeth River several times a day on our way to the office and back home.   Every time I pass the home and docks shown above I start singing, "Way down along the Swanee River" in my mind.....this is what I picture that would be like.

When we arrived home from Church today, we had a little squirrel visiting just across the parking lot.   I don't know if you can see it, but it is the little gray thing with the bushy tail on the road right in the middle in front of the sidewalk.   Bushy tailed squirrels were everywhere the first few days we were here, but I haven't been seeing as many.   I think they may have gathered most of the acorns and have decided to hibernate for the winter because it has been pretty cold here.

In the last four weeks we've received some great letters, emails, phone calls, and text messages from friends and family.   Keep them coming.......they all help me to feel a little less homesick.

Happy Thanksgiving Week to one and all.   Wish I was there to hug on my family and friends, but realize it is because of all my blessings (and my gratitude for those blessings) that I am here on the East Coast learning to love and care for others.   

It will be a crazy busy week as 25 young missionaries are leaving to go home on Tuesday morning and 20 young missionaries are coming in to begin their missions on Tuesday afternoon.   I have the responsibility of printing boarding passes and paying luggage fees for all departing missionaries and for handing out pre-loaded debit cards to all arriving missionaries.   Just thinking about how busy it will be makes me tired!   I think I will go take a nap :)

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Adventures Adjusting to the Virginia, Chesapeake Mission - first week

November 16

Beginning on Wednesday morning, November 12, arrived at the mission office to begin learning our duties and soon found out that the office is a bustling place.   The vehicle coordinator (otherwise known as the car czar - Elder Ashton) gets lots of calls from the missionaries reporting their mileage for the week, that they have a flat tire and don't know what to do, that they don't know where to go to get the oil changed in their vehicle or that they have had an accident.   I think they currently have 8 or 9 vehicles pending repair from little fender benders.   With all of those things going on, the phone rings often and young Elders and Sisters are rarely happy when they have to ride bikes for a week or two while their vehicle is repaired.  We are currently in the office from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. with a break for lunch because that is the hours the couple we are replacing works.   When they go home in 10 days we may decide to change our hours but only time will tell.  We worked in the office being trained on our tasks on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday.

I've noticed some interesting things about Chesapeake/Portsmouth.

Many of the buildings are red brick - at least in some areas of the towns.   On our drive from the hotel to the office each day I have noticed that it is rare to see buildings that are NOT red brick......whole neighborhoods are nothing but red brick, much like whole neighborhoods are nothing but tan stucco in Arizona.

The red brick construction applies to homes, stores, schools, and all different kinds of churches.   And speaking of churches......there are MANY different churches here.   I think there is at least one church per block along the main streets and I learned from the young missionaries last night that they find most of the people here to be very interested in religion and God....most attend church of some kind on a regular basis.

There are also MANY bushy tailed squirrels around here.   I see them in the parking lots, running across the grass and scampering up the trees.   I have tried and tried to get a picture of one, but they must have super-powered hearing because I can't get within 50 feet of them and they run away :(   We talked to a guide at one of the  historical sites yesterday and she said she is OK with one or two but when she came out of her apartment the other day and 8 of them were gathering acorns around the base of the tree it freaked her out and she thought, "that is too much like a rat convention for my liking!"

Thursday nite we went with the young elders and another senior couple to dinner at a member's house.   She fixed us blueberry pancakes with fresh picked blueberries and blueberry syrup......Oh, so tasty!

We did find a few buildings that are not red brick construction.   One of those buildings is our apartment building (the one of the bottom right will be our apartment) that we are moving into on Tuesday.   I am anxious to get moved in and settled and to stop living out of suitcases!   Yesterday morning we went shopping for a few things we think we will need when we get in the apartment....mostly towels and bedding.   After we get moved in we will need to go shopping for food and any other things we feel we might need.
Our home for 2 more days will be this Hampton Inn.  It has been very comfortable and they have treated us great and although I will be glad to get in our own apartment I will miss having a maid to clean up after me and someone else to cook all the meals ;-)

Yesterday (Saturday) we went and did a little exploring of some of the historical areas in the town of Portsmouth.

We started out in the harbor area and walked along the boardwalk.   I found it to be a very calming place with the sound of the water lapping against the sea wall, the sound of the gulls and the breeze blowing.

I loved the made me laugh because no one would ever need to worry about me doing ANY of those things.

Ferry service between the Portsmouth area and the Norfolk area started in 1636.   The service was continued for a short time in the mid 1950's but is back in operation now.   A person may drive through the tunnel under the bay to Norfolk or take the ferry.   We saw a rather large number of people rushing to catch the ferry so it seems to be a popular mode of transportation

We found monuments to fighting men.....this one had to do with Cubans and the Spanish American War.   There was also a large monument (looked like a smaller version of the Washington Monument that is on the Mall in Washington, D.C.) that was honoring the Confederate dead.   We are truly in the south here!!

Our speaker in church today told us before the meeting that he was going to tell us how to conjugate "y'all.  He said one person is "you", two people are "y'all", and three or more people are "all y'all"....and that is exactly what I heard during one of the classes.   I'm going to have to work on my southern speak ;-)


We spent some time in the Maritime Museum.   This area has a long and rich Maritime history dating back even before the Revolutionary War.   This anchor and the two cannon below are found outside the Maritime Museum.

The first exhibit in the museum.....this ships wheel.

Another cannon found inside the museum.

A British bayonet used in fighting against the US.   The British took control of Portsmouth for a time during the war.

An empty rum bottle from one of the early I know where that saying "Yo, ho, ho and a bottle of rum" comes from ;-)

Fire gear for a Portsmouth fireman from the mid 1800's

Many years ago, there were no lighthouses to protect the ships along the coast.   In order to fill the need to warn the ships, light boats were commissioned.   Portsmouth had one of the first light boats....the crew was responsible to keep the lights burning on the boat and to sound the fog horn if ships got too close to a dangerous situation.   One of the light boats has been restored and is anchored in the harbor and may be toured as a museum.   It was closed on Saturday so we were unable to tour it. :(    After several years of service, the boats were de-commissioned and light houses were constructed.   The lights in a light house are called Fresnel Lens and one of the early ones was displayed in the museum.

We also toured the train "museum" which was really just a few train cars that have been partially refurbished and set on a small section of track.   We had a personally guided tour and our tour guide showed us a diorama of a train route that he had built.   It was very detailed and impressive.   I could tell from the things he said that he really loved railroad cars so I asked him what got him interested (Elder Ashton was talking alot about his grandfathers who both worked on the for a short period of time and one for a long time) so I wondered if our guide also had family who worked on the railroad.   He said, "I don't know, I have loved trains since I was a little 4 year old boy!"

Before the advent of computers, train crews kept a log of where they traveled, when they stopped, when they took on coal, passengers, etc.   The page above is dated 1941 and would have been something that was kept as Elder Ashton's and my parents rode the trains across the county to get to their assigned duty stations during WWII.

There are many beautiful and intricate churches in the historic district.

Also many wonderful historic homes that have been restored (at least on the outside.   I was intrigued with the intricate trim and architecture!

And guess what Elder Ashton has found......several cemeteries.   We found this one yesterday afternoon and he estimated that there are between 10,000 and 12,000 headstones there.   Billion Graves would probably love to get all those images!   The oldest death date was from the early 1800's and  he found several Civil War, Confederate veteran graves.   I think he will have plenty to do in any spare time he has :)

To top the day off, the young Elders asked us to go along to a teaching appointment they had with a young black woman (in her early 20's).   Her name is JaNae.  They met her earlier in the week and she told them she was attending different churches looking for just the right one so she was amenable to hearing about the Mormon church.   When we started chatting with her last night, we learned that she had recently been hospitalized for post partum  depression.   She has an 18 month old little girl who was there last night, and a six week old baby boy who is staying with her cousin right now until she is a little more recovered.   I immediately felt drawn to JaNae, and felt even more compassion for her when she mentioned that the baby's father is in prison.   She has a hard situation to deal with!

JaNae came to church this morning and brought her little girl (I think her name is Jaden) with her.   I AM SMITTEN!!!   That little girl is the cutest thing I have ever seen and so very polite.   I gave her a couple of things out of my purse to entertain her during sacrament meeting and as I handed them to her she looked at me with her beautiful brown eyes and said, "Tank U".   My heart just melted!  I hope I will get to know JaNae better during the 18 months we are here and I also hope that her life will get easier!   Meeting and talking with her reinforced just how blessed I am - and I hope I can share some of my blessings with the people I meet here.

So far this is turning out to be a very rewarding adventure :)