Sunday, April 26, 2015

A Singular Adventure

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Happy semi-anniversary to Elder Ashton and me.....6 months ago today we entered the MTC in Provo and I had no idea what to expect but never could have predicted all the experiences we have had - good, bad, ugly, sorrowful, uplifting, funny, inspiring.....I could go on and on.   It has been an adjustment and I still miss all those I left behind fiercely, but we are having a great time!

This past week it was almost like I was in Arizona because Elder Ashton was gone most of the week.  He left on Tuesday morning to travel around eastern North Carolina for 5 days giving training to young Elders and Sisters on how to take care of their mission vehicles.   He taught them about checking the oil, checking their tires, safe driving , etc., etc.   He said he had a great time but was tired at the end of each day and I think he realized he did not have as much energy as those 20 year old kids do!  He will be doing more training this week, but will be home every night.   This past week he didn't make it home until I was sound asleep on Friday night and left again on Saturday morning.   He left his shiny new red truck so I had wheels! - and could go anywhere I thought I could get to without getting lost :)  The first night I went to Ross, to Target, and just driving around looking at the beautiful plants and trees before I ever went home from the office.   Sad to say there was an officer involved shooting on Wednesday morning where a young black man was killed and there was a fair amount of unrest in the town (there was already some problems because 2 members of city administration had just been forced to resign) so I decided to stay close to home.   I waited until Friday after work and took another little drive to take a few pictures so you can all see some of the things I see.

We had some heavy rain early last week where the rain came down in buckets!!!  It is good because that washes the pollen out of the air for a day or two.  I came home for lunch one day and found this leaf blown up against my door.   I was intrigued by Mother Nature's artwork - pollen that had gotten wet while on the leaf and then dried in a pattern.
I think the pollen is calming down a bit but that might be due to all the rain yesterday and last night....I know my allergies are much calmer today!

I noticed these flowers outside the church where we work every day.....they were on the front side and I never go in or out that side but they stood out to me.   When I went out to take a picture I was even more intrigued to find the center of the flower is made up of tiny flowers!   

The variety and intricacies of what I see around me every day is astounding!

When I arrived home on Tuesday evening, two very colorful cardinals were sitting about 3 feet from the door of the truck.  I was really excited about getting a picture that close so reached to get my phone out of my purse and by the time I turned around the birds were flying away into a tree.   I climbed out of the truck and tried to sneak up on them.   But they had flown into a tree that was the perfect camouflage - how would I know which was a red leaf and which was a cardinal?

I was finally able to capture one from very far away when I realized the birds had not flown into the tree but were on the ground, blending in with the leaves down there.   
Can you see the cardinal? - it's about 1/3 of the way down from the top.

I learned some interesting lessons this week- just from everyday occurrences.  The first lesson I learned had to do with mt recent surgery and the allergies I have been suffering from.  It is kind of hard to keep blowing my runny nose when my nose is still tender (but looking pretty good).
Anyway, as I was blowing and blowing my nose the other day I was reminded of an on-line discussion the Ashton family had on a private web site a few years ago asking if you "honk" when you blow your nose? and I answered yes to that question.   I realized the other day that the pitch of my "honk" has changed and then just started to laugh out loud when I realized that my nose is just like a wind "instrument" and if the shape of the tube changes the pitch of the sound will change.   So, now I "honk" in a tenor range rather than bass....might be something to consider if you are thinking about getting a nose job done ;-D

Elder Ashton and I pass this property several times a day on our way to and from the office....and I stare out the window at it every time.   I just find the setting so tranquil and it just draws me in.   I think I have mentioned before that they have various kinds of animals roaming the property and the other day I was able to capture some of those along with a very unusual evergreen tree - I've never seen anything like it before.  
The horses were out.....I love the furry little pony!
 The pretty white house and fence with a smaller building closer to the water.

A pair of geese were just getting in the water at the bottom of the property.  Their personal pier and houses across the Elizabeth River
Another view from the edge of the bridge at the end of their property.
 The unusual evergreen in the corner of the property.   Do you notice that all the branches and cones hang down from the limbs?  Anybody know what kind of tree this is?
As I was walking back to the truck after taking the pictures, I noticed that the property is called "Wildwood".   I think that is perfect.    I missed getting pictures of the llama, the goats and the ducks -but maybe another time.

On Friday we took about 30 minutes out of our work day at lunch time for a little levity.   These young missionaries had just finished a meeting in our building and in their "world" they say they are "dyeing" when they go home.....meaning their mission life is over.   Sooooooo, our mission secretary, Carol Stoecker,  has been with the mission since May of 2013 when they first started planning for the mission which was organized in July 2013.  She lives here in the area and has come into the office for about 4-5 hours every day to write letters, make travel arrangements, help with communications between missionaries and parents when there is a special need, etc.   She will be finishing her mission on Thursday, April 30th, so she decided she wanted to go out with a bang and planned a wake for herself.   And she even provided the luncheon after her wake - pizza and chocolate cake.   It was great to see how much the young missionaries have grown to love her and how much they will miss her.

 Everyone was trying to look like they were mourning, but I see quite a few smiles :)

Sister Stoecker and Sister Parry who will go home in September.  This young lady has an amazing voice and can play the violin so beautifully it will bring tears to your eyes!

Sister Stoecker and Elder Willis.   Elder Willis will go home in June - he's a really nice, but very skinny young man.   I think his mom will need to fatten him up when he gets home.

Another lesson learned from Mother Nature this week.   As I was driving around, looking for pretty pictures to share with all of you, I noticed some delicate, lacy light purple flowers/vines drooping over a fence.   I was in a place where I couldn't stop but ran on to some others later in a couple of places.   

Running over fences and climbing up into other trees, all around you see these delicate little light purple flowers.   I've learned it is Wisteria......and I really like it - very pretty.   However, after it was brought to the area and planted because of its ornamental beauty, homeowners began to realize that this plant needed to be cared for regularly - or it would take over other things in their yards, sometimes even choking out the other vegetation.   As I was reading about it the other night, I learned that it must be pruned at least once a month and then pruned back by half the previous years growth just prior to winter.  In other words, it's a lot of work to keep it under control!
As I thought about how beautiful the Wisteria is, I realized it is even more beautiful when it it cared for and its growth is contained rather than left to grow wildly.   Isn't that much like our lives - how much more beautiful and happy they can be when we follow rules and guidelines rather than living for the moment with no thought for the future or for how our actions affect others.   Below is a well contained Wisteria - BEAUTIFUL! - just as our lives can be when they are well-contained.

Saturday was a busy day.   It was rainy and Elder Ashton was gone.   The laundry needed to be done, the groceries needed to be purchased but most important, Sister Ashton NEEDED a pedicure.   I've only had one in the 5.5 months we've been back here and didn't go back because I thought the salon was dirty and not very well organized.   I finally asked Sister Stoecker (the mission secretary) if she knew of a place and she told me there was a good one over in Suffolk - about 8 miles away.   So I pumped up my courage and told Siri where I wanted to go - and we made it.   The salon was so nice and clean and very nice technicians who couldn't speak much English.   The one who did my toes was so gentle she didn't hurt me a bit when she got my ingrown toenails taken care of.   I'll be going back to see BB in about 6 weeks and my best friend Siri will go along with me because she got me there without any problems :)

I went straight to the grocery store from there and was busy putting groceries away when the two young Sister Missionaries called to ask me if I would play the piano for a baptism that was starting in 2 hours.   I told them I would because they were desperate, but to expect that I would make mistakes because I was out of practice.  I got the groceries all put away and 2 more loads of laundry done and then quickly changed from my jeans to a skirt and headed to the church.   What a tender mercy I received as I was able to play about 10 songs (some for prelude) with only one or two mistakes.  I have not played the piano even one note for about 10 months so I was really surprised I could play the chosen songs and others appropriate for quiet contemplation.  And to add to the tender mercy- the neuropathy in my fingers did not hurt at all while I was playing or for a couple of hours afterward!   I know those things were help from above to bring peace and calm to the meeting.   The young mother spoke about her journey in deciding to join the church and how she was looking for a church that would help her repent so she could stop feeling guilty about some things she had done.   She felt impressed to come to our church one particular Sunday and found that the theme for Sacrament meeting was Repentence.   She left the meeting in tears and went straight to the bishop to tell him she wanted to be baptized.  The young Sister Missionaries have been teaching her and she seemed ecstatic after the baptism.

One last bit of spring beauty to share with you.   The Azalea and Rhododendron bushes are blooming - lots of glorious colors!   I couldn't resist snapping this picture as we drove by.

My eyes see lots of beauty around me and my heart feels lots of joy as I meet and learn to love more and more people.   We have 14 missionaries going home on May 12 and I have grown pretty close to 8 of the 14 as I have helped them out in the office.   I'm sure I'll miss them after they go home, but I'm grateful for the opportunity to get to know them.

These last 6 months of service have been a wonderful learning and growing experience for me!

Sunday, April 19, 2015

A Rocky Balboa Adventure

Sunday, April 19, 2015

I started the week off first thing on Monday morning with some MOHs surgery on my nose to remove the Basil Cell cancer that was there.   It was only local anesthesia so I didn't have to starve myself and the surgery was scheduled to begin at 8:00 a.m. but in typical Ashton fashion we arrived early and they started the surgery about 7:45.   They had told me to come prepared to stay all day since MOHs surgery entails that they take the first cut, send it off to pathology to see if they got it all, and continue to take cuts until pathology reveals that they have clean margins on the tissue that was removed.   I was LUCKY - they got it all with the first cut and then the surgeon sutured it up very neatly with the hopes of minimal scarring.  In order to make my nose look as normal as possible, he did some trimming and pulled it all together promising me a skinnier nose.  He asked me if I would mind if my nose was thinner and I promptly replied that I'm good with any skinny part on my body;-)
By 11:30 we were back home and I was feeling pretty good but the medical team told me to stay home that day so I took some extra strength tylenol and took a 3 hour nap.   When I woke up, this is what I looked like.

They had to use so much novacaine to deaden my nose that it felt like a 3 foot square on the front of my face for about 4 hours.   When that wore off I could tell that my heart was beating well - I felt every beat in my nose!
Since I had such a long nap in the afternoon, I stayed up after my bedtime (until 10 p.m.) and took some more tylenol and headed to bed.   By that time the doctor had called at about 8 p.m. to check on me and when I told him my eyes were beginning to swell he said, "We did tell you that you are not supposed to lie flat, didn't we?"   Uh, No.   So for future naps and nights during the recuperation process I will be sleeping with pillows behind me.

I woke up feeling really good on Tuesday morning....just a niggling of pain.  So this time I took some ibuprofen and went to the office.   When I asked Elder Ashton if there were bills laying on my desk waiting for payment, he said I got more mail than anyone in the office on Monday and probably had about 20 bills waiting for me......I only had 19.   I did good on Tuesday and stayed in the office the entire day, but was glad to relax when we got back to the apartment.  It helped that I had these beautiful flowers to look at - President and Sister Baker gave them to me and they really are beautiful!

 This is what I looked like when we got back to the apartment on Tuesday night....

I was developing some natural eyeshadow (top and bottom) and my eyes were starting to swell.
With the help of Extra Strength Tylenol and several pillows behind my back, I slept very well on Tuesday.

Wednesday morning I woke up feeling OK, except that my eyes were narrow slits in my face.   It looked like I had two baby water balloons under my eyes and there was much more purple.   But I felt pretty good and really needed to get the rent payments processed so they would get to the landlords by May 1 so I went into the office.   It was hard to hold my eyes open as they continued to swell but I knew I needed to finish processing the rent.   I finally finished that just before lunch time, so stayed home that afternoon putting ice bags on my eyes for 10 minutes every hour.   That helped and by Thursday I was looking much better (comparatively)

On the way to the office Thursday, I noticed that we had new types of blooms popping out all over....and we had already noticed that there is yellow pollen everywhere.  Elder Ashton has been trying to keep his shiny red truck clean but it is impossible.   Most of the time it is covered with a coating of yellowish green pollen.

White dogwood trees  - you can see that this is in the yard of a well-kept brick home.   This home is on the edge (right next door) to a pretty run-down section of town.   I am always surprised at what seems to be the lack of zoning here.....and we very rarely see anything resembling a subdivision.  Most are just single family homes that people have built wherever they purchased a lot.  But even the homes that are kind of run-down generally have beautiful trees or plants in their yards.   As I was driving by some of these the other day the thought crossed my mind that most humans look for beauty around them and try to surround themselves with it if they can.

Pink dogwood.....I can't decide if I like the white or the pink dogwood trees better.   The white ones remind me of lace, but the pink ones bring an immediate smile to my face - they just say SPRING

Thursday was a good day in the office - with just enough work to keep my busy.   Elder Ashton was busy preparing for a visitor from Fleet Management to come from Salt Lake on Friday and for his next teaching assignments in North Carolina coming up this week.   He will be taking a new mission car down and exchanging it with a set of missionaries who have about 52000 miles on their car.   That means he will leave his shiny  red truck here with me and he will be gone Tuesday through Saturday.   I haven't done much driving by myself since we got back here but usually do OK if I ask Siri for, if I venture out I better make sure Siri is charged up and ready to go!

Friday was a really challenging day.   Elder Ashton and I arrived at the office just before 8:00 a.m. and he was trying to get ready for Brother Jensen to come.   I tried to start my work and found that we could not get on the internet.   Elder Ashton went down the hall to reset the router and I tried restarting the computer but nothing worked.   I had an Elder call at 8:15 a.m. to say that he lost his church issued debit card.   When that happens I need to call Salt Lake immediately and cancel the card.   They want to know the missionary ID, the last 4 digits of the card number and the balance on the card......all of which I get from an internet based program.....couldn't get to the internet.   I tried calling the FM (Facilities Management) group that is supposed to take care of those things and got no answer.  Before we could try anything more, Brother Jensen was there and he finally hooked his laptop up to his hot spot on his phone so he could discuss some things about the software with Elder Ashton.    I kept trying to find different contact numbers and tried calling them but NO ONE was answering there phone.   One brother from FM group finally called me back and told us one other thing to try and said he was in the Washington DC area helping with the Mission President's seminar.   He said if his suggestion did not work he would try to get in on Monday and might be able to figure out what was wrong by noon.   But GLORY HALLELUJAH!   When we went to church this morning (in the same building where the office is located) I checked and we could get on the internet.  I hope it is still that way tomorrow morning :/

On Saturday morning Elder Ashton went riding his bike.  I slept in, then got up and started the laundry and went to the grocery store by myself.   I think this is only the 2nd time I have done that in the 6 months we have been gone from home and I found that I still remember how to shop for groceries (jk).   I only forgot 3 things and had to send Elder Ashton back for those later!

Coming back from the store I happened upon another pink tree that I have been trying to figure out as we drive by multiple times a day.   And, since I was by myself, there was nothing to keep me from stopping to examine it more closely.  I have no idea what it is.....but I think it is beautiful and the flowers remind me of tissue flowers I used to make from kleenex tissue when I was a girl.  Do any of you remember those?

Since my nose was all bandaged up, I couldn't tell if they had a scent to them....I remember we used to spray a little perfume on the ones we made :)

Saturday was filled with regular Saturday chores of laundry and cleaning - plus we had the Elders for dinner.    For Elder Ashton it was almost like a regular work day.  He must have had 6 or 7 phone calls from missionaries (they locked their keys in the car in Greenville, NC., they needed to change out cars, etc., etc.,   He went to the office twice in about a 3 hour time frame before the elders got here for dinner. The Elders had asked that we go with them after dinner to teach an investigator, and I was fine with going but sure not looking forward to putting on a dress again on Saturday!  However, when the Elders were here eating dinner, they got a text that the investigator decided he didn't feel comfortable with more strangers coming to his home.   Yeah, no  dress for me this Saturday!  After the Elders left, I asked Elder Ashton if he would take me for a little drive to old town Portsmouth to see if I could find any historic buildings.  Portsmouth has been around a long time and has some interesting history.  In 1620 John Wood petitioned King James in England to allow them to construct a community in the Portsmouth area as it had been determined this would be a good place for building ships. The surrounded area was settled as a plantation community and it was established as a town in 1752 by the Virginia General Assembly.   Even though it was officially established as a town until that time, there were a good number of inhabitants in the area.   We came across this Baptist church on our short drive last night.  

I thought it was interesting to see that this Ebenezer Baptist congregation has existed for such a long time!  I had hoped to capture more of the stained glass windows but the sunlight was in the wrong place so I was not able to do that.    

We drove around a bit more and saw quite a number of historic homes and businesses.   I liked the one below the best of those we saw yesterday.

One thing we have noticed back here, especially in the historic places of towns, is that the wires all run overhead, nothing underground.  I really liked the architecture on this house and the color scheme.  I did notice that it is REALLY close to the house next door!

Today at church we learned that we have two sisters who have been investigating the church and will be baptized in the next couple of weeks.   It was interesting to hear their stories.  One is a young mother (looks to be in her late 20's) who walked into church about a month ago and said she wanted to be baptized.   I don't know how she first learned about the church but she has been taking the lessons and getting lots of push back from family and friends.   Last week she came and you could tell she had been crying and I heard her tell the missionaries that things were really hard at home.   This week they announced in sacrament meeting that she will be baptized next Saturday and she has a grin a mile wide on her face!  The other sister is from the Phillipines and is probably 60 or so.  She married her husband who was a US serviceman over there and came to this country.   She said her husband was a member of the church but he must not have been participating because she said she lived in the house across the street for 30 years and never went into the church.   Her husband died a few years ago and she started looking for something more.   She said, "I have been Catholic all my life but when these two young men come to my house, I know I need to change."   She said some of her family is not pleased with her decision to get baptized on May 2 (her birthday) but her comment was, "Be happy for me.   We all need to find our own way.  I grown woman now and know this is right for me."

I wonder if I would have the faith of these two very different women?

I  am strengthened by the faith I see around me....the investigators, the missionaries, the President and Sister Baker, and the members.   And although I find myself grinning sometimes at the southern colloquialisms I hear from the pulpit, I can feel of the goodness of the people's hearts.   We had a Patriarch from our stake speak to us today about the apostasy and the restoration and how it all fits together.   He has been a Patriarch for 35 years and I really like what he had to say.

And the last picture of this week's Rocky Balboa adventure.   I get the sutures out tomorrow and think as the swelling and redness from the surgery dissipate that I will like my slimmer nose.   I can't run the steps of the building in Philadelphia like Rocky did but I think I manage the black eyes and swollen face almost as well as he did ;-D

Sunday, April 12, 2015

A Beautiful Adventure

Sunday, April 12, 2015

After many years of sage brush green and cactus gray and dirt brown, my eyes are almost overwhelmed with the color I see around me everywhere!!!  Seems I see vibrant color everywhere I look at this world abloom here in Virginia.   We have daffodils, tulips, roses, and pansies everywhere (those are the flowers and bushes I know the names of).   There are probably a hundred other blooming varieties that I DON'T know the names of but I love the beautiful colors!

These two beautiful tulips were found in the courtyard at the church. (Please disregard the portions of my skirt and shoes that made their way into the pictures - I am really a terrible photographer but maybe you can still get the idea of what it is like)

Monday and Tuesday were pretty regular days at the office and at home - plenty to do but not so much going on that it was overwhelming or chaotic.  On Wednesday morning we arrived at the office just before 8 o'clock and found a couple of missionaries already there.   I think we represent grandparents away from home to most of them so they usually come to our desks to give us hugs and to talk to us.   I LOVE getting the hugs because they remind me of the hugs from my grandkids :)  Elder Ashton immediately got busy setting up tables in the cultural hall for the Mission Leadership Conference scheduled to start at 10:00.   I stayed in the office for a short time to man the phones and took about 5 calls in an hour.  By that time, President and Sister Baker were there and Sister Shaw was ready for some help getting the tablecloths on the tables and the decorations set up.   By 9 a.m. there were about 20 missionaries there and cars needed to be delivered to the repair shop, problems with phones needed to be solved, etc.  While the missionaries were in their meeting, Elder Ashton took the new air compressor he bought and went around checking the tires on the missionary automobiles.   He found one mini van where the back tires were completely bald - no tread!   And the van had less than 20K miles on it.   He ordered tires so they could be put on when those same two elders came back for a zone meeting on Friday.   Finally, by 4:30 all the young missionaries had left the church/office and Elder Ashton and I headed home for some rest!

However, as we drove into the driveway at the apartment complex, I noticed that the tree by the entrance that had little red balls on it last week was starting to change.   On Wednesday it looked like this.

Just starting to bloom.   I looked online and think this may be a flowering crab apple tree but don't see any evidence of fruit yet so I'm not sure.

On Saturday, it looked like the 3 pictures shown above - mostly light pink/white flowers with only a very few red dots left.

Thursday and Friday, Elder Ashton went over to Virginia Beach and was given 40 minutes to do some training on how to take care of cars, etc.   He was like a little boy at Christmas - so excited for the opportunity that he couldn't sleep and woke up at 2:30 a.m. on Thursday morning.   He has said that the training sessions went well and he thinks the missionaries are learning something.   He is doing everything within his power to help them get and stay organized.   He made a "coupon booklet" for every car.   The missionaries are supposed to complete a weekly coupon about what maintenance they have done on their car - check oil, check tires, wash, vacuum, etc.   He bought a 'bank bag" to fit in the glove box of every car that can hold the "coupon booklet", the mileage report and the gas receipts.   The bags look like this and he has red, green and blue bags so they should be easy for the missionaries to keep track of.
Zipper Wallets 11x6 Expanded Vinyl

On Saturday morning I woke up about 7:45 and came out of the bedroom to find the apartment deserted......but no note from Elder Ashton.   I wondered where he was and then opened the blinds a bit and saw him out in the parking lot "working" on his pride and joy.....the new truck.   He was organizing the things in the back, working under the hood, and polishing the truck......and whistling a tune while he was doing all of that ;-)

I got the laundry started, got dressed, ate some breakfast and went out to see what Elder Ashton's plan for the day was.   He said he would do whatever I wanted and I told him I needed to have an adventure but hadn't decided on anyplace to I came back inside and checked out some things in the area that we might go see.   After another hour and a half, Elder Ashton came in to get ready to go on our adventure.   We decided to go to Elizabeth City, North Carolina that sits on Albermarle Sound where three rivers come together.   We have been through there before but didn't really take time to stop.   So, once Elder Ashton was showered and ready, off we went on our adventure.

We had yellow blossoms, white blossoms, purple blossoms and lots of green......
...All under a beautiful blue sky with puffy white clouds and temperatures in the 70's!   
Beautiful Day!

We are traveling along at about 60 miles an hour when Elder Ashton says, "Oh, oh, oh.." I looked up from my reading sure we were going to have an accident.....but it was only a small cemetery off to the side of the road.   Elder Ashton quickly put on the brakes and turned off the road to take pictures in the cemetery.   I must admit it was a beautiful little final resting place for just over 200 souls.....the clearing was surrounded by trees and bushes and the birds were singing clearly.   While Elder Ashton took photos, I got out and walked around the cemetery and back up the road a bit.

This cemetery was just along the road in Camden - before we ever got to Elizabeth city.

Light yellow dogwood blooms on a tiny tree in the cemetery.  Elder Ashton is taking pictures in the background

I believe this is a Forsythia branch that was right beside the entrance to the cemetery.

A couple of nice, well-kept homes and yards along the roadway in Camden.   It is interesting to see the condition of different houses back here.....there seems to be little or no zoning so you could have a really old, worn place right next to a new well-kept place.   I notice more run-down places in the larger towns.   Seems that in the more rural areas, most of the homes and yards are better taken care of.

Another of the nice homes.   I LOVED the bright pink flowering tree in the yard.   This house sat next to a berry stand and almost directly in front of a strawberry field.   As I was walking along the road here my mouth starting watering just thinking of plump ripe strawberries.   We may need to take another trip to Camden when the berries are ready.

Wasn't there a Beatles song about "Strawberry Fields Forever"?

Based on the number of blossoms it looks like there will be lots of strawberries.   This is about a 3 foot section of just one in MANY rows of plants.   I thought it was interesting to see them planted in holes cut into the black plastic.

As I was walking along the roadway trying to make sure I didn't step in the road or in the ditch of water, I noticed these tiny blue flowers.....and immediately thought of President Uchtdorf's talk about Forget-me-nots" - don't know if these are Forget-me-not flowers but that is what I immediately thought of.

By this time, Elder Ashton had photographed all the headstones in the cemetery and it was time to get back in the truck and head further down the road.   We hadn't gone far when he saw another small cemetery, just off to the side of the road.   He turned in and hopped out to begin taking pictures.  I got out a little slower to take more pictures of dogwood blossoms that were along the edge of the cemetery.

 Notice these blossoms are a creamy light yellow color.   I've seen a number of those trees on our drive back and forth to the office.

This photo and the one below are white dogwood blossoms and are a little larger than the creamy yellow ones.
As Elder Ashton was taking photos in this cemetery he said he saw a black snake about 6 feet long!!!!   I'm certainly glad I was busy taking pictures of beautiful flowers and didn't see it or I would have screamed and tried to run...and since the ground was very uneven I probably wouldn't have run very far before taking a tumble :)

It didn't take Elder Ashton long to finish the small cemetery - he said there were only about 25 images there - and we got back in the truck to head on to Elizabeth City.....but before we got very far we came to the Camden County Courthouse that was built in 1910.

This was an interesting structure and I would have liked to see the inside but since this still serves as a functioning courthouse, it was closed for the weekend.

This carved stone monument sat near the road.....explaining that this is a memorial.   The brick walkways have some interesting tributes to those who have served.

It is common to see reminders that I truly am in the south and that many of the people here still consider the confederate soldiers to be heroes.

Honoring those who died in a more recent struggle.

On the same grounds was an old jail that had been restored - complete with stocks outside the jail.   Elder Ashton frequently teases the young missionaries when they don't get something turned in on time that he is going to put them in the stocks and they just look we decided we needed to take a picture of the stocks so they could see what they were.

This appears to be only for their legs  - there is a small board behind that a "prisoner" might have sat on?  Do you notice Elder Ashton trying to figure out how it works?

This appears to be for the arms and head.....but as you can see below, either those people were really small or I have a huge head...There was no way my head would fit in that hole ;-)

We finally reached Elizabeth City and while driving around trying to find the Museum of the Albermarle we ran across some pretty cool looking historic buildings.   This particular one was not occupied, but appears that it was a bank.

Don't know how old this one is, but I thought it was pretty - a Methodist church.

And speaking of pretty churches, here are a few more.  

These are in Norfolk....notice the one on the right and the one tall rectangle one on the left further down the street.

This one is also in Norfolk and the only time I see it is when I am exiting the tunnel and there is not place to slow down or turn off to get a better picture - or when I'm entering the tunnel and the same problem applies.  Every time I see it I wish I could stop and get a close-up picture.

This is another one we saw in Elizabeth City today.....LOTS of Baptist churches every where we go.

We never found the museum in Elizabeth City but we did find a little seafood restaurant with a nice view of the sound.   The food wasn't anything to rave about but the view was nice.   There was a group outside decorating and getting prepared for a 4 p.m. wedding.

There was an interesting plant right outside the door to the building where the restaurant was with bright berries on it......I don't know what they were but they sure stood out against the green leaves.

While we were eating lunch, I asked Elder Ashton if he had his phone turned on because he hadn't received any phone calls from missionaries yesterday.  He checked - the phone was on.    But I think I jinxed us ;-)  We had just started on the drive home about an hour later when his phone rang.   It was Sister Missionaries saying they weren't able to get gas because they lost (or it was stolen) their gas credit card and when they tried to use their regular debit card that has money loaded on it every month for food and incidentals, the machine said it wouldn't accept it.   We told them to go inside the store and talk to the clerk and never heard back from them so hopefully they were able to get the card to work and get some gas until a new card comes to replace the lost/stolen one.

About 30 minutes later as we were approaching our apartment, Elder Ashton's phone rang again.   This time it was an elder to report a "little" accident where he ran into the back of someone.   He said it really didn't do much damage - just a little baseball size dent in the bumper and a piece of the grille broken out.  He said the driver of the other car jumped out of the car and ran away and the son she left behind tried to answer questions for the police officer.   She had no insurance, no registration, no driver's license and left her son behind.   I have no idea how old the boy was - but sure wanted to reach out and give him a hug.   What a terrible situation to leave him in - and now what happens to the boy.   I couldn't get that out of my mind when we got home---until Elder Ashton got a text about 30 minutes later from the same Elder who said, "Oh, and it knocked the license plate off which I am sure can easily be screwed back on."   I just had to laugh at how these missionaries will try to minimize their accidents.     Elder Ashton received a text from President Baker this morning saying that the Elder's driving privileges had been revoked because he had a "preventable" accident - they really hate it when their driving privileges are revoked!

Just outside our door the juvenile long needle pine is setting new pine cones......and they are putting out yellow pollen all over.   Right after Elder Ashton had polished his truck all up, it was covered with yellow pollen coming from these and other plants!

We have a couple in our ward who are leaving Tuesday morning for a mission in Salt Lake City.   They have a grandson named Wyatt and the Sister bore her testimony and was talking about how she was going to miss having Wyatt stop in.......hit a little too close to home for me cause I started thinking about how much I miss my family and friends I left behind, including my Wyatt.  I'm sitting here in the dead quiet this afternoon reminiscing about the Sunday afternoon family dinners and family reunions when we have such a great time together.   Hope you can all feel our love and support for you - we pray for you, we silently cheer you on, and we shake our heads when we see pictures that depict how grown-up our grandkids and great-grandkids are getting!

We are so blessed/lucky to have all of you in our lives and to have your support so we can serve.