Sunday, May 24, 2015

A Fiesta Adventure

Sunday, May 24

I continue to be interested and drawn to the different kinds of Flora and Fauna in Virginia- so different than what I have experienced in any place I have lived.  As we were going into the office on Monday, I noticed the leaves on the tree that had the three squirrel nests in it.....they almost look like fern leaves.

Tuesday we spent part of the afternoon picking up new cars at the Toyota dealership which is about 20 miles away.   We took a couple of other people from the office with us and brought 3 of the six cars back.   Later that evening we took the Assistants to the President with us and brought the other 3 back.   As we were headed out there, I noticed a couple of varieties of trees along the road that I hadn't noticed before and really wanted to grab a picture but I had left my phone at the office.   The wind was blowing the trees in such a way that I noted the different variety of leaves - one looked almost like a tropical tree of some kind. and the other just looks like a giant fern plant - not really a tree.   I saw more on the way to Norfolk on Saturday, but we were driving so fast I couldn't even get my phone out before we were past them :(

Wednesday we experienced a very heavy was pouring down for a couple of hours in the afternoon.  

Do you notice the size of the splash pattern as the drops are hitting the sidewalk and the pavement.   In the second row of cars are  4 of the new ones we picked up on Tuesday night.  We got six new cars for the mission, 2 red, 2 white, and 2 blue - very patriotic for this memorial day time of year! 

Elder Ashton has quite a bit of work to do when he gets a new car  - he has to get that new car into the system and make some packets that go in the glove box, then he has to decide where to assign the new car and make arrangements to get the car they are currently using back to Portsmouth where he inspects it, gets any damage or broken things fixed and when it is all fixed up he sends details about it to Salt Lake.   They price the vehicle and tell him to go ahead with selling the old vehicle.   Right now he has sold one vehicle, has another for sale and one more coming right up.   Soon he will put these 6 new vehicles in the field and will have 6 more to sell.   I have threatened to get him a nice plaid sportcoat and wide tie from GoodWill and get one of those advertising boards that people stand on the side of the street with and make him into a real used car salesman.   For those of you that know Elder Ashton, can you get a mental image of that? LOL

Thursday morning as we were leaving for the office, Elder Ashton had to run back into the house to get his hearing aids which he had forgotten.   I stayed in the truck and enjoyed the show of nature with 3 squirrels that were running up and down and leaping between branches on the tree right in front of me.    My imagination ran wild with me and I thought it might be a love sick male squirrel chasing after a female and she wanted nothing to do with him....she was even willing to make a 4 foot jump between branches to try to get away from him!   I think Elder Ashton questioned my sanity a bit when he came back out and I was laughing and told him what I was laughing about.   Even here in the "city" it is almost like being in the woods with all the little critters that run around the parking lot.

Here's a picture of the next phase of the tree in the parking lot that I have been following.   Lots of red dots on the leaves right now - so many that some of them have run together and made almost the entire leaf red.

The office/church building was full of about 60 missionaries all day Thursday and half the day on Friday.   It is such an uplifting experience to be around them and see their smiles and their enthusiasm for the work.  We have been away from home 7 months now and have been here in Virginia for about 6.5 months and I feel like I am getting to know some of the younger missionaries pretty well.  One of my favorite things is to get a big hug from the sister missionaries when they come in.  The missionaries got some training from Salt Lake City via Skype and Elder Ashton and I had the opportunity to video them practicing the things they learned.   One of the Elders I was working with was 6'6" tall and I had a hard time getting him and his smaller companion in the picture without cutting off some of his head - course, I never said I was a very good photographer.  In addition to that, I always get to help serve the meals and clean up when we feed the missionaries.   I'm always glad to do that, but between cleaning out the storage shed on Wednesday and doing some bending and lifting associated with that and setting up tables and chairs on Thursday and serving and cleaning up on Thursday and Friday, my body was not so quietly reminding me that I have arthritis in lots of joints and it really doesn't like that too, by Saturday I had to tell Elder Ashton I didn't think I could climb around on the tall sailing ship we went to see and would sit in the park and enjoy the weather and take a few pictures.

The ship sailed into the port and was located at the waterfront park.....when I got out of the truck I noticed a sign with another mermaid on it and finally figured out that the mermaid is the logo for Norfolk.  It was a beautiful little waterfront park and a beautiful day so lots of families were out enjoying the sights and the day.

I thought this was a neat picture - the fountain spurts in front of the roses.

An even more entertaining thing and better picture was the two girls having a great time running through the fountain.   By the time they finished, the one in the yellow pants was completely soaked and had the biggest grin on her face!
You can see there are other boats/ships docked there at the port.   In the background note the large ship and the upper part that looks like it is wrapped in white plastic.   Elder Ashton and I have wondered about that several times and finally got an opportunity to talk to someone who works in the shipyard and he said it is indeed wrapped in white plastic and that is to save the environment from dust and chemicals that may be released into the air when they are working on the ship.   I asked him if the companies were more worried about the environment or the workers because someone else had told me the white plastic was to protect the workers - he just laughed and said, "It's not the workers they are worried about."

A different view of the pier and the ships.

This is part of the "tall ship" from Mexico that docked in Norfolk from Thursday through Monday.  

Another view of the "tall ship"

People boarding the "tall ship" for the tour.

More of the "tall ship" with the sails all rolled up - picture in your mind what this would look like if the sails were unfurled.

There is some guy in a hat up there on the "tall ship" talking to one of the navy men from Mexico - Do you recognize him?   He learned that this is a training vessel and I learned from my research that it will spend 7 months sailing to different ports around the world as a gesture of good will.

Another view of the ship from further away where you can see both masts.

This picture is from a news article announcing the arrival of the ship.   I think those sailors must be CRAZY to stand on those cross arms like that.

Our Virginia container garden.   Elder Ashton decided he wanted to try to grow some tomatoes and chilis and try to talk me into making some salsa.   The one Chili plant has a couple of blossoms and the  tomato plants look like they could blossom within the next week.

The rain storm we had in the middle of the week caused the largest tomato plant to tip over, so Elder Ashton visited the Home Depot that is directly across the street from our apartment and figured out some cages to hold them up.   Seems we get almost enough rain for them - have only had to pour a pitcher of water on them a couple of times.

The magnolia trees have continued to bloom and the large trees with the saucer size flowers are almost completely covered.   I noticed a smaller tree the other day with smaller flowers and did a little research - I think it is called a tea cup magnolia.   Crepe myrtle trees are trying to get ready to bloom - I see buds in the tops of the trees.   I have also noticed some century plants (or something like them) that are blooming or getting ready to bloom......hopefully I'll capture more pictures this next week to share with you next weekend.

Just about ready to flower

Noticed an interesting type of conifer......note how all the branches and needles point downward and it appears the needles are quite fine.

We are still having a great time and learning new things almost every day....and we don't have all the work done yet, so we will keep working on through the heat and humidity.   We are looking forward to having some of our kids and grandkids visit us next month....that should be great fun!

Sunday, May 17, 2015

A Green Adventure

Sunday, May 17

Another busy week - touched with green.  We received some "green" (new) missionaries on Tuesday late afternoon, but before that we caught the outer edges of Tropical Depression Ana almost all day on Monday.   The rain came down heavily and steadily for most of the day - I looked out the office window at one point during the day and saw that there was nearly 2 inches of standing water covering most of the parking lot.

 It was "transfer week" which means we send some missionaries home and get a new batch of missionaries.  Some of the missionaries that went home are ones that I had gotten to know fairly well because they have been serving in this area for some of the time we have been there.  This cycle we sent 14 missionaries home and welcomed 10 new ones.  One of my responsibilities is to pay baggage fees and do check-in and boarding passes for the departing missionaries in a short period of time on the Monday morning before they leave on Tuesday morning. It went pretty smoothly this time with only one hang-up.....I was unable to take care of that for the Elder that was returning to Tonga because he had to show his passport and check in at the airport.  I count only one glitch as a success :)

Tuesday morning Elder Ashton asked me to help him pick up a Volkswagen  that was at the dealership about 20 miles away.   As I was driving back, I suddenly felt a little claustrophobic - the trees are so dense it is almost impossible to see the signs far enough in advance to make appropriate turns on the freeway-----it was a good thing I had On-Star guiding me because there were a couple of signs I absolutely could not see until I got right beside them.

There was one sign I was glad to see given that we are in hurricane season back here and the locals say we usually get at least one hurricane every season. (the blue sign designates the roadway as a hurricane evacuation route.

Tuesday afternoon we welcomed the 10 new missionaries - 7 Sisters and only 3 Elders.  The missionaries are picked up at the Norfolk Airport and brought to the church that is about 2 miles away where they are fed dinner and interviewed by the President so he can get to know them a little and decide where to assign them to serve.
This was an interesting arrival as we had "sort of" connections to one of the incoming missionaries.   Sister Olesen (seen at the top of the table in the striped shirt) was taught in 3rd grade by Emily Call (now Hepworth) who is married to our nephew.   I got a few minutes to talk with her and she said it was good to feel like she had someone waiting in Virginia that she had a little connection to.

Note the group of Elders at the top of the picture.   President Baker is a tall man and is at the head of the table, but we had an Elder arrive who is a couple of inches taller than the President (although his face looks like he is about 15).

We made it home early as soon as the missionaries were fed and we had cleaned up after the meal as we were not transporting any missionaries this time.   We made it home before 7 o'clock and that was nice!

Still lots of beautiful flowering plants all around.   One thing I have noticed is that roses grow really well in Virginia!  Almost every yard has at least one rose bush - most have many.   The row of roses below blooms in our parking lot median.

And the bushes are just COVERED in blooms!

Wednesday the new missionaries and those that have been assigned to work with them all come to the office for the morning for more orientation.   Some missionaries are going south, some are going north, some are going southeast to Nags Head.  It can get quite chaotic - with new missionaries, seasoned missionaries being assigned to a new place, and seasoned missionaries being assigned to teach/train the new missionaries - and luggage for most.   We consider it some kind of miracle if all missionaries end up where they are supposed to be with their own luggage :))

Elders getting ready to open the new trailer and load it with bike racks and luggage.

Sisters and Elders gathered around the cars getting ready to leave for their assigned areas.
A few minutes after taking this picture, I glanced out the window of the office and saw several small groups of Elders and Sisters gathered around various cars with their heads bowed.  I got a lump in my throat as I realized these young people were praying for safe travel before they set off and was touched by their faith.

I had an errand to run at Target after work on Thursday (while Elder Ashton was busy getting registrations for vehicles) and when I drove up I noticed trees with large white flowers.   I was confused because they looked almost like dogwood blooms but they were bigger and a little different shape, so I stopped to take a picture.....then came home and did some research.

My research leads me to "believe" that these are Chinese Dogwood - very pretty

Friday was a regular day in the office - spent paying the rent on 94 apartments......I spend a few hours verifying that all rent amounts and occupied apartments are up to date in the software, run the rent payment, and then record the payment in a spreadsheet that is searchable should we get any questions about the rent.

Saturday was full of chores, chores, and more chores and preparing dinner for the missionaries but we managed to get in a short trip to Norfolk to view some old churches/burying grounds.  We first topped to try to get a closer picture of St. Mary's (I've grabbed a couple of pictures from the freeway and included them in earlier posts).   When we arrived they were just concluding some kind of worship service and I felt like we were kind of in the way so didn't get as many  pictures as I wanted.
This is a beautifully ornate building that was originally built in 1842, destroyed by fire in 1856 and rebuilt in 1858.

We were unable to go inside but it is my understanding that it is extremely beautiful inside and that it was designated as  minor basillica in 1991.

We also visited St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Norfolk.   This is the oldest building in Norfolk and was built in 1739.   The building is the only structure that survived the British destruction of Norfolk on New Year's Day 1776.  A cannon ball fired by Lord Dunmoore of the British Fleet remains lodged in the Southeastern wall.   The churchyard is also the final resting place of Revolutionary war veterans, Civil war veterans and others.
Grave sites

One of the stained glass windows

A smaller stained glass window - note the fancy woodwork in the window above the door

A "lover's" tree - made me stop and wonder when these "lovers" carved their initials into the tree.

Multiple grave sites and and large gnarled trees - I loved the huge gnarled trees that stood watch over the graves.

Small fountain in the churchyard - I noticed several birds taking a bath in that fountain :)  I sat on a small bench and watched the birds and just looked around at the huge trees and all the grave sites. Although you can catch a glimpse of the "modern" world in the background, I felt totally surrounded by history and a special spirit that pervaded this church yard and final resting places.

A fancy flower shaped window.   How did they make these so many years ago - great workmanship!

The cannon ball that remains in the wall of the church.   While I was approaching this site, a young girl of about 11 came running around the corner saying, "Mom, mom, I found it."   Her mom explained that they had just finished studying the war in school and that she was driving by and thought this would be a fun and educational experience for her daughter :)

Another remnant from the past - a small sun dial that sits in the churchyard.

This columbarium is also located in the churchyard and we noticed several recent dates on this.   Most of the headstones are very old, but this was more recent.

Note the crack in the bricks around the portico - I guess even bricks get tired after 300 years and sometimes crack under pressure.

FINALLY - those Southern Magnolia trees that I have been waiting for are starting to bloom - do you see the bloom and the two large buds?

Other buds in various stages - this tree should have many blooms in a few weeks.  Notice the magnolia blooms on the trees in the background.

Another Magnolia tree in a yard in Portsmouth.   These trees grow to be huge - everything about them is huge - the tree, the blooms, the buds, the leaves.

As I enjoy these beautiful and fragrant magnolia blooms, it makes me think of a couple of quotes I have heard from the movie Steel Magnolias (I don't see hardly any movies but I think these quotes have application to our lives)

"Smile, it increases your face value"
"Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion"

And after spending 6 months here in Virginia, I'm hearing those quotes in a lovely southern accent :)

One last shout out to my friends and family in Arizona.   Right now in Chesapeake, VA it is 82 degrees and 62% humidity.   In Gilbert, AZ it is 82 degrees and 19% humidity.   I now have a whole new appreciation for the "dry" heat of Arizona!

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Adventures in Courage

Sunday, May 9, 2015

Last Monday the President and Sister Baker along with most of the office staff took a couple of hours off work to take our outgoing Mission Secretary to lunch at a place of her choice.   She has served 23 months and was secretary before the mission was first formed, instrumental in getting everything set up and ready to go.   She chose a restaurant in Norfolk (about 8 miles from the office) so we headed off about noon.   As we were leaving Portsmouth and just about ready to enter the tunnel to go under the water into Norfolk, this courageous family of geese decided to cross in front of was so cute to see the Mother, Father and 6 little goslings walking across the two lane highway.   They didn't seem to be in much of a hurry even though they were holding up traffic :)
I thought it was interesting that one of the adults led out and the other brought up the rear to protect the babies.

President and Sister Baker with Sister Stoecker - the outgoing secretary just outside the restaurant.

Later on Monday afternoon I left the office for a few minutes to run down to Walgreens and pick up some of my medication.   I noticed this tree with really pretty purple flowers so decided to snap a picture.   I heard someone talking behind me so I didn't stick around long but wondered if people think I am some kind of crazy lady to go around taking pictures of trees and flowers that are so plentiful here - they just don't know that I don't see things like this in Arizona.

The rose bush in the little courtyard at the church.....the bush is loaded with roses!

The Azalea's are in full bloom around the area and will probably only last for another week or so.   This bush is also in the courtyard at the church.   I love the detail of the different plants.

The Rhododendron bush in the courtyard.  It has lots of blooms on it now but still many that are just in the bud stage.   In fact, this particular bush had buds on it for over 2 months before it finally flowered.

A bud about halfway in bloom on the Rhododendron bush

Buds just beginning to bloom.

And one partial cluster of flowers in full bloom.

On Wednesday there was Mission Leadership Council in our building.  It goes for 5 hours and the zone leaders, district leaders, and sister training leaders receive training to take back to the other missionaries.   Since we have missionaries going home this Tuesday, I asked a few of them who are leaving the mission if I could take their pictures.  For several of those leaving the mission, it takes some courage to leave as they don't know what to expect when they get home - some have had family changes while they've been out, or their school situation has changed and they are feeling somewhat conflicted but still are anxious to see their loved ones again.
In the picture above, the Sister on the left (Sister Randall) is going home (I believe she is from Flagstaff, Az)   Note the other Sister's book bag.   Elder Ashton gave them all a couple of pieces of reflective tape and suggested they put it on the straps of their book bags to they would be visible and wouldn't get hit by a vehicle when they are walking or riding bikes.

These three Elders are going home.   The ones on the left and in the middle have been Zone Leaders. The one on the right has been an assistant to the President for the last 5.5 months and will be heading to school in LA - he wants to go into diplomatic service in northeastern Europe.   He's very bright and I have no doubt he will be successful.   
The Elder in the middle is from Tonga and is a very nice guy.  I have been told that he did not speak a word of English when he arrived here and he is very fluent now and has great leadership qualities.  I have always just called him Elder Inu because he has a long Polynesian name - Inukiha`angana.  He will be in travel status for 40 hours from the time he leaves Norfolk, Va until he arrives in Tonga.  I asked him if his dress would change when he got back home (told him I knew an Elder from Gilbert who went to Fiji and wanted to wear Lava/Lava's all the time when he got home.   Elder Inu said they call them Tupenu in Tonga and he thinks he will prefer wearing pants when he gets back to Tonga:)

On Thursday, Elder Ashton and I left the office about 9:15 and drove about an hour over to Gloucester Point to pick up the new trailer used to haul luggage at transfer/new arriving missionary time.   It was a beautiful day and we decided to take a few extra minutes and see some of the historical buildings and a museum in Gloucester Courthouse (it is weird back here but some of the towns are named Camden Courthouse, Gloucester Courthouse, etc.   It is usually the county seat and the site of the county courthouse that carries that name.   In this particular town there is a little historic square that has been mostly restored and it is quite impressive.

This is a picture of one side of the little square with a monument to fallen confederate soldiers in the middle of the square.  The building at the top of the picture with the white columns is the courthouse.

This monument in the middle of the square has lists of fallen confederate soldiers on all 4 sides.

One side of the monument indicating that it honors the confederate dead of Gloucester.   We see many indications that the people in the South (at least here in Virginia) still feel strongly about the confederate cause.  It is not uncommon to see both a confederate and a USA flag flying at the same house.   I have wondered if flying the confederate flag contributes to some of the tension between the races that is apparent here.

This is a building in the square where you can see that the original brick was once covered in stucco - I think just the walls of this building could tell a story.

This marker in the square tells some of the story of Civil War action in Gloucester.   Having been raised in the west I think I have a Yankee perspective of the Civil War but the more I see some of the history and talk with individuals back here, I begin to see that there are always two sides to a story.

Placard giving information about the restoration of the courthouse after it was destroyed by fire.

Placard noting that the courthouse is on the National Historic Register. Having worked in the Judicial System in Arizona for so many years, I am always interested to see the court houses.

Historic buildings across the street from the square....most have been refurbished and turned into businesses

More businesses across the street - very pretty and quaint.

We went into a historical museum across the street that had a collection of artifacts from earlier times on display.

I thought this 1926 wedding dress was really pretty - I think all that beading was probably done by hand.

This display case was full of things from an earlier era......and I was amazed when I thought of earlier residents cutting their own trees down with that saw.   There are LOTS of trees here and anyone who wanted to build a house/shelter would need to clear the trees first.   I think the earlier residents had lots of stamina and courage to live in this area.

I liked this display of a doll that is at least 100 years old that was discovered between the walls of an old house.

I liked it even more when I realized the doll has the same name as one of my daughters-in-law :)

19th century artifacts - clothing, fashion designs, kettle for making apple butter.   Very interesting to view these artifacts and contemplate what life was like for earlier residents.

Elder Ashton standing by the new trailer.   It was quite a challenge to get a new trailer here in time for upcoming transfers and required lots of phone calls to the factory and dealer, but he made it happen.   The assistants to the President that are in charge of hauling the missionaries and luggage were as excited as two little boys at Christmas when I told them the new trailer was here and had to run outside to see it.

As we were driving toward the historic district we came upon this old Texaco Station (I don't see operating Texaco stations any more) that has been re-purposed as the Center for Archeology, Preservation, and Education.   We had played hooky from the office for over an hour so didn't take time to go in and see what was inside.   Elder Ashton said he could see an image in his mind of old Model A's and Model T's in front of the garage doors.

I thought this collection of aging buildings on the large lot was quite picturesque.   What do you think everyday life was like for the residents of this place?

Saturday we decided to go on a short adventure in the middle of the day - about half the laundry was done and we wanted to check out some more Civil War things so we set off for some sights in the Chesapeake area.

Sign designating this site as connected to Civil War action in this area.  This sign stands outside the visitor's center that is next to the Gabriel Baptist Chapel shown below.

Cuffeytown was a mostly black settlement down a dirt road from the Gabriel Methodist (now Baptist) Chapel.   Cuffeytown was founded by free blacks prior to the civil war and once the Emancipation Proclamation was signed allowing blacks to serve in the Union army, 13 residents of Cuffeytown  served in various units of the Union army.  After the war, veterans and other blacks formed the Gabriel Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church in 1866.

Here is the Gabriel Chapel in our time

We drove over a rutted dirt path and out into an active farm field and found the Historic Cuffeytown Cemetery where the Cuffeytown 13 and others are buried.   We found the placard below at the base of the flagpole.

As I gazed upward at the flag against the blue Virginia sky, I felt my emotions rising in my throat as I thought of not only those 13 "patriots" as they are called but of all those who have served our county over hundreds of years - to allow me to enjoy the freedoms that I do.  I believe living in this area has impacted my feelings of gratitude for the freedom we have!

The Cuffeytown Historic Cemetery - it is kept up pretty well for being located in the middle of a field.

Wild Iris at the edge of the cemetery

Thought it would be interesting to see this "living" utility pole.   With all the Kudzu growing back here, it sometimes even takes over the utility poles :)

In an earlier post I talked of two older sisters who live together and attend our ward.   I just love them because they are so full of "vim and vinegar" as my grandmother would say.   This lady is about 80 years old and this is the "hat" she wore too church today.  It was so cute I just couldn't resist taking a picture of it.

The picture below is the rain pouring down this afternoon as we felt the very fringes of Tropical Depression it is nice and humid out there. 

We continue to learn new things on a regular basis and are still loving what we do.   Working with the young missionaries helps me remember that I was young once and made some impulsive decisions and I have even been known to lock my keys in my car when I was much older than these young missionaries.

As this Mother's Day draws to a close, I send a shout out to my family and want them to know how glad I am that I get to be their Wife, Mom, Grandma, and GG!  Love and miss you all!