Wednesday, June 24, 2015

An Adventure in Togetherness :)

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

We have been pretty busy back here in Virginia and I have had so much fun the last week that I haven't had time to get this post, I'll finish this one today and shoot for another one early next week, then back on schedule.

We had a little excitement at our apartment complex last Sunday night, June 14 just after I posted my last report.   Elder Ashton and I were doing our usual Sunday evening thing and sitting around in our bare or stocking feet, when sirens started to sound.....nothing unusual in that.   

The unusual thing occurred as the sound of the sirens drew closer and closer and closer until the flashing lights stopped right in front of our apartment.   I looked around to make sure Elder Ashton and I were both still alive and kicking and found that we were so I breathed a sigh of relief and peeked out the blinds to watch what was going on.   

Turned out that nothing was going on.....after about 20 minutes the EMTs left with an empty stretcher and by then I was awake enough that I didn't need to go to bed at my usual 8:30 bedtime :)

I drove by these interesting purple flowering shrubs and just had to turn around and take some pictures - I liked the unique shape and structure of the blossoms.

These are blooming in yards all around Portsmouth for the last week or so.   Very Pretty!

The Crepe Myrtle trees are still blooming beautifully.   Lots of white ones but I am noticing different colors coming out.   This white tree is moving from the flowering to the next stage as you can see from the photo above and the ones below.

We also went zooming by this bush as we came back to town the other day.   Several different colors of pink can be found in various yards and along roads.  When I see the beauties of nature it always makes me smile.

Ready to burst into bloom

And I have found that there is beauty even in older things......this tree has the shells from last years blooms and they have their own unique beauty.   That made my day when I realized that because I am definitely feeling like I most have the only the shell of blooms from many years ago left - but still have my own unique beauty as an oldster :)

On Wednesday evening part of our family arrived from Arizona to spend a few days with us.   I was soooooooo EXCITED to see them and get a chance to spend time with them.   We used couches, beds and floor space and spread out in our little apartment the best we could.    Thursday morning all were awake and ready to see some sights while Elder and Sister Ashton went to the mission office.

Granddaughter Brycelyn snoozing in the "missionary apartment" :)

Levi and Mom (Michelle) just woke up

Dad (Quinn) checking to see if Mimi is asleep or faking it ;-)

While Grandma and Grandpa tried to keep up with mission activities on Thursday and Friday, Quinn and family went to see Jamestown on Thursday and spent Friday at Virginia Beach.   I think the sites they saw gave everyone a new perspective on this part of our country and some of the sacrifices that were made to give us the freedoms we have today!

Another son, Colby and his wife Miranda, and four boys planned to arrive in Chesapeake about 3 p.m. on Friday.   However, there plane was delayed leaving Phoenix which caused them to miss their connecting flight in Atlanta by 30 minutes - thus they spent an extra 12 hours enjoying the beautiful sights in the Atlanta airport.....finally arriving at one of the few hotels between Richmond and Chesapeake that had a room for them about 3 a.m. on Saturday!  Yikes!!! - what a way to start a vacation.    They needed a few extra minutes of sleep before we went to our planned destination of the day (the Wright Brothers Memorial at Kill Devil Hills, NC), so Quinn's family and the elder Ashtons set off for a quick stop at the Dismal Swamp.....even in the sticky, hot weather!

As we neared the entrance to Dismal Swamp State Park, we came upon these groups of bright yellow flowers with crepe myrtle trees just ready to bloom in the median.   So very bright and cheery!

Quinn and his kids on the bridge at the Dismal Swamp Canal

The ranger at the bridge to the Dismal Swamp boardwalk tried to warn us that the biting flies were really bad along the trail, but I didn't thing they could be as bad as he indicated so after spending a few minutes in the Visitor's Center, decided to take a short stroll along the boardwalk.   The first thing I noticed was some heavy foliage growth and thought I would capture a picture of that.....but found an added surprise when I bent down to snap the picture.   Do you see at least one black and yellow butterfly in the picture below?

It didn't take long on the trail to realize the ranger had been exactly accurate in his description of the biting flies!!!! - so we hurried along the short trail to get back inside.   Did take time to stop and snap this picture - Quinn said these are called Cypress Knees.

I thought these were very interesting.

We finally met up with Colby and his family at about 1:30 at the Wright Brothers National Memorial. We  listened to the presentation from the ranger and I found myself moved as he reminded us that Orville and Wilbur Wright brought about "the death" of impossible.   He said that man had tried to fly for hundreds of years (in fact, nearly a thousand years) and could not figure it out.  But Orville and Wilbur finally accomplished what had eluded others - due in large part to their vision, determination and hard work.....and in December 1903 the flying machine built by the Wright Brothers left the ground on 4 short flights.   It was very moving to me when the ranger said this flight represented "the death of impossible" and reminded all in attendance that it took man 1000 years to fly and only another 60 some years to reach the moon - I had never considered it in quite that way.

Colby, Miranda, Cooper, Tucker, Duncan and Grady with a model (cost $1 million to build) in the background.

The most interesting thing in this case (to me) was the square of white fabric and the plaque that indicates the brothers used their mother's sewing machine to sew the fabric into covering for the wings on the plane.  I remember some of the Ashton boys sewing some things on this mom's sewing machine a number of years ago :)

When the Wrights decided that Kitty Hawk would be the best place for their attempt to fly, they "moved" there.....had two small buildings where they intended to be comfortable while work progressed - one for the hangar for the airplane and one for their living quarters.

Quinn, Michelle, Levi, Brycie, and Mimi standing in front of the living quarters.

The whole group (except Grandpa and Grandma who were too tired and hot to climb the hill, in front of the memorial.

Colby and Miranda's boys decided to pretend they were Orville Wright and let Mom and Grandma take their picture :)

Brycie and Levi also took a turn posing beside Wilbur with Grandpa looking on :)

Next stop - Grave Digger's Dungeon and the monster trucks

Brycie, Mimi, Duncan and Michelle check out one of the monster vehicles.

Pretty girls posing beside a "grave digger".

Cooper, Tucker, Duncan, and Grady found another awesome monster!

The Ashton clan ready to ride the Monster :)

Tired, sweaty and a little sunburned, we started the drive back to Virginia.   As I was staring out the window, I noticed this picturesque abandoned small home......what stories could those walls tell?

Another aging home that makes for an interesting picture and prompts some pondering about my blessings.

We enjoyed attending church together and having a "family dinner" together on Sunday.  It was a bit challenging to set out a buffet of food for 13 people in the little "missionary apartment" but the company of family more than made up for the challenge!

What fun to wake up on Monday morning to an apartment full of Ashton boys before they headed off to Washington, D.C. -   Duncan and Grady snoozing away :)

Cooper and Tucker getting a few more minutes of sleep before they start the week in DC.

What a GREAT week it was.......spending time with family while still having the opportunity to work and do what we can to help out in the mission.   As I talked with and watched my grandchildren, I began to get excited thinking about them having the opportunity to serve in a few years and enjoy the opportunities to help others and learn important lessons themselves.  

We've already had some interesting moments this week....but those are for another post :)

Sunday, June 14, 2015

A Sticky Time Adventure

Sunday, June 14, 2015

This had been a sticky, sticky week!    With temperatures hovering in the low to mid nineties and humidity hovering in the 70-80% range  I feel like I am constantly dripping wet....and with the perspiration that drips off my face I think I'll use a whole roll of paper towels in less than a week!   My co-worker at the office showed me where to find the heat index and it has been interesting to check that every day.  For instance, right now it is 82 degrees and 79% humidity!   Here's where that is found on the heat index.

Looks like we are hovering at about 88 - on the edge of extreme caution.  I talked to a lady at church this morning and she said it is way to early for it to be this humid - this usually doesn't start until August.   An unusual amount of snow in the winter and an unusual amount of humidity in the early summer -  guess I have to pay those prices to be blessed with all the beautiful flowers!

Over the past couple of months I've posted a number of photos taken of the courtyard at the church.   It has some pretty flowers but was certainly in need of some cleaning and care.   Earlier this week I noticed some new plants in the courtyard and also noticed that some of the old plants had been pruned back and fresh mulch added.   It was/is looking really nice!

There are two of these large plants with the pretty white trumpet flowers.   I think they are beautiful and look so clean and pure.

There are also several new plants with tiny, delicate deep purple flowers on them.

This was a week of Zone Meetings for the mission.   Elder Ashton, assisted by some zone leaders, has been doing car inspections at all of the conferences and awarding a license plate surround for the cleanest car in the zone.   The conference for our zone was held on Wednesday and I had an opportunity to accompany on the piano.   When we filled out our mission papers I did not list that I could play the piano because the neuropathy in my hands is usually bad enough that it makes it pretty difficult to tell which notes I am hitting.  However, on Monday the President asked me if I thought I could play well enough to accompany and I told him I would give it a try.   I practiced a couple of times each day and did OK - made several mistakes but it wasn't terrible.   The songs were not the usual ones that we sing which made it a little more difficult, but I was glad for the opportunity to play and to be in the meeting to hear the speakers and the thoughts/testimonies of the young missionaries.   The closing song is one they have adopted as the mission hymn, partly because of all the lighthouses in the area, and partly because of the message.   I LOVE the message about us keeping the lower lights burning for our brothers and sisters.

Later Wednesday afternoon as we were preparing to leave the office, we looked out the window and noticed this duck couple.   I told Elder Ashton that although the female may not be as flashy, I like her coloring the best - it is pretty intricate.

Most of the day on Wednesday we could hear saws and hammers - as they work to remodel some of the building.   Then Thursday, a couple of landscaping men came through and said they would be adding more plants to the courtyard that day.   Later in the afternoon when I took a restroom break, I noticed two of them walking through the chuch with wheelbarrows loaded with mulch and I had to tell them that was a first - I had never seen that before!  Just before leaving for home, I walked down to the window that looks out over the courtyard to see the finished project and was pleasantly surprised to see that all the clean-up and new plants was the result of an Eagle Scout project.  Nice!

Lots of new plants, the weather vane, the bench, and the small statue were all added along with the placard outlining the history of the building.  If the weather were just cooler this would be a great place to take a short break from the computer screen!

We pass this pretty conifer several times a day as we go back and forth to the office.   A couple of weeks ago, I noticed white pointed buds on the lower branches of this tree and was REALLY surprised and excited.   I had never heard of blooming conifers but it looked like this tree was going to have some nice white blossoms on it.   I've seen so many new plants here in Virginia that I was sure I was in for a real treat.....and I kept waiting, and waiting, and waiting........for the buds to get bigger and open up.   Imagine my shock when we were stuck in traffic the other day and passing by very slowly and I realized that the big white buds were really big white Christmas lights!!!!  No flowering conifer - but I bet I will like those big white lights when the holidays arrive ;-)

Lots of things are in bloom right now, including our tomato plants.....and we have a couple of baby chili's on out plant.   Maybe we will see actual tomatoes in a few weeks.

Remember my pretty green plant that is right outside our office door and it had some clumps of green buds on it a couple of weeks ago?   Look at the beautiful hydrangea that bloomed this week!

And just down the street a bush full of beautiful blue hydrangea!

Crepe Myrtle trees are beginning to bloom.   I think the majority of them are white, but there are also some pretty pink blooms and I am anxiously waiting for a purple one to bloom at the church.

Pink blooms

We were busy with chores and with moving mission furniture out of an apartment on Saturday so didn't do much exploring.   But I did run across an interesting "outdoor living" idea here in Portsmouth.   For those of us who live in small apartments and don't have a front porch like many of the homes do, this group of apartment dwellers came up with a outdoor living room where they gather together to chat :)  It's even nicely decorated with potted plants and statuary.

Really looking forward to visits from Quinn, Michelle, Levi, Brycelyn, Mimi, Colby, Miranda, Cooper, Tucker, Duncan and Grady this week!

Saturday, June 6, 2015

An Adventure with a Youngster

Saturday - June 6 2015
We had barely arrived home from our 5000 mile adventure with about 5 hours of sleep under our belts when we showed up for work in the office on Monday morning.   Both Elder Ashton and I immediately started on the work that was piled on our desks due to us being out of the office on out 5000 mile adventure on Friday.  About 9 a.m. Elder Ashton's cell phone rang and the mission president asked us if we would please leave immediately and drive to Franklin, Virginia to pick up the young Sister Missionaries that were assigned there.   We were to take one of the young missionaries to Smithfield, Virginia where she would become an additional companion to the two missionaries already there and to bring the other young missionary with us- I would become her companion (at least for a few days).   She was having some medical problems due to an injury suffered a few months ago and they had decided she needed to go home for further treatment but were trying to get scheduling arranged.  I thought that was fine and it would be an adventure to have a younger Sister Missionary help me with my work.  Based on the location of Franklin and Smithfield I thought we might be out of the office for about 3 hours - but due to unforeseen delays we ended up being out of the office for 5 hours.....and I got further behind in my work, but did see some interesting scenery.

It was a beautiful clear day with sparkling blue skies and so many different shades of green lining the road it was almost impossible to identify all the different shades as we sped by on our errand.

It looks like the truck is going drive right into a forest of trees, but such is not the case.   It is like the traffic engineers cut a swath through the middle of the forest and laid down a road.

While driving along I thought I was seeing white blossoms on lots of the trees, but when Elder Ashton stopped to check out a very tiny cemetery in the middle of a wheat field, I realized it was not white blossoms at all......the underside of the leaves was white and as they blew in the wind and turned over, they appeared to be white blossoms against the rest of the green leaves.   Annnnnnddd, I found something else hidden in the forest.   Do you see it?  It looks like the old house has been completely overgrown by the dense trees!

As I walked along the road I found that there really were some white blossoms on some of the foliage and was, once again, impressed with how dense the foliage is.

We continued on our way to Franklin and came to several spots along this little country road we were directed to where the trees actually formed a canopy over the road.

It is not uncommon to see homes nestled among the trees and set quite a ways back from the road.   I thought the one shown above was quite picturesque.

When we arrived back at the office at about 3 o'clock, it was obvious that my new companion was not going to be able to stay and help me catch up on my work....she could not sit, stand or walk without pain and had to be assisted to stand and walk.   So we headed to the apartment that was a bit messy and the cupboards were a bit empty because we had spent the weekend out of town.    By the way, did I mention that my new companion is gluten intolerant and I didn't know what I was going to fix for dinner that wouldn't have some kind of wheat in it.   My companion immediately fell asleep when we arrived at the apartment and I decided to fix Chinese Haystacks for dinner - there shouldn't be any wheat in that - rice, celery, cheese, pineapple, oranges, and cream of chicken soup gravy. Imagine my surprise to learn that Cream of Chicken soup has wheat in it!!!   So, my new companion had all the fixings with no gravy ;/

My plan was that my companion and I would go to the office about 10 on Tuesday and I would pass her off to one of the other sisters there and run to the store to get a few supplies, especially gluten free.   But life rarely goes as planned.   After eating breakfast my new companion said she was feeling weak and really tired and needed to lay down for awhile.   She slept the whole morning and when she got up for lunch was doing worse instead of better.   After talking with the mission nurse and the doctor she had been seeing in Franklin, we headed off to the emergency room at the hospital about 18 miles away.   By that time it was POURING rain and I didn't feel confident enough to find my way on unfamiliar roads in that pouring rain so I asked Elder Ashton if he would drive us to....


Chesapeake General Hospital.
By the time we arrived at the hospital, her legs would not hold her up so Elder Ashton grabbed a wheelchair and wheeled her into the ER in the pouring rain.   They took us right back so there was no waiting in the waiting room but lots of waiting while they tried to figure out what was wrong and what they should do.   That first day she saw 2 different PA's and 3 different doctors along with many nurses.  Then they decided she needed to stay over night so they could run more tests the next day.   The mission President called another young sister to come and stay the night with her (I was really glad for that because I was exhausted and needed to sleep in my own bed!)   I went back the next day about 10 and they still couldn't figure it our....but my assignment was to stay there and communicate with the doctors because the President and his wife were involved in a monthly conference with 40 missionaries.  I stayed until about 6:30 and was again allowed to go home and sleep in my own bed while a younger Sister stayed the night.

Sister Hatch and Sister Whetten - kept me entertained on Wednesday afternoon by singing songs from Wicked.....they were pretty good!  Sister Hatch is from Canada and I noticed that a few "Eh"s slipped out of her mouth as we were conversing.

Thursday morning I went to the office early to try to catch up a little, knowing that I would probably need to go back to the hospital at some time that day.   While working away about 8 o'clock I heard a high pitched noise and thought there must be a bird outside.   I looked up and was surprised to see this little fellow - catching water that was dripping from the leaves and then rubbing his face.   Pretty cute :)

My young companion called and said she was being released from the hospital in a couple of hours.   I told her we would come in about 2.5 hours because it always takes longer than they predict so we planned to arrive at the hospital at about 2:30.   That gave me a little time to catch up with some of my work and still take care of my new companion.   Elder Ashton felt like he should go along with me so we set out.   As expected, they still had not completed all the paperwork when we arrived at the hospital and said it would probably be another hour or two.   Elder Ashton went out ti sit in a waiting room rather than be crowded in a hospital room with two young Sisters Missionaries and me with doctors and nurses coming in and out.  About 5 minutes after he left the nurse came in and my companion asked if she could get dressed - they told her yes.   Since the other young missionary was there, I stepped out and went to find Elder Ashton.   Imagine my surprise when I turned the corner and walked into the waiting room to find Elder Ashton and a "younger woman" (probably about 50 years old) holding hands with their heads bowed in prayer.  After they finished the prayer she stayed around and chatted for awhile in her soft southern accent and when Elder Ashton tied to ask her if she would like to have some young people come and teach her she wasn't interested.......I think she just wanted to hold his hand *wink, wink.

My "companion" was finally released from the hospital and they had no idea what was the matter with her....even after all the tests.  We made it home in time for me to cook gluten free pasta for her and regular spaghetti for Elder Ashton and I and have some dinner.....which also included gluten free garlic bread......I had taken about 15 minutes when we returned from the hospital on Tuesday night to stop and pick up a few gluten free supplies but not much else.

Friday was Zone Meeting and my companion got permission from the President to attend the meeting as it would be her last one - she was flying back to Flagstaff, Arizona on Saturday.  

The Chesapeake North zone following Zone meeting

Me and my young companion.
We had planned to go out to dinner with another couple that serve in North Carolina and came up to go to a couple activity in Norfolk, but Sister Whetten was tired out and having a hard time walking after being up all morning, so we had dinner at out house - Fiesta Chicken over rice and some different kinds of fruit.   I guess it was OK for me having to adjust to gluten free so quickly.

Sister Whetten and the Stefflers - they will go home to Nampa, Idaho in September

We got Sister Whetten packed up and delivered to the mission home about 8 p.m. on Friday night so she could fly home on Saturday.   I had not seen the mission home before, but it was beautiful and in a very nice neighborhood!

Mission home in Chesapeake - about 15 miles from our apartment.

Elder Ashton picked up a cold or something from our travels last weekend and has not been feeling 100% this week.   We had a senior activity planned in Norfolk to meet for lunch and tour the battleship with the other Senior Missionaries and the mission president and his wife, but Elder Ashton did not feel up to touring the battleship so we headed home after lunch.   We did get to see an historic church that was right across the street from the converted historic abby where we ate lunch.

This placard tells the story of the church.

Impressive Methodist Church in Norfolk - Built in 1894

Back of the church - playground for the preschool

Lots of intricate detail in the building and the stained glass windows

We tried to get in but it was all locked up

I liked this perspective of the tower

We ate lunch at Freemason Abby - a restaurant in downtown Norfolk that is in a building that started out as a Presbyterian Church and at one time was owned by the Oddfellows.   Beautiful building, inside and out - lots of antique furniture inside.

An antique place to hang your coats and hats.....maybe even sit and take your galoshes off - with Elder and Sister Ashton captured in the mirror. 

Most of our celebratory "oldster" group :)

A few weeks ago I noticed some of the ground cover in our apartment complex landscaping sending up a long when I was leaving the apartment I noted that the long shoot now had a few little lavender flowers at the top.    I thought they were very pretty.

This week while driving back and forth to the hospital, I noticed that the fern like trees that I have been watching are now covered with pink "puff balls".  I found a tree here in Portsmouth and stopped and asked the lady if she would mind if I took a picture of it.   She was very gracious and let me take a picture and explained that it is a Mimosa tree - which she loves for how it looks and smells but doesn't love the mess it leaves elsewhere in her yard ;-)

So many colors and varieties of  blossoms.......I'm loving it.

Thus ends my adventure with a youngster.   I learned much and was so glad that I could provide service to her when she was far from home and worried and upset about what was going on.   One of the things I learned is that this "oldster" doesn't have the energy she once had but can rise to the occasion when needed :)