Sunday, July 26, 2015

Mid Summer Adventure

Sunday, July 26, 2015


It is hard to believe it has been nine months since we entered the MTC and that we will be released in nine months......and although a camel didn't march through the office announcing it as he does on the Geiko commercial, I did find his close cousin, the llama, at my favorite property along the river here..and when I stopped by the fence to take his picture he looked like he was coming to talk to me and remind me that today is hump day ;-)   We are halfway through our time of service already!

Last Monday, the other couple that works in the office was a bit late arriving and said they ran into a 10 mile back-up of traffic before the tunnel (lots of tunnels under the water around here).  Usually if there is a backup it is due to an accident in the tunnel - this time it was due to a "goose chase".   Approximately 6 a.m. two geese wandered into the tunnel.   One was hit and killed and the other would not leave the tunnel.   This caused "rescuers" to go into the tunnel and capture the remaining goose with a net and relocate it to the other side of the freeway/tunnel.  There are lots of Canadian Geese that have decided to make Chesapeake Virginia their home and I quite frequently see traffic stopping for them.....but it doesn't cause a 10 mile backup.   This gaggle of about 25 lives about 1 mile from our apartment.

Monday was a really chaotic day at the office as another missionary became ill on Sunday night and had to be taken to the emergency room.   That trip to the emergency room caused the President to arrive a the office quite late so we didn't have our usual Monday morning meeting to discuss things that needed to be taken care of......which made the rest of the week quite interesting.  

The ill missionary flew home on Tuesday morning and President and Sister Baker headed to North Carolina to spend the rest of the week interviewing missionaries.   We are coming up on the largest influx of missionaries this mission has ever had (31 set to arrive on Tuesday, August 4) and there are tons of logistics that have to be worked out.   I know the President has been planning how to handle this but has not had a chance to share those plans with us.   We have our fingers crossed that the new trailer that was purchased a couple of months ago will handle the weight and size of luggage for 31 missionaries!  The mission has rented a 12 passenger van and already owns one of those.   So we are hoping between the two vans, the trailer and a couple of SUV's we will be able to pick up all the missionaries at the airport.   Guess we will see if plans have changed any when we meet with the President this week.

Last Sunday evening we took a short drive around some neighborhoods here in Portsmouth.  I was hoping to find the houses that sit out on a point (called Drum Point) in the middle of the River.   We didn't find them on Sunday but found other interesting and pretty things.

 It is not uncommon to see bushes of these huge greenish white flowers in yards around town.   This picture was taken just after a rain storm that beat some of the flowers down.   They are about 6-8 inches in diameter!
 Sunset over the trees lining the river bank.   There are some beautiful sunsets here in Virginia but they don't come close to what we see in Arizona on a regular basis!   You can see indications of a typical Portsmouth Virginia yard with the vehicles, trailers, etc. parked on the "grass" in the yard.
I am still loving the flowering Crepe Myrtle trees.   We are just now beginning to see the true scarlet blooms....we've had white, pink, purple, choral, lavender, fuchsia, and now this bright red.  As we are driving to the office each day, I am usually quiet and just looking all around and enjoying the flowers and trees.

On Tuesday morning, as we turned into the parking lot at the church, we had to put the brakes on to keep from hitting the ducks that were in the driveway.   We stopped long enough for me to take a picture of them and when we started to drive away, one looked at the other as if to say, "What, no breadcrumbs?  Cheapskates!"
I still get excited when I see wildlife - ducks, geese, squirrels, birds, etc........

I find it interesting to watch the progress of many of the blossoms back here.   This is what the end of one limb on a tree outside our office door looked like on Monday afternoon.
 Buds ready to "pop"

This is what that same limb looked like when we left the office on Friday.   As you can see there are still some buds that haven't flowers but most have....and it smells and looks great!

We took another drive on Wednesday evening and finally some of the houses that sit out on the point in the river.   We couldn't get all the way back to the one I see on the very tip of the point but I was impressed with how many nice homes are hidden in the trees back here!
This one backs up to the water.

This one is not quite as close to the water but I thought it was a really pretty patriotic home and yard.....something I would totally expect to see in Virginia.

The office was rather quiet on Thursday afternoon and I was looking out the window when I noticed a flash of bright red/orange.   It was this little cardinal come to visit the robins that were already enjoying the bugs and seeds they were finding on the ground.   He seemed to enjoy the shade provided by the shiny red truck as he stuck around there for awhile :)

Elder and Sister Shaw who have been handling housing, phones, and supplies and referrals since March will be leaving for home on August 6, just as we finish up the big transfer/incoming.   I have been wondering if Elder Ashton and I could handle it all without cracking up, but I'm happy to say that that we have a new couple (Elder and Sister Wright) that will be coming into the office.   They live here locally and I think they will do a great job.  I'm sure there will be a period of adjustment as we adjust to one another's personalities but we'll all feel comfortable soon enough.

Saturday morning I was snoozing away when I heard the home phone ringing.   We don't answer that phone very often because it is usually a solicitation.   But the ringing did wake me up enough that I was just turning over to go back to sleep when I heard my cell phone buzzing and answered it to hear Elder Ashton telling me that he was stuck.   I knew he was out riding his bike but didn't have any idea where he was and he said I needed to come pick him up as he had two flat tires and couldn't ride any more.   I got up, got dressed and started to drive - trying to find him on these twisty overgrown roads back here with him giving me direction from what he could remember about where and how he turned.   I finally made it to him after about 35 minutes and he loaded his bike up in the back.   Once he was settled in the cab, he shared the information that he had a wreck - ran into a runner.   Well, I guess the runner put out his hands to stop the bike, but Elder Ashton went flying.   He hurt his back and his leg and has been moving like me for the last day and a half.   He says he is starting to feel a little better.......but that might be because I have threatened to take his riding privileges away;-)
Unloading the bike once we made it home.

It was a bit hard to be in Virginia this mother's family was having a reunion in Evanston, Wyoming and I really wanted to be there....AND, it was pioneer day celebration in Arizona where a number of other family members were and I wanted to be there.   But, we had some pretty exciting things going on here to make me not feel so homesick....a baptism of a young couple yesterday afternoon (the culmination of the miracle that I mentioned earlier) and then we had a couple of our surrogate granddaughters to dinner last night.  We always enjoy having them and I really like the hugs I get from them.   

So long, for now, from Virginia - where us two "oldsters" are healthy, happy and busy!

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Adventures with Jetta-Diah the Jetta

Sunday, July 19 2015

Whoaa......I can hardly believe we are halfway through July already!   Seems like the days and weeks go flying by - even when we are not crazy busy.   When things are a little slower, even us oldster missionaries can find time to have a little fun!

I may have mentioned that Elder Ashton had one new VW Jetta that was giving everyone problems.  In fact, it had to have a new engine put in before they even drove it off the lot.   The set of missionaries that had that car assigned to them said it smelled like it was burning oil so the car was brought back and went back to the dealer.   To make a long story short, the dealership said there were no problems and Elder Ashton wanted to keep the car close so he could keep an eye on it and it would be easier if it needed to go back to the dealer, so he assigned the car to the set of Sister Missionaries that work right here in Portsmouth.   They were not super excited about getting the Jetta even though it was a fairly new car with less than 1000 miles on it----they wanted to keep their Chevy Cruz.   So, they decided to have some fun with it and named the car, Jetta-Diah, the Jetta.  They frequently come into the office with some tale/complaint about Jetta-Diah.   A couple of weeks ago they came in and the senior companion said, "Elder Ashton, I don't know what to say but a bear attacked our car and scratched it all up."   She seemed pretty serious about it and since the office secretary had just told us the day before that she had seen a bear walking across the road in her neighborhood (that's what we get when we live in a marshy area with dense forest), Elder Ashton thought it might be true so he headed outside to take a look at the car.   He found some really deep scratches in the right front aluminum wheel.....but it looked more like it came in contact with the curb than with bear claws ;-)   He said that to the sisters and they just started laughing and asked if he was mad at them.   He told them no, but they needed to be more careful because the new wheel cost $300.   They got the new wheel and had it put on and brought the old wheel back to the office.  Elder Ashton decided to have a little fun with them so he took the wheel and put a "Beware" sign on it and set it up on the front counter so the sisters would see it on Monday when they came in.   However, the President and his wife came in and both got wide eyes when they saw the display and then laughed when they heard the we had to take some pictures.

Sister Parry and Sister Tegan survived the "bear" attack :)

The sisters decided they wanted a picture of the perpetrator of the joke and his accomplice.   Note that Elder Ashton is pointing out the "claw" marks :)

The mission office was quiet this week and Elder Ashton spent most of his time getting caught up - he says he thinks he finally made it.   I spent one day paying the rent and spent some time looking at apartments on line.   The other office couple will go home at the end of the first week in August and we still don't know what is going to happen.....will we get local people to become service missionaries and take on the responsibility, will we get a full-time couple coming through the missionary department in Salt Lake, or will we have to divide up their responsibilities between the three of us that are left.   My guess is that we will be dividing up the responsibilities at least for a short time so I am trying to familiarize myself a little bit with the housing end of things.....we'll see how it goes.   I told the other couple of Friday that since they will only be here 3 more weeks and 1.5 of those weeks will be taken up with transfers and leadership conference, maybe we should ask the President if he wants us to get "down and dirty" about cross-training in the office.   We'll see what he says on Monday.

I'm still amazed at the vegetation back here.   Things are so dense and grow so fast that it is a constant battle to keep things trimmed back out of the road.   There are a couple of interesting "tree scultures" on one of the main roads in Portsmouth - the one that we travel every day.   I don't think these were originally designed to be tree sculptures but turned out to be that as they were trimmed back.

This one looks like it almost forms an arch with the  crepe myrtle that is blooming in the median.

This is one of my favorites - I think it looks like the head of one of the Canadian Geese that make their home in this area :)

I believe we are witnessing a mini miracle in our ward over the last 6 months or so.   About the first of the year, a young man who looked to be in his mid-30's showed up at church and indicated that he was a member who had been inactive for some time and had decided it was time to come back to church.   He came by himself every week and rarely said anything to anybody.   A few weeks later, a woman who looked to be about the same age also showed up to church and said she had been raised in the church but had totally fallen away.   She moved back here to help out her brother who had health issues and was needing to be in a wheelchair and his wife....she was a nanny to their 2 year old when mom was at work.   She also indicated that she had just recently decided it was time to come back to church.    She came by herself, every week.   She went out sometimes with the Sister missionaries and she also brought her nephew to church with her.   In a few months, she mentioned that her brother's wife was taking the missionary lessons but her brother was not interested at all (don't know if he is a full brother and if he was raised in the church or not).   About six weeks later, the brother started taking the lessons and they both started to attend church so the sister was not longer coming by herself.   Besides coming with her family, some of us noticed that the man who had indicated he had decided to get active again, was sitting with her.....and now they are an "item",   Her brother and his wife are scheduled to be baptized next Saturday and I wouldn't be surprised to see our Brother-coming-back and Sister-coming-back making their relationship more miracle, I say.

One day this past week I realized about halfway through the afternoon that I needed to get up and walk around for a bit to loosen up my muscles.   I made a couple of rounds through the church and then stepped outside into the courtyard.   I found these dainty little flowers and fell in love with them.

I also noticed these flowers.....I think my Grandma Bower used to call them "pinks" and she had quite a few of them planted by her house on the farm.   She really seemed to have a green thumb and as I looked at these flowers I started reminiscing about her and realized that this coming Wednesday will be the 126th anniversary of her birth.   She saw and experienced much in her 103 years of life!

Elder Ashton got up early again on Saturday and went for a bike ride so I slept in a little and then got up to get busy on the laundry and cleaning.   I also had an appointment to get my toenails done since I can't bend over far enough to do them myself and they felt like they were 6 inches long....I was so glad to get that taken care of and the grocery shopping done that I came home and did some more cleaning and ironing.   By the time I finished all that I didn't feel like cooking dinner so Elder Ashton suggested we go get some fast food and I readily agreed.   As we got in the truck it started to sprinkle just a bit.   By the time we got 1 mile down the road this is what it looked like.

It was pouring and I told Elder Ashton I didn't want to get soaked twice so we ordered at the drive through and drove slowly home because we couldn't see more than 5 feet in front of us.   And when we got back to our apartment (1.5 miles) the rain had turned to a sprinkle.   I guess it is really true that the weather can change on a dime in Virginia!

When we arrived home from church today I noticed these two "bikes" sitting next to our parking spaces.   I think we should get some like this when we get tired of the shiny red truck. Can you see me on the blue one with my combat boots that I bought for the snow last winter and my missionary skirt flying out behind?    Bet that would draw more than the usual missionary stares ;-D

We're doing good and still find satisfaction in what we are doing.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

An Adventure in Dealing with High Humidity

Sunday, July 12th

First things first.....Happy Birth Day to our 6th Great-Grandchild Adalynn Deserae Valdez born this morning at approximately 11 a.m. in Arizona - weighing 7 lbs 4 oz.  We are so happy she has arrived here on earth safely.....with LOTS of black hair!   That makes two great granddaughters and four great grandsons.....and I really don't know how I got old enough to have that many great grandkids, but I'll take all I can get.   It will be a long 10.5 months until I get back to Arizona and get to meet her in person but I'll be expecting lots of pictures to keep me updated :))

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And WOW - what humidity.  The picture above shows what my face usually looks like....I have a hard time cooking because I start to perspire in the kitchen and spend more time wiping my sweaty face than I do cooking!  Yesterday in the early afternoon it was 94% humidity!   Seems like we have had some rain every day this past week.   Sometimes it lasts for just a few minutes of a heavy downpour, and sometimes it is a heavy downpour followed by a steady rain that lasts most of the night.   I knew I was perspiring profusely but didn't realize just how wet it had been until we turned the corner into the parking lot coming home for lunch the other day and noticed that we were growing a crop of mushrooms on the front lawn that had popped up overnight!

These mushrooms were about 4 inches in diameter - quite impressive.   

I liked the little freckles on them :)

Saw more interesting and beautiful nature things this week.
I really liked this bush with the clusters of TINY french blue flowers surrounded by a few bigger white flowers with blue centers.  Intriguing plant.

The crepe myrtle trees continue to bloom with the more vibrant colors just coming into their glory.   Elder Ashton mentioned that he saw a line of bright red ones when he was riding his bike yesterday and said they were really pretty!

This one is right outside the main lobby door of the church and only about half of the blooms are out.   Some of the trees get so covered with blooms that they become too heavy and the branch breaks off.  We have experienced that a few times with too much citrus on our trees back in Arizona, but I've never noticed it with flowers!

This is the trunk of a fairly mature Crepe Myrtle tree......I find the "bark" quite interesting!

The office was a little quiet this week and I had a chance to create some spreadsheets and do some prep work for processing the rent this next week.   We've had a couple of sets of missionaries move this past month and closed out another apartment so I need to make sure I get the utilities turned off and don't pay the rent.   We also have several empty apartments that we continue to pay rent on, but I need to keep an eye on utilities to make sure they are not too high while the apartment is vacant.   We will fill all those apartments when the next group of missionaries comes in 3 weeks.   We thought we were going to have 31 new missionaries arrive but got a reprieve this past week when we learned ONLY 30 will be arriving on August 4 ;-)  Sister Shaw (one of the other sisters that works in the office) has been busy purchasing bedding for the incoming missionaries.   We don't have a very big office space and each missionary is given a mattress pad, a set of sheets and pillowcase, a blanket, a comforter, and a pillow when they arrive.   Some of those items are rather bulky so it has been a challenge to find a place to store 30 of each of is quite interesting as we have comforters, blankets, pillows, etc. stacked on top of our wall cabinets and stacked in corners on the floor.   Feels good to know we are almost ready to greet those new missionaries!

Elder Ashton received a call from a gentleman asking about the cars for sale early in the week.   He said he wanted to start a rental car company and wanted to know how much he would have to pay for the 6 remaining cars.  Elder Ashton talked with Salt Lake Fleet people and they were willing to give him $500 off on each car.   He still seemed interested when Elder Ashton talked to him Thursday afternoon and said he was meeting with his investor that night, but then we never heard anything more----guess he will have to sell them one by one.   I still say I need to buy that plaid jacket and make him a poster.

Image result for used car salesman jokes
What do you think?????

Saturday we took a quick trip over to Newport News to try to see some more history of the area.   As we were making our way across the bay/one of the rivers and approaching the M & M tunnel (the first one I drove under when we got out here, I realized that a ship was heading our way and would be passing over the top of us.....that was a little freaky!   I didn't capture a picture of it, but found one of moves automobiles and is called the Sunshine Ace.


It was riding high in the water like this and moving pretty fast, so we think it must have dropped off most of the cars.  The web site says it departed from Norfolk this morning - don't know where it is headed.   

I was able to capture this picture of another ship that looks like it is getting ready to cross over the tunnel on our return trip later in the afternoon.

We visited the Virginia War Museum in Newport News yesterday afternoon and one of the first things we noticed was the display of several large guns outside the museum.   They were impressive but not nearly as good looking as those "guns" my grandsons displayed a week or so ago ;-)

A huge tank sitting outside.....Elder Ashton said he thought this one was self-propelled.

This museum was VERY interesting as it had displays dating from the revolutionary war up through the Vietnam war and even a remnant of the Berlin Wall that came down in 1989.  

This display related to the Revolutionary War was very interesting to me.   Below you can see the handwritten version (written in George Washington's own hand) of what you see above.   Made me think about what it was like for them as they were fighting that war.   Seems from the contents of this letter that all was not sunshine and roses for them!

As I read the plaque entitled, "The Shot Heard Around the World" I wondered at the men (and women) who had courage enough to stand up to the strongest nation in the world at that time in open defiance.......what did they give up to establish this nation?   And one of the reasons was a 2% tax on tea!

I apologize for the poor quality of the pictures below....the lighting in the museum and the glass made
it like I was taking pictures in a mirror.   You can see the display of guns that was on the opposite wall.

I was VERY surprised at how small the uniforms were.....these were uniforms for the "men" that fought in the Revolutionary war and they looked like they would barely fit a 12 year old boy.

 A leather hat - note the hole in the front where the adornment would have been fastened.

Another small uniform.

Terrible picture - but maybe you can tell this is a small book of scripture that was carried by one of the men during the Revolutionary is a copy of the New Testament.    Surely brought home to me that this country was founded by God-fearing men.

This is a surgeons traveling surgical kit.....note the different kinds of knives/instruments used to perform surgery on the wounded and injured.

This display was fascinating.   It was a wooden splint that was carved to fit on the inside of the right calf with the hole allowing room for the ankle bone to move about.   The crutch certainly doesn't look as comfortable or as easy to use as those aluminum ones I spent 5.5 months on!   It's hard to tell from the picture, but that splint was only about 2/3 the length of my lower leg.....seems the soldiers must not have been much taller than 5 foot.

Uniforms for women of the Red Cross at the time or World War II

Following WWII France, Belgium and some other countries sent cars from a gratitude train to different states in the US as a thank you to them for sending soldiers and helping them make it through WWII.

A replica of what the fence was like at Dachau concentration camp.   In 1945 an order was issued to exterminate all residents of that camp because Germany did not want any of the prisoners to fall into the hands of the Allies.

The portion of the Berlin Wall.

While I found the museum very interesting, I left there feeling quite sad.   The displays were well done, but they depicted war, after war, after war, after war.   I mentioned that to Elder Ashton and wondered why we have so many wars and he reminded me that it has been that way for a long time....even in Book of Mormon times.   He's right, but I wish we could all get along and treat one another with kindness and respect......Call me PollyAnna :)

The bottom paragraph that describes the surrender at Appomatox Courthouse touched me and made me realize that sometimes even the victor feels the pain of those he/she has conquered.  I love the last sentence that seems to encourage forgiveness and acceptance!

As we arrived at work on Friday, I noticed this vibrant red flower across the was about 6 inches in diameter!   So when things calmed down a little, I walked across the street, knocked on the door and told the gentleman who answered that I was an Arizona girl and had never seen anything like that flower and asked if I could take a picture.   He was very gracious and allowed me to take the picture but I think he might have thought I was just a little weird ;-)  I did some research to try to find out what kind of a plant it is (thought it might be some kind of Hibiscus because of the stamen) but was unsuccessful in my search.   I did notice as we left church today that all those green buds are now red buds so it should be quite striking later this week.

I also noticed these pretty and unique lillies of some kind right in front of the church.....
...and I noticed the leaf that is all rolled up.   When we went on our cruise to the Caribbean a little over a year ago, we took a flower arranging class on the ship one day and they taught us how to roll the leaves up like that and use them as points of interest in a bouquet......hmmm...looks like Mother Nature thought of that first :)

And, last but not least, the most beautiful picture I have seen all week......
....the newest great granddaughter in my son's (her grandpa's) arms.    What could possibly be better than this?