Our two sons and their families who came to visit are safely back in Arizona and it is pretty quiet and boring with just us two oldsters, Elder and Sister Ashton, around here. As I have taken time during this past week to reflect back on some of the "conversations" we have recently had with some of our children I have been reminded yet again how blessed and privileged we are to live in the USA - she's not perfect but she is still amazing!
One of the things I have recognized in the last 8 months (yes, we have really been back here for 8 months) is that many of the people who live here are very patriotic. That may be related to the fact that there are many military bases around and we are surrounded by people who have chosen to serve this great country.....and it also might be related to the fact that this area is the very birthplace of our nation. Many of the countries early leaders lived within 75 miles of our little apartment here and sacrificed much in the late 1700's. I was looking today at a list of signers of the declaration of independence and it contains the names of five men who lived within the confines of our mission here and an additional three more men from Virginia. I have contemplated what it was about those men that made them brave enough to draft and sign documents declaring independence from one of the strongest nations in the world at that time. It could only have been their desire for freedom to choose their own course in life. How lucky we are to be able to choose: Where we live, what we do to support ourselves, what kind of house we live in, what clothes we wear, who we vote for, our favorite food, etc., etc., etc. And, I get to see evidence of our freedoms and patriotism all around me.
Last night when we left the mission office, I was tired from a very busy week so we decided to grab a bite to eat at Chick-Fil-A. We were waiting for our food when I looked our the window and my breath caught at this sight---- puffy white clouds in a blue sky and the flag whipping in the breeze!
Part of the reason we had such a busy week was that Elder Ashton was busy selling used cars. When the mission cars reach 50,000 miles they are taken out of service and sold. Elder Ashton had been very busy for a few weeks but had prepared 4 cars for sale without much interest. All of that changed this week.....he sold 3 of the 4 cars with another one spoken for. I have tried to get him to let me buy him a plaid sportcoat so he can look the part of the used car salesman but he refuses, so just try to get a mental picture of him in a plaid sportcoat with a big poster saying "Cars for Sale" and enjoy the laugh :)
The hydrangeas are still coming into bloom and are interesting to me as they change during the lifetime of the blooms.
This bloom is about one week old and you can see that it is a light pink, with some greenish white mixed in.
This one started out like the lighter pink one and is about 4 weeks old.....the pink becomes more vivid as the bloom ages. I love the delicate detail of each of the flowers that make up a bloom.
This one is in a different yard and you can see the blooms in different stages on one plant....light purple, medium purple, and a deeper purple. I love the infinite number of different creations of blossoms I get to see back here.
A few weeks back I mentioned that I had seen an Evergreen tree that looked like it had big white buds on it like were on the Southern Magnolia trees around here. We go by this tree 2 or 3 times a day and for a few days I kept waiting for it to bloom although that seemed REALLY strange to me on an evergreen tree.
This is the tree and you can see a few of those white things.....I finally convinced myself that it was just white Christmas lights in the tree and didn't think much more about it until we were in another town last weekend and I saw a different tree covered with the same thing. Sooooooo, this week I decided to explore further.
I drove down the road, parked the truck and walked about a block to get the picture above....looks like this tree produces WHITE cones!
I did a little research today and I believe this is a Spruce tree. Trusty Google brought up a page that explained that mature Spruce trees have light cones that grow upward. I'll have to keep an eye on this to see what happens as the seasons progress.
Patriotism displayed as a theme for the entire house and yard. This house is about half a block from the church where our office is and I've gone by it many times and admired what a nicely kept home and yard it is. This morning, I was hoping to take a picture of it and as I drove up, there was a man sitting on the porch step.....with a full white beard and dressed in overalls. He was resting from the yardwork he had been doing. I stopped and asked him if he would allow me to take a picture of his house and he said, "Sure, but let me get out of the way." I told him I really wanted him in the picture (he was dressed in patriotic colors) but he wouldn't agree to that. We had a pleasant conversation about how much I am enjoying learning about the history of this area. When I mentioned that and told him how picturesque his house is, he told me that the wagon wheel belonged to his great, great grandmother and that he had refurbished it...Only the hub and the metal around the outside of the wheel are original but it still has lots of history woven into it. And he said his wife gets all the credit for the picturesque home.....he just does what she tells him ;-) Nice home and yard and nice man.
I also came across this display of patriotism in our neighborhood this morning.....Note the home in the foreground has multiple flags but the one in the background also has a flag. And doesn't this home look like you imagine a typical home in Virginia?
There is an interesting phenomenon back here.....the trees grow so tall and so dense that they have to be trimmed so they don't interfere with the power lines and or the traffic. Sometimes they cut the middle branches out of the trees, sometimes they trim the sides and sometimes they trim the bottom. In the tree seen toward the back of the photo above....they have done all three. Looks strange to be approaching a square cut in a tree so you can drive under it ;-)
While Elder Ashton kept busy selling cars this week, I kept busy paying bills (paid about 50 utility bills) reconciling credit card statements, and trying to collect a refund on a water bill that was overbilled. I spent almost an entire day trying to compose a letter that would sound firm and like we expected to get a refund without sounding rude or threatening. That was a challenge and I didn't know if I had hit the mark so gave it to the President for review before sending it out and he said it looked great. What made it even more touchy is that the overbilling occurred on another apartment in the same complex we live in and they know that I am the one writing the letter to their corporate headquarters......hope I don't find an eviction notice on my door one day (jk, jk).
I liked this flowering plant that I found planted alongside a mailbox in the neighborhood.
More crepe myrtle trees coming into bloom. In seems that the white ones were the first to bloom, followed by light pink and lavender and now we are getting the more vivid colors like coral, red, bright fuchsia....and this purple one smelled great when I got up close enough to take the picture!
As much as I dislike the cold winter, lots of rain, and being far away from family and friends, I am so glad to have this opportunity to enjoy the beauty back here and to be immersed in the history of our country. I have gained a deeper appreciation for this country and the freedoms we enjoy and hope all of us will think about what we have in comparison to other countries and be grateful for it!
HAPPY INDEPENDENCE DAY!