Sunday, August 30, 2015

Adventures at Work and Play

Sunday Afternoon - August 30

Although some things are becoming somewhat routine for us, we continue to have adventures and learning experiences.   A little over a week ago, Elder Ashton went on a bike ride by himself and took a new route.   He had not taken time to eat breakfast so needed to stop and get some fuel in his body before he finished the ride.   When I asked him what route he took, he said, "A different one, and when I stopped at a convenience store to get me something to eat and saw that the clerk was behind a bullet proof glass, I knew I was in the wrong area."  YIKES!!!   There are some really nice areas here in Portsmouth, but also some that are really NOT NICE!  I keep threatening to take away his riding privileges when he crashes or gets in unsafe conditions, but he doesn't pay any attention to my threats ;-)

Tuesday morning when we got to the office, Elder Ashton said, "I guess I better see if I can find that car."   When I questioned him about the statement he said that he was missing one of the spare cars that have been sitting in the parking lot for about a month.  I immediately started offering suggestions, like, "Did you check with the assistants?",  "Do you know when it disappeared?", etc., etc.   He patiently answered me that he had checked with the assistants and they had checked with several other Elders but no one seemed to know where it was and he didn't know where else to look.  I then reminded him that 3 elders brought a car in one day about a week prior and took a different car.   He couldn't remember who it was but decided to call all the Elders that are serving in a trio to see who had it.   He had called most of them and we were beginning to think he was not going to find the car and all of a sudden I thought maybe it was in the repair shop.  I said, "Is it in for repairs?  At Dodd's or Mack's body shop?"  He immediately responded, "No, I don't think so"......but then he remembered that we had delivered the car to the local Pep Boys store for an oil change late one afternoon and both of us forgot it was there.   I was glad to see the "lost" car....and shake my head at our follies - when you get old people working with details and their lack of memory kicks in, you never know what will happen :)

I was glad to see this car that went astray back in it's proper parking place-waiting to be assigned to new missionaries arriving in 2 weeks.

The temperature is getting lower and so is the humidity so that makes it a little more pleasant on most days.   We have been without much rain for the past 2 weeks so not much moisture in the air now and I am really starting to see signs that fall is around the corner.  I'm enjoying the change to the plants and watching that, but certainly not looking forward to freezing weather!

While I was sitting in the parking lot at the dentist the other day waiting for Elder Ashton, I noticed this tree with the edges of the leaves turning brown.   A closer look made me realize that there was some kind of fruit on the tree.   I was just getting ready to get out of the truck and take some pictures when Elder Ashton came our so I handed him the camera to take the pictures.

I originally thought the fruit was pears, but this closer look makes me wonder if it is the outer shell of some kind of nut.   Anybody know what this is?

I've been noticing trees along the route to and from the office that appeared to have strawberries or something similar growing at the base of the leaves.   I finally came upon one of the trees in an area where there was room to pull off the road and examine the leaves/fruit a little closer - Not strawberries but clusters of 3 small berries.  Pretty.

The crepe myrtle trees are almost at the end of their blooms and the trees are covered with clusters of seeds.   It has been a beautiful, colorful summer of blooms.

I thought this cluster of seed pods displayed against the unique bark of the crepe myrtle tree made an interesting picture.

Here's the $100 tomato - almost ripe and ready for eating.

I think I'm going to have to change the name from the $100 tomato to the $33 tomato because there are two more tomatoes growing on the same plant in various stages of maturity.  Elder Ashton finally picked the ripest one on Saturday and ate it.   He said it tasted just as good as he had imagined it would while he watched it finally mature :)

The little spikes with purple flowers on them continue to increase in number and in size just outside the office.  I finally got a couple of pics that were closer.   The individual purple flowers are so tiny, it brings a smile to my face every time I think of it.

Pretty little flowers and even a purple stalk.   The creations we enjoy on earth are so varied, beautiful, and interesting!

On Friday, the other office workers including President and Sister Baker went on an outing for the couple missionaries.   They visited New Bern on Friday afternoon/evening and then went out to Harker's Island on Saturday where they were given a personalized tour by Brother Hancock who is a counselor in the Mission Presidency.  Member of his family living on that island were first contacted by missionaries and converted in the 1880's.    We stayed and kept the office open and enjoyed a visit from our son Curtis.   It was GREAT to see him and get to spend some time with him!

We went to Yorktown and saw different sites than we saw the first time we were there.   I thought this Yorktown trolley was charming and was arriving just as we were so I just had to take a picture :)

We started with a 15 minute movie that gave an overview of the battle at Yorktown during the Revolutionary war when the Colonists were trying to gain independence from Britain.  In 1781 (5 years after the war began) Yorktown was held by General Cornwallis and 9000 British troops and George Washington decided the Colonists could not let Britain retain control of this important area along the eastern waterways.  Aided by the French, the Colonists were able to prevail and take back Yorktown - General Cornwallis' troops surrendered on October 19.   Some historians call this the most important battle of the revolutionary war, even though the war continued to some degree for another 2 years.

Curtis and Denis took the walking tour guided by a ranger and I stayed inside in the air conditioning for part of the time.  (Here they are resting against one of the cannon) I went out to join them as the ranger was explaining the wind-up of the battle.  The ranger explained that the Colonists were able to take redoubt 10 (a group of soldiers behind an embankment) on the 10th day of the 10th month in just 10 minutes (pretty interesting bit of trivia).   When Cornwallis realized he was losing the battle, he attempted to retreat across the river to Gloucester, but while attempting that retreat a storm and fog came up and many of the boats they were using to cross the river were lost.  Cornwallis realized he had no choice but to surrender.   While listening to the ranger, I felt goosebumps and was reminded once again that the Colonists had divine help in gaining their independence!

From Yorktown, we went on over to Jamestown and this time we went to Jamestown settlement and saw some different things.   Jamestown village is set up with re-enactors for both colonists and Powhatan tribe members.

Carved poles set in a circle as they would have been in a Powhatan village.

Elder Ashton and Curtis stopped to talk and watch the tool maker make arrow heads, axes, etc.....all from stone.

A pelt stretched for drying

A tree with yellow bunches - look like another kind of seed to me.

Close-up of the yellow bunch.....delicate and pretty.

Interesting brick monument to those who have impacted Jamestown

Close-up of plaque on monument outlining important impacts from 1607 to 1957

I was drawn to this plaque explaining the importance of Jamestown.   I have heard the stories of this first settlement, John Smith, Pocahantas (who married John Rolfe) most of my life.   But I never stopped to consider that this first settlement, their interaction with the natives, the marriage of John and Pocahantas and their subsequent trip to England where she was received as an Indian Princess, set in motion things that helped shape the young nation and even the world.    Each time I visit these historic places I am stuck with how many very important, life-changing events for our nation took place within about 150 miles of where I am.   I am so glad we have this opportunity!

Elder Ashton and Curtis in front of the "ships" at Jamestown.

Another great week has passed topped off by two wonderful things - a visit from one of our children and the opportunity to use technology to "hangout" on google with many of our family members on Saturday night.   It was so GREAT to see and talk with them.....I'm still grinning with happiness about that!

Saturday, August 22, 2015

A Time Flying Adventure

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Another week has passed in what seems like the blink of an eye!   It was a busy week, but not so busy that it should have passed as quickly as it did - I really wonder sometimes if all the clocks and the revolutions of the earth have been sped up!!!

Monday started as a normal day at the office until we had our staff meeting.  At that time the President told us that he is beginning to plan for the 20 new missionaries that are coming in on September 15.  We only have 5 missionaries going that leaves us with a positive of 15 missionaries and only 2 empty apartments.   With two missionaries per apartment, that means we need to find at least 5 or 6 new apartments.   We have a rather new housing coordinator and in took him the full week to find and negotiate the lease for one of those new apartments.   He was feeling a little overwhelmed about mid-week and wondering how he was going to accomplish what is expected.   He then spoke his favorite saying about problems/challenges.  He said, "More opportunities to excel" I like that way of looking at it ;-)

We also started to train a new sister to handle referrals and supplies.   She is very nice and positive and a very quick learner.   Our biggest problem has been getting Salt Lake to respond and grant her permission to the referral program on the computer.   We finally got desperate and had her use my log in information - we've had more referrals in the last two weeks than we have had for months!
And some people who are VERY interested in learning more about the gospel and the church.

I think it is finally starting to cool off a bit and the humidity/hear index has not been quite so bad.  Of course, that doesn't mean that I have quite dripping perspiration- it just means I only have one or two bouts of dripping a day instead of 4 or 5 ;-)

I have noticed that fall is approaching as I watched the  trees and plants change.

When we arrived at the office on Monday, I noticed that almost all of the little plants along the tree right in front of where we park had shoots with purple flowers and the shoots are growing taller!   There were too many spiders for me to get a close up of how tiny the purple flowers are on that shoot - Tiny but so perfect!

The crepe myrtle tree by the door is still blooming beautifully and one of the locals said the other day that this has been an especially long blooming season for them.   They are starting to come to the end of new blooms and form seed pods.   If you look closely at the lower right and upper center of this picture you will see the little green seed ball breaking out of the pod.   While watching the flowers and trees grow back here I've found that I have a deep interest in horticulture, but with my black thumb all I can do is admire from a distance :)

Another seed pod - forming on the tree  that sits at the edge of the parking lot, directly in front of our apartment window.   Before this drops off the tree it will turn rusty brown and get hard and spiky....something I wouldn't want to step on with my bare feet!  In the background you can see another tree (I think it is some kind of maple tree based on the shape of the leaves, just starting to turn golden.

 Another view of the tree with the round seed pods.....they look like little brown dots on the tree in this picture.

Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday were "regular" days at the office.....nothing out of the ordinary going on but spurts of busy-ness when all three phone lines were ringing at once or when the mail came in and lots of bills needed to be paid.   I spent some time trying to set up a new spreadsheet to track all these changes that are going on with apartments so I know which are new ones, which ones we are moving into, ones we are moving out of, ones we are waiting for security deposits to be returned and ones that need to have an application fee and security deposit paid.   I usually have a couple of weeks of lead time for those types of things, but right now it is moving much faster than that!  I also got a bit of a surprise when I received an email from one of the apartment complexes indicating that we owed $125 plumbing fee because the toilet was clogged - with a toilet brush stuck down in there up to the top of the handle.   The only way it could be removed was to get a plumber with a special tool.   Ahhhhhhhh, sometimes 18-20 year old missionaries don't think of consequences before they act.   I will find out on Monday if the President is going to expect the missionaries (or their parents) to reimburse the mission for that expense as a learning experience to the young missionaries or if he will let it go.   I'm glad he has to be the tough guy if he decides to make them pay for it because they only get $145 a month to live on and it would probably take the two of them about 3 months to get it paid off!

After a day of paying bills and trying to balance credit card accounts, I find it soothing to see the puffy clouds moving across the sky as we drive back to the apartment!

Thursday was a good day as I had the opportunity to go with the missionaries to teach 2 different people about Jesus Christ.   In the morning I went with the Sister Missionaries to teach Ms. Sewell from Jamaica.   I just LOVE her.   She is here staying with her son and trying to pass the test for her American Citizenship.   She is studying hard for that and we are praying that she will do well.  When we arrived, she was sitting on the step fanning herself with a piece of paper.  She had on a brown skirt, yellow sandals, a royal blue t-shirt and a bright turquoise kerchief on her head.   She looked exactly like she had just stepped out onto the street in Kingston (where she is from).   She has a beautiful smile and kept thanking the young Sister Missionaries for finding her and visiting her because she had been feeling so lonely and said she now feels joy and peace - especially when she sees them!   What a sweet person she is!   Her son and 3 grandchildren are coming from Detroit area this weekend and she is really excited to see them!

Thursday evening after a quick dinner we met the young Elder Missionaries and went with them to teach Mariah.   I told her I have a granddaughter named Mariah but we call her Mimi.....she said people call her Riah.   Her father recently joined the chuch in Florida and when she went to visit him, the Sister Missionaries stopped by and she started asking them questions so they sent a referral to the missionaries here... (small world story - the Elder who got the referral and whose area Mariah lives in, is a friend of the Sister Missionary in Florida who baptized Mariah's father).   Mariah said she is loving the story she is reading in the Book of Mormon and had suddenly realized that she is feeling more happiness and peace than she ever has.   Her husband is returning from deployment with the Navy this weekend and knows she has been studying the lessons....we'll see if he is interested.   They are expecting a baby in January and she is really interested in Forever Families.   We didn't arrive home until about 8 p.m. so I was tired from a long day, but it was a good tired.

This week each afternoon I noticed quite a few birds flying from tree to tree around the office windows and even a tiny little woodpecker on the tree right outside my window.   I tried to capture pictures but they were much too fast but they looked like those pictured here.

The internet calls this Grey White bird.   When it flies the inside of its wings are white and the tail spreads out and it white underneath.....pretty.

Also lots of these Blue Gray Tanagers----they are quite small and fly really fast so I could never even gt my phone out before they were gone!

This is called a Downy Woodpecker.   The one that comes to the tree outside my window blends right in with the gray of the tree trunk and I hardly can see him until he moves around the tree and I see a tiny glint of red.   It seems that he pecks about 3 times in one place and then moves around the tree to another place.   So many fascinating things in nature!

I love that a number of places between our apartment and the office look very kind of offsets the constant sirens that go off!  The scene below is from the bridge we cross on our way to and from the office......can you say idyllic?

Trees in the Baptist Church yard with about 1/3 of the leaves already turning yellow.

Leaves on the vines beginning to turn orange

Lawns turning brown (we haven't had much rain in the last two weeks) and leaves on the tree turning orange.   As I noticed the orange leaves the other day, I mentioned to Elder Ashton that I thought it was much too early to be getting fall colors in the leaves.....then all of a sudden I realized that it is nearly September already-----I can hardly believe that!!!

I do realize that each day seems to be filled and there is not much time for boredom.   In fact, I've been trying to find time to get to the gym to workout on a regular basis but haven't been able to work that out yet.   Soooooooo, this afternoon I did a workout right here in the apartment......

As you can see from the bandana tied around my head, my "workout" of ironing 6 white shirts left me as drenched in sweat as a workout at the gym would have......and now Elder Ashton has white shirts ironed and ready to get him through the next week.

We are still loving this time of service, and even though I miss family and friends and long to give and get hugs and hold new great grandchilden, I know I am where I should be.  I have many blessings, the most important being my family who I hope to be with forever.   Spending a little time away from loved ones is worth it if I can be helpful in bringing happiness and blessings to others......besides, I hear I am missing record heat in the Valley of the Sun ;-)

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Old Time Adventures

Another busy week in the Virginia Chesapeake mission.....and a brief catch-up on other happenings from last weekend.
On Saturday, August 8 we decided to take a short trip to Suffolk and see if Elder Ashton could find some cemeteries to take pictures.   There are MANY cemeteries back here, but he is finding that most of them are so large he just doesn't have time to get them done.   He feels as if he has hit the jackpot when he stumbles on a small cemetery where he has the time to take pictures of every marker.   So he was pretty excited while on our way to Cedar Hill Cemetery in Suffolk we came across this small cemetery just beside the road.

The small roadside cemetery - Elder Ashton said he took about 20-25 pictures.  I thought this was a peaceful resting place even though it was right next to the road.   Note the sweeping tree branch that seems to arch over the graves.

Some of the graves were in a little nook under the trees.   If you look closely you will see that some of the leaves are already turning red and orange.   I'm thinking that fall foliage back here is going to be beautiful!

Elder Ashton getting in and cleaning headstones off before taking pictures.

After we left the roadside cemetery we headed on into Suffolk to try to find Cedar Hill Cemetery.  On the way we passed this plant that I thought was very interesting.

An old building.   Elder Ashton guessed that it was probably it was probably from the early 1800s

We finally made it to Cedar Hill Cemetery.....and it was huge.   The graves seemed to go on and on and on.   The skies were gray and a soft rain was falling and dripping off the trees.   I think that must be a common type of weather around there because, as you can see, many of the headstones have a coating of algae on them.

As we drove down the tunnel of trees, splashing though the puddles, I couldn't help but wonder about the thousands of people buried here and what their lives had been like.  There were lots of LARGE trees lining the lanes and I thought they might be Cypress trees which are quite prevalent out here.  Then I had a "duh" moment.....this is called CEDAR Hill Cemetery....these must be Cedar trees :)

Notice the tree in the foreground that is nearly completely covered with a climbing vine.

There is a large monument honoring the confederate dead and also the soldiers who participated in the Siege of Suffolk.  This battle/siege took place in April and May of 1863 and was supposed to strengthen the area and protect Richmond from the Union troops.

Upon leaving the cemetery, we traveled to the Railroad Station in Suffolk.   It is a charming building and was last used in 1958. 

The spiral staircase that is in the Railroad Station.

The front of the Train Station

Another view of the front of the station

Monday, August 10, we were back in the office and during our Monday meeting the President asked me to take on the responsibility of returning four cell phones to missionaries parents.   As you can see from the picture below, one of the fathers had been thinking ahead and given directions for returning the cell phone.   When I called him to discuss returning the phone, he said he had purposely sent it with his son so the missionary could call before he left the airport in Salt Lake.   We generally don't think about any inconvenience to not having pay phones available because we all have cell phones.   I remember when Curtis was leaving from Salt Lake, we were in the airport with him and MANY missionaries were lined up to use the pay phones.   Now there are not pay phones available.   Soooooo, the father just laughed and said sent it on home.   One of the other parents said, "Oh, he wasn't supposed to take that but it is a throw away phone anyway so just throw it away."   Society keeps changing!

I finally got all addressed verified and 3 of the 4 phones sent back....for about $2.50 per phone :)

These pretty little flowers are growing on the corner close to our house.   I think they may be some form of Lantana like we have in Arizona, but they grow a little taller than what we see there and I was interested to see the pink and yellow flower combination.

Saturday, August 15

Following Elder Ashton's Saturday morning bike ride, we headed toward Williamsburg for a little sight seeing.   We had not gone far when we ran into a traffic jam that was moving along VERY when I noticed a sign for Lee Hall Mansion at the next exit, it didn't take much convincing to get Elder Ashton to take a short side trip in hopes the traffic would thin a little by the time we got back on the route to Williamsburg.

I thought it was interesting that they launched a hot air balloon from here in 1862....and also thought it was sad that Lee went bankrupt soon after the war.   From the looks of the property, he was quite affluent at one time.

Looking toward the house/mansion from the main road.

There must have been much fewer trees in the 1800's because you can't see the mansion from the road now.

I was excited to see this----it looks just like a stately southern mansion that I have read about in books!

Another view of the mansion.....note the intricate woodworking.

Interesting to see where the meals were a building separate from the house.   I need a separate kitchen to keep from making the house so hot!

A side view of the brick kitchen.

The entrance to the brick kitchen (facing the mansion).

Another view of the mansion from the lane leading up to it.

Remember those beautiful white magnolias?   This is the seed pod that appears after the blossom is gone....intriguing!

A privately owned home in Williamsburg.....not open to the public but an imposing site anyway.  Look at the woodworking on the columns!  It sits right next door to the church described below.

I didn't know it, but Williamsburg must be toured on foot or on bicycle and it was hot so we didn't cover too many places.   We did make a few blocks to visit this church with a small cemetery in the back.   We were hoping that Elder Ashton could get some pictures of headstones, but the cemetery portion of it was all roped off.   The church was very interesting!

Interesting to read this plaque about when the bell in the tower was rung for specific celebrations.

As we walked through the church I noticed there were names on the end of the pews indicating who sat in those pews.   I wonder if our name will appear on a pew in St. Johns and in Gilbert in a hundred years indicating we sat in our specific pews ;-)

I was taken with this plaque......notice some of the spelling

We found a "famous" name on the end of one pew....."give me liberty or give me death".  Further research when we got home indicates that while serving as members of the Virginia House of Burgesses, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Patrick Henry attended worship services in the church.

We visited Merchant's Square and could have spent lots of money, but I tried to be frugal.....we only bought cheese from the cheese shop and candy from the Wythe candy shop.   By then I was hot and perspiring like crazy so we returned to the truck and drove down one street that had a sign that said "historic district" where we found some nice homes.

This home does not look like it is very old....but is very well kept.

This one looks old.   Notice the conduit running down the tree trunk....I'm thinking it might be used for Christmas lights.

I loved this gnarled split trunk on this tree!

Another well-maintained historic home!

As we crossed the bay on the Monitor/Merimac Bridge/Tunnel, we noticed a number of pleasure craft out on the bay enjoying the beautiful day.....I wonder what kind of fish they were catching?

Interesting leaves on this plant outside the missionaries apartment.   I noticed that a large number of leaves were black on the end and looked like they had been burned or were dying.   Elder Ashton mentioned that he thought they were burned by something like sun through a magnifying glass and tongue in cheek said he really didn't think young men missionaries would do something like that ;-)

I've been intrigued by the bushes outside this house.....for most of the year they are a dark green color (you can see that below the cream colored tops).  Right now they have send out fingers of tiny cream colored flowers and are quite showy.....those fingers nearly double the size of the bush.

Again, after another week here in Virginia, I am struck by all the sacrifices that have been made over centuries to allow me to live the life I enjoy the freedom that I do.    I try to imagine what it would have been like during revolutionary and civil war times and I have decided I would not have been strong enough to handle what they did.....give me the comforts of the 21st century, thank you very much!   

We are blessed to be here now!