Sunday, September 27, 2015

A "Tattle-Tale" Adventure

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Back in the very olden days (before wheels were invented my kids would say) I used to play a song on the piano and some of the words went like this, "Oh it's a long, long time, from May to September."   But I am here to tell you it isn't - it's not even a long, long time from May to October which will be here in a few short days.   We are so busy here in the mission that the weeks go flying by and every week I wonder how we got from Monday to Friday so quickly.  All around us we see signs of autumn approaching and I am sure that cold weather will not be too far behind that.   In fact, it has only been warm enough in the office for me to wear sandals one day this week.....and I really don't like to wear close-toed shoes but I do want to keep my toes warm.  

Following a "regular" day in the office on Monday, Elder Ashton left with Elder Wright to drive down to Kinston, North Carolina.   This week representatives from Salt Lake were here along with some technical people to install "tattle-tale" boxes in all the mission cars, plus Elder Ashton needed to inspect all the cars in the mission.   There are 78 cars in the fleet he manages and every car is assigned out to at least one set of missionaries - some are shared by two or more sets of missionaries. We also have several areas in the mission where the missionaries do not have access to a car so it is a biking area.   Elder Ashton tries to keep enough bikes in good repair to keep that going and also make sure all the cars are maintained and repaired properly so it keeps him really busy!  When Elder Ashton went to Kinston he left the truck with me, so on my lunch break I went exploring a few different areas in Portsmouth.   I was really proud of myself that I didn't get lost and was able to make it both to our apartment and back to the office without any wrong turns.   I saw this bright plant at the base of a tree in a yard and just had to snap a picture of it.

This reminded me a little of the "Indian Paintbrush" that used to grow almost as a weed in Wyoming.   Sure is a pretty salmon color.

Wednesday was more of the same in the mission - Elder Ashton and Elder Wright went over to Newport News to inspect more cars and have more "tattle-tales" installed.   That left us 3 women in the office and we planned that we would party with salads and fruit, but it got so busy we couldn't all break away for lunch at the same time so there was not much partying going on.

Thursday was the last group of cars for inspection and installation and that was held in Portsmouth so there were lots of missionaries in our building that day.   Once the training portion of the meeting was over, Elder Ashton had about 14 missionaries lined up around his desk all asking him questions at the same time!   I tried to help out by handing them their inspection sheets and trying to answer some of their questions but most needed Elder Ashton's expertise.  The conversation around his desk was so loud that OSHA would have required that we wear earplugs to protect our hearing!  I got the distinct impression that the missionaries were pretty worried about the "tattle-tales".   The boxes record their driving and warn them of some infractions, others they get no warning but a report goes to Elder Ashton, to President Baker, and to Salt Lake Fleet Management and the missionaries may lose driving privileges for those infractions.   The one that counts against them the most is driving without a seat belt!   Other infractions that are noted are speeding, hard breaking, speeding up too fast, turning a corner too fast, going airborne.....and I can't remember what else.   As the representative from Salt Lake was explaining the program, he noted that the most important thing is to make missionaries aware of their driving habits and to keep them safe.....of course, to the missionaries the most important thing is that they don't lose their driving privileges.   It will be interesting to see how this goes once Elder Ashton starts getting the reports.

At about 5 o'clock on Thursday one Elder brought a bicycle wheel into the office and said it had a broken spoke.   Elder Ashton was trying to help him get it fixed, but noticed when he turned the axle to get the spoke out that one side of the axle turned and the other stayed stationary....he had more than a broken spoke - he had an axle that was completely broken into 2 parts.  That meant a trip over to the apartment where the Assistants to the President live to get some bicycle parts as Elder Ashton was asked to move out of the little closet where he had his "Bicycle Shop".   On the way over to the apartment, I noticed several more signs of fall.

Even the small landscaping bushes are starting to turn a pretty coral color.

Scattered throughout several of the trees are bight red (scarlet) leaves.   I don't think I've ever seen those before.

More red leaves

Still more red leaves.   I find it interesting that the tree is mostly green - no yellow leaves.   I guess they must turn from green to red.

This tree seemed to have one branch that is beginning to change color and the leaves look quite pink.   We have a tree like that in our parking lot, but every time I think about taking a picture of it, it is raining outside.   We've had quite a bit of rain this past week and it has caused the tides to rise - and also the river.   As we came back from church today I noticed that a couple of the boat docks in the river near the bridge we cross are almost submerged.   More rain is predicted for the next few days so it should be interesting to see how that goes.

Several times this week I noticed this little ground cover plant as we were coming and going from the office.   I am intrigued by the tiny, delicate flowers.   Each flower is about the size of my pinky toe nail, yet very detailed.   We certainly live in a beautiful world full of all kinds of detail!

Saturday as we were driving home from the grocery store, we drove back over the road we took the other day and I tried to grab a few photos......they didn't turn out very well because it was raining but I thought the starkness of this dead tree with the vines climbing up it was interesting.

I think the rain spots make it even more interesting ;-)

We drove around a bit after church today trying to see how high the river was.   It is a little high, but I was most surprised to see the heron in the grasses along the river.   Can you see it?

One last pretty little flower I found as I strolled around the parking lot today before it started to rain.

Today marks 11 months since we entered the MTC.   The time has flown by and I have learned a great deal about myself - my strengths, my weaknesses, how to spend 24/7 with my husband of 48 years and still like him, how to love people around me who have had much different life experiences than I have, and how to survive without those family hugs that I miss so much.   I have found the best cure for missing family is to get busy with the work I was called her to do and then I don't miss them quite so much.   I've also learned a much deeper appreciation for my country and those who worked so hard and sacrificed so much to establish it.....I've loved visiting historical places and have several more I want to see in the next 7 months.  And I have almost learned how to say y'all ;-)

This adventure has been more work, but also more rewarding than I ever could have imagined when we left Arizona last October!

Sunday, September 20, 2015

A "High Energy Required" Adventure

Sunday, September 20, 2015

WOW - what a week!   It was filled with activity and literally flew by - seems like it was just yesterday that it was Sunday and here we are to the next one!

We had spent a good deal of time the previous week getting prepared for "transfer week" which includes some missionaries going home, getting new missionaries and sometimes assigning new companions.  But, this time it involved several (3) new apartments and several (4) new or re-opened areas which required reassignment of 3 cars.   In addition to that, some of the existing car assignments were being changed to shared assignments so some of the current missionaries as well as a number of the new missionaries would need bicycles for their areas.   Monday morning arrived and with it, our weekly meeting with the President and Sister Baker.   Although we received 30 missionaries six weeks ago and were expecting 20 on Tuesday, President Baker seemed more concerned about how all of this would work our logistically and because our mission covers such a large geographic area, we were not sure if all the new housing had furniture and utilities......we all crossed our fingers and hoped that everything would run smoothly.  Since Elder Ashton did not find out about the new shared car assignments until the Monday meeting, and had promised bicycles to some incoming elders that had been used until Monday evening by some of the elders returning home, he had his hands full with making sure enough new and refurbished bicycles were available.

As we were driving to the bike shop on Monday, I noticed this house along side the road that made me think it looked like a typical Virginia house.....I really like the decorative wood along the top of the portico.

Another interesting house as we left the bike shop and headed back to the office the other way......Even a horse and buggy in the yard!    I have noticed that many homes back here have "animals" in the yard - ranging from geese, to deer and now I see horses.   At first it is shocking because I think it is a real animal...then I am disappointed when I realize it is only a metal likeness of the animal.   Anyway, this yard is well-kept and quite a showpiece for the homeowners.

Tuesday morning in the office with bedding bags for new missionaries and dinner supplies ready to go!

Elder Ferguson - on the right, has been an assistant to the President for nine months and we would see him on a regular basis - at least a couple of times a week in the office, once a month in our home for dinner, about once a month we went on a teaching appointment with him, and at church every Sunday.   He will be going home January 1 and wanted to end his mission proselyting so he was transferred to Nags Head (poor guy to have to be serving in that beautiful place ;-) )  He wanted a picture taken with those of us who have been in the office most of that time- myself and Elder Ashton and Sister Slatter who is the Mission Secretary.   When he came by to shake my hand for the last time, we both had to swallow hard to keep the tears back.

We left the office about 2:45 to head over to Norfolk, planning to have dinner ready for the incoming missionaries by 4:45.   When we got there, Sister Slatter and Sister Goldade were just arriving with the food which we had ordered from Olive Garden.   Sister Goldade is new and when she placed the order with Olive Garden, she told them how many we were feeding and they told her what she needed.  They sold us 4 8x10" pans of lasagna, 6 large bowls of salad, and I think it was 5 doz breadsticks.   I thought that was a lot more food than we have had in the past, but was hoping we would have some really hungry missionaries!

This is the group of new missionaries with President and Sister Baker.  The young elder on the second row, second from the right is someone from Apache Junction, Arizona.   You might notice that there are a number of really tall Elders in this picture - President Baker is 6' 4" and we had 4 or 5 Elders in this group that were as tall as or taller than also might notice a few who look like they are about 15 years old......wait - maybe that's just because I am getting so old that they appear so young :)

Even though we had lots of big Elders and we begged and begged them to go back for more food, we still ended up with 1.75 pans of lasagna and 4 large salads left along with a few breadsticks.   A lesson learned for next time......

We left the Norfolk chapel at about 6:15 and made it home by 7 - which isn't too bad, but it had been a busy day and I was glad to be home.   On the way, we passed this small inlet where the water looked more blue than brown (which it usually does) and the sun glinting off the water - pretty setting.  The choppiness in the water on the right hand side of the picture was a bunch of seagulls stirring up the water.

As we left the apartment on Wednesday morning, I noticed these two tiny mushrooms growing alongside the parking lot.   Quite a difference in size from those giant ones I saw at the other end of the parking lot a few weeks ago!

Wednesday morning we went to the hotel to pick up some of the missionaries and along with the Assistants to the President and Sister Baker, we managed to get all 20 new missionaries to the church for some training and to meet up with their new companions.   Some of the local missionaries that have been serving here in Portsmouth or nearby that we have gotten very familiar with, were being sent to North Carolina and we needed to get one last picture with them.....I got hugs from the Sisters but Elder Ashton had to be content with a handshake :).

Elder Ashton and I with Sister Tegan and Sister Moe.   Sister Tegan who served here in Portsmouth and was part of the companionship that had a "bear" attack their wheel on their car is next to me.   On the end is Sister you can see she is TINY and has been serving in this district so we see her on a fairly regular basis.  I love these young ladies.....they seem almost like my adopted granddaughters!

And Sister Thomas who is staying in Portsmouth with one of the brand new Sisters for a companion wanted to be in the picture that she was taking of us :)   I love how much fun these young missionaries have while serving!

The meetings started at 9 a.m. and we expected they would be done about Elder Ashton went to replace the battery in one of the missionary cars.  Before he got back, he had at least 4 missionaries who were waiting for new companions come into the office and needed his help.   I can answer some basic questions about the cars, but these questions were too complex for me and I was already starting to feel a little stressed.  Sister Goldade and Sister Slatter were in the kitchen trying to get sack lunches put together, Elder Wright was on the phone, Elder Ashton was gone and I was trying to field all the other questions/issues.  YIKES!!!!

As soon as the meetings let out, Elder Wright left to drive to North Carolina and sign for a mail key for one of the new apartments (he had found out just last Friday that new homeland security rules require the person who signs the lease must sign for the post office key so he had to drive over 3 hours each way to sign that paper).   While he was gone and as Elder Ashton was trying to eat a sandwich, the office filled up with missionaries asking about where the cars were going.   One car that was going out was in the body shop and had been promised on Tuesday but didn't get done, then promised first thing Wednesday morning, but didn't get done, then Wednesday at noon, then Wednesday late afternoon, then Thursday at noon, Thursday mid-afternoon, and the Elders were finally able to take it about 5 p.m. on Thursday.   Those poor Elders had not been prepared to stay overnight and were going to Nags Head which is about 3 hours they were really late getting there!

About noon on Wednesday as they are loading luggage, bicycles, etc. in the trailer to set off for North Carolina.   They would drop off new missionaries and pick up missionaries that are coming up this way to work with another companion.  Look at all the cars, all the luggage, all the missionaries and imagine trying to keep all that straight - who can say CHAOS!   

Finally they all left except those who were waiting for a car or a companion to arrive.....and I thought quiet would ensue.   Alas, that was not to be.   Just before 3 p.m. as the President was getting ready to leave, we noticed that one of the new Elders had left all 3 pieces of his luggage.   The Elder had already gone with his companions to Elizabeth City (about 55 miles away) so the President made arrangements for the Elders that were waiting on the car to go to Nags Head to take the luggage to him.   Oooops!   The car is not ready.   Soooooooo, Elder Ashton and I left about 4:30 to take the missing luggage down to Elizabeth City to the new Elder.  I decided I may as well make the best of an unplanned situation and take a few pictures on this "trip".

As we were driving down, I noticed a strange phenomenon along the sides of the roads.....the trees had no lower foliage.   At first I thought maybe they grew that way, but as Elder Ashton and I talked we decided it could not be natural for them to be so uniform.....workers must have done something to get rid of the lower foliage - either cut it off or exfoliated.   The mowing and trimming of trees back here to keep the roadways clear must be a HUGE job!

When we arrived at the Elders little house in Elizabeth City, I decided to walk along the short street and take a few pictures.   This is another picture of a tree with those red berries, but now the leaves are starting to turn and it makes the tree appear almost pink.

The tree that looks pink.

At the end of the street, I noticed this nicely kept yard with a typical red brick house with white mortar and white trim.   A nice "older" home on a quiet street in Elizabeth City.  

A view of the same house from the intersecting street......note the fancy brickwork around the door and the well-kept yard.

Across the street was this interesting tree in the front yard.....with the leaves just starting to display fall colors.   Most interesting was the stark contrast of the dead wood in the tree - I thought this made for an interesting and pretty picture.

With the luggage delivered, we started to head back to Portsmouth, but decided to grab a quick supper at Wendy's.   This trumpet vine was right in front of our truck and I couldn't resist a quick photo.

Before leaving Elizabeth City, we decided we better stop for gasoline.   This thick growth of foliage is what bordered the parking area at the gas station.   How many different colors of green can you identify in this picture?  If you look toward the top of the picture, you can just see a couple of small patches of sky--otherwise you can't see though the thick growth.

Thursday was supposed to be just a regular day at the office, but there was a good deal of catch-up and organization that needed to occur following the crazy afternoon we had on Wednesday.   We were finally able to get all of the updated information/data into the software so we could make new lists and start to figure out where all the missionaries had moved.   Every person that works in the office needs an accurate list of addresses and phone numbers for the missionaries to respond to questions from parents, apartment complexes, forward mail, etc.  I was finally able to produce that spreadsheet about noon and then started working on paying the rent on the 95 apartments.   Imagine my consternation when 4 of the houses/apartments would not show up on the rent payment report.   That led to about 1.5 hours of diagnosis and data correction in the software....seems that the houses somehow were not connected to the proselyting area and if they are not connected, they will not show up for rent to be paid.   That is the first time that has happened in the 10 months I've been here, so I was really glad I was able to figure out the problem and get it resolved because I have learned that if rent payments are not submitted by the 17th, it is likely they won't get to landlords by the first because they have to be mailed from Salt Lake.   I'm crossing my fingers that the payments get to landlords by October 1st.

I love the blue skies and fluffy clouds we see here sometimes.....and I was enjoying them as we drove home from the office on Friday for lunch.  Suddenly I noticed some weird clouds that looked like little squares and was asking Elder Ashton what would cause the clouds to form like that.   He said he thought it must be some kind of contrail from an aircraft.   I looked more closely and realized he was was some kind of advertisement.   I can make out the first work "GEICO".   Can anyone make out the second word?   I'm still thinking about this and trying to figure out how they made that kind of contrail.....I think I may ask google ;-)

Friday was a relatively quiet day at the office and it was a good thing because this "oldster" missionary was tired!  We went to a presentation on Friday night about the Constitution of the United States.  It was entitled "The Constitution, Now and Forever" and the main speaker was a Dr. Glenn Kimber, a nationally known lecturer on the subject of the constitution.   Since being back here and visiting so many historic places, I have come to a much deeper appreciation of those who sacrificed so much time and energy working hard to see that this independent, free nation was established.   Virginia is really full of history about the founding fathers and so I was interested to attend and learn more about it.   We started the evening by all standing and reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.   It has been YEARS since I have done that and I was struck by the meaning found in that pledge.   Dr. Kimber spoke about how the founding fathers relied on "the heavens" to guide them in their task and when they were discouraged they turned to prayer.   He told the story that Washington was extremely discouraged when they were at Valley Forge.   He went a little away from camp and knelt down among the trees to pray.  He was praying vocally and tears were streaming down his face as he plead with Heavenly Father to keep his men from freezing and to protect them from death.   At that time, several of Washington's officers had been searching him out to tell him that they were giving up and going home (many of them lived within 50 miles) but when they cam upon Washington praying with tears on his face, they turned around and went back to camp, determined to stay and see the war through to the end.  He told several stories that highlighted how the founding fathers relied on God/Heavenly Father to help them through the difficult time and he said something that made me feel better.   He said, "America will not fall-the scriptures tell us that."  He also talked about the Declaration of Independence which was originally entitled the Declaration of Rights.   All in all, it was a very informative and uplifting evening.  And one of the best parts of the evening was that I knew I could sleep in the next morning :) - and I did.....didn't wake up until 8:30 on Saturday morning!

Saturday is always a day for chores - laundry, grocery shopping, cleaning, cooking.   Elder Ashton spent part of the day at the office trying to get a bike ready for an Elder and when I went to pick him up so we could go grocery shopping, he had a bicycle with him that he needed to take to the bike shop in "downtown" Portsmouth.   Well, it turned out it was in "old town" Portsmouth and while he was in the bike shop I decided to walk around a bit.  I found there are MANY old churches in "old town" and some of them are very beautiful!

This beautiful off-white church is in the middle of "olde town".

A striking image of the steeple against the blue sky.

As you can see from the placard, this church was founded almost 250 years ago, but has been located in several places.   Based on the information here, I am not sure if the building was moved each of those times or if the congregation moved.....I am guessing it was the congregation that moved.  In this picture you can see the steeple of another one of the churches in the area.

A portion of St. Paul's Catholic Church in "olde town".....I believe this is called Gothic architecture.

Another portion of the front of St. Paul's

And still another portion.....this church is VERY large!

The placard explains that this  structure to house St. Paul's Catholic Church was dedicated in 1905 - the congregation had previously met in several other places.
Did you notice that St. Paul's Catholic Church and Monumental Methodist Church are almost back to back?

Olde Town Historic District - we have driven by here a few times but this is the first time I have walked through part of it.   Very interesting old homes that have been refurbished.

I like this 3 story old home.....wouldn't it be interesting to know the story behind it.

Another 3 story home across the street.   Notice that each floor has a patio/balcony and a ceiling fan....must be so inhabitants can stand to sit outside in the summer heat.

The roses are blooming again now that the weather is a little cooler.....this is in a planter outside the blue historic home.

After a very busy week, and a relatively quiet week-end, my energy level is recharged and I'm ready for more adventures this next week will bring.   We are enjoying the cooler fall weather at the same time that we are beginning to dread the expected cold weather of the winter.  Still enjoying the adventure here in Virginia :)

Sunday, September 13, 2015

A Preparatory Adventure - Preparing for new missionaries and for fall

Sunday, September 13, 2015

On Monday - Labor Day- the mission office was closed so we were allowed to take the day off.  Elder Ashton and a few other "young" elders started the day off bight and early with a 18 mile bike ride.   When Elder Ashton rides alone he usually rides further, but due to time constraints on Monday mornings, they don't ride that far.   He loves riding and I think the young Elders must like it too, because they talk about it and sometimes come into the office late in the week to ask Elder Ashton where they are going to ride the next Monday.  After Elder Ashton arrived home, he said he needed to go to the office to work on bicycles and I told him I was going to stay home and clean. \I did some cleaning in the bathroom, scrubbing the tub and scrubbing the floor on my hands and knees and it tired me out so much that I HAD to take a 3 hour nap;-)   I still have sore knees from that adventure, so I've decided no more scrubbing on hands and knees for this older Sister.

Elder Ashton also loves to tease the young missionaries, both Elders and Sisters.  One Sister called the other day and Elder Ashton listened sympathetically to her story of a tire that was going low, then said, "It must be the tire gnome."  She said, "What?", to which he responded, "Didn't you know there is a gnome that comes around at night and lets air out of tires."   She then asked him what a gnome is and at that he gave in and started laughing telling her he was just kidding her.   Sometimes I think he is having entirely too much fun! :)

Tuesday morning I got a phone call from the Sister Missionaries asking me if I could go with them to give a lesson at one of their investigators right after lunch.   I told them I would love to go with them as they were going to visit Ms. Sewell and I just LOVE her.   I have been to her house 4 times now and we took her to church with us and I have NEVER seen her without a lovely smile on her face.  Besides her smile, I love to listen to her talk in her Jamaican accent.   She has been in the US about nine months and is trying to get her citizenship.....she lives here with her son and daughter-in-law and the last two times we have visited she has been busy making a chicken dish that smells delicious!  She told me she is anxious to get her citizenship as she thinks that will make it easier for her to get a job and she says she doesn't like just sitting around.   She is 67 years old and has had lots of tough things to face in life......I never hear her complain - only give thanks for everything she has.   It is getting to know people like her that makes it easier to be away from family and friends.   I never would have met her had we not come on this grand adventure!

One day she said she had a migraine and she had tried several things but couldn't get rid of it.   I told her about my friend in Arizona who used to say the best way to cure her migraines was to put one of her husband's black sox over her eyes and go to sleep in a dark room. (remember that Nancy).   Ms Sewell laughed and laughed and said she guessed it wouldn't work for her because she doesn't have a husband now ;-)   I suggested she might use one of her sons sox, to which she said, "Does it need to be a clean one or a dirty one?" and then started to giggle again.  I love going to see Ms. Sewell!

Sister Teagan, Ms Sewell, and Sister Thomas
3 Beautiful Ladies!

On the way home from the office on Wednesday I noticed a couple of signs that fall is approaching.

I love this pretty little rust colored tree that we pass going and coming from work.   The clapboard houses, the really tall trees, and the flag on the home are all very typical of what we see back here.   You will notice that the house has pine needles on the roof.....that is also very typical.  However, I was surprised when we passed a home the other day that had pine needles (baby trees) growing up in the crack between the roof and the rain gutter.   I guess needles and pine cones end up on the roof and get plenty of water from the rain......interesting to see that growing right over the front door of the house.   I tried to snap a picture but I believe Elder Ashton still thinks he is a fireman going to a fire so he wastes no time in getting places and is usually driving so fast that I miss the picture ;/

When we arrived home, this dandelion puff was right beside our doorstep.   I was intrigued by the delicate beauty of this little weed.   Also notice all the brown leaves on the ground already.....fall is definitely on the way but we are still having a few really humid days thrown in a couple of times a week.

Wednesday and Thursday I spent most of the time dotting i's and crossing t's to make sure everything is ready for this coming week.   We have 20 new missionaries coming in and didn't have enough apartments to house everyone so we have been busy trying to obtain new apartments and make sure everything is set up for them.   One of my responsibilities is to make sure utilities are turned on at the proper time and we have been struggling with getting that done in a timely manner.   One of the rental places took 3.5 weeks to get us a lease.....and the city would not even take an order to turn on the water until they had a copy of the lease and a $100 deposit.   I didn't want to send the deposit until we had the lease because I was afraid something might fall through and then it would be a big challenge to get the money back.   Finally got the lease on Thursday and then had to send the deposit overnight ($20) to make sure water is turned on by Monday so missionaries can move in on Tuesday or Wednesday.   The apartment also needed to be stocked with furniture and living/kitchen supplies so Elder Ashton and Elder Wright took a big van full of stuff down to North Carolina on Friday.  They left at about 8:30 and didn't arrive back home until 6 p.m. so that was a long day for them!

Friday, just a little before noon, Elder Ashton and Elder Wright were in North Carolina and Sister Slatter and Sister Goldade had gone to Target to pick up some more comforters to make up bedding packs for the missionaries coming in this Tuesday.   I heard a lot of  "bird" noises outside and looked up from my work on the computer to see geese, and more geese, and more geese crossing the road and entering the parking lot.   I got my camera (phone) and went outside.  I know I've posted pictures of geese several times but this was such a large group I almost felt like we were going to be over-run so I had to take another picture.

I counted 55 geese in the group!   They stuck around most of the afternoon and when I left at 5 p.m. they were blocking the driveway to the road from the parking lot on the other side of the church.   As I drove up a couple of them turned and looked but I had to wait a minute or so while they slowly moved out of the way.......and they were back blocking the same driveway when we arrived at church this morning.   They must think they own the place or something :)

Since Elder Ashton was still on the road returning from NC, I got brave and drove a little out of the normal way home.   Back here you find really nice homes and neighborhoods hidden in the trees.   These are the ones I found on Friday afternoon.

I like this one because the house and yard are so well-kept and you have a great view of the river behind.

Look at all those dormer windows on this house...I like the red brick with the white trim - appears very colonial, but I'm sure I'll be tired of it by the time we get back to Arizona and the light-colored stucco houses with tile roofs :)  The square white sign between the pole and the mailbox in this yard said, "Yard of the month."   Seems like they must have a neighborhood committee/contest to encourage keeping yards and homes looking nice.   I don't think most places back here have HOA's because you can see all kinds of things in yards!

Another brick, colonial style home in the same neighborhood.   I took this because I like the fluffly white cloud perfectly centered between the trees.   Are those Mickey Mouse ears I see? :)

To end the week Elder Ashton went on another bike ride, we did the normal chores of laundry and grocery shopping and a little cleaning, attended a baptism for a young wife, and had the Sister Missionaries over for dinner.  I made Eatmore and one of the sisters really liked it and asked what it was called.   I told her it was called Eatmore but that some of my kids who didn't like it very well called it Eatless.   They laughed at that.   One of them is being transferred this week.....she's been here for 4.5 months and has been in our home several times so we will miss her when she leaves.  The sister who is remaining her will be training a brand new sister will be great to get to know her and maybe help fill in some of the gaps for those she is missing from home.

We continue to find joy in this service at the same time that we continue to miss family and friends back home.   When Elder Ashton pointed out a LARGE, UGLY beetle on one of the plants outside the church one day this week, I said, "Take me back to Arizona!'....then I remembered I'll have to deal with ugly scorpions when we get there :)

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Another Historical Adventure

Sunday, September 6, 2015

This past week started out as usual - with our Monday morning meeting with the President and Sister Baker and us learning about just how busy we are going to be in the coming weeks!   It almost made me tired enough to go home and take a nap just hearing about all the happenings that will occur in September.....but I pushed through at stayed on task for the full day.   That afternoon I looked out the window and found a beautiful site in these interesting cloud formations.

I thought it was beautiful with the sun shining above the clouds with puffy white tops and gray on the bottom.  

I was thinking we might get some rain because I thought the clouds were turning gray and it had been about 2 weeks since we had any rain, but we did not.  It remained dry until Friday when we had a brief downpour and them more rain on Saturday early in the morning and the same today (Sunday).

Tuesday we were busy all day in the office preparing for Mission Leadership Conference which would occur on Wednesday.  All of the Zone Leaders and  Sister Training leaders come in for 6 hours one Wednesday for training, which they in turn share with district leaders who share it with the rest of the missionaries.   They are in the building from 9:30 to 3:30, but, of course, some arrive early and some stay late.  On Tuesday evening we went with the Elders to teach a young couple they have been working with and helped them answer some questions that came up after they had attended sacrament meeting.   The poor young man who is about to become a father for the first time left Sacrament meeting with the impression that if they joined the church they were not allowed to do anything to prevent having tons of children.   He breathed a sigh of relief when I told him that the decision about family size should be between them and Heavenly Father.  That was followed up with a nice conversation about what a blessing our 6 children are to us....and how much we love them and all of our extended family including spouses and grandchildren and great-grandchildren.  The wife seems much more interested than the husband - they are a cute couple.

Wednesday was pretty chaotic with 35 missionaries in the building and cars that needed to be shuttled back and forth to the repair shop, supplies that needed to be sent home,  receipts for purchases that needed to be reimbursed, etc., etc.   Elder Ashton even went back to the office at about 8:30 and met a transporter who was late in picking up the car he was supposed to pick up at 2 p.m.   I told Elder Ashton I had experienced enough fun that day and he could go to the office --- I was going to bed!  I really never expected that serving as a senior missionary couple would keep us so busy.

Thursday and Friday were a bit calmer but with the upcoming group of missionaries expected to arrive on September 15, we must acquire 3 new apartments and because we have more missionaries serving in trios, we have to upsize 3 other apartments.   I find it hard to keep everything straight and make sure the proper utilities are turned on or turned off,  the security deposits are paid on new houses and returned on houses we have vacated or transferred to the larger apartment if it is the same management company.   I have to work closely with the housing coordinator on this and he has only been doing that job for a month and got hit with lots of work so it has been quite a challenge......I hope I don't mess something up but keep telling myself if I do that it won't be the end of the world....I'll just call the helpers in Salt Lake and get them to help me straighten it out.   To top that all off, the President's credit card number got into the wrong hands so I spent at least one full day this past week identifying fraudulent charges and working with Bank of America and church headquarters in Salt Lake to properly account for those in the software---I learn something new on a regular basis!

Although the weeks pass quickly and this one was no exception, by Friday evening I was ready for some rest and had every intention of staying home on Saturday and taking things a little easier......
..But when Elder Ashton returned from his bike ride and I was working on my 3rd load of laundry, we decided to find some kind of adventure to a historical site.   Very interesting!

As we started out Saturday morning, the wind was blowing quite you see the white caps on the water?

When I saw this out my window....the field of cotton and the weathered shack in the middle of the field, my brain immediately started singing "Dixie" - guess when I think of "Dixie" I think of cotton.

We drove through the town of Smithfield on our way to our historical adventure.   One part of town has many historical homes and I was trying to capture some of them as we drove by.  I almost discarded this picture as trash when I realized I didn't get the second story of the house where most of the fancy woodworking was, but then I took a second look and decided I liked this picture with the flag barely peaking into the frame and the blue and white historic home.   Many of the homes are very well maintained and this was one of those.

Our final destination was to be Smith's Fort Plantation which is located about 5 miles outside of Surry, Virginia so after we left Smithfield we had a little bit of country road to travel.   We passed this deserted home sitting back from the interesting that when the humans are not there the plants take over.   I was intrigued with this and asked Elder Ashton to turn around and stop close to the house so I could get a picture.....I wonder what stories the walls could tell!

When driving on the country roads in Virginia, this is a rather common site to see - walls of trees on either side of a narrow road.....and this one is really not that narrow.  I've seen many that don't have much shoulder and no kind of emergency lane so this one is rather wide in comparison.   Still presents an interesting perspective as we are driving toward it.

We finally reached the turn-off to Smith's Fort Plantation.   The foliage is not so thick here, and the "road" is much narrower!

I was surprised to note the location of Smith's Fort Plantation in relation to Jamestown.   We've been to Jamestown a couple of times and since Elder Ashton chose our adventure for Saturday, I was surprised to learn there is a connection.....more about that later.

As you can see from the previous picture, this house was built between 1751 and 1765-----and it is a real historical gem.  This is the brick walkway that leads up to the house from the parking has been repaired by the preservation group and it was HARD to walk on because it was kind of dome shaped - rounded in the middle.

During our guided tour of the house we learned that the plantation received its name because it was built in the location of Captain John Smith's "New Fort," built in 1609, located directly across the James River from the Jamestown Colony.   It was intended to be a place of defense for the colonists if the Powhattan Indians came against them.  The fort was never completed because while working on the fort the settlers learned that the Black Rats that had made their way to America in the holds of the ships had gotten into and destroyed all the corn they had stored for winter and they knew they were going to be facing very difficult times!  This area of land (can't remember how many acres but it was alot) was given to John Rolfe as a dowry when he married Pocahontas.   The guide said that John Rolfe and Pocahantas never lived on the land, but John Rolfe did plant tobacco fact he took his strain of tobacco with him when he and Pocahantas traveled to England so he could introduce the tobacco to the higher class there who had recently taken up smoking.   Very interesting connection to the earliest settlers.   History indicates that the present house was built by Jacob Faulcon in 1751 but other structures had existed on the land before that time.

This is considered a 1.5 story house.....they built it that way to save on taxes ----even in the 1700's they had to think about tax rates!

The fireplace in the "main" room, surrounded with great woodworking.   The house has only 4 rooms - the main room & the master bedroom on the main floor and 2 bedrooms upstairs for the children.

A "cupboard" that Mr. Foulcan commissioned for his home.

Company dishes in the cupboard

 A pewter chandelier from 1611 in the main room......must have been used in a building prior to this one.

The master bedroom, including a baby's cradle at the foot of the bed

Original hinges on the doors- the guide said the door has never been off its hinges 

Small reading table in the master bedroom.  King James bible from 1622.  Note the reading glasses - the frame style has returned to being fashionable :)

Two beautifully carved dower chests from that time period.   They may have been used to store linens, bedding, etc.   Or, if a young woman was getting married they may have held her dowry.

Elder Ashton studying the "rope spring" bed in the boys bedroom.   This family had 3 boys (one of whom was institutionalized) for feeble mindedness.   The guide said it is now conjectured that the boy suffered from retardation brought about by lead poisoning from eating on the "everyday" dishes which were made of pewter.

The family also had 2 daughters.   Pictures from the "girls" room below.

My eye was caught by this "tape" machine.   You can see the "tape" coming out of the "machine".  It was made by weaving all those threads together and producing a sort of twill tape that was used in many everyday things - bonnet strings, tying things together, etc.

A high chair from that time period.   Note the wide planks in the floor.....those are original floors from the 1700s.   Original floors throughout the house except for 3 stair treads.......pretty amazing that it could last that long.

The above photo is a reproduction of the 4.5 page letter that John Rolfe wrote to the Governor of Virginia asking permission to marry Pocahontas.    The text indicates that he had fallen hopelessly in love with her, but he needed special permission to marry her because she was considered far below his class....a savage really.  However when they got to England, she was considered royalty (an Indian Princess) and she was allowed to attend royal functions while John Rolfe who was considered a commoner in England was not invited to attend those functions.  When John Rolfe returned to Virginia without Pocahontas who had died and leaving his small son behind with his brother, he continued to raise tobacco on this plot of land.

They had a small store in the basement (cellar) of this home and as I was looking at the display I found this little blue glass bird......and just had to have it.   My mother-in-law had one that was similar and she always called it her "bluebird of happiness" now I have my own "bluebird of happiness,"

As we left the house and walked out to the truck, we came upon a magnolia tree that was just loaded with these pods.   The same type of pod was white a couple of weeks ago and is now a beautiful salmon color.

We left the Smith's Fort Plantation property and decided to take the ferry across the river to Jamestown.

Getting ready to drive onto the ferry,,,,,named Pocahontas

On the ferry ready to traverse the river.   Note all the seagulls sitting on the logs that make up part of the slip.

We went to the upper deck and stood against the railing to feel the cool breeze off the water as we crossed the river.   We were standing there when a man and his wife said, "Hello Elder and Sister Ashton."   I looked to see if it was someone from our ward, but didn't know them.   The man indicated he is a member of the church and he saw our missionary badges so decided to strike up a combination.   As we talked for a few minutes we learned that he has roots in Woodruff, Utah and is related to the Coxes and the Dicksons.   I told him I have a Dickson in my line and his response was , "Well, hello Cousin."  I never cease to be amazed at how small the world is!!!

As we approached the slip on the opposite side of the river, we were greeted by these pelicans, along with some seagulls :)

By the time we got off the ferry Elder Ashton was starving and wanted to find the first place to eat we could.   Well, that turned out to be in Williamsburg....about 15 minutes from the river.   We ended up eating at a Deli across from William and Mary College, founded in 1693.   Sitting in there with the college kids I sort of felt like I was born in 1693 ;-)

And finally, this week we attached a digital copy of this photo to a new missionary application and clicked the submit button.   We have so loved what we are doing and the opportunity to serve that we are applying to serve a mission from home after we arrive back there next May, where we hope to continue to serve but have the added benefit of being able to see and hug family and friends.   We miss all of you......but we are learning so much!

Happy September from the Ashtons.