Sunday, November 29, 2015

A Thought Provoking Adventure

Sunday - November 29, 2015

After the last week of traveling this week of Thanksgiving was relatively quiet and proved to be very thought provoking for me.

On Monday and Tuesday the President was in the office and that always makes it a little more busy because he usually has assignments or questions for Elder Ashton.   He sometimes has questions for me, too, if he sees something odd in the budget allocations or we have an anomaly in paying som of the bills.   He noticed what appeared to be a mistake in the amount I paid on two bills, and I was really glad when it just turned out to be a stapling error - I mixed up the cover sheet on two utility bills so that error was easily fixed!

On Wednesday, the Mission Secretary was out of the office traveling to spend Thanksgiving with family....I must admit I suffered a little bit of envy that she was able to do that and my family is too far away to make that feasible.   It would have been nice to spend it in Arizona, Colorado, or Wyoming but decided to make the best of it and fixed Thanksgiving dinner for two young Elders.   There were 4 of us for dinner instead of the 25 of so that made the cooking easy.....I didn't even start cooking until about 9 a.m. on Thursday and it is usually a project that takes a couple of days ;)  We had a nice traditional dinner (it was a challenge to get all the food on the small table we have but we made it!)  Then we played a couple of short games with the Elders and spent the rest of the evening just the two of us here at the apartment.

Elder Ashton started the day off with a bike ride over the Jorden Bridge with some of the Elders (Jeffers, Giles, Hansel, Brown, Wood, and Egbert).  The Jorden Bridge is 167 feet high and here they are at the top of it.   When Elder Ashton got home he was bored so he went to work on mission bikes.  I wonder if he will ever slow down!?!

Friday was a quiet day at the office but I finally found a task to keep me busy the last 3 hours - I was counting out pass along cards for the new Christmas initiative in amounts of 200 per companionship.  I got 38 sets counted out but we need 90 by Wednesday so I think I will have something to keep me busy part of the day tomorrow.

With the Thanksgiving holiday on Thursday and taking into consideration all the travel we did the previous week, we decided not to go on any adventure on Saturday so I'm just sharing pictures I have taken around Portsmouth over the last couple of weeks.

I noticed this tree (I call it the "family tree" because the trunks of more than one tree are wound together and from a distance it looks like just one tree) a couple of weeks ago.    I find that mother nature certainly has a sense of humor :)

We had rather nice weather this past week and when we came home Friday night we had a beautiful pink sunset over the water.   There was lots of traffic and we couldn't find a place to stop and take a picture so I went back at the same time on Saturday night.....the sunset was not quite as pink but I still think it is a pretty and peaceful setting.

Notice how the sky is reflected in the water.....and I think those three clouds look like three turtles swimming along in the sky.

If you can see, just below the tree line in this picture there are two boat docks that I have thought about this on each side of the river.   The one on the left side of the river is missing part of the dock and the one on the right is nearly always barely submerged in the water and seems to me that it needs to be raised.   Soooooooo......every time we cross the bridge either going to the office or coming back to the apartment, I start wondering what steps would need to be taken to raise an existing dock (like the one on the right side) or to replace the decking on a dock (like the one on the left side).   I have thought about that quite a bit but haven't come up with any ideas so I guess maybe I will ask GOOGLE ;-D

Here's a close up shot of the trees around here that have trees in a variety of colors - I think they are very eye-catching!

As you can see from the ground in the picture above, the leaves are really falling of the trees now....and it is time for the homeowners to rake them up and set them out for the city to pick up.   For over a week, every day we saw the homeowner of my favorite house along the river out raking leaves.   Below are two pictures of the leaves he bagged in that time.

I would guess this larger pile of bags is about 50 bags.

I counted these bags as I walked back to the truck - 34 bags!   That means the homeowner has raked up about 85 bags of leaves and he's still not done!  However, he cleaned it up enough to put up a Christmas Greeting.

I got a text from the Elders on Thanksgiving asking me if I could fix a pair of pants for them.   I told them sure....they said the hem just needed to be fixed a little bit.   What do you think?

I got them all fixed and pressed yesterday and had them in my hands to take to the Elders at church this morning when I realized the side seam was ripped next to both side they are back on my sewing machine waiting for that quick mending job.   Sure am glad I brought my sewing machine with me!

We had an interesting couple of meetings at church today.   The speakers ended early in Sacrament meeting so in keeping with Thanksgiving the Bishop asked for an "impromptu" choir to sing Hymn #219 - Because I Have Been Given Much.   It sounded quite good for being impromptu and the choir was made up of  kids, adults, and senior citizens.....Hispanic, African American, Filipino, and Southerner.    Interesting ending to Sacrament meeting.

Then in the 3rd hour it was a combined Relief Society and Priesthood Meeting and was an open discussion of two comparisons.....Compare Life to a Race & Compare the Plan of Salvation to Climbing a Mountain.   Very interesting discussion and so many different perspectives on those two comparisons.   Take a few minutes and see what you think about those two comparisons.

And finally, this is my sweet friend, Shirley, that I met at church when we moved back here a year ago.   She has had a couple of strokes and lives in an assisted living place. She told me today that she had turkey dinner at her place on Thursday and when I asked her if it was good she told me it was so-so.   I think her life has been hard and is harder now as a result of the strokes but she always greets me with a smile and a grasp of my hand.   I wonder if I would be as sweet as Shirley if I had faced the challenges she has?

I am blessed top have this opportunity to know and love the people here.....I continue to learn that we all have a story and I haven't yet found anyone whose entire life has been easy.

As we bid good-bye to November and say hello to December, life is good and we are healthy and happy.   When I think back to 2007 when my body started to betray me, I am in awe that my health is so good - I am truly blessed!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

"Roadtrip" Adventures

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Wow - a strange feeling as I typed the date and remembered 40 years ago today when I gave birth to our fifth baby boy......I can hardly remember being that young mother, but have the kids and grandkids to prove that it was a reality!   And.....the older I get the more I realize how fast time flies so I am not even surprised that it has been that many years.

This past week went flying by as they all seem to do now.....Monday to Friday seems but a few hours and this week went even more quickly as we spent part of it "on the road".   A fun week that started with a quiet day in the office.   It was only Elder Ashton and me and the President and his wife and the 3 other office missionaries were in an all-day meeting in Virginia Beach with Elder Arnold from the First Quorum of the Seventy.   Elder Ashton and I kept the office open and when the other office missionaries returned at 4 p.m. we took off for Goldsboro, North Carolina where we would attend the conference with Elder Arnold on Tuesday.  

As we headed west before we headed south, this is what we the sun setting between the trees and the old white house on the side of the "country" road!

Not long after we left town, I received a text message from the young Sister Missionaries telling me that Ms. Sewell, the lady from Jamaica, had passed her citizenship test that day.   That was really very exciting news because she has been working and studying several months to make sure she could pass the test!   We planned a celebration lunch to help her celebrate :)

We arrived in Goldsboro about 7:45 and found the Holiday Inn Express.   I was glad to get out of the truck and stretch my legs......and we had a great dinner at Dairy Queen ;-)

Mission Tour Conference on Tuesday.

Lunch break at the conference - sack lunches for all.

Elders and Sisters listening to Elder Arnold and taking notes of his suggestions.

One thing that I heard and took note of was that we should be steadfast and immovable in our faith and should work hard to meet our goals.

We left Goldsboro at about 4:15 p.m. and headed back to Chesapeake.   As we headed out I glimpsed this run down/overgrown cabin in the middle of a field.   Seeing these things always makes me wonder about the people that lived there at one time.

On Wednesday, we had a meeting with Elder Arnold and President and Sister Baker as office staff.   Elder Arnold wanted to have kind of a personal conversation with us and get to know us a little better and answer any questions we might have.   Elder Ashton passed the opportunity to tell a little about us to me and I just started talking about some of the challenges we faced in getting on a mission.   I thought I had my emotions well under control until I looked directly at Elder Arnold and saw tears in his eyes-----then I was a mess!  Elder Arnold acknowledged that we all face challenges in life and thanked us for our service.  Then, before he left, he looked at all of us (I felt like he was staring though my eyes into my heart) and promised us that the things we were praying for would come to pass - maybe not right away but they would come to pass.   Because I am always praying for my family, that felt like a great promise to me!  After he met with the office staff, Elder Arnold met one last time with the young missionaries - zone leaders and sister training leaders.   We had a few extra missionaries in the building waiting for their companions and the two below popped into the office to ask Elder Ashton a few questions.   As we visited with them, we decided one of these young Elders looks like someone we knew in St. Johns back in the 80's.

Elder Gardner on the left in the picture and Elder Burkart on the right....notice the complimentary ties.   I have noticed that companions quite often wear complimentary ties on the same day.
One of these young men looks like a young man we knew when we lived in St. Johns.   Any guesses?

Thursday was catch-up day in the office trying to get everything done so we could leave and go up to Washington DC on Friday.   We did leave the office in the afternoon for a short period of time and go visit a young mother who has been looking into the church and her husband is pretty unhappy about it so she requested a blessing.   Elder Ashton, assisted by Elder Wright, gave her a blessing and she was really appreciative of that.   We are thankful for all the great experiences we are having!

Friday morning about 10 a.m. we left to drive up to Washington DC.   Our main purpose in going was to attend the temple.   As we drove west and then north, I commented to Elder Ashton that even when we lived in Wyoming and would travel to the mountains and canyons in Utah in the fall, I do not remember seeing the intensity and variety of color that we see here.

Trees along the road.

There were many of these type scenes along the road.   I was taken by the leaves on a single tree being so many different colors - dark brown, yellow, rust, red, orange, etc.

Every so often, among the trees I would see one or two that looked like they had white blossoms on them - like these seen here.

But when we stopped for lunch just outside Richmond and I got up closer, I found that the white "blossoms" are really seed pods on the trees - like those seen above.

We arrived at the Washington DC temple about 2:30 (in Kensington, Maryland).   This view through the trees was my first view on this trip to the DC area.    We have driven by several other times over the years, but this is the first time we went into the temple to worship.  Beautiful building - inside and out!

Another view of the temple and the fountain in front.

A view from the parking lot.

Another view of the temple, fountain, and flowers.

A view of a scarlet tree on the temple beautiful!

A nighttime view as we left.

We spent the night about 10 miles away in Gaitherburg, MD, then got up the next morning and headed to the city for a little sight seeing.  When we called On-Star to request the route to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington DC, the Customer Service Rep asked Elder Ashton to tell President Obama hello for her.....he just grinned and said he would.   Of course, when we got to DC we remembered that you can no longer drive in front of the White House and there was lots of construction on other buildings so it was kind of hard to get we didn't get to see President O'Bama.   We finally found a parking spot not too far from the Washington Monument and walked over to it with the plan to go up inside.

It was a beautiful fall day and you can see from the flags that there was a fall breeze blowing, too!  I was glad I remembered to bring a sweater with me!

We walked right up to the monument and learned that we needed a ticket to go inside and all the tickets for Saturday were sold :(   Well, it was still a beautiful sight and a nice brisk walk!

Elder Ashton in front of one of the flag poles at the monument

Flags blowing in the breeze with the Lincoln Memorial in the background.

Elder Ashton with the Lincoln Memorial in the backgound.

Elder Ashton went to get the truck and I sat near the monument taking in the view.   I noticed this tree that was being discussed by some Japanese tourists....then noticed that the tree seems to be confused and doesn't know if it is Spring or has both blossoms and falling leaves.

We spent a little more time driving around DC, trying to find our way out, but finally gave up and called On-Star.  

We noted that the capital building is still being renovated and the dome is surrounded by scaffolding.

Next scheduled stop - Arlington Cemetery.   As we walked up the path from the parking lot toward the tour bus,  I noticed this beautiful big rose along the reminded me of the beautiful pink roses I had in St. Johns so I just had to stop and take a picture.  Sure seems strange to this Wyoming girl to see beautiful roses blooming like this the week before Thanksgiving!

Row upon row....

..upon row, upon row...

..upon row of graves - as far as the eye can see!   Thousands and Thousands gave the ultimate sacrifice that I might enjoy the freedoms I do.   I'm so thankful for their service and for my freedom!

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from a distance and in the bus.

Spanish American War monument.

Audie L Murphy burial space.....well known WWII infantryman.

Memorial Coliseum near the Tomb of the Unknown

Wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown.   As I waited for the next bus to come pick me up, I noticed that a fresh wreath was being delivered from one of the local middle schools.   I wonder how many times a day the wreath is changed?

The photos below were taken at the changing of the guard ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.   Our tour guide told us this is guarded 24/7, 365 days a year.   From October to May the guard changes every hour.   From May to October the guard changes every half hour.   As I sat in the stillness among a group of people and watched the guard parade back and forth, I realized that guarding for 30 minutes in the heat of summer would take lots of stamina....especially in those uniforms.   And even though it was a brisk Autumn day on Saturday, I think parading back and forth and being so precise in all the actions would be very tiring and you would be ready to let someone else take over after an hour.   I could certainly feel the solemnity of the place and the sacrifices that have been made!

What a great way to end the week.......honoring God and Country.   Both have become much mopre important to me as we have served here in Virginia this past year.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

A Woman's Adventure

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Monday and Tuesday we had rain, rain, and more rain and lots of gray skies.   I mentioned to Elder Ashton that I sometimes feel like we are back in 1970 and living in the Pacific Northwest......until I try to move around and my body reminds me it is no longer 1970 and I am definitely NOT 22!  All this rain makes for some interesting sites.....when I stepped out of the truck on Monday as we came back to the apartment for lunch, I noticed that we had moss growing in the cracks on the sidewalk.  I have become accustomed to the moss that grows right outside our apartment door, but was surprised to see this growing up through the cracks.

The moss is a bright green and looks very soft - but since I have an aversion to bugs, I haven't tried touching it because I am not sure what will crawl out of it!

Tuesday was a Sister's Training meeting and even the Senior Sisters were asked to participate.   President Baker's wife introduced the theme to "Let our Light Shine."   As the young lady missionaries started arriving prior to the training session, I was in the office taking care of business when I suddenly became aware of a buzzing of voices in the hallway.   I couldn't help but think what a happy sound that was so grabbed my phone and stepped out into the hallway to snap a couple of pictures.

I love the variety of clothing styles, hair styles and personalities of the sisters.   However, one thing seems much the same-----the beautiful smiles of these young women.  Note that President Baker is making his way down the hallway and stopping to chat/shake hands with each sister.   There is a palpable love shared between President and Sister Baker with the young missionaries!

In this picture are Sisters from Canada, Hawaii, Utah, California and maybe even some from Idaho or Washington.   Most of the missionaries come from Utah and Idaho with fewer numbers from other states.   We have several Elders from Arizona, but I only know of 1 Sister from there - she is from Taylor.   This gathering was for half the Sisters in the mission - there was another training session the next day for those who serve in North Carolina.

Sister Baker talked to us about sharing our light with others and then we heard from a guy who is a counselor with LDS Family Services and he gave a presentation on  "homeostasis" (the mid range on the emotional scale) and how the brain works which sometimes puts us out of the mid-range.   He had some very interesting facts about the human brain and involuntary reactions to certain stimuli,   He told some great stories about himself and while he was on his mission, trying to keep his emotions in that mid-range.   It was very informative and entertaining.

We took a lunch break and had a delicious salad - all the Senior Sister missionaries had contributed ingredients for it,  I was tasked with cooking 5# of chicken breast and cubing it - that was a bit of a job after we got home from the office on Monday.  There was also a clothing exchange during the lunch break where the sisters brought and laid out any clothes they were tired of and anyone could take whatever they liked that would fit them.   I am certainly getting tired of some of my clothes but know these young sisters won't begin to fill my size clothes so I didn't take any for the exchange ;-)

After lunch President Baker continued the theme by speaking about "lightening up" to let our light shine.   He told some funny stories and quotes and counseled the Sisters to review at the end of each day and see if they can find anything humorous that occurred.  One thing he said that I really liked was that humor is a much better way to use our agency than complaining.  As I sat on one of the back rows and watched his face filled with humor and love and listened to the Sisters laughing, I thought that I could not be in any better place unless it was home surrounded by my family.   I've talked with several Sister Missionaries (Senior and younger) in the intervening days and all have said how uplifted they felt when they left the training sessions and ready to continue forward with their 
missionary efforts.

One day this week as I was coming back into the office from taking some trash out, I noticed a bow tie lying on the ground.   I picked it up because it was unique and thought it might be a great addition to someone's Halloween Costume box.  I assume it was left behind from the Batman themed wedding that was held at the church earlier in the week.

BATMAN!!!  - I've got that theme song running through my head now :)

Wednesday Elder Ashton and Elder Wright went over to Newport News to pick up some furniture from an apartment we are closing out.   The Portsmouth Sisters had asked me if I would go with them to visit Ms. Sewell and I had agreed.   I was sad when we got there and she came out to say she couldn't meet with us because her son was helping her study for her citizenship test which she will take on Monday, November 16.   I did get a big hug from her but then we went on our way.  The missionaries suggested maybe we could try to catch Fred at home - another man they had spoken to a few days before.   We were lucky and found him just arriving home so we stopped and talked with him about the Book of Mormon and the Restoration.   Elder Ashton and I will be picking him up to go to church with us today.

This is a typical day of bills to pay.  On this particular day I had 19 utility bills to pay and track.  

And for some crazy reason, this past week was filled with "problem" payments.   I had 2 apartment complexes indicating we had a past due balance but when I researched I found that all had been paid and checks had been cashed.   So I had to request copies of cancelled checks and send those to the apartment complexes and ask them to correct their records.   I also had one where we had not paid one utility bill (but it was because I never received a bill - thank you US post office OR 3rd party biller) and they charged us $96 late fee on a $103 utility bill.   I called the management and asked them to waive the fee but they would not so when the president approved the payment, he directed the housing coordinator to call the complex and tell them we would not be renewing our two leases with them.  On Friday it was time to pay the rent, so I spent half the day validating and processing payment for 96 apartments.   Whew......hopefully next week won't have any "problems" :)

Last week I posted a picture of a polka dot sky.....this week it was a "plaid" sky made from jet contrails.   We are located here with lots of military bases and jets flying around all the time.   I tried to dig my phone out of my purse to get a picture of the plaid sky but was too slow - by the time I got it out the contrails were fading.   However, I was able to capture the sunset that looked to me like a large pink funnel cloud.   Unfortunately the overhead wires sort of ruin the image but it sure was pretty.

I liked the flag flying in the corner below the sunset.

Barely captured this as it was beginning to turn dusk.

Although I couldn't find a polka dot sky and was unable to capture the plaid one, I did find a polka dot tree provided by mother nature ;-)  Very interesting how the tree is turning a dark burgandy in dotted patches.

As you can see from the tattered leaf above, there are still lots of leaves falling around us.   This was on the walk in front of out apartment and is approximately 7 inches across!

It was only 37 degrees at 8 o'clock this morning and I had to put my fuzzy sox on when I got out of bed.....I believe winter is fast approaching.   I realized as I listened to the ladies at church today that those who live here don't like the cold winter months any more than I do.  On Wednesday we celebrated our anniversary of arriving in Portsmouth, Virginia, so we have experienced all the seasons which has proved to be a learning experience but I still think I prefer the dry heat of Arizona:)

Looking forward to new adventures in the coming week.   We will be attending a conference in Goldboro, NC on Tuesday (I haven't been that far south in NC yet) and going up to the Washington, DC temple on Friday/Saturday.    Stand by for a report of the adventures in the next issue of this blog.