Friday, May 19, 2017

A Grandparent Missionary Adventure

May 18, 2017

We LOVE serving from home and having the opportunity to work with the missionaries AND family.  Both groups bring lots of smiles to our faces and keep us from getting bored as we get older.

We especially enjoy spending time with our children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and the spouses, too.    The Sunday dinners at our house can get loud and crazy and I love every minute of it. Several weeks ago, Sean (one of the great grandsons) brought this turtle to our house when he came for dinner.   When it was time to go home, he couldn't find the turtle and I tried to help him look but we couldn't find it.   He was sad to go home without it but I told him I would keep looking for it.   Imagine my surprise and shock when I started to sit down at the kitchen table on Monday morning and saw this turtle sitting on my chair.   At first glance it looked pretty life-like and I had to stifle a little scream as I thought I was about to sit on a live turtle......then I broke out laughing.   I'm sure glad there weren't any flies on the wall to see this crazy GG (Sean's name for me) let out a little squeal for almost sitting on the toy turtle ;-)

This turtle looked pretty creepy at first glance

I noticed this blooming guava plant as I pulled up to the church to provide some training at the Mission Leadership Conference this past month.  Even the desert plants can be beautiful. 

A busy afternoon in the office - notice the STACKS of packages for missionaries, the bicycles waiting for Elder Ashton to fix them, two of the assistants at the computer and the map trying to plan suggestions they will give to the president for transfers and Elder Spotted Bull (yes, that is really his name - from Canada) sitting on the counter reading a letter from home.   With all those things going on and the phone ringing, it can sometimes get a bit hectic and chaotic but it is still fun!

Elder Wood ready to be taken to the airport.   He has been in the mission 23.5 months and is heading home a couple of weeks early for a seasonal job he has waiting for him.   He is holding the picture that was taken of him on the day he arrived in the mission.......I don't think he changed much in 2 years :)

Oh my goodness!   I returned from lunch a couple of weeks ago and noticed these zone leaders walking into the office, laughing.   It was about 100 degrees outside and Elder Cutler decided if he put on a bear costume someone might take pity on him and invite him in to get out of the heat.   I was laughing and shaking my head at him when he said, "What?   I'm dressed in missionary attire - I have my tie, my missionary badge and my missionary bag."   Those two can make even hard things seem fun!   Elder Chandler was laughing but wanted no part of getting in the costume!

The Saturday before Easter, we decided to have a little family get together at the dairy farm about 50 miles away where our grandson Brock works.   He has the opportunity to work as sort of the public relations officer there and take school groups on tours of the farm.  Our group consisted of Grandma and Grandpa, a few of our kids, a few of our grandkids, and all 8 of our great grandkids.   I think the kids had a ball.   We took a little train type vehicle around the farm with Brock as the driver and he told the kids the train couldn't move unless they said, "Let's get Mooooooooooving."   He did a great job with the tour.

Brock telling the kids that the number 21 stands for the number of baby calves born that day.

Three of the great grandsons (Sean, Keisel, and Darby) got to try out putting a milking machine on a cement cow's udders.

Next we stopped at the milking barn at about 2:30 p.m. as they were getting close to finishing up the milking shift that started at 5 a.m. that morning.   They have about 400 cows in the barn at a time and it takes 20-30 minutes to clean the udders, attach the machines and milk the cows.   They are turned out and another group comes in. I think Brock said they milk about 2500 cows twice every day.   One milking starts at 5 a.m. and ends about 3 p.m.   There is an afternoon break and the second milking shift comes in and starts at 5 p.m. - ending at about 3 a.m.   Peeeeuuuu - it really smelled in that barn!

The next day as we drove up to the church, I was filled with a deep sense of gratitude - for the beautiful day, beautiful building, and the fact that we were focused on the resurrection of the Savior.   I contemplated for a moment what my life like be like without the knowledge of the atonement and resurrection and without all the material blessings we have - an air-conditioned church to meet in when it is nearly 100 degrees outside being just one of those blessings!

I also noted the pretty desert foliage in front of the church that made it look so inviting.  I find it is easy to become so focused on tasks of everyday life that I forget to take time to pause and notice the beauty around me.   I'm trying to be more observant of this gorgeous world, whether it be in more humid climates or the blazing desert - both have their charm.

The desert shall "blossom as a rose"   The cacti have been putting on a real show this spring so I wanted to capture some up-close photos.

However, I learned it was hazardous to try to get too close - I was leaning over to get a really close picture when my hand touched the stickers on the non-flowering I decided I didn't need to get any closer.

Aww - sweet Sister Warner who was born in the Marshall Islands and came to us from St. George Utah.   She had been in our mission for nearly six months waiting for a visa to Fiji and was a wonderful Sister Missionary.   When we learned that she could not get a Visa and that she would be reassigned, we were really hoping that she would stay in our mission but she received an assignment to California.   We were all sad to see her go but believe there is someone waiting just for her in California.

Sister Warner and two old people (Elder Ashton and me) from the office.   I always loved it when Sister Warner came in the office because she gave the best hugs :)

I am loving all the jacaranda trees around the neighborhoods.   I think the purple blooms are GORGEOUS - either up close or far away.   I like driving down the road and looking down the residential streets to see lots of purple lining the street  from the blooming jacaranda trees :)

This tree sits in front of a house just two doors down the street from the office and has been covered in blooms!

On the morning of April 28, we began a 24 hour journey to Fort Collins Colorado.   We left Gilbert where temperatures had been hovering near 100 degrees earlier in the week and flew to Denver, rented a car and drove to Fort Collins.  Thank goodness for smart phones that can give you a weather forecast and I had checked on Thursday to see that a storm was moving in so we brought jackets with snowed off and on the entire time we were there!

Looking out our hotel room window in Fort Collins.   We didn't have much time to change our clothes and get to the recital hall.   I was checking us in to the hotel while Elder Ashton was bringing our luggage in when I suddenly heard a male voice say, "Elder Ashton!   How have you been?"  I turned around to see Elder Ashton shaking the hand of Elder Kingsford who served in the Virginia Chesapeake mission while we were there and was at that same hotel in Fort Collins to stand in a wedding line for one of his friends that weekend.   It was great to see him and visit with him for a brief moment.   These missions provide us with a great opportunity to make friends with "the younger set" and have "adopted" grandchildren all over!  Such a pleasure to see one of "our" missionaries :)

Our purpose for the quick trip to Fort Collins was to attend the senior recital of our granddaughter, Brynna Ashton.   She graduated this last week from Colorado State University with a degree in piano performance.    At the recital she played for nearly an hour totally from memory.   She played a 3 movement piece from Bach, a piece by Listz, and one by Rachmoninoff.   She did a great job and I was able to sit close enough to the stage that I could capture her emotions as she "felt" the music.   Very talented girl and very proud grandparents!

Brynna with her other grandparents, Steve and Cherie Tanner at the reception following her recital.  I know I am biased but I think she is a beautiful, accomplished young woman who is going to have a wonderful life.   She will enter the MTC in Santiago Chile on July 26 to serve for 18 months in that country.  We are looking forward to hearing about her adventure.

While we were in Fort Collins, what we call our "golden referrals" were baptized.   Several weeks ago I took a referral from a member for a couple who seemed interested in the gospel and he suggested that the missionaries should try to go by soon.  That same afternoon, the male member of the couple, called the office and requested that missionaries come on Saturday or Sunday.   I had already assigned some sister missionaries to visit so I called them back and told them that they wanted to meet on Saturday or Sunday.   The sister missionaries listened to the prompting to invite them to attend the baptism they had scheduled for Saturday and they did attend that baptism where the spirit was strong according to the Sister Missionaries.   It was not until after the baptism that I learned just how golden they were.....Glenn, the male in the couple is Jewish and had a brief contact with missionaries in Japan about 20 years ago but was not interested.   His wife, Judy, is from mainland China and knew nothing about Christ for most of her life.   They have now joined the church and it brings a huge smile to my face every time I think that Elder Ashton and I were privileged to have a peripheral involvement in changing their lives!  I just learned today that Glenn will be speaking at a new member fireside in a week.   We plan to attend so I can listen to his testimony and have the  opportunity to meet them in person.

Going home - this picture of Elder Bambo (who returned to California last week) and Elder Gressman (who will be going home in 4 weeks) says it all.   It is obvious that these two young men grew to love each other as they served together in this mission!

Three beautiful Sister Missionaries  - left to right - Sister Weyand going home the next day, Sister Henderson, also going home the next day and who was one of the sister missionaries that taught Glenn and Judy, and Sister Fuiamona who has only been here a couple of months and is staying.   How I love these sisters and their happy and humble attitudes!

Going home (mostly) left to right-
Elder Calihan, Elder Bambo, Elder Rabaut, and President Wheeler
Guess which one is not going home yet :)

Elder Ashton and I had some scheduling conflicts on the 9th, so we had to split up - Elder Ashton stayed in the mission and gave orientation training to the five new missionaries who arrived that day.   I left the mission and went to downtown Phoenix to attend the ASU College of Nursing graduation of our grandson, Cade.   It was nearly time for the ceremony to start when an announcement came over the loudspeakers instructing us to evacuate the building and walk one block away.  An abandoned backpack had been found on the stage where the faculty would be sitting.   Imagine the pleasant surprise when we got one block away and found that the graduates were lined up there and bagpipers were playing while the backpack was checked out.   We waited outside about 20 minutes - it was delightful as there was a little cloud cover and a slight breeze and we were able to see Cade walk by (he's the one facing the camera just in front of the left shoulder of the man standing in the blue shirt).   What a great accomplishment this graduation is for Cade and his family.   It took almost 7 years for him to get this degree while working full time and going to school and starting a family and I am sure there were times when he was physically and emotionally exhausted but he never gave up.   Proud of the graduate.

Cade on the big screen :)

Cade up close and said he was really excited to have accomplished that goal.

Cade and his little family

Also, May 9th marked our one year mark in this is hard to believe we have been serving here for that long.   What is even harder to believe is that we have been home from Virginia for a year!

On the 10th we got a call at the office that these two sisters needed a ride to the new area where they were assigned as part of the transfer.   There new area is about 25 miles from the office and I agreed to take them there.   I didn't think about the fact that two young women would be moving everything they owned.   This shows Sister Hanson and Sister Garner and all their "stuff" in my car.   Each sister had a box of food on their lap and water jugs under their feet because the entire vehicle (a GMC Terrain) was full!   We had a good laugh about the full vehicle and they were really good sports when I told them that if they had told me how much stuff they had I would have rented an 18 wheeler :)

I couldn't resist taking a picture of this front yard just around the corner from the mission office.   I think it is a great display of the beauty that can grow in the desert - from wandering jew, to jacaranda trees, to palm trees, to mimosa trees, to sunflowers, lantana, bouganvilla, and more.   Pretty impressive.

Elder Ashton has been spending parts of the last several Saturdays working in our small little garden plot.   We tried to grow some tomatoes while we were in Virginia a couple of years ago and managed to get two or three tomatoes out of what we planted.   This year it looks like we will have LOTS of tomatoes.  How many green tomatoes can you count?

Last Saturday our youngest grandchild, Teague, was baptized by his Dad.   It was great that we got to attend his baptism.   Left to right in the picture are Colton, Felicia, Teague, Dallon and Addie.   It had been several weeks since I had seen Addie and when I saw her all dressed up it took my breath away.....seems like just yesterday she was 3 years old and pulling a little pink suitcase down the concourse in the airport when they came to visit from Maryland.   Where did the years go!?!

A picture of the kids being silly following the confirmation.   Colton, Teague, and Addie with some cousins and some friends.   

I have a black thumb so I am really proud of myself that I have kept this orchid that I received for Mother's Day alive for 5 days!  I'm hoping I can keep it alive because every time I look at it I am reminded of the six wonderful people who are my adult children and of how much joy they bring to my life!

On Tuesday evening I cam home from the office to find our garage floor looking like this....Elder Ashton had accompanied the housing coordinators to missionary housing in 3 zones that day.   He found these "extra" bicycle parts and one complete bicycle sitting in those houses/apartments.   He was as excited as a kid at Christmas to have all those parts!   

I hope you can tell from this post that we LOVE serving here in the mission and being able to attend special occasions with our family.   The only thing I have noticed is that we are beginning to slow down.   Yesterday evening, after putting in a 10 hour work day fixing bikes, preparing for training, reconciling reports, etc. Elder Ashton commented that he couldn't do it anymore.   When I questioned what he couldn't do, he said, "I can't get as much accomplished or work as hard as I used to."  I just laughed because he can run circles around me.

We send our greetings and love to all, family and friends across this country.   I hope you are loving life as much as we are!

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Springtime in Gilbert Adventures

Seems like Spring in Gilbert is spinning right away with days and weeks flying by at a dizzying speed.   Lots of adventures in those spinning days and weeks.

Since my last post on February 12th we've had 10 family birthdays, one wedding anniversary, one priesthood ordination, a few softball games, a great grandchild turn 1 year old, a grandson leave the country for an extended stay in Hong Kong, and a granddaughter receive a mission call to Santiago Chile East Mission - she leaves in July.   We also had Grammie go back home due to the death of a relative which meant a very short visit from my brother, and hours upon hours spent preparing 2016 income taxes....and just a few hours spent obsessing about when April the giraffe is going to have that baby giraffe :)

As you can tell, it has been crazy busy so that's my excuse for being so slow about posting again and
I am sticking to it!

This is what the mail table in the office looked like the day before Valentine's Day.   I think our Arizona Gilbert Missionaries have lots of people who love them!

Spring started to arrive in earnest about the 3rd week in February and plants all around started blooming - even the dessert plants that are always a pale gray-green, get bright flowers on them.   I like the tiny black centers in these bright yellow blooms.

These trees are really bright right now.   We planted a bush like this in our yard that has been there 15 years and doesn't look like this.   For anyone that remembers when most babies did NOT nurse but were fed formula out of a bottle, every home with a baby had a "bottle brush" looked just like the red end on these tree branches.

I LOVE this cactus - it is so gnarly looking.   Since it is a cactus I'm sure it has spines on it, but they are not very apparent - probably small and clear and impossible to remove if you get one in your finger.   Interesting desert plant.

My gorgeous Valentine's Day bouquet from Elder Ashton.   I loved the combination of flowers - they lasted 11 days and smelled soooooooooo good!

The second lily getting ready to open

Two lilies open - I can almost smell the fragrance in the air just looking at this picture.

I had the privilege of attending a school play where our 13 year old granddaughter performed in the play (she is in 8th grade and loves drama class).  Her character was a Russian Butcher named Slovitch (I loved her fake Russian accent) - the play was :Fools"  by Neil Simon.   Such a fun thing to do on my "P" day :)

Struck with a feeling of grateful patriotism as I left the gym at about 6:15 a couple of weeks ago and looked up to see the quarter moon, a star or two, Old Glory and the beginning of a sunrise.   I am so glad I have the opportunity to live in this country and enjoy the freedoms I do - including getting up at 5:00 a.m. to go to the gym even though I really dislike getting up early.   So glad to have a body that still works well enough that I can get some exercise!

Our ward had a secret grandma activity with the mia maids and some of us "older" women in the ward.   We secretly exchanged notes and little gifts and then we had the big "reveal" party where we made party hats and painted nails.   It was a really fun evening and even made me feel a little younger.   This is my beautiful secret granddaughter, Ashley Frank who is 14 years old.   I love her beautiful smile!

Sister Hatch from our ward - one of the secret Grandmas.

The "secret granddaughters" included a couple of the young women leaders cuz there are way more of us "grandma age" ladies than there are 14-15 year old girls.    It would be fun to have a 14-15 year old body again.....but I don't want to go back and learn all those lessons over again!

Elder Ashton and our youngest son Quinn doing some demolition on the pond/waterfall that has been in our backyard for 14 years.   When Elder Ashton got up on Saturday morning while Quinn and his family were visiting, he put his working coveralls on and went to the backyard.   Quinn immediately asked if he had a second pair of coveralls and volunteered to help him.   We have a little joke in our family about some of the daughters-in-law meeting Elder Ashton for the first time in his working coveralls, so I thought it would make a funny picture to get father and son both in the working coveralls ;-)

Sister Bailey returned to visit the mission just a few weeks after she returned home to Utah.  It was great to see her and to get a hug from her.   If you look closely, you might be able to see that Elder Ashton has bicycles all over his tie - some of the missionaries compliment him on the tie because they know he loves to ride bikes.  The other office missionary couple, Elder and Sister Partridge, joined us in the picture.

Elder Leiter and Elder Ralph give Elder Green tips on the dating portion of his "My Plan" that he is completing a few days before leaving for home......note the bike he brought into the office to have it shipped home to him.

Elder Ashton enlisted the help of Elder Geiselmayr in cutting and folding new insurance cards for the 50+ cars in the mission.

Elder Ashton and I with our rapping Sister Missionary - Sister Pound just before she leaves for home.   We will miss her - in fact, we miss every missionary when they leave!

Sister Pound, Sister Weyand, Sister Condie and Sister Butler - Sister Pound and Sister Condie getting ready to go home.

Love, love, love the smiles of these Sisters even though some are smiling through tears.   Some are going home and some are staying and the sisters form such close bonds while serving together that I am sure there will be tears shed later on.

I arrived home for lunch about a week ago and round this dainty little nest laying on the driveway - in fact, if I had pulled into the garage I would have run over it, but Elder Ashton's truck didn't leave room for me to get in the garage so I just parked on the driveway and was very surprised to see this tiny nest as I walked into the house.

The quarter is just for reference so you can tell how tiny the nest is.  It was a very shallow nest so I don't think it was a humming bird nest.   Any guesses?

Elder Bowman, Elder Ralph, and Elder Clark checking out the empty spots on the Greatest Missionaries board to see if they can figure out who is going home this last transfer.    Note the cast/splint on Elder Clark's hand - one of our wounded warriors from playing zone sports:(

Spring is here----and so are the allergies.  Note the yellow on the trees....that stuff makes my nose run, my eyes run and my ears itch like crazy.   I just couldn't think why it was so bad until I saw another tree a little closer up......

Those are all little yellow balls of fuzz - fuzz that flies everywhere and causes all the watery eyes, nose and itchy I get it.

Four of the cutest faces in the world!!   Sunday dinner at my house with 4 of the great grandkids - we had a few more there but they refused to get in the picture.   These little ones always make my heart smile!  Left to right are 2 that are six, 1 that is four and didn't want his picture taken and his brother who is 5.   I could stare at these kind of pictures for hours.

On my way to work one morning I noticed a little dark thing sitting to the side of the road and thought someone had dropped a bag or something.....then it moved.   Imagine my surprise when I realized it was a duck sleeping beside the road.   I think he must have been hiking from the pond at the City Complex about a quarter mile away to a pool in our neighborhood and needed a little rest :)

In all the craziness a week ago of missionaries going home and missionaries coming in to get supplies, I went to the storage room to get some supplies.   I unlocked the door and turned the light on to be met with this right before my sister collected ties from some of the Elders who went home and this was her tie holder :)

Arrival day for the new missionaries.....I love the centerpieces - a dried stalk of cotton.   Can't think of a better way to welcome them to Arizona.

Elder Partridge taking a picture of President and Sister Wheeler and the new arrivals.   Sister Partridge looks on.

The mission office is very close to some big fancy home that hire professional landscapers to do their yard work.   As I drove to the church to greet the new arrivals, I noticed this beautiful and unique home with the pretty Hong Kong Orchid tree growing in the little alcove area.   Beautiful home and yard!

Fiery red tiny trumpet shaped blooms to welcome the new missionaries to Arizona.

The day after arrivals Sister Partridge and I and a trio of younger sisters all wore a shade of green/blue green.   Wish I still looked as young as those Sisters!

Our beautiful granddaughter Brynna who just received her mission call to the Santiago Chile East Mission.   She enters the Chile MTC on July 26th.  She is pretty good at Spanish already so I know she will do well - bet she will stand out with her blonde hair and pale skin!

Brynna's younger brother Joel (third from right on back row) on the day he arrived in Hong Kong.   Hong Kong temple in the background.

Lunch time at zone meeting today.   I LOVE seeing the suit coats laying over the backs of the pews......makes me want to burst out singing "Priesthood Power".

Two more wounded warriors from zone sports.....I'm thinking it might be time to take a two or three month sabbatical from zone sports.   Elder Matua holding Elder Joy......crazy young men!

I loved the contrast in this picture - the puffy white clouds on top left, the sun lighting the little heavier clouds on the bottom left, and the darkening clouds beginning to threaten rain at the very bottom and right of the picture.   Oh what a beautiful world we live in!

We are loving life - working with the missionaries, getting spiritually fed on a daily basis, spending quality time with family and friends.   And doing all of that right here in the USA.   Life is very good!