Sunday, August 13, 2017

Summertime...and the Livin' is Easy Adventures

Sunday, August 13

Maybe I should change the title to read, Summertime and the Livin' is BUSY!!!  It is hard to believe it has been nearly 3 months since I have been able to find time to post on here.   I'll try to provide a brief overview of the last few months with enough detail that you can vicariously enjoy some of the things we are enjoying :)

Of course, the end of May was filled with school graduations and promotions.....we were able to work a couple of those in around our mission activities.   Our granddaughter, Addison (Felicia's daughter) was chosen to give the promotion speech in her group at her school.   The selection was based on citizenship, involvement in activities, and grades.    She did a good job and did not act like she was nervous even though she said she was ;-)

Addie and her Arizona family + Grandma and Grandpa Ashton following the promotion exercises.

The next weekend we took a few hours off from the mission office and drove to St. Johns in northeastern Arizona to attend the graduation of our granddaughter Brycelyn.   I really don't know what is happening that our grandchildren are getting so my mind it seems that I was just graduating from high school - but when I try to move or bend, my body reminds me that is not so :)

As we moved through June, regular mission activities continued to occur - well maybe not all that regular for some of these pictures.   There are a number of bicycles that have been stolen since we arrived at the mission in May 2016.   The one below was stolen along with the other bike that it was locked to.   Miraculously both bikes were recovered!

Take a good look at the "U"-lock on the bike.   It is obvious that the thieves tried to use a sledge hammer or similar tool to pound the lock off.....when that wasn't successful they gave up and through the bike in the bushes where it was recovered by police.    Elder Ashton got out his Dremel tool and made quick work of getting the lock off the bike.   The bike was returned to the Elder along with a replacement lock and an admonition to make sure it was locked to something permanent - not just another bicycle.

June zone conference - lunch is provided by the stake Relief Society from one of the 22 Stakes in the mission.   Prior to eating, the missionaries sing them the mission song sung to the tune of Called to Serve.   They end with the phrase "We thank you for this food."   Elder Peterson caught me taking his picture as he sang to the Relief Society sisters.

One morning as the temperatures continued to rise throughout June, a couple of the Assistants to the President, Elder Feusner and Elder Wilcox, came in with Elder Shoaf who was staying with them for a few days.   They decided the heat was too much for them and purchased hats to shade them from the sun.   Elder Shoaf wanted nothing to do with the hats - he said they were just "dumb".

The missionaries spend a lot of time on bikes and one afternoon these four missionaries came into the office telling Elder Ashton that they had some flat tires - all caused by running over stickers along the roads and dirt paths in the desert.   Elder Ashton didn't take much pity on them but gave them some tools and told them to get busy pulling the stickers out.   Here you see Elder Kestner, Elder Gressman, Elder Holland, and Elder Aholelei removing the stickers.   Elder Ashton snapped this picture so he could put it in his weekly email and remind the missionaries to stay away from areas that have stickers.   The Elders were so excited to make Elder Ashton's email that they gave it a big "thumbs up".

Elder Steward is headed home a little early.   He went home about 9 months ago to have surgery on his should and came back about 5 months ago thinking the problem was solved, but his shoulder thought otherwise so he is headed home a little early.   We wish Elder Steward the best.

Elder Wilcox, Elder Shoaf, and Elder Feusner.   Elder Shoaf is transitioning to a service mission in the Mesa area and is really hoping he get assigned to take care of the temple grounds......and he did!  He told me he loves to cut grass so the temple grounds sounds like a perfect assignment for him :)

As June progressed, the tomatoes that Elder Ashton planted in late April/early May really began to produce and Saturday became a day to take care of the produce from the garden.   

 I laughed when Elder Ashton brought the tomato above into the house - I called it the Pinochio tomato ;-)

The "fruits" of one Satuday's labor - 14 pints of salsa, 4 doz cookies and a baby blanket sewed together to await the arrival of great grandbaby #9.

A family dinner on a Sunday afternoon and 5 future missionaries - 5 of our 6 great grandsons :)    I may be a little prejudiced, but I sure think these are handsome boys!

Sister Boloormaa (on the right) returned to Mongolia in June.   She gave away 8 Books of Mormon on the plan trip home and another case (40 books) during the next couple of weeks.   She has been called to teach primary and to be Young Women's President.   I would say she is making a HUGE difference for the church and people in Mongolia.    Thank goodness we get to keep Sister Ulziduurren for a few more months :)

As June drew to a close, Elder Ashton and I celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary.   Our family members were so supportive and came from all around to help us celebrate.   One of the best parts of the celebration was taking some family names to the temple with a number of our family members.   As I looked around the celestial room at them, I had to blink back tears and the thought crossed my mind that it seemed like a little bit of heaven to be there with them all dressed in white!

Elder Ashton and I prior to the temple session and some of the family members arriving behind us.

A large portion of our family (along with two card board stand-ins for those far away) cheered us two old folks on as we kissed.   However, I think I did hear a couple of EEEEWWW's coming from the crowd ;-)

Joel (left) is on a mission in Hong Kong,  Addie (middle) is in California with her dad for the summer, and Teague (right) is trying to keep "Addie" quiet :-)   Fun times!

Beautiful ladies and handsome guys helping us celebrate. 

Two more tables of revelers :)

The "Big Boys" handsome grandsons

Some more kids and grandkids making me smile :)

Some of the young adult grandkids

More kids and a sliver of Elder Ashton with little great grandsons in the background.    We had a GREAT time!

A trip to Evanston Wyoming and Salt Lake City rolled around the next weekend.....sure was nice to get out of the heat for a few days!

A new mural painted on the side of a historic building in my hometown of Evanston, Wyoming.   Evanston lies along the Union Pacific transcontinental rail road not far from where the east and west were joined so the railroad was a major contributor to the economy.   The artist completed this mural in one day using cans of spray paint.

On the way through Salt Lake City to catch the plane home we stopped at temple square.   I loved the spires of the temple against the blue Rocky Mountain sky!

Also loved the intricate woodwork on the Assembly Hall....the whole of temple square was just beautiful.

One more view of the temple and Moroni with flowers spilling down the wall.   What a beautiful, peaceful place!

Elder Aholelei with a big grin and his new Tiwi card.   He has been in the mission about 20 months (during which time his driver's license expired).   He just went and got an Arizona license and now he can drive a mission car.   He is excited about that!

A typical Monday afternoon in the mission office.....some departing missionaries are there for interviews, some are zone leaders and are there picking up supplies, some are bringing bicycles in to be shipped home.   I sometimes get distracted from my work and just watch these energetic young missionaries!

The 3rd weekend in July we hopped on a plane again and flew to Denver to be there for the final talk offered by our granddaughter Brynna before she heads to the Santiago Chile East mission.   She gave a wonderful talk and I'm sure she will be a GREAT missionary!

On Saturday, July 28th I got to spend a few hours with this little cutie, Luke.  His mom had some errands to run before her scheduled labor induction on Monday so he came and stayed with me.   Look at that smile and those eyes and ask yourself if you could say "no" to him.....I couldn't!

And here's the new baby who was born on Monday, July 31.   Her name is Paige and she is Luke's little sister - we now have 3 great-granddaughters and 6 great-grandsons.   Don't know how we got so lucky but it sure is fun!

On August 1st we had 15 missionaries return home - many of whom had served in leadership positions in the mission.   It seems strange to have them gone and we really miss seeing them around the office. 

Elder Escobar (left) returning home to South Carolina, Sister Partridge (office missionary in the center) and Elder Carias Cruz from El Salvador who remains in the mission.   All 3 are great missionaries.

Elder Ashton and I with Elder Escobar and Elder Carias Cruz.  Elder Escobar will be missed.

Six of the departing Elders surrounded by some of the luggage that was in the office on Monday, July 31st-left to right - Elder Pass, Elder Leiter, Elder Doman, Elder Ralph, Elder Olsen and Elder Rogers.  We saw them around the office on a regular basis as they all served as zone kind of feels like I am sending 6 of my grandsons away :(

August 1 - new missionaries luggage all lined up

Update on our missionary grandkids.....Joel (on the left) and his companion, Elder Love, in July.   They had a baptism in Hong Kong that day and everyone was happy!

Hermana Ashton and her companion at the Santiago Chile MTC.   Hermana Ashton is about 5'6" tall and says she feels like a big white giant amongst the Chilean and other South American missionaries but she is already falling in love with Chile and she has only been there 2 weeks.

Just this past week I had a little epiphany about wearing my missionary badge and how that impacts how people view me.   I had opportunity to be around a number of people of other faiths and and nationalities in various situations and because I have the opportunity to work with young missionaries I was hyper aware of my actions and how they might impact those I was interacting with.   I found that as I considered that while being in different public situations, I felt happier and my days went better.  I feel privileged to wear that badge and know that it has brought many blessings to my life.

Last, but certainly not least, I was able to attend the sealing of this wonderful couple yesterday at the Mesa Temple.   This is my granddaughter Sydney and her husband Ryder who is the grandson of my dearest friend for 20 years when I lived in St. Johns.   That time in the temple with the two families who spent so much time around each other over the years, reminded me of what it will be like with friends and families when we reach the other side.   

Happy Forever, Syd and Ryder:)

What a great blessing the gospel is in all our lives!

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!