Monday, June 27, 2016

Heart-Tugging Adventures

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Hopefully I'll get these few adventures/memories captured and posted today, but I think it is going to be a busy day so I may be a day late again......I just hope I'm not a dollar short ;-) as the old saying, "A day late and a dollar short" goes.

Monday morning as I left for the office I notice this small cactus across the street was blooming.
Pretty, in it's own prickly way :)

I was also fascinated with the last end of the sunrise as I headed to the gym on Tuesday morning.   I love how the subtle shafts of sunlight are coming up from the horizon and shining on the bottom of the cloud giving it a glow in some places.

When we first started at the office I was thinking that I might be bored without enough work to do as the referral secretary/supply so when they mentioned that Sister Edman would be released at the end of June (she took care of baptisms) I immediately volunteered to take that on.   I was thinking of 1 or 2 baptisms a week to enter in the system and prepare congratulatory letters for the President to sign.   I was not aware that I would be preparing notebooks for each incoming missionary at that time, but even when I learned I would be doing that I figured it was not a big deal because we don't usually have a big influx of missionaries.   Well, it seems I was wrong on both counts!!!  In July we are expecting 14 missionaries and I thought we would be getting an additional 14 in August.....and felt pretty confident that I had bedding supplies for the next 2 transfers and all the notebooks put together for the July arrivals.   Tuesday we learned that we will be getting 24 missionaries in August......ooops - guess that means I need to get more bedding sets AND create a bunch more notebooks.  I was feeling plenty busy when I checked the baptism records for the weekend of June 19 - we had 14 baptisms.   I spent several hours getting those entered into the system and getting the spreadsheet updated with all the new information so it will be ready to go with President Nattress when he leaves the mission on June 30.

I just started to breathe a sigh of relief when Sister Partridge approached me and asked if I would help her type up letters that all the missionaries had submitted to be given to President Nattress before he leaves.   We  have been typing, and typing, and typing.   And all I can say is WOW.   The missionaries were asked to write about their most spiritual experience and then name 3 things they have learned on their mission.   Most of the stories are extremely touching and I finally told Sister Partridge the other day that people would wonder what was going on in the mission office if I left with mascara stains down my cheeks.   I continue to be amazed at the caliber of these young missionaries and how strong they are!  We worked the last few days of the week in all our spare minutes and I even brought some home with me to work on Sunday afternoon.  I couldn't think of any better way to keep the Sabbath than to read miraculous missionary stories and have dinner with family!

I guess it was because I read all those wonderful spiritual experiences from the missionaries, or maybe it was because we got to hear the report from a young missionary just returning.   (We were privileged to watch the transformation in his life as he took advantage of the Atonement and let it and the gospel work a miracle.   I am so proud of that young man - almost feel like he is one of my grandsons or something...) Or maybe it was because I spent Saturday morning at this beautiful place with my daughter-in-law and grand-daughter. But - whatever the source of my feelings, my heart is full with gratitude and thankfulness for the blessed life I live!

A few flowers in front of the Gilbert Arizona Temple

Front view of the Temple

Side view of the temple and fence

And to top off the week we were able to attend Sunday School class taught this week by Brother Schwitzer who is an amateur thespian.   He makes class so interesting, but this time I couldn't take my eyes off his tie----I kept thinking of the ceramic pigs all around Smithfield, VA:)

And to top off a great sacrament meeting and Sunday School class, we had family dinner with 19 of us, grandkids, and some great grandkids  - two of whom I haven't seen for about 2 years.  It was GREAT to see them!

Just wanted to share this beautiful home that is a couple of short blocks from the office.   The house and yard seem very peaceful to me and I'm shocked that they can get the ivy to grow on the brick in 115 degree heat!

Happy Summer (aka heat) from a couple of "oldster" missionaries in the Arizona, Gilbert mission.

Monday, June 20, 2016

An Acclimating to Arizona Adventure

Sunday, June 19, 2016

This past week was interesting as we tried to get acclimated to being back in Arizona and ENDURING the 115+ degree heat.   I check my phone regularly to see what is happening with the weather back in Chesapeake Virginia and I have noticed that they have been having a good deal of rain.   At this point, I'm not sure which would be the most challenging to deal with....gray skies and rain or blue skies and boiling heat!   Well, either one, I guess I should be thankful to be here on earth to experience the different weather patterns!

Monday is preparation day for the missionaries here in the Arizona Gilbert Mission.   It is not uncommon to have missionaries stop by the office on that day to take care of a little business before they head out for some exercise, shopping, etc.   This past Monday was no exception.   We had Elder Peterson stop by to entertain us as Stevie Wonder :)   I just love the enthusiasm for life these young missionaries have!

Elder Caratinni was not quite as entrtained by Stevie Wonder as I was ;-)  He was ruching around in the background trying to get his work done so they could go play soccer.

More Elders stopped in after the soccer match to say hello and grab supplies.   Elder Partridge is always good for a laugh as he interacts with the young Elders!

Tuesday I continued to work with getting all the baptism records for the last 2.5 years into a spreadsheet.   There are nearly 1200 records for that time period and it has been a very engaging project to see pictures of all those who have recognized the truth of the gospel and joined in the last 30 months.   I still have about 4 more hours worth of work on the project and we hope to put all the records on a flash drive so the outgoing president, President Nattress, can take that home with him.   I'm sure it will bring wonderful memories to him as he reviews the records!

As I drive the short route back and forth to the office, it gets a little mundane and I find myself missing a turn once in awhile.   It's a good thing we are in Arizona where I don't have to worry about making it across the river and I can usually get back on track just by going around the block.   This past week, I did just that - missed a turn on my way back to the office - but this time I ended up on a dead end street.   I was glad that I was forced to turn around in the cul-de-sac, because I got to see these beautiful hibiscus blooming even in the horrible heat!

Another thing I noticed a short 1/4 mile from the office is the gnarly saguaro cactus.   I think it has lots of personality with its twisted limbs and the holes pocking the body of the cactus.   One morning as I was on my way to the office, I noticed a small black bird tying to get in the little hole that looks like a duck........

...the bird did not fit ;-D

This young man is Elder Purchase.   He was in the office on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday afternoon studying and waiting on his companion who was working on designing a web page for the mission.   I like having him around the office if I have time to strike up a conversation with him.   He is a very courteous and polite young man and I have never seen him with anything but a smile on his face.   He is from England (I like to tease him and tell him it is like looking at and listening to Simon Cowell).   His accent is GREAT - I could listen to it all day!  When he talks about his mother he says, "me mum" and that always brings a smile to my face.

Having just returned from spending 18 months in Virginia where there is LOTS of water and many water front properties, I decided I needed to take a picture of what waterfront property looks like in Arizona and post it here for my Virginia friends.   It may not be the Chesapeake Bay, but waterfront property still brings a premium price.

On Thursday, our cook who works part-time for Facilities Management, stopped by the office with gift sacks for all of the recently arrived missionaries.   I think we take pretty good care of the missionaries here in Gilbert, Arizona......but then again, maybe this is a bribe to get them to stay when they step off the plane into this oven of heat ;-)

We kept really busy in the office, trying to prepare for the departure of 6 missionaries, and the arrival of 14 new ones - those arrivals will be spread out over 3 days which should make for some interesting logistics.   We are also preparing for the passing of the torch from President Nattress to President Wheeler.   As part of that process, President Nattress and his family had to move out of the mission home to give Facilities Management a chance to clean, paint, etc.   I was asked to supply 3 sets of bedding for the Nattress children - which meant I needed to order 3 more sets in order to have enough for the next set of incoming missionaries.   I've never been a huge shopping fan and find that I am getting to be less and less of a fan due to shopping for mission things and trying to make some decisions about furniture, window coverings, flooring, etc as part of the home remodel.

As I went to the grocery store on Saturday, I noticed this Century Plant on the has grown very tall and is just on the verge of turning yellow and orange.   Once again I am reminded that Arizona has its own kind of beauty.

We left Gilbert early on Sunday morning to drive to St. Johns in the northeastern part of the state.  

As we drove along the Beeline Highway,  we went through what I refer to as the Saguaro Forest because there are cacti everywhere.   I was interested to see that most of the cacti looked like they had topknots, which were really buds for flowers.   There were only a very few that were actually in bloom and they were not close enough for me to snap a picture.   The blooms were white, yellow, and red......I like the red ones the best!

We traveled to St. Johns for a missionary farewell for our grandson and one of his classmates.   Our grandson is going to Birmingham, Alabama and his classmate is going to Nampa, Idaho.   It was a great meeting (even though I kept telling myself I could not possibly be old enough that my youngest son was sending a missionary out into the field......WOW the years fly by!

Alabama - here comes Elder Ashton an he has perfected the favorite Alabama greeting - "Roll Tide"!

Levi's sister, Brycelynn made him a great cake to send him on his way :)

We had a great day in St. Johns where the temperature was about 20 degrees cooler and a little breeze (by St. Johns standards) was blowing.   I loved this beautiful home and yard (and the people inside) when we drove up to it!

Just before we headed back to the heat, I took the opportunity to snap a picture of Elder Ashton and our 5 sons.   Some of these sons have started to suffer from pectoral muscles moving south so I think they were hoping that their ties would cover that problem up - but the St. Johns wind had another plan in mind and sent a little gust just as I snapped the picture;-)

 Sure do love these 6 awesome men and all the love and support they give me along this journey and during these mission adventures.

Happy Summer from the Ashton men ( and me, of course)

Sunday, June 12, 2016

An En"light"ening Adventure

Sunday, June 12, 2016

The Arizona Gilbert Mission is a wonderful second adventure for us and we are loving it!  It is hard to believe that we have been a part of this mission for 5 weeks now and actually survived our first "transfer" here.   I am already busy preparing for the next transfer and trying to make sure I have enough bedding for the 13 new missionaries that will be arriving.   Early in the past week Elder Ashton and I went to the storage facility and took an inventory of what was available.   It appears that we have enough comforters and sheet sets for the next 2 transfers, but I need to do some shopping in person and on-line for pillows and mattress pads.    Hopefully I will get that taken care of early this coming week.

On Tuesday I received some training on entering baptismal data into the computer.   It was great that I had been working on a spreadsheet of that data for the last couple of years because it made the process much more understandable.   I will be taking over that responsibility in a couple of weeks when the current missionary is released.   At that point in time my responsibilities will be; supplies for missionaries, temple schedule and clothing needs for missionaries, preparing binders for mini missionaries (16 & 17 year old kids from the area who serve for a couple of days) and binders for all new missionaries, entering and tracking all referrals received by the mission, entering and tracking all baptisms.   Until I understand the processes better, these tasks will keep me more than busy.....and that makes the days fly by!

I decided to take a different route home from the office on Wednesday and drove into a neighborhood of  big beautiful homes.   Many of them are built in Tudor style architecture and have lots of vines and trees surrounding them - maybe that keeps them cooler in this hot weather.

This is my little corner of the office.   On the desktop you can see the binder I use to help me determine zones where baptisms occurred over the past two years.   Under the desk you see boxes of binders that have been prepared for young people coming to serve mini missions this weekend.

This past week (Tuesday and Thursday) we had some missionaries go home mid transfer time frame to allow them to get into school which starts this next week.   That kept us busier than we would normally be between transfers.

In addition to some extra activity at the office, we kept up the extra activity at home as the remodeling process continues.   On Thursday night, Eldrer Ashton (mostly) and I (a little bit) worked on getting some lights up above the island area in the kitchen.

Elder Ashton below rigging up his "scaffolding" to stand on to perform the work.   This picture reminds me of the warnings I hear on TV - "Do Not Try This At Home". 

In fact, the "scaffolding" started sliding around when Elder Ashton was standing with one foot on the step stool and one foot on the ladder and it made me so nervous I had to quit trying to hold things in place and go to a different room.   It was such a pleasant surprise to see this the next morning... 

All three pendant lights up and Elder Ashton still in one piece and walking!!!!

A few days this week as I went back and forth to the office, I noticed this historic vehicle parked in a driveway in my neighborhood.   I thought it was a "cute" car so just had to take a picture of it.   I asked Elder Ashton what it was and he said it was made by American Motors, and was one of the first attempts to down-size cars.     Just look at the size of that steering wheel!

On Friday morning as I went to the gym, I noticed a beautiful sunrise in a partly cloudy sky (It is really hard to get a good picture of sunrises and sunsets in the city - too many buildings, light poles, etc.

Late Friday afternoon, about the time we were ready to leave the office, a couple of sisters stopped in to speak with Elder Ashton about some car issues and to pick up some supplies.   One of the sisters had a great accent that I loved listening to, and when Elder Ashton asked where she was from she told us she came fro Australia.    Every time I have opportunity to read or hear about the international make-up of the missionary force here in Gilbert, I am amazed that they have come from so many different places.   We have 3 of the 13 missionaries coming in July who will be arriving from a foreign country.   I love talking with them and learning about the culture of their home country and what they think of Gilbert, Arizona.

As I was driving home from the office on Friday I noticed a very faint glow of the beginnings of a sunset in the partly cloudy sky.   By the time I got home and got stopped so I could take a picture, most of the pink and orange of the sunset had faded......

But the puffy clouds above it were pretty and calming to watch.

This picture is especially for my friends from Virginia - wanted you to see what a typical Arizona landscape yard in my neighborhood looks like.   It has it's own special kind of beauty and I am adjusting to the gray brown all around me instead of the vibrant green that surrounded us in Virginia.

We are loving this opportunity to serve again and to rub shoulders with the young missionaries.   One of the best parts of this assignment is getting to serve all week long, and getting together with family on the weekend.   Today we had a smaller group for dinner .... only 18 of us, but looking forward to having 25 of us in a couple of weeks when we get together.....just thinking about that makes me smile!

Sunday, June 5, 2016

A Moving Adventure in the Heat

Sunday, June 5, 2016

WOW!   What a week!   We experienced our first transfer here in the Arizona, Gilbert mission and "experience" is the perfect word to describe.....this was a new experience for me even though we had 13 transfers while we were in Virginia.    WE had six missionaries going home and were expecting only 7 missionaries to arrive so I was sure it would be an easy thing.   NOT!!!!

About noon on Monday, missionaries started arriving at the mission office in preparation for exit interviews and a departure dinner later in the day.   The sister missionaries started arriving first and Elder Partridge (the tall senior missionary) had a little hand held scale that he used to weigh each piece of luggage.   If he found that one piece of luggage was overweight and the other was under, he instructed the missionaries to start moving things.   What chaos we had for awhile as that occurred!!!

Sisters arriving and Elder Partridge weighing luggage

Sister's luggage piled in the entrance to the mission office and Sister Partridge watching over the arrivals and weighing of the luggage.

Sister missionaries trying to take just a few more pictures of the mission experience.

Meanwhile, at the other end of the mission office, Elder Ashton is working feverishly to get bikes packed up to ship home for 3 different missionaries.

When we left the office about 10 after 5, there were still a number of missionaries there waiting to be interviewed by the President.   They were all going to a member's home for dinner and then returning to their apartments/homes with their current companions.   

Return flights for missionaries left at 9:10 a.m. and the airport is about 20 miles away in city traffic so they had to leave Gilbert by 7 a.m.  However, we had one Elder with a health issue who was returning to Sweden to finish out his mission.   His flight left Phoenix at 12:05 A.M. on Tuesday morning (Monday night) so the assistants had to be out past curfew to take him to the airport.   Most incoming missionaries arrived about 11:30 a.m. and reached the "incoming" building about 12:45.

Prior to the missionaries arrival, Elder Ashton and I made a stop on the way to the office to retrieve the bedding from the storage building that is about 1.5 miles away.   As soon as we arrived at the office  and had completed our devotional, we started putting the bedding packets together (thank you Virginia Chesapeake Mission for giving me the idea to put it all in a mesh laundry bag!).   We got the packets all ready and decided we better get it out of the way, so took it out to my GMC Terrain and stuffed the cargo section and the back seat.   Meantime, Elder Ashton went back to the storage facility to pick up bicycles for the incoming missionaries.   This is largely a biking mission so every missionary needs a bike....He rigged up a way to get 6 full size bicycles in the back of a Nissan truck....but had to make a trip back to the storage to get the 7th bike.   About noon we took the bedding and the bikes to the "incoming" building and got set up for a little training.   Elder Ashton loved getting into his teacher mode and spending a full hour teaching the missionaries.   I told him he will need to have them do jumping jacks or something because I think one Elder slept through the entire presentation.  

After the training by several different senior missionaries, the "newbies" were taken on a tour of the temple grounds and then dropped off to spend the night with a host family.  Elders would be staying with one family and Sisters with another hotel stays here in Gilbert.  To add to all this excitement we had an Elder who was supposed to be arriving from England.   He had been delayed there for 3 months waiting for his Visa and we were told he would arrive about 1 p.m.   That would put him a little behind in the training but not too much.  By Tuesday morning we were notified that he would not be arriving until 3:30 p.m. and changes were made to the plans so that Elder Partridge could go pick him up.   About noon he notified Elder Partridge that he missed his connecting flight in Minneapolis and would not be arriving until 10:30 p.m. ----- which turned out to be 12:30 a.m.    The assistants to the President were waiting for him at the office after he was picked up by a set of Senior missionaries.   So- he missed all of his training and showed up to the office on Wednesday to pick up his bike and get started.   He will be serving in our ward so I have seen him a couple of times.   He has a cute smile on his face and I LOVE to listen to his British accent.   We have another Elder from Britain and I would like to just sit and have a conversation with the two of them so I can hear their accent.....maybe we should include the Elder from New Zealand too :)

As if we are not busy enough at the office, Elder Ashton has been coming home, changing clothes and getting back to demolition in the kitchen and bathroom.   What a mess we are in!!!  But I guess it is good that we are gone all day so I only have to deal with the mess for a few hours a day.

We got this far with the demo of the kitchen pantry and thought we might have a problem with the duct work.....but had a young man who grew up with our sons in St. Johns come over on Saturday and he got it all modified for us.   Yeah for good people we can trust!

The missionaries in the Arizona Gilbert mission are very blessed to be able to attend the temple in Gilbert once every transfer.  Sessions are reserved for each zone in the mission --there are ten zones - with 14-10 missionaries per zone.   Each transfer, the make-up of the zones change and it is my responsibility to get the new zone information (with clothing sizes) to the temple within one day of transfers.   This was quite a task for me this first time and I got a call from the temple yesterday telling me I had missed getting the clothing sizes in for a few missionaries.   Guess I know what I will be doing first thing in the morning.   Later on in the week I think I'll try putting all the information on a spreadsheet to see if that makes it easier next time......still in a learning curve :)

Our son, Colby, and his wife stopped by to visit for a few minutes on Thursday night.   It is so great to be close to family so we can enjoy spending time with them.   They offered to come over on Saturday morning and help with the construction and we jumped at the offer.   It is so much easier for a 41 year old and a couple of teenagers to get the work done than it is for us two old people to try to do it!

Colby and Elder Ashton getting ready to hang sheet rock on the walls before tile goes up for the new shower.

Cooper and Tucker, two of my handsome grandsons, have their eye protection on getting ready to do more demo on the kitchen pantry.  They also helped me haul a dining room table, leaf, and six chairs plus two end tables a few miles away to be used for incoming refugees.  I'm a blessed woman to have such a great family that is willing to help!

Since we arrived home a month ago, I have noticed a number of trees with these purple flowers alongside the road.   Friday when I went to the gym, I stopped to take some pictures and was pleasantly surprised at how pretty the flowers on the trees/bushes are.

You will notice that this tree had seed pods growing and hanging down on it - the other one didn't have any seed pods yet.

A pretty cluster of blooms and buds mixed in together.

Close-up and personal.   Notice the white and the yellow that highlight the inside of the bloom.   "I'm so glad that I live in this beautiful world...."

Stake Conference this weekend was a rich blessing.   Several survivors of the huge fire that occurred April 22 in our ward boundaries spoke about the angels seen and unseen who helped them through that trying time.   This morning we had two families attend and honored with a few words who have just recently begun to return to activity - one of them following the death of their 17 year old son two days after he would have graduated from high school. The father spoke about being angry with God, but when his son passed he was inspired to know that God knew his pain and that he would see his young son about lots of tissues in use!

The weeks go flying by as we keep busy with the mission, our home remodel, and our family.   And I still find time to think of VCM (Virginia Chesapeake Mission) almost daily and how much we miss our friends in Virginia.   Hope this note from 116 degree Arizona finds you all well and happy!