Sunday, July 31, 2016

Moving Forward Adventures

Sunday, July 31, 2016

That date just shook me up a little when I typed it - I realized that 4 years ago today I was in a hospital in Chandler, Arizona having hip revision surgery and although I don't like medical procedures and am especially not a fan of surgery, I was excited to go to the hospital that meant that after the surgery and some rehab time I would be able to walk again after 5.5 months on crutches! What a relief it was!!!  And what a lot of water has passed under the bridge since then.   Here we are serving our second mission since that time and still really loving the service.

Speaking of service, we had a family milestone this week when our grandson left the MTC to begin his mission service in the Alabama Birmingham mission - but he got assigned to work in a small town in Mississippi.   I loved his description - it is big enough for two stop lights and a WalMart - this coming from a young man who grew up in a town with no stop lights and no WalMart but 5 high school classmates in the MTC at the same time as him.    That's says something special about that little town in Northern Arizona.  

A picture of Levi and his first companion (mission dad)

Levi entering Mississippi

On the first day in Boonville, Levi found evidence of the church being there and took a picture because he knew his grandpa (Elder Ashton) would be interested in it.

Note the year this cemetery was established.

It is really quite fun to be serving a mission at the same time as a grandchild.   As we read his emails and see pictures it is fun to imagine that there is a Senior Couple serving in the Alabama Birmingham Mission who loves our grandchild as much as we love the missionaries we are serving and have served with.  I was just thinking today that I am just like a proud grandma.....when I read a FB announcement that one or more of the missionaries we served with in Virginia are getting married, I go around all day with a smile on my face!

Wednesday the long, long, long awaited delivery finally occurred.   Cabinets for our kitchen remodel finally arrived - 10 weeks after we ordered them.   Now we are just waiting for the company to have time in their schedule to install them - they tall us probably on August 8th.    What a frustrating challenge all this waiting and living in a construction zone has been for me.....but I did a little happy dance when I came home for lunch and saw this......

Cabinets - we have cabinets!!!

This week was definitely an interesting "monsoon" week.   We had several days of really high heat (see picture below) followed by a couple of evenings of monsoon activity (see other picture below)

This is a picture of my car information center when I left the office on Wednesday - 119 degrees at 5:03 p.m.   That was one of those days when I needed oven mitts on my hands before I could touch the steering wheel.

The hood of my black Terrain on Friday morning following the dust and rain storm we had Thursday night.   The water that came down through the dust storm carried so much dirt that it left a little deposit of sediment on my hood.   Sure am glad Elder Ashton took pity on my and washed my car on Saturday!!!

Although it has been a very slow process, it seems that we are FINALLY beginning to make some progress on the remodeling project.    Shower is done and ready for grout, painting of all walls, ceiling and trim is done, floor tiling will begin early to mid-week.   Carpet should be installed on Thursday and we can start moving back into the bedrooms.  We (mostly Elder Ashton) got the two ceiling fans installed this week.

Lights over the island, ceiling fan and painted walls in the family room AND construction tools and materials = progress!

Friday and Saturday I was sure I had lost my mind somewhere.....Friday I went to see my Primary Care Physician to get a prescription refill and when I went to get my debit card out to pay the co-pay, it wasn't in my wallet. Of course, I began to panic wondering where it was.....then I had a little talk with myself and told myself to calm down that I probably left it in the self-service postage machine at the post-office when I mailed a package on Thursday afternoon.   As soon as I left the doctor's office I went back to the post-office :/ - no debit card.   So I had to give myself another lecture to stay calm and just drive over to the bank to shut that card off and order a new one.   All was well.......until later that afternoon when I was digging in my purse to find something and I found "something" - my debit card which I had just dropped in the bottom of my purse and not put away in my wallet.   I tried to chalk that up to trying to do too many things at once.

Saturday I went to get groceries.   It was very hot and I was struggling with getting them all loaded in the car because perspiration was dripping in my eyes.   I finally got them all loaded and drove home, backup up to the garage and reached over to get my red purse - it was not there.   I rushed back over to the grocery store and thank goodness for tender mercies someone had noticed it sitting in the cart and turned it in - nothing was missing!   Now I really thought I was losing my mind and was almost afraid to take my purse to church this morning....thinking I might forget and leave it there!   I guess I just say - "All's well that ends well."

So, as I drove back to our neighborhood, feeling a little calmer now, I could actually catch my breath and notice the flock of birds catching a late breakfast in the park by our house.

I'm thinking there must be some good bugs in that grass based on the number of birds chowing down!

And as I drove around the corner, what a fun sight I beheld.....a birthday party complete with a neighborhood train ride!   Now that made my day a little better and brought a smile to my face.

What a fun thing for kids-- and grown-ups too!

All Aboard :)

Sunday, July 24, 2016

A "Ducky" Adventure

Sunday, July 24th, 2016

It's hard to believe it was 3 months ago that we were packing up our belongings and the truck and getting ready to begin the trek back to Arizona following our 18 month mission there.   In many ways that seems like it was just last week, but when I think about living in our demolished house as we move through our remodeling project it seems like it was a YEAR ago!   It's a really good thing that we can go to the mission office every week day and get out of the construction dust!

Monday was a normal day in the office with normal tasks.....but when I left the office a few minutes after 5 to drive home, I noticed some approaching gray clouds with the sun above and filtering down through....A beautiful site that I was so interested in I decided I better pull over and take a few pictures so I could pay attention to my driving.!  I love the shafts of sunlight filtering both down and up!

A few minutes later it was just a ball of light above the clouds with sunbeams coming down.....made me think of the 3 year old kids favorite Primary song - "Jesus Wants Me For a Sunbeam."

By the time I got to my street, the ball of light had increased and gotten closer to the earth as the sun continued to set.....I could almost imagine it was a personal message to me of how much my Savior loves me (and everyone else).  What a great blessing to have this beauty in my life.

On Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday it was time again for Zone Interviews.   Due to the small geographic area of the mission, it is quite common to get a number of visitors in the mission office picking up mail and supplies.    This week was no different.....we had a number of missionaries making a joyful noise in the office on Wednesday afternoon.
 Six Elders plus Elder Partridge who works in the office doing Finance and Supplies and Two Sisters plus the President's wife, Sister Wheeler talking missionary challenges.
Maybe the Elders stop for missionary supplies but they usually find their way to a couple of pretzels or red vines while they are in the office.    I think Elder Partridge was telling them a story about when he served a previous mission in Samoa and the living conditions for the young Elder Missionaries.

This is what it looks like when zone leaders forget to pick up mail in the office.   An Elder in one of the zones had a birthday and his packages were stacked pretty high!  Finally, one of the Sister Missionaries was afraid they were going to come crashing down so she arranged to drop them off in the zone on her way home from the office Thursday night.

As I left the gym on Tuesday morning I noticed these delicate fern-like leaves on the big Palo Verde tree beside the entry door.   The picture doesn't accurately show how delicate they looked......I'm glad that I live in this beautiful world!

As I left for the office on Wednesday, I noticed that there are lots of prickly pears on the cactus at the end of my street.....brought back memories of all the hours I spent about 40 years ago making one little batch of prickly pear jelly!

On my way to the store to buy 10 pillows for August batch of incoming missionaries.   I looked straight ahead at this happy picture - a beautiful blue sky and fluffly white clouds ALMOST made me forget that it was 115 degrees outside ;-)

Elder Kapua favoring us with a farewell song on Thursday just before he left to return to New Zealand.   He was singing about his favorite hero - Jesus Christ in his beautiful voice with his accent.    Made tears come to my eyes thinking of his courage to leave home and family far behind and come here to serve.  He will be missed.

Saturday, I went to the Freestone recreation center and took a drive past the small lake at Freestone Park on the way home.   I noticed the ducks floating on the pond and thought the water looked very refreshing.   Just as I started to snap the picture, I noticed the larger white fowl....I think it is too large to be a duck but don't know what it is.....maybe a swan?   Anyway, I was tempted to put my feet in the water until I got closer and could see that it really wasn't all that clean :)


One room is finally painted - no carpet or tile yet but we are making s-l-o-w progress on this remodeling project.    I'm hoping I come home from the office tomorrow and find two or three more rooms painted.

We are really loving this mission experience here in Gilbert - and growing to love these missionaries just like we did the ones in Gilbert.   But the best thing about serving here is shown below

Great Grandpa (Elder Ashton) enjoying Sunday afternoon with one of the little ones in our family - 6 month old Grayson.   I think this is a pretty cute picture of what it is all about - FAMILY!

Sunday, July 17, 2016

A Welcome to Arizona Adventure

Sunday, July 17, 2016

This past week we welcomed 12 new missionaries to the Arizona Gilbert Mission.   But before we could welcome the new ones, there we 7 departing missionaries that needed some assistance with last minute preparations.   They started arriving at the mission office at about noon on Monday and stayed the rest of the day until they went to the departure dinner at 6 p.m.

Sister Finch arriving with her luggage.....the Sisters seem to have more anxiety about having their luggage weighed than the elders do.    Looks like some of the elders are just sitting or standing around having a good time.

Elder Partridge is the keeper of the scale......he just told Sister Finch that one bag is right at 50 pounds (Yeah!) but the other bag is 3.5 pounds over (boo!)   Notice Sister Finch's reaction to the news.   I think she spent about 45 minutes deciding which things she could leave behind or move to her carry on to get the weight to 50 lbs.   Elder Ashton had just worked on the bicycle in the foreground and it did not even belong to one of the missionaries going home but they all want to be part of the excitement/chaos on departure day so he picked that day to bring it in to be worked on.    The noise level gets pretty high when we have 10 or 12 missionaries in there all needing something different and talking and laughing with each other.....but it is a happy chaos so I don't mind it!

This also becomes a good time to check the mail baskets and see if they have any mail.....sometimes they find a nice surprise like a tie or two left for them by a departing missionary ;-)  I asked one Elder about all the ties he was leaving and he informed me that he had more than 100 ties so he didn't think he needed to take them all home!

One of the "new" Elders arriving in the "training" (Primary) room with his luggage on Tuesday.

Bikes and bedding lined up in the back awaiting arriving missionaries.....they place their luggage on the side of the room and head off to lunch first thing.

If the room was this full with 12 missionaries, I'm wondering how it will be August 23 when we are scheduled to get 28 or 29 missionaries.....that should be fun!

Wednesday morning the missionaries go to two separate church buildings to meet up with their new companions.   It is pretty quiet in the office until the first meeting lets out.....and then it gets a little crazy again. I think Elder Ashton had about 8 missionaries lined up to ask him various questions or have him look for specific items for them.    By Wednesday night of transfer week, I am ready to go home to my quiet house.....even though it is still a big MESS with the remodeling!

And getting home at the end of the day in this 112 degree heat is a bit of a challenge.   However, I recently learned that long Sister Missionary skirts work pretty well as oven mitts over the blistering hot steering wheel - plus the air conditioning works a little better on the lower body when the skirt is over the steering wheel ;-)

Thursday and Friday were regular days in the office - working on referrals, baptisms, binders, etc......and acting as chauffeur for Elder Ashton as he ferries cars back and forth to get them fixed!   I don't mind doing that in the morning, but my mid afternoon when it is blistering hot I know it will take me a couple of hours back in the office with the fan blowing on me to cool off from being out in the heat for 45 minutes!   Then I remind myself that I love my "job" as a Senior Sister Missionary and the pay in blessings far out weighs any challenges!

The remodeling projects continue to progress VERY SLOWLY!!   This is the main bathroom walk-in shower that is finally about 2/3 complete.    Seems like it has taken forever but it will be VERY NICE when it is complete!

Elder Ashton is going to add grab bars, shelves and a seat in the shower.   It has a rain head and a handheld shower that hits at the lower back.   It has cost lots of $$$  and time so I hope we really like it.

Elder Ashton and I spent some time Saturday preparing the middle bedroom for paint and carpet.   He wanted to move the sewing machine to another room but neither of us had the muscles to do that so I guess we will leave it up to the professionals to move it around.

This has been an interesting adventure this week.....we found my wedding dress and train that is 49 years old in one of the closets!   Brought back lots of memories as I looked at that dress and thoughts of gratitude for my sweet mom who sewed it and sewed all the decorative appliques on by hand.    What a great influence she has been in my life!

We are LOVING life and working with the missionaries.   I had no idea it would be so much fun to hang around all the enthusiastic and strong-spirited young people.   This week as I watched the departure video that Elder Partridge prepared, I was overwhelmed and shed tears of joy as I thought of the good these young people do in the world - helping people move, cleaning up the city, teaching about Jesus, loving one another and even loving us funny old Senior Missionaries.   How blessed we are to be involved!

Sunday, July 10, 2016

A Preparatory Adventure

Sunday, July 10th

Another week bites the dust!!   I am frequently shaking my head and saying "I can't believe...." it is already Wednesday, it is already July, we have been home and working in the Gilbert Mission for two months, etc. etc.   Today it is "I can't believe another week has passed!"    And where did those days go.   It seems that Elder Ashton and I keep very busy each day and get lots accomplished, but another day comes and we still have lots to do!

We met with President and Sister Wheeler on Monday afternoon (a couple of hours after we got off the plane from Salt Lake City.   The Assistants to the President and the other office couple were also there and we spent a couple of hours talking about the upcoming "transfer" - missionaries go home (8 this time) and missionaries come in (12 this time) and new companionships are formed with many missionaries moving to a different area.  I was only feeling a little pressure on Monday because I felt like I was keeping pace with my duties to supply bedding packets for all the new missionaries and to also put together binders for all the new missionaries.   I had all of those ready and was starting to work on the bedding and binders for the next transfer in six weeks.   THEN, we arrived at the office on Tuesday morning and emails were awaiting telling us of still more arrivals slated for August 23.   I had a total for 24 bedding sets for Elders and 17 for Sisters (I much prefer shopping for Sister bedding ;-) ).   This coming week on Tuesday we will need 7 sets for Elders and 5 sets for Sisters.  But on Tuesday I learned that we will be receiving 29 missionaries will be arriving.   I will be fine for Sisters but need to purchase 12 more bedding sets for Elders so I will need to get right on that after we finish transfers this week.   I'm so tired of shopping for bedding for missionaries that I have kind of lost interest in shopping for furniture and/or new bedding, etc for our house remodel.   I guess that's OK because it is moving along VERY slowly and I am really tired of the big mess.   I'm hoping the remodel will be done by mid August - cross your fingers for me!

This past week was Zone Conferences and Elder Ashton and I did a little training and Elder Ashton did car inspections.  I was training on how to properly submit referrals and fill our baptism forms.   I can truly say that I can chalk this training up as less than successful, i.e., "epic failure".    I did training for about five minutes and specifically told them we needed baptism sheets turned in ASAP after the baptism.   AND, they must be sure to give me a name with referrals so the missionaries would know who they were contacting.   I love the missionaries and have gotten to know some of them pretty well, and Wednesday afternoon as I looked around the group, I saw one of the former Assistants to the President.    He seemed to be very attentive.   Then Wednesday evening I got a text from him with a referral.   Guess What?!?   No Name!
And of the 10 baptisms that were performed last weekend, I have only received 5 forms, despite a second reminder to the missionaries.   Guess I'll have to try a different tactic at the next zone conferences :)

Sisters receiving award of beef jerky from Elder Kapua for cleanest car in the Zone.

Thursday I stayed in the office and Elder Ashton, Elder and Sister Partridge attended Zone Conference.   Sister Partridge did the training on baptismal forms and referrals - she used a power point presentation.   Maybe that will prove to be more successful.

On Wednesday, our grandson entered the MTC in preparation for his mission to Birmingham, Alabama.  We have been excited for this opportunity for him and I breathed a huge sigh of relief when I saw this picture on FB that was posted by his mom with the description of "My momma heart is so happy. He said he is having a great time."   He looks great and I can't think of any better place for him to be!

Levi and his companion, Elder Fotu

Most days the office has a period of time when it gets pretty busy with Elders and Sisters coming in, but especially around transfer/departure time.   Elder Ashton was busy taking care of incoming bicycles on Friday and several Elders were in the office completed some work on the "My Plan" program that they are supposed to study before going home.    Elder Peterson LOVES people and I think he loves to have his picture taken.   He has an amazing story and I love seeing his happy smiling face!   

Elder and Sister Partridge looking at the data that is being saved to a flash drive for every departing missionary.   Elder Rose is looking on.   Elder Johnston and Elder Kapua are working on "My Plan" at the computer and Elder Peterson is keeping me smiling!

I really love all the beautiful bougainvillea bushes around this area.   They are so bright and beautiful and from a distance just look like a clump of color.....but look at the tiny yellow flowers in the center when you get up close.   So Pretty!

About an hour of my preparation day (Saturday) were spent in a preparatory activity of  ironing one dozen long sleeved white shirts.   It's a good thing I learned to iron fact 48 years ago when I did ironing for students at BYU for 10 cents a piece.    I can iron a shirt in a little under 4 minutes so at least it wasn't an all day job and Elder Ashton has enough shirts for the next 2 weeks.

We find this mission to be just as great as the one we served in Virginia.   We are making lots of new friends that we meet through our work in the mission and loving the young missionaries just as much.   I still feel like all these young missionaries are my adopted grandkids and really enjoy being around them.  One of our new incoming missionaries is coming from Malaysia and that is pretty exciting to me.

Life is BUSY but oh, so GOOD!   

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

A Heart Attack and A Trip Down Memory Lane - What an Adventure

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

I'm late with the tales of our adventures this past week....but the past week was memorable in many ways so wanted to share the adventure even if it is a little late.

As summer continues to move along, the "dry heat" can seem almost unbearable at times.   Such was the case last week - really hot!!!   Even the dessert plants are having a hard time with all this heat.   I found that this plant has almost completed it's short summer cycle, but has not quite given up yet.

The salmon colored buds are opening up to flowers with a yellow center but have not quite given up the flowers to the heat yet.

As I drove home from the office on Tuesday at lunch time, I noticed this pretty jacaranda tree with some purple blossoms left.   Wish I had caught it when it was in full bloom.

On Monday and Wednesday morning we arrived at the office a little early in an effort to complete the book we were putting together for President and Sister Nattress and to complete the baptismal records for his tenure as Mission President.   The new President and his wife, President and Sister Wheeler, were scheduled to arrive at the mission office on Wednesday about 10:00 a.m.   President and Sister Nattress would also be there for the "passing of the torch".

When we arrived at the office on Wednesday morning, we found that we had been "heart attacked" by the missionaries and a member of the outgoing Mission Presidency on Tuesday night.  All the missionaries cut out a heart and wrote words of advice, a favorite scripture or quote, or just a few words of welcome to the new President and his wife.   There were hearts everywhere!!

More hearts :)

Elder Partridge, the other senior Elder in the office says he is 5'18" and he was bopping around the office like a grade school boy before his birthday party ----  I just had to capture that!

The outgoing Mission President and wife (President/Elder Nattress and his wife on the left) and the new Mission President (President Wheeler and his wife on the right).  President and Sister Wheeler are from a small town in central Utah so I feel like we share that same Mountain West background.

Outgoing and incoming Mission President and wives and the Assistants to the President, Elder Kapua from New Zealand and Elder Carratinni from Nebraska (but only two generations removed from Italy).   A group of really good people who have a positive impact on my life.

In the midst of all the changes at the mission office, we continue to deal with changes at the house.   We have a contractor who has been working a week.....he has taken up and hauled off all the old tile, painted all the ceilings and the back door (that has 20 small panes of glass).   He will probably start laying tile in a few days - says he will paint a couple of the closets tomorrow.   It is a new adventure every day to come home and see what has changed.

I came home on Wednesday to find the old tile torn up and the new tile all moved into the house from the pallets outside.

Speaking of outside, this large prickly pear cactus is at the end of our street.   I tried to capture the humming bird that was flying around this but was unable to snap a picture before it flew off.   Looking at all those prickly pears on the cactus reminds me of 40 years ago when I attempted to make prickly pear jelly (it didn't taste that good) and was plagued by tiny spines in my fingers for the next six weeks!   I can assure you I won't be picking any of these to make jelly ;-)

Still enjoying the beautiful Arizona sunrises and sunsets which I see almost every day!   Now that we are in monsoon season, they seem to be even more beautiful.

It rained for a couple of hours on Thursday night and I couldn't resist taking a picture of the small puddle in the gutter by the Mission Office just to prove to all my friends in Virginia that Arizona gets rain once in awhile :)

Early Friday afternoon we jetted off to Salt Lake City to be followed by a short 80 mile drive to Evanston, Wyoming to visit family - my Mom and brothers and my niece.   As we drove from SLC to Evanston, a feeling of familiarity came over me as I looked out the window at the snow-capped Wahsatch Mountains.   Yep, I did say snow-capped on July 1st!

Another view of those same beautiful mountains!

Saturday was a beautiful morning and we decided to take a walk at the Bear River Park - where the city has set up a riparian preserve along the river that flows through town next to ponds that we called the fish ponds when we were growing up there.   Yes, I did go fishing there with my brother in the summer and ice skating on the ponds with friends in the winter.   It does not look the same but as I talked with my mom and brother and Elder Ashton about how it was when we were kids, many pleasant memories flooded my mind.

A group of gosslings about 2 months old floating on the pond I used to fish in.

Saturday morning my brother drove from Lander Wyoming so my 92 year old mother's 3 surviving children could be together with her for a few hours.  I did tell my brother it was not fair for a 60 year old man to look as fit and young as he does.....he assured me he has a few hidden gray hairs but I sure could not see them.    We all loved the family time we had.  Sure do love my family - especially my beautiful mom!

Saturday afternoon we attended a 55 year class reunion luncheon for Elder Ashton.   He had a great time seeing old classmates from high school but did make the comment that all the rest of the people at the reunion we old.......I guess that means he doesn't feel as old as most of them looked ;-)

Sunday morning we drove to the two cemeteries where my father, sister and brother are buried.   It was a good start to Sunday morning as I contemplated what it will be like when I see them again - I love that I know I will enjoy their company once again!   We also took time to drive out to the church owned ranch, Deseret Land and Livestock, where my paternal grandfather worked as a mechanic and where he and my grandmother lived for part of the time.   Just driving around the property brought back many wonderful memories of grandparents and the exploring my siblings and I did when visiting them.

What a great time we had on Sunday afternoon as we attended church and I was able to see and talk with former Primary teachers, Seminary Car Pool drivers, etc.   After church we had a delicious lunch that my mom insisted she was going to prepare.   I thought it was strange that I and my 38 year old niece did more resting while my mom did more food preparing.   I can attest that she still knows how to cook.......really well!

As we left town on Monday morning, I couldn't help but snap a picture of this familiar building that I passed every day on my walk to school from 4th - 12th grade.   I remember going with my mother to this building a few times when she went in to pay the water bill.....and now I sit at home and pay my water bill using the computer.   My-how times have changed!

Friends and family know that I have a black thumb and can't grow anything no matter how hard I try.  However, my mother obviously has a green thumb - I loved this beautiful African Violet plant she had in her living room!

Almost home - loved the layer of fluffy clouds partially covered the Grand Canyon as we flew over.  What a great trip to visit great people and enjoy great weather!

Happy Independence Day week from Arizona!