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 old.....in 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 leaders.....it 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!