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Thursday, December 29, 2016

Light at the end of the tunnel...

Another visit to the eye doctor today who said the cornea is 'pristine'. There is a singular cell in the eye that should not be there but everything still looks good. Drop regimen stays the same: 2 drops of Lotomax and 2 drops of Combigan daily. That regimen  will be kept throughout our mission time.

So...January 9 is DECISION DAY. If the eye keeps looking as good as it has the past 3 weeks a medical release may be issued and our mission lives can move forward. We are keeping our fingers crossed and praying a lot and anxiously waiting for that day. 

I am pretty sure once the medical clearance is given  things will move really fast! So, we need to stay focused and organized so it is just a matter of packing our suitcases and showing up at the airport.

We have enjoyed a nice Christmas Holiday with our family as well as completing some necessary projects. We recognize many reasons that this delay has been a good thing. There is no getting around that the Lord is in charge and that He will allow what is best as long as we keep trusting Him.

The "weather outside is frightful!" and I realize that I really do not enjoy the cold, miserable, rainy weather which we have been subjected to these past several days. Grateful we are waiting it out in nice warm friendly circumstances but somehow the rain enhances the feelings of LIMBO.

January 1st is one of my favorite days! I love the idea that I have a fresh clean slate to begin again.

Looking through some of the Self Reliance Materials I came across this quote by Brigham Young, who said: "Time is all the capital stock there is on earth...if properly used it brings that which will add to your comfort, convenience and satisfaction. Let us consider this and no longer sit with our hands folded wasting time." Discourses of Brigham Young (1954), 214

So, I will wish you A VERY HAPPY NEW YEAR!!! with the hope that you will recognize the many opportunities which lie before you and that you will do your best to make it a great year.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016


We are very happy to report that per Steve's eye exam this past Monday his eye was still looking 'fabulous' and 'clear as crystal' and 'as if he had never had a transplant'! And although there is not yet an actual date for his medical release [that we are allowed to share] we can safely say it will be sooner than later. What an incredible relief and great blessing! A big thanks to all who have prayed for us and the well being of his eye. 
We are grateful.

We will continue to enjoy the remaining time with our family. We will celebrate Christmas here in Everson with our family. There have been cards to send, cookies to bake, a Christmas tree and just spending time. It is just nice to be here.

Yesterday I packed up the binders full of pictures, negatives, and old family letters which I have been sorting out for a few weeks now. I have sent off many pictures and letters to siblings in the process. Can you believe there are 62 binders?!!! Although I am not totally finished with the sorting, since three of the binders have undated pictures, it just felt
Just a little 'show and tell'
great to clear the table and pack them away knowing that I am almost done. If I have time I will tweak things a little more as I begin labelling the pictures. Which begs the question "why did I not label the pictures as they were printed?" 
If I had written at least the year and who was in the picture this job of organizing would have been so much easier. 

So, those of you who have been slacking as much as me, I hope you take a lesson from my mistakes. Do it now! Don't wait for that someday we all hope will come. How I wish my grandparents had labelled their pictures with who was in the pictures. The years are noted but I do not know the names of many of the people. So many awesome pictures of unknown 'someones' to whom I am related. We think we will never forget but we do; and those who have passed on without leaving their knowledge behind leave us at a great disadvantage when it comes to our photographic heritage.

In a few short days we will celebrate Christmas and the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ. What a wonderful time of year! I love to hear the carols of Christmas! I love the message of the Gospel. I love the hope. I love the peace.

"May your days be merry and bright" and may you feel the peace that the Savior can bring to you heart.

πŸŽ„πŸŽ„πŸŽ„πŸŒŸMerry Christmas!!!πŸŒŸπŸŽ„πŸŽ„πŸŽ„

Monday, December 12, 2016

Freezing in limbo

We woke up to below freezing temperatures with lots of snow and a "snow day" for the grandkids. After debating whether we should try to drive to Steve's 8:00AM eye appointment we finally decided to brave the scary roads and snowy cold weather to get on our way. Unfortunately we chose to go by way of a road which we soon discovered had the traffic totally stopped. Later we learned that the traffic was stopped because there had been an 11 car pile up at an intersection. So glad we were not a part of that disaster!! 

We turned around, retraced our trip and then detoured another way. The further we drove the worse the weather became with huge snowflakes falling and making it generally miserable. It took us 1 1/2 hours to get to the doctor so we were 45 minutes late. Thankfully they could work us in - it seemed other patients also had travel trouble. 

After a quick check the doctor said the eye looked "fabulous!" which is very good news. It has seen improvement each week. His new drop regimen consists of 2 drops per day of the less potent Lotemax for one week. Then, next Monday, if the eye still looks great his dose will decrease to 1 drop per day. 

The not so good news is that the 1 drop per day regime will last about 3 weeks to make sure the eye is stable without flareups before the doctor will give a medical release and we can actually have a leave date to go on our mission. That means we will likely still be living with our daughter's family until at least mid January. The upside is we will get to enjoy Christmas with them. 

In the meantime I am still working hard to complete the organizing project of the family pictures. I am SOOOOO close to being done. With more time I may even get some of them scanned and uploaded.

I don't really do limbo very well. However I have learned through our many life experiences that the Lord always uses great economy with the events of our lives. I know that others will somehow  eventually be affected by our experiences. We acknowledge that the Lord is in charge and will do our best to accept His will and be patience under these peculiar circumstances. Maybe someday we will understand the "why".

Last night we attended our annual Stake Christmas Concert. It was so nice to be there. I look forward to it every year. It just feels like Christmas now. We had an hour of hearing and singing Christmas Carols, so many of them favorites. There is so much talent in our Stake and it was just a delight. The narrator told the history of many of the songs and carols which made it all the more interesting. What a wonderful time of the year when we can celebrate the Savior's birth.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Eye is much better but still in limbo...

Today Steve's eye looked even better than last week. His drop regimen was reduced from 4 drops per day to 3 drops per day. His eye pressure was much better. But a new appointment was still scheduled for next Monday. Even though things look great with the eye it must still be monitored for awhile.

With no departure date in sight I have struggled today. I like to have 'my ducks lined up' and know what is going on in my life. Yes, I like to have things under control.This business of living in limbo is not very comfortable for me. In fact I sort of had a melt down today. I feel the weight of our upcoming responsibilities and yet there is nothing at this point that I can do about fulfilling them.

I guess it is time to bring my faith front and center and remember that the Lord is in charge of everything and that includes when we are leaving for Sydney. I really do know that all is happening as it should but I have always struggled with 'changing horses midstream'. Of course there is always a purpose for whatever happens and maybe I need this experience to learn more than one lesson.

We are grateful that our 'homeless' condition is under such comfortable circumstances. I mean we have our own room in a warm home with plenty of food to eat and the company of our daughter, son-in-law, grandson and granddaughter who love us and seem to enjoy our company. And we will get to spend Christmas in their home. I am not complaining about that at all! But shifting my paradigm is kind of tough.

I hope we actually will find out some day why this delay was necessary.

With the crazy busy days we had before we moved out of our home we did not get to the temple as often as has been our habit. Finally last Friday we took a few hours and drove to the Vancouver Temple. What a wonderful time it was for us to be there again and to feel the Spirit. There is nothing like being in a temple. The peace and joy is indescribable. What a blessing it is for us to live close enough to attend the temple often.

It was our intent to send Christmas Greetings from Australia but not this year. I have spent some time thinking about Christmases past and the many good memories. It was always such a good time preparing Christmas for our children. There is something about the joyful anticipation of children during the Christmas season. I always loved it. There are so many pictures of the Christmas tree surrounded by gifts taken on Christmas Eve after the children were all safely tucked in their beds and we had prepared everything for the next morning. I always loved that time. 

And now we are back to just the two of us with no young children anymore. Even as we spend time with our families and the grandchildren it is not the same. And I have found myself pondering my thoughts of Christmas. Last night we watched the Christmas Broadcast with the First Presidency and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. The music was wonderful as always but the talks were especially meaningful to me this year. 

One of the speakers discussed the birth of the Baby Jesus and then went on to discuss His sinless life and His mission for us, the Atonement and the Resurrection and how it all fit together for our good. The comment was that if all of those other parts of His life had not happened that He would have been just another baby who was born under rude circumstances. This is what Christmas is all about when we strip away the lights and tinsel. Our Savior was born so He could live His life and show us the way to live and then make the ultimate sacrifice for us so we can go back and live with our Heavenly Father again.

That is the wonderful reason we can celebrate this Christmas Season.

Monday, November 28, 2016

The eye is improving :)

Well things are better. When he first saw the doctor on November 14, Steve began a regime of one drop of a steroid called Durezol every 2 hours. He saw the doctor 4 out of 5 days the first week and then 2 or 3 visits the second week. With improvement in his eye at the end of a few days his dose was dropped to one drop every 4 hours. Of course there is always an accompanying 2 drops of Combigan every day to reduce the increased eye pressure that was caused by the steroid drops. Last week his steroid dose was dropped to every 6 hours.

Today he saw the doctor again and was given the happy news that his offending left eye is looking as healthy as his right eye. He will continue the drop regime with a weaker steroid, Prednisolone drop every 6 hours. Just to be sure things are OK. Next week another doctor appointment and we hope his eye continues to be healthy with this weaker steroid. In the meantime the doctors will consult with the surgeon who performed the  cornea transplant to get her opinion on his progress and when she feels it would be safe for him to fly to Sydney.

So, prognosis is good but mission departure date is still undetermined.

In the meantime we had a nice relaxed Thanksgiving with our daughter and her family. We are enjoying our time in their home.

Steve keeps busy with various projects and I have been working pretty much every day on the project of sorting family photos, negatives and old family letters. I am almost on a first name basis with the Transparent Office Supply people as I keep ordering more and more archival sleeves. Today's order was for more negative sleeves which I hope will come soon as I hate to lose my momentum. I have filled well over 3 dozen two inch binders.

This has been a mammoth project which has morphed into something far larger than I ever could have imagined. There are negatives from my grandparents dating back to 1926. My mother's negatives begin in the 1940's. My mother's letters to her parents begin on the ship on which our family sailed as we left Denmark way back in 1952. So many great stories and nuggets of information that would otherwise be lost. There are old family photos that begin in the late 1800's. And as the years progressed the sheer volume of negatives and photos increased proportionately.  There are so many pictures and I love to see them. Such grand memories!!! And sometimes very emotionally exhausting.

It has been good to have a project as I am never happy without something going on. But all the same it is still strange to be living in limbo without any real direction or purpose. Our mission seems so far away and almost non-existant. We are "homeless" for all intents and purposes. Someone else is living in our house, our belongings are in storage and we are living out of suitcases. We are definitely being made to feel comfortable in our homeless state but it is surreal.

We are waiting to find out just what the Lord has in mind for us.

Monday, November 21, 2016

When a cornea transplant tries to reject...

What a difference a week makes. We should have been boarding an airplane to travel to Utah this morning. But we aren't. 

Last Monday Steve noticed that his eyesight was kind of milky so while I was in for a final tear test [for dry eye] he asked the doctor to check his eye. Well an hour later it was determined that his eye was not only inflamed but that his cornea transplant was threatening rejection. A regime of steroid drops to control the rejection and other drops to counter increased eye pressure caused by the steroid drops began. By Wednesday it was determined that he needed more care than could be accomplished in a few days. A call to the mission office medical folks and our mission was postponed until he gets medical clearance. 

Wow! It is so weird to be in limbo after working so hard to get ready to go. His eye is improving and was 50% better last Friday. We are hopeful he will have further improvement when he goes back in today. After his eye is back to normal the doctors would like to monitor him for a few weeks to make sure he is stable. And then they will give him medical clearance so we can again get a schedule to report to the Missionary Training Center in Provo and actually fly to Sydney. We are so grateful for good eye care professionals and their competent staff who care about us. His eye surgeon knows the name of a cornea specialist in Sydney so when we arrive there will be someone there as a backup.

So, here we are living out of our mission suitcases in the home of our daughter, her husband and our grandchildren, just waiting to see what unfolds. We spoke in church yesterday which would normally have been our 'goodbye' talk but it was a 'provisional good bye'. It is interesting to me how life works. Often we make plans and then life happens. We know that our Father in Heaven is in charge, even over things like our eyes. 

We have no doubt that there is a reason for this delay. We just do not know what it is. But we accept the Lord's time frame. Experience has taught us that the Lord uses great economy with the events of our lives. What I mean is that this delay in our schedule will impact not only us but will also affect others in necessary ways that we may not understand. I strongly believe that things happen for a reason. We are grateful to know that the Lord knows who we are. We feel confident that all will be well.

In the meantime although we will miss our Thanksgiving gathering with several of our children in Utah, we will enjoy our time with our daughter's family here in Washington. We were able to enjoy watching our grandson perform as Prince Charming in his high school musical of Cinderella and just enjoy spending the time with this special family.

I will also be able to continue organizing our pictures which project has turned out to be a much larger than I first anticipated possibly because I not only had our pictures and negatives but those of my mother's and some of Steve's mother's.  I have even had to order MORE archival sleeves. But I believe I will have enough time to finish the project and preserve those memories. We may or may not leave before Christmas. Only time will tell. But the Lord knows and it will be alright.

In the meantime we live in our interesting state of limbo just waiting to see what the Lord has in mind for us.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Guess we are 'homeless' for awhile

Our 9 year old granddaughter gave us this picture of a koala bear she had colored "because you are going to see koalas". I told her I was sure we would but that they might not be the same color. 

What a week this has been! Lots of last minute packing, despair and tears as I felt overwhelmed, gratitude for the many kindnesses shown, general fatigue, finishing projects and trying to make lists of things yet to be done. 

I have to give a shout out to Rick at Transparent Office Supply who went the extra mile to make sure my order for the needed additional archival photo sleeves was correct and sent asap despite a death in his family. I was so grateful to get my sleeves on time so I could work on the photos. Filing those photos has been a huge undertaking. Not quite done but hope to finish while we are in our daughter's home.

Saturday was the day the rest of our "stuff" was moved out of our house. How does one have so much "stuff"? A special thanks to the many wonderful people who helped get  the rest of the boxes and furniture  onto the trailer and moved into storage. And to all those who have shown us such love and consideration.
Some of the great youth who turned out to help! 

so much help!!
and away it goes!

The threatened rain did come so a tarp was necessary part of the time to protect things from getting too wet. Grateful it was not a total downpour. Now today we just need to make sure the house is clean and ready for our renters.

helping grandpa burn the 'remains'
Even though our house is empty and we have now slept 3 nights at our daughter's house it still does not seem real that we are actually leaving. Two weeks from today we will report to the Mission Training Center. Wow! When we received our mission call in April it seemed like November 28 was far into the future, that we had a long time to prepare and yet we have needed every single day to accomplish what was needed.  This will be a busy week with the final details to finish. But we will make it!

Yesterday we had a very informative Skype session with the folk in Sydney and representatives from BYUI as we all learned more about the Pathways Program. This program is administered through BYUI and provides a wonderful opportunity for  many people to gain a higher level of education who would other wise not have the opportunity. The cost is so much lower and the opportunities which will lead to better employment are incredible. So grateful we will have an opportunity to encourage this program as we work on our Self Reliance Mission.

This Sunday, November 20, 2016 we have been asked to speak in our Church. We would like to invite any of you who live close enough to come to join us. Our chapel is located at 2550 Thornton Road, Ferndale, WA 98248. Our meeting will begin at 1 PM and will be about 1 hour long.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Then there's the time when I get overwhelmed and grumpy...

I really should have known better than to think I would get anything done later in the day if I had an appointment first thing in the morning. 

We went and got our final Hepatitis A shot this morning and requested 2 years of our medical records to bring with us. So, far as we know we now have all of our required immunization shots. One more item checked off our "to do" list.

By the time we made a couple of stops the morning was pretty well gone.  At ATT we discussed how to handle our phones and phone service while we are out of country. We will set up a plan which will allow us to reserve our phone numbers for use when we return. It will be nice to keep our same numbers since they are tied to so many parts of our lives. And we had to get a couple of XLarge boxes at UHaul to pack some of those things that just won't fit into regular boxes.

I had hoped to to do more final packing in the kitchen but I was out of emotional energy. So, as soon as the dryer is finished drying my dish clothes I will put them into the only box I will have packed this day and be able to tape it up. Hopefully tomorrow those XLarge boxes will be filled with some of the odd shaped kitchen stuff.

No, we did not get everything packed last week as I had hoped but we made good progress. I started to worry about all of my 50 years of photos which have not been properly filed; and realized that I could not go off to Australia for 2 years without making sure they were safe and under control. As I put the photos into archival sleeves I soon realized I did not have enough sleeves needed for all my pictures and negatives. I found the company who bought out the company I had dealt with before and ordered what I need. While waiting for the order to come I have been able to successfully organize the pictures in preparation for the arrival of the sleeves.

So, I have enjoyed a trip down memory lane this past week as I have looked through hundreds of photos. I have smiled as I have seen so many wonderful shots of our family and some of our activities. We really did have a lot of fun times! Time has flown. It is crazy to realize that my baby is 33 years old!

And then I found 2 more boxes of pictures and negatives that I had overlooked!!! Oh, I felt very overwhelmed, and a little grumpy. But I am dealing with it.

We continue to learn more about the parameters of our responsibilities on our upcoming mission. I am so amazed at the breadth of the care that is offered to so many people. Our Father in Heaven has such a great love for each of His children as do our Church leaders. It will be our great privilege to play a small part in helping provide the care needed by so many.

Only 24 more days until we report to the Missionary Training Center in Provo; 17 more days until we fly to Utah and see our families the week of Thanksgiving; 8 more days until our house will be emptied and 5 more days until we go over to stay at our daughter's house so our house can be emptied and cleaned.

But tonight we will take a break and go with friends to see Carmen.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Packing is NOT for wimps....

It really isn't! and I feel like a wimp!

Yes I have reached the point where sorting is no longer a viable option. My dream of having everything neatly packed together with like items is quickly fading. In fact our mountain of boxes contains a few boxes with rather odd combinations of items. The only good part, besides the fact that the boxes are getting filled, is that I am labelling them very well so we will actually know what is in the boxes.

It will be some crazy party when we unpack in 2 years! Wow!

We are still surrounded by empty boxes and will actually have more than we need to finish our packing. So may people have generously saved boxes for us. We also found out that our local U-Haul store has a recycle bin where people can put their used boxes for those who need them. We have been happy recipients of several great and otherwise expensive  boxes from them. But it is still expensive to pack. We have spent over $500 buying packing supplies: tape, bubble wrap, wrapping paper, file boxes, other big boxes, etc. I can't believe how quickly it adds up. We are so grateful for everyone who saved boxes. That has saved us so much money!

I am optimistic that by the time we are finished packing on Saturday pretty much everything will be packed. That will leave the next week or so  to go through journals, sort some pictures and take some things to the safety deposit box, work on closing accounts and changing addresses, shampoo carpets and get the house cleaned and ready for the renters to move in.

Then we will have some time for more study of our self-reliance materials. One would think we could do more studying in the evening after we were finished our day's packing but it seems our energy is long gone by that time of day.

It is really crazy to think that we are actually leaving. We are actually leaving the country for TWO years! In less than 2 weeks we will no longer be sleeping in our house. We will be living out of suitcases first at our daughter's in Everson  and then at our son's in Salt Lake City and then in the Mission Training Center for a few days before we fly to Sydney on December 8. We fly from Salt Lake City to LAX Thursday evening at 8:30 PM and then to Sydney where we arrive Saturday morning. We lose a day in the process. The first leg is only 2 hours but the leg to Sydney is 15 hours!!!

Thank goodness for compression socks and the chance to walk up and down the aisle from time to time. And our flight will be at night so we may actually be able to sleep. And it will be summer when we arrive in Sydney. Since it is rainy and dreary here today that sounds pretty nice.

We are excited, and intimidated, about serving in this mission capacity. We are grateful the Lord has enough faith in us to give us this opportunity. But we know that there is no way we can do it alone and look forward to the blessing we will be given as we are set apart by our Stake President on November 20. We know that with the Lord's help we will be able to do what is required of us.

It is humbling to realize how much the Lord loves all His people.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Shortening the "To Do" list...trying to keep the panic at bay

We got back Saturday night despite storm warnings that we were worried would have prevented our flight. But the winds had abated so all was well. There were only a few small branches in our yard after Friday's winds.

Three weeks from tonight we expect to have everything moved out of our house. That means lots to do between now and then.

Our "To Do" List is still pretty long, filled with lots of vital little things that must all be accomplished. Who thought I would be worrying about our taxes in November? But I have to get those records ready before we leave plus worry about closing or transferring some accounts, etc

I had hoped to get some family history documents scanned as well as some family pictures but I am having a paradigm shift.  Hopes, wishes and non essentials are being culled from my list. So without counting hopes, wishes and non essentials, I am down to a family history project that should be done this week, a smallish scanning project of my mother's photo albums in those horrible sticky magnetic type pages, and reading  through a few years of Steve's journals to find the special events needed to write about our trials and miracles during those years to give to our families this year. And then there are the essentials... that list can't be culled.

The panic is abating as I exercise faith that all will all be done "well enough". The rest we must leave  to the Lord because there is really nothing else we can do.

We are enjoying our weekly training sessions via Skype. We are learning so much about the Self -Reliance Program. It is so amazing and will be such a blessing to those who take advantage of these wonderful initiatives. I am so grateful for the love and concern of our inspired church leaders. We are so grateful for  our testimonies of the Gospel. We are so grateful for our Prophet and those who work with him. We are grateful for the opportunity we will soon have to serve as self reliance missionaries.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Visiting family...Self Reliance Principles... Star Valley Temple

Time is passing so swiftly. We have 48 days until we report to the Missionary Training Center and begin our mission. These past several days we have taken a break from our mission preparations to visit some of our family. It has been nice to forget about the packing for just a little while and to enjoy family association.

We flew to Utah and were able to spend time with some of our children and their families. It is always a joy to see them. Our flight was late enough that we only caught a few minutes training of our weekly Skype session. In that training we were assigned to teach a principle of self reliance found in the My Foundations booklet to our family. We presented the principle of  Solving Problems and also the principle of Using Time Wisely as we met with our families. I love how these principles are set out in the booklet that help us understand. Even the children were engaged as we all learned.

The temple on the hill as we prepared to go in the covered wagon.
Then we drove to Star Valley Wyoming to spend time with Steve's brother and sisters and their spouses. It had been years since they had all been together in the same place and we thoroughly enjoyed our time with them. The Star Valley Temple open house was drawing to a close but we were there in time to attend before it was over. 

Steve's grandparents had settled in Star Valley in the early 1900's. So it was significant and historic for the family to witness the construction of a temple in that beautiful place. There were covered wagons that transported us from the gathering area to the temple. It was a chilly day with snow flurries but a great experience.  

All 8 of us in front of the temple.

Steve in front of the Star Valley Temple.
Now we are back in Salt Lake where Steve and his sister are attending the British Institute class about Welsh research. Those Welsh ancestors are very elusive so it is nice to have some assistance in learning the correct research procedures. I have been finishing up some shopping for some final clothing items to take with us to Australia. In a few days we will return home to finish up the final packing and moving details so our renters can take possession of the house.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Seasons ...endings and beginnings

There are seasons in our lives. They begin and they end. There is something bittersweet about endings.

Friday ended our season of working in the temple. Since the Vancouver Temple was dedicated in May 2010 we have spent many happy hours in the temple,  learning and serving. The first 4 years Steve and I served as our Stake Temple Cleaning Coordinators. That meant we were in the temple every Thursday evening supervising  various wards as volunteers cleaned the temple after everyone else went home. Yes, the temple actually does get dirty but it never stays dirty because there is a crew of volunteers that clean 4 times a week - cleaning and restocking the bathrooms, vacuuming and dusting, and steaming the tile floors. So, it always looks pristine as the Lord's house should. It has also been my great joy to serve as an ordinance worker. For a few years I was there every Tuesday morning. Then after taking a few months leave I came back every Friday morning along with Steve who was then retired and had more time.  We worked with wonderful people as we helped the patrons have a positive experience.
Vancouver British Columbia Temple

What a blessing it has been to spend so much time in the temple. How wonderful to feel comfortable in the Lord's house. Truly it is a place of peace and serenity. It has been a great experience to serve under 3 temple presidencies and to see how very hard they work to keep everything in order.  We will miss our association with all of the wonderful friends we gained during our service there. One cannot find a better group of people. But now we are preparing to begin our  next season as missionaries.

Our daughter and her family came over to pick up some of the things they can use as we empty our house. Our 9 year old granddaughter had been telling her mother how she loved being at our house for Christmas and was surprised when her mother told her we would not be here for Christmas this year as we will be celebrating Christmas in the warm weather of Australia. I realized that this granddaughter has spent every Christmas of her life in our home. So, there is another season that is ended or at least suspended.

The trailer almost loaded and ready to go!
And our house is SO empty. The young men from the church came again to bring more boxes to storage. They managed to empty the boxes from our very full family room in about 20 minutes. After all of the hours and days we spent packing it was startling to have the boxes gone so quickly! We are so grateful for their help and for the trailer provided by our home teacher and friend.

Just one more moving day, probably the 9th of November. That also marks an end of a season. We have lived in this house for about 15 years, and although we intend to live here again upon our return it seems surreal. I guess even a temporary move is still a move.

But it will not be as sad for me as the day we left our house in Texas in 2001. I broke down as we shut the door for the last time realizing that the parenting part of our lives was over - all the little arms around my neck and so forth. Then after driving away we just had to go back so I could take pictures of the little notes some of the girls had written on their bedroom shelves. The notes said "I love you" in their little girl scrawl. No, this will not be so sad. We are excited for this season of missionary service that is almost upon us.

We are learning more and more about this amazing Self Reliance Initiative. The pilot programs have been very successful and people who participate are having major positive changes in the lives. We love our Monday Skype sessions that give us an intro to what is to come. Last week we discussed the Study Buddy program. What a great concept to pair lower performing students with those who are proficient as mentors; and finding a way of helping students learn the importance of completing their homework and giving them help if they need it.

All the while we are learning how seriously the Lord feels about helping those who need help to improve their circumstances through education and training. And how much the Lord loves ALL His children regardless of their circumstances and wants to help them. We look forward to this opportunity to serve the Lord through this missionary experience.There is so much we will learn.

Until next time...have a great week!

Monday, September 26, 2016

Still here...more packing...moving forward...learning more about Self-reliance

I think that packing up a house is NOT for wimps!!! We have worked very hard this week at our packing making some good progress but it is a lot of work and seems to take twice as much energy as we have. Nevertheless we have a large stack of boxes ready to be moved to storage on Wednesday evening. Just a few more things to organize before the young men come and help us again. Our house is looking rather empty. My refrigerator is very lonely now that all the grandchildren pictures and notes have been packed away. We really have only  the basic things that we still need in the kitchen and bedroom, family history records and the old photographs left to pack.

Now there will be a little more time to focus on those family history and photo projects. Without worrying so much about packing  we can actually work on them and hopefully be successful in finishing up the organizing before putting them into storage.

And yes we are still here! Often we will be asked "when are you leaving?". When our mission call came on April 19th it seemed like a long time out to report on November 28th. But September is soon behind us and I am grateful for the time the Lord gave us to prepare. It will take all the time He gave to complete what is necessary to be ready to go.

We are also looking forward to our trip to Utah and Wyoming next week. Steve and his siblings will have a reunion - it has been many years since they were all together! and we will have the privilege of attending the Star Valley Wyoming Temple Open house. The following week Steve will also attend the Welsh Institute class in Salt Lake City with his sister to learn more about Welsh research. Those Welsh ancestors are very elusive.

We are very grateful for the opportunity to serve a mission but I have to say that it is a lot of work to get ready to actually go.  As my friend said "We do not do this kind of stuff at our age". But we do this "kind of stuff at our age" because we  have a testimony of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and have a desire to serve the Lord. We have been greatly blessed throughout our lives through the Gospel of Jesus Christ and we are excited to have the opportunity to help others gain blessings as they learn more about what the Lord has in store for them.

The Lord wants us to be happy, to obtain all those blessings which can bring us happiness. One of those blessings is being self-reliant. We can all be and do so much more if we learn to be self-reliant both temporally and spiritually. Truly if everyone was self-reliant we would live as a "Zion people with no poor among us". It is a worthy goal.

We are thrilled to participate in the weekly training for the Sydney and Melbourne Self-Reliance missions. I think it is a miracle that using our computer through Skype  we can sit in our kitchen and and see and speak with 9 other people in 3 or 4 different locations all the way across the world in Australia. On Mondays at our 5 PM  we join their 10 AM Tuesday training meeting. 

Each week we learn more about how the self-reliance program works and how we can be of service. And yes, it is somewhat overwhelming to consider all we need to be prepared to do but I have faith that as we are 'set apart'  before we leave that the Lord will bless us with the ability to do all those things required of us. [being 'set apart' means being given a special Priesthood blessing] I am thrilled to learn how much the Lord tries to bless His people. It is amazing how many things are done behind the scenes to help and lift. We are grateful that we can become some of those people working behind the scenes to lift and bless some of Heavenly Father's children.

In the meantime we are studying and trying to make sure our own lives are in line with the principles we will be teaching.

We wish you a great week!

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Opportunities, clothing, projects, journals, Spanish, Doctrine of Education...

Today it feels like fall. With our little bit of rain yesterday it felt like the season is changing. It is interesting to me that as we enter fall, Australia is looking forward to spring. These are mysteries I do not understand.

Our training from Australia by way of Skype last week focused on My Path and Success in School Begins at Home also touching on My Continuing Mission which is the new initiative for returned missionaries. I am grateful for this opportunity of training before we even get to Sydney. There is so much to learn! My heart has been turned to the people we will serve. 

I feel a love for those young missionaries who are still serving their missions but who will be returning home after we are on the scene. I remember when our children returned from their missions. They did not have easy transitions and I am so happy to see an initiative put in place that will help these young people make the transition to the rest of their lives.

And I have been pondering the 'doctrine of education'. This is a new term for me but the concepts are very familiar.

The Doctrine of Education is:

  1. You are a child of God.
  2. He wants you to be like He is.
  3. He will help you.
  4. However, He will not do it for you!
  5. He wants you to get started. Now.

It is with regret that I realize how many opportunities I have missed in my life by not following this doctrine. When I read President Uchtdorf's statement from the May 2011, Ensign: "For members of the Church, education is not merely a good idea - it's a commandment" I fully recognize that I have not stepped up as I could have.

For 15 years we lived in South Texas where the Spanish language was very common. And previously we had lived a few years in Nogales, Arizona. You would think that with so much exposure and opportunity we would have learned Spanish. But we didn't even though many of our friends spoke fluent Spanish. I took an evening class in Nogales many years ago so I had a little bit of knowledge. Steve had the opportunity to participate in language training through the US Government so also learned a little. But my stubborn pride kept me from recognizing and acting on the opportunity to become bilingual. Just think how much more serviceable we could be if we could fluently speak Spanish! 

In reviewing all of the material for the various initiatives in the Self Reliance program I am recognizing that I have passed by  many opportunities for growth and education over the years. As I consider why I passed them by I have come to know a little more about myself. My fears, my lack of confidence, my pride and sometimes just being lazy all contributed. Then I wonder how I can translate that understanding about myself to help those we will serve to avoid that same pattern so they can be lifted as is the intent of the Self Reliance initiative.

Perhaps helping people actually internalize the Doctrine of Education is the most important thing that will help. I hope that somehow we really can help make a difference to those we will serve.

The countdown says we have 71 days until we enter the MTC [Missionary Training Center]. The days fly by as we try to finish our 'to do' lists. The last Hepatitis B shot is done. Now we have only one more Hepatitis A shot which is scheduled and our immunizations will be finished. 

This week I managed to go through most of my clothes. What will I bring to wear on the mission? What will I pack to wear when we come back?  What do I still need for the mission? Some bags went to the consignment store and some are ready to be given away. And I was really lucky to actually find a skirt perfect of the mission at the consignment store - for only $7.00 which was a steal. Just a few more items to find.

One of my major family history projects is done. What a great relief. It frees up my mind to work on the next project. Steve is reviewing 7 years of his journals in preparation for writing our stories of the miracles that occurred during those years. What a journey down memory lane! What a blessing it is that for so many years he has been so diligent in keeping a journal. After he is finished the review the real writing will begin as we will each write out our memories and impressions of those experiences. We each write in our own font so our family will know which voice is speaking. The intent is to have the stories written and printed to give to our families for Christmas. 

However, I have become resigned to the fact that it is highly unlikely that all of the projects on the list will be completed. I am sure there will be boxes packed and  labelled "to be organized after we get home". But we can only do our best and then put it all in the Lord's hands.

So we look forward to the next week anticipating the opportunity to check more things off the list. Have great week!

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Wow!! This Self Reliance Program is AWESOME!!! and Inspired!

This has been quite a week! 

It started out with a bang as we sat in on our first  of many weekly training sessions on Skype with Elder Johnny Leota,  the Self Reliance Manager, and the 4 Self-Reliance missionary couples from Melbourne and Sydney. We loved "meeting" our future co-horts and hearing some of what  they have been doing.

I absolutely love to learn how these many programs have been developed to help lift and improve the quality of life of the members of the church and anyone else who wants to be involved. There are so many opportunities and more being developed. The newest is the Success in School Begins at Home. This one trains parents to help their children be ready to succeed when they attend school. I understand a new program on how to manage finances is in the works. Most of the booklets comprise 12 weeks of lessons/discussions. And there is a new booklet being prepared to help returned missionaries move forward in their lives after their 1 1/2 to 2 years in the Lord's service. 

Here are some of the current booklets:
My Path to Self-Reliance
My Foundation: Principles, Skills, Habits
My Job Search
Education for Better Work
Starting and Growing My Business
Success in School Begins at Home

Mum's Preschool
English Study Group
Study Buddy Group

Many of these are available to download on Look under families and individuals, then self reliance to find the downloads.

There are so many things happening. We are now on the email list and seem to be getting 4-5 emails per day. We are learning so many things about how the self reliance initiative works. I think the idea is that we are to "hit the deck running" once we arrive in Sydney. Still hoping we are up to doing all of this and still very grateful we will be set apart and have the Lord's help when we do "hit the deck".

We managed to finish off a few of our projects. I am a list person and it makes me VERY happy when I can cross something off the list. Still packing boxes and will have another load going into storage  by the end of September. Then probably only one more load to empty the house the end of October so we can move out and clean the house.

Had some help learning a little about desktop publishing. A sister from our ward, Lydia, came yesterday and helped me unravel some mysteries of the programs I have been using and gave me courage to try out some of the options.

Still working on some family history projects and ready to start our writing and scanning projects.

It was lovely to take time out for a quick trip to Kelowna, BC to visit my sister and her husband, June and Dietz Nicolay. We had not seen them for awhile and wanted to touch base and get hugs before we leave the country for 2 years. It was just a short overnight trip but so worth the 4-5 hour drive! 

Update on the effort to become more physically fit: 
Steve's stitches are out and his hand is healing up pretty well. He has begun physical therapy for his hip which seems to help. In fact he has been pain free today :). Maybe he will soon be ready to go walking again. 
My exercise sessions are ongoing but they are HARD!! I have decided I am kind of lazy that way :( But I am more flexible - at least when I am not too sore. 

Hopefully we can get our major writing project competed this week. That would make me very happy.

Wishing you all a great week.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

fitness, projects, opposition, continuing to learn, time is quickly passing

The clock is ticking and the days pass so swiftly. We now have only 85 days left until we report to the MTC in Provo, Utah. Some days I worry that we will not have everything finished in time to leave. But we are moving forward. I actually packed  4 more boxes this week in between working on projects.

We were able to check off a few of the little projects on our list and today we will try to outline and calendar some of the remaining items.

It was so nice to take out a little time and visit with our friends Lola and Allen Jensen. Lola has been my friend since high school - well over 50 year ago.

Working  through our preparations we came to the realization that we are not in the best physical shape. It occurred to us that we should be more fit and have more stamina to be most serviceable.  Not much point in going all the way to Australia if we do not have enough energy to do what is needed. So a course correction was in order.

I felt like I needed someone to help me know what to do, like a personal trainer, and signed up for a 12 week class with Anytime Fitness. It is nice to have someone who is kind and patient help me navigate the procedures for the various exercises. I really do not know what I am doing!!! I attended 2 classes last week which was a good experience.  I plan to attend 3 classes a  week until  mid October and then 4 classes per week. I immediately felt improved range of motion in my hips. Wahoo! Hopefully by  the end of my last class in November I will feel more fit and have enough stamina to serve the Lord as needed.

Steve decided that his best bet was to walk. He has had some difficulty with his hip and will soon begin some physical therapy. Sadly as he was walking the other day his feet would not cooperate with the rest of him and he fell. After getting up and walking a few more yards he fell again. That is when he called  me to pick him up. He looked a bit bloody and sad  but he is OK. A blow to his pride, a lesson learned about "not running faster than he could walk", a few stitches in his left hand and random bruises were not the desired result of his effort to be more fit. But with more "wisdom and order" he will move forward and find the best way to improve his stamina so he can feel more fit.

I guess it is to be expected that there will be some opposition along the way of our mission preparation. We certainly have our ups and downs in this process.

Tomorrow will be the first of our Skype training sessions. We received an outline of the various topics. Tomorrow we will discuss a lot of basics to help us prepare: what to bring, living conditions, local culture and customs, etc. We will also be a part of the weekly training  by the self-reliance missionaries in Sydney and Melbourne. A new program called "Success in School begins at Home" is being rolled out. This initiative will help parents learn to be better parents. I look forward to jumping in! This whole self-reliance program is very exciting! The more I learn the more excited I get about being a part of it all.

There is a Sydney Self Reliance group on Facebook. We have also  read a newsletter from the self reliance group. It is so great to learn some of the things that are going on. The success stories of those participating in the self reliance program are inspirational.

I guess one of my responsibilities after we arrive will likely be to prepare the newsletter that is issued every other month. This means I need to put into practice the idea of continuous learning and learn some desk top publishing skills in the next 85 days. Don't know how to do that yet. I found some classes online. Hopefully I can be an effective student. 

On the Facebook page for the Sydney Self Reliance group I found the following quote by Elder David A. Bednar.

"You and I are here upon the earth to prepare for eternity, to learn how to learn, to learn things that are temporally important and eternally essential, and to assist others in learning wisdom and truth (see D&C 97:1).
Understanding who we are, where we came from, and why we are upon the earth places upon each of us a great responsibility both to learn how to learn and to learn to love learning.
Learning to love learning equips us for an ever-changing and unpredictable future. Knowing how to learn prepares us to discern and act upon opportunities that others may not readily recognize. I am confident you will pass the test of learning what to do when you do not know what to do or how to proceed. I pray your love of learning will grow ever deeper, ever richer, and ever more complete."

I love that  there are so many wonderful things that have been said by our church leaders that help us understand what we should be doing. Our future is certainly "every-changing and 

So, onward and upward. We have much to do this coming week. Wishing you all a great week!

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Packing Pause, on to necessary Projects

What a strange feeling it is to walk through the house and see how empty it is getting. A few days ago I had the strange epiphany that "yes, we really are going to move half way across the world to serve the Lord."  That maybe sounds silly because I really have known all along that we are going to go to Australia but somehow as the house empties it just becomes more real.

Yesterday we had some kind folks from Church help us move our second round of packed boxes into storage. It looked like a lot of boxes when they were all stacked in the den but the trailer had room to spare when they were loaded.

Most of the house is now packed. All the pictures are down and packed. The unessential dishes and serving dishes are packed. The folding chairs and tv trays are gone. I think it will take about 2 more times of having help move out our belongings to be done. But before we do too much more packing we will be taking a 'packing pause' to work on some projects.

Most of these projects involve my family history files and binders.  After I receive the rest of the marriage records from Sagard parish for the FREESE surname I need to finish organizing that family before I can pack them away.  I need to scan a lot of old family pictures and get them organized. I need to scan and attach to FamilySearch the source documents that I have for my ancestors. Is there a chance I will find some treasures in the mix? I can only hope. There are many files to be organized before they can be packed. I have a Dropbox account with lots of free space which will save the scans. The photo albums from my mother and Ben and their missions need to be preserved and made available to their posterity. There are the binders I keep with all of the memorabilia from our children, and my many family history binders. It is strange to think of packing away my family history for 2 years since it is such a huge part of my life.

We made a VERY LONG list of things to complete before we are ready to go. I am a list person and it is nice to have things laid out so I can figure when I will accomplish my tasks and not forget anything. Actually I keep remembering more and more items to add to the list. Our finance files need to be purged and our 2016 taxes need to be ready to go. And we need to figure out how to handle some financial matters while we are gone. We hope to be done with all of the projects by the end of September. By the time the projects are complete there will be a whole new set of packed boxes!

Because we misread the email, the training we thought would begin last week will not take place until September. We look forward to really jumping into the material. We miss that we  are not already being trained but realize we already have so much material available to be read and reread. It will be interesting to see how all that we are learning can be implemented into the lives of those with whom we will be working.

As I read more about the "Doctrine of Education" and how it relates to the concept of self-reliance  I marvel at these basic concepts and realize how important it is to help others understand. Here is a quote about education which I really like:

Russell M. Nelson, “Where Is Wisdom?” Ensign. Nov. 1992, 6-8. 
Because of our sacred regard for each human intellect, we consider the obtaining of an education to be a religious responsibility. Yet opportunities and abilities differ. I believe that in the pursuit of education, individual desire is more influential than institution, and personal faith more forceful than faculty. 
Our Creator expects His children everywhere to educate themselves. He issued a commandment: “Seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith.” (D&C 88:118.) And He assures us that knowledge acquired here will be ours forever. (See D&C 130:18–19.) 
Measured by this celestial standard, it is apparent that those who impulsively “drop out” and cut short their education not only disregard divine decree but frustrate the realization of their own potential. 

I love that last part that suggests we can frustrate the realization of our own potential if we do not keep learning. I am excited to help people learn the importance of education in their lives as it relates to their ability to be self-reliant. As they were growing up I tried to teach our children the importance of opening every door and window available to them as they worked through their education.

There is always so much to learn! Until next time...

Saturday, August 20, 2016

100 Days and counting!

Today marks 100 days until we report at the MTC in Provo, Utah. This a milestone! Yesterday, the 19th, marked 4 months since we received our mission call. With only 100 days to go the time will fly.

On Wednesday our grandson Ethan Jenkins, now Elder Jenkins, reported to the MTC to begin his training for his mission to the Tahiti Pape'ete Mission. He will spend 6 weeks learning French and then 3 weeks learning Tahitian. So great to read his exuberantly joyful letter detailing his first days in the Mission Training Center. If you are interested to learn about his adventures you can check out his blog at 

Here he is in front of the Provo Temple the day he entered the MTC. He was and is so excited for this opportunity to serve the Lord. We look forward to sharing our missionary experiences.

We are making progress with our preparations. 

Today we sent off copies of our new drivers licenses. It was necessary for us to wait for our birthdays and then renew our drivers licenses a year early or they would have expired while we were in Australia. Now we can get the correct permissions to drive all the while we are there.

Our final requirements are the 2 hepatitis shots still remaining  but they are already scheduled for September and October.

The walls of our home are so empty! It is such weird feeling to see bare walls. I miss seeing all of our family pictures. I experienced a lot of nostalgia as I took them down. How I love our family! 

The smaller pictures are all packed. Next week we will pack the big ones. So grateful for all the boxes we have been given. Packing boxes are VERY expensive. Hope to get our dishes packed next week as well. It is beginning to feel real.

Monday afternoon at 5PM our time, which will be Tuesday 10AM Sydney time, we will begin weekly training sessions to help us learn our responsibilities and be 'in the loop  with what is happening. We will be on a Skype call for the training with Elder Leota, who is over the self-reliance program in Melbourne and Sydney. Also attending the training meeting will be the  2 Senior Missionary couples who work in the Melbourne Missions, the Senior Missionary couple assigned to the Sydney South Mission and the Senior Missionary couple from the  Sydney North Mission[this couple will soon be finished their service and we will be their replacements]. I am excited but very intimidated to begin this training. I am certain there will be so much to learn and just hope I am able to learn enough to make a difference when we are there.

So grateful for technology. We can accomplish so much more so much easier that it is fantastic! Have a great week! Yes, I will try harder to report weekly.