Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Out with the old, In with the new

On December 26th we loaded up our trusty van and braved the snow for our trek

to the sunny land of Arizona.

Our usual 10.5 hour drive time was not to be.

Delayed first by the snow.

Next by a long wait at Hoover Dam.

(It was a Dam detour slowed by Dam construction)

Sorry, I digress

And finally somewhere between
Wikieup and Wickenburg Arizona late that night,
Our van sputterted and came to a halt on a lonely hill.

The stars were beautiful out there in the middle of nowhere.

A tow truck loaded the van, with all 7 of us inside, onto the back of it's large bed and took us and the trailer for a $300.00 ride into Wickenburg where my parents met us with a car and truck. We emptied the van and finally arrived in Mesa some 16 hours after we left home.

Ruby was amazing!
(Another picture shamelessly stolen)

Monday we heard that our van had breathed its last breath and would not be making the long journey back. When all was said and done I must admit that none of us were very disapointed. That van had lived a good long life and it was time to move on.

We spent our Christmas vacation shopping for used cars.

A fruitful vacation don't you think?

May the van RIP.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A last minute Christmas request

Don't worry, it won't require any money or trips to the store.
First let me share with you an excerpt from an email we got from one of Mark's cycling team mates. He is in the Air Force and recently left his wife and 6 (I think) kids behind
for an special assignment in Afghanistan.

I think most of the stress of being here is wondering if things are okay at home. I have included an updated narrative of what things are like here below. I know it is long, so don’t feel obligated to read it. The clock is working for me with each passing day, and I can’t wait to get back to the family and the team, ready to race late May! It is “ghetto training” over here, but I’ve had to be creative before. It is dirty, stinky, and war torn. My pedal stroke may be square for a while after getting back, but the cardio should be okay

My hope is that each one of you and your family have a pleasant holiday season. I am grateful for small things here, but I think what means most are family and friends. You guys have been very good to me…….thanks.

It is difficult to describe the surroundings, but the land is rugged, war-ravaged, and totally lawless. I think this is perhaps one of the most dangerous places on the face of the earth, and any straying from the confines of the installation subjects you to thousands of mines and the real potential for kidnapping and death. The war effort is in full force. The military machine grinds forward, non-stop, 24/7. I am attached to the 101st Army Airborne “Screaming Eagles”, and am part of the Combined Joint Task Force 101. You can visit the website at Despite what the liberal and biased media reports, I live and see what we are doing daily. Our Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) are busy getting running water and electricity to people who live in remote villages ravaged by poverty and disease even though they (our teams) are under constant fire and IED attacks. Tuberculosis, Malaria, hepatitis and other diseases are rampant and the teams vaccinate the little ones and provide both medical and dental care. Unfortunately, the Taliban doesn’t want us here and want the people under strict Islamic law, which is remarkably oppressive. We build things, they blow them up. We build schools, they blow them up. Life has little meaning here for these people and the average life span of the male is only 43 years old. The infant mortality rate is among the top 2 in the world. Along with our attempts to rebuild the infrastructure of the country, those who are picking up arms to oppose us are dying quickly. Our special forces are some of the best in the world and if you go into the website above, you can read about their craft. Everyone, no matter how steeled, is afraid of the IED (improvised explosive device) that the enemy has perfected. It is a terror weapon that can’t be beat. Because we have hundreds of locals who work on the installation, I am constantly wondering when an infiltrator will breech the base security and blow himself up in our chow hall where several hundred people are at any given time. Our only defense against it is a good offense---stopping those who are emplacers, makers and trainers of IEDs. Our kids are dying as well. It is real. My very first night here I couldn’t sleep (still can’t) because my body wasn’t adjusted yet and I lay in my bed wide awake at 0200. The “giant voice” (a speaker system that announces mortar alerts and so forth) suddenly comes to life and announces that there will be a “fallen comrade procession” beginning at 0305. We have thousands of troops here and out of respect when a soldier falls, everyone lines the street, no matter what time, to pay our respects. It was sobering to see an old Toyota 4-wheel drive truck come down the road with an aluminum coffin draped with the flag in the bed of the truck along with the guy’s buddies, wiping away tears. That is someone’s brother, son, father, uncle or other in that coffin. He was killed by a suicide bomber near a checkpoint at one of our FOB’s (Forward Operating Bases). We rendered a slow, deliberate salute in honor of the ultimate sacrifice as the casket was enroute to be loaded by the honor guard and flown to the states. Who knows what awaits his family on the other end. All of us are resolute in prosecuting the war. What happened on 9/11 was no different than what happened on Dec 7, 1941. It is just a different enemy that fights a different war. We have the most capable, smartest, and motivated military on the face of the earth. We will keep coming as long as it takes….

Unfortunately, I cannot elaborate on what I do here, but I work with the enemy every day, face to face. The experience is so over the top that at times it is surreal. It is an enemy that I respect a great deal due to his culture of warfare forged over the last 30 years of steady conflict. It is hard to believe that the 9/11 attacks were planned and trained for not far from us here. The culture drives the war fighter here. If you are their friends, you have a friend for life and they will give you everything they have. Conversely, they are a people who hold grudges that last generations. Vengeance is always to be exacted and the culture is organized by tribes, Klans, villages----similar to the “Hatfields and McCoys”. This won’t ever be changed by the military. Some of the fighters are extremists, some are conscripted against their will, some are fighting for money offered by Iran or Pakistan, disagree with the Government, or simply to feed their family etc. Killing is something they are good at doing. We typically work 10-12 hrs per day, 7 days a week. I am proud to serve. We enjoy what we have because of the soldier and the flag represents everything we stand for. I wish parents, spouses, children and the general public knew what sacrifices were being made rather than the junk shown on the news that depicts us as invaders/occupiers that are killing people indiscriminately. They would be sobered. Tragically war is, as they say, Hell, and it is always the women and children who suffer the most. Nobody wants to be here and there is some level of constant despondency, but we all believe in what we are doing. The military family also pays a serious price and I appreciate all the support you have offered to Camille and kids.


This is my request.
As you gather your families around you this Christmas season.
Please pray for Steve, for his family and all the men and women
who give so much to make this world a better place for mothers, fathers and children everywhere.
We are so blessed... let's not forget them.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

What we've been up to

Just a few photos that I stole shamelessly from
Amy's and Christian's blogs
with the exception of the pictures of Celisa and Olivia,
(I took those for her and Aaron and never gave them to her)

So... this is what we've been up to: Ginger bread houses.

Me and Christian
Mark and Jenn
Jordan and Amy's - check out the cool bridge

Aaron and Celisa (and Olivia)
Enjoying this sweet angel
Short visit with my parents.
Watching Olivia grow!

No pictures of studying, the funeral, decorating for Christmas, aerobics, going to class, doing laundry or the like
although these have also kept me busy
you'll just have to use your imagination...
(be nice in you imaginings)

That is all.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Sweet Carol Line

Last post for the day, then I'll go clean my house... maybe

No Christmas is complete without

A Sweet Carol Line

Check it out and enjoy the talents of our good friend
Marty Patch

I thought I could embed it in my post but don't know how.

Help from any nontechochallenged individuals out there?

Ask With Faith (December 15th)

Dear Family,

Once again your letters have left my batteries recharged and ready to get back to work. I have had an alright week, but this week is going to be awesome.

Today we played table tennis, Brasilian football and volleyball. And you can inform Richard that I only lost two times in table tennis, versus 4 other players. Yeah, I was pretty proud of that.

We had a pretty productive week but disappointingly we didn't even have one investigator in Sacrament Meeting; Alsindo and Eliane and Family went to visit relatives and Josué, Fernanda and Family had finals. So that was pretty disappointing for all the work that we have done with them this week.

But, we have a great reason to hope and pray that Elaine and Alsindo will get married and that André, Juliana and Rafael will be baptized this Sunday. We challenged them last night to read Elder Bednar's talk about asking with faith and afterward praying as a family about marriage and baptism!

I am feeling very confident in our challenge because I know it is the right thing to do and I have also prayed and received a response about serving a mission. So, I know that if they are true to there promise the Lord will do the rest.

We have an appointment with them today and your prayers will really be helpful!

Until next week!!!

Wahooo! (December 8th)

Dear Family,

Thank you, each and every one of you for your; letters, thoughts and prayers. I feel a ton of support from you all and I know it's not my imagination.

This week was really inspiring! I love Zone conference and this week I really needed it.

Well, our prayers have been answered this week! Alsindo, Eliane, André, Juliana and Rafael went to church yesterday!!! Also we brought Josué and Fernanda's children to church!!!

First of all Zone conference was just what I needed. I was having problems with Elder Elder here with exactly what the topic was in the conference. This type of thing happens daily here in the mission when you are doing the rights things. But, I am always inspired because now that I am in the mission I can notice it and learn from it. But, I learned in zone conference that my companion will be leaving the area next transfer and that I will be staying. I don't know exactly exactly what that means but I am excited!

We have been visiting Alsindo and Eliane daily and helping them gain confidence in the church and always remembering to invite them to go to church. Then we set a goal to be at church Sunday and woke them up at 7:50 to wake up and get ready and they drove to church alone!!! Now it's just the matter of marriage; I think we will set a date and mark the batismal date for André, Juliana and Rafael! I am very excited!!! Pray for them!!!

Now the story of the Noite Famíliar(Family Night) with Josué and Fernanda. Josué has always had a testimony of the church. He was going stronge when he was younger but at about 13 years old his family stopped going. He continued stronge for a year or two until he got tired. Now he is 19 years old and living with Fernanda. She is 27 and has 3 kids(don't flip out this type of thing is more or less normal in Brasil). She has lived in a little town where the church hasn't been established yet. They started dating and about a year later she came out to live with him in Santo Ângelo. She had always gone to a catholic church with her family but didn't feel at home there. When she moved here she was feeling a fault of a church in her life. She talked with her mother in law(Josué's mom) about going to a church. Josué's mom invited her to go to the closest church that there was and they started going to an Evangelical church. But still Fernanda didn't feel at home; So she decided to fast to know which church to join. In that fast she decided to end here fast at our sacrament meeting. Long story short, she decided to fast again, this week about whether she should start going to the catholic church again or The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. At the Family Night we were doing a division but Elder Elder told me that he chose the recent convert, Bruna, to give the message. She complained jokingly and said that he needed to chose the scripture and that she would explain. Naturaly he chose his favorite, Alma 37:37. Then, Bruna explained that we need to make all of our dicisions with the lord, etc. When she finished Frenanda told them about the fast and explained that this scripture was a response to her prayer! Now it's just another matter of marraige that we can hopefully plan this week. Pray for us!

Thanks once again for everything! Love you all!


Time to Celebrate!

Did you hear a big yipeeeeee! last night?

How about a big siiiiggghhhhh today?

I'm done with the semester and with finals and not a moment to spare.

One week until Christmas.

And check it out... this is my 100th post!

I should do something BIG
something exciting.
some great contest or give-a-way.

But, right now I have a headache and need to clean my house,
get my Christmas cards and shopping done, you know...
stuff like that. So maybe I'll just do a surprise something...
Leave a comment and we'll both be surprised if I send you something!

But I will give a little gift to everyone...
post Robbie's letters from the last few weeks... sorry.

PS We are not a Grinch house this year.
We do have lights on the house...
but after spending an hour or so making sure they all work
we put them up and
they no longer light up...
we couldn't find fuses to fix them
and now our roof is buried in a foot of snow.

Maybe we are a Grinch house.
Listen for the wahoo, wahoo on Christmas morning.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Why I don't have an updated journal

I've wanted to post for a time but didn't as I felt the need to catch up. I totally missed Thanksgiving but mainly because the pictures I want are on Christian's camera instead of mine (excuses, excuses). Now for the substance.

My heart is very full right now with many impressions and feelings. I'm not sure they will make sense to you and they may seem random but here goes:

I get up every morning and go about my daily routine with little change while all around me others do not have the same luxury. Friends with sick children in the hospital and a good sister in our ward passed away last week. My good husband, busy with tithing settlement, and end of semester things must also prepare for her funeral but he still makes time to play Mastermind with Jennifer in the evenings and snuggle with me at night.

The weather has turned cold but still no snow. We put up our Christmas tree after Thanksgiving and decorated it two Sundays ago when Aaron and Celisa were here for dinner. We reminisced about the hodgepodge of ornaments as we placed them on the tree and I realized that it's been a while since we've done that. It seems that I've been so task oriented trying to get "things checked off my list" these past few years that I've skipped over the things that make "the list" beautiful and joyful.

Mark put our Christmas music on my computer and now, using the "air port" he got me for my birthday, I can listen to my music from the nice stereo in the living room as well as the computer speakers in the family room. I didn't know that "O Holy Night" was his favorite Christmas song... and we've been married 26 years.

Thanksgiving was wonderful. My family didn't complain about the traditional meal minus butter and sugar where ever possible. That evening we guessed artists and song titles that boys played from their computers while the girls played Ticket to Ride and guessed songs too - even when we weren't supposed to. That evening I felt so grateful for my life. While I have felt sad lately at the thoughts of my married kids moving (and taking my grandbabies with them) I have made a conscious decision - with the help of my wonderful counselor, confidant, best friend and husband, to enjoy the moment now... missing them will come soon enough. He is a very wise soul.

But back to today and now. My Aunt passed away yesterday. She is my mom's oldest sister and somewhat of a mother figure to my mom as their mother was often sick. As I write this my mom is packing up to come for her funeral in Salt Lake, they will arrive tomorrow. Yesterday Aaron and Celisa found out they are having a girl, Olivia. A little girl cousin for Ruby to be buddies with. Celisa also felt the baby kick and is finally showing. Death and new life all around.

I turned in my research paper today, the last one I will write... possibly forever... good? bad? I don't know ... but somehow I feel a little more freedom to focus on other things that need my attention without an assignment hanging over my head. Funny, on my last paper I finally found the balance between doing more and saying good enough.

I feel like I need to add some kind of conclusion to this to wrap it up, tie it all together and make sense of it all. Something cliche like "enjoy today because you don't know what tomorrow will bring". True enough... but I really just feel thankful to be where I am, connected to people I love so much ...and I feel a greater desire to not take them for granted and to try to be a little better tomorrow... and with a little luck I will add pictures later, if not so be it.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Tudo azul (All is Blue)

Hey Family,

Thanks for your letters, they really have been encouraging.

This week has been filled with ups and downs. Yesterday was the primary program and it was nothing but fun. There is no replacement for the innocence and love of little children. It was one of the highlights of my week.

Then on Saturday we had two baptisms of the two first names on the list; A brother and sister, Wellington Bruno and Carol. We are working with their parents to get married but Bruno and Carol have been going to church for a good time and been good examples for their parents.

This week on Wednesday we will have our Zone Conference and I am really excited. This week has been a little difficult with my companion and I have a lot of hope that Zone Conference will help us out. I have a lot of confidence in President and Sister Myrrha, they are really inspired and zone conference is always a good battery charger.

As far as our investigators go, Alsindo and Eliane are really trying my patience. They are talking about marriage and it looks like it is going to happen but they are always going out of town on the weekends. Our next lesson will be today and I think we will just focus on the Sabbath Day. They promised to go to church next Sunday and if they do we will be able to mark their baptisms. Your prayers will really help them.

This week we are working with investigators that will have a bit of a process to be baptized. We will work a lot this week to find new investigators and hopefully a few families. Keep us in your prayers and this will be a great week!

Thank you for all your love and support!