Monday, December 26, 2016

Twas the day after Christmas......

 Blog for December 26, 2016

This is a still from a video clip. See comments below about Calgary Nativity Pageant
We had a quiet but wonderful Christmas day. Since Christmas occurred on a Sunday, our church services were shortened and we combined with another ward for a musical Christmas program. Kathy and I lead off the program with a duet, “Were You There On That Christmas Night?” This number was the perspective piece, I suppose, to set the stage for the other music that followed which was arranged around the narration of the story of Christ’s birth. The program lasted around 90 minutes and was truly wonderful.

After the program, Kathy and I returned to our apartment to open our gifts from each other and from our families. We listened to Christmas music and Skyped with the families of Kathy’s daughter and son. Later we enjoyed an invitation to have dinner with some good friends in our ward, the Swendsons, and with their adult children and families who had gathered literally from all over the world. 

Two of their sons and families live in Colorado and another son and his family live in Saudi Arabia. Also they have two daughters who live here in Calgary who were there with their families. Another daughter and family live in Connecticut but weren’t able to get away. It was very well organized chaos. We had a great time and the food was wonderful. The Swendsons have become dear friends.

After the dinner we returned home and visited with my daughters via telephone and enjoyed hearing about their Christmases. Daughter Kellie and her family moved into their brand new home in Broomfield, Colorado, two days before Christmas. Daughter Brooke and family are awaiting completion of an expansion of their living space (actually into a part of their garage), and daughter Tana had a baby boy just three weeks ago, which I mentioned in last week’s blog. Daughter Jaime and her husband are buying a gym, which Jaime will run (she was our gymnast daughter as some of you may recall). Kathy’s son, Mike, showed us their now completed basement as we Skyped with them. As you may recall, last March Kathy and I returned to Utah to be there when Kathy’s daughter, Kristi, had her baby. That baby is now nine months of age and so cute and babbling up a storm, so it is a very exciting time for us and for our families. We also heard from Kathy’s son’s family who live in California. We love them all and it was so good to talk to them and get caught up. 

Today the mission office is closed as it is Boxing Day in Canada. Boxing Day is celebrated in Canada, England, and in many other present or former colonies that once belonged to the British Empire. Boxing Day is traditionally the day after Christmas. It gets its name from giving a boxed gift to public servants or household servants together with a day off to be with their families and in appreciation for their service. Some jokingly refer to Boxing Day as a day to return gifts to stores for a refund or to be exchanged for something they wanted for Christmas but didn’t get. More recently the day has become a sort of Black Friday (which is expanding into Boxing Week) at which time stores compete for business with discounted prices to their customers.

During the week we went to a Nativity Pageant, which the LDS Church has put on each year for over 40 years as a gift to the community. 

It is held during the week leading up to Christmas. The stakes in the area take turns putting on this annual event. Despite the weather, people line up to see the pageant, have some hot chocolate, and get their picture taken with some of the animals. The presentations recur every 20 minutes so one doesn’t have to stand too long in the cold. I got some terrific video clips with my iPhone but these won’t post to this blog so look for them on my Facebook page. Also you can go to Facebook and search for where you can see scenes from the event. The scenery is stored at a nearby farm where the animals are also kept.

Also during the week we did the third and last of the Christmas get togethers with the Medicine Hat, Lethbridge, Lethbridge East, and Cardston Zones. The format was the same; dinner, gift exchange, devotional, and pictures. It was equally enjoyable as were the others. The Lethbridge weather cooperated nicely; warmer and no wind!

 We hope you had a wonderful Christmas as well. We missed being with our families but, thanks to technology, we were able to enjoy it with them anyway. We love you all and wish you a happy and prosperous New Year.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Bring on the Winter Solstice.......Give me a longer day

Blog for December 18, 2016

Hooray for warmer weather, and for the approach of the shortest day of the year!

Happy Christmas greetings to all of you! This has been a busy week surrounding preparing for and putting on a series of Christmas dinners and devotionals for our missionaries. The first was for the missionaries in the zones on the north side of Calgary.

Missionaries from the Calgary North, Calgary West, and Confederation Zones gathering prior to the dinner 

The second gathering was for the zones in the west and south part of Calgary.

Fish Creek, Bow River, Foothills, and Calgary Zones

 The evenings began with a yummy ham, baked potato, and Cesar salad dinner.

Some of our cute Sister missionaries
Me, Sister Smith, Sister Shields, and Sister Thorley

Dinner was followed by a wild and crazy white-elephant gift exchange.

Passing White Elephant gifts left and right during the story being read

Left to right - Elder Purvis, Elder Stringham, and Elder Moffitt

These were some of the white-elephant gifts they ended up with at the end of the story.

Elder Pugh
Sister Blake duking it out with Elder Hatch

Each evening ended with a nice musical program and talks from President and Sister Miles. Again this year Kathy and I were asked to be part of the musical program and we sang, “Were You There on That Christmas Night?”. The other musical numbers came from solos, duets, and mixed group singing from the young missionaries themselves. There is so much incredible music talent in the mission!

Each gathering has been wonderful and heart warming, and there are still two more to go, one in Lethbridge for the zones in that area and Medicine Hat. The last will happen in Cranbrook, British Columbia for the zone out there. Because of the cold and snow and the large distances to travel to Lethbridge, it was felt to be safer to gather the one zone together in Cranbrook. Only President and Sister Miles will make the trip to BC to meet with the missionaries there.

As mentioned in the last couple of blogs, the weather has been absolutely frigid. 

Yes, it reads -10 degrees Fahrenheit

Fortunately, starting today we will have a period of much warmer weather, and right now at 5:00 p.m. the outside temperature is 36 degrees Fahrenheit! It’s a heat wave! Last Sunday we had an inch or two of snow fall on the already frozen ground and this lead to a myriad of car accidents, mostly on P-day. This suggests that too many of our missionaries were in a hurry for their zone P-day get togethers. On Monday I took six calls from around the mission telling of sliding into curbs while going around a turn or a round-about. Five of these dented the front right rims so badly that they had to be replaced (all where Subaru Imprezas) and the sixth dented both of the rims on the right side (a Chevy Cruz). In some cases the front steering arms got bent and one had to have the right front strut replaced. When I take these calls I always ask the missionaries what they learned from the experience or what they needed to have done to avoid the accident, and what could have been done to avoid the accident in the first place. In each case it involved being in a hurry and driving too fast for existing conditions. I don’t feel badly at all when poor judgement results in having to do without their vehicles for a few days. Hopefully having to get about in frigid weather will help them remember to slow down the next time. We also had one accident where another motorist slid into the car driven by some of our Sister missionaries. Thankfully they were not injured but their car was pretty badly damaged. 

Last night we attended a mission staff Christmas dinner at the mission home with President and Sister Miles.

President and Sister Miles and us
We had a lovely meal and a wonderful time visiting. Yesterday was one year to the day of our actual arrival in Calgary. What a fun year it has been!

Before I close, I have to share a picture of our latest grand baby mentioned in the last blog. He had a few days of an elevated bilirubin level and had to have phototherapy for a couple of days but is now doing great. Daughter, Tana, is also doing well. We are sad that we won’t be able to be there for his newborn blessing event.

Baby boy Whicker

We wish each and every one of you a joyous Christmas season. Please take time to reflect on the sacred birth of our Savior and Redeemer and express gratitude for His life, His mission, and His atonement and resurrection. As someone commented recently, “There would be no Christmas were it not for Easter.” Otherwise, the event would be just another baby born into the world. Think on that……..

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Okay, now it is really cold!

Blog for December 11, 2016

Greetings from the frigid north country.


As you can see from the frost on the car, it has been really cold. I must say that it sounds colder in Centigrade than the same temperature in Fahrenheit. We have been having actual temperature readings of -23 C which converts to -9 F, but with the humidity and breeze, the wind chill has reached -30 C. This is -22 F. Despite the cold, car sales continue and three went out this past week. I go out each morning in an attempt to start them; so far so good.

This has been an eventful week. It began on Sunday evening when I backed into the bumper of another person’s car. In my own defense, there was a glare from the lights and the windows were covered with frost. Yah, I know; why hadn’t I taken time to scrape off the back windows more thoroughly. We were at a Stake Choir practice and when it was over, I thought I would do Kathy and some others who rode with us a favor by backing the car over to the sidewalk so they wouldn’t have to walk so far in the cold. While I deal with missionary accidents each week, I never expected to have one of my own but I did. Thank goodness I know a guy! The repairs on the damaged car (confined to a big scrape to the fender) will begin tomorrow and be completed by the following day. The damage to our car was a bit more extensive and so is the estimated cost of repair.

Early Tuesday morning we were informed of the arrival of grandchild #29, little boy Whicker. Mother and son are doing well except for some elevated bilirubin for which he is successfully receiving phototherapy. The grandchild total, by the way, is a combination of grandchildren from both sides of the family. In any case, we are delighted and are looking forward to more than just pictures when we will be able to see him, and all our grandchildren, in May or June.

Also on Tuesday we were privileged to attend, together with the missionaries from some of the northern zones, a training session conducted by one of the Seventy, Elder Clayton. Elder Clayton and his wife are touring the mission together with President and Sister Miles. The training was very instructive and enjoyed by all the missionaries.

On Wednesday evening, I participated in an “orchestra” practice. I mentioned in last week’s blog that all ward members who had ever played a musical instrument (and could be talked into playing again) were invited to join for one rehearsal (it was probably more than enough) in anticipation of playing for our ward Christmas party. The rehearsal and the actual “performance” was a riot. The music was “The 12 Days of Christmas” with each day assigned to a different instrument. The worse it was played the funnier it was. The “orchestra” consisted of one tenor sax, two clarinets, a baritone, two French horns, two guitars, several kazoos, a keyboard, drums, a triangle, a piano, and a trombone (me). The audience and the band members, when not playing, were in stitches as it was so bad, but it was great fun. It was fun to be reunited again with a trombone. It has been about 48 years since I last attempted to play. Surprisingly, I could remember the slide positions, but my lip was quickly shot.

On Thursday evening we went with another couple as their guests to attend a performance of  “A Christmas Carol”. This was held in a beautiful concert hall downtown. 

Theater - it was filled by the time the show started. Wonderful play!
It has been presented annually for over 30 years. The man who played Scrooge has done it for 23 years. It was excellent. How the story is presented each year is modified a little bit which helps to keep the interest going. It was without a doubt the best performance of this classic story I have seen. We thoroughly enjoyed it. We were able to park in a heated parking garage and walk to the theater in overhead walkways so were never exposed to the extreme cold.

Friday is our usual temple night and we didn’t let the cold deter us. Afterward we went to a Chilis restaurant and enjoyed being in out of the cold.

Yesterday Kathy ventured out into the cold to mail some Christmas cards and gifts. I stayed indoors and ironed while watching the Army-Navy game. I actually enjoy ironing if I have football to watch (otherwise not so much). Football lends itself to doing other things while watching; two or three seconds of action then back to the task at hand. If the play is particularly exciting, one can always watch the replay. Also yesterday was the Ward Christmas party. It was so fun and the food was great. Afterward I came home and watched a recording of the Utah-Xavier basketball game. Unfortunately, both Navy and Utah lost their respective games so bah humbug!

Today, Sunday, was our Stake Christmas Music Festival. It was very well attended and the performances were wonderful. Kathy and I participated in the Stake Choir, which performed the opening and closing numbers. Several of the ward choirs presented numbers, and there were several individual and group performances as well. The weather today was somewhat improved. The high reached all the way to 12 degrees Farenheit!!!

Have a wonderful week.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Blog for December 4, 2016

“Baby it’s cold outside”……..

Wow, close the door; there’s a draft in here! Our nice weather has come to a close and we are looking for Arctic type weather for the next little while. I see from the weather forecasting maps that this will dip way down into the U.S. as well so I guess we are sharing cold weather with all of you to some degree.

On Wednesday we reached our one-year point since we entered the MTC, which is the official start of our mission. The time has truly sped by. The Peppingers go home in February, the Sefciks soon after that, and ours in May. We are beginning to panic somewhat as an office staff as there are no senior couples in the pipeline to replace any of us. This is, of course, of concern to our Mission President and he is turning to local Church leaders to identify some Church service missionaries to be able to work in the office. After our usual Monday morning meeting with President and Sister Miles, we spent some time discussing which couples in our home stake might be contacted and encouraged to put in their papers and come here to serve. You might recall, this is how Kathy and I ended up serving here in this mission; the Miles came to us on a number of occasions prior to their leaving and encouraged us to join them in serving in Canada. So, to all of you living in our home stake and reading this blog, be aware, - you might well receive a call from President and Sister Miles with a special invitation! And if you are reading this and not in the Granite View Stake and are considering serving, just call, email, or write and we will get the ball rolling. It would be really great to actually have an opportunity to train our replacements. Coming in after the preceding couple have gone home and having to start from scratch isn’t nearly as much fun as gleaning from the previous couple. 

And speaking of the work, again this past week has been so busy, at least for me. In the last blog I mentioned all the older cars we brought up from the south part of the mission; these now are being prepped for sale. This means a close inspection of each and a record made of what needs to be done, then arranging for our body and fender guy to meet me where the cars are being kept and giving me an estimate for each. Some need oil changes and new windshields and replacement tires. Three of the five cars we brought up from down south have hail damage to some degree, and hail damage is always a complicating factor for moving them out of the fleet, - will the Church want to have the hail damaged repaired, sell the car “as is”, or will it be declared a loss (totaled). The process of documenting the damage, arranging for the estimate and pictures, discussing each car with Fleet officials and what to do to get them sold greatly extends the time until the disposal of the car and consequently to my workload. Once the decision for disposal has been made, except for when the vehicle is totaled, then it has to be advertised (and this generates lots of phone calls) and taking time to show the cars to potential customers when they come to see and drive the vehicles. Indeed I can say, I would not want to go home at the end of the mission and go to work as a used car salesman. I will be glad to not get any more new vehicles for a time; I’ll eventually get caught up and then it can be time again. 

As for experiences not directly related to work, on Tuesday evening we went with the other office couples and another couple to Stage West. 

Last spring some of you might recall we went to Stage West and enjoyed it and have been looking forward to going again. Stage West is a live dinner show. The performance we saw on Tuesday runs for several more weeks and then another show comes in. The show we saw is called “Hollywood Hits – Songs that Rocked the Movies”. It was very well done and we enjoyed it a lot. Overall the performance was somewhat better than the previous show we saw. That one featured Rock and Roll favorites. The dinner at Stage West is served buffet style and quite vast. The problem as before is getting too full too fast. Maybe we will have an opportunity to go again before we leave in May.

As I have mentioned before, Saturdays are our P-days. We got up and did our apartment cleaning and clothes washing, then went to a local indoor farmer’s market. It is huge! All around the perimeter of the building are stalls of varying dimensions which feature fresh fruits, vegetables, and other produce. The rest of the displays are along aisles that run from end to end of the building and feature common to more exotic meats, cheeses, specialty foods, ethnic foods, and arts and crafts. Interspersed among the inner aisles, and to some degree the outer as well, are booths selling a wide variety of prepared foods. There were a number of musical groups singing Christmas carols and other songs and even a few individual performers so it was quite festive. We enjoyed a bagel sandwich while there and bought some fruit and vegetables. I’m sure we will go back again soon.

Kathy and I are participating in both the ward and stake choirs, and we will be singing a duet in each of the Christmas get-togethers with the missionaries and in our ward on Christmas day, which will be a Christmas musical program together with another ward that also meets in our building. Our ward Christmas party is on the 10th and the Stake Christmas Music Festival is on the 11th so “tis the season”. A request was made for our ward party for people to sign up to play in an "orchestra" being put together. The issue is not if one can play well, only if one had ever played a musical instrument, even if only as a youth. I guess they have something really crazy planned which is “guaranteed to be a lot of fun”. I haven’t touched a trombone for lots of years and I certainly don’t have mine here, but they said they would get any instruments that were needed so I signed up. I know of at least a French Horn, a clarinet, a trumpet, and a few guitar players are also on the list. We will have just one rehearsal before the main event and that is primarily just to pass out the music so it should be pretty wild. I will have more on this next week.

We are about to add grandchild #29, but before you get too excited about this number, this is a combination of both mine and Kathy’s families. My daughter, Tana, will be induced early tomorrow morning if she doesn’t go into labor in the meantime. We will be anxiously awaiting word.

Well, we must be off to our Stake Choir practice so, may your Christmas plans and preparations be a delight and not Bah Humbug! Let us not forget what Christmas is intended to commemorate. I bear testimony of the existence of Jesus Christ and the importance of His mission on earth, “to save us all from Satan’s power when we have gone astray, Oh, tidings of comfort and joy!” Pretty well sums it up. 

Have a wonderful week. 

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Hey, its getting colder!

Blog for November 27, 2016

Hey, its getting colder!

South Glenmore Trail in November at Sunrise

The picture above was taken yesterday along my favorite place to jog, the Glenmore Park trail. This biking and jogging trail runs along the south side of the Glenmore Reservoir. If you recall previous blog pictures taken along this same trail, the trees were green or golden with autumn changes. The trail is now quite a different place environmentally as the temperature was 17 degrees (F) and most of the reservoir is frozen over. All in all, however, the weather has been and is quite moderate for this season in this part of the continent.

After returning from the jog and, yes, I showered, had some breakfast then got a haircut, washed the car (hand wand at a car wash), and replaced a battery (purchased at Costco) in one of the Chevy trucks we have for sale. It’s a little embarrassing when someone is interested in one of the vehicles and it fails to start because of a dead battery. I had previously encountered this problem with this truck during the week and jump started it, then ran it for some time, only to have it fail to crank just two days later. Truly time for a new battery.

Two additional cars sold this past week, and two more should sell on Monday. All cars we have had more than 4 weeks and have not sold are taken to the Calgary Auto Auction. On Wednesday I arranged to have four cars go to the auction; however, a surge of interest toward the end of the week has reduced the number to two, a Colorado and a Cruze. That and putting the remaining five cars helps to reduce the numbers in the office parking lot but this was only temporary as the new cars replaced five Subaru Imprezas which were driven to Calgary on Thursday. These now need to be prepped for sale. Since no new cars are due to come to us in the near future, I might eventually get caught up.

On Tuesday we received nine new missionaries; one from Taiwan, one from Spain, one from Ireland, one from the Czech Republic, two from Canada, and three from the U.S. This certainly speaks to how much the Church has spread throughout the world. Most of the missionaries who come from other countries are from second-generation member families. After picking up new missionaries at the airport, we who work in the office then spend the afternoon giving them the training they need to have. The training topics are about customs, housing, telephones, cars and other means of transportation, safety, use of the gas and missionary funding cards, the need to budget their time, their money, and each area’s allocated driving allotments. Other topics include wise use of their P-day (preparation day) time, maintaining their health and physical well-being, apartement inspections, and other quality of life issues. Since they get up at around 2:00 a.m. to be bussed from the MTC to the SLC airport and then here to Calgary, they are usually pretty tired and sleepy during training so we have to take time for standing and stretching to help them stay awake. Additional training is also done by their first companions who are called “trainers” They meet their trainers on Wednesday morning and then head to their first areas.

As is always the case during Transfer Week, on Thursday I drove some of the transferring Elders and Sisters south to Lethbridge; however, because of the number of new cars also going south, as discussed above, I was able to take the mission Chevy Silverado to pull the luggage trailer instead of the van. The same situation existed on the return as many of the missionaries coming to the north part of the mission also drove the older cars coming here to Calgary to be prepped and sold. Also on Thursday evenings, all of the departing missionaries go to the Calgary Temple for a session and a special meeting with the temple president, which is always a treat for them.

The final event of Transfer Week is on Friday when all the missionaries returning home are taken to the airport. It is always a bitter-sweet situation to see the missionaries return home. On one hand they are excited to be going home and are looking forward to school, jobs, and family, but they are also sad to be leaving those with whom they have served and the many people they have loved and served and taught while on their missions. It is sad for us as well as we get to know them so well and have so many nice interactions with them, and then, all too soon, they return home. Such was the case with the sweet Sister in the picture below, Sister Earnhardt, with whom we were particularly close.

Kathy, Sister Earnhardt, & me

This week also saw a change in one of the Assistants to the Mission President. Serving for a time as an AP is such a demanding experience; President Miles likes to give the opportunity to serve as an AP to as many as possible as it is a real growth type of experience but also very emotionally demanding. We work closely with the APs as they serve. They are in the mission office more than any of the other missionaries so we get to know them especially well. Elder Lee has served so well and will now serve for a time as a trainer to one of the newly arrived Elders. Elder Stringham replaced Elder Lee and will be serving with Elder Moffit for awhile. Their pictures appear below.

President Miles, Elder Lee, Elder Moffit, Elder Stringham, Sister Miles

We love all of the 200+ missionaries with whom we serve, but we are especially close to the other senior couples with whom we serve. Even though Thursday was American Thanksgiving, it was a work day for those of us in Canada and it was transfer day so we were very busy. Nevertheless, we decided to celebrate Thanksgiving and did so on Saturday. We had a wonderful potluck meal and enjoyed visiting and sharing stories of our experiences. The pictures which follow are of our gathering. The couples are the Peppingers, the Sefciks, the Gardiners, and the Eberts. Eberts arrived only recently and are from our home stake in Sandy, Utah although we didn’t know them prior to their coming here. The Peppingers and Sefciks work with us in the office. The Gardiners and Eberts are member/leadership support missionaries and are assigned to the Banff and Columbia Valley Branches out in British Columbia.

Elder & Sister Ebert, Elder & Sister Gardiner, Elder & Sister Peppinger, Elder & Sister Thorley

Today I taught the High Priest Group. The assigned topic was Elder Anderson’s General Conference topic regarding the growth of the Church. From 1830 to the present the Church has grown from six to over 15 million members. Truly it is the stone cut out of the mountain without hands and is rolling forth in the latter-days until it has filled the earth. One of the persons I asked to share his experience of growth in the Church was a man who is approaching his 90s and has lived in Southern Alberta for all of his life. He has seen the Church in this area grow from a single stake, the Lethbridge Stake (which covered from the Montana border on the south to the Arctic Circle on the north) to dozens of stakes. Just in the Calgary area there are now 12 stakes and 48 wards. Some of our missionaries serving in the south around Calgary and Raymond serve in 4-6 wards.

The Church of Jesus Christ has been restored and the message of the Gospel is rolling forth just as Daniel foretold in interpreting King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream (see Daniel 2). As Daniel stated, “The dream is certain, and the interpretation ….. sure.” To this I add my witness.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

It's beginning to look like Christmas........

Blog for November 20, 2016

Its beginning to look like Christmas……

It has been (actually, it still is) a pet peeve of mine that businesses and people should not begin to decorate for Christmas until after Thanksgiving, the U.S. one that is. I thought launching the Christmas season was bad in the U.S. but some Canadians began decorating for Christmas after Canadian Thanksgiving, which is celebrated on the first Monday in November. While some businesses started before Halloween, we are seeing more and more outside lights and decorations of homes and churches. Christmas music is playing in many stores. Today at Church I was surprised to see how many of the men were already wearing Christmas ties. The pictures above and below are pictures taken this evening.

This has been a busy week of showing cars. This is in addition to my other usual car related activities. Pressure is on for moving cars; my instructions are that those cars that don’t sell this week are to be driven to the car auction north of Calgary at Airdrie.

Car sales take up a lot of time. I have a large list of people who have called over the past few months to inquire when we would have cars for sale, and now that we do, the word is out that and I get several calls a day. Most want to have their names and email address added to the list to be kept informed about what cars we have and when they will be ready for sale. The list is now over 40 names long. Many on the list are people who have bought mission cars before so they know every so often the cars get replaced. I also advertise the cars on Kijiji, which is Canada’s version of Craig’s List.

People naturally want to save time by calling with questions but they do this rather than coming to see the cars. When they call they want me to describe each car to them in detail and this takes so much time. The questions:
-       What color is the car? Me: “It’s blue.” Them: “What shade of blue?” Me: “The color is listed as Sapphire Blue Metallic.” Them: “Well, is it dark blue, light blue, or what shade of blue is it?”
-       How many miles? (Yes, they actually ask for the “mileage”, but in Canada they really want to know, how many kilometers?) Me: “82,258 kilometers.” Them: “Oh, is that the actual mileage or has there been a problem with the car’s odometer?” Me: “No, those are actual miles. We sell the cars soon after they have 80,000 km on them.”
-       Was the car new when you got it? Well, yah; they were all new at some point, but what they want to know is if the mission has had it since it was new. This is a good question for those responding to the Kijiji ads, but Church members should know better, especially those who have bought a mission car previously.
-       What is the model? Me: “It is an SE.” Them: “What does that mean?” I wonder why they ask the question if in the end they don’t know one model from the other. I have learned to say, “It doesn’t have leather or a sun roof.” If I say, “It is the base model” then they want you to explain what, then, is not on the car.
-       What’s the condition? (What am I supposed to say, “It’s a dog, it has bald tires, the doors are falling off, and it looks terrible?”) Me: “Any problems that it had have been fixed. It has been detailed and it looks really good” (because it does look good). Them: “Well, what problems did it have?” Me: “Nothing serious; you are welcome to drive it and look at the complete file if you have any concerns.”
-       Does it have good tires? Me: “Yes, it does.” Them: “Are they new?” Me: No, not new but we replace them with new if they are old or bad or have a problem. “ Them: “Are they snow tires?” Me: “No, but they are all-season tires.” 
-       What is the price? Me: “The price is the same as on the email you received.” Or, “It is the same price as listed in the Kijiji ad.” Them: “Well, is that your best price?” Me: “Yup, I don’t set the price; the Church does, and no, it is not negotiable.”
And after all of that, -Them: “Well, I’ll think about it.”

Actually, this was somewhat tongue-in-cheek, but the point is that answering so many questions takes so much time. I have learned to anticipate some questions and try to provide short answers. The best thing to say to the person is, “You really do need to come and see the car(s) for yourself.” They aren’t going to remember my answers to the questions anyway unless they were interested in just one of the cars. This isn’t usually the case, however, so when they finally come to see the car, the questions begin all over again,  - while we stand, out in the cold…….teeth chattering……toes numb……and the questions get patiently answered, often for the umteenth time.  Then, “Okay, so I’ll think about it.” Would I want to be a used car salesman? Nope!

Then there is the person in Lethbridge who has not seen any of the cars. He says, “Just bring me one of the Cruzes; you decide which one. I’ll have the bank draft ready.” (We have three 2013 Chevy Cruzes, all silver, all the same price. Ordinarily we don’t drive cars to the person buying it but next week is transfer week and so we are going to Lethbridge anyway. We can accommodate the buyer this once. He just wants a mission car. It is his third.

Actually we have four of the new RAV 4s going south on Thursday, and for each new car going south an older car comes back to Calgary, and the process begins again, - inspect the car, get it repaired where necessary, get the oil changed, get it detailed, and get it sold.

See you next week, blog fans. Have a spectacular week.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Mostly some medical notes................

Blog for Nov 13, 2016

One nice thing about the time change (yes, Canada observes the end of daylight saving's time), we see a beautiful sunrise most mornings. It is a benefit (there are few) of living on the 12th floor of an apartment building. 

This has been another busy week but not much happened that is especially blog-worthy so this may be short, especially if I don’t bore you with things about cars!

Monday Kathy and I made another trip with a missionary who needed to go home because of illness. This trip, however, was only to Vancouver, BC, where the missionary caught an international flight that would go directly to the destination city. For Kathy and I, it was a much less complicated trip as we didn’t have to go through customs. We left in the early afternoon and got back to Calgary before 9:00 p.m.

Kathy and I make these trips (just me if it is a male missionary) as part of my duties as the mission medical advisor. It isn’t always necessary to accompany a missionary, but if the problem is severe enough or the missionary is in need of some form of medical assistance during the flight, then he or she appreciates being accompanied to their home city and turned over to the waiting family. This is always so sad; to have a successful mission for a time and then have it end rather abruptly. Despite an honorable release, these missionaries go home with a sense of having not truly completed their missions, at least in the way they anticipated, and no amount of reassurance or discussion ever seems to help them be relieved of that feeling of having not completed their mission.

We have one missionary of African descent who has Sickle Cell disease. This was known, of course, prior to coming on his mission and has been well managed. He has done rather well up until recently but is having a fair amount of pain, especially at night. He spent the first part of his mission in the Lethbridge area where he was under the care of a hematologist, but he has since been transferred here to the Calgary area and, with the assistance of the Lethbridge hematologist, his care has been transferred to a blood disorders group here at the medical center (Foothills Medical Center) which is associated with the University of Calgary School of Medicine. I accompanied him to his appointment so that I might be clear on what constitutes a need for emergency care and how best to help manage his care with the hope of preventing or avoiding a need for him to be admitted. I was very pleased with the team approach the doctor, the specialty nurse, and the social worker took.

I have been particularly interested in how socialized medicine works here in Canada and it is not without many of the same problems that exist in the U.S. such as, too few providers in some areas, too much demand on a fiscally limited system, limited access or long waiting periods for those without supplemental insurance, and huge demands on the system by immigrants, both legal and illegal. The system here is Canada is, of course, funded by taxes and taxes are substantial. Then there is the problem of having to have an insurance card for the particular province where one lives. One has two months to establish residency in the province to which one has moved. The particular missionary I have described above is from Ontario. A medical card from there does not authorize him for anything other than emergency medical care here in Alberta. As in the U.S., there is that difficult period when one turns 21 years of age (or 25 if a documented student) at which time one no longer is covered under a family insurance umbrella. One must then show proof that he or she is paying taxes and contributing to the cost of medical care, and have a permanent address. Missionaries who are from Canada and are over 21 (fortunately most missionaries are 19-23), who aren’t students, and are not employed and are therefore not paying taxes, and don’t have a permanent address (using the mission office address helps get around this) – these missionaries have a particularly difficult time qualifying for medical cards. And then there is the issue of prescription costs in Canada, - this is not necessarily covered even though one qualifies for medical care. One must have a prescription plan and this is an additional cost beyond taxes and, depending on the prescription plan, it may or may not cover all needed prescriptions. There are special programs for those who are indigent or otherwise have limited income but these programs have a rather limited list of approved medications.  This, too, sounds a lot like U.S. medical care and prescription issues.

Dental care is not covered in Canada by medical coverage, and it is really expensive. We are aware of a couple who annually fly to Arizona for the purpose of getting their dental needs taken care of. They find what they pay in Arizona is about 30% less than what the same care would cost in Canada even after factoring in the cost of the flights.  Fortunately, they stay with family in Arizona so lodging is not factored in.

We see many medical clinics as we drive around Calgary and often see signs stating they are accepting new patients. This has led me to inquire how physicians are paid in Canadian clinics. They are salaried or fee for service physicians and are paid according to their productivity, so this, too, is much like physicians in the U.S.

Nurse Practitioners are somewhat common in Canada but nowhere near the same ratio to physicians as in the U.S.

Physician Assistants have existed in the Canadian military for many years but not so much in the civilian world. That is changing. There are now three PA training programs in Canada and, from my reading on line, they appear to pretty much follow the U.S. model. Only one appears to offer a Masters Degree, which is pretty much the rule now in the U.S. In my experience when people here ask about my background, nearly every one of them have never heard of PAs and don’t understand their role. Fortunately, many are aware of what NPs do so there is a frame of reference they can use when I tell them what I do (did).  :^)

Well, we have all survived the election. Regardless of how we voted, it is time to get behind the new president and pray (FERVENTLY) that he gather good people around him to advise him. If Ronald Regan could do it (gather good people), so can Donald Trump. Otherwise we might be looking at the prophesied time when “the constitution will hang by a thread.”

Have a great week!

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Wonderful museum.......

Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology 
November 6, 2016

The past week has been a very busy one but pretty much all activities I have reported previously. I still have a few more new cars to work into the fleet. Mostly we are gradually taking the Chevy Colorados and Silverados (pickup trucks) out of the fleet. The goal is to eventually have small SUVs with all-wheel drive in every area where cars are needed. Currently there are 4 vehicles for sale and another 3 being prepped for sale.

We sent our “mail-in” ballots to Utah by FAX, so we hope our votes will be included. Can’t say we are all that excited about the outcome of the election considering how gravely we are concerned about the future of our country regardless of who is elected as President.

The weather has been incredibly warm for Canada. The same high-pressure dome that is sitting over western and central North America is sitting over us as well and all the storms and cold temperatures are being pushed further north by the jet stream. We have seen temperatures in the 50s and 60s all week, and this will continue into this next week. It is a blessing to the farmers currently as much of the bumper crop of wheat from last summer’s rain is still being harvested. As one travels east of Calgary, there are miles and miles of grain fields as far as the eye can see, and the combines harvesting the wheat are busy day and night. These combines are huge; they cut a swath 40 feet wide in one pass. They are GPS guided and the cut areas are as straight as an arrow. They go day and night and keep moving even while augering the grain into large grain haulers moving along side. One often sees three or four of these huge combines running in the same direction but staggered back from each other a few hundred feet. Truly amazing to see. 

My cold symptoms persisted through most of the week but began to improve later in the week. Given the great weather and my improving coughing, Kathy and I decided to check off another item from our must-see list. One of the largest and most spectacular dinosaur museums in the world is in Drumheller, Alberta, a two-hour drive to the north east of Calgary. 


The name of the museum is the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology ("royal" because it has been visited by the Royal Family). It is a major center for palaeontological research. The museum is situated in the middle of a fossil-bearing strata along the course of the Red Deer River valley. 

Sediment layers, coal seams, and fossilized remains along the Red Deer River valley
The area was once a swampy rain forest on the shore of an ancient waterway that ran from the Arctic to the Gulf of Mexico. Some cataclysmic event quickly buried the flora and fauna of the time and the area was subsequently covered over by layers of sediment. The ice age followed. When the glaciers began to melt and drift southward, the resulting river valley cut through the sediment and exposed some of the fossilized remains. It has proved to be an amazing source of a wide variety of dinosaur and fossil remains. The area is rich in coal seams and oil-bearing strata as a consequence of the burial and compression of the ancient rain forest foliage.


The museum is named in honor of Joseph Burr Tyrrell, a geologist who accidentally discovered the first reported dinosaur fossil in the Red Deer River valley in 1884 while searching for coal seam

These are BIG feet
I have seen a number of dinosaur displays over my years in the military, and Kathy and I have visited three dinosaur museums during the three years we have been married. I have to say, this museum is head and shoulders above the others.         

The museum covers 121,000 square feet of display areas and research activities. There are over 40 mounted dinosaur skeletons in the various gallery displays.

We spent four hours viewing the displays. Since there were some other areas of interest in the Drumheller area we wanted to see, we felt we couldn’t stay longer. While the other areas of interest were okay, they were certainly less spectacular. Such was the case with the many “cementosaurs” scattered all around the downtown and outlying areas. 


Then there was the “world’s largest dinosaur” to see. For a fee you can climb up inside the structure to the mouth and look around. We passed.  

After grabbing a very late lunch, we headed for a suspension bridge which coal miners used years ago to cross over the river from the town to the largest coal mine in the area.


After the bridge, we drove a few miles further south to see some hoodoos. These were nice but nothing like the hoodoos in Goblin Valley near Moab, Utah.


We got home at dusk and were treated to a spectacular sunset.


Today, Sunday, we had a special Stake Conference as did many of the stakes throughout the mid-North America Region. This included a broadcast from SLC with a variety of speakers including Elder Rasband, one of the Twelve. We appreciated hearing the speakers, and we liked having an extra hour to sleep as well, but now it is nearing 5:00 p.m. and getting dark much too early.

We hope you all have a wonderful week. 

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Car salesman extraordinaire ...........

October 30, 2016 blog entry

While this past week has been a very busy one, there isn’t much that is new to report. Mostly I have been wearing my used car sales hat and during the week I sold three Subaru Imprezas, one Chevrolet Equinox, and one Chevrolet Trax. Two other vehicles were detailed, photographed, and I am awaiting pricing for them. Two other vehicles needed oil changes, which I don’t do but have to take them to Canadian Tire where the work is done. The person who bought the Equinox didn’t like the snow tires that were on it due to road noise, so I arranged for the wheels to come off his Equinox and exchanged them with another Equinox we have for sale and now he is happy. Three other vehicles will have body and paint repairs completed on Monday and they will be ready for detailing and pricing during the upcoming week. Still others are coming in to be sold as we gradually introduce the new Toyota RAV 4s for the older vehicles into the fleet.

On Wednesday Kathy and I drove to Brooks where we met a pair of missionaries and exchanged their Equinox for a new RAV 4. Brooks is about two hours away from Calgary and we were able to see how the collision avoidance system works on these new cars. The system has a radar device and a camera that work together to be “aware” of other cars ahead. Once you set the cruise control, the system works like usual until it senses a slower vehicle ahead at which point the RAV 4 slows to match the speed of the slower car in the lane ahead. If you need to pass the slower vehicle, however, as soon as you turn out into the other lane the system allows you to accelerate or resume the set speed. Other features, - if you drift across the lines on either side of your lane, it warns you. While we didn’t have occasion to see how the vehicle reacts to a stopped vehicle or one hurtling toward us (thank goodness!) the literature states that the system will apply the brakes faster than you can humanly react to a potential collision. The owner’s manual states that the system records speed of deceleration and acceleration, GPS location, and other pertinent information that can be accessed by the owner, the police, and other authorized personnel if necessary. I assume the system works in harmony with the TIWI devices that are installed on missionary cars in many missions of the Church. We are in line to have these devices installed on all our mission vehicles next April.

I will include a picture of a very happy set of Elders and the new car with which they have been entrusted. 

Elder Jewkes and Elder Shah

 I am nursing a cold and asthma to go along with it, and since it is much cooler this weekend, we didn’t venture out to see any of the sites in the area as has been our custom; therefore, we don’t have any new pictures to share. Hopefully Kathy won’t catch a cold as well, in which case we will hope to do better in the next blog. In the meantime, our mail-in ballots are sitting here waiting to be marked and sent as we struggle with how to vote. What a political mess the U.S. is in! Canadian news channels faithfully report on the “progress” of the election in the U.S. Many of our Canadian friends, while somewhat amused at the process, are also very worried about the outcome. They already have concerns about their own prime minister and Canada’s future as they live with the recession since the fall of oil prices. Now they look south and see the political unrest in the U.S. and worry how Canada will be affected by the outcome of the U.S. election, regardless of who is elected. When it comes to the possibility of war, economic instability, and other human welfare issues, Canada sees itself as gaining or losing by what its closest neighbor does. Yes, Canadians are watching the elections very closely and are concerned. 

Enjoy the week. Keep a positive attitude. Amidst the turmoil, it is still “the best of times”.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Cars, berries, and horses .................

October 23, 2016 blog.

As I mentioned last week in the blog, a lot is involved in keeping up with the vehicles assigned to our mission. The arrival of new cars adds to the paperwork, and a few more new RAV 4s arrived during the week. These are in addition to the ones mentioned last week. And a couple more are due soon and that should do it for a few months. Some of the new cars have been taken to their area of assignment and the old cars they replaced brought back to Calgary. Figuring out where to place the new cars is high on my list of things that need to happen during this week. Word is out that we have these new cars and that they have collision avoidance, seat heaters, and backup cameras. I have to chuckle with missionaries stating their reasons why they think they should have one of the new cars, - especially wanting to have warm "tushies" during the winter months. 

Three vehicles (all Subaru Imprezas) were sold during the week. Others are at various stages of repair and await detailing and pricing. The challenge for me this coming week will be to figure out where the remaining new cars will go and how to get the old cars back into the office.

That said, Kathy and I did get away to the Calgary Temple with our office mates on Friday evening. After our session we did some family name sealings and finally got to dinner around 10:00 p.m.

Yesterday we were able to see some things on our must-see list. First we went to Saskatoon Farms, a farm outside of Calgary where they raise Saskatoon Berries. Prior to coming to Calgary I don’t think I had ever heard of Saskatoon Berries. Since arriving we have enjoyed some jam made of the berries and some pastries containing them. They resemble blueberries and the taste is somewhat like blueberries but different. The berries originally grew mostly on the Canadian Plaines.  The berries are now produced commercially and the farm we visited is one of those “orchards” where they are grown. One of the pictures below shows a berry orchard; not much to look at now as the bushes/trees have been pruned back and frost has taken its toll. The farm has become a tourist spot with a restaurant, farmer’s market, pastry shop, small zoo containing farm animals, etc. The pictures below are all from our visit.

Totem pole at the entrance to the farm

More totem poles

The berry orchard (note the river in the background) Has to be a lovely place during the growing season. Not so much now.
How to make good use of your old stuff
Main Street on the farm. The dead vines over the front of the restaurant are actually cherry tomato vines. 
Guarding the door to the restaurant. (Makes me wonder what they are looking at.....)
Stuff for sale
From the farm we drove a few miles to a rather famous equestrian site in North America known as Spruce Meadows. They are having their version of Octoberfest, which involves eating and drinking while choosing from among a number of equestrian events. Yesterday we enjoyed an indoor horse-jumping contest with horses and riders from Canada, Europe, and the U.S. It was well run and moved right along (20 horses and riders). We stayed for the whole thing (about two hours) and really got into it. 

The riders began by a walking inspection of the course and then the competition began. 

Riders familiarizing themselves with the course

Speed over the course adds to the point total and points are deducted when the horse’s hooves knock off one (or more) of the bars. The horses were magnificent and the riders all looking fine in their riding attire. Most of the horses were very tall Thoroughbreds and were remarkably responsive to the rider’s urges. 

Amazing horses
A few balked at the more difficult jumps and if the horse balked more than once, it was eliminated from the competition. Some riders had two horses entered in the competition. I will try to post a video clip with the Facebook version of the today’s blog. The pictures below will give you a flavor of what we were able to enjoy. 

So, it has been a good week; we look forward to another. Each week brings a whole new set of unique experiences and challenges and we are loving it. Our association with such wonderful Elders and Sisters make it all worthwhile. 

We miss you all and hope all is well. By the way, it is always wonderful to have you comment on what you read and see in the blogs. We appreciate the messages we get back from you. Have a great week!