Sunday, June 26, 2016

And suddenly it was gone, the town of Frank, Alberta, that is………

June 26, 2016.

As I contemplate what I should write about each week, I realize that I say less and less about what we do day by day and more about what we do outside of the office. That is because the day-to day-work is pretty much the same and to hear about it over and over has to be boring to the reader. While hearing about it might be boring, the work itself remains exciting and rewarding and we look forward to going to work each day, especially because of our opportunity to interact with the young Elders and Sisters whom we serve and with the others in the office staff.

On Friday we drove south along the mountains and then west up and over Crowsnest Pass and then on to Sparwood, BC. The purpose of the trip was to pick up one of the newly arrived Sisters who has been working in Jaffrey, BC with two other Sisters. She is now being assigned to work here in Calgary with a Sister whose companion had to go home with some health issues that were not resolving. Sparwood is in the Canadian Rockies where there is an extensive coal mining history. Since we had not previously been to Sparwood, the Sisters suggested that we meet at the “big green truck”, a hard to miss landmark retired from the open pit mining operation there. After meeting them, Kathy and I treated all of them to lunch at the nearby Subway Restaurant and then we headed back.


The whole drive to and from Sparwood is beautiful with lush green meadows and Aspen groves standing in contrast to the rugged beauty of the Canadian Rockies. One very interesting thing one passes over going through Crowsnest Pass is Frank’s Slide. I encourage you to pull up the history of Frank, Alberta on the Internet. In short, in 1903 at 4:10 a.m. on April 29th, 90 million tons of rock slid down burying much of the town of Frank within 100 seconds. Needless to say, many lives were lost and there was no hope of salvaging any of part of the town that was buried in the rubble.


We also frequently pass through Nanton, AB, which has a museum of older aircraft. On our return trip from Sparwood, we noted they had the big old bomber out on display so we had to stop and take a picture. 

Yesterday Kathy and I had a wonderful day touring Heritage Park which is on the east shore of Glenmore Reservoir. The Park is Canada’s largest living history museum with hundreds of exhibits, shops, restaurants, and daily demonstrations. There is so much to see we bought a season pass so we can return again and again and hope when family and friends visit we can take them there. Many of the buildings were moved and reassembled on site from all over Western Canada. 

Other buildings are authentic but are reconstructions. 

The streets are as they would have been at the time (dirt and gravel) and the sidewalks are all wood platforms. Much of the staff are dressed in period costumes and take on the persona of someone who lived at the time. We rode the train, which is made up of a restored steam locomotive and passenger cars. Other restored luxury passenger cars are on display inside a building including the ones used by royalty when they visited Canada. Canada has an interesting history much like in the U.S. surrounding building a transcontinental railroad. Once completed, travelers could make the trip all the way across Canada in two and a half days.

The Park has a replica sternwheeler ship, a replica of the SS Moyle, which was primarily used in the late 1800s to ferry passengers across Kootenay Lake, a 4.5 hr trip. The sternwheeler is a 2/3-size replica of the SS Moyle and is powered by a diesel engine using a hydraulic drive system which drives the paddle where. It is a wonderful ride around Glenmore Reservoir. 

We also rode on a restored electric streetcar, which transports visitors from the parking lot to the Park. The whole Park is marvelous to visit. We took our time and didn’t try to visit everything so there will be new things to visit on our return including a huge antique car collection, Indian (AKA First Nation) village, restored homes and mansions, gardens, and even an amusement park area. I will include a number of pictures to give you some idea of what the Park is like. We look forward to returning.

We ended our day at Heritage Park with a nice dinner at the Wainwright Hotel. It was like stepping back into the early 1900s. 

Since our ward choir is on a summer hiatus, Kathy and I have decided to visit other wards on Sunday where our missionaries serve. Today we attended the High River Ward which is south of Calgary about 40 km. It just so happened it was a day the Stake Presidency was there to divide the ward into two units. High River is a beautiful town. It is an area that was flooded extensively in 2013 following a remarkable rainy period in June of that year. They are still redoing parts of the town most affected by the flooding. Higher dikes and berms have been added along the river and there are long lines of sandbags along some streets, these left in place in the event this should happen again. 

We have learned that another 15-20 missionaries will gradually be added to our totals by summer’s end. A number of new cars have been ordered to help with this influx and to replace other vehicles reaching 80,000 km, which is the point where we typically sell them. Some days I feel like a used car salesman rather than a missionary as potentially interested buyers call and/or come by to learn what we have for sale. So, if you are in the market for a good used car, call me!

We will be working through the 4th of July, as it has no real significance for Canadians; rather, they are about to celebrate Canada Day on July 1st, which is commemorated as the birthday of modern Canada. This happened in 1867, at which time the British North America Act was passed which united three North American colonies into a single country, Canada, within the British Empire. It will be fun to see how this is celebrated here.

So, to all you Stateside people, have a wonderful 4th of July!

Sunday, June 19, 2016

What, no internet! How can I get my work done?

This has been a relatively calm week, which is good as there were times when we didn’t have internet access. We have had work teams in our building for the past couple of weeks running wiring in our overhead spaces for a new telephone and internet system. Despite having to work and step around the workers, everything went pretty well until Wednesday evening when we had to shut our computers completely down. Early Thursday morning the IT people were in to hook everything up, but all did not go as planned and we were pretty much off the grid until Friday morning while they worked out the bugs in the system. The biggest problem proved to be connecting to the printers. They would successfully get one computer to be able to print, only to mess up connectivity to another computer. And so it went through much of Friday morning until finally all the pieces fell into place and everything began working.

So much of what I do with the cars and car files requires being online, but not being able to work online provided me with time to sort through a bunch of stuff left over from former fleet managers and get rid of outdated and duplicated stuff. I truly feel nearly caught up now; I say nearly because there is still considerable stuff in the computer files that needs to be cleared out also. Hopefully I can work more efficiently so that I can have time to make this happen. 

We purchased a single cherry tomato plant a few weeks ago and have it setting on our patio where it gets plenty of sun. It seemed to struggle for a time but now is blossoming and doing well so we may actually get some cherry tomatoes before the summer is out. The weather this past week has been delightfully cool so some hotter weather to come should stimulate more growth.

Kathy began coming down with some head cold symptoms on Friday and didn’t feel much like going out yesterday on our P-day; I took advantage of this to do something I have been wanting to do that I knew would likely be boring for her. Our travels frequently take us past the military museum here in Calgary. Except for seeing the seemingly airborne F-5 jet on display there, which is right off Crowchild Trail, much of the outside displays are pretty much hidden by an earthen berm. The F-5 jet shown below was once in the Canadian Air Force fleet. It is the same jet flown in U. S. Air Force pilot training, the T-35, and by the Air Force Astronauts. When I was in pilot training, it was affectionately known as "the white rocket" as it is capable of supersonic speeds and the pilot training versions are white in color.

Anyway, as I was saying, I knew I would probably want to spend more time going through the museum than Kathy would like to spend so off I went. The museum is wonderful and so huge that, after 4 hours of touring and reading, I decided to save the rest for another day so I went outside where I took additional pictures of the F-5. I will include another of it and some pictures of some of the displays inside.

Since I am retired military I was admitted for free. The security guy at the front desk turned out to be a Canadian military retiree and so we had a nice discussion of our various jobs while on active duty. He took a special interest in me and periodically sought me out in order to call my attention to some of the more obscure things he thought perhaps I had missed (and most of them I had missed). One of them was a picture and medal of a WWI Canadian POW who had been awarded the Bavarian Cross of Military Merit while a prisoner. As you will see in the following picture, it was for saving the life of a young German girl from drowning. 

One thing was apparent through much of the museum, - so much of what the Canadian Armed Forces have been involved with has been in support of U.S. and British (naturally) war efforts. We are truly joined at the hip, so to say, with Canada, and their support and contributions have provided much to our military efforts. One surprise was a room devoted wholly to Canada’s support of United Nations projects. The picture below is part of the Canadian Navy display.

As mentioned, I will look forward to returning again to the museum. I still have the Canadian Air Force and the Army areas to tour as well as the other parts of the museum that are in separate buildings or on open display outside in the weather.

Today, Sunday, was our Stake Conference where we heard from a multitude of speakers including Elders Nash and Priday of the Seventy. All of the talks were outstanding. Kathy and I sang with the Stake Choir so we had a seat right up front. We came home and Kathy (who is doing quite well with her cold symptoms, BTW) prepared a wonderful dinner of BBQ spare ribs, baked potatoes, green salad, fresh pineapple, etc. Yum!

I hope all you father’s out there who may be reading this blog entry had a wonderful Father’s Day. And may we be eternally grateful for the Father of us all who loves us, who cares for us, and who has provided the way to return to Him according to His Plan of Happiness for us. (If any of you who may be reading this don't know what is meant by the Plan of Happiness, I would be happy to tell you of it.)

Have a great week!

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Sunday - truly a day of rest. We needed it!

June 5-12, 2016

First I have to share a beautiful picture we took during the week on a walk along the Glenmore Reservoir. It was nearly 10:00 p.m. at the time, which will give you an idea of how late the sun goes down at this time of year. Also I will include a picture of one of the balloons that we see regularly in the early morning light as we get ready to go to the office.

This has been a rather demanding week. It was transfer week, - again. I have spoken of what this is like before. For the mission staff, Monday is a day to finalize, in so far as possible, the plan for the week. We do this in a meeting with President and Sister Miles and with the Assistants to the President. Tuesday is new missionary arrival day and training sessions for them. Wednesday is the day the new missionaries head out to their assigned areas with their new companions called “trainers”. Thursday is the day for transporting some missionaries who need to go to the south mission from Calgary to Lethbridge, and for bringing back missionaries being transferred to the north mission and points in between. Thursday is also the evening for the missionaries who are about to return home to go to the Calgary Temple. Friday is the day for transporting the outgoing missionaries to the airport, wishing them well, and seeing them off as they return to their homes. This transfer process occurs every six weeks on average.

For the missionaries from the MTC the day begins around 2:30 a.m.; they get up, pack, have a quick breakfast, and catch their transportation to the Salt Lake airport. Their trip from Salt Lake to Calgary may take them via San Francisco, Portland, or Denver, or as was the case this week, Minneapolis, before they arrive in Calgary. As Kathy and I learned last week, there are a couple of daily but very expensive, non-stop flights from SLC to Calgary, but the trip is in a small jet aircraft and the times not always convenient. Since there are much less expensive connections to be made that involve interim stops, these save the Church thousands of dollars. Our trip last weekend was direct as this was thought to be in the best interest of the sick missionary with whom we flew.

Anyway, back to transfer week. Assignments of the new missionaries to areas and companions does not happen until President Miles has a chance to interview each later in the day on Tuesday. This gives him a chance to get to know them and it is during this interview he is able to get a sense, as guided by the Spirit, where they should be assigned and with whom they should serve. This occurs one by one while we are conducting training session with the entire group where we discuss housing, cars, hygiene, finances, etc. Later that same evening the final decisions regarding assignments are made and word goes out by text and email who is going where.

Prior to the arrival of the new missionaries the President has determined who will serve as trainers for these “newbies”, and it is the role of the trainer to help orient, train, and otherwise get the new missionary off on the right foot for the demanding work ahead.  On Wednesday the trainers come to Calgary to meet the newbies and off they go to their assigned areas.

For the mission office staff, transfer week actually begins on Monday and, to some degree even before Monday, as much needs to be considered and planned. When we meet on Monday we have no idea of what the specific changes of assignments will be among the 207 missionaries currently serving. In my role as the fleet manager, I have to consider what cars will be needed and where, where there will be new areas opened up and which will be closed, which cars need to come north to Calgary and be readied for sale, and, if we have any new cars, where to place them. Each car change requires paperwork to track the vehicle, assign a gas card and log book, determine who will be driving them as we move them around, what service is required prior to the trip, etc.

Then there is the trip itself to plan. 15-20 missionaries may change locations going in each direction. This necessitates creating a list of who is to travel in the 12-passenger van with me, who will be traveling in the mission truck (this is a crew cab truck), and whether some missionaries need to ride with President and Sister Miles. Then there are those who need a replacement cell phone, some items of bedding or other furnishings that we may have at the mission office to be taken with us. Mail and packages received during the previous week is separated and placed in large bags to be loaded up and taken to each of the Zone Leaders to distribute to the missionaries in their zone. The whole process is a bit of a logistical challenge to say the least.

All in all the week went very well. On Thursday after returning to Calgary, Kathy and I were able to go with the outgoing missionaries and President and Sister Miles to attend the temple with them. This is a special treat for us and especially for the missionaries just before they return home. Following is the picture of the group on the steps of the temple.

After taking the outgoing missionaries to the airport on Friday, it was time to take a bit of a breather, sort of back to business as usual, but the week was not yet over……On Friday evening we traveled back to Lethbridge and stayed overnight to be there for a special event on Saturday morning. This was a mission-wide gathering to sit at the feet of President Nelson, the President of the Quorum of the Twelve. What a treat! President Nelson was accompanied by Elder Suarez of the President of the Seventies Quorum and other general authorities involved with overseeing the missionary work; they were also accompanied by their wives.

Meeting with Elder Nelson was a once in a lifetime treat. He is truly a legend; from his career as a famous heart surgeon and pioneer in artificial heart research to the leadership of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles. I mention this for the readers of this blog who may not be familiar with Russell M. Nelson. For a man of his age (91) his energy and vitality is remarkable. His talk was filled with humor and his knowledge of the scriptures is amazing. He asked for missionaries to stand who were from the various continents. As he listed them and the missionaries stood, he greeted them in their native tongue. He asked for the Elders and Sisters to share things they had learned by the Spirit while on their mission and for each contribution he quoted scriptures that shed additional light to clarify and add to the points made. Each of the visiting General Authorities and their wives spoke as well as did President and Sister Miles. Sister Nelson, who is from nearby Raymond, Alberta, also gave a wonderful talk. She was a professor at the University of Calgary for over 20 years. She and Elder Nelson met while sharing a speaking assignment several years ago. Elder Nelson’s wife, of course, had passed away some years before and it was on this shared assignment that Elder and Sister Nelson first met. The rest is history!

So now we are home and taking a breather before we start another week. As busy as we are, the work is wonderful and the time is passing all too quickly.

We love you all. You are in our thoughts and prayers constantly.  

Sunday, June 5, 2016

June 5th, 2016. On Thursday as I thought about what I might share in this week’s blog from our past week of service, I realized there was nothing much new to report. Our week was pretty routine although our work was occasionally interrupted somewhat by the people who are running cables in the overhead spaces of the entire building we are in as they prepare to install new telephone and internet server lines. On Thursday and Friday we received the gas card expenditures for the month from each of the pairs of missionaries who have cars. These are reconciled against a Bank of America statement we receive each month. Kathy does this. And at the end of each month I also get a report of the number of kilometers each car has been driven. Each area with a car is allocated a given number of kilometers as a portion of the total allocation for the total mission. This report is compiled into a spreadsheet for the mission president.

On Friday things got a bit more complicated. We have had a missionary with a worsening health problem and, in consultation with Church health authorities and the missionary’s family, it was determined that it was time for an early release for this missionary; so on Friday afternoon Kathy and I were asked to arrange things so we could accompany this missionary home to Utah. We were able to visit with her on Friday evening and become better acquainted and make plans for how things would go on Saturday. We had to get up on Saturday morning early and meet her and then make our way to the airport for an 8:00 a.m. flight. There is a direct flight that takes about two hours and ten minutes so we were in Salt Lake City by a little after 10:00 a.m. We were able to connect readily with her family and so our escort duties were done until our 8:20 p.m. return flight (see picture). 

At the airport we rented a car and drove toward home but stopped at Cracker Barrel on our way and had some pecan pancakes (our favorite thing there).

There is nothing like a missionary badge to have people smile and say hello and share something with you. Several shared their stories with us, both on each leg of our flight and in the restaurant. We flew to SLC with a couple who are from Winnipeg and were headed to the Missionary Training Center in Provo and then will return to Winnipeg to work in the mission office. The wife who suffers from MS looked just like Ann Romney who, of course, suffers from the same MS disorder.

While in Cracker Barrel one young man stopped us and asked where we were from, assuming that we were from somewhere outside of Utah and serving in Utah. I replied that we were from Sandy so he then assumed we were serving locally but I told him that we were actually serving in Calgary, Canada. He looked perplexed for a moment until I told him we had had to make a quick trip to Salt Lake but would be returning that evening. Then he brightened and told us that his best friend is serving in our mission and I immediately recognized the name of the missionary as his area is fairly close to the mission office. We see him quite often. I took a picture to show our Elder who we had run into and will look forward to calling him over to my desk to show him the picture.  Of course, he will have no idea of how we got the picture without some sort of explanation. I am trying to think of a far out story to tell him to see if he will fall for it before I explain how we really got it. 

Also in Cracker Barrel, our waitress was a beautiful African young lady. After Kathy complimented her on her hair, she visited with us for a few minutes. We asked here where she was from originally and she told us that she was from an island off the African coast and had been in the U.S. for only a few years. We complimented her on her excellent English as she had hardly any accent. She told us that French is spoken on her island but she spoke no English when they arrived in the U.S. She then told us of her family’s conversion to the Church after coming to the U.S. and this lead to their move to Utah. She told us her brother has recently served a mission for the Church. 

Arriving at home we found everything looking pretty good. The lawn had just been mowed and the flowerbeds are in full bloom. I changed into some work clothes and checked out the sprinkling system which reveled a couple of problems, but the problems were not difficult to repair so it didn’t take much time. Our poor little peach tree appears to have a disease so I will need to call a tree guy we know of and arrange to have it sprayed. I also made a trip to Home Depot and bought a big bag of fertilizer and applied about half of it leaving the other half to be used later in the summer. While on our way we had called Kristi and Mike and informed them we were coming to SLC so around 3:00 p.m. they each arrived with their families and we had an enjoyable visit (see the attached picture). Little Susan is now 2 ½ months and has grown so much. She was full of smiles for us.  

All too soon it was time to return to the airport and return to Calgary. We got to bed about 11:30 p.m. and slept in this morning until almost time for church. We were able to nap this afternoon so we are rested up and ready for another week.

May your week be a good one. Ours will be a busy one as this is transfer week and moving some of the cars will also happen.