Sunday, September 25, 2016

What, - you couldn't find our blog last week? ........

Blog for September 26, 2016

New snow on the western mountains 9/23/16

If you looked for last week’s blog and didn’t see it, it was for a good reason, - it wasn’t there. This blog will cover the past two weeks.

Last weekend we were in Montana for a great family occasion. Prior to that was a busy week of zone conferences and car inspections and the arrival of nine new Nissan Rogues to be placed in our mission fleet.

Nine new Rogues added to the mission fleet

The arrival of these new Rogues will complete the current round of expected new vehicles. These cars are gradually replacing vehicles that are due to come out of the fleet and be sold. Determining which cars need to come out of the fleet is the easy part; how and where to make the swap, getting all the paperwork ready for the swap, and shuttling the cars to the exchange location and getting the older cars back to the office is the more challenging part of the process. Then there is the problem of having the new vehicles show up in the fleet inventory so that they can be assigned to specific areas. Until the cars are available in the inventory electronically and are “clickable” by mouse, they can’t be assigned to an area and a driver. This complicates things greatly. Weeks pass before the specific vehicle shows up on the list of mission cars, so, until then they exist physically but not electronically.

One of the most enjoyable aspects of my job as Fleet Coordinator is to call the missionary pair who will be getting one of the new vehicles and inform them. This is usually met with a very brief moment of silence followed by exclamations of, “Oh, Wow!” “No way!” “Are you kidding?” “When do we get it?” It is also a moment of leverage; I tell them. “It won’t happen unless the car you have to exchange is absolutely clean.” So far, so good; no one’s new car has been withheld because of the old one not being clean. It works so well in fact, maybe I should assign new cars as determined by who keeps the cleanest cars. :^)

The challenge I have now we are back from our short trip to Montana is to get them prepped and ready for sale. Some are hail-damaged cars and whether the hail damaged vehicle gets repaired and sold or the car is “totaled” is a decision made by the Church fleet managers in Salt Lake City. For my part I have to get a cost of repairs estimate on each hail damaged car; then this cost estimate is factored into the value of the vehicle after local repairs verses what the insurance return is for the car if determined to be a “total loss”. Fortunately I don’t have to make this decision, but waiting for the Church fleet people to make this decision does slow up the selling process. Selling the car “as is” at a discounted price is also factored in but usually doesn’t happen. Again, for my part, there is no point in repairing dings, dents, and scratches and having the cars detailed and readied for sale if the car is also hail-damaged and will be totaled.

Last weekend was spent in eastern Montana, primarily Miles City. 

We filled the entire table at Mexico Lindos and a side table

The principal purpose of the trip was to be with family for a special occasion. All four daughters and their families were gathering along with us to see my twin grandsons, Ethan and Jonah, off for their own LDS missions. They will both be trained in American Sign Language. One will be serving in the Los Angeles area and the other in the Rochester, New York area. They will enter the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah on October 5th. Both have some experience in ASL as they have a deaf sibling. Kathy and I drove to Billings and met their parents and them at the Billings Temple, then later in the day we drove to Miles City where they live. Some of you will recall that, following retirement, my first wife and I lived in Miles City for a time until she passed away in January of 2013. It was after that when I met my present wife and moved away from Miles City.

Ethan and Jonah and their parents all spoke in the Miles City Ward Sacrament Meeting and did such a good job. It seems so strange that Ethan and Jonah, who were just infants when their family moved to Miles City some 16 years ago, are now approaching adulthood and leaving for missions. The whole family is shown in the picture that follows.

Proud parents, one pregnant mama, and two missionary sons

After four biological children, my oldest daughter and her husband have adopted several children, - from China, Haiti, and Ethiopia. And now, wait for this……….my daughter is pregnant and expecting another son. The last time she was pregnant was 17 years ago when the twins were born. Their older brother, Joshua, also served a mission and has been home for two years now. He is now a Junior at BYU and has a wonderful wife, Natalie. Joshua left for his mission in 2012, just prior to my first wife’s death. So much history is such a short time!

Goofy Whicker family

On Kathy’s and my return to Canada from Montana, we stopped to visit some dear friends, the Huffs, whom I haven’t seen since 1980. They live in Havre, Montana. We had a wonderful reunion and had much to talk about as 36 years have passed since we were last together. Huffs, too, have served a mission and did so in Ithica, New York. They returned from their mission a couple of years ago.

On the way from Havre, we passed through an area in Alberta called Cyprus Hills, a beautiful mountain area that exists out in what is otherwise some pretty boring and flat prairie land. 

Cyprus Hills, Alberta

Afterwards we stopped in Medicine Hat, Alberta, and caught the last part of the missionaries’ district conference. Following their meeting, we treated them all to lunch. We enjoy seeing each of the areas where our missionaries serve. I was impressed that Medicine Hat is a thriving, beautiful city; not at all what I expected. We were told by the missionaries that we needed to see the world’s largest teepee and so we did. See below. We weren’t very impressed as it is more of a teepee frame than a true teepee. Oh well, it is a tourist stop and now we can say we saw it as well. 

World's Largest Teepee, Medicine Hat, Alberta

This week back in Calgary it was time to play catch up which required putting in some extra hours after the office had closed. Particularly this involves putting all the recent car inspections into the computer, and it requires contacting the missionaries regarding some of the issues that were made apparent in our car inspections such as the need for oil changes, some needing tires and windshield replacements.

The weather has been beautiful, and although a bit past its prime, Autumn is in full display here in Alberta. Yesterday we took a number of pictures to try to capture the beauty here this time of year. 

Calgary street, Autumn September 2016

Autumn at the Glenmore Reservoir

Add caption

Weaselhead in Autumn

The air is getting crisp and cool and nighttime temperatures have been hovering around the freezing mark. We just harvested what will probably be the last of the cherry tomatoes from our plant out on the balcony of our apartment.

We wish you a wonderful Fall season. We love and miss each of you, especially our families. It was wonderful to see my daughters and each of my grandchildren last weekend. Our prayers go with Jonah and Ethan as they leave for their own missionary service.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Zone Conferences, car inspections, a birthday, and a whole lot more……..

Blog of September 10, 2016


Usually we don’t have zone conferences immediately following transfer week but such was the case this past week with hardly time to catch our collective breath before we were on the road again. Monday morning involved a concerted effort to get a bit caught up before loading up what would be needed for the car inspections and for missionary instruction. Preparing for the inspections involves printing out a separate sheet by vehicle identification number for each car. The inspection sheets show what failed to pass inspection the previous inspection and a list of repair items for that car previously. These sheets can’t be printed out until all the changes in the missionary assignments had been completed late last week.

We are equipped to do limited repairs on our mission vehicles and we keep a supply of items that are relatively easy to replace such as wiper blades, light bulbs, some filters, floor mats, window scrapers, tire gauges, etc.  We also keep a supply of a few trim type body parts that can be replaced easily and prove to be frequently needed. We keep containers of synthetic oil, antifreeze, brake fluid, and windshield washer solution. All this is kept on a pallet in our storage area and we roll this out and load it all onto the mission truck which we drive to each zone conference location. 2-3 zones meet with the mission president each day in the different locations around the mission. While the missionaries meet with President and Sister Miles, Elder and Sister Sefcik and my wife and I do the car inspections. This includes topping off fluids, checking on engines for smooth starting and running, checking on tire wear and tire pressures, determining if windshields need to be replaced or if dings need to be repaired, checking to see if lights, windshield wipers, horn, seatbelts and other safety features are all operating properly, and then rating the cars as to cleanliness of the interior and exterior and overall good care of the car. At each conference we award the drivers having the best-maintained cars with food gift cards. 

Late Monday afternoon we drove to Lethbridge and stayed overnight in a hotel. Then on Tuesday morning we drove a few blocks to the designated gathering point at one of our Lethbridge churches. We have to arrive before the bulk of the missionaries arrive and direct them to park according to their particular zone. They pull into the assigned area, turn the front wheels all the way to the left, raise the hood, take everything out of the trunk and the back seat, leave their keys and their car log on the car seat, and go into the building for their conference. We had 21 cars to inspect that day. The weather was very nice and the inspections went smoothly. We finished around 12:30 p.m., ate lunch with the missionaries, and then gave a presentation on vehicle safety, gas card receipt handling and log book maintenance, and awarded the gift cards. We two couples then loaded everything up and drove to Cardston where we were to stay for the next two nights.

The next zone conference would not happen until Thursday; however, instead of returning all the way to Calgary on Tuesday, only to turn around and drive all the way south to Cardston, the Sefciks and Kathy and I had decided to stay in Cardston on both Tuesday and Wednesday nights. 

Chief Mountain just southwest of Cardston

On Tuesday night Kathy and I walked around a bit and took some pictures around the Cardston Temple. 

Temple grounds walkway

After it got dark we had a very pleasant visit with the couple who were manning the visitor center, - both long time residents of Cardston and had served a mission earlier in Ireland. They were able to share some very interesting historical information with us including the tremendous difficulties the temple had gone through in the Depression years. Many of the pews and light fixtures were sold to help meet costs for operating the temple and pay for expenses such as light and heat. Later when the temple was renovated (actually restored in this case), which took three years, a call went out to identify where the pews and fixtures had ended up. Many were still in the local area and were either given back to the temple or were purchased. This allowed for the original splendor to be restored. The temple has one of the most beautiful interiors, in my estimation, of any and is truly a work of art. It was originally built in the early 1900s and the woodworking and artwork is spectacular. 

Temple with newer enclosed courtyard - Beautiful inside with running fountain and flowers

Cardston Temple at twilight

Elder Sefcik’s great-grandfather fell from a tall scaffolding during the finish work being done on the inside of the temple and was killed; this was, fortunately, the only death during the construction.  In more recent years the fountain and the courtyard approach to the temple were enclosed and it is magnificent.

On Wednesday morning we met the Sefciks for breakfast and drove south from Cardston across the U.S. – Canadian border, then along the St. Mary’s Lake and up and over into Glacier National Park. 

Northern end of St Mary's Lake

Western end of St Mary's Lake

The higher we went the more cloudy and misty it became, but this only added to the intrigue as we could occasionally glimpse down the steep mountainsides through gaps in the clouds. 

New snow is visible to the eye high up but not to the camera I guess

Breathtaking, especially as you peer over the side of the road!

Some waterfalls are still running this late in the season

Later as we walked through a cedar grove on the west side of the Park, we enjoyed the lush tropical setting including some rain as well. On the return up and over the Logan Pass, we could see a layer of new snow in the mountaintops. Winter is coming to Glacier National Park! 

That same evening, we again joined the Sefciks and went to the Calgary Temple for a session and then to dinner.  

Thursday morning the day started out sunny and a bit windy. We made good time with the car inspections and were finished before it was time to join the missionaries for lunch. We inspected 18 cars that morning and then gave our presentation again to the missionaries gathered there. The Thursday zone conference involved a car swap at the end of the conference so this added a new wrinkle to the day. Because all of our mission cars are licensed in Alberta, the cars serving in the British Columbia part of our mission can only be in B.C. for a maximum of six months, otherwise they have to be registered in B.C. as well. The cost of licensing and registering a car in B.C. is much more expensive than is true in Alberta, hence the reason for only registering them in Alberta. Knowing this, we had to have the six cars from B.C. Zone swap for six of the cars from the Cardston Zone. Adding to the confusion was introducing one new Nissan Rogue (which Kathy and I drove on our trip south) into the mix and bringing back a Chevrolet Equinox, a high mileage car needing to be sold. The Equinox also has some hail damage to the body and on our way back to Calgary, we went through some intense rain with some hail mixed in but I don’t think it added to the hail damage.

Friday was a very busy day getting caught up on work that had piled up and with arranging for repairs and service items for the cars identified in the inspections.

Yesterday, Saturday, we mostly rested up and cleaned the apartment, then joined the Sefciks and the Peppingers for some pizza and to watch the BYU-Utah football game. Fortunately the game was carried on Fox, which we get here in Calgary.

This week was Kathy’s birthday. We celebrated it by inspecting cars! - not the way she would have preferred it, I’m sure, but she has had birthday all week long including being sung to by the missionaries, flowers, cards, and calls. I just asked, and she said, “It was a poopy birthday!” Next year we’ll do better.

We love you all and hope your week goes well.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

24 new missionaries and 2 new cars!

Blog for September 4, 2016

Arriving missionaries on 8/30/16 at Calgary International
This past week was transfer week. On Tuesday we picked up 22 new missionaries at the airport. One additional Mandarin speaking missionary had arrived earlier and another English speaking missionary came the day after, but 24 in all. On the other hand, only 11 went home, so again we had more missionaries come to our mission than went home. This always presents a challenge; new areas have to be opened, apartments have to be found and furnished, some 3-leg companionships have to be set up, and where cars are needed and none are available, areas have to be determined who can share a car or walk. This is a planning challenge starting with the mission president and working down through the rest of us in housing and car assignments. In the case of cars, we did have one additional Nissan Rogue arrive last week and another came at the end of this week - too late to help the immediate situation since we weren’t sure when it would arrive. We have nine more which will arrive over the next week or so.

The new group of missionaries is wonderful. Our training sessions with them went well, although it had to be done at one of the nearby chapels instead of the mission home as the entire basement area of the mission home is being renovated. Water got into the basement on a couple of occasions last summer with all the rain we had, so it is necessary to replace the carpet and some of the lower portion of the walls due to the danger of mold and mildew. We will all look forward to being able to meet in the mission home again when the work is done. It is certainly much more cozy and family-like there.

On Thursday we caravanned to Lethbridge taking 15 missionaries south to their new assignments and returning with 11 others being transferred here to the Calgary area. In addition, there are still others who are being transferred to other assignments and new companions that do not need to move north or south but move east and west in the two primary transfer locations, Calgary and Lethbridge. I wish everyone had an opportunity to see the interactions of the missionaries when so many convene at a given location. Missionaries frequently see those missionaries serving within their districts and zones but may not see missionaries with whom they have served previously for months at a time. It is always a joy filled occasion. Eleven missionaries fit in the mission van, which I typically drive (I also pull the trailer filled with missionary luggage). I get to hear lots of missionary stories, humorous and touching, as they share experiences during the two-hour trip in each direction. This is always a treat. I have commented before about the missionary lingo which one must understand in order to make sense of the conversations: where they were “born” = the first area where they served, where they will “die” which has reference to where they anticipate will be their last service area before they go home, their “sons” = i.e., missionaries they trained, their “fathers” = the trainer in their very first area, a “grandfather” = the missionary who trained their trainer, and so on.

The Calgary Temple is open again after a two-week maintenance closure. Kathy and I were able to go and perform some work for family Kathy has identified in her genealogical research. We usually go with Elder and Sister Peppinger but they have their son visiting and are out in the Banff area with him over the weekend.

Yesterday we cleaned our apartment, after which I got the car washed and vacuumed and the oil changed. Later in the day we went to a Provincial Park wilderness area close to our home for a hike. The area is called Fish Creek Provincial Park. Fish Creek is a lesser river in the area but has unspoiled areas on both sides of the river and it extends all the way across Calgary in a generally west to east direction. The biking and hiking trails there are wonderful. I will include a few pictures we took along the way. As you can see, some of the trees have begun to change and the temperature is definitely getting cooler; Fall is arriving in Alberta.


Old horse barn built by a rancher family along Fish Creek - about 1905. 
Today we stayed home and went to our “home Ward”, the Heritage Ward. Being Fast and Testimony Sunday, we heard some wonderful testimonies including one from our new missionary from Germany who just arrived on Tuesday. His English is excellent and his knowledge and testimony of the Gospel are wonderful. He is impressive, and Kathy and I can practice our German on him!

We hope you and your families are well. We are grateful for our own families and are looking forward to our trip to Miles City, Montana in two weeks for a family gathering and to see my twin grandson’s off for their own missions. As mentioned in a previous blog, both of them will be serving American Sign Language missions, one in the Las Angeles area and the other in Rochester, New York.