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.