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.