And Suddenly, I’m a Great-Grandfather!

Welcome to the world, Crew Strader! Somewhere about 5:30pm MST on February 19th Crew made his entrance. Details are sketchy, however the most important detail is that he is well, healthy, and strong.

We’re now a five-generation family! We’ll soon have to make a family trip to Soda Springs to get this relatively rare event recorded as a picture for the future. I started to write “… event recorded on film …” but we don’t do that anymore. We need a new cliché.

Many, many years ago we were living in an off-base housing complex near what was then called Johnson AFB, Japan and gathered with a few other couples playing pinochle. One of the fellows was a doctor on call at the small medical center on base. The hospital itself was then at Tachikawa AFB (also now non-existant), about 45 minutes away. He was called into the clinic for an imminent delivery of a baby without time to transport to the hospital (side note: our two oldest daughters were born at that hospital). About an hour later he came back. One of the ladies asked, “What was it? A boy or a girl?” He thought for a minute and replied, “I don’t remember. I just know it was a keeper!”

Crew Strader is a definitely a keeper. Congratulations Stephanie and Randy!

Please Stop Trying to Sell Me What I Just Bought!

Vegetable Steamer from Amazon
Nina has been looking for a few days for a particular vegetable steamer. We didn’t find it anywhere. We were at one of the Walmart Super Centers I called up the image on Amazon.com and asked some Walmart employees if they had it in the store. They didn’t, so I placed the Amazon One-Click order.

By the time We got home, the same thing showed up in my Facebook feed. It’s on my Instagram feed as well. Why do they do that? I’ve already purchased the item. I don’t need another one, but Nina might be interested in similar cooking stuff. I just put the image from the item on the left … I didn’t include the link because you probably don’t want to click on it and suddenly have your Facebook feed filled with advertisements for it!

Amazon isn’t the only one who does that! In fact, they’re not even the worst offenders. Banggood, the purveyor of everything Chinese, fills my computer with advertisements for everything I looked at with preference for the couple of items I actually purchased. Over and over again. I like Banggood, I just wish they weren’t so aggressive about trying to sell me what I’ve already purchased.

North Salt Lake … Temporary Home!

The View From the Bedroom Window
The View From the Bedroom Window

We arrived at the Salt Lake Airport on January 28th which seems like just yesterday. Time to get back into posting a bit more often! Much has happened and it’s easy to forget. We’re staying at our daughter’s home in North Salt Lake, Utah, which is high up on the hillside overlooking Bountiful and the Great Salt Lake. It’s a beautiful home with breath-taking views. It is delightful being here with out daughter’s family … one of whom will be delivering our first great-grandchild any day now (the due date is February 17th).

So, what have we been up to? As little as possible in some ways. It’s been good not to have a heavy, tight schedule. So, here’s a brief recap:

Final Mission Activities

Our daughter Heather drove us up to Pocatello on January 31st to retrieve our cars and so we could meet with President Kim Smith, the Pocatello Stake President, to be released. The release process takes about twenty seconds … “You’re released!” he says, we take off our badges, and we’re officially no longer missionaries. We visited with him for more than an hour and had a very nice conversation about the mission.

On Sunday, February 12th, Nina and I reported on our mission to the Pocatello Stake High Council at 7:50am and then spoke in the Juniper Hills sacrament meeting, our old home ward. With that, all of our mission obligations were completed. We’ll have our membership records moved to Heather’s ward for the time being.

Rescuing Our Cars

When we left on the mission, we put both of our cars (a 2006 Toyota Avalon and a 2013 Toyota Rav4) in storage in the old navy gun plant in Pocatello along with our 2003 twenty-four foot motor home. On the 31st we got both cars running, drove them over to a nearby Walmart, and had the batteries replaced and the tires filled up with air. Amazingly, both cars started right up with a battery booster and ran just fine. The tires weren’t flat, either, as I had expected them to be … they were down to around 15 pounds of pressure, enough to drive them over to Walmart.

The Avalon, however, wasn’t driving very well. Nina took it into the shop where we found that the CV joints needed replacing along with the rack and pinion steering. The Rav4 seems to have survived with no other issues.

The motorhome is still in storage, but I’ll need to retrieve it before the end of February (or else pay another month’s storage fees). I’m thinking that I’ll locate a place here in North Salt Lake and move it down here so I can get it ready for a trip out east later this spring.

RootsTech 2017

I’ve wanted to go to this genealogy conference for several years. It has grown to be quite massive; more than 30,000 registered attendees this year. Many were there for only the Saturday sessions, but every day was crowded at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City. Both Nina and I registered and attended sessions all four days. I learned a lot and had a great time. My cousin Ted Larsen (I knew him as Barry growing up) from New Mexico came up for the conference and we were able to spend some time together.

Genealogical DNA was the BIG TOPIC for the conference. We both picked up testing kits from Ancestry and are looking forward to seeing what comes back from the test. We also picked up a gravestone marker kit from a new startup Living Tags. This is a aluminum marker to put on a gravestone (I think it could be used to mark just about anything, not just gravestones). The marker has a QR code which goes to a website which can be custom built for the dead person. Sometime later this week we’ll start building up the information so we can put the marker on Trevor’s gravestone. If it works out and looks OK, I think I’ll order one to put on mother and dad’s grave.

Salt Lake Veterans Medical Center

Now that I’m no longer in Hawaii, I needed to transfer my medical care from the Honolulu VA Center to Salt Lake. I was able to quickly get an appointment to do the intake processing. I now have several upcoming appointments to continue the care I was getting in Hawaii. I had an excellent primary care physician at the VAMC in Honolulu and felt like I ended my mission in better physical condition than when I started. I’m hopeful we can continue that here in Salt Lake City.

So, that’s what I’ve been up to the past two weeks. It’s nice to be back on the mainland and in North Salt Lake. We’re acclimating to the altitude and the cold weather. Fortunately, spring isn’t very far away!

‘Til next time … ta ta for now!

Mission Coming To An End

Saying Goodbye to the Laie Tram Tour at the Polynesian Cultural Center
Saying Goodbye to the Laie Tram Tour at the Polynesian Cultural Center
I’m writing this after having slept twelve and a half hours! After a very hectic three weeks, we got on an Alaskan Airlines flight that left Honolulu at 9am on January 28th. Five and a half hours later we were in Seattle where we found a food court and a much needed Wendy’s sandwich. We arrived at the Salt Lake Airport at 8:45pm Salt Lake time. As we got off the airplane it was immediately clear that we were no longer in Hawaii! It was cold, very cold. Fortunately not a lot of wind. But it did just suck my breath away! We got inside the terminal to a very warm welcome from our daughter Heather and her family.

We’ll be staying with our daughter Heather and her husband Ty for the next while to give us some time to unwind from the missionary life and decide what to do next. We sold our house in Pocatello. Do we buy another house? If so, where? We want to serve another mission. When should that be? Should we rent something and then put everything back in storage again? And those are just the major questions we’ll be considering and discussing.

I picked up a heavy chest cold last Tuesday. I was able to get in to see my doctor in Honolulu on Wednesday morning who prescribed the necessary medications to control the cough. I was pretty much in a daze the last few days we were there.

Our replacements arrived, fresh and naive, Wednesday evening. They spent some time with us on shift on Thursday morning, worked the tram tour buses in the afternoon, spent Friday afternoon with us on shift, and that was it. They got a much more thorough turnover than we did! We arrived on a Wednesday afternoon and twenty minutes later, Elder and Sister Rose drove away to the airport.

We got up at 3am Honolulu time on Saturday morning and finished packing. We drove away from our apartment at 4:45am. Stopped at McDonalds for breakfast on the way, turned in the car, and then waited a half-hour for the agricultural inspection station to open. All checked bags have to go through this inspection machine (hint: if you’re taking something illegal, put it in your carryon. That isn’t checked). By 7am we were through security and waiting at the gate. That was about the time it started feeling real for me. Our missionary service was ending.

On Tuesday we’ll go to Pocatello and hopefully resurrect two automobiles that have been in covered storage for the past 23 months. I’m really hoping that jumper cables and a good air pump to inflate the tires is all that we’ll need to get them running again. At 7pm we’ll meet with our Stake President Kim Smith and be released. That’ll be the formal completion date. Wonder if I can sleep another twelve hours tonight??

Celebrating the New Year in Hawaii

Star Advertiser Lead Jan 2, 2017
Star Advertiser Lead Jan 2, 2017
The new year arrived here in Hawaii with a bang. Many bangs. Big bangs. Bangs everywhere. The locals take this fireworks thing very seriously! The cacophony began in the late afternoon and reached the crescendo around midnight finally tapering off about 2:30am. Amidst all the noise was a pretty constant stream of ambulance sirens. I’m pretty sure the local emergency room saw more action on New Years Eve than the previous couple of weeks combined. One hospital in Honolulu logged 28 emergency room visits related to fireworks in the first hour after midnight.

Nina, however, slept soundly through the entire thing. Once she goes to sleep, not much will wake her up. I, on the other hand, hear everything and wake up to even the slightest of noises. A bit before midnight I got up and watched the various (illegal) firework displays going off around the neighborhood. I stayed up for about a half hour and then decided to try once again to get some sleep.

So, 2017 has arrived (with a bang bang … bang). This’ll be another year of significant change. Our mission ends in a couple of weeks. We’ll spend some time at our daughter’s home in North Salt Lake, figure out how to get our vehicles out of storage and running again, decide what to do with all the Very Important Stuff in the two storage units, visit the family, and figure out what’s next. It should all be great!

For the Last Time…!

Getting Ready to Take TIckets at the Hale Ohana Luau at the Polynesian Cultural Center
Getting Ready to Take TIckets at the Hale Ohana Luau at the Polynesian Cultural Center
Now that there’s less than a month left before we return to the mainland and close out our missionary assignment we’re starting down the “last time we’re doing that…” pathway. For instance, we were at Costco in Honolulu last Wednesday and Nina remarked that she thought this would be the last time we’d be at a Costco in Hawaii. I’m not sure about that. I suspect we may have one more visit for shopping. It may, though, end up being our last time!

Nina has a few things planned to do before we fly away. Since there are only a few days left, that list is pretty short. We have three more assignments at the Polynesian Cultural Center. I have two more doctor appointments. We’ve started mailing boxes back to the mainland. It’s feeling very short….

Forty Days….

Christmas at the Laie Hawaii Temple Visitors' Center
Christmas at the Laie Hawaii Temple Visitors’ Center
There are not forty days left before we depart Hawaii for the mainland, but there were when I first tried to write this post. For some reason, the Google Analytics plugin for WordPress failed and locked up my website for a couple of days until I figured out what was the matter and deactivated the plugin. All is now working….

In Biblical times, the Hebrew / Aramaic phrase “forty days and forty nights” could be the actual time measurement or it could be their idiom meaning “a really long time”. And, it isn’t always clear from the text whether the actual time period is meant or the idiom is meant. Most scholars believe, for instance, that Jesus’ sojourn in the desert following his baptism was not specifically “forty days and forty nights” but instead, a really long time which could mean anything from a week or so to a month or so.

So what does that have to do with us? Well, we now have less than forty days and forty nights on our mission assignment in Hawaii. We literally have fewer than forty days, and we figuratively have less than a “really long time”. In fact, if I’ve counted correctly, we’re down to 36 days remaining. And that doesn’t seem like very much time at all. You see, it feels like we just got here!

Today was our Preparation Day. We finally got most of the Christmas cards mailed. We did some Christmas shopping in Kaneohe at the Windward Mall and a couple of stores across the street. Then this evening we gathered with all of the Visitors’ Center missionaries, both sister missionaries and senior couples, to take the Polynesian Cultural Center Christmas Canoe Tour.

The normal ticket price for the canoe tour is $5.00 or an empty Pepsi product (such as a can of Mountain Dew or such). Pepsi is underwriting the event which is a nighttime canoe ride along the canal through the PCC with beautiful Christmas lighting, live scenes, and live music. Progressive scenes open as the canoe makes it way up the canal and comes back to the starting point. Phone cameras cannot do any kind of justice to the beautiful lights and the dimly lit scenes with shepherds, sheep, goats, wise men, and the live Nativity. The music was inspiring and the entire canoe (we had 35 people on our canoe) was reverently quiet as the story of that first Christmas unfolded during the ride.

This has been a Christmas tradition at the PCC for many years and thousands of people from all over Hawaii make time to come to the PCC to take the tour. The guests from the rest of the world probably didn’t know about this capability before they arrived, but definitely took advantage while they were at the PCC. The long lines kept the tour going boat after boat until well after nine pm each evening. Tonight wrapped up the event for this year. We were so very blessed to be able to take the tour as a group.

The Visitors’ Center is closed on Christmas each year. All of the sister missionaries have the opportunity during Christmas Eve or Christmas Day to make a Skype call to their family and spend about 45 minutes online with them. Nina and I will spend the day after Church on Christmas at the Center providing technical support (and emotional support) to the sisters as they have that opportunity to interact with their families. It’s a lot of fun for us and a very good thing for the sister missionaries and, in particular, for their mothers!

Safely Home … and Back to Work Tomorrow!

Flight from Greenville to Atlanta
Flight from Greenville to Atlanta
The airplanes were quite full, only a few open middle seats from Atlanta to Honolulu. They operated on time … in fact both of them arrived a bit early. We found our car, the parking lot ticket to get out of the lot, and made it home without incident.

The only real issue, and I think it was a pretty big issue, was the airplane from Atlanta to Honolulu was freezing cold. Everyone was wrapped up in blankets and, if they had them, were wearing winter coats. The flight from Honolulu going to Atlanta last week was freezing cold as well. This was the same airplane, so it obviously has a problem. I will definitely be registering a formal complaint with Delta. If I hear anything back, I’ll be sure to post it.

The trip met all our objectives and fulfilled a couple of other wishes. We got to Nina’s sister Marsha’s house before she passed away and Nina was able to spend a nice afternoon visiting with her sister before she took a major turn for the worse Thursday evening. Her health went steadily downhill on Friday, so Nina and her sister Pamela spent Friday night with Marsha helping to take care of her during the night so Marsha’s daughter Robin could get a few hours of sleep. Marsha was generally unresponsive during the day on Saturday and passed away early Saturday evening.

We were also able to do a bit of shopping for some things that are difficult if not impossible to find in Hawaii. I got some electronic parts at Radio Shack for a small ham radio project I have in mind. I did some browsing at Harbor Freight and spent six dollars on some little tools. Nina found several very nice looking tops to bring back with her. I was able to order a new pair of SAS shoes (I’ve worn the current pair literally to the ground). The few extras were very nice.

We’re now home and I’ll crash in another ten minutes or so for the night. We’re both very tired. Based on the amount of water I’ve guzzled since getting home, I was also a bit dehydrated (it was too cold to be drinking much on the airplane!). I’m sure I’ll be revisiting all of that water during the night….

We’re on shift at the Visitors’ Center at 2:30pm tomorrow afternoon. It’s nice to be back home and back to work.

Ta ta for now!