Monday, December 26, 2016

Week 42 Report

I was worried about coming back to work on Monday after being away for two days, but it turns out there was no need to worry. There was lots of catch up work, but it went smoothly and I was able to get a lot done. We had another huge influx of packages for the missionaries, but with four of us in the office the task was soon accomplished. President was in the office most of the day doing missionary interviews, so I was able to catch him between interviews and get lots of questions answered. It was a good, but busy Monday.  Devon was gone most of the day moving missionaries from one apartment to another. He is closing one apartment so repairs have to be scheduled. Thankfully we have a wonderful member who is happy to take on all our projects. He is such a sweet man and does a very good job. I think most of Devon’s week will be moving people and things.

It was great meeting our new office couple, Elder and Sister Shurtz from Washington state. They are excited about serving here and ready to get to work. I think they will pick things up quickly and will be a blessing to our office. We will miss the Overduyns – don’t want to talk about them leaving.

Monday evening we had our Senior Missionary FHE at President and Sister Bekker’s house. In December they are in charge of FHE and it was wonderful. We had baked salmon with a yummy pesto sauce, wild rice, rolls, tossed salad, and a great chocolate cake with berry topping. It was delicious! For the activity they invited Sister Swinton to give a talk about the prophet Joseph Smith. She and her husband are the Visitor Center Directors. She is an accomplished writer about church history and has been specifically involved in special projects about Joseph’s life. I wish I had a recording – it was so wonderful. I have a new understanding and appreciation for this amazing prophet of the Lord.

Tuesday was good. Devon was gone most of the day moving more missionaries and helping the Overduyns move things out of their apartment. Tuesday evening I had a wonderful phone conversation with one of my dearest friends. I treasure our phone conversations. We’ve been friends since we were teenagers. We talk about our challenges (there are plenty) and rejoice in our blessings (also many) – including our friendship. She is my hero!

Wednesday was busy moving people and things…again! I was busy in the office: letters, mail, updating rosters, working on senior travel, etc. In the evening Sister Reeder and I went over to the Overduyn’s apartment and helped them do some cleaning. They are scheduled to fly home tomorrow night and they still have so much left to do. I sure don’t envy them.

Thursday was interesting. It started off with a brunch for all the office staff to say farewell to the Overduyns. Elder and Sister Evans joined us. Later that morning I received an email with the travel itinerary for the couple that will be replacing us. What’s interesting is that they weren’t in the computer system, which means they hadn’t accepted their call yet. I wondered if they had even received it yet, so I sent them an email asking if they had heard anything. Sister Williams said, “Not yet, but we are so anxious.” I told her to keep watching – surely it would come soon, being careful not to let on that I knew anything. A couple of hours later I got an email from her saying the call had come and she could hardly contain herself. WooHoo! I shared what I knew about her travel and wished her well with her mission preparations.

Thursday evening Elder and Sister Overduyn came over for a quick dinner of stew, salad, and rolls. Then we hopped in the mission truck and took them to the airport to catch their “red-eye” flight home to Utah. What an experience. Their bags were overweight, so they had to rearrange things to stay under the weight limit. The goal was achieved by giving some items to me to ship home. The important thing is that they made it home safely in time to enjoy Christmas with their family.

Friday was another busy day in the office. The highlight was a FaceTime chat with Marianne and Tony’s family. We watched them open their gifts from us – so much fun. Friday evening we ran errands and arrived home exhausted. We have received so many wonderful Christmas cards. It’s been wonderful to open our mailbox each day and find it holding a treasure. One of those days a package came with all these cards.

Our extended Onstott family had written notes to us at the Onstott Christmas party. What a treat! We divided them up so we could read a few each day and have them all read by Christmas. Each one was a treasure!

Saturday we drove to Laie…again! I had an appointment with Dr. Hughes. He thinks my hip pain is a pinched sciatic nerve and no problem with the joint – good news. He and I both think it’s from sitting at a desk so much. He gave me some good ideas about how to relieve some of the pressure. Sure hope it works.

We also dropped off some things at the Visitor’s Center, and a box springs at a senior apartment. When we arrived at the senior apartment we were surprised to find there had been a bad water leak that caused extensive damage to the bathroom. The apartment was vacant, so no one was there to catch the leak. The owner is going to have it fixed…well, she is going to let Devon arrange for the repair and will pay for it  -  one more thing on his plate.

Saturday evening, Christmas Eve, we had a gathering with our zone and the AP’s at the mission office to watch “It’s a Wonderful Life.” We had popcorn, pile up dip and chips, soda, and movie candy. We all enjoyed it.

Christmas morning we got up early, showered, and waited to FaceTime with our kids. While we were waiting I put a crockpot stew on. We visited with Lori’s and Brad’s families, saw some of the wonderful things Santa had brought them, and watched them open our presents to them. We received Brad and Jenna’s presents early in the month and have been enjoying them. We opened the ones from Emily and Lori while we were on FaceTime.

Devon got a nice BYU tie and I got these adorable “peg dolls” – replicas of us! So cute. I can’t wait to show them to the office staff. The Christmas card is from one of my childhood friends, Ellen. It's a watercolor she painted. I love it!

Church was just an hour long and was very nice – great talks, and nice musical items from the ward choir and the primary. After church Elder Schmidt and Elder Jensen came over for lunch of stew and rolls, and then used our computer and iPad to talk with their families. After they were done we FaceTimed with Stephen’s family and Daryn’s family while we watched them open the gifts from us. Good times! Later we enjoyed FaceTime with David and some of his kids. It was great to have talked with all our kids today!

In the evening we went to Brother and Sister Mataele’s home for an amazing dinner and Christmas celebration.

LOVE the Hawaiian Christmas Tree!

There were probably 35 people there – family, missionaries, and some members
without family near by.

The Mataeles are some of the most generous, loving people I know. What a blessing they have been to us while on our mission.

Sister Mataele had prepared a wonderful program starting with the Hawaiian version of “The 12 Days of Christmas” that Sister Reeder and I accompanied on our ukulele. We played a couple of fun games, and then had a nice program with various people sharing special memories and impressions of Christmas. We sang a couple of carols and Brother and Sister Mataele bore their testimonies. We left with hearts full of gratitude for the opportunity to be in Hawaii on our mission and share in these special moments, and increased gratitude for the greatest of all Christmas gifts – God’s Son and his gift of the Atonement for us. There is no greater love and no greater gift.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Week 41 Report

Monday started off with a bang! You know Christmas is here when 150 packages arrived in our office for the missionaries.

It took us all morning to sort them and make forwarding mailing labels. There will be some happy missionaries! The rest of the week was pretty routine Monday through Wednesday. There are always a few hitches that crop up, but that keeps life interesting.

After office hours on Monday, we went shopping for the missionary we are being “Santa” for this Christmas. It was so much fun. I hope she will like and can use the things we bought. I had fun wrapping every present. Wish I could be a fly on the wall when she gets the package.

We were surprised to learn that a couple has been called to replace the Reeders. We were afraid it would be hard to find a sister to be the mission nurse, but looks like the missionary department is way ahead of us. There is a huge shortage of senior couples – only about half the need is actually filled. I think finding people willing to work in the office is even harder. So, we are grateful for this new couple. Reeders are due to be released in April.

We have 5 of our finest missionaries flying home on Friday. It’s between transfers so they can get home and have a few weeks with family before they start school. We are going to miss them. Friday Elder and Sister Shurtz arrived. They are replacing Elder and Sister Overduyn. They will have about 6 days of overlap. I hope that is enough to learn all there is to learn.

Thursday morning we caught a flight to Maui. Devon needed to find a new apartment for a senior couple coming to Maui, and we were given permission to come for our anniversary weekend. Thursday was spent checking out 4 apartments. Two were obvious “no’s” and two were good. Devon liked one better and I liked the other. It was his choice, so he picked the one he liked. Well, the next day we got a call saying it was taken, so Devon had to “settle” for the one I liked. (It really was the best one!)

We are staying at a nice one bedroom, one bathroom condo we reserved through VBRO. It is located in the town of Kihei, across from the beach, and is very nice. The only down side is the weather. It was sunny all morning Thursday, but then the clouds quickly blew in and we had heavy rain all afternoon and evening. Good thing we brought our umbrellas. During a break in the weather we went to the Whale Museum across the road from our condo.

We saw some big sea turtles resting on the rocks while we were there. Thursday night we went to dinner at a restaurant called CafĂ© ‘O Lei – also very nice, and then enjoyed a quiet evening in the condo.

Friday morning I slept in till almost 9:00. I suppose the fact that I was up three times in the night contributed to that. I’m fighting a cold and having some hip pain – oh the joys of getting old. After breakfast, we headed out to see some of the sights. It was sunny and beautiful. We first went to an old cowboy town called Makawao.

I call it the Haleiwa of Maui. The main part of town was lined with the cutest shops – clothing, crafts, art, cafes, you name it. I loved it – Devon was a trooper and didn’t complain once.

Then we drove to the Lavender Farm. It was quite a way up the mountain and by the time we got there it was pouring rain.

We looked around the gift shop and then left. We tried to find the historic Pulehu LDS Chapel on Lower Kula Road, but no luck. It was raining so hard, and we were running out of time, so we gave up and headed back to the condo. As soon as we were down the mountain, the clouds disappeared and blue skies reappeared. We were very glad to see the sun.

In the evening we boarded the Quicksilver for a sunset dinner cruise. It’s a catamaran moored at Maalaea Harbor.

We enjoyed a lovely dinner along with about 50 other people. The food was amazingly good, the crew was friendly and fun, and they had a great entertainer playing his guitar and singing some of our favorite songs from the 60’s and 70’s.

Judy's prime rib dinner
Devon's fish dinner

The only thing missing were the whales. We weren’t guaranteed to see any, but it is whale season here in Maui and we had our hopes up. The humpbacks migrate from Alaska to spend the winter months in the Maui waters. It would have been so great to see some of these amazing creatures.

Sunset aboard the Quicksilver

Saturday, December 17, 2016 – such a special day for us. Fifty years ago we were married in the Los Angeles Temple for time and all eternity. It really does seem like just a few years ago. I remember saying, “I just want to grow old with you.” Well, I got my wish.

Devon surprised me with this beautiful handmade Hawaiian necklace. It is made of prized pikake and momi shells found on the island of Molokai. Shells are hard to find in Hawaii. You don’t see any on the beaches. Most of the items sold as souviers of Hawaii are actually made in China or the Philippines. I really treasure anything made in Hawaii. This necklace came with a letter of authenticity signed by the artist who made it. 

Saturday we had a quick breakfast and headed out to find the historic LDS chapel. It poured rain for about 30 minutes in the morning and then cleared to beautiful blue skies the rest of the day. We found the chapel and fell in love with it. It reminded us of the historic chapel at Gadfield Elm in England. They were both built about the same time. They are very different buildings, but similar in spirit – both real treasures.

Old bread sacrament tray
Old water sacrament tray

We made another stop in Makawao town to pick up a print from a local artist who has a shop there. Then we drove part way on the Road to Hana. Along the way we took a short hike to this beautiful waterfall.

As we were leaving the area we saw these beautiful wild roosters. They are all over the various islands of Hawaii and come in a variety of colors.

Coming home we stopped at a beach and watched the waves, people, surfers, and wind surfers.

Can you see the sea turtle? There were at least half dozen turtles frolicking in the waves.

Most of our family was together tonight in Saratoga Springs for Christmas dinner and to exchange gifts. It was great to FaceTime with them. It’s not the same as being there, but better than nothing. We hope to FaceTime with each family on Christmas as we watch them open their gifts from us.

Sunday we got up, showered, packed our bags, and checked out of the condo. We attended church at the local Kihei Ward. They were very friendly and we enjoyed great meetings and lessons. They had quite a large group of tourists also attending church. We sat by a couple from Boston. After church we drove to the airport, turned in our car and then waited in the terminal for our flight back to Honolulu. We had clear skies and beautiful views of Maui as we flew away. We arrived home to find all was well. We had many Christmas cards waiting for us and a couple of beautiful anniversary cards from some very special friends.

Sunday evening was the annual Honolulu Stake Christmas Concert. It was amazing! It is the 30 year anniversary for this Christmas Concert - something they are rightfully proud of. It had a full adult choir, orchestra, children's choir, bell choir, dancers, and a couple of soloists. Their choice of music was diverse and wonderful. The Tabernacle was packed to capacity. There was overflow seating in the small chapel where people watched via monitor. Attending this concert really enhanced the Christmas spirit.

Our wonderful week comes to a close. I'm grateful for the memories of our anniversary and will treasure them in my heart. I'm a little worried about all the "catch up" work waiting for us Monday morning, but so grateful we had a few days off. 

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Week 40 Report

Well, it's Sunday evening and I think back about our week and wonder where to start. It has been busy and exhausting...but good! We moved from the 15th floor to the 29th floor, and did so in little spurts here and there. You might wonder why we decided to make the move. In the middle of it I was wondering the same thing! But it's over and I'm glad we did it. The new apartment is totally remodel and has all new appliances including a dishwasher - something we didn't have in the other apartment. It also has an amazing view and screens on all the windows - also something not in the old apartment. We were blessed that a member donated a black leather sectional couch and credenza. We will also inherit some of the furniture from Overduyn's apartment when they leave as we left most of the furniture in the old apartment. The mission had to buy a new bed and some night stands (purchased at a hotel second hand store), but that was all. It's amazing how everything always works out. This move became became necessary because the Overduyns are leaving and the apartment they are in will no longer be available to the mission. So the new one was secured. The couple replacing Overduyns will move into our old apartment. We're so grateful for the missionaries that helped us moved the heavy couch and credenza - they are wonderful. We spent a lot of time cleaning and find ourselves pretty exhausted this Sunday evening and grateful the move is over.

Tuesday Devon spent most of the day moving missionaries into a new apartment in Kaneohe. We all know that is his favorite thing to do. Actually, the missionaries do most of the moving, but he has to deliver the beds, furniture, household necessities. That mean we spent Monday evening shopping for those supplies. We try to be very frugal, but it's still expensive.

Tuesday evening we had a special treat. Some old friends, Bob and Helen Brewer, were in Honolulu and we met up for dinner at the Cheesecake Factory. Helen was Devon's secretary many, years ago. We have kept in touch all these years and cherish their friendship.

We told them it was Devon's birthday celebration and he was treated to this sweet sundae.

Thursday evening was the Christmas dinner at our apartment building. It was free for all residents, so we went. They had Panda Express catering, a musician playing his guitar, and a talented man making balloon things for the kids. This is an example of some of his work...pretty amazing. It was a nice evening.

We have received our first Christmas presents. Brad and Jenna sent them with instruction to open them early and enjoy them during the that is what we did. 

I stayed home Friday morning to work on the move. Friday evening we went to dinner with the Overduyns. Sometimes we go to some pretty fancy restaurants, but this Friday we decided to try out Bob's BBQ. We've heard from the missionaries how good it was, so why not?! It's a little corner shak that had a pretty diverse menu. It wasn't bad...not great, but the price was good and we had a great time with the Overduyns.

Saturday was crazy busy - no sleeping in. We cleaned the apartment and then went to the office to prepare lunch for Missionary Leadership Conference (MLC). We have this every month, but never on Saturday. This time was different as Elder LeGrand Curtis was here for a Mission Tour. The lunch went well and we enjoyed meeting Elder Curtis. I came home for a short nap while Devon worked on getting my new office computer operational. Then at 5:00 pm we participated in the Manoa Valley Christmas Parade. Our ward, Manoa Ward, always marches in the parade and asks that all the missionaries from our zone walk with them, so we did. The whole route was 1.2 miles through a quiet neighborhood. I think more people were in the parade than were watching. Still, it was fun. We passed out candy and fliers advertising the Christmas Concert at the Tabernacle next weekend. Besides, the missionaries are my favorite people to spend time with.

Left to right: Elder Johnson, Elder Durant, Sister Lybbert, Sister Smith, Elder Orihuela, Elder Schmidt, Eddie Lim (YM from our ward), Elder Jensen, Elder Eborn, Elder Tufts, Elder Kempe, Elder Ashby. Aren't they beautiful!!!!

Our missionaries with the banner.

After the parade we went to a dinner honoring the Overduyns. They are leaving in two weeks. I feel quite sorry for them. It's so hard to say good bye, and having to do it over and over again for weeks makes it even harder. Anyway, the dinner was lovely. It was with some single senior sisters in their ward. I was glad to be there and get to express my love and appreciation for the Overduyns. We will miss them

Sunday was another beautiful day - this time with sunshine. Most of our week has been cloudy and rainy. When someone moves out of the ward the whole congregation stands after the closing prayer and sings "Aloha 'Oe". It's a wonderful Hawaiian tradition of expressing love for the people leaving. It was my first time playing the organ for this and I was so relieved it turned out well. 

I've been feeling a little blue about Christmas. It is hard to be away from family and it just doesn't feel much like Christmas for many reasons. I feel like it's happening, but I'm missing it. I have been especially missing my Christmas music. I don't have any of my Christmas CDs with me on any of our devices. I could go without a lot, but to be without my music is hard. To top it off, Saturday was our annual Onstott Family Christmas Party at home. Our family was in charge. I knew what our wonderful children (especially Lori) had planned and was feeling blue about missing it. I walked by the mail boxes on Saturday and Mel, our cute mailman, was busy filling all the boxes. He saw me and call for me. "Sister Tufts! I have something for you!" He stepped over to our box and pulled out a small package from Emily addressed to "Mama." I looked the package over and over on my way up to our apartment wondering what on earth she had sent me.

To my great surprise and delight, inside was a small iPod with most of my Christmas music, and the most wonderful note telling me I was loved! My heart swelled and my eyes overflowed. Nothing could have brought me more joy. Christmas is here! The people I love most are close in spirit and through technology. Their love and support keeps me going. I am truly blessed!

Monday, December 5, 2016

Week 39 Report

Monday – another rainy day. It was pretty much business as usual at the office. The flurry of transfer week has settled down. So far all the new missionaries seem to be doing well. The senior sisters in the office are all “mother hens” – especially where the new missionaries are concerned. Right or wrong we all have tender spots in our hearts for “our” missionaries. They really do feel like our kids. We love them, worry about them, and share the good and bad times with them. They brighten our lives and I hope we do the same for them.

Monday evening was our monthly Senior Missionary FHE. Brother Yim cooked the best prime rib for us, and we supplied the baked potatoes, veggies, salad, rolls, and dessert. It was so delicious! The program afterward was also amazing. The Fong family is very well known in the LDS community and in Honolulu. They were a Chinese family of 16 children – yes, one mom, one dad, 16 children!!! Well, only six children are still living. We were treated to have 2 brothers and 1 sister join us for dinner and spend about 30 minutes relating their experiences and memories of the 1941 bombing of Pearl Harbor. They are now in their 80’s and 90’s and were so sharp in telling their story. The eldest brother played his Kamaka ukulele and sang a couple of songs for us, and then played and sang while his sister did a beautiful hula. The whole evening was amazing. I could have listened to their stories all night.

The Fong Siblings - youngest on the left, oldest on the right.

93 year old Brother Fong strumming and singing - delightful!

80 something Sister Fong doing a beautiful and graceful hula for us. Oh, and she sang, too!

Tuesday – again rainy – was busy. I mailed 42 advancement letters to parents, updated and distributed the weekly Come and Go Report and the Phone and Organization Rosters, requested some travel, answered emails and phone calls, and discussed some issues with President Bekker. There is never a dull moment. After work we drove to WalMart to pick up a prescription for Devon and a few needed items, and went to Super Cuts to get our hair cut. We were long overdue!

Wednesday – sunshine! Devon spent most of his morning at the endodontist. A crown on his tooth fell off over the weekend. Monday he saw a dentist and he said a root canal was necessary. Fortunately Devon was able to get an appointment fairly quickly. The tooth was in really bad shape – full of infection. It’s a wonder it hasn’t made him sick. He’s had pain in the gums and jaw in that area for a long time, but no one we saw at home could figure out the problem. Hopefully this will fix it. Devon felt the endodontist was thorough and very good at explaining everything. Time will tell.

Friday was Devon’s birthday, but it had to take the back seat. A sweet 99-year old sister in our ward passed away and today was her funeral. The ward choir was asked to sing for 20 minutes for the prelude to the service and I was asked to play for the choir. It was a really sweet experience. This wonderful sister was one of the Fong siblings I mentioned earlier, so the funeral was quite large with so many family members. She was an amazing woman, and it was wonderful to hear about her life. Her name was Elizabeth (Lani) Chun Lan Fong Lim and this was her spiritual checklist:
1.     Do my thoughts, decisions, and actions bring me closer to Christ?
2.     Are my prayers, scripture study, sacrament and temple attendance becoming more meaningful?
3.     Am I trying to develop Christ like qualities?
4.     Am I increasingly receptive to the promptings of the Holy Ghost?
5.     Am I keeping my covenants?
6.     Am I learning to control how I feel, think, and act?

One of the speakers suggested we follow her example and “live our lives in crescendo.” I love that and I love the Fong/Lim/Wong family. What a blessing to have crossed paths with them!

After the service, we went to Costco to purchase a queen bed for our new apartment. When we got home we found a couple of missionaries to help us unload it and also move a couple of items into our new apartment. There is more to move, but we can only use the padded elevator Monday – Friday from 7 to 4, so the rest of the moving will have to wait until another day.

Friday evening we finally celebrated Devon’s birthday by going to dinner with the office staff and the Bekkers. We rode the bus to Waikiki and met at Duke’s. It was a wonderful dinner and great time with very special people.

Saturday was spent on mission errands. Devon is opening a new junior apartment next week and needed to buy all the household items. I went with him to WalMart, but he did Costco by himself. I was feeling under the weather and so I stayed home for a much needed nap.

Saturday night was our ward Christmas party and it was WONDERFUL – one of the best I’ve been to. We met in the chapel for a short devotional. One sister read a Christmas story, the primary children sang two wonderful Christmas songs, and our sweet bishop gave a very short and good talk. After closing hymn and prayer we moved to the cultural hall where we have a wonderful dinner. After dinner they had a lip sync contest. About 5 groups (RS, YW, YM, Bishopric, and one other) participated and it was a hoot!!! I see Bishop Halstrom in a whole new way! The hall was beautifully decorated and the turn out was amazing. This really is a wonderful ward.

Sunday was rainy all day – it actually feels a little like winter. Church was wonderful. We enjoyed watching the First Presidency Christmas Broadcast on BYUTV and then we drove to Laie for break-the-fast with the senior missionaries there. It was a great Sabbath.

It is beginning to look like Christmas - actually it looks a lot like Christmas. Our building is beautifully decorated. Christmas lights are up inside and out. The foyer is ablaze with poinsettia plants, Christmas garland and a beautifully decorated tree. There are cute reindeer with lights throughout the foliage in front. Christmas music is playing in all the stores. We haven't put up our little tree yet, but will as soon as our move is over. Our ward choir is preparing Christmas songs for sacrament meeting and I played Christmas carols for prelude and postlude today. It truly is my favorite time of the year! Mele Kalikimaka!