Len & Kit's Missionary Adventures in California

Monday, May 29, 2017

Two weeks have sped by since the last update.

The men’s choirs for Zone conferences May 6-8 were all good sized and sounded great singing, ‘I Need Thee Every Hour’. We were invited to stay all day at the Fresno conference.  After lunch the missionaries were divided into groups of about 8 plus a pair of seniors.  The companionships took turns explaining some facet of the gospel in their own words, using at least one personal example to illustrate what they were teaching.  Ours all did a great job.  It was especially great to hear their personal anecdotes.

Last Saturday we went to a grove of sequoia trees near Yosemite that the Bradshaws knew about. We thought about going to Sequoia Park but there were several days with highs in the 20s there and some snow during the week. In addition to the enormous venerable trees we saw, we also caught sight of some bright red things popping out of the earth close by.  We thought they must be fungi.  A quick search on the information highway identified them sarcodes sanguinea, Snow Flowers.  We were glad for the opportunity to see them since they are limited to high mountains of the western U.S. for a couple of months after snow melt.  They feed off fungi that attach themselves to the roots of large trees.  Weird, eh?

Last Sunday our Ward Men’s Choir performed in Sacrament Meeting - a 4-part (TTBB) number, ‘Brightly Beams Our Father’s Mercy.’  We had 12 singers involved, plus Kit as pianist, and got lots of compliments.  Singing in and listening to a men’s choir was a new experience for many.  They have already been invited to sing again next month.

Observations from our travels:  Monday’s apartment checks were in Porterville, our farthest zone to the south.  Highway CA99 is the major artery we use.  For many stretches of road there are 10-12 foot hedges (mostly oleander) that are blooming now – many tints of red, pink, and white – beautiful!  Rivers are high from hot temperatures melting the still considerable snow pack in the Sierra Nevadas.  We pass several large dairies on our route.  Holsteins are most evident, but also Jerseys, Guernseys, and maybe some Brown Swiss.  There are lots of trains around here, too.  They often specialize in types of cars.  Often there are container trains.  We have seen some short cars that may be called “mill gondolas”, according to my search.  Much grass in the hills and along the highways has been ripe for a month.  There was already a big fire near Coalinga.  It has reached 100 degrees several times by now.  It is not unusual to see umbrellas used as parasols.

Len’s knee is coming along well.  He saw an orthopedic surgeon Tuesday morning and had x-rays that helped us know we should continue with the current treatment plan (rest, ice, compression, elevation).  He will begin walking a modest amount when it gets healed a little more.  Since exercise has been markedly reduced, Len has stopped sampling the missionary treat cart in the mission office.

Stacie and Nick stopped by on Tuesday to take us to dinner and spend the night.  It was a great treat to have them here and do some catching up!  They went on their way Wednesday after breakfast, listening to Cannery Row in preparation for a day in Monterey.

Kit is now trying to replace some of the oldest or worst apartments.  There are also some we have had for a long time that owners are improving.  There is at least one place Kit is trying to improve in a town where the rental market is incredibly tight.  We are taking some inexpensive drapes there tomorrow.  I think every housing coordinator wants to leave all good apartments as much as possible. 

Have a great week!
Love from Len and Kit

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Mother's Day Thoughts and More

Not long ago Len and I recognized that we’d had little to no illnesses on our mission of which less than four months remain.  We shouldn’t have said that.  I have long maintained that when you are young, something happens, and you get hurt, but as you get older, you can just be standing there and you get hurt.  A week ago Saturday our neighbor joined us for a short walk after Len had already done his usual brisk half an hour.  After a few minutes Len took an ordinary step and suddenly his knee hurt.  He limped home and iced it, which he has been doing several times daily -- plus using heat once a day, sleeping in the recliner, taking Tylenol, resting, elevating it, and using a knee compression support.  A project! It is improving but it is time to have it assessed and find out what the cause is and what else might help so he will be able to get back to his normal activities.  It is true that the knee did give him a warning within the last month by way of complaining when he arose from a kneeling position one day at work.  He iced it a day or two and thought that was the end of it. 

Len is getting better at directing the young missionaries to do more of the lifting, and planning smaller orders so book deliveries will fit on our two carts where they can wait until some young elders are around to unload them.  It appears that some recent changes will reduce the need for as many big moves in the next few months.  It will all work out.

FOR MOTHER’S DAY here are some cuttings about becoming a mother from an article I read online today, and liked:

I had just graduated from the university and my husband and I were in limbo.  One night my Dad offered to let us move in to the old cabin built by his grandparents.  The offer was totally unexpected and strangely enticing.

The cabin sat on 40 acres of woodlands and pastures.  The closest grocery store was 30 minutes away.  Just a month after we moved in, I found out I was pregnant.  For me, the experience of pregnancy was one of sudden, overwhelming confinement.  For the first time in my life, I was wholly accountable to my body, to an experience both inside of me and yet unfolding entirely independent of me.  For the first time, I was truly restricted in what I could do, eat, experience, and for the first time my focus was intensely, almost suffocatingly, interior.

In a way the cabin held me just as I held my baby.  Constructed for harsh pioneer life, it sat steeled and sturdy against the changing seasons.  It got so little light that I could sleep upstairs for 14, 16 hours straight, awaking dazed as if from another life.  It created a stark contrast of interior – home, incubator for family life – and exterior: wildness, a terrain for roving and exploring and seeing.  It taught me how to come into my motherhood in quietness and focus.

The cabin reinforced that liminal period of pregnancy, and then, when my baby was born, it strengthened the surreal, otherworldly, extraordinary and boring experience of infant care.  All mothers are at somewhat of a remove, physically or psychically, during this period, and the cabin made this manifest.  I lived in my own universe of milk and diapers and squalling and tall summer grasses and tiny breaths and wood and blessed sleep in quiet darkness.

The cabin allowed me to blend with the world and to live apart from it.  I stepped outside and walked through the woods with my baby snugged to my chest, listening to her little squeaks and hums, and I sat inside at 3 a.m. and noon and 6 p.m. in the perpetual dim and nursed, and all of it felt the same and utterly removed from any sort of life I’d lived before. It was the most heady, distinct, beautiful, unique experience of my life.       

That’s it for this week.  With love as always, Len and Kit

Monday, May 8, 2017

On the Road Again

We hit a new high for time away from the office lately.  One day we completely reorganized and cleaned up two out of three of our storage units.  Another day was spent moving furniture and supplies from a senior couples’ apartment. Unloading it mid afternoon in 90+ temps only took half an hour, since we saved going through items they had boxed up for us, for a cooler morning job.  It was still hot and sticky enough to make us rethink summer moves: we will leave extra early on those mornings and try to finish before the hottest part of the day.  We will get lots of help to speed things along and we will never do a double move in one day.  Lunches for the crew will need to be packed and taken so we can finish faster than when we take our helpers out to eat, but hey, we’re talking survival here!

Thursday we wound up making two trips to Auberry to assess properties for a new senior couple.  Rentals are super scarce up there this summer.  No luck!  We will have to build on what we learned to find other possibilities and try again.  Tomorrow will be apartment visits and a side trip to sign a lease.  It will be a long day, but the weather is a little cooler just now and there is little physical labor involved.

Len has set up men’s choir for our ward; they will sing the Sunday following Mothers’ Day.  He also has arranged for men’s choirs to sing at the three zone conferences during the week after Mothers’ Day.  The last round was such a success that it is great they can do it at least once more.   There may be more singers because some elders volunteered after hearing how well it went the first time.

Mission vehicles have a small box called a Tiwi (rhymes with kiwi) attached to the upper left corner of the windshield.  All drivers carry cards which they swipe as they get in and out of the car.  If it is a successful swipe and the machine is cooperating, a deep gravelly monotone voice pronounces, “Driver logged in.”  When the driver is done using the car, he/she swipes and the voice says that the driver is logged out.  Many missionaries despise the Tiwi.  It keeps track of every infraction or possible infraction.  If someone goes more than five miles over the speed limit, the voice says, “Check your speed.”  Then the driver has 6 seconds to get the speed down before the infraction is recorded.  If someone tries to fool the Tiwi and go right back to speeding, it will be recorded. 

When someone goes over a speed bump or a railroad track or a pothole too fast, the message is “Aggressive driving.”  Sometimes the circumstances lead to unfair accumulations in the aggressive driving category, or at least the missionaries feel that happens.  When a missionary gets too many infractions, he/she is suspended from driving for a period of time.  Repeated failures lead to being banned from driving for the remainder of the mission.  The driving ban can affect how a missionary is able to serve.  Since the zone leaders deliver mail, etc. to their zone members and help those who do not have cars, at least one of them has to be able to drive and there sometimes have to be changes because both companions have lost driving privileges.  The Tiwi center of operations is out of state so it is independent of any local influence or favoritism.

Senior missionaries usually drive their own cars, but some of us drive the mission pickup truck so we have experiences with Tiwi too.  We’re not sure we’d lose driving privileges for bad reports, but it would seem that we should have the experience and patience to avoid those anyway.  Len can do a very creditable imitation of “Check your speed” and “Aggressive driving”.   (Sometimes we say that to each other when driving our own car, and backseat driving becomes joking.)  We have felt the irritation of getting busted for something that was due to the road conditions instead of bad driving.  Since we found out that one has six seconds to comply with “Check your speed” we can be more philosophical if we hear that message before actually passing a sign announcing the lowered speed limit.  As with Siri, we sometimes find ourselves talking to Tiwi in a less than friendly tone.  It is frustrating, for example, when he won’t respond to repeated attempts to log in.

One departing senior missionary told how he worried about his mission because of his allergies, including a terrible allergy to cats.  During his career as a school principal/superintendent, his eyes would swell shut, along with other symptoms, if a child simply carried a show and tell kitten down the hall adjacent to his office.  Hearing that, I finally understood the omnipresent redness around his eyes.   He then told that when visiting people in their Oakhurst, CA homes as MLS missionaries (Member & Leader Support) they encountered many cats, but he never experienced his allergic reactions.

Have a wonderful week,   Len and Kit