Sunday, January 5, 2014

The Best New Year's Gift Ever

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!  It has been an amazing, momentous year.  We cannot believe all that has happened this year that has led us to our mission in Virginia.  At this time last year we were still working on getting our mission papers submitted.  And now we are well settled on our mission and doing the work.  Amazing!  One of the most important events of the year happened on New Year’s Eve.  It was the birth of Abigail JoAnn Hong to Carrie (our youngest child) and husband Matt.  She was born at approximately 9:30am on Dec 31st (about two weeks early) and came in at 7lbs 4oz and 19 ¼ inches.  Carrie and Matt are doing fine, but were pretty exhausted. ( Matt ran a practice marathon the morning of Dec 30th, a full 26.2 miles.)
   Lezlie and I had taken a marine to lunch, and she was quite entertained by the texts and pictures coming in from Carrie and Matt at the lunch table.  The crying photo is Abby after her first bath.  She did not like it.  Don’t Carrie and Matt look great for having just stayed up all night bringing this little girl into the world!  And how proud the big brother and sister look!  My dog does not look all that excited about Abby though.  We had mixed feelings in processing the news and seeing all the photos of Abby’s birth.  We are very happy, thrilled for Carrie and Matt, and so grateful that everyone is healthy and whole.  What a huge blessing – a healthy baby.  But we were also a little sad that we were not there helping Matt and Carrie and holding this precious new little girl.  However, we know we are where we are supposed to be doing what we should.  And we know that we will be an important part of Abby’s life even if we are far away for this short period of time.  When she is older it will be fun to tell Abby where we were and what we were doing when she was born.  Welcome Abby!  We love you!


On New Years Eve we had a great lunch with a young female marine from Salt Lake City.  She is a friendly and fun young lady, about twenty, who joined the marines 6 months after high school.  She is a security person at HMX, which is the unit that flies and takes care of the President’s helicopters that are stationed on Quantico Base.  She w asthe middle of five sisters and was a high school basketball player.  We really enjoyed visiting with her at lunch.  She does not have a car, so we took her to the exchange on base for some shopping.   After returning home we pretty much lazed around for New Year’s Eve waiting for baby Hong updates.  We did some planning for our next few months, listened to some good music, and caught up on our studying and writing.  For New Years Eve we had a wonderful face time session with Carrie and Abby.  It was so good to see this new grandbaby!  We got to see her up close and marvel over her beautiful hair, toes, and fingers.  Carrie unwrapped her from her blanket so we could see her little tummy, and Abby did not like it.  She squealed until she was wrapped back up.  We also watched a movie to celebrate the holiday, Forest Gump.  Of course we had seen it before, but it was fun to watch it again – a great movie.  We watched the ball drop in Times Square via live stream on the Internet, but we could barely stay awake.  It was a very nice New Year’s Eve, and we are ever so grateful for a new, healthy granddaughter. 

On New Year’s Day we had lunch with one of our bachelor Navy guys.  He is a Hospital Corpsman.  The marines do not have their own medical staff.  That is all provided by the Navy.  So he is a corpsman for the marines at the OCS school, where we provide sacrament meetings and family home evenings.  He told us all kinds of interesting background information about the OCS school (our next class starts in one week). 

We worked an excellent shift at the Navy Marine Corps Relief Society this week.  We both got to do Quick Assist loans today.  Lezlie gave a young marine $300 who got overcharged on her insurance and was out of money, and I gave a marine $400 to get to Boston to attend the funeral of a marine from his unit that had died in combat in Afghanistan.   Well, we didn’t give it, NMCRS gave it.  But we processed the applications, filled out all the paperwork, and handed them the checks.  It is a good feeling to be able to help out these young marines.  They are so dedicated and hard working.  But sometimes they do not manage their money well.  We both got to work on full budget cases too and the director actually decided that I (Dan) was qualified to do full budget cases now on my own.  So next week may be my first solo case.  Lezlie does not enjoy the full budget work as much as I do, so is not in a hurry to get qualified to do them.  She enjoys the Quick Assist loans and other work though.

For Christmas Lezlie bought me a Waltons DVD.  It has all of the season 1 episodes.  So we have started watching an episode on evenings when we have time.  Much to our surprise we immediately discovered that that the Waltons show takes place in Virginia.  We did a little research.  A man named Earl Hammer grew up in the mountains of western Virginia.  He always wanted to be a writer.  He got his degree and found work writing for television in its early days.  He became well established and had written for several successful tv shows.  He wrote and helped produce a special made for television movie called “The Homecoming,” which was the very first show about the Walton family.  The family and experiences were based on Earl Hammer’s childhood in rural Virginia.  The special movie was a huge hit, and so they began producing the television show.  So we are especially enjoying these Waltons episodes because they are set in rural Virginia only about one hour from where we live. 

One day this week the weather was frigid, with a forecasted high of 27.  So we planned on staying pretty close to home.  However, we did want to get some exercise in so went to Potomac Mills Mall, which is about ten minutes away, to walk.  We had heard about a walking club there, so we went over during the official walking time (8-10am) before the mall opens.  We signed up for the club and had a good walk in the pleasant mall environment – warm air and good music.  A full lap around the perimeter is 2 miles.  All the club does is keep track of your mileage and encourage you to walk.  We enjoyed the walk there and will try to go again when the weather is bad.  Then we stopped at Global Food Market, a very interesting international grocery store.  It has very unique sections with Hispanic, Asian and African foods.  It was great fun to look around, and at times it felt like we were in Chung Hwa market in Korea.  We stumbled onto a small Asian restaurant inside the market and found that they had stone bowl Bi Bim Bop, so we stopped in for lunch.  It made us feel like we were back in Korea with the smell of Korean food, men speaking Korean next to us, and the restaurant looking like it could have been in Itaewon.  And the food was excellent. 

Our Saturday began with a fun activity at the ward.  In January the tradition here is to have a breakfast for the primary kids where they get to meet their new primary teachers.  So Lezlie and I went to the church first thing in the morning to help set up.  We did all sorts of things, like set up tables and chairs, pour juice, carry food, and play with primary children.  We were impressed by the organization and hard work of the primary staff.  There were a bunch of great kids and they really seemed to enjoy the pancakes (which included pumpkin pancakes and chocolate chip pancakes).  A lot of the children greeted us by name because they remembered the family home evenings we gave at their house.  Lezlie and I even got to have a couple of pancakes ourselves, the first time we have had pancakes since arriving here.  

What an interesting Sunday we had.  Saturday evening we were once again thinking that we would have a slow, calm Sunday because we had no extra meetings or assignments.  Then we got a text message saying there would be a missionary correlation meeting in the morning.  A short time later we got a call from the bishop stating that there was a young female marine on base with no car that wanted to come to church and could we take care of it.  We called the young lady, who was from Portland, Oregon, and got things worked out to pick her up.  She is attending a 6 week school to become an embassy security guard.  It is a difficult school to get into and the embassy assignments are pretty good duty for marines.  We drove a half an hour to pick her up on the far side of the base and transported her to church.  She was a delightful young gal, and we enjoyed getting to know her.  We shared a lot of stories about Portland with her and about our love for the Northwest.  We discovered one of those “it’s a small world” facts with her. She told us that she was stationed in Hawaii and had met a young girl from BYU Hawaii that wanted to become a marine.  She had talked to her a lot about the marines.  She thought that this BYU student was going to apply for OCS after college.  We said, “There was a girl in the last OCS class that went to BYU Hawaii and her name was Melanie.”  She said, “That’s her!”  And then to make it even more amazing, Melanie showed up at our ward today.  It is the first time she has ever been to our home ward, and she only came because she had missed a plane yesterday, had to spend the night at the airport, flew into DC early today, and had someone from the ward pick her up.  So the two marines got to catch up with each other at church.  Also, one of our other OCS marines showed up at our ward with his brand new wife.  They just got married on Dec 31.  So we got to chat with them a bit as well.  In anticipation of the possibility of inviting someone over we put a big pork roast and vegetables in the crock pot before we left this morning.  So after church, we had 3 of them come over for dinner.  We had a delightful time getting to know them better and having a good meal.  They all said it was the best meal they have had for a while because they have all been traveling for several days.  After an hour or so of talking and eating the couple had to depart, and shortly after we drove back to the base to take our embassy girl home.  It was a delightful day, and much better than the calm, uneventful Sunday we thought we might have.  It was so amazing to see these young marines connect with one another and buoy each other up as LDS marines.  They talked about how hard it is to be different inside their marine units because they don’t swear, smoke or drink like so many of their comrads.  But they knew that they gained strength and were able to be better marines because they live the gospel.  We felt humbled and blessed just to be a small part of their world today.




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