This week I began working on income taxes, and it is very complicated. As missionaries there are multiple things we can deduct for charitable contributions – mileage, food we give to marines, supplies we buy for our work, etc. So I am buried in receipts, mileage logs, and notes to document everything as I enter it into Turbo Tax. Several of the other senior missionaries I have talked to hired tax accountants to do their taxes while on their missions. I guess I am just a little too stubborn and think I can do it myself. But if things go haywire I will hire a tax accountant next year. One thing that is interesting about this process though is that reviewing all of this data for the taxes makes us realize all that we have done in our first little period here. We did a lot in October, November and December - loads of refreshments, treats and meals; many, many trips to visit folks or haul missionaries around; multiple family home evenings and lessons; and attendance at numerous training meetings. Wow, we have been busy! But it is a good busy.
Our only scheduled activity on Tuesday was the Family Home Evening for our The Basic School (TBS) group. We had a great turnout, and one marine even brought a friend. The friend was from the embassy school. He is going to be an embassy guard in Malaysia, and is very happy about that assignment. This TBS group is so full of energy, friendship and optimism that it is just wonderful to associate with them. All of them are doing well in TBS, both in the classroom and in the field. We are in awe when we hear about their experiences. “Well, this week we hiked twelve miles with our 60 pound packs, slept in the snow and got up at 4am to do a hundred pushups and situps the next morning.” They talk about such training exercises as everyday norms. Lezlie made a wonderful cheesecake, and we also had Costco mini-cream puffs with chocolate sauce and a bunch of fruit. As usual they gobbled it all down. We had an excellent discussion about prophets, and they all had insightful and spiritual comments. These TBS meetings are one of the highlights of our week, and tonight was no exception. We feel fortunate and blessed to work with these young people and have come to think of them as family.
On Wednesday we had a sweet visit to our marine family that just had a new baby girl. This is the lady that had a difficult pregnancy. I played with their 4 year old son while Lezlie held the baby and the mom cleaned house. The little boy and I played “washing machine” again, his favorite type of play. He is just crazy about washing machines. This gal has in-laws coming to visit for the baby’s blessing, so she was getting the apartment ready for that. I have been invited to participate in the blessing and am very honored and excited. After a while we switched and I got to be with the baby while Lezlie played with the little boy. The weather was sunny so we both took him to the apartment playground. He ran, climbed, slid and jumped, and really seemed to enjoy being out of their small apartment. But it was a little colder than we realized, so we quickly returned to the apartment. Following a nice lunch at the Honey Baked Ham café, we got a call and our 1pm appointment was cancelled. So we traveled to the Virginia family history library in Fredericksburg and got some genealogy work done. After our arrival there we had another cancellation. A young bachelor marine that we were to take out for dinner had to work late, so we rescheduled him for another day. We decided to do a little sightseeing. We stopped to see the Chatham Mansion, which was also owned by some of Lezlie’s distant relatives, the Fitzhughs. It was a gorgeous estate on the banks of the Rappahannock River. It was also the site of a major civil war battle. I have been reading a comprehensive history of the civil war so I was excited to see this site. The history just comes alive when you get to visit the actual sites. We enjoyed touring the mansion and its grounds, but did so quickly because it was cold outside.
A zone meeting took up most of our Friday. This was the first zone meeting since transfer day, so it was fun to get to meet all of the sisters and elders that are new to our area. We looked around at the meeting, and there is only one elder that was here when we arrived. Everyone else is newer to the zone than us. We have been out for 6 months! It is hard for us to believe. The time has gone by fast, but when we think that we have another year here that seems like a long time. Anyway, we had a nice zone meeting and we were once again impressed by the maturity, depth of knowledge and spirituality of these great young people. We had some excellent lessons and discussions. In addition a fairly new young sister, who is a music major, sang an outstanding solo. She has a crystal clear soprano voice that was so enjoyable to hear. Following our zone meeting Lezlie baked and baked (and I cleaned and cleaned). Coming up we have to provide desert for a senior missionary get together tomorrow, refreshments for a post-baby blessing open house on Sunday, and treats for our OCS guy on Sunday. So a lot of brownies and cheesecake are flying around the kitchen. We were pleased to be able to attend a delightful baptism to end our day. A young marine we have come to know recently baptized his sister-in-law. At that time the rest of his in-laws got interested, so this evening his wife’s mom, dad and other sister were baptized. The entire family was so happy and full of joy. The feelings of love, companionship and hope were tangible. Two of the newly baptized members bore simple, heartfelt testimonies that moved us all. We could not have asked for a better end of the day activity.
On Saturday we attended a get together for all of the Senior Missionaries in the Virginia Richmond Mission. There are about thirty of us. Typically we only see the other two senior missionaries that are in our zone, so it was great fun to get together. The party was held in Richmond, about a 90 mile drive for us. This party was originally planned for the day after Valentine’s Day but it got snowed out. So it followed the Valentine theme anyway. We had red decorations and place settings, with a tiny little basket full of Valentine treats at each place. The organizers had everyone send in pictures of themselves as young adults. As they showed them one at a time everyone had to guess the identity. As their pictures were shown each couple had to explain why they went on a mission and how they first met. There were some very touching and also very humorous stories told. After a great lunch of bread, salad, stew and various deserts they played music from the sixties and seventies and we had to guess the tune and artist. We spent about three hours there and had a grand time. It was a morale booster to associate with all these other seniors that are missing their kids and grandkids just like us, but working hard to be good missionaries all the same. We were scheduled to take a young marine out to dinner, but when we arrived on the base from Richmond we were an hour early. So we just parked in the exchange lot and took a short nap. Fortunately for us Carrie faced timed with us because Abbey was awake and smiling. It was wonderful to see that beautiful little girl. We then picked up a young LDS marine and took him to Cracker Barrel for dinner. He was a friendly and engaging young man, but has kind of a sad story. He and his wife were both born in the church, but it seems like they have been less active. When he was assigned to Quantico about a year ago they decided they could not afford to have his wife and two young daughters move here until they got base housing. So his wife moved in with her mom in Utah and he has been here alone. He chose not to come to church or follow church standards, and he admitted as much. But his wife apparently got active in church back in Utah and now is moving out with the girls since they just got base housing. Suddenly he has decided that he needs to clean up his act so that they can all go to church together. He seemed sincere and we hope so. His wife will be here in two weeks and we hope to see them all at church right away. He said that he knew his wife and girls would give him strength to be a better church member. We will keep him in our prayers and try to meet with him and his family often.
On Sunday we had the privilege of attending the blessing of Charlotte, the baby girl born to our marine wife that had a difficult pregnancy. It was an honor and joy to help bless this healthy little girl that so many of us were worried about. She was an answer to prayers. All went well and it was a very nice blessing. Charlotte’s grandma and grandpa were there, and several friends. Afterwards they held a small open house at their apartment, which was so joyful and fun. Everyone was happy and friendly, there was good food, and the few small children there were playing nicely. I even got a turn holding Charlotte, which is tough when the grandparents are present. Her middle name is Rose, so Lezlie made brownies with small icing roses on them – delicious and a big hit. Following the open house we dashed back to our own ward building to attend choir practice. We had avoided choir up until now because we really do keep busy, and do attend other wards often. But they had made a special request for men as the choir prepares for Easter. So we attended and it was fun. The director is a lady from South America, very smart and funny, and she really knows music. It should be fun to work on Easter music with her. Immediately after choir we hurried home and made a green salad in about five minutes. Then we were off to the base for dinner with a young marine family. This was also most enjoyable. We really like this young family and it was great fun to spend time with them. They had invited a single female marine who was also fun to get to know. We finally arrived home for the night and got settled in for yet another major snowstorm on Monday. The weather channel says there will be freezing rain, snow, and heavy wind. The unfortunate thing was that we had to cancel our Monday interview for the service dog organization- too long a trip in unknown weather on dicey roads.... Otherwise it will be nice to just have a day to stay home.