We learned this week that Aaron is coming for Christmas! We are so excited!!! He will be here just a short time, but it will be wonderful to see him and show him a little bit of what our life is like here. We are happy, happy, happy. He will arrive on Christmas Eve.
We had a couple of long shifts at the Navy Marine Corps Relief Society over the past few weeks. I had two long and complex cases, a couple of the toughest ones I have ever experienced. But we got through it and I was able to get funds approved for both marines who needed the money badly. One case was en especially touching one. A young marine had recently gained custody of his two children – his wife has essentially just run out on him. He was struggling to make everything work, but is has been very hard on him. We were able to figure out how to get his some money to help him out for a couple of months. He got big tears in his eyes when I handed him a check for $2300 for rent and child care, and I got quite choked up too. It was a true joy to be able to help him. We also had our NMCRS Christmas Party this week, which was enjoyable. We have come to love and appreciate our fellow volunteers, all of whom willingly give of their time to help out the marines. They are a great group of people. We will miss working with them when we leave. At the gift exchange Lezlie got a hand knitted scarf from our director, which will be a special keepsake. I got a DVD of the Wizard of Oz! I love that movie. Hooyah!
We were able to attend the Washington DC festival of lights recently. This is the festival at the Washington DC temple in December. For the entire month the grounds are lit with millions of lights. The visitor’s center, which has a large auditorium, has wonderful concerts every night. They also have many international manger scenes that have been loaned by embassies in Washington DC. We took two of our The Basic School family home evening sisters. It happened to be the opening night of the Festival of Lights. We got to see the beautiful lights, tour the visitor’s center, and look at all the international manger scenes. The concert for the evening was the Mt Vernon Bell Choir and they put on an excellent concert. Our favorite part was when they had a sing along. Singing Silent Night with bells was beautiful. This is our friend from Moldova at the temple and then a shot of the wonderful Christmas lights at the temple.
We had a lovely getaway one day for a few hours. We noted that our annual passes for Mt Vernon were expiring soon. Our friends the Andersons, the other senior couple here, had told us they would like to visit Mt Vernon one day. So we invited them to go one Friday morning and we had a most enjoyable visit. We got there just as the grounds opened and had a good tour of the mansion. The museum and art gallery are always excellent, and we took our time today and really got into reading all the information and watching all the videos. We had a delicious lunch at Mt Vernon Inn, a restaurant we have come to appreciate very much. We got some photos by the beautifully decorated Christmas Trees. It was a fun morning with the Andersons, whom we have come to love and be grateful for. We will be sad when they leave in mid January. We spent time at home working on Christmas gifts after that. It got cold in the afternoon so we were glad to stay in. This is us and George in front of one of his many Christmas trees.
We had a superb activity on the afternoon of Sunday Dec 7. We drove to Annapolis for a mid-afternoon performance of the Messiah by the Naval Academy Men and Women’s Glee Clubs. It was spectacular for many reasons. We almost did not go because at church I pulled my back. It was the strangest thing. I was just sitting in class and I crossed my legs. As I lifted up my left leg something just sort of popped in my back and a huge pain shot across my lower back. We got home about 12:30 and knew we needed to leave for Annapolis by 1:15. So Lezlie gave me some excellent back first aid and I took some Aleve. After laying flat on my back for half an hour I decided to go for it. Lezlie drove and we found a very convenient parking spot near the chapel. The first reason it was so spectacular to attend this concert were the decorations. There were beautiful greenery, trees and lights in the chapel and it was very festive. The second reason we loved it was the spectacular music. The orchestra, soloists, and the chorus did a superb job, and of course we love the music of the Messiah so much. It was wonderful to hear. For me, though, there was much more. I sang in the Messiah every year I was at the Academy, and it brought back many fond memories - memories of hard practices trying to learn all the difficult music of the Messiah; of flirting with the girls from Hood College that combined with us for the Messiah; of being filled with joy in singing that music; of thoroughly enjoying the short respite from the hard work of being a midshipman; and of performing for a packed crowd and being proud of how our hard work paid off. Singing with the Glee Club at the Academy is what gave me my peace and my relief from stress. I do not think I could have made it without the music. So anything related to music at the Academy is very, very nostalgic to me. After returning home from Annapolis we also enjoyed the First Presidency Christmas Devotional. Fortunately after a couple of days of taking it easy my back was fine. Above is me being happy at the Messiah and below is the midshipman chorus.
Early in the week we headed for Stafford and had several nice visits. We delivered Christmas cookies and a message to four marine families. We told a couple of them, the ones that live the farthest away and that need us the least, that this was likely our last visit. It was emotional saying goodbye to these folks as we built up a lot of history with them. One mom especially. We helped her out a lot when her husband was away at school and we spent a lot of time at her house helping her with chores and entertaining her children. But we had good visits with all. We then got to attend a very special Marine ceremony. In the building where we meet at The Basic School is a small chapel that we have used it occasionally. It is named the Capodonna Chapel after a Navy Chaplain who worked with marines. He received the Medal of Honor after he was killed in combat in Viet Nam. He died while ministering to marines and trying to shield them from hostile fire. His family recently donated his actual Medal of Honor and Presidential Certificate to the chapel. So they had a dedication ceremony. It was quite nice, with some excellent speeches, good music, and the playing of taps. This was an invitation only ceremony, so we felt honored to be there. After a quick dinner at our favorite, Bob Evans, we held our TBS family home evening. We had a fun lesson about receiving gifts during which we gave all of the group small gifts. Then we brought out the bells and played Christmas carols. We were a little worried that they might think the bells were silly, but they really got into it. They picked up on how to read the music quickly and did a wonderful job on some carols and on the Marines Hymn. They were laughing and teasing each other the whole time. We promised we would bring them again next time. Here is our small TBS FHE group playing the bells, two marines, a marine wife, and a friend.
Our Friday morning was quite busy with baking some more and preparing plates of Christmas goodies to deliver to our marines. We also attach a nice Christmas greeting to each plate and provide manger scene stickers or scratch board ornaments for all of the children and of course dog biscuits for all of the dogs on our route . After loading up about ten plates of cookies, brownies and toffee we headed for the base. Our first appointment was to take a marine out to lunch. He is married, but his wife and daughter had traveled home to see her family. So he was home alone this week. He was sad because his wife is gone and because he is dealing with several injuries. The marines are deciding whether or not to discharge him. So we just let him talk and unburden himself. After lunch we visited several additional marine families in Stafford, which is even further away than the base. We had some really nice visits, some of which will likely be our last for these families that are far away. After our Stafford visits we also stopped to see 6 families on base. It was really good to see all of them, and fun to wish them Merry Christmas. Even though we made multiple deliveries we still have several more ahead of us. So we baked and baked some more in the evening. Nice Christmas music does make the baking easier.
We had a successful Saturday morning and afternoon of more visits and deliveries of Christmas goodies. It was great fun, and we saw almost everybody we had hoped to see. It is so enjoyable to see the decorations at their homes, hear of their Christmas plans, and feel the excitement of their children. We were able to visit six families today, which means our list is getting smaller. We have just a few more families to visit. Then we will be focusing on getting ready for Aaron’s visit. We are very excited about that! Delivering goodies and saying Merry Christmas may not seem like much. But it helps these families, many of whom very seldom come to church, that someone in the ward knows about them and cares about them. We call it our cookie ministry!