Monday, December 31, 2018

Week 47 (24 - 30 December)

            Monday morning, we had a quiet morning and Pam got her wish to sleep in. I got the van washed the van and cleaned out and upon returning we decided to go for a drive. We had considered doing some visiting, but felt we needed to leave the families alone for Christmas Eve day. At noon we drove across the Dames Pt. Bridge and took Heckscher Drive to highway A1A along Amelia Island. The day was beautiful and the traffic light, so we drove slowly taking in the sights along the sides of the road. At the Fernandina Beach Park, we stopped and walked on the beach and saw the waves, the beautiful sand, birds, and scoured the sand for treasures. There were a few visitors on the beach but not many. A park was adjacent to the beach and had several long benches by the edge of the sand. We sat there for a few minutes taking in the sights and then returned to our van and headed to Fort Clinch State Park, just a few blocks away. We had seen brochures about the park but had never ventured into the park itself. It was a State Park so cost a few dollars to enter but was well worth the cost. Initially we traveled in a canopy of Oak trees laden with moss and it was beautiful. We drove to 3 areas: East Beach Access, which provided access to the Atlantic Ocean with a nice parking area with restrooms. Next, to the Atlantic Beach Campground filled with RV’s and Campers in a beautiful setting right on the mouth of the St. Mary’s River—the border between Florida and Georgia. Finally, we drove to Fort Clinch itself and spent the better part of an hour going through the Visitors Center and then toured the Fort with its walls, cannon, and common areas. It had been beautifully restored and protected the area from intruders into the St. Mary’s River area and was manned during the Civil War and Spanish American War with Spain. We finally left the park and drove to the “Old Town” Historical area of Fernandina Beach and it was very charming with many restaurants and stores all in old restored Victorian era buildings. It would be fun to spend some time wandering the various venues. We finally returned to our apartment via the freeway and settled in for a quiet evening. The children in Denver were gathering at Johanna’s home (tradition) and they had dinner and sang songs and Erin and Weston had dinner and an evening devotional at their home in Provo. We looked forward to pictures and videos of each.

Christmas morning (Tuesday), we were up by 7:30 am and opened up a few presents from family and friends and it was very nice. We received a lot of candy and snacks (just what we needed) but appreciated the gifts. The rest of the morning was quiet except for 15 minutes of “face time” with Erin and her children. By noon we were finally into the showers and making a serious effort to get dressed. Pam put some ham in the oven to warm up and frosted a cake she made yesterday and at 3:20 pm we loaded up the ham, cake and cookies and headed to the Lagae’s for Christmas dinner. Jerald and Samantha had cooked a turkey and side dishes and invited neighbors (Laura & Matt) from their cul-de-sac and Marisol Perry’s mother (from the ward) who was home alone. We had also invited Alexis Connelly and by 4:15 pm everyone was present, and we had a prayer and began enjoying the meal and visiting. Everyone enjoyed Christmas morning and the Lagae children had received a lot of nice gifts. The highlight for the Lagae children was a swing set outside on their front lawn. By 5:00 pm we had eaten all we could and sat back and visited and talked about our day and then we said our goodbyes. In the evening we received calls from our children checking on us and it was the best part of the day.

Wednesday morning, we received a few pictures from our children on Christmas activities and it was fun to see them. Our grandchildren were getting big and old—how did that happen? I drove to the Naval Station and got a prescription filled at the clinic. Back home we did some work on our military-member list and re-arranged them by base with the goal to present something to Salt Lake about the need for a couple serving the Naval Air Station. At noon we drove to Costco and a little shopping then on to BJ’s where we filled up the van with gas and finally a little shopping at nearby Wal-Mart. We had a late lunch back to our apartment where we authored a letter to our undocumented military families in hopes they would respond. We ended mailing out 33 letters all over the mission and that would be our last-ditch effort before we started eliminating names from our lists. Pam had a nice visit with Johanna this evening.

Thursday morning, we left for the USO at 9:30 am and Dave Ostrum opened the facility. There was no bread or pastries today, so we began taking down the two large Christmas trees in the entrance and by the kitchen. After getting them boxed and bagged, I took down and boxed up all the Christmas village pieces over the cabinets in the office. Dave and I then went into the attic and arranged a few things before lifting up all the toys and clothes left over from the Christmas drive. We concluded the day taking down two more small Christmas trees and getting them boxed up ready to move upstairs. James McCullough would have a lot to do on his shift moving Christmas items into the attic. We hoped he would have help because he couldn’t do it himself. We left at 1:00 pm and returned to Arlington Hills area and had some lunch and then returned to our apartment. Pam worked on a dinner for the Fort Caroline Elders. At 5:00 pm I picked them up (Elders Hansen and Wojnar) and returned to our apartment. We had a nice visit and learned that Elder Hansen was from Riverton and Elder Wojnar from Bountiful. Pam fixed a wonderful dinner and following the meal we visited, and the Elders gave us a message.

Saturday morning began a morning of cleaning and laundry. I took down the Christmas tree and decorations and carefully packed them away for another year and then vacuumed the house while Pam cleaned the bathrooms and kitchen. At noon we drove to Costco and bought some stamps and returned a shirt. Back in Arlington we had lunch and then stopped at Wal-Mart and bought some page protectors for our scrapbook. We were at our apartment by 4:00 pm and Pam made some soup for tomorrow’s “Linger Longer” event at the Jacksonville Beach Ward.

Sunday morning Pam was up early and put the soup in a crock pot and began warming it for the “Linger Longer” activity at the Jacksonville Beach Ward. We left for church at 9:00 am and visited with the saints as they arrived and were pleased to see Chris & Shay Tuttle come in with their new baby. Also, the Jarvis’ were home from their vacation up north and had a great time. Samantha Lagae joined us for Sacrament meeting and Jerald and the kids were in the nursery. Didn’t see the Blacks, Heads or Alexis so hoped they were okay. Sacrament meeting was excellent, and Brother Christianson welcomed Chris Tuttle home from deployment and that was nice. Following the meeting we met in the relief society room for the final gospel principles class of the year and for the foreseeable future as the class was being eliminated next year. During the 3rd hour the Aaronic priesthood set up tables in the cultural hall and within 10 minutes all the pot luck food was set out and following a blessing the ward family began eating and enjoying the “Linger Longer.” There was a lot of good food and it was fun to visit around and enjoy the meal. Pam’s soup was a hit. After an hour, cleanup began, and we gathered up our things and said goodbyes all around and left for our apartment. On the way home, we stopped at two homes to see if we could meet the new military families in the Arlington Ward, the Gardner’s and Bankston’s but neither was home so would try again later. 
 Walkway to Ferandina Main Beach
 Ferandina Main Beach
 Birds on Ferandina Main Beach
 Entrance to Fort Clinch State Park
 Fort Clinch
 Fort Clinch outer walls
 Sister Cottle
 Entrance to Fort Clinch
 Inside Fort Clinch
 Officer Quarters
 Sister Cottle showing size of the Cannons
 Front Wall by Beach

 Center Courtyard of Fort
 Tool room
 Elder Cottle

Monday, December 24, 2018

Week 46 (17 - 23 December)

            Monday morning, we left for the USO at 9:45 am. We received a call from Dave Ostrum asking us to stop by the Navy Exchange and pickup toys at the Flower Shop. We brought 3 shopping carts worth of toys back to the USO. Joyce Schellhorn (Director) was there along with volunteer Julie Davis and after unloading the toys Dave and I drove in our van back to a home in Arlington Hills where we picked up 1 adult bike and several small children’s bicycles. We also stopped at the Coast Guard Exchange in Mayport to check on a Christmas Tree for Joyce. Back at the USO Pam was working in the Toy room (last week to fill bags for families prior to Christmas) and I helped Dave sort and display meat and other food items delivered by Beams that morning. We filled all of the coolers with meat and Dave arranged the other food while I broke down boxes and made numerous trips to the dumpster. By noon patrons began coming for food and we also had a few come for Holiday food baskets and Toys. Cheryl Vandiver returned from a Cruise to the Eastern Caribbean and it was nice to see her again. She would only be working for another week as she was quitting on the 22nd of December. She and Julie spent most of the morning working on the various lists for Toys and trying to make sense out of what had been done the past week. Seemed every day the process changed and with so many hands involved with so many lists problems were inevitable. At 2:00 pm Pam and I left for a dental appointment for Pam. We drove to Doctor Patch’s office on Old St. Augustine Road and Pam had her teeth cleaned. We returned to our apartment and Pam fixed a salad and then we drove to Neptune Beach to have dinner with the Jarvis family. They had also invited John & Betty Gevara from the ward and it was a nice evening with the 3 couples. John was a retired Navy Master Chief and worked at SERMC on the Naval Station and Betty worked at the downtown University of Florida Hospital. Following a wonderful dinner, we gathered in the living room and Lance gave us a short FHE lesson on the Savior. Nice evening.

Tuesday morning, we arrived at the USO at 10:00 am and Pam went right to work filling Toy bags and Cheryl Vandiver asked if I would take her truck and pick up some bicycles. With the help of GPS, I made my way to an “Ernst & Young” office south of Old St. Augustine Road and met Lena, who was in charge, and she and 4 others helped me load 7 bicycles into Cheryl’s truck. I returned to the USO and Dave Ostrum was there and later a friend of Cheryl’s named Carol came to help. Pam, Cheryl and Carol worked in the Toy area and finished bag after bag of toys and I placed them in numerical order for pickup in the lounge areas. Dave ran the office making and receiving phone calls. We had many patrons coming for food and for Toy and Food Basket pickups. It went quite smoothly and surprisingly Joyce Schellhorn (Director) didn’t show up until 4:00 pm. After visiting with her for a few minutes we left for the day and had a late lunch and then returned to our apartment. Sister Abril and Knudsen came at 6:00 pm and Pam looked at a dress for Sister Abril that needed repair and alteration. Both of them were getting new companions on Wednesday as Sister Roberts and Gabbitas left today for home. Pam received a call from Samantha Lagae about possibly baby-sitting tomorrow and Thursday and we worked it out to help her. We sent a text to all of our families reminding them of the 1-hour sacrament meeting on the 23rd and hoped they would join us.

Wednesday morning, we left for the Naval Station at 7:30 am where Pam baby sat for Samantha Lagae, so she and Jerald could attend a school activity for Eleanor. At 9:00 am I drove to the USO and Dave Ostrum was there along with Julie Davis but not much was happening as Dave said Joyce gave him strict instructions not to touch any of the toys until she arrived. I busied myself cleaning up and consolidating the food and cans on the “free tables,” put away the coolers and swept the main entry. Cheryl Vandiver arrived shortly thereafter and went right to work with the toys and Julie helped her, but Dave and I stayed out of their way. We had patrons come for food and toys and we dispersed 2 food bags and about 12 toy bags while I was there. It was very nice to have a patron thank us from the bottom of their hearts for the toys and that made our day. At noon I drove back to the Lagae’s and picked up Pam and we went to lunch in Neptune Beach. While there we got a call from Joyce Schellhorn (Director) who had just arrived at the USO and verified our schedule for the next day. Following lunch, we went to Walmart and did some shopping and then returned to our apartment for the afternoon. We hosted the Fort Caroline Sisters for dinner and Pam spent time getting a meal put together. I set the table and at 5:00 pm Sisters Wasden and Topham arrived and it was nice to greet them. Sister Wasden was from Eagle, Idaho (near Boise) and Sister Topham from Freemont, California. She certainly looked like Gordon and Jo Ann Topham’s girls and said she had relatives in Parawon so we figured there was a connection. Pam fixed a wonderful soup and bread dinner and we ate and visited and enjoyed their spirit. Sister Wasden left us a message and following a prayer they left for appointments. Pam and I cleaned the kitchen and I called Elizabeth Stenson and some other families, but got no responses.  

Thursday morning, we departed for Mayport at 7:30 am in rain and Pam dropped me off at the USO and continued on to the Lagae’s where she took care of Clive and Fiona while Jerald and Samantha went to the elementary school to enjoy a program for Eleanor. I opened up the USO and let in contractors who are still working on the restrooms. Bread and pastries had been delivered so I tabulated their value and set them out for pickup by patrons. At 9:00 am Charlie Tramazzo arrived, and an hour later Cheryl Vandiver and Joyce Schellhorn (Director) arrived. I received instructions on the Toy bags and what they were going to do with excess clothes and toys. The three of them left at 11:00 for a Staff activity in St. Augustine. I made calls to patrons who had not picked up their toy’s and other patrons came for bread and pastries and other free items. Pam arrived shortly after 11:00 am and had a good time with the kids. She went to work in the Toy room sorting through clothes and toys trying to determine those to keep for next year and those to give away now. I made a final pickup of toys from the Navy Exchange and also picked up some gift cards from a hotel on Jacksonville Beach—both in a driving rainstorm. All the “bosses” returned at 3:00 pm including Dave Ostrum and apparently, they had a good time. Joyce had told us to take toys or clothes to our families if we wanted and Pam made up a few bags with items she felt the kids would like and after leaving we drove to the Lagae’s and dropped off a bag to her. Shay Tuttle came to the USO during the day and got some bread and Pam showed her some infant clothes and she took a few. After leaving the base we drove to the Elder’s home and completed an apartment inspection. It was the first time we had been in their apartment and it was very clean. They had a problem with a stove element and we discovered it wasn’t connected, so got that taken care of and everything seemed to work all right. We took them out for dinner and enjoyed getting to know them (Elder Crandall and Beals) and they were both good missionaries.

Friday morning, we left for the Naval Station to greet the USS “The Sullivan’s” following a deployment and as we approached the Carrier Piers it appeared like a ship was already there. Sure enough, “The Sullivan’s” was an hour early. The main deck was lined with sailors in Dress Blues and they looked real smart. Base Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) was hosting and we joined the lady in charge and handed out water and goodies. As we walked up and down the pier, we looked for Shay Tuttle and her parents and eventually found them right in front of the gantry with the new baby. When Sailors began leaving the ship, Chris Tuttle was number three and I moved forward and took a lot of pictures of him greeting Shay and meeting his daughter for the first time. It was a very tender moment. Once the sailors began leaving the ship the pier was in motion and we continued handing out water and goodies for an hour. We helped MWR clean up and loaded leftover water into our van to return to the Navy Exchange. A group of sailors helped take down the tent and that was a challenge as the wind was blowing about 25 mph. We worked at the USO for several hours; Pam was in the kitchen and had brought soup for lunch for the workers and also baked a cake for President & Sister Lee. I broke down boxes from a Beam’s delivery and put all the clothing and toys leftover from the Christmas drive into bins and moved them into the back-storage room for storage in the attic. When done the toy room was totally empty with the exception of about 6 Toy bags that hadn’t been picked up by patrons. When we left, we said goodbye to everyone and wished them “Merry Christmas” and drove to the base to give out some presents but only Jenny Black and Shay Tuttle were home, but it was nice to see them. Rich Black was on his way to Jacksonville from Pascagoula, MS and that would be nice for Jenny. From the base we drove back to our apartment to unload the van we passed the entrance to I-295 North, and a police car was blocking the entry and we could see traffic backed up on the bridge. We checked online to see what had happened and a major accident occurred on the bridge and the northbound lanes were closed. I called Tyler Gneck and told him we needed to leave for the airport earlier than planned and at 4:00 am we returned to the Naval Station and picked him up and two of his friends that also needed rides to the airport. Instead of taking the Dames Pt Bridge, we took the Matheson Bridge into the downtown area and then north on I-95 to the airport. It was slow going as normal traffic on I-295 was diverted to the other bridges. But we made it and they were in time for their flights.

Saturday morning, we got to rest and relax some. I took the van and got it serviced in the morning and when I returned, we cleaned the apartment and did laundry. Shortly after noon we drove to the Alexander’s and visited with them and left a Christmas gift. The kids, Tristan and Kyler, were excited and seemed to enjoy seeing us. We then drove to the Naval Station and saw the Lagae’s and also left a gift and visited with them. Eleanor and Fiona were excited for Christmas. We had a nice visit with Jerald and Sam and planned to see them tomorrow at church. We stopped at the Tuttle’s and left copies of the pictures we took on Friday of Chris’ return. We learned the Jarvis’ were in Washington D.C. for Christmas and did some texting with them and happy for them to get away. The Heads were in Orlando for a week with Nikki’s mother and would spend Christmas there. We returned to our apartment and spent the rest of the day doing more laundry and making the bed and relaxing. Sister Abril came later in the evening with her new companion, Sister Dreiling, and picked up her dress that Pam altered.

            Sunday morning, we left a little early as the Sisters texted us asking if we could pickup “James” in Neptune Beach. We drove to James’s home and he was ready to go, and we proceeded on to the Jacksonville Beach Ward. James just graduated from Fletcher High School and was unemployed and wasn’t sure what he wanted to do with his life. We arrived in time for the Sisters to greet him and then took our seats and the meeting began. Rich & Jennie Black were in attendance with Olivia and that was nice to see. Alexis was waiting for us and she had on a pretty red dress and looked very grown up. Brother Rennie brought Blake Harris and it’s the first time we had seen him since we had dinner with the single members last summer. The Noblits were there as was the Bishop and his family so we had a good military presence. The Jarvis’ were in Washington, D.C., the Heads in Orlando, Chris & Shay Tuttle home with their new baby and Tyler in Arizona, but Shay’s parents were with us today and we got to visit with them following the meeting. The Lagae’s were not with us and that was a disappointment. The meeting started at 10:00 am and following the Sacrament service, we enjoyed a very nice Christmas Program put on by members of the ward. It took a while for James to understand what we were doing in the meeting, but I tried to help him understand the Sacrament and the Program. It was a wonderful program with beautiful music and excellent spoken words and the concluding speaker was Bishop Currie. Following the meeting I explained a normal Sunday to James and he was very interested, and we think he will come again. The Sisters had another person with them, a young female Coast Guard sailor and we met her and hoped that proceeded well. After dropping James off at his home, we continued on to our apartment and Pam fixed some pizza for our lunch/dinner and we spent a quiet afternoon and evening.  

 Sister Cottle & I in our "Light The World" shirts sent to us from our Ward Primary
 Arrival Home of the USS "The Sullivan's" from a 6-month deployment to Europe
 One of our Members, Shay Tuttle meeting her husband Chris--joyous reunion
 Chris getting to meet his new Daughter for the 1st Time
 Beautiful Kristen Rose
 Chris with the baby and Grandparents who came to help Shay
Chris & Shay talking with the local media about the homecoming

Monday, December 17, 2018

Week 45 (10 - 16 December)

           Monday morning, we left for the USO at 8:30 am and joined Joyce Schellhorn (Director) along with plumbing contractors working on the restrooms. Pam went into the kitchen and did some cleaning and organizing before baking a cake for a competition Joyce was attending on Tuesday. I spent the morning doing odd jobs for Joyce. Mid-morning Beam’s brought a load of meat and other food for a weekly giveaway and we sorted the meat in coolers and put out boxed food and produce on the pool table. Joyce took pictures and posted to Facebook for military wives. Most of the day was spent preparing Christmas gifts for a family giveaway later in the month. The entire northern end of the center was filling up with donated gifts and bags were being filled for an Angel Tree project. We finally called it a day at 4:30 pm and drove to our apartment where we worked on Christmas cards.  

Tuesday morning, Pam had a medical appointment at 8:00 am and then we were at the USO again at 10:30 am. Dave Ostrum opened the facility and showed us boxes of goodies and a mountain of toys that came in yesterday afternoon for processing. Pam worked in the office and I went with Margaret and Julie (volunteers) to the storage room and filled 100 bags of food for a food giveaway for Christmas. Joyce Schellhorn (Director) arrived about 11:00 am and she and Dave went to the “Bistro” a restaurant on the beach for a Chamber of Commerce activity and took Pam’s cake for a baking competition. They returned a couple of hours later and Joyce reviewed what we had done and gave us more to do. A couple of new volunteers arrived in the afternoon and with their help we moved things into the attic for long-term storage and put some order to the storage room. We also cleaned up and arranged the lounge area for the evenings “hot chocolate and cookies with Santa” event for older children. James McCullough dressed Santa again and his wife took pictures. Pam and I left at 4:30 pm and it had been another long day for us and we were tired. We drove home and settled in for the evening. We called Bishop Stanley F. Ferreira of the Timuquana Ward and visited with him about Jacob NcNiven on the Naval Air Station. There was one active member on the station and he would make arrangements for him to contact Jacob about a ride to church. 

Wednesday morning, we began the morning dropping off a dress Pam altered to Sister Johnson in our Zone. She was very pleased with the result. We continued on to the USO and Dave Ostrum had opened the facility. Pam worked in the office handling calls and updating toy lists. Dave and I sorted through a food donation from a local Montessori School. When done I brought about 60 of the food bags put together on Tuesday into the back-office room and then set up a table in the outside storage room and put together 25 more food bags for NAS Jacksonville USO. While involved in that Joyce Schellhorn (Director) arrived and she and Pam worked on Toy lists. In the afternoon I also worked in the Toy room unwrapping presents that came in earlier in the week. All the Toys given are unwrapped, so parents could what was being given. Two other volunteers and I took the presents and put them on tables by category if they weren’t committed to a particular individual. After the volunteers left Pam and I filled Toy bags with extra toys and finished about 10 bags. Dave planned to commence calling parents to let them know the Toys were ready to pick up. At 5:00 pm Sisters Davis and Paulsen came to the center and we took them to the Naval Station for dinner. First, we dropped off some diapers for Shay Tuttle and then drove around showing the sisters the station and some ships before having dinner. We met the manager, Ms. Mony, and had a nice visit with her. She was the sister of a Sister Wang who was at church Sunday with her husband. Ms. Mony had lived in Utah (Salt Lake) for about 14 years but was not a member. After dropping the Sister’s off at their car at the USO, we drove to our apartment for the night.

Thursday morning, we opened the USO this morning at 8:00 am and let the contractors in but there was no bread and pastries. Also surprised that a line of people began assembling outside waiting to get tickets to a “Little Drummer Boy” concert by a Christian Rock band that was advertised last night in a special “USO Blast.” Bread and Pastries were delivered about 8:45 am and Dave Ostrum came with the tickets about 9:15 am, so we had a hectic first hour.  After the tickets were gone, Dave left, and Pam worked in Toy area and I took care of the office checking in patrons and calling families to come for Christmas Food Baskets. The phone rang constantly about the special tickets and Jaguar tickets and people wanting to talk with Joyce, so it was a busy morning. Dave returned at 10:30 am and Julie (volunteer) came and worked with Pam and finally Joyce Schellhorn (Director) arrived at noon. Another couple of volunteers joined Pam and Julie so there were many hands working and they got a lot done. By 2:00 pm I had made it through the entire phone list once but had to leave a lot of messages. Also gave out about 20 food baskets and meat to families as they responded to the calls. Pam and I left at 4:00 pm and returned home as we had missionaries coming for dinner. At the apartment Pam worked on the meal of Spaghetti and Meatballs and also baked a pan of Brownies. I set the table and at 6:00 am Elders Smedley and Hendricks arrived. They lived in the Avia Apartments with us, but we seldom saw them. Elder Smedley was from Pocatello and Elder Hendricks from Alpine. We enjoyed having them in our home and visiting with them and learning about missionary work here in the Arlington area. Elder Smedley left a message and then they departed at 7:00 pm. We cleaned up the kitchen and did the dishes and settled in for the night.  

Friday morning, it was raining and continued to rain throughout the day. We left for the USO at 9:30 am Joyce Schellhorn (Director) had opened and there had been a delivery from Beams so food and boxes were everywhere. Joyce had Pam make some soup, so she spent most of her morning in the kitchen cooking and cleaning and arranging. I cleaned up the boxes from Beams and helped get the food arranged for pictures and posting and then spent the balance of the morning in the office making phone calls for patrons to come and pickup food baskets, also checking in patrons and giving out food baskets and sacks of toys to patrons who responded to calls. Margaret and Julie (volunteers) were with us again. Margaret making calls and Julie working in the Toy room. We continued the process throughout the afternoon giving out food and Toys and working on new Toy bags and visiting with the patrons. While working in the office a young man came in for a Food bag pickup and recognized my missionary tag and indicated he attended the Fort Caroline Ward. His name was Stuart Kaestner and was a single father and lived on Beach Blvd. I got his contact information and he welcomed a visit, so that was great. It was a busy day and the phone was going constantly. Pam and I left at 3:45 pm and had a late lunch and then to JoAnn’s for Pam to buy some stretch lace and to Costco for some water and food. We arrived back at our apartment in the evening and settled in for the night.

Saturday morning was quiet and restful for us. By 9:00 am Pam began working in the kitchen on Christmas gifts and I cleaned the apartment and kept laundry going. I called Jacob McNiven, a Marine at NAS Jax and checked on him. A member of the Timuquana Ward had contacted him and so he had an opportunity to attend church tomorrow. He would leave for Texas on the 21st and would return a married man, but his wife was staying in Texas until Jacob’s temporary duty was completed. At noon we drove to the Alexander’s and had a nice visit with Tara and later with Wes and the children when they arrived home. We had lunch at a local eatery and then drove to the St. John’s Center to do some shopping and what a traffic mess. The entire shopping mall was in gridlock. We finally made our way to Target and parked and shopped and then took another 20 minutes to get out of the parking lot and onto the city streets. Eventually we made our way back to Arlington Hills and our apartment. Pam continued working on Christmas gifts and I made the bed and wrote a letter to FTM missionaries in particular areas where we seldom go, asking for their help in getting information on military families.

Sunday morning, we arrived at the Jacksonville Beach Ward at 9:45 am and greeted ward members and hoped to see our families but only Tyler, the Jarvis’ and Noblits were there today. The meetings were excellent, and Brother and Sister Spackman spoke prior to their mission to the Ivory Coast early next year. We had a combined 3rd hour and the Bishopric each spoke and outlined Sunday activities for next year and how things would change and the repercussions of the changes. They did a nice job and hopefully we could all get on board. Following the block, we took William home (Sisters contact) and then returned to our apartment and had a quick lunch. At 2:45 pm we returned to the Beach and picked up the Elders Crandall & Beals and drove to the Dunn Avenue chapel for a musical program titled a “Genesis Christmas Devotional.” The Genesis Group in Salt Lake City was established in October 1971 by the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as a dependent branch to serve the needs of African-American Latter-day Saints. The name here in Florida was used to denote African-American programs for the Church and Brother Wiley & Beatrice Darden of the Dunn Avenue Ward had led this Devotional program for several years, inviting talented African-American musicians and clergy from local churches to participate in the devotional along local members of the church. Pam and I took seats in the chapel at 4:45 pm and Missionaries from Kingsland, Jax East, Jax West and Mandarin Zones were present, so the place was awash with Missionaries visiting, hugging and having a good time. Eventually there was a large congregation of members from the Dunn Avenue Ward and other surrounding Wards and community friends gathered for the Devotional. President & Sister Lee were on the front row and we later learned that President Heywood (Stake) was in the chapel also. Bishop Packard welcomed everyone and turned the time to Sister Darden and she invited the Missionary Choir up and Sister Lee led them in “Call to Serve” and then a community friend came up and offered a prayer rich in Gospel tradition. Sister Darden announced each number and there were many solos and small groups singing numbers which highlighted the life and mission of the Savior and were very beautiful and also entertaining with a lot of hand clapping, standing, foot stomping and smiles everywhere. Quite an evening. Sister Newman and Roberts sang a duet and they were spectacular and fit right in with the feeling of the devotional. Finally, a Choir from the Dunn Avenue Ward sang, and the Missionary Choir came up again and concluded the meeting followed by another closing prayer from a friend of the church. It was a wonderful evening and such a sweet spirit among the attendees. We met many of the participants and another new senior couple who had been in the field for 4 days and were serving in the Hillard Branch. We corralled Elder Crandall and Beals and departed, returning to Jacksonville Beach and depositing them at their apartment and then returned to our apartment and settled in the for the night. Quite a conclusion to a busy week. 

 Missionaries we associate with in the Jax East Zone (Sisters Roberts and Newman in the center). Elder Tualamalii (far right) is Samoan, and Sister Vai (far right) is Tongan.
 Missionaries we associate with in the Jax East Zone. Sister Wasden (tall one) is a relative of Pam's
Elder Smedley & Hendricks over for dinner with us

Dave Ostrum (USO) with Montessori School faculty at USO
 Montessori students with food donations at USO
 Portion of donated toys for Christmas giveaway
 Portion of donated toys for Christmas giveaway
  Food donations from Beams, a local food distribution center
 Type of meat products in the coolers

Monday, December 10, 2018

Week 44 (3 - 9 December)

Monday morning, we were off to Orlando with Andrew and his family. It took a while to get organized and packed for one night and also Sarah had gone running and fell and injured her left hand quite badly. Finally, at 9:30 am we were ready and following a prayer we loaded up the van and were off for our adventure. Andrew and Sarah announced the trip about 8:00 am and the kids had no idea we were going so they were ski high! It was raining very hard here in Jacksonville, but the farther south we progressed, the storm lessened. Following one stop for a bathroom break we arrived in Orlando in the early afternoon and drove directly to Universal Studios. We had a 2-day pass for Andrew, Sarah and their family and Pam and I had 3 more days on our passes we bought when Johanna visited. We rented a wheelchair for Pam again and it worked out perfectly and Pam needed the assistance as we walked a lot of miles throughout the afternoon and evening. Universal Studios had 3 major parks and our 2 park passes gave us entrance to Universal Studios Florida and the Islands of Adventure. After getting checked in we began at a “Despicable Me” ride and then to the “Mummy” ride, both fun rides for the kids. We wandered the streets and checked out everything we could before we ended up at the “Harry Potter Diagon Alley.” Jane was thrilled to be there, and we wandered the streets and alleys of that attraction. We rode the “Hogwart’s Express” to the “Harry Potter Hogsmeade” park and in both parks road all the rides and did a little shopping and had some “Butter Beer.” We exited the Harry Potter world to the Suess Landing and spent some time there with the little girls while the older kids and Andrew & Sarah road a roller coaster. We retraced our steps and took the “Hogwart’s Express” back to the International Studios park and Sarah took the little kids to Woody Woodpecker’s Kidzone and Andrew told the older kids to more roller coaster rides at the front of the park. We all met at the Music Stage plaza and at 7:00 pm exited the park and drove to our hotel for the night. We located the Comfort Inn & Suites where we had reservations for 2 rooms, got checked in and had some dinner before calling it a night.

Tuesday morning, we enjoyed breakfast at the hotel, checked out and returned to Universal Studios for the day. As we entered the park in the Universal Studios area, Andrew, Sarah and the older children went right to a coaster ride and Pam and I took the younger children to the Woody Woodpecker’s Kidzone and the kids’ road all the rides. When we were reunited, we rode a few more rides in that part of the park before returning to the “Wizarding World of Harry Potter-Diagon Alley.” We saw a few more streets that we missed the previous day, did a little shopping and rode a ride before boarding the train for the “Hogsmead” park. Andrew and Norah went on a small coaster ride and Sarah took the other children on the other ride. We exited into the “Island of Adventure” park and throughout the afternoon rode several coaster rides and all of the water rides and got incredibly wet. Pam and I took the little kids back to Seuss Landing for rides while Andrew & Sarah took the older kids for more coaster rides and then at 4:00 pm we reunited and exited the “Islands of Adventure” into the “Riverwalk” area and turned in the wheel chair and loaded up the van and left for home. We were thankful for GPS to get us on the way safely. North of Orlando we stopped at Café Rio for dinner and boy was it good. We had all we wanted and left 45 minutes later and arrived in Arlington Hills shortly after 7:00 pm. It had been a long, but enjoyable day with family.

Wednesday morning, we got ready for Andrew, Sarah and family’s departure. The time was spent eating, gathering and packing and at 10:00 am we loaded up the van and headed to the airport. We dropped them off at the Frontier Airlines departure area and took some pictures and shared hugs and expressions of love and sadly they were off. We returned to our apartment it was so empty and quiet! We spent several hours cleaning up and putting away. Pam began numerous loads of laundry and I vacuumed the floors and cleaned the kitchen and did dishes and put the dining room and living room and guest bedroom back to their normal arrangements. At noon we paused for lunch and then continued with laundry. After the beds were made and clothes put away, we drove to Jarvis’ home in Neptune Beach and returned their bin, blankets and air mattress and thanked them for the use. We also went to the Tuttle’s and visited with Shay and her parents and the new baby for a half an hour. The baby had come 3 weeks early last Thursday evening and they had sent a text, but I inadvertently turned off notifications on my phone and missed about 5 texts messages. She did very well and only in labor for 4 to 5 hours. The little girl was beautiful and looked like Shay. She still had no idea when Chris would be home and that was a concern, but she seemed to be taking everything in stride. We returned home and finished a final load of laundry and settled in for the night.

Thursday morning, we drove to Jacksonville Beach and picked up 4 Elders and then proceeded to the Jacksonville West Stake Center in Orange Park for Zone Conference. It took over 45 minutes to get there and the traffic was horrible all along the way. After parking in a lot full of missionary cars, we went inside and found seats with the other Senior Missionaries at tables and looked out on all the missionaries in the mission. It was the first event we had attended a conference with the entire mission assembled. Right at 10:00 am President Lee welcomed everyone and announced what was going to transpire and the first event was Zone Skits the Sisters and Elders had been preparing for some time. The skits were Christmas themed concerning missionary work and as they took place, they were cute, imaginative, clever and highlighted their love for President and Sister Lee, because they were in just about every skit as caricatures. We smiled and laughed at the antics of the Sisters and Elders and loved every skit. In between each skit, President Lee would come out on stage and tell a joke and they were quite funny. We concluded at noon and lunch was prepared by members of the Jacksonville West Stake and they opened the overflow doors and there was food all laid out and ready to be served. We ate, visited and enjoyed the social atmosphere with the missionaries. They loved to be together and reunite with old companions—a lot of hugging going on. At the conclusion of the lunch the missionaries gathered by the food and sang “Called to Serve” to those who prepared and served the food. Within 30 minutes we were assembled in the chapel for a devotional which began at 1:30 pm. The first order of business was a mission picture and then we took our seats and President & Sister Lee said some words of love and testimony and Elder Carter announced the program. First, they invited 9 missionaries up who were leaving soon to bear their testimonies and it was very, very sweet. What strength in those 9 testimonies? Next commenced a Christmas Musical program which Sister Lee had arranged and was amazing. There were about 10 different numbers with a narration in between. The music was spectacular—so beautiful and well done. Who would have thought there was that much musical talent in one mission? The voices, men’s and women were just gorgeous whether solos or in small groups. The skill at the piano was demonstrated by a half a dozen individuals including Sister Lee and on several numbers violins and flutes accented the singing. I wish we could have recorded it all, but it is firmly etched in our memories, and also the sweet spirit we felt throughout the program. At 3:00 pm it came to an end and that was sad. Following a closing prayer, the Sisters and Elders went to several rooms which had presents sent by parents to the Mission Office for Christmas and it was fun watching the missionaries walk out with their load of goodies. Following thousands of pictures and endless hugs and hand shaking, we made our way outside to the van and Elders Crandall, Beal, Saxton and Wojnar came out with their loot and loaded the van and we were off. We retraced our steps back to Jacksonville Beach and dropped off the Elders and then returned to our apartment. An evening appointment we had was cancelled, so we just settled in for the night.

            Friday morning, we arrived at the USO by 9:00 am for “Breakfast with Santa” and everyone seemed happy to see us after being gone for a week. Pam was assigned to help with the toys they were giving away and I worked in the office checking in patrons as they came and checking names against a list of invited families. James McCulloch was Santa and very “jolly” indeed. His wife took pictures of children with Santa and their two daughters were “Elves.” Cheryl Vandiver and several others including Margarete from the airport and Julie were working in the kitchen. We had mothers and some fathers come with their little ones in a pretty steady pace from 9:00 am until the last one arrived about 10:30 am. They seemed to enjoy the activity and the food was good. When they left, I gave each child a bag of candy. James stayed in costume until noon to catch any stragglers and Pam helped clean up in the kitchen and I took out the mountain of trash. In the afternoon Pam and I worked in the eating area by Charlie Tramazzo’s office identifying toys that were being sorted for individual families for the Toy giveaway later this month. Joyce Schellhorn (Director) said the room would be packed with toys in a couple of weeks. Mike O’Brien was there most of the morning and afternoon and he interviewed all of the USO employees. One result we anticipated was Cheryl announced her last day at the USO would be the 22nd of December. That would be sad for us as she was one of our favorite ladies to work with and ran the “No Dough” dinner program. She felt she wasn’t being compensated adequately and and I guess that didn’t change. Shortly after 2:00 pm Pam and I drove back to Arlington Hills and had some lunch and then returned to our apartment. We spent a quiet afternoon and evening making some phone calls to our kids and military families.

Saturday morning, we were on the road for apartment inspections by 7:40 am. We arrived at the apartment of Sister Newman & Vai and found them on their way to the Dunn Avenue Chapel for a morning ward breakfast, but they assured us their apartment was clean?? We continued to Elder Shurtleff & Tualamalii’s apartment and visited with them, then back across the river to Sister Abril & Roberts apartment and on to Elder Smedley & Hendrick’s apartment. The final two were with Sister Johnson & Wasden and then Elder Saxton & Wojnar’s apartments and all the apartments looked good and the Sisters and Elders were busy and happy. We would visit the two companionships in Jacksonville Beach next week. We came back to our apartment and changed clothes and drove to the St. John’s area and had lunch and then did some shopping for lace to do a dress modification for Sister Johnson. On the way back to our apartment we stopped at Wal-Mart and shopped and then returned home. Pam worked on some Christmas items (ordering presents for our military families and a few others) while I spent time calling several families including a new name we received at Zone Conference—Jacob McNiven who was a Marine stationed at NAS Jax. He returned the call and I had a nice visit with him. He wouldn’t be with us for very long, and was getting married on the 23rd of December in Texas, so hopefully we can get his membership record updated and moved to the appropriate base when his training in Jacksonville is finished. I talked with Elder Grieve, an executive secretary to the Orange Park Ward, to get information on the ward that covers the Naval Air Station and he thought it was the Timuquana Ward but wasn’t sure. I called all the leaders in that ward but didn’t find anyone home, so would have to try another time. I texted all our families with a message we hoped to see them tomorrow in church and got responses from all of them. The Heads are out of town again this weekend and indicated they would be in Orlando every weekend until Christmas is over. Nikki’s mother lives in Orlando so don’t blame them. We settled in for the night.

            Sunday morning, we left for church at 9:30 am and drove to the Jacksonville Beach Ward and were greeted by the Elders and Sisters, Brother Renney, who told us the Iwo Jima was back and Blake Harris had called him. That meant Kyle Young was also back with his family. Tyler Gneck was there along with Alexis Connelly, Jennie Black & Olivia and the Jarvis’ and Bishop and his family. Brother Christianson stood at 10:00 am and following a hymn and prayer, the sacrament ordinance was performed and then the meeting was open to testimonies and we had an unusually good meeting with many powerful testimonies borne. Jennie Black had texted me earlier requesting a blessing, so I visited with her in the foyer following the meeting and then escorted her to an empty room. Tyler Gneck and Lance Jarvis joined me, and Tyler anointed, and I sealed the anointing and pronounced a blessing. She was happy for the blessing and seemed content. In the Gospel Principles class, the Lagae’s were present and had been out in the foyer for Sacrament meeting as was Gary and Devaney Noblit, so we had a good group this Sabbath day. Jerald, Tyler, Gary and I attended priesthood meeting. Following the block, we visited for a few minutes and made dinner appointments with the Elders and Sisters and and returned home for the afternoon. Pam fixed some dinner and we ate and watched some BYUTV programming and napped. At 6:30 pm we were dressed again and returned to the Beach and joined many ward members in the Dill Family Musical activity at their home. Ryan & Katy sponsored this event every Christmas and their home was packed with ward members and friends. They had a nice large home and we settled in what appeared to be a multi-purpose room where Sister Dill sewed and there must have been over 100 men, women and children all over the house. Music words were passed out and Sister Dill welcomed everyone, and following a prayer, we began singing Christmas songs. Interspersed between songs were special musical numbers—solos, duets, flute, ballet, piano & cello, accordion and the highlight was President Heywood on bagpipes. It lasted about 90 minutes and we had an enjoyable time and left for our apartment. It had been a very wonderful and spiritual ending to a good week. 

 Pam and I at Universal Studios with Andrew & Sarah and family
 Andrew & Sarah & family leaving on Wednesday morning-sad day!
 Zone Christmas Conference-President Lee with Sister Roberts, Vai, Davis
 Zone skits which were wonderful-Christmas themed Missionary Work
 Zone Skits
 President Lee & AP's Carter and Vaughn singing
 Spanish speaking Elders & Sisters skit--always eating
Devotional in Chapel with the entire mission-wonderful conclusion to a beautiful day

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Week 43 (26 November - 2 December)

Monday morning, I finished our blog entry for the week and got it published and then at 11:00 am we left for a medical appointment at Akumin Imaging for a bone density test for Pam. When done we continued to the USO. The parking lot of full and a Petty Officer Leadership course for E-4 and E-5 newly promoted sailors was in progress and we worked around them throughout the afternoon. Beam’s had delivered a huge food donation and there was bread, pastries, vegetables and frozen meat for patrons. Joyce Schellhorn (Director) was in the office along with Cheryl Vandiver and Dave Ostrum and Pam worked with Cheryl for a while and then answered phones and gave out Jags and Nutcracker tickets to patrons. I cleaned up a few messes and broke down the Beams boxes and got them taken care of. I also worked with Joyce getting Christmas decorations ready to display. At 4:00 pm Pam and I drove to the Credit Union and made a deposit for Joyce and then stopped at the Jarvis’ home and unloaded food donations for Stake Conference this weekend. We also went to the Lagae’s on the Naval Station and visited with them and they had a great time in Orlando and their kids were very happy to see us. We picked up our table and chairs and drove back to the Arlington Hills area. We stopped for a late lunch, early dinner and then on to our apartment for the night.

            Tuesday morning, we opened the USO at 8:00 am this morning for a Petty Officer training course and for Contractors. We opened the front and back doors and let the Petty Officers and Contractors in and within a few minutes they began their activities. There were boxes of Christmas decorations everywhere and we just let them lie. Christmas was one of Joyce Schellhorn’s (Director) favorite holidays and she had quite a collection of things. We turned on everything and sat back and relaxed for a while until 9:00 am when the doors officially opened. I went outside and hung a new MIA/POW flag beneath the American Flag and Pam ran the office. Cheryl Vandiver arrived about 10:00 am and Dave Ostrum was also there so we had a full house. We weren’t sure why Joyce, Cheryl and Dave were all there at the same time as they all just sat around and talked. Pam and I hung some Christmas decorations and did some cleaning until afternoon and left at 1:15 pm for a doctor’s appointment. We checked in at the clinic and within 15 minutes were ushered into a room and Doctor Hoffman began checking our records and going through a Wellness Check. She first went over Pam’s records and Pam needed some lab work done and they talked about her being marginally diabetic. She gave Pam some information on healthy eating and exercise. She went through my records and everything was up to date, so we were done in about 45 minutes. We would see her again in March for new lab work. From the doctor’s office we drove to the St. John’s Center area and had some lunch and then shopped at Costco for fresh vegetables and fruit. On the way back to the apartment we stopped for gas and then home for the night. Pam did some arranging in the guest bedroom closet for Andrew and Sarah and made a call to Sarah to discuss the weather for it was cold today and would be through the weekend.

Wednesday morning, we finished preparations for Andrew’s family visit starting today. We left for the airport at 10:45 am and their flight landed just after we arrived and in about 20 minutes, we located them upstairs on the arrival deck. It was so good to see them and following the greetings we walked to the van and loaded up and headed to our apartment. The biggest issue was seating as we had 7 seatbelts and 8 passengers. The 4 children squeezed into the back seat and Norah and Alice double belted. At our apartment we unloaded their things and showed them around and visited for a while before going to the local Wendy’s for lunch. Our first adventure was a drive to Mayport where we took the ferry across the St. John’s river. While waiting to leave we saw Jelly Fish just off the pier and a Dolphin in the channel jumping out of the water as a Container ship passed by. After unloading we took the Timucuan Preserve road and on to Kingsley Plantation and toured the facility. First, we went to the visitor’s center and out by the water and it was spectacular. We walked through the Kitchen House, Main House, Barn, Garden and the Slave Quarters by the entrance—all very interesting. While we were walking through the Slave Quarters, Sarah began running back to the main road and after we finished looking around we left and caught up to her just before she arrived at the main road. She loved the run, especially the road and canopy of trees and moss. We continued West towards I-295 and returned to the apartment via the Dames Point Bridge. The kids busied themselves with games and tablets and Sarah and Reynolds went out and investigated the apartment complex, especially the pool and to see if there was a hot tub. Well no hot tub, but they liked the pool. Pam fixed dinner and we ate, and the rest of the evening was spent visiting. We joined their family reading in Mosiah and then had a family prayer and called it a night. Jane, Alice and Norah were sleeping on an air mattress and Reynolds was on the couch. Of course, Andrew & Sarah were in the guest room.

Thursday morning, Andrew and Sarah were up about 9:00 am and they dressed and went running out on Fort Caroline Blvd. They returned in two hours and we had some lunch at the apartment and then drove to Atlantic Beach and took highway A1A and through Neptune and Jacksonville Beach towns south to Ponte Vedra and pointed out to Andrew the location of the Sawgrass Country Club where the Players Tournament was played each year. As we continued along A1A they were amazed at the homes, the beautiful trees and landscaping. Finally, at a small gas station we stopped as there was access to the beach and the kids went out on the sand and ran around looking for shells and playing in the water. As you would imagine one by one, they got wet, mainly their shoes, but Norah got wet up to her waist from splashing water so when we got back to the van, they were cold. We continued to St. Augustine where we planned to spend the afternoon, but first located a Wal-Mart and Pam and Sarah went inside and Pam purchased a pair of leggings for Norah and new shoes for all the kids. Finally, dried and dressed, we drove to the visitor’s center in the center of Old Town St. Augustine and found parking. After some instructions, we bought tickets for the trolley ride to see the city lights at 6:00 pm. We walked to the Fort (Castillo de San Marcos) and spent an hour walking through the main floor and up on the ramparts. The kids really enjoyed the enormity of it and I know Andrew and Sarah were impressed. From the fort we crossed back into Old Augustine and wandered through some of the old streets and viewed the buildings, old Victorian homes and narrow streets and ended up at a playground park just west of the parking garage. The kids played for about 45 minutes. It was constructed out of Redwood and was interesting. Finally, at about 5:15 pm we walked to where the trolleys were lining up for the evenings Festival of Lights and waited in line for 6:00 pm to arrive. We boarded the first set of Trolley cars and it was cool, and we were glad we brought coats. During the Christmas holidays, the city of St. Augustine lights up and becomes a festival of twinkling white lights as it hosts the annual Nights of Lights holiday display. Visitors and long-time residents alike are treated to a wonderland of lights adorning the ancient city, beginning at the Plaza de la Constitución, with its stunning holiday tree in the center and oaks strung with lights, and stretching out to illuminate all of St. Augustine's historic district. From roof shingles to doorway entrances, the downtown buildings take on a glow of holiday cheer, with millions of twinkling white lights covering the historic sites, bed and breakfasts, museums, restaurants and shops of the nation's oldest city. The ride was beautiful, and we all enjoyed the lights, music, singing, and comradery of the people. The ride lasted for almost an hour as we crisscrossed the city and saw many of the sights several times from different approaches. It was well worth the cost. We ended up right by the parking garage and were given a cookie and cup of Warm Apple Cider, which was wonderful. We loaded up in the van and headed for home. We were hungry and decided to stop at Costco where we had pizza and sandwiches and it was perfect. We arrived at our apartment 45 minutes later and settled in for the night. As Norah said, it was the “best day ever.”

Friday morning, we left the apartment just before 9:00 am and dropped Pam off at the Lagae’s where she babysat Fiona and Clive while Samantha and Jerald took Eleanor for an IEP hearing at the elementary school. We drove around the base for a half an hour and I pointed out the various ships and what they did and covered the entire waterfront and the airfield. Finally, we drove to the beach access by Officer housing and parked and walked out to the beach. It was low tide and we walked out to a sand bar and set up chairs and laid out a towel and beach toys. The kids eagerly took off their street clothes to reveal swimming suits and wandered tested the water. They enjoyed it very much and were not timid about going out in the water, especially Jane and Reynolds. Sarah ran north to the Chief’s Club, and then returned. She wanted to run towards Jacksonville and headed out and we didn’t see her for an hour. Andrew and I took pictures of the kids and before we knew it had to keep moving the chairs and towel as the tide began to come in quickly. Before we knew it, we were 40 or 50 feet back towards the dunes. Norah was wet and cold about noon and said she wanted to go home. I suggested taking her to Lagae’s and let Pam get her warm and that is what I did. I drove her there with a change of clothes and Pam got her dressed. Later Samantha Lagae brought Pam and Norah to the beach when they got home, and we watched the kids play and enjoyed the sun and gentle breeze. We saw Dolphins playing out beyond the kids and they were amazing. Pam, Jane and I drove to ITT to get some information about Orlando and then returned to the beach for a final hour. Reynolds was a real water-baby and kept going back in and having fun. Finally, at 2:00 pm we decided to leave and gathered up our things and walked to the van and returned to the Lagae’s. We dropped off the chairs and beach toys and Samantha and Jerald got to meet the family. We came home for the rest of the afternoon and evening. The showers were going full blast and then the washer and dryer while Pam fixed dinner for us—Café Rio Burritos, good! Andrew and Sarah took their kids outside and walked around, played on the playground until dark and then came inside. Pam went to sleep early, and I joined Andrew’s family as they chapter 29 of Mosiah and then had prayers before we all went to bed.

Saturday morning, Pam and I drove to the ITT shop in Mayport to check on tickets for Universal Studios, but we also asked if they had any tickets for Okefenokee Swamp Park. She said “no”, but she did have a good deal for us in St. Augustine at the Alligator Farm Zoological Park. We had previously looked at that place, but it was too expensive. Well today was Military Appreciation Day and Pam and I would get in free and other tickets were discounted significantly. So, we bought tickets for Andrew & Sarah and family and returned to our apartment. We were on the way to St. Augustine within an hour and made our way through the city and across the harbor bridge to the St. Augustine Beach Island and located the park. We checked in and spent over 3 hours wandering through the park—Alligators, Crocodiles, Birds of Africa, Tortoises and Lemures of Madagascar. Of significance was the number of Crocodile species they had from Africa, Asia and the Americas. Every recognized species of crocodiles was found in this park. We saw parts of two shows highlighting birds, snakes and tortoises and they were very interesting. Finally, before leaving we saw them feed alligators and it was interesting to watch their response to food as the alligators gathered at one end of the pond—33 of them all full-sized adults. At home, Pam and I got ready for the Saturday evening session of conference and left shortly after 6:00 pm for the Stake Center. We got seats in the chapel and at 7:00 am President Button stood, and the meeting commenced. Following an opening hymn and prayer we heard from Brother Michael Lundell, a member of the High Council, President Button, Sister Lee, President Lee and then from Sister Jackie McCarthur, wife of the visiting authority. Following an intermediate hymn, the balance of the meeting was taken by Elder J Vaun McCarthur of the seventy (6th Quorum). He gave a wonderful talk from the scriptures. It’s been a long time since I witnessed someone use the scriptures like he did. Basically, he reinforced the Prophet’s call to “Minister” and did a wonderful job. Following the closing prayer, we saw the Walton’s and relayed a message from Carol Berthelson about their son who was serving in Parker. We left and drove back to our apartment and everyone was asleep, so we came into our room for the night.

Sunday morning, we all were up early and got ready for church and were on our way at 9:00 am. When we arrived at the stake center, the full-time missionaries were directing traffic and parking cars. We got parked and went inside and found seats on the front row of the cultural hall and visited with stake members as they arrived. Elder McArthur was shaking hands with President Heywood and then at 10:00 am President Heywood stood, and the meeting began. Following an opening hymn and prayer President Button conducted the business of the conference. He was followed by Christina Smith of the Beach Ward, Francisco Ortiz from the San Jose Ward, Kathleen Seymour from the Dunn Ave Ward, and Sister and President Mills from the Orlando Temple. After an intermediate hymn, we heard from President Lee of the mission, Patriarch Warner and then the concluding speaker was Elder J. Vaun McArthur of the seventy. He gave another wonderful talk and conference was concluded. We visited for a few minutes and then made our way out of the building to our van and left for home. Pam fixed dinner for us and within an hour we ate and then spent the afternoon and evening visiting.
Container Ship entering Jaxport, passing Ferry dock 
 Kingsley Plantation - restored slave plantation
 Kingsley Plantation - Slave quarters made of "Tabby"
 Andrew & Sarah and family on Jacksonville Beach
 Reynolds, Jane, Norah & Alice at Jacksonville Beach
 Pam entering Castillo de San Marcos with Jane, Reynolds & Alice
 Watch tower in Fort with Jane, Reynolds & Alice
 Pam with Andrew, Sarah and family at Fort
 Jane, Reynolds & Alice in front of Oldest Wooden School house in USA
 Reynolds & Alice on a playground in St. Augustine
 Night Trolley Light ride in St Augustine
  Night Trolley Light ride in St Augustine
Jane, Reynolds, Alice & Norah at Beach at Mayport--notice the Dolphin
 Whole family on the beach at Mayport
 Alligator Farm in St. Augustine
 Crocodile at Alligator Farm in St. Augustine
 Reynolds, Alice & North at Alligator Farm in St. Augustine
Reynolds & Alice at Alligator Farm

Week 66 (6 - 12 May)

Monday morning, Pam and I left for the USO at 9:30 am. No Dough dinner was that evening, so we were busy. Upon arrival my birthday was cele...