Monday, August 29, 2011

Flying High

Gratefully, the title of today’s blog does not refer to what happened to us during Hurricane Irene. Our hearts are heavy for the states north of us that suffered so much damage. We came through just fine. A lot of wind and rain, but only one tiny downed tree limb and a bunch of ants who decided they liked our front entry better than floating away. We were very fortunate. The hurricane did pack a big wallop in some nearby areas, though. While we didn’t lose our power, over a million others in Northern Virginia did and some of them will not be getting it back until Thursday or Friday this week. There are about 20 schools in the DC area that are still closed.

The biggest inconvenience for us was when we showed up for church at a chapel near George Mason U. on Sunday morning and the parking lot was completely empty! We don’t have a home ward. We are asked to visit Young Single Adult wards and home wards with Institute-aged students in a four stake area. The empty building we visited Sunday morning had no power. It houses the Fairfax and Wakefield Wards. The power came on later in the day, though, so both wards in the building held a combined meeting that we attended.

The Fairfax and Wakefield Wards are in the Annandale Stake. Sunday we met both bishops and were able to spend some time with their stake president - President Bush. One of the other stakes we work with is the Mt. Vernon Stake. Their stake president is President Nixon. President Bush and President Nixon in neighboring stakes in Washington D.C.! Who says God doesn’t have a sense of humor???

Now back to the title. We’re flying high for a bunch of reasons:

  • 1. We’re flying high because it’s official: we’re finished -- with the summer semester, that is. We taught our last classes last week and had a great experience getting to know many wonderful Young Singles - so diverse and full of enthusiasm.
  • 2. We’re flying high because now we’ve got a week off... well, not really. This week, we’ll be writing a syllabus and lesson plans for the new classes we start teaching next week after Labor Day. (We’ll tell you more about where they are held next week.)
  • 3. We’re flying high because we are looking forward to teaching the new fall semester curriculum. It’s going to be a great blessing to us, personally, to prepare to teach:

· Receiving Personal Revelation: Conference Messages That Will Change Your Life

· The Power of the Word: Using the Scriptures To Meet Personal Needs

  • 4. We’re flying high because it now seems like home to us here in Centreville, Va. It’s been a month since we arrived and we feel content here. We love our townhouse and we love our assignment. That doesn’t mean that we don’t think about family and friends every day, but it does mean that we feel very comfortable here and can find our way around the DC metro area. (Only got lost twice last week….)
  • 5. We’re flying high because we are in the flight path of Dulles Airport. Ordinarily that’s not such a good thing, but the craziest experience has happened to me (Pat). The sound of all those planes landing and taking off makes me happy! What’s up with that? Well, it’s because I grew up just 1¾ miles north of LAX. I could have walked to the terminals as a child. The sound of majestic aircraft soaring overhead is strangely comforting to me. It gives me a sense of peace. When I hear those planes, my heart carries me back to all kinds of wonderful memories from my childhood. It’s the same thing your sense of smell can trigger when you smell a particular aroma. Isn’t that odd?
  • 6. We’re flying high because we have been told to take off one day a week and explore some of the incredible landmarks around. Our sense of pride in our country’s history is growing stronger. These photos show a couple of places we’ve seen lately. Do you know where they are? (Hint: George Washington had a lot to do with both places.)

If you ‘d like a peek into our mission, click on this link: . PBS was recently given special permission by the Church and local priesthood leaders to film an eight minute segment about Single Adults in the Washington DC area, and specifically the church building in Crystal City that houses three singles wards. This remodeled office building was just dedicated as an LDS meetinghouse in March and has garnered quite a bit of media attention. We teach two of our classes there and often attend church with the young men and women in the video. Even though PBS didn't do a great job of representing the ethnic diversity in the wards, we really like the report. Way to go, PBS!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Earthquakes, Tornadoes and Hurricanes - Oh My!

It's been quite a week! A little unnerving here and there. It always is when you face off with Mother Nature....

So, the 6.0 earthquake WAS a big deal around here and the topic of conversation for a day or two afterward. "Where were you when the earthquake hit?" "How did it feel where you were?" I (Pat) was in the basement of our three-story townhouse working on my Institute lesson. I could hear things falling off a shelf upstairs, but chose to stand in a doorway and wait it out. It felt like standing on top of an off-kilter washing machine. When the intensity began increasing, I wished I had run upstairs where at least I would have been on the top of the rubble.... Don was out running errands when it happened, stopped at a red light. As the car started to rock, he first thought it was a bad wind storm. He and the other drivers just sat there and looked around at each other, trying to decide what to do next. Then it was over - and all that was left was a pounding heart and grateful spirit.

We taught our regular Institute class that night in Crystal City, near the Pentagon. Our students were caught in various places during the quake. Some felt it, some didn't. Many were at work in high rise buildings. One young woman was on the Metro and had to endure a 10 m.p.h. trip home while the rails were being inspected. Another was in the middle of a temple session and afterward saw the tops of the four spires that had been snapped off. The Washington Monument and the National Cathedral were also damaged. After Andrews AFB was evacuated, Colin (Amy's husband) and fellow engineers had to remain on the job to inspect all buildings on base - inside and out - for cracks and damage. There was little damage and business is back to normal, but they take these kinds of things very seriously around here because there are so many millions of people packed into this area. Living in this burgeoning metropolis, everything comes to a screeching halt when the unexpected happens. (Especially the traffic: once this week we spent an hour traveling just 6 miles on the "belt route" in D.C.).

Luckily, the earthquake was just enough to shake everyone up and close government buildings, businesses and schools for the afternoon, but it gave us a lot to reflect on, especially with the hurricane (and attendant tornadoes) coming this weekend. PREPARATION. That's what's been on my mind. As long as we've been married we've followed the prophets' warnings to store food. Over the years, we've added a generator, some barrels of water, a heat source, etc. There is a great peace that comes from being prepared.... Unfortunately, our preparedness stayed in Draper when we came here. We brought along our emergency radio with a hand crank and one 72-hour kit for both of us. That's it. It's a lot harder to wait out a hurricane when you're not prepared.

As I picked up a few things at the grocery store this morning, I wondered which items on those shelves I might wish I had this weekend when it really hits. If I had a generator, some barrels of water, and some shelves stocked with food in the basement, I'd feel a lot more confident! I think I know how the people of Noah's day felt when the rain started....

On a lighter note, Kristen found and posted the following spoof on Facebook. I love it!

"The Weather Channel says yesterday's east coast earthquake was caused by an unknown fault line running under D.C. and through Virginia. It is now being called OBAMA'S FAULT, though Obama will say it's really BUSH'S FAULT. Other theories are that it was the Founding Fathers rolling over in their graves or that what we all believed to be an earthquake was actually the effects of a 14.6 trillion dollar check bouncing in Washington."

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Thomas Johnson "Stonewall" Jackson

The Manassas National Battlefield Park is located a few short miles from where we are living in Centreville, Virginia. It is located in a peaceful, pastoral valley of rolling hills and forests. We made a visit there last Friday on our free day and learned about the Battle of Bull Run in 1861. As the Confederate lines began to crumble under heavy Union assault in this early Civil War battle, Commander Jackson provided crucial troop reinforcements, stood firm on Henry House Hill and didn't back down against the opposition. His ally, Brig. Gen. Barnard Elliott Bee, rallied the beleaguered troops by shouting, “There is Jackson standing like a stone wall.” The name stuck. Stonewall Jackson’s brigade stopped the Union forces, causing them to retreat.

The statue memorializing Stonewall Jackson made me think about the Young Single Adults we are meeting in our Institute classes. They are terrific young men and women who daily face a battlefield of competing ideas, values, philosophies, and lifestyles -- many that run contrary to the teachings of the Lord. Their battles are intellectual, social, spiritual, and physical. These students are strong and capable, but the battles are intense. The goal of our Institute classes is to fortify them and help them build a stone wall of moral and spiritual strength to counter the influences that could weaken their resolve to follow the Savior and keep His commandments. Institute is a safe haven for friendship, learning, and connection with the spirit, a place that empowers students to stand firm and triumph against the adversary. It's a place for crucial reinforcement. It's a great place to be. ~Don~

Monday, August 8, 2011

Spreading Our Wings

During the first official week of our mission since arriving in Virginia, we’ve had some amazing opportunities to learn new things. Most days, we learned MANY new things. We are definitely stretching and spreading our wings. What a busy, exciting week!

  • Throughout the week, our exceptional CES Coordinator, Brother Devin Toma, took us to visit the four different Institute classrooms where we will be teaching, including the 23rd Street Chapel in Mt. Vernon, the Annandale Stake Center, the Centreville Stake Center, and Student Union Building II at George Mason University in Fairfax.
  • Tuesday, we were inspired by the teachings of Elder David Bednar as we participated in a worldwide CES satellite broadcast. We learned that teaching is not about talking and telling; it’s about listening and individualizing as we get to know our students and prepare to teach by the Spirit.
  • Thursday, we saw missionary zeal in action when we got to attend the Washington, DC South Mission transfer conference. We met President & Sister Albright and heard inspirational talks from him, the zone leaders, and the APs. The mission reached a ten- year high of 62 baptisms in July. The enthusiasm and energy of that conference was exhilarating, and brought back strong emotions and memories from my mission to Switzerland some 48 years ago.
  • Thursday evening we taught our first Institute class - at the Centreville Stake Center - on the life and teachings of Joseph Fielding Smith. We are already meeting some terrific Young Single Adults.
  • Friday, we had a great time in the District with Amy and Colin, walking the Mall and visiting monuments, memorials, and Smithsonian museums.
  • Saturday evening we were overwhelmed, once again, at the beauty of the stately Washington D.C. Temple as we had the privilege of attending a session.
  • Sunday we attended Amy and Colin’s new ward at the old colonial LDS chapel on the banks of the Potomac in Mt. Vernon.

There’s a lot for us to accomplish on this mission. We’re ready to spread our wings and fly….


Monday, August 1, 2011

Building A Nest In 7 Days or Less

- The birdhouse in the tree next to our new front door -

During the past several years while we've been traveling in many different countries with Clog America, I've noticed a fascinating phenomenon. No matter how strange the new surroundings are, after about one week in a foreign place, life begins to take on a sense of normalcy. I've seen it happen over and over again. Experiences and circumstances that seem so peculiar and unusual during the first few days begin to seem completely ordinary much sooner than you'd expect. And it's happening again.

Until last Friday, we'd never seen Centreville, Va., even though we've visited Washington many times. Centreville is a townhouse-populated suburb about 45 minutes from the Capitol and it's sandwiched among suburbs that stretch farther than the eye can see in any direction. There are townhouses packed pretty much everywhere except where there's a shopping mall or a busy street. Even though Don and I grew up in Los Angeles and Berkeley, respectively, we had no idea so many people could be crammed into one small area! That feat is accomplished by building up instead of out. Our townhouse is only about 15 feet wide, but it is four stories high (which, of course, means THREE flights of stairs inside).

All the townhouses look alike, which led to an interesting experience the night we arrived. Exhausted from the long drive, we had managed to find our way to a neighborhood grocery store and returned home after dark with enough food for dinner and the next morning's breakfast. As I was getting a few bags out of the car, I looked up to see Don trying to unlock the front door... of the townhouse two doors down from our own. Everything looks the same around here! Luckily, he caught his mistake before the homeowners came to the door.

We love our townhouse and it is quite comfortable, but it is definitely taking some getting used to! Everything is on a different floor. The family room where we study and prepare lessons is in the basement; so is the laundry room. The kitchen and a little sitting room are on the main floor. Bedrooms are upstairs, then there's a loft with another bedroom above that. I guess you could say it's a heart-healthy house. By the time we had carried all our belongings in and put them on the right floors when we arrived, we were already in better shape than when we got here! Now that we've unpacked boxes and hung a few photos, it's starting to seem like home.

Getting around is another story, though. We've only gotten really lost twice so far (and that's WITH GPS), but even when we know where we're going we can never figure out which direction we are headed in. Where are the mountains??? How can you tell if you're heading north, south, east or west without the Wasatch mountains to look at???

Amy and Colin have arrived from Alabama. We're so glad to have them stay with us for a few days while they find housing somewhere near Andrews Air Force Base. Maybe they'll help us find our way around....

Right now, we've only been here four days, but by the time we've made it to a week, I'm sure we'll feel downright comfortable here! And this is the week we begin our Institute assignment. Can't wait to meet our students! ~Pat~