The biggest blessing of the mission has been serving with my very best friend. Younger missionaries serve with several different companions over the course of their mission and are transferred to different areas every few months. We are based in Jacksonville for the entire 18 months and, gratefully, do not have to adjust to a new companion.
Another blessing of being a senior missionary is that the rules for us are not as strict as for the younger missionaries. We can text or call home whenever we wish and our families can come and visit. All but 5 of our 19 grandchildren were able to visit us last year, along with their parents. A couple of friends from 40 years ago who live on the East Coast also stopped by for a visit. Then in September, we made a flying trip back to Salt Lake to attend the wedding of our oldest granddaughter.
We can use our own computers, ipads, smart phones, etc. and can have a TV if we choose. We decided we didn't want the expense or distraction of a TV, and I have to say it has been quite restful without it. We keep up with the news by reading it on the internet.
November 28, 2014 we celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary by taking a short trip to Washington D.C. (pictures below). We have several high school and college friends who also celebrated 50 years in 2014. How wonderful to know so many couples have stayed together. An interesting side note, we celebrated our first anniversary here at Camp Lejeune, NC, and completed the circle by spending our 50th here, also.
(Bob wants to know how the couple on the left "metamorphosized" into the couple on the right.)
We were thrilled to attend the DC temple. It is so beautiful and has a mural inside that I have always loved. To make it even more special, the night we arrived the Christmas lights were turned on on the temple grounds.
In the visitor's center there were nativities from 90 countries on display. Such a special treat! For those of you familiar with "The District", we were able to watch "8 Stories", a video display of before, during and after of the 8 missionaries featured in "The District." Loved it! So much growth and change during and after their missions.
We took a bus tour of Washington -- the Capitol, White House, various monuments, and Arlington Cemetery. Sorry no pictures as it was very rainy that day. We decided we would never want to live in Washington because of the traffic. It was horrendous. We also took our first ride on a big city subway or metro, which was a little scary for two old people originally from rural Arkansas.
One of our fun assignments is working with the Young Single Adults, some of who are Marines. We got to chaperone the New Year's Eve dance with about 40 YSAs from around the area. The theme was "Here we glow again," and as you can see, neon shirts, glo-sticks, beads and glasses were very popular. I texted my kids back home at midnight and they were all impressed we had managed to stay up so late. When they were little. we would set the clocks ahead and ring in the New Year at 10 o'clock. After all, it was midnight on the East Coast!
On New Year's Day, after eating Hopping John, greens, and cornbread, we took a drive to Swansboro and sat in a swing in a little park at the edge of the water. This entire mission, I have been trying to see a dolphin in real life People keep assuring me they are frequently seen, especially in Swansboro as well as near the beaches. Well, so far we have seen zero. This was yet another attempt as the dolphins supposedly play near this park in the late afternoon. We bombed out on seeing dolphins, but did catch a beautiful sunset and some interesting wildlife.
We are enjoying the milder winters here in North Carolina. Our daughter, Shannon, who is staying in our house in Salt Lake while we are away, called last week to tell us it was -2 degrees with a wind chill of -11 and that the hot water pipe in the kitchen had frozen. Brr! Meanwhile, in NC we are in a rainy season which means lots of parking lot swimming pools and overflowing ditches, but temperatures in the 50's and 60's most days. We often wake up to fog that it is eerily beautiful -- and the moisture is great for my skin.
We hope to make the best use of our final three months. We have several projects we are trying to complete and we want to leave things in good shape for our replacements. This has been an awesome experience!