This is a quote from "Hillel the Elder" from the first century. (I thought I was so original!)

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Off the Grid, Spiritual Restocking.

We borrowed Josh and Kim's car and drove to the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah on Monday morning.  It felt good to be on our way and somewhere, probably in Salt Lake City, a day counter clicked down, showing 700 days to go.

This is the sign to the entrance of BYU.  "Enter To Learn - Go Forth To Serve"
On the opposite side of the street it says, "The World Is Our Campus".

When I first saw the sign in 1965 I was inspired by the sentiment.  Then as years passed I got a little jaded and thought it was pretty cheesy.  Now, as we set off for Zambia, I have been reflecting that those two mottos have had more influence on me than I thought.

Driving into Provo, this was the sight just across from the MTC.  What a pretty place, just north of BYU campus.  The white building is the Provo Temple at the mouth of Rock Canyon.

 I really didn't know what to expect at the MTC as a Senior Missionary, and was pleasantly surprised.  I know many of my friends are a bit curious so I will dispel a couple of myths.

We drove in and stopped at this sign.  "New Missionaries Stop Here".  I thought it was sort of funny.

At this point we saw only one other couple checking in at the same time.  We were greeted and directed to where we unloaded all our luggage and several young missionaries took it all up to the room.  We had a short orientation of where things were, had our travel plans and shots reviewed and met with the other 35 couples we were to spend the week with.

We were fortunate to stay on the campus.  It might sound nice to be at the Marriott but it is so convenient  and pleasant to be totally immersed in the MTC culture and not have to travel back and forth.

This is the back of the building the rooms for Seniors are in.  I was happy to see that the rumor of queen size bunk beds was unfounded.  :^)  There is only one building for us old folks and sixteen for the younger set.  There is also a huge cafeteria,  post office, bookstore, cleaners, travel office, barber, laundry, gym, many many meeting rooms and a hall that holds 2200.  The grounds are beautiful and the atmosphere makes you feel you are really off the grid.  We parked the car back here and can come and go as we please.  Seniors at the Marriott are welcome to swim if they choose to. 

In fact, one couple told us that their Mission President told them to bring snorkel and fins as he was going to take them snorkeling!!  Now,  I am feeling better than ever about Seniors' rules.  One of the first things we were told was that on page 67  of the missionary rule book it says all the rules for the younger missionaries do not apply to the Seniors.

This is our room.  Bags all over as we are still considering what "might needs" make the final cut.  It is sort of like the Hampton Inn but very, very quiet. 

We ran into Julie Ricks from our ward, she is heading to Ukraine and also Carly Christiansen who is headed to Michigan.  This photo is of Sister Russon, she has been one of our teachers this week.  She is Mark's daughter, and granddaughter of Marion and Sharon Russon who lived in our ward for many years.

 The Senior missionaries have most of our meetings in a chapel that is just through the back gate outside the center.

This streak of yellow in the stairway is Sister Skidmore, but underneath it all she is still Kristi and wants me to burn calories I have worked hard to save.  I know there are elevators somewhere in these buildings but she hasn't let me find them.

Here she is out on a trail we hadn't seen before.  It starts at the mouth of Rock Canyon and is called the Bonneville Shoreline trail.

 What a great view we had of Provo and the Lake.

Wednesday we went out to the front of the MTC to watch a real phenomenon - another weekly arrival of 750 young Elders and Sisters scheduled in timed arrivals and filling 25 curbside parking spots.  They pulled up with parents and family and had teary goodbyes.  A host Elder or Sister grabbed their luggage and became their instant best friend showing them to their room and taking them on a basic orientation.  They truly were an inspiring sight with optimism radiating from them.  The mothers were a wreck, and soon left trusting in the Lord as they never have before.

There are over 3000 young men and women here in Provo at the Missionary Training Center.  They do not all fit in the basic MTC and are now expanding to Wymount Terrace Apartments.  The devotional had to be broadcast to the second location for the first time.  Provo is the largest but there are fourteen other missionary training centers around the world.

We spotted our grandson, Tyler among the 3000 while he was eating with his district.
We had his companion take our photo at the map pointing to where we will be serving.  We will be at about the same latitude just different continents.

There are couples in our group headed to Taiwan, Iowa, Germany, Georgia, Mississippi, Uganda, Hong Kong, Moscow, Anaheim, Riverside, Eugene, Honolulu, Armenia, Winnipeg, Ventura and on and on.  They are so pleasant and I have no idea what any of them did for a living, or what callings they had at church, but they seem like instant friends. 

I am certain it will get harder, that is what I signed up for, but for now, as I told Kristi, "I feel like I am on vacation."

The bottom line is:  We should have been doing this sooner!

Friday, May 24, 2013

360 Pounds We Can't Live Without! (?)

No, I am talking about the luggage.

We have been filling boxes upstairs for two months.  When we were reminded of something we might need in Zambia, we just threw it in, starting with passports.  As the house decluttering started, those boxes finally made it to the family room,  where some items made the final cut and others went into the last box for storage.

It was a busy day trying to get it all done before departure.  We have had quite a few 1 and 2 am long days and the last night was no different.  We still had folks coming by to say goodbye and then just before 10 pm President Hunt came by to set us apart.   I am amazed at the hours that our Bishop and Stake President spend in giving service.   Kristi and I felt good after he spent some time with us just chatting about our history over the years together. He left about 11 pm and we rallied for the last bit of packing.

Kristi kept watering plants until I locked the door.  Liz and her boys, our neighbors, came over for the 4th time to say goodbye and Kyle kindly took our photo.

We are finally gone and spending the weekend with our son Josh, his wife Kim and our four Odgen grandkids.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Everything Packed but the Cat!

Time to say goodbye to the ol' homestead.

We had five kids and two bedrooms when I started adding on with no money and a lot of faith.

The gazebo was added for Rebecca and Brent's wedding reception.  They painted the pool fence to cover the rust.  I am sure that is why they have a strong marriage.  :^)

I took out the big vegetable garden when it got too shady and went crazy into ornamentals.

I never thought the oak tree would grow so much bigger.  But what do I know?

The bedroom is stripped.  Carpets cleaned.  We bought the bed the first year of our marriage.

Nothing left but the cat (Abbey) wondering what is up.

We heard that the number one reason couples don't go on missions is not their aging parents but not being able to leave their pets.

Abbey is not the friendliest cat, but we have learned to tolerate each other.  When her feet are cold she will get on my lap, but it is strictly a one-way relationship.  I do hope she forgives us for turning her world upside-down when the new caretakers/feet warmers move in.  She seems a little bewildered right now, like both Kristi and I.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013


It has been a tough couple of days for the folks in Oklahoma and Kansas.  Tornadoes have changed peoples lives tragically forever.  I took this photo of a water spout a couple years ago as it touched the sea.  As you can see no one took cover as we should have.  Some of our kids showed up in Clayton to say a last goodbye against my better judgement.  When have they ever listened?  I was very appreciative, but it felt like we had our own little whirlwind over the weekend.

Kristi and I were given the opportunity to speak in church.  Kristi did well telling how we decided to serve a mission.  I just got emotional and rambled,  I hope folks understood that doing this seems right for us at this time, but timing is everything, and we have been fortunate that circumstances lined up and pointed us in this direction.  I think service is probably most beneficial to all when there is not a lot of hoop-la.  Just "do good and disappear" is a saying I have heard all my life.

This is some of our family who came for the weekend.

Our kids worked hard to put on an open house.

It was so nice to see so many friends, and several we hadn't seen for quite some time.

These are some of my favorite workers, daughters-in-law, Blair and Kim, and daughter Rachel, and Kristi, who never stops. 

I finally got around to sorting some of my books and cleaning up the loose piles.

 We are stacking all the excess junk and clutter we have accumulated in my converted painting studio.

Soon my sister-in-law Marjolyn and her husband Leon will arrive and live in our home while we are gone.  

Early Beginnings & Reality Check

In 1937 my Dad sent a photo back home of where he attended church.
This storefront was located in Martinez, CA and the beginning of the Mormon church in Contra Costa County.   He wrote on the back of the photo,  "not much to look at, but they hold good meetings here."

There have been many changes and many new chapels but what really matters is still what goes on inside.  Below is where the Clayton Valley 2nd and 3rd Wards meet just across from Clayton Valley High School.  It has been the center of our lives for over thirty years.  I cannot begin to count the number of folding chairs I have moved.

I wonder what the chapels in Zambia look like.  It still is all about what goes on inside.

Below is the door to the Oakland Mission office across the way from the Oakland Temple.  It was Zone Conference today, but one of the couples let us in and patiently explained what roles the three couples play. I was surprised that a girl from my high school class was on a mission out here with her husband and serving here.  It seems to be organized like a well oiled machine.

We really got nervous when we received the following letter outlining our duties
(Instead of three couples doing this, it will just be Kristi and I.)
(We wish the previous couple was still there to train us.)

Dear Elder and Sister Skidmore,

Congratulations on your call to serve in the mission office!  You will love the assignment and experience of working closely with your mission president and his wife and with all of the wonderful missionaries, young and old. The young missionaries with whom you will serve are truly the flower of their generation. And you will be joining a corps of senior missionaries who, like you, have consecrated their lives to the Lord’s service.

Yet, perhaps the most memorable and happiest of your missionary experiences may be outside of the mission office. You will labor in bringing unto Christ less-active members and non-members in the ward/branch in which you will be assigned by your mission president.

When you arrive in the mission field you will receive hands-on training from the office missionaries whom you are to replace. In anticipation of that training, we wish to prepare you with an overview of the mission office duties and procedures. Often, you will share the mission office tasks with other missionaries (full-time and/or local), but you will appreciate a good understanding all of the tasks, though you may not be required to perform all of them.

Office Computers
Many tasks are performed through the use of office computers. The computer systems and applications that will be your tools are these:
  1. Microsoft Office:
a.      Outlook - used by all for email services
b.      MS-Word - used by all for reading or preparing documents
c.       Internet Explorer - used by all for accessing the Internet
d.      Excel and Powerpoint - useful for some tasks, though not used by all
  1. IMOS - a mission office system for the overall management of missionaries, areas/zones, housing, vendors, mission finances, and for producing common-use mission reports
  2. MATS - a system for mission vehicles and designated drivers management
  3. A system for missionary referrals management
  4. A system for materials management (e.g. Book of Mormon inventory, pamphlets, videos, forms, other supplies)
  5. WORKS (Bank of America) - used for the management of Church-issued debit cards for missionaries and purchasing cards for mission presidents and certain senior missionaries 
  6. Sprint EBA (Electronic Billing & Analysis) - used for cell phones and usage management in the USA, and similar systems for the management of cell phones in non-USA missions. 

Mission Secretary
The mission secretary handles the mission president’s correspondence and appointments, answers the phone, performs reception duties, maintains calendars and directories, manages the distribution of missionary mail arriving at the mission office (a vital and far larger task than it may appear), publishes the monthly mission newsletter, performs safe-keeping of vital  documents (e.g. passports) or confidential documents, distributes mission email to the office staff, prepares reports for mission president, functions as the mission “go-to” person, and performs a host of other tasks assigned by the mission president.
Finance Secretary
The finance secretary handles matters relating to the finances of mission operations and individual missionary finances: vendor approval & set-ups (in liaison with Church HQ or Area office), payments to vendors, receipts, missionary card funding and transactions monitoring, purchasing cards management, reimbursements, petty cash, bank deposits, bank reconciliation, bookkeeping, audit, liaison with Church HQ in financial matters, budget preparation and management. The secretary has close and daily collaboration with mission president in all financial matters. He/she assures strict compliance with Church finance policy. In foreign missions with mission branches, mission finance secretary oversees financial operations and audits of branches (and may perform audits). Often, he is required to train branch presidents and branch clerks in financial matters.
Vehicle Coordinator
The number of fleet vehicles (cars, vans, pick-up trucks) assigned to a mission varies from a few to more than 60 in some missions. In some missions this is expanded to include an inventory of bicycles. The vehicle coordinator manages all vehicle maintenance and repairs: notifications,  record-keeping, service provider negotiations/approvals, routine inspections (at every zone conference), accident reports, and liaison with Church HQ in vehicle matters. He/she maintains missionary driving statistics, assures compliance with Church vehicle policy, and makes recommendations to mission president regarding vehicle and designated driver assignments. He/she trains missionaries (at every zone conference) in driving safety and vehicle care. The coordinator sells mission vehicles as directed by Church HQ (i.e. actively markets used Church vehicles, negotiates sale, handles all documentation). He/she reviews fuel purchases and monthly usage logs for each mission vehicle. The coordinator monitors satellite-based surveillance systems installed in each mission vehicle for violations: speeding, braking patterns, and out-of-assigned-area exceptions. He/she manages missionary DL renewals. The coordinator enforces Church policy regarding mission vehicles, driving violations and accidents.
Housing Coordinator
The missions have always been responsible for the housing of young missionaries. Since October 2011, missions have added responsibility for the housing of missionary couples. (Though not required, some missions have taken on the responsibility of providing housing for senior missionary sisters.) The housing coordinator handles all mission housing leases: negotiations, contracts, insurance and credit documentation, deposit payments and fees, opening/closing inspections, landlord approvals & set-ups for payment, penalty payments, etc. He/she furnishes all housing: secures donated items, purchases new furnishings, handles installation and replacements. The coordinator handles the set-up/closure of all utility accounts. He/she maintains all appropriate records. The coordinator notifies Church HQ of housing amounts for couples’ housing, manages/performs the periodic inspection of missionary apartments, makes recommendations to the mission president in housing matters and reviews/approves monthly rental and utility billings and payments. Finally, in USA missions, the coordinator works closely with stake presidents, bishops, and Church members in securing member-provided housing for young missionaries.
Materials Secretary
A typical single-language mission has well over one hundred different SKUs (stock-keeping units) of missionary materials: books, manuals, pamphlets, DVDs, forms, etc. In missions with multiple languages the number of SKUs multiplies. The materials secretary assures an adequate stock of all missionary literature, videos, forms and supplies. He/she forecasts requirements, handles the ordering of missionary materials from Church Distribution Services, and performs the physical inventory management. The secretary receives and fills orders from each missionary pair (hundreds monthly) including order delivery to missionary companionships throughout the mission.
Referrals Secretary
Referrals are the life-blood of many missions. They are mission-critical. Referrals come from members, non-members, visitor centers, and Church media managers. The referrals secretary manages the receipt and assignment/distribution of referrals from all sources. He/she performs follow-up referral tracking to assure timely contacts by missionaries and provides requested feedback to referral providers.
Communications Manager
Every missionary companionship is provided with a cellular telephone. The Church has well-established rules for cell phone usage by missionaries.  The communications manager manages the physical inventory of cell phones: assignments, replacements, repairs. He/she performs liaison with Sprint (in the USA) or other providers in non-USA missions. The manager monitors missionary usage (as requested by mission president) for inappropriate voice, texting or internet usage (using source data provided by carriers) with monitor software from Church HQ. He/she trains missionaries in the use of handset devices and assists in the transfer of contacts lists to replacement handsets. Most mission offices have PBX-type telephone systems with varied features for their usage. The communications manager handles the configuration of the office telephone system and trains office staff in the usage of the same. He/she reviews/approves monthly billing from the communications provider.
Mission Nurse Function
The “mission nurse” may or may not be an official calling. Most missions do not have a professionally-trained and licensed mission nurse. In such cases the mission president’s wife is responsible for the healthcare and medical needs of missionaries, though she may share medical referral needs and reporting duties with a qualified senior missionary. The mission nurse maintains an approved list of healthcare providers for referral to missionaries, performs liaison consultation with the mission president, his wife, and the area medical advisor in missionary healthcare/medical matters, and is on-call 24x7 for consultation in missionary emergencies. Often the assignment requires liaison with missionary parents for prescriptions, status reports, etc. He/she maintains records and documentation for insurance processing by the Missionary Medical Department. The mission nurse teaches health maintenance and illness/injury prevention to missionaries at zone conferences, as directed by the mission president. He/she administers missionary immunization initiatives within the mission.
Travel Secretary
All missions have foreign-resident missionaries serving. In many missions well over 50% of the missionaries have visas. This responsibility requires the management of visas and renewals to assure strict compliance with national laws and regulations. The travel secretary works closely with missionaries, with Missionary Travel or Area Travel Departments, and sovereign or consulate authorities in the renewal of missionary visas. Every six weeks there are planned missionary arrivals and departures. The travel secretary coordinates all travel logistics for arriving missionaries and ticketing and logistics for outbound missionaries completing their missions.
Other Office Duties
Other typical duties of mission office personnel include: the transport of arriving or departing missionaries, assisting the mission president’s wife in meals for arriving/departing missionaries, zone conferences, mission conferences, and special events; attending baptism services; assisting in firesides; preparing statistical reports for the mission president; the orientation of in-coming senior missionaries; and assisting in the procurement of internet services for seniors in many foreign missions where there are local complexities.
Mission office missionaries are full-time missionaries whereas the mission offices are generally only open 45-50 hours/week. There is great opportunity for member and leader support (MLS) activities on week nights and weekends. Mission presidents assign senior missionaries to a ward/branch where they can realize some of the most rewarding experiences of their entire mission doing MLS work and non-member teaching using the skills and principles learned in the Preach My Gospel training received at the Missionary Training Center. At local priesthood direction, they may also apply their life-skills in employment counseling, temple preparation, family history research, PEF qualification, music skills instruction, addiction recovery, and ESL.
Training – Next Step
Only a portion of the above responsibilities with be borne by you individually. The foregoing is provided as a foundation for you to learn your mission office job. By understanding the “big picture” you will have a degree of cross-training to help you relate to and integrate with others with whom you will serve in the mission office. As you arrive in the mission office your mission president will give you specific assignment(s) from the foregoing. Then you will receive the detailed procedures and computer-specific training required for your particular office assignment through real-life, hands-on training by the peer missionary whom you are replacing.
On-going Support
Our team’s role in Senior Missionary Services is to assist before you arrive in the mission field. (Please feel free to contact us by any of the means indicated below in this email.) Your missionary peers and mission president will then assume the training duties. They will have contacts for on-going support through the Global Support Desk based here in Salt Lake City with 24x7 availability, as well as resource contacts in the Area office pertaining to your mission. Know that we are still available as a back-up to provide support for success in your mission office role.
After the mission president and his wife, experience reveals that the mission office staff greatly influence the attitudes and success of the missionyou are a vital part of the mission fabric to support the missionary work. We wish you the very best of the Lord’s blessings in your endeavor to fulfill your missionary calling. “Therefore, O ye that embark in the service of God, see that ye serve him with all your heart, might, mind and strength . . .” (D&C 4:2).

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

A week of saying goodbye to friends

Here are some friends that our Mission will also affect.
(At least my ego likes to let me think they will be effected)

Since we have lived in the same house for 33 years we have had many friends.
In the Fall of 2000 I was talking in the church parking lot with Mark Cutler and Harvey Hulme about our sons heading off to school and we were now empty nesters.  Our wives had always fantasied  about sharing cooking responsibilities so we said we should eat together one night a week.  Mike Grover and Randy Gardner joined in the conversation and soon we knew it might be a hard sell to the women.  So I said we needed to make it simple so the wives didn't feel the need to put on a Sunday type dinner.  We came up with some rules or guidelines:  One hour max.  6-7 pm don't show up early and don't linger after 7 pm - we all had other things to do.  No bringing food or helping with cleanup.  Serve what you would normally serve your family.  Pizza or cereal was O.K.  

I thought it worked pretty well.  Eventually, the Hulmes moved away and the Cutlers were often traveling so it ended up with the above three couples - Gardners, Skidmores and Grovers.  After a few years of telling the same stories over and over we thought we should write them down for our children.  We started off writing about the same topics, of first car, or engagement or childhood friend, but eventually we ran out of common topics and went to free choice.  Six people seemed an ideal number to sit around the table after a meal and read our stories in turn.  We had guidelines for that also:  two pages max, it was to be a story not an essay, and spouses were not to correct them, as they were your memories.

Because of traveling and other commitments our Monday nights were not held every Monday, but always happened if everyone was in town.  After four or five years I have over 140 personal stories of my life that are recorded that otherwise would not have been.

We have shared many happy and teary stories with each other over the years.   I constantly learn new things about these life long friends that I am sure their children won't know of until they read their parents' stories.

This is Val Stratford

I don't know how Val and I became friends or when.  I do know he got me into boating and golf many years ago, he and I had season tickets to the Oakland A's for over twenty years together.  Our seats were right behind home plate and I ate lots of bratwurst with sauerkraut.  We now end up having lunch together two or three times a week.  Kristi is very tolerant and my boys sort of roll their eyes and think people will talk.  We hit the same four or five restaurants and the waitresses know our orders there.  I guess it is a little weird but it is nice to be with someone you agree with on 90 percent of things.

Val is headed to Utah to tend grandkids this week so we probably had our last lunch for a while together.  I thought he was a good listener, but he told me Monday that I was a good listener so I suppose that is what friendship is all about. 

This is Ron and Judie Busch

Ron and Judie have been easy to explore the world with.
We have spent many weeks with them in Mexico, a month in Italy, a month in Egypt, Israel and Jordan, a month exploring South America and lots of weeks at Trinity Lake boating.  They just live around the corner from us.

These two couples are the Griggs from Colorado Springs and the Oborns from Montgomery, Alabama.  We first met in the U.S. Air Force in Germany in 1974.  We have been friends ever since and try to get together every other year for a week.   We went to Europe for five weeks with the Oborns and even couch surfed with them.  This photo was taken last September when we took ATV's to "hole in the rock" in southern Utah.  It is the Oborn's turn to host next time and both couples have booked a trip to Victoria Falls in Zambia.  I hope we get to see each other there.

There are so many more friends who are important in our lives and we have fond memories of shared activities with all of you.  Please keep in touch as we will get a little homesick occasionally.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Goodbye To Our Friends at Red Cross

Yesterday I turned in the last of my Red Cross supplies.

Kristi and I volunteered for the American Red Cross for the past six years.  Each month we would sign up for seven or eight  twelve hour shifts to respond to any fire in Contra Costa County.  We were the only "couple" that did DAT calls.  It made it quite handy since I was trained as a Lead and Kristi as a Technician. 

Most of the fires we responded to were homes where renters lived, or homeowners without insurance, often that had to be determined after we arrived.  Here Kristi looks happy because I wanted her photo and I thought she looked cute.  However, the scene was always difficult to immediately step into a family's tragedy.  It was sort of like being a Bishop and being able to give a little comfort and supply some immediate needs of food, clothing and housing.

Kristi also worked in the Family Service office and I was the Red Cross Liaison to the city of Clayton.

This is me at the Contra Costa Emergency Center manning a desk during an exercise.
We will miss our friends at the Red Cross.  They put in many many hours and do a great work.  There are about 100 active volunteers in our county and only one full-time paid employee and I don't believe she makes very much.  It is a nice feeling to think you make a difference.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Preparation: Busy Weekend

Garage Sale!

Kristi was so excited to get rid of things.  I don't think there is anything that can make a Dutch woman happier than cleaning house and throwing out the old or unused items.  I can't even count or imagine the number of times I have been at the desk and asked Kristi if she has seen such and such an item, and the next minute I hear the front door close, and I watch as she heads to the garbage can and pulls out whatever I am looking for.  Since I am approaching the old and unused category I am getting a little worried that the next "morning" sound I hear will be the dump truck giving me the big hug, and putting me on my head with all my mementos heading to the other side of Dutch heaven. 

Devin becomes an Eagle Scout

It was a great event to see Devin receive his Eagle Scout rank.  I believe being an Eagle Scout puts you in the category of "FINISHER".  There is nothing like completing a long term goal and having it on your resume'.  Missions and college are in the same category.  They are NOT the end-all standard, but having those experiences in your makeup immediately lets people know you are a "finisher."
I was honored to give a few "grandfather" remarks at the event.

This man has a silver Beaver hanging around his neck.  His name is Val Gene Black.  He has been very, very active in growing boys to men in the Livermore area for many years.  He also happens to be my first cousin, and will turn 90 in October.  I have 72 first cousins.  When Kristi started to meet all my relatives through the years she had a hard time because of the age differences.  She used to refer to him as Uncle ValGene, but I said I know he is older than us, but he's my cousin, so I just call him ValGene.  I had six cousins even older than ValGene.  I helped stir up a cousin's reunion last summer, my Dad's family one weekend and my Mom's family the next weekend.  It was terrific for me.  We sat in birth order and told stories about each other and our grandparents.  I highly recommend the experience.

On Sunday Tyler, our grandson, spoke in church before leaving for Florianopolis, Brazil.  I was a nervous grandfather wondering if Tyler was going to sound mature enough for his new challenge.  I shouldn't have stressed at all.  I know his parents pretty well so that alone should have calmed me.  I guess I can be a bit of a pessimist, as Kristi tells me I occasionally tend to be.  (I call it being a realist).  Anyway, I haven't heard a better talk from a departing nineteen year old - but I do have a little bias.
We really don't have much of a role in our children's lives so we are off to see if we can do some good.

Mother's Day

Here are two very special women in my life - and I think turned out to be pretty good mothers.
On the right is Kristi visiting with her Mom in her weaving room -  Mom Kruiswyk or "Oma" before Kristi earned the title.   Oma's first name was Geertruida, which sounds pretty nice in Dutch.  However, in English Gertrude didn't hack it for her, so she was called Trudie or Truus.  As you can see she was a weaver.  Her large loom was behind me when I took the photo.  She always knew how to spin and Kristi has the first spinning wheel her Dad made for her mother.

She would have had her 98th birthday yesterday on Mother's day.  She helped out with the Dutch resistance during World War II hiding handguns in the folds of the carpet of their stairs while Kristi's Dad was a POW down in Tittmoning, Germany.  She wasn't happy Kristi married me but through the years we became friends and toward the end of her life she told me she loved me.  Just one more lesson that the final chapter is never written.

Friday, May 10, 2013

27 Great Reasons NOT To Serve A Mission

 (These are also 27 of the BEST REASONS to serve a mission)

I am not sure how we will endure being so far from our grandchildren and children. 
We have come to the conclusion that the benefits of serving outweigh the heartache for all of us.  It is the hard things in life that test and prove and teach.  We have raised five children who know hard things.  Their spouses have become our children too.   Their difficult choices have given them long term blessings.  They are teaching the same to their children.  It is not easy.  I cannot imagine what Heavenly Father feels for His children as they learn lessons.

Rebecca and Brent Badger
Livermore, California
Amanda, Allyson, Tyler, Devin

Kim and Joshua Skidmore
Taylor, Utah
Dallin, Presley, Jackson, Zachary

Rachel and Marc Leavitt
Cedar Park, Texas
Ellery, Addison, Dane, Soren

Sally and Ben Skidmore
McKinney, Texas
Lucy, Grace, Ellen, Charlie

Blair and Sam Skidmore
Issaquah, Washington

Literally, not just figuratively,  my heart is already beginning to ache.

 I felt this once before, in 1973 when I left Kristi and Rebecca and Josh.  I headed to Ubon, Thailand for a year of remote assignment as an F-4 WSO in the U.S. Air Force.

As hard as it was, hard lessons were learned and blessings followed.
How could we know good things if we did not know hard things?
(Keep talking Skidmore, you'll get on that plane.)

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Last Break - Getting A Little Perspective.

We had a free week's stay in New York City that we needed to use before we left the country for two years.  We had never been in New York City before.

Kristi is my favorite immigrant.  She didn't enter through Ellis Island but sailed under the Golden Gate Bridge.  She has always wanted to see the Statue of Liberty.  My great grandfather wrote about visiting it just a year after it was completed.  It was a thrill to see, but we were disappointed that it was still closed due to damage from hurricane Sandy.

I was surprised to stumble onto Federal Hall,  kitty corner to the stock exchange, where George Washington was inaugurated.  I hadn't thought of it for years, but it had been on my list of sights I wanted to see.  It surprised me that it made me so emotional at that moment of discovery as I contemplated the birth of our nation.

This is part of the ground zero reconstruction and memorial.  Large crowds and very impressive.

We walked across the Brooklyn Bridge.   (We walked miles and miles in the city and took all the subways.)  We discovered a great park at the end of a blue subway line called Fort Tryon.  The Cloisters museum is also there.

I found we were drawn to things with an African flavor.

I felt obligated to see how a Newsie sang and danced.
I think this real Newsie has better moves, and my voice always sounded good at 3 AM (if not in the light of day).  We also saw Chicago and The Fantasticks, a very old show that is timeless and very enjoyable.

Went to the David Letterman show.  We were born the same year and went to the same school  (Ball State).   I won't need to see that show again, but it was interesting.

I was excited to see this Gauguin painting at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  Kristi and I bought this print when we were first married.  I always enjoyed the colors and the theme.  We often got strange looks from dinner guests and I could tell some thought the rendition was a little sacrilegious of Mary and Christ in a Polynesian setting, and not quite scriptural as Christ is present at the annunciation.  I was so excited to see this woman in a red sari looking at the painting that I almost didn't get the shot.  Perhaps I can paint this like a Karen Jurick rendition in the future. 

John Lennon mosaic at Strawberry Fields in Central Park.  Being there made me feel younger instead of older.  That was a nice surprise.

We looked for quite a while for the flag of Zambia in Rockefeller Center but finally realized it wasn't there.  It wasn't at the United Nations either.  The flags at the U.N. are in alphabetical order ending in Zimbabwe.  I am starting to get a little loyal and defensive.

We made it to church on Sunday.  The family ward was quite large and a few senior missionary couples were there too.  There is a distribution center and public affairs office in the building with the temple on the top floor.  I remember in 1971 what news it was that the church bought property in downtown New York City.  It is just across the street from the Lincoln Center.  I counted eleven prams or strollers along the wall by the Primary.  That didn't count the two strollers for twins out in the main foyer.

I think the time spent waiting to report to the MTC is very beneficial, as we are slowly getting in a mental state to give one hundred percent of our time in the service of others.

I had a great week.  New York was clean, friendly, and full of energy.  I definitely could live there for a while.