When our family first moved into our new home sixteen and a half years ago we didn't know anybody in our ward. The Esser family reached out and started inviting us over for Sunday hamburgers and hot dogs after church. Even though they have moved across the Lake we still like to return the favor every once in awhile.
I didn't grill any meat but they sure did like the ham and funeral potatoes I cooked.
Just like old times, only all the kids are much taller.
There was a knock at our front door today after school. I was caught off guard when our school's Cross Guard came through the door. I had to yell for GW because it was such a surprise to see our dear sweet neighbor all dressed in white with two bunny ears on top of his head.
Next year I hope to have my camera on hand when the other holidays come around.
Go Gators!! Can you guess where I am? President and Sister Barry probably already told you. I have been assigned to serve in the Gainesville 2nd Ward!! My trainer's name is Sister Crowton. She is basically AMAZING! She is 29 and was a 1st grade teacher for 6 years before she felt that it was time for her to go on a mission. She is so fantastic and great!
After we flew from SLC to Dallas (my most favorite airport EVER) then to Jacksonville, the first thing I noticed when we got off the plane wasn't the humidity (it wasn't that humid that day), it was the smell of stinky sweaty socks. I guess that's kind of what humidity smells like to me. Sister Crowton says that she doesn't smell it but if I pay attention, I can smell the dirty socks. Now I'm kind of used to it so I don't notice it all that much.
The first day in Jacksonville was... interesting. We did a bunch of training, watching safety videos on driving, doing role plays, and listening to Pres. and Sister Barry. I love them so much already!!!! The dinner that Sister Barry made for all of us was heavenly! Cool fact, driving up to the mission home (which is in a gated community) we saw a black swan in the big pond next to the homes! I took a picture of it. I've been taking pictures of cool looking birds.
Well, after the training , the AP's took all the sisters in one huge van/bus thing (there were 9 sisters and the two AP's) and they took us out to one of their areas and basically dropped us off on corners and said: "go talk to those people". Sister Ashcraft and I were dropped off right in front of a door of a person that the elders had dropped a couple of weeks earlier. Sister Ashcraft was a little worried cause this was a run down neighborhood. But we knocked on the door and had a great conversation with a younger woman named A or something. We didn't know when the Elders were coming back, but we had a good time and asked her what she had learned from the Elders. When they finally came back, she was all excited to see them again (they had dropped this family) and wanted to know if they could come back to see them. It was cool! It was a better experience than Sisters Major and Orton had where a religious guy was chewing them out for being Mormon. Saying they'll be 'eternally pregnant' or something.
We slept with a member that night and got more training the next day and our new companions after lunch. The RS President from the GV 2nd ward, Sister Davis, drove us and Sister Major and her new companion, back to Gainesville.(She's pretty much amazing).
I cannot describe how many trees are here. There are no mountains to navigate and there are so many trees and they are gigantic!!! It's crazy!!! It's like driving through a gigantic hedge maze! Gainesville is supposed to be on a 'grid system' but only in a half way sense. There's four quadrants, and a couple of North to South, East to West roads, but that's the end of it. Everyone lives on an avenue or boulevard or place or terrace or something.
Along with the trees, there are vines and huge bushes that make it look like walls of green on each side of the road that reach three or more stories high or almost completely cover the road in some places! There's this gray moss stuff called 'Spanish Moss' that only grows on trees and it's everywhere too. I'd say about 1/5 of all the trees here have it. Makes it feel like Halloween at night. Even the cows here look creepy.
The people are so religious here its scary. There are gigantic mega churches on every corner, and huge gigantic churches everywhere in between! Baptists, Catholics, Pentacostals, you name it! Apparently Gainesville has a nickname that it's the 'city of churches'. Or that's what someone told me.
I've already taught several first lessons and one second lesson with Sister Crowton. She's so cool! She made me go talk to this one guy on the side of the road and we actually got an appointment for Elder Greenlaw and his trainer Elder Jenkins out of it! She has been out for 17 months and this is her last transfer. There are so many Sister missionary that EVERYONE has to train. Even brand new ones who are only halfway through their 12 week training program. Sister Major's companion has only been out for one transfer. I totally lucked out! The first four weeks of this transfer we have to go around to all the sisters that she's over and stay with them for 24 hrs. We do splits with them and she evaluates how they plan and helps them with anything they need to work on. She's over the GV 1st ward (Sister Major and her trainer Sister Houtz?) the YSA branch missionaries (Sister Halt -who she also just trained for one transfer) and also the next town over (Sister Ashcraft and her trainer). So good thing about that is that we don't have to buy as much food since everyone else has to feed us! I go running with her every morning and there are TONS of birds chirping. Lots of different bird calls.
Our apartment is literally brand new. Like not even one transfer old new. And Sister Davis (the amazing RS Pres.) did a lot to beautify it! Framed pictures and everything! I feel kind of spoiled.
More next week!
Jen made it to Florida! It's 67 degrees there with 87 percent humidity. It will be raining this weekend while we enjoy another snow storm. The ten day forecast said Florida will get in the 80's next week. I wouldn't mind flying out there for spring break!
The picture is kind of fuzzy since I took it from my gmail.
President and Sister Barry are from Provo Utah. Jenny went to school with their son Mathew Barry at Provo High. He came home from Brazil last summer.
President and Sister Barry come home in July. I'm sure they will be excited to be reunited with their family.
I stayed up until midnight reading the Jackson Florida Mission blog. It was wonderful! I also dream't that I went to the same mission as a missionary sometime during the night. I don't remember seeing Jenny or Gary in my dream. Weird.
Jen's on her way to Florida! Flying up in the sky for the first time. She wanted to call us early this morning from the airport but we didn't hear from her. Jen will be far away from me now so it's time for me to put my trust in the Lord. It will be a new journey for all of us.
I've been doing a lot of spring cleaning lately. Going through box after box has been an on going project. It feels good to be a little more organized and know where things are. Julz spotted a plastic storage bag today that had something white in it. She asked me what it was and I told her it was my wedding dress. Her eyes went big, so I let her try it on.
Thanks to the Rubow yard we have taken some pretty awesome pictures.
I love lace and the dress still looked pretty good.
Simple but elegant.
I realize that my first letter was kind of short, but they really didn't give us a lot of time. There isn't enough time in here to eat with all of the meetings/classes we have! I got all of your letters and picked up the Giles package this morning. Thanks everyone for all the love! I miss everyone a lot.
The people in my district are amazing! The first day when I walked in, I felt like I recognized about half of the people even though I've never met them before. It's a really cool experience.
So life in the MTC is busy. Wake up in the morning at 6 to shower, get ready, and go to breakfast. Bunch of activities/classes/zone practice/TCR (practicing with people that are acting as investigators - tell Jenny G. that that is HUGE in here) and basically studying so much that your brains want to melt. I feel so tired during the day that I was surprised that the first couple of days I couldn't get to sleep! Sister Orton (Sister Major's companion and friend of Dani Halladay) is such a sweetheart, but she snores a little loudly. My companion Sister Ashcraft gave everyone ear plugs so I've been getting to sleep a lot easier now. During Gym time we usually play volleyball with another district that is going to Italy Milan. They are really fun to play with. Last week Elder Perry rolled his ankle in gym and it swelled up so big! That night our branch president visited and gave him a blessing and he's totally fine now! pretty much a miracle! The food is really good, though I am never eating ice cream again. I got the biggest tummy ache yesterday when they served BYU creamery stuff because new missionaries had come. I'll just have doughnuts from now on.
I love all of our teachers here! They are so cool! Brother Schwanavelt teaches in the mornings typically and also role plays an investigator named Craig that Sister Ashcraft and I teach (he's my favorite teacher because I feel like I learn a lot from him and feel a lot less stressed about teaching). Brother Jensen (who the Sister Major wants him to go out with her older sister) is really nice and spiritual, but I usually feel a lot more stressed after his classes. The people that we taught for TCR recently was this Korean girl named Kiung Min and is really sweet. I didn't think our last lesson went that well though. It kind of felt like a primary lesson... yesterday Sister Griffin had to meet all the new missionaries because she's the Coordinating Sister for our zone so we made a threesome with her companion Sister Pettingill and taught her TCR progressing investigator (high schooler Rachel) as well as K-min. The lesson went really well I thought - my personal goal was that I could feel the spirit during lessons and this one I did. :)
Tuesday's devotional was given by Elder Paul V. Johnson of the Seventy. We had to wait in this crowded hallway for an hour and a half to be let into the devotional. Sister Ashcraft and I wanted to sing in the choir, and we went 35 min before it started and all the seats were STILL filled up so we had to wait in the hallway. :( They have to do a huge security check before Elder Johnson came so that's why they didn't let anyone in until about ten minutes before it started. The talk was nice. It was about obedience. I don't think it was really worth the hour and a half wait in that hot hallway though.
We got our travel plans! We are all leaving for Jacksonville at 3 in the morning with a one hour layover in Dallas Texas, where Sister Griffin is from on American Airlines! I'm so excited to be on a plane! Hopefully I don't get motion sickness.
To answer Julie's question about what book she should read... Elantris? Now that I'm gone from my bookshelf I cant remember what she's read and not read... I love the Dear Elder.com thing (cause they give them to you the same day) and I really love when Julie writes me! Thanks Dad for all the letters! I really love hearing from everyone. Tell Jessie to write me! There's not enough time in the day to even think (being a 16 hour work day) so I can't guarantee that I can write back before we get to Jacksonville and have my second P-day, but I'll try to write letters during personal study time or something!
I miss you guys and I think about you all the time!
P.S. am I supposed to sign these things as Sister Carlson? It's not in the missionary handbook I don't think...
It's been a crazy first two days at the MTC! So much has happened! After I left you guys and was all processed, I got to meet my new companion. Her name is Sister Ashcraft, she is the oldest in our group at 26 yrs and is from Rexburg, Idaho. She's a photographer who has had her own business and she's really nice.
The building that we're staying in is brand new and is really big. Our classroom building isn't as new, but it was just remodeled on the inside and looks great! So no worries about the facilities. All the sisters in my room are also going to Jacksonville, Florida and are in my classroom! Sister Orton is from and is friends with Dani Halliday; Sister Major is from Pleasant Grove (it was her farewell that Mike Carson was talking about), Sister Griffin is from Texas and is African American (she is also our Coordinating Sister); and Sister Pattingale? (I forget her name) is from Idaho Falls. They are all really nice and I love that we're all going to the same mission!
There are five other Elders in our district. Elder Layton (25) from Sandy-I also met his cousin here-
Elder Perry (18) from Midvale? Elder Greenlaw from Draper (18), Elder Williams from... somewhere and the last Elder I forgot his name (it's a really long Italian one) but he's from Canada.
I know I'm not being very descriptive, but I can't fit all the events and every one's personalities in a short letter. This first one is just to let you know I'm O.K. and that I miss you guys. I think it's kind of weird that I've been really tired these last two days, but I can't seem to fall asleep when the lights do go out.