Thursday, March 31, 2016

Saints Unified Voices Meeting

I got my haircut today.  I enjoy talking wih the barber who I have been going to since we arrived.  His barbershop is the closes to our apartment, which is how I picked it.  He is a Muslim, so we talk about religion.  He says that those who perpertrate terrorist activities in the name of Islam don't read the same Koran that he does.

In the evening, we drove to the St. Petersburg Stake Center for a meeting about the Saints Unified Voices firesides coming up in May.  We didn't have much to contribute to the meeting as it was mostly about administrative details, such as who will order the water bottles.  Nevertheless, it was probably good that we attended so they know that the missionaries will be involved.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Annual Report Again

We are now working on the 2016 Annual Report.  This is taking longer because Renee needs to do it using Microsoft Word.  This will make it easier for whoever finishes the annual history after we leave.

We met Elders Ware and Treanor for dinner at 5.  Elder Ware returns home next week.  We have enjoyed the opportunity to get to know and to work with him.  He is a very committed Elder.  I think he will be lost when he returns home and doesn't have full-time missionary work to do.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

St. Petersburg North District Meeting

We drove to St. Petersburg for a district meeting this morning.  The training in the meetings for this week was on obedience.  This is and will continue to be an ongoing training and discussion item for the missionaries.  Obedience is stressed because it is so important for the missionaries.

We returned to an apartment that we inspected two weeks ago.  At that time, it was cluttered and not clean.  Fortunately the missionaries have made real progress.  We then met Elder and Sister Smith for lunch.  They will be returning home next week.

We met with Sisters Jahnel and Smith for dinner.  Sister Jahnel will be returning home to Paraguay next week.  President Cusick wanted me to meet with her to discuss some options for education and employment.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Unusual P-Day

This was a different preparation day for us.  We did our normal cleaning.  Then we met the Beneva and University Park Elders to lunch.  I told Renee they had invited us because they knew I would pay and it is the end of the month, so they are running out of funds :-)

We then drove to the mission office.  We dropped off some keys and picked up some materials for the Sarasota missionaries.  We then drove to the mission home for a dinner with Elder Hawkes, a former A.P. who returned with his father for golfing trip.  He was the A.P. when we first arrived, and we got to know him quite well.  It was good to see him again and to meet his father.  We are looking forward to seeing the missionaries after we return home.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Easter Sunday

We attended the Palmetto Ward today.  Because it was Easter, they did not have a ward council meeting.  After I let Bishop Ririe know earlier in the week that we would be attending, he asked me to speak in Sacrament Meeting.  Then when we arrived for the block of meetings, Renee was asked to speak.  The assigned speaker was ill.  So we both ended up speaking.  Afterwards people were kind and said they had appreciated our talks.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Start on 2016 History and a Wedding and Baptism

Renee started on the 2016 Mission History.  We will only do the history through June and then leave it for the incoming president.

In the afternoon, we went to a wedding and baptism.  The sister was already a member, but her live in boy friend was not.  So first they were married by Bishop Ririe of the Palmetto Ward.  After the wedding, the brother was baptized.  There were several non-members present, so during the time immediately following he baptism, we asked Elder Treanor to present a short lesson on the Restoration.

In the evening, we were able to watch the Womens' Session of General Conference.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Inspection and Baptism

We conducted another apartment inspection.  This one is the easiest one that we do -- the Elders who live in the same apartment complex as us.  We could walk to their apartment.  Fortunately, it was generally clean.  The biggest problem is the ceramic stove top.  If anything boils over onto the stove top, it tends to become baked on.  For the most part, the missionaries don't know how to clean these.  I walked back to get a razor blade, and then used it to scrape the baked on stuff.  It came off with a bit of effort.

We then went to a baptism in the Cortez Branch.  A family of six was baptized, parents and four children.  They have been taught by Sisters Jahnel and Smith.  I believe this family will be a real strength to the branch.  Sister Jahnel returns to her home in Paraguay in two weeks, so this was a great way for her to finish up her mission.

Sisters Smith and Jahnel, President Partida of the branch, and the Saucedo family.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Apartment Inspections

We had an easy day with two apartment inspections, both in Sarasota.  One of the apartments used to be spectacularly clean.  However, those Elders have both been transferred.  The Elders who replaced them are OK, but not great like their predecessors.  The other apartment is one bedroom, one bathroom with three Sister Missionaries. I'm sure it is a challenge for them, but they are making it work.  And the apartment is clean and orderly.

Since we were in the southern part of Sarasota, we stopped at Costco to get gas.  Costco gas is priced below any other local gas stations.  However, gas prices in Tampa are lower.  I'm not sure why that should be the case, but that seems to be a persistent pattern.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Apartment Inspections

With the mission histories completed, we are back to our regular duties, including apartment inspections.  We inspected an apartment in Sarasota, not far from where we live, and one in Palmetto.  Both of the apartments were reasonably clean and orderly, though not outstanding.

When we finished the second apartment inspection, we were near the shoe store that Renee likes, Happy Feet Plus.  They carry shoes with solid arch supports which Renee has discovered that she needs.  She was able to find a pair of beach sandals that she likes.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

District Meeting and Mission Office

We participated in the Sarasota North District Meeting today.  The meeting was held in the Bradenton building.  I believe it was beneficial that we attended.  It is a small district with only eight missionaries in attendance plus us.  They also have a new district leader, Elder Hicken.  He has only been the district leader for two weeks.  The training for the meeting was to follow up on previous discussions about engaging ward members with the proselyting efforts especially using Sundays and identifying areas of improvement by the missionaries.

After the meeting, we drove to the mission office to say good-bye to Pres. and Sis. Healey.  They have completed their mission and will be returning home on Saturday.  Since home for them is Provo, we will certainly see them again.  They have been great to work with, and Renee and Sis. Healey have become good friends.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Beach and Bird Day

After completing our weekly chores, we drove 45 minutes south to Manasota Beach.  We had heard that this was a good beach for finding shells.  It was an awful day, so I thought there wouldn't be many people there.  Further, it was a stormy night, so I hoped more shells would have been washed ashore.  So we braved the cold winds but didn't find any large shells.  I think others beat us to them.  There were a lot of small and medium shells, but we already have plenty of those.

Renee decided to look for prehistoric sharks teeth which are also found on the beach.  Even though she did not have a screen like the other sharks teeth seekers, she was able to find several by brushing through some piles of small, broken shells.

Since we were near the rookery in Venice, I decided to stop to see if there was any bird action.  The change from our previous visits was that there were chicks in some of the nests.

Great White Egret and chicks (little white egrets?)

Sunday, March 20, 2016

University Park Ward

We attended our "home ward," the University Park Ward today.  The advantage of attending the ward semi-regularly is that we are beginning to develop some relationships with ward members.  As is the case with most wards, there are a handful of families who are the strength of the ward.

In ward council, Bishop Leedom commented that the two missionaries in the ward, Elders Bowden and Gardner, are the best missionaries he has worked with since the two missionaries who taught him 48 years ago.  This was great to hear because just three months ago, there were some major conflicts between these missionaries and the ward leadership.

In the evening, we returned to the Sarasota building to attend a musical presentation by the Sarasota Ward in preparation for Easter.  It was organized by Sister McNiven of the ward.  She is an excellent singer and pianist, and the program was great.  One of the performers was Sister Packer, one of the Sister Missionaries.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Apartment Inspections

We drove to St. Petersburg in a rainstorm to do some apartment inspections.  Fortunately, the rain had slowed down by the time we got there.  One of the apartments was awesome.  Renee's reaction as we walked in was to question whether this was an empty apartment.  The other was at the opposite extreme.  That apartment was dirty and very cluttered.  As a result, Renee had to notify President Cusick, the Zone Leaders, the District Leader, and the Sister Training Leaders (even though it was an Elders' apartment).  They have three days to clean things up.

We drove back to Sarasota and attended two baptisms that were scheduled at the same time in the Sarasota building.  Renee was asked to play the piano in both, so they adjusted the beginning times so she could race between the Primary and Relief Society rooms to play in both services.

Friday, March 18, 2016


Renee completed work on the annual histories today.  I'm sure that it took much longer that President Cusick anticipated when he asked her to do it.  As he told her when reviewing a draft, it is much better than he would have done.  Not that this has surprised me.  Renee doesn't do anything halfway.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

A Mixed Up Day

We had a visit from a friend from Hawaii, Bonnie Huff.  She had come to Florida with her daughter and children for a short visit.  They wanted to go to the beach, so Renee went with them to Siesta Key Beach.  We had forgotten that this is the spring break season, so the beach was very crowded.

While they were at the beach, I finished working on our taxes.  Fortunately, I made enough estimated tax payments that I won't owe any additional federal tax.  However, since Utah doesn't have a provision for paying estimated taxes during the year, I will have a big tax payment to make.

In the evening, I had a special considerations interview to conduct.  The sister has a son whom the missionaries have been teaching.  The missionaries think he is ready to be baptized, but the mother thinks he is too young.  I told her that we would not baptize the son until she gives her permission.  So the missionaries will continue to work with them.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Histories Done?

I think that we may be finished with the mission histories.  President Cusick has reviewed them and praised Renee for her work.  He said the histories are much better than he expected and much better than he would have done.  So now we just need to have him sign the cover sheets, and they can be emailed to Salt Lake.

As Renee was finishing up the mission histories, I started entering the data to complete our taxes.  It is taking me longer this year because I have had to start withdrawing funds from my various retirement accounts (IRA and Keogh).  This is a requirement because I have now turned 70 1/2.  So for each of the accounts, I have to enter the required minimum withdrawal amount that I received and the withholding tax.  It isn't difficult, just tedious.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

A Long Drive to St. Petersburg

As we were preparing to leave to drive to St. Petersburg for a district meeting, we received a text message from Sis. Smith telling us that the Skyway Bridge was closed due to fog.  So instead of a 50 minute drive, it took 90 minutes having to drive through downtown Tampa and then acoss the bay and back to St. Petersburg.  We were only a few minutes late to the meeting.

The district has a new, young district leader and new, young sister training leaders.  They all did well in conducting the training on working with members and dealing with various challenges.  As usual, they had several roleplays with discussion afterward about how they could improve.

We had lunch with Elder and Sister Smith.  They will be returning home in two weeks.  They have had a major impact on the Gulfport Branch and St. Petersburg Ward where they have been working.

Monday, March 14, 2016

P-Day at Myaka River State Park

After completing our weekly chores, we drove to Myaka River State Park.  We have visited there previously.  I would not describe it a scenic, at least based on what we are used to with mountains in the west.  However, depending on the water levels, there are some wildlife to be observed.  The last time we were in the park, most of it was underwater because of all of the rain.  This time the water levels were much lower, and we saw far more alligators.  This one was hanging out directly below an observation deck.

A good-sized alligator

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Lots of Meetings

We drove to Port Charlotte to attend their meetings today.  Since it is an hour drive, we had to leave early.  We should have picked a different Sunday to visit rather than on the Sunday that we changed to Daylight Savings Time and lost an hour of sleep.

Since there are no full-time missionaries in Port Charlotte now, I expected to hear about that from the members.  However, no one said much explicitly.  They do have a senior missionary couple, the Hardy's, who seem to be very engaged and involved.  There are many snowbirds in Port Charlotte, and that seems to affect their ward.  Their attendance is greater in the winter than summer.  Unfortunately, from what we have been told, many of the LDS snowbirds don't become very involved with the ward.

Following the block of meetings, we drove to Arcadia for a baptism.  A 13 year-old girl was baptized, again from a part member family.  She has been taught by the sister missionaries assigned to the Sarasota Ward who have driven the hour to Arcadia each week to teach her.  The branch has a new branch president, Pres. Hanois.  He used to be in the University Park Ward until they adjusted the ward boundaries to put his family in the Arcadia Branch.  I think the boundaries might have been adjusted specifically for that purpose.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

A Baptism

After spending most of the day working on the mission histories, we drove to Bradenton to participate in a baptismal service.  This was for a young man who is in a part member family.  Elders Hicken and Beauchamp have been teaching him and were quite excited that he is being baptized.

Friday, March 11, 2016

More Annual History Work

We spent more time in our apartment working on the annual histories.  Renee is writing the narrative based on the mission calendar, President Cusick's letters to the missionaries, and pictures that Sister Cusick has posted to the mission Facebook page.  I am now working on inserting all of the mission rosters and transfer information at the end of the narrative.  I have to massage the Excel spreadsheet files with the rosters to fit nicely onto an regular sized page.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Trip to the Mission Office

We drove to the Mission Office in Tampa this morning.  We had a number of things to do -- return apartment keys and inspection forms, obtain some information for the annual reports, and be briefed on the missionaries' temple trip arrangements.  We will be organizing the temple trips because Pres. and Sis. Healey will be returning to Provo in two weeks.  So part of the purpose for the trip was to say good-bye to them.

We went to lunch with the Healey's and also the Alexander's who will be taking their places in the office managing the apartments.  We also picked up some proselying materials for the Sarasota Zone missionaries.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

A Member Visit

This morning we worked on the mission history again.  I think we are getting close, but I have thought that before.

In the afternoon, we drove to see if we could find a University Park Ward member, Bro. Lassen.  He is 92 and not very mobile.  He has not been at church for the past two weeks.  He told the members who usually pick him up that he was going to use the bus.  But that would be very difficult for him.

He found him at his apartment as he was returning from his afternoon sojourn to the nearby Moose Lodge.  He has a motorized wheelchair that he uses, except when he goes to church.  He said that spends each afternoon there.  He told us that he used to play pool, but they didn't like his regularly beating them.  So he stopped playing, and now they like him again.  We arranged for the member couple to pick him up for church again, so hopefully he will be able to attend.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Zone Training Meeting

Rather than holding regular district meetings, President Cusick decided to have a training meeting for each zone.  He asked a senior missionary to preside at each of the zone meetings.  We were at the Sarasota Zone meeting.  The training topic was working with members and engaging them in missionary work.  They had several role plays of interacting with members.  It was a good meeting.

At the end of the meeting, three missionaries who are returning home at the next transfer, Sisters Jahnel and Packer, and Elder Ware, bore their testimonies.  They were all emotional.  They are all excellent, hard working missionaries.

Following the meeting, we visited with an inactive ward member.  We visited her at Christmas time and have been trying to get back to see her again.  We discovered that she has accepted a new job and will be moving soon.

Monday, March 7, 2016


We did our weekly cleaning in the morning.  Following that we drove to Bradenton to the Robison Preserve, a nature conservation area on the shore of the Gulf, Tampa Bay, and Manatee River.  I thought we would see some wildlife, particularly birds, but there weren't many around.  Of course, it was the middle of day which is not the best time for birding.  I did get a few pictures.

The Visitor Center and headquarters are located in the Valentine House.  This is a farmhouse constructed in the 1890s.  It was moved from Palmetto.  To get it to the Preserve, they had to move it to the bay, then float it across the Manatee River to Bradenton.

In the evening, we went to Bp. Leedom's home for the ward empty nesters' group.  We had a pot luck dinner, and Bp. Leedom taught a good lesson on faith.

A White Ibis

A Great Blue Heron, actually a small one
The Valentine House, an 1890's farm house

Sunday, March 6, 2016

University Park Ward

We attended the University Park Ward today.  We are becoming more acquainted with the ward members and the investigators.  There are some good, strong members in the ward, just not enough.  They have an excellent gospel principles class, taught by Sis. Igarta, wife of the ward mission leader and daughter of Bp.  Leedom.

We had scheduled an interview in Brandon, so we left the ward council meeting early.  Just as we started driving to Brandon, the missionaries texted us that the couple I was to interview had not come to church.  This is about the fourth time the interviews have been cancelled,  At least we didn't drive all the way to Brandon.  So we turned around and made it back for the last few minutes of ward council.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Another Apartment Day

I spent the day in the apartment working on taxes.  Renee went to the University Park Ward Relief Society Birthday Brunch.  Following that she returned and continued working on the mission reports.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Computer Work in the Apartment

Late yesterday, Renee's Google Mail account crashed.  So much of today was spent trying to recover her emails.  The challenge was that she had a lot of emails that she had saved.  I tried to help, but I don't use GMail much, so there wasn't a lot that I could do.  She ended up having to manual "undelete" all of her emails.

While she was doing that, I started assembling the materials to file our tax returns for 2015.

More Mission History Work

We had two major efforts today.  Renee had her hair cut, and she worked on the mission history.  My contribution was to have the car washed while Renee was at the hair stylist.

This is the time of year when there is a lot of pine pollen in the air.  So the car is coated with green pollen every morning.  When there is enough that the car color changes from gray to green, then it is time to have it washed.

After the car wash, I went to a a neighboring McDonald's.  I sat with several other "geezers."  The difference was that I was using the internet and the other geezers were reading the newspapers.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Senior Missionary Activity

We had a senior missionary gathering today.  We drove to Tampa to the Plant Museum.  Henry Plant, a railroad and shipping tycoon, build a 500 room hotel at the turn of the century.  It was the first attempt to bring northerners to Florida for the winters.  It wasn't terribly successful.  After his passing, his son sold the hotel to Tampa City.  Today, part of one floor is a museum of the hotel.  The rest of the large building is used by the University of Tampa for offices and classrooms.

I didn't know much about the University of Tampa, so I looked up some information.  It is a typical small private school -- 7000 students and high tuition.  The students on campus certainly were dressed differently than those on the BYU campus!

Following the visit to the museum, we had lunch at a nearby restaurant.  Unfortunately, two senior couples will be completing their missions in the next few weeks, the Smiths and Healeys.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

District Meeting

We attended the district meeting in Sarasota today.  This is the southern part of the Sarasota Zone.  At one time, this was a large district.  However, with the recent movement of missionaries, this is now a relatively small district.  We enjoy visiting this district because we work with them, and of course it is the closest district meeting to our apartment.

The theme for this district training meeting was "Sunday is Game Day."  This has been a theme for our mission for some time.  The concept is that Sundays provides the opportunity to work with members to obtain referrals and arrange for appointments for the week.  The discussion was on what missionaries had done with members that had worked well ... and what hadn't.