Thursday, August 22, 2013

Do You Know Father Dan?

Dear Uncle George,

Golly, I am falling behind.  I see why you ended your journal on August 20, 1907.  It is hard to keep up.

I don't to rush this and to quote "The Princess Bride"--"This is for posterity, so be honest."

If we are keeping it real, and being honest, I disliked New Hampshire.  A lot.  But I am getting ahead of myself.

We pick up our story in Buffalo, New York on Friday, Aug 16, where Carol and I have seen, spent, and gotten wet to the point the grown women should not be laughing so much, so our move back to Rochester has come.

She likes plants.  I like plants.  So we went to the Buffalo Botanical Garden before we left.

Yes, in case you are wondering, if you are ever in Buffalo, you should go, too.

I thought it would be faster to just put the album link here:

I went to high school with a fella named Father Dan F.  He actually wasn't a Father of any sort at the time, but he has been led down this path. Carol and I stumbled by a Catholic church by the garden and I said, "Hey, there is a Catholic church.  Let's see if Dan is there."  Which of course is akin to the idea of when people say they know someone from Alaska and ask me if I know them (which I have a story for that when I get to Sharon, Vermont).  I mean, really, how many Catholics can there be in New York, after all?  :)

Well, just like my unbelievable experience in Sharon--the one for a later date--the Father there in Our Lady of Victory Church DID know Father Dan from Soldotna, Alaska.  See, it never hurts to ask.

Dan lived too far away to visit, so instead we visited the church building they say is their "Pearl of the Dioceses."  It was super gorgeous.  Carol and I did our best to respect their holiness, so when we entered we did put holy water on ourselves. She said she put her's over her heart to cover everybody, Catholic or not.  I liked that and copied her.  I am like that you original thoughts of my own.   My name is Val and I am a copycat.

Here are these pictures too:

I want to say something about the church. Any church, really.

This building had a spirit of reverence.  Of peace.  It was "still."  I have some experience photographing religious buildings, and this was humbling.  No less humbling then photographing our own sacred buildings or temples.  No different than wandering past the shrines in India.  Or the Buddist temples in China.  I like how human beings are making the effort, the conscious decision to show their devotion to their god.  Good for us.

I gotta go.  I am lost in New Jersey somewhere.
Sister Val

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

My Wife Traveled, Spent All Our Money, and All I Got Was This Lousy T-Shirt

Dear Uncle George,

To date, I have taken over 6,000 photographs in 18 days.

Mind you, I am not complaining.  I know you shot negative glass plates and I read in Richard's black book that it all ended up weighing about 3,000 tons or some craziness like that.  I don't even think the Mini Cooper weighs that much.

And I can drive the Mini.

I am in Sharon, Vermont this morning...which by the way, is perfectly foggy. Oh no.  My stay in Sharon may have just gotten a day longer.

This is my last and final day of shooting your mission.  Which is pretty unbelievable.  I have been thinking about this mission for almost two years and I have felt so many emotions regarding it.

I have felt disbelief I felt like I should do it.  I felt disbelief I would do it.  I felt excited to see all the sites.  I felt guilty for leaving my family for so long, especially for The Boy.  I felt guilty that people are making a big deal about because it makes me feel like I am somehow coming across as arrogant or prideful.  When I work so hard, consciously, to be as humble as I can.  I felt guilty about the money it was going to cost to stay in hotels for three weeks or just the money in general.  I felt guilty about the TWO new, very expensive lens for the quality I wanted....and feel I need.  Add the cost of the Mini into the equation (a surprise gift from my husband), we are talking about some money.

These are some pretty expensive photographs when you break it down.  Which I won't share that number is embarrassing.

This would have NEVER happened with the full-blown, amazing, outstanding support of my husband, Mr. Fun.

The cutest Anderson I have always said.

He has never said a single word but "ok" when I tell him what I am thinking.  Most husbands wouldn't say "ok" to the phrases "Uh, yeah, I think I am going to drive thousands of miles--ALONE (hello, epileptic)....spend all the money serving my feelings...leave our disabled child for you in your 60 hour work weeks to manage his seven school classes on-line...with two tutors coming in at 3:00...."

You get what I am saying.

I guess when it gets all boiled down, it boils down (speaking of boiling, I have learned the New England real maple sugar is really, really sweet),  both of us feel like I am following the Holy Ghost and that I was "asked" by my gut to do it.

And my cute husband feels it, too.

As my token of my appreciation, I have tried to look with my eyes what he would enjoying looking at with his eyes if he were with me:

He likes rocks

He likes the temple

He likes history

He likes cactus

He likes things that remind him of France

He likes beauty

He likes the Cradle of Restoration

He likes greenish-blue rivers

So Uncle, this is my dedication to my main man, Matty.

Mr.Fun, I love you. I love how you are so not like me.  You are the best.

By the way, my gut feels like I should do the trip west next summer.  Start saving your pennies.

By the way, I don't have any money to buy you a t-shirt. :)

Sister Val

Friday, August 16, 2013

I am too tired to make up some witty title

Dear Uncle George:

My mission is SOOOOOOO hard that I have given myself several P days in a row to get recovered.  :)

My buddy, Carol, flew in to see the Palmyra area with me and we have been over in Buffalo to see some fun sites.  Which mainly included spraying water.

I have actually had some wonderful, delicious experiences this week. I have posted some of them on the Facebook, and well, since I am so spent from my recreating I mean my working, I will repost them here.

Well, I wouldn't say this post was wonderful...but entertaining anyway.

There is this fella from yesterday:

This man was in line behind me at the snack shop. I asked him about his long did it take to grow it? His whole life. Why does he grow it? Because it reminds him of his blessings from God. Can I have your picture? Of course. Can I touch your beard? Yep.

And when I saw him again, he had the biggest smile and I waved at him. We "got" each other.

This will rank up there in my moments with shaking the hands with a survivor of the Hanoi Hotel, a Holocaust survivor, a Medal of Honor winner and a Nepalese Sherpa who has climbed Mt Everest...twice...without oxygen.

And in an unrelated event:

True story:
Last night, in my hotel in New York, I got a shocking call from an 83 year old man named David. We haven't connected in over 11 years. He said it took that many years to find me after we left Utah but God's spirit told him to keep looking, especially strongly these last couple months. 

I thought he had already passed away. Imagine my surprise.

The amazing piece of this whole story is the photographs I am recreating of George Edward Anderson....George is David's grandfather. When I told David of the photo mission I was retracing, David was SO happy that he was literally without words. His family had no idea that I was doing this and we can only shake our heads and marvel at the true nature there is a God. He really does have even the tiniest details of our paths in play if we will but just trust in His promptings and go and do.

The end. Have a super great day! Love Sister Valsy

And because I am sure my new bestie, Sister Roberts is reading this sometime soon, I HAVE to give a big slobbery shout out to her.  Cutest. Girl. Ever.

And the best outing of all:

Carol leaves in the morning and I have two more days in Palmyra before I head off to Sharon Vermont.  
Sister Valsy

Monday, August 12, 2013

A Van Down By The River

Dear Uncle George,

You ever see the SNL skit about living in a van, down by the river?  If you are asking yourself what SNL is, I would guess that you haven't.

I only know about it because The Girl's middle school teacher would play this clip for the kids as "motivation."  :)

Whenever I see a crazy van, I always think of this skit.  And my buddy, Dave.  Dave is a "car guy," so I always try to sneak pics for him to enjoy. You know, paint job ideas like this one here:

Golly, jea.lous.

We pick up our story in Kirtland Ohio and move onto to the amazingly green state of Pennsylvania.  Well, actually Ohio, then 8 minutes in Pennsylvania, then 33 minutes in New York, only to be welcomed back again to Pennsylvania.  I am from ALASKA.  I will never be able to wrap my mind around the fact that I could be in 3 states within about 23 seconds.  
I know rivers. And I would be the first to admit they seem to have their own personalities.

I grew up on the Kenai.

As in river.  As in world's capital of King Salmon.  As in hundreds of thousands have come to catch a king. My house was right up the hill from the river, and even in summer in my bed at night, I could hear the fishing river boats race up and down the water all night.

The Kenai River is cold.  Super cold. It is melted glacier water. It is a strange sort of greenish-blue.  It is wide and it's current is fast.  It is a force not to be reckoned with.  Every kid that grew up in Soldotna knows that.  Certainly not the kind of river you would want to live in a van by, unless you want to freeze to death.

Now, I live by the Mighty Mo.

Missouri River.

The Missouri is wider than the Kenai.  It is not as pretty.  My Rotary friend, Albert, once told me that the Missouri is too thick to drink and too thin to plow.

As far as rivers go, it is not beautiful or glorious.  And there are no world record King Salmon swimming in it.  That I am positive of.  And if one wanted to live in a van down by it, I would recommend getting a gun-carrying permit.  Just in case.

But the Susquehanna different.

I cannot imagine a river being so tranquil.  So peaceful.  So sweet.  

Even development has not interfered with its gentleness

This river is famous to the LDS folks because Joseph Smith was baptized there.  Lots of other folks have as well, for the historical connection, but none was as important as Joseph's.  Just keeping it real.

So I took me and the Mini to Harmony, Pennsylvania to see said river and baptismal spot.

It was raining.  It was dark light.  It was isolated.  Even the Mini looked a little nervous being out there alone.

But it was so worth the walk--as we used to say about my dorm at BYU (our girl's dorm was isolated from the rest of them and you had to walk up a hill to see we made a dorm t-shirt that said "Worth the walk."  Cleaver, eh?)

This is my favorite

This is from part of a statue by the river.  It is Joseph Smith's hands on his heart.  Which, when the Gospel of Jesus Christ is boiled down, it is about love.

I loved being at the river.  Even when I had to walk back into the area for a second time because I got distracted by some new friends and forgot to take the George pictures the first walk in.

Even when it rained so hard I thought I might be flooded out.  Or the Mini would be washed away when I got back to the parking lot.  See this picture down below, the Mini took it.  

I will say, living in a van down by the river would have certainly been handy that day.

All said, Harmony has been my most peaceful stop so far.  

I met some old Jerry Garcia looking fellas in the hotel parking lot later that evening and they asked me I was on a "pilgrimage." I hadn't thought of it like that, but yeah, I guess so.  That is the way they processed why I wouldn't join them for a beer in their room, I guess.

I found this link for your next visit to the Susquehanna, George.   In case you want to stay in a van, down by the river.


Friday, August 9, 2013

Kirtland Rocks: I think Drew Carey got confused

Dear Uncle George,

It is called the internet.  And I have not had it.  "Issues" at the last hotel.  And I am not talking about just the bathroom floor.

At the risk of sounding like a demographic snob, the area I was in the suburbs of Cleveland is not somewhere I will be relocating to any time in this life.

The great news of my time there is that the car was still intact and still there when I woke up each day.  That always makes the day seem to go a little better....when your car has not been sold for parts.  I didn't really tell Mr. Fun because I didn't want him to worry.  But the hotel clerk, Pem, said that he was "pretty sure" nothing would happen to me or the car, and well, since he too has been to India, I believed him.

whew, here's the proof

I gave myself a day off from my missionarying because you know, I had been at it a whole three days.  I took myself to the Cedar Point amusement park.  Yes, alone.  I know. I am pretty sure I was the ONLY person there alone.  People feel sorry for you when you don't have a seat mate for the roller coaster ride and they get cranky when the ride supervisor tries to make them sit with you.

I wore my ninja t-shirt from the thrift store, which had some sort of powerful effect on the buddies there. My first ride a man asked me I wanted to ride with him.  I think he thought I was really as stealthy as my t-shirt said.  Here are some notes I took from my day:

I didn't get the memo that I was suppose to have a tattoo and wear my skankiest clothing
There are a lot of teenage volleyball players in Ohio
I rode the world's largest steel roller coaster

There was a couple making out in said roller coaster line
Who wears stilettos and no bra to a park like that?  Or anywhere?
I got a henna tattoo with a little girl named Sophia from Philadelphia. I hope she can spell better than I can.

I think the youngest person there had been born the day before.  It reminded me of the movie "Sweet Home Alabama" where the woman brings her baby to a bar.
And I saw more redheads (hello, "gingers" as Chris J. corrected me) there than I had seen in Ireland in two weeks.  I felt like I was in a leprechaun colony.

So my boyfriend from the first ride was disappointed that his love for me was not returned.  So many boys, so little time.

I want to flat out keep it real and say the "Cleveland sucks" but this is a churchy blog so I won't.  That said, if it weren't a churchy blog, I would have to say that Cleveland does not rock as Drew Carey has led us to believe in the 90's.  It sucks and I have pretty much established a new life goal to never return there.

That said, if you find you need to buy a new emergency camera lens, Dodd Photography. And if you find you need to buy some emergency Chinese food, Pearl of the Orient.

That said, there is like a magical bubble of green, wonderful forest goodness has been placed over the Kirtland.  I can not figure it out, given it is seriously only like 20 minutes out of the city.  Whatever the purpose or reasons, Kirtland is a marvel.

As a matter of fact, I think I owe Kirtland a little apology.  I have not given it the amount of proper pondering I have all the others sites I have visited over the years. Kirtland, you are neat.

Sidenote:  Since coming to the East, I have had about 23 minutes of sunshine.  This photograph took up the first 4 minutes and 34 seconds.  The next 17 minutes were yesterday in late afternoon and today I had 2 minutes. As a matter of fact, right this very second it is storming so bad the cable is out and I can't see out of the window.  Sweet.

Kirtland.  There are books and stories you can read about it. Basically, in the Mormon Church, it is considered a "cradle" of doctrinal development and solidification.  The Saints were here for 8 years before heading to Missouri.  It was a small village that still retains it's small feeling.   This temple is the first that was built by the Mormons in 1833-1836.  It was a huge offering, emotionally and financially, from the members of the Church and it was difficult for them to leave it.

There are several break off groups from the main church body, and one of them has retained ownership of this temple.  They are kind enough to give tours of the building for a couple bucks.

But there is something that you can't read about.  When I took my tour the other day, my tour group sat in the large assembly hall that the original pioneers sat.  Even though the guide was not a member of our church, we do share a history.  She invited us to sing the same hymn that was sung at the dedication of this building in the 1830's.

As my mom says, the Baptists couldn't sing their way out of a brown, paper bag (which I can neither confirm or deny but as the only person in our family raised Baptist, she is the resident expert).

The Mormons, however, can.  We have this little group called the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and just to make sure we are ever-improving, they have brown, paper bags for us in the pews each week.   :)  jk

There were about 30 of us on the tour, and when we started to sing, you could hear perfect four-part harmony.

It was powerful.  And for me, an unexpected feeling raised in my throat.  And I cried.

I am an adult convert, as you know, to Mormonism, so the history at times is removed from me.  The church has been out of my family's life for several generations.  We didn't even know there was any Mormonism in the past.  I wasn't raised knowing anything about the LDS Church.  I don't know all it's stories or feel its impacts.

That said, I felt this.

Kirtland rocks.  :)

Monday, August 5, 2013

No Alligators Here

Dear Uncle:
I wanted to share with you some of my trip moments, some of which made me laugh out loud.  Which looks crazy if you are racing past me as I speed down the I-70 corridor....well, as much speeding as one does when almost every inch is under construction.

First things first, pit stop in Jefferson City, Missouri to touch hearts and young minds.  This is Rich, who I have had 8 years of great works together. He is the kind of fella that when he asks you to serve with him, you go. Even if you are a gold and don't have two weeks of hotels booked before you do it. :)

I have to let you know that I have a saying I have decided to use for this mission. 

"I had to turn the car around for this one."  

What that means is that I was driving along, I saw something that might be photo-worthy, but kept on driving until the Holy Ghost was basically yelling at me "turn around."  Hence, the fancy slogan.  I know, I should go into marketing.  I have always thought so, too.  Heh.

Here is the fun I had in Terra Haute, Indiana...

Dear Terra Haute, Indiana:
You have not disappointed. In the first 7 minutes I arrived, you rolled out the ambulance for medical trauma at the IHOP, a 17 police car high speed chase--which I got the scoop from Keisha the Wendy's drive thru window girl whose friend's dad has a police scanner (shout out Sheri Bradford Dean) and filled us all in. And last but not least, how my hotel room smells like a wet dog and there was stray cat literally waiting for me in front of my motel door. Too bad I leave in the morning because, seriously, I can't even imagine what can happen in a full 24 hours here. Love, Sister Anderson 

I have to give kudos to the Grand Master from a wonderful day yesterday.  :)

I drove from Terra Haute, Indiana to Sandusky, Ohio. By way of Michigan .  I am a goal-driven sort of girl so I can cross it off my list as "visited" as well as brag at parties that I spent about 1 and half minutes in Michigan once.

They call that "street cred."

Indiana is so pretty. If anyone really knew about it, more people would live there.  Especially if they knew about the "Ron Paul for President 2012" billboard that is still up or the free invitation to the tent revival being held in Cloverdale by a guy named Johnny.

I saw two 85 year old men racing their caddies on the interstate.  

I was too late in Terra Haute Saturday night to find a church so I held my own service in the wet-dog smelling room.  Doctrine and Covenants 75 with songs "Ye Elders of Israel" and "Armys of Helaman."  
I also listened to "Radioactive" by Imagine Dragons,who of course are BYU Super Mormons from Provo.  

Speaking of mission work, this may be the best mission in THE world!  I was wearing shorts and my thrift store Angry Birds t-shirt in honor of the release of Scoutmaster Niel who taught me about the game.  And I may or may not have heard a little from AC/DC and the Scorpions. 

I don't know all about geography, but I learned something interesting.  Upper Sandusky is actually 96 miles south of Sandusky.  So that seems to me that Upper Sandusky is actually Lower Sandusky or that regular Sandusky should be Upper Sandusky.  See what I mean?

And when you drive 

miles in two days, ALONE, you have some time to sort out these geographical conundrums.  

And stop by Lima, Ohio (the home of "Glee" and if I were Rachel Berry, I would get out too).

And drive the Miss America Highway.

And drive down the 184 EB through Toledo. My recommendation:  don't.

The other thing I noticed about geography is that Baltimore, Ohio says it is the "Crossroads of the Mid-West."  It makes you wonder what map they have looked at recently.

I got passed by a tail-gating group that when they drove by, they had faces painted like cats.  They must know that I have a cat or two.  Rest assured, Mr. Fun, these cats won't be coming to stay.

I met a family in the gas station while waiting in line for the bathroom, where the mom (who already weighed about 250 pounds and was wearing the brightest pink t-shirt) was singing.  Her pre-teen was mortified. I thoroughly enjoyed it.  The disappointment of that pit stop was that the hot dogs I had for dinner....the bun warmer said the buns were warm.  They weren't.  Don't tease a girl so, bun warmer.

I took the scenic route of Lake Erie, and while it took an act of congress to find the lake on the lake tour, it was worth it.

This one I turned the car around for.  It was a swamp, but no alligators.
If there had been, I've seen Duck Dynasty.  I know how to handle that kind of mischief.

I think you would have really enjoyed my day yesterday.  Too bad you didn't own a car as I do so that you could have enjoyed my day 107 years ago, too. Minus the cold hot dog buns.
Sister Anderson

Friday, August 2, 2013

Richard, Rand and I Head Out

Dear Uncle George,

I don't have time to mess around.  I gotta pack.

I am leaving today for the Mini Mission back East.  I am off for a few weeks tour to follow your photographs of Kirtland Ohio, Palmyra New York, Sharon Vermont, Colesville New York, and whatever else I have marked in Richard's coffee table book.

I have spent three days pouring over the giant Rand McNally map I got for $6.78 at the Wal-Mart to guide my way.  A map that last year some KMart employee told me was no longer in existence and it was (and I quote) "too old-school for anyone to need."

Another in a long list of reasons I am sure that KMart is going under.  Not enough Rand McNally maps.

Sure I have a GPS.  In the car.  On my IPOD.  On my new smart phone that I am not smart enough to use.

But there is something about paper.  And my yellow highlighter showing me the way.

The map shows me where the ghost town in Ohio is and the cascading falls just outside of Terre Haute, Indiana.  It showed me that I will be 23 miles from Gettysburg at one point.  Who knew?  Rand McNally that's who.

There will be a lot of paper in the car with Richard's book and Rand's map.  I hope there is no tension like the hissing I just heard up in the kitchen between two of the cats.  Why can't we all just get along?

While there are many, many reasons to be excited to finally head out (I have been thinking about this for almost two years), I have to say there is one reason that stands out beyond ALL the rest:

Mr. Fun has to do school registration with The Boy.

He has never done it.  He has never attended.  He has not stood in the line out to the parking lot in 95* weather.  He has not waiting for something only to figure out he is in the wrong line.

The thought of not having to do it this year is so delicious to me that I relish it even MORE than high-end truffles from some first world chocolatier.

I received a blessing and it said that I was on the Lord's errand.  That since I am actually serving as a missionary on a mission that I would have the extra safeguards that missionaries have.  It also has repeatedly said that I need to basically be smart.  I know what that means.  No crazy ledge-leaning.  No late-night shots in dangerous places.  No unnecessary risks.

One thing I plan to do is take my photograph with a sign whenever I stop at interesting places.  You know, like Lima, Ohio where Glee is staged.  The Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Museum outside of Cleveland.  The Viking Tower in Rhode Island, which by the way, did you know that RI is only 37 miles wide.  And holy hannah, what is UP with Delaware?!

Wish us luck-- Richard, Rand and I.  More than that, please guide me to take the photographs you took, capturing the true feeling of their locations and the Spirit they have.