Sister Rounds

Sister Rounds
California Arcadia

Monday, March 20, 2017

Mission Accomplished

From the first moment I received a mission call forever ago in February, 2015, my life has changed dramatically on every level. I witnessed things I would never have dreamed in my wildest imagination. I saw, heard, felt, smelled, and tasted things I never would have otherwise. The people that now live in my heart have influenced me beyond expression. 

I came home to a super dooper welcome of everyone in my family as they lined the lane. It all felt very surreal.

Released as a 2-year, full-time missionary.

The ensuing mission report and gathering was prepared and executed meticulously in my beloved Nibley 3rd Ward and then Nibley City Civic Center. 

So many loved ones to re-kindle relationships, meet babies for the first time, and give and get hugs. My widening circle now included my dear ones at home, and new friends made over the past 2 years.

A very rewarding finale:

Homeward Bound

Time to say good-bye to my home of almost 2 years. ERS was a place of learning, growth, consecration, laughter, tears, and numerous heartfelt prayers. It was a beautiful oasis in the midst of chaos, but it became sacred to my heart.

Another final event was dinner with Janessa and her fill-in companion, since hers was sick. We ate at Marie Calendar's in Arcadia, very close to my own hometown of Alhambra. It's been a joy to serve with Janessa. Her presence in the mission has kept me grounded and remembering that this is all really real. She sweetly gave me flowers, a heartfelt card, and a matching ring with hers that signifies our matching mission in Arcadia, California from 2015 - 2017.

And then the final homeward bound events began, with the Wallis Wonders coming on the weekend, just in time for Ashley's baptism on Sunday after church.

Wallis Family and Nana in Bay State apartment courtyard by the unforgettable swimming pool, always full.

Our special baptismal candidate, readying for baptism in the small and highly used Alhambra Ward font, was all smiles all day. Ashley was nothing short of a celebrity. The entire day was extraordinarily sweet and surreal, having my family in this unusual setting, my mission home.

Proud parents of Ashley, Brent and Stephanie
Proud me of them all!
We enjoyed a wonderful and well-prepared baptism, and took many photos every chance we got. This was a highlight of my entire mission.

There are two men, spiritual giants in my mind and heart, whom I will never forget, for all they did to add to and bless my life during my mission. They also served as witnesses for Ashley's baptism. So fitting! Such SUPERMEN!

President Lee (Valley Branch), Me, Bishop McNairy (Alhambra Ward)
President and Sister Lee are two of my favorite heroes. I have learned lifelong lessons from them in Christlike attributes of charity and diligence.

Ashley with President and Sister Lee
Ashley's cheeks grew tired of smiling so much during her special day. All wanted a photo with her. She was the little lady of the day. And rightfully so -- she was the most pure and perfect among us! She went home with photos of many of my California loved ones, both English and Chinese. The dinner was spectacular. Though it was intended to be a small event, it turned out very large, and great amounts of food were contributed, from vast and obscure sources. So wonderful! So typical of my friends here.

The children presented a small program for my beloved friend, Sister Bunker, who enjoyed their songs and poems more than ever! She sat in her own apartment complex in the infamous living room chair, taking in the gifts and talents of my beloved family.

I left my sweet little apartment, never to return, since it was dismantled upon my leaving. I was relieved not to participate in that part.


FIRST STOP:  Los Angeles Temple grounds

NEXT STOP:  Disneyland! A little bit rainy, but it didn't stop us from having a great time all day, and the crowds were minimal. The rain stopped during the day, so it was a wonderful visit!

Jungle Cruise
Getting ready to board a boat for Small World

One happy teacup camper!
Happy girls on Dumbo!
Get ready to fly across the sky!
We added Tinkerbell to the Family Photo

NEXT STOP AND STAY:  Newport Beach and the Bunker's beach house. What fun and memories!

Love these awesome grandchildren!
Sammie sits inside my heart and we made burritos out of all of them. It kept them warm in the sand and was an amazing babysitting device!

Max and Mayci building an important sand castle

My Wallis Wonders in the Wonderful Waves

A stay on the beach in California wouldn't be complete without dinner at a restaurant with fresh seafood fare. 

Bird Man Luke!

An excursion to Balboa Island produced a long, vigorous walk around the island, shopping for just the right take-home item, and Balboa Bars or frozen bananas among all the begging birds.

OK, that's a lot of happy people in one family!!


What is a California trip without a Las Vegas stop?  Fortunately, the M&M Factory keeps a family safe and sane in that party town!

Thank you, Wallis Wonders, for coming to retrieve me from an incredible 2 years of service and consecration. All was an inexpressible growing experience that has enriched my life beyond words. As we bound homeward, I will never forget the past 2 years, or the past week with my wondrous family.

No, never.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Packing It All In, Before Packing It All Up! Part 2

99 Weeks ago, I wondered if this would really ever happen!

Continued key events packed into these last few weeks:

  • MLK holiday spent with our little Chinese friends at Korean B-B-Q and Alhambra town square. As usual, the overarching activity at these events is all the laughing going on!

Our social circle includes Thanh (Vietnamese), Mei (Vietnamese/Chinese), Lola (Chinese), Rosa (Chinese), Sister Martin and I. What a varied group of friends!

Me, Rosa, Lola

Who knew a b-b-que could be so funny!

  • Next event to pack in:  Vietnamese celebration for Chinese Lunar New year, which occurred this year earlier than usual, on January 27. Happy New Year TWICE in one month!! For whatever it's worth, this year is the year of the rooster.

Hiding under the dragon's head. He will return later in the evening!

 One of the Chinese New Year traditions centers around red envelopes filled with some denomination of money, usually an even amount. It is supposed to bring good luck and prosperity during the coming year, and it's a stroke of good luck when someone gives you one. We filled up many cute little red envelopes to "feed" the dragons later, who have children and youth dressed up underneath these creatures.

There was much lively entertainment at this Vietnamese celebration, and need I say... SO MUCH food!
Branch President Huang as the Great Emcee
Traditional springtime dancing to welcome the new moon and the DRAGON!

Vietnamese-speaking missionaries dancing in traditional costume

Synchronized coolness!
With our celebrity young Vietnamese elders
Traditional Vietnamese dress standing behind us

  • Next event, next night, Chinese New Year celebration in Valley Branch. Same Lunar celebration.

The big difference in celebrations, besides cultures, was the surprise tribute extended us from our wonderful Valley Branch family, headed by extraordinary President Lee.

What wonderful Asian brothers and sisters make up this part of my world.

SuLin Wu, her husband, and daughter Pei-ching
The Great Emcee and master sword dancer, Jo Giang
Always happy
Fabulous friends, Roger and Mary Jo Wu
They do so much for us!!

Freda, Thanh, Me, Sister Martin, MaryJo Wu, Sadie Lew
My besties
I love these wonderful sisters so much!
Sage Lee, Rosa Chen, Me, Sister Martin

My dear little Rosa, a non-member who continues to come
 to Sacrament Meeting and translate for me
Sister M, Beautiful and Dedicated Lili, Me
  • Still packing in ongoing lessons over Skype with Thanh and distant elders, so she can learn in her language. These elders are truly valiant heroes.
Elder Paulsen and Elder Duang
Vietnamese Book of Mormon

  • Next event packed in:  Los Angeles temple with Eddy, including lunch afterward in the cafeteria. We will miss this dear sister. What a special soul!

Sister M, Eddy, Me

  • Next event (and eating extravaganza) is with Sister Bunker, as we make one last run to Los Gringos Locos, passing the "Fork in the Road" for Mexican fare and fresh guacamole, made right at our table side.
Fork in the Road. Literally.
Made fresh at our table. YUMM!
One of my dearest mission friends, Sister Bunker

  • We packed in an invitation to Twohey's Restaurant with our ward friends, the Luneke's. We had a great time and good, American food.
Me, Sister M, Charlene Luneke, John Luneke
  • An event packed into these last days is Bun 'N Burger, as hosted by the Bunker's every fourth Wednesday of the month. All the missionaries are invited and we have a sweet time every single month, talking, laughing, and eating great burgers surrounded by cool vintage ambiance.
Love those pink formica tables and old-fashioned shakes

  • Our resume volunteer specialist, Elder Werner, along with his wife, invited Sister Martin and I for an awesome lunch at a famous LA restaurant, Dal Rae. He's a gifted, generous New Yorker-turned-Californian. And we love him. We packed in some kind of lunch.

  • ERS packed in its own farewell celebration. Without Effy as the event planner these days, Joel does an amazing job. Just another thing that will be missed about this extraordinary man.
ERS volunteers from LA and San Fernando centers, DI gang, and a few stragglers

Elder and Sister Lungren, Joel, Elder Gratrix, Dianey, Sister M, Me
  • Alhambra Ward packed in a nice little dinner as a farewell gift. It was spearheaded by my good friend Jezabel. For being a rather spontaneous event, there was remarkable support. AND yummy potluck! In a really cool cultural hall.

Our young missionary friends love to pack in all the food they can at ANY event!
  • And we still have time to pack in counsel and committee meetings, where we all show up wearing the same color of items on the color wheel!
Me, Dianey, Melaney
More Besties of the Besties
  • A surprise event was also packed into these last days when AJ and his associate, Jason, came to LA on business and surprised me for lunch. What a fun day to pack into these last memorable times. We ate fresh fish tacos at a little Spanish restaurant just a walk away from the Center, square in the middle of busy, busy Soto Street. Truly an authentic LA experience.

AJ and I in front of Los Angeles LDS Employment Resource Center
Fish tacos at Marisco's -- YUM
  • The Mission Office hosted a little farewell party and we had the opportunity to see our senior missionary friends, including President and Sister Villanueva. I love these wonderful people.
President Villanueva, Me, Sister Villanueva
  • Packing in some very last events includes one of my cute DI associates whom I've been working with for quite a long time, Skye, who came in on my last day laden with many thoughtful gifts to take along my way. One is an enormous fluffy, pink unicorn for grandchildren to enjoy. Provided I find a way to pack it into my car, it will be a very special mission unicorn for little ones to hug and love.

Me, Skye, and "Fluffy"
  • An outing with Janessa was an important "last" to pack in right before leaving. Her companion that evening was Sister Zollinger from Minnesota, and we had a grand time with Marie Calendar. It was so fitting that the background music for our dining pleasure included the song, "We Are Family!  I got all my sisters in me!" We ate till we were stuffed and then hugged till the stuffing nearly came out. Fortunately she will be home in only 9 short weeks. So much we have been blessed to share in this superb missionary experience!

Sister Ballard and Sister Rounds -- "We are Family!" 🎶
  • Some last sights to pack into the memory of my heart are: 

gates that keep me safe at my home, both inner and outer;

Los Angeles LDS Employment Resource Center;

Inner Gate
Outer gate
the world's softest recliner, whose reputation has become well known far and wide across the Arcadia, CA Mission. Missionaries that come to our home race to jump into it first, and Sister Xia threatened to take it home with her on the plane to Chengdu, China. It seems there is now a race to see who will actually get the treasure as our apartment is dismantled, readying to rent out again.

"THE" Chair!

Packing in all the experiences, people, memories, blessings, and dearness of a mission. 
That's a trick!  

Is it really time to pack up and go home after 2 full years?
So much of it will stay packed into my mind and heart forever, locked in its own private corner of "special."
 Farewell, California.