Sunday, June 24, 2012


We've know it was coming for many months now - Tony's release from the Los Angeles California Stake Presidency. Well, it came today. This morning Tony was released in the Hollywood Ward (actually our home ward). It's a bitter-sweet experience. We will be sad to not have the inter-personal contact with the members of the stake anymore. It has been a most intense spiritual experience for the past near seven years, and this will be very hard to live without. Although we will certainly have many spiritual experiences on our mission I expect.
Our Bishop, Bishop Chris Badurek was called to be the new second counselor in the stake presidency, and his first counselor, Seth Johnson was called to be the new Bishop of Hollywood Ward. Richard Smith was called to be the new first counselor in the stake presidency, having been the second counselor for more than a year now. Everyone was very happy with the changes. These two men are really special and we all know they will be wonderful in their callings.
We will miss being among the Saints in the Los Angeles Stake always, not just the time we are gone on our mission, but ever after. Our hearts will always be here, among them.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Done and Through

Last Friday we moved out of our apartment in Hollywood, CA and brought everything up to our home in Lancaster, CA. Even though we gave so many things away we still had quite a lot of stuff we needed. So our son-in-law Dan Chronis got his friend's big trailer and came to Hollywood to help us move. Gratefully everything fit on the trailer and off we went. On our drive up we took a detour to Valencia to stop at Five Guys Hamburgers! They make some of the best hamburgers we've ever eaten. Since Elias and Ramona came too they had requested we make the stop, and since we were all hungry from packing the trailer, etc., we devoured our meal in no time. Then we went back on the road up Hwy 14 to go home with our load.
After we arrived at home we began to unload the trailer, and we placed everything in the living room - all of a sudden our orderly home was a wreck!! It then has taken almost a whole week to find a place for everything, and to get rid of lots of it too. Since we're leaving in two weeks we need to pare down everything we can here at the house.
We are beginning to feel the burden of things left undone and some things will just have to remain that way, there's only so much we can do before we leave for Cyprus.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

A Twenty Year Run Ends

I wanted to post something about Tony's last Seminary class in the Los Angeles California Stake.
For the past twenty years Tony has taught Home Study Seminary for the Adams, Hollywood, Olympic and Wilshire wards. In 1992 when we moved to the Wilshire Ward in downtown Los Angeles from Rancho Cucamonga, CA, we had no idea what kind of journey the Lord would lead us on. We just thought we'd move there and blend in with all the other ward members and serve as we always had. Tony had spent the better part of his ministry as a Seventy, serving stake missions,etc. But a little more than a year before we moved to LA Tony was called to be the High Priest Group Leader in our ward in Rancho Cucamonga. At that time there were five former bishops and two former stake presidents in his group - he suddenly became very busy with Priesthood administration. This prepared him for what would await him when we moved to LA. Two months after we moved here Tony was called to be the Young Men President, a role not unfamiliar to him. Then seven months later he was called to be the bishop of Wilshire ward. In the interim between the two callings Maria Montalvo Lagos, a member of the Wilshire ward came and asked him to organize a Seminary class - so with Bishop Woodhouse's permission he did.
(Cupcakes for after the last Seminary Class!->)
He was called to be the Seminary teacher by then stake president Howard Anderson. Seven months later President Anderson called to meet with us and asked him to become the bishop of Wilshire ward. Tony told President Anderson he'd be happy to accept the calling if he could continue to teach his Seminary class. The president told him once he was bishop he could decide who should teach Seminary thereafter - Tony has always said he just decided to not release himself! Ha! And since he was bishop for seven years he didn't release himself, and all the succeeding bishops didn't release him either.
So on June 8th Tony held his last Seminary class because we are leaving on our mission July 9th. He ended his calling teaching the Old Testament this year. I am so proud of him for all his years of service, and he has blessed the lives of so many young students who were preparing themselves for work or college. Many of his students went on missions and BYU as well - some of them did both. He loves each and everyone of them, and will hold them in his heart forever. (Left is a picture of the 2012 Seminary graduates.)

Friday, June 15, 2012

Forever Friends

Last night we went to dinner with our dear friends, Bishop and Sister Lee of the Olympic Ward. We have been trying to find a date/time for a few years now and finally we just said we had to pick and day and go. We had always wanted to go to a Korean Barbecue Restaurant and didn't know which one to try, so the Lee's told us they would take us to a really great one - one of their favorites.
We were overwhelmed by the beauty of the table settings and the food, and the fact that you grill the food right in the middle of the table. There was such a variety of food we hardly knew where to begin. There was cabbage slaw (of which I am a big fan) and then a green salad of which we ate copious amounts. There were five cuts of beef to grill - everything cut up in thin slices, and then huge prawns, bigger than my hands. And then there were the vegetables - sweet pumpkin, squash, sweet potatoes and others. There were condiments for the meat - sesame oil, soy sauce with jalapenos, daikon radishes (julienned), kim chee (marinated cabbage with garlic), cucumbers in vinaigrette, and cucumbers with jalapenos and zucchini vinaigrette.
Bishop Lee told us that Korean people do not talk when they eat, they eat and then they go to a tea house to visit and talk. So he asked us if we would like to go to a tea house - we said yes. So he took us to one. When we entered we found the decor was decidedly Korean; very peaceful and serene, with plants and artwork intertwined between tea rooms with cushions on the floor for those who prefer to be very comfortable, and tables and chairs set in conversational settings. We chose a table and chairs. The waitress took our order - we ordered Barley Tea and these lovely desserts that consisted of shaved ice with a layer of Mixed chopped fruits and a layer of red beans, yes, red beans, and on top of everything strawberry ice cream. It sounds like an odd concoction, but it goes together very well. It was delightfully refreshing and delicious. You must try it sometime.
We talked for almost three hours, and we found it very relaxing. I would like to go again - perhaps when we return in two years. Thank you Bishop and Sister Lee for such a wonderful time!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The State Department

Life can be so scary when you have to do stuff you've never done before. That's what has happened recently. We had to get financial statements, our marriage license and some other legal documents notarized, then we had to take these same papers to the State Department and pay to have them stamped with what is called an "Apostille". This is a stamp that certifies that we are legally qualified to obtain a Visa from Cyprus to live there for at least 18 months or longer.
So we got the papers together and went to the State Department in downtown Los Angeles. We were required to fill out a form and supply the notarized documents and paid a very high fee - $20 per page. After that we had to wait for the Apostille stamps to be placed on the required pages. Of course the line was long, but the clerks have this down to a science and got through all the people in jig time. We were out of there in about 30 minutes flat. We were surprised to say the least.
We have now completed all that is required of us to present to the State Department, tomorrow we overnight mail all the papers to Salt Lake City for the church missionary department to examine. Hopefully we won't have to provide anymore legal documents - that really is disconcerting for we common citizens.

Monday, June 11, 2012

The Island of Romance!

WOW! I forgot to post about our wonderful mini-vacation on Santa Catalina Island. We were given the trip by Tony's former employer when he retired and didn't have a chance to go. So before it expired we decided we'd better do it right away! We decided to go Mon-Wed to avoid the possibility of not being able to schedule a room.
We stayed at the Snug Harbor Inn which is right on the bay. The water was maybe 10 yards from our front door. It was so wonderful. Our room was just fabulous! It included a fireplace and jetted bathtub. The staff brought us breakfast every morning - not just rolls either, the whole shebang! Then every afternoon Hors d'Oeuvres and Martinelli's were served in the lounge, and because we were so tired they brought it to our room. We actually slept so much, we didn't realize how very tired we were.
We rented a golf cart and drove all over the island. The weather was overcast when we first arrived but the next two days we were treated to warmth and sunshine, blue skies which made the water so lovely to behold. We found it hard to tear ourselves away.
We can hardly wait to go to Catalina again, sometime in the future - after we return from our mission. Something that really struck us while on the island was the similarity to the island of Cyprus. We kind of felt it was a preview of what we can expect to find when we arrive there. Even the weather is very similar. We are really thankful that we had this opportunity to get a foretaste of our mission digs!

New Stuff to Do!

Today we began the process of obtaining our Visas to live in Cyprus. First we went to our bank to get a notarized copy of our bank statement and a letter from our bank to the Cypriot government (also notarized) stating we have sufficient income to live there. And I want to say here we have a great bank (CitiBank), they not only gave us what we asked for, they did not charge us.
Then we went to the LAPD to get letters stating we have no criminal record, but LAPD could not help us because even though we still live in LA County we live in an area of the county that is policed by the County Sheriff's office. So we had to drive back to Lancaster, where we live (70 miles north of LA) the Sheriff's office, where we were told to go to the Criminal Courts Office in the Courthouse to get the letters. We finally hit the jackpot at the Criminal Courts Office in the Courthouse and got our papers in less than 10 minutes! And - they did not charge us for them!
Tomorrow we will drive back down to LA and go to the State Department to get Apostilles (a type of notarization from the State Department) for our marriage license and income verification letters
Very complicated and tedious work, but we have such a deadline we cannot let up now. We have three weeks to prepare before we leave for the MTC in Provo, UT.

An Unforgettable Evening

Words are insufficient to remark on our humbling experience last evening at a fireside we presented to the entire stake regarding our mission. Our fireside was held at the Hollywood Chapel and the chapel and overflow were filled by people who love us and wish us well. What a great feeling!!
We were so happy to have Miguel and Ramona singing and all of Ramona and Dan's children as well. Plus our very own Greg! Also Aaron McClaskey played the organ for us. The music was unbelievably beautiful and brought tears to our eyes. And we were so blessed to have our dear niece Rita Romero in attendance. And our long time friends, Ron and Dorene Keith came as well, and the lovely Anna Williams!
Tony and I spoke and poured our hearts out to the audience. It was a spiritually uplifting program and was a wonderful way to end our service in the Los Angeles Stake. Friday night Tony had taught his last seminary class, and after 20 years of teaching the youth he was overcome with emotion because he will miss them so much. The Wednesday before that I completed my second year teaching at the UCLA Institute. The students honored me with a beautiful card, flowers and gift cards. I was very surprised and pleased And Jonathan Neeley, Director at the Institute gave us beautifully engraved pens which we will use forever and especially on our mission.
We must thank Steve Eyre, Hollywood Ward Mission Leader, George Ksajikian, Hollywood Ward High Priest Group Leader, Ginger Cain, Hollywood Ward Relief Society President and all the members who brought food for refreshments afterward. You guys did a stellar job putting all this together - we couldn't have done it without your help! Also Steve Eyre recorded our fireside so we could have a copy and listen to it again and again. Many thanks to you Steve! And finally we must thank Bishop Badurek for spending the time scanning documents and processing forms for us and for just being our dear friend. We love you Bishop!
President Bragg's remarks were so sweet. He and Tony will miss each other so much, they will always be dear, dear friends.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Another Change-up!

We received a call from the missionary department yesterday and we were asked if we would go to the MTC a month early and only spend five days there and go directly from there to Cyprus. The couple we are replacing need to leave the mission on July 19th, so they need us to come a month early to provide us with training, as there will not be anyone else in country to do this for us. So we are now on the fast track and have to get our Visa within the next 30 days and be prepared in all things to go immediately. But while our heads are spinning we are taking each day one step at a time. We hope to accomplish everything as quickly as possible so we can get to the MTC in good stead. Please say a prayer for us that all will go well.

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