Sunday, November 29, 2015

MTC, Thanksgiving and Back again in Germany

Two more weeks have passed since last writing.  They have been busy.  Two weeks ago was mostly dedicated to learning German in the MTC immersion program.  We spent the most part of four days studying, with a few doctor visits mixed in.  At the MTC we had several German tutors that would work with Debbie and I individually and several volunteers that would be our study buddies.  In between these sessions we would have some personal study time.  The major benefit was in immersing ourselves into this process.  Familiarity and consistency helped us to feel more comfortable with German.  We are far from being able to communicate well, but we are not so overwhelmed with the language as a whole.  Hopefully this is a base to build on as we progress during our mission.  The following is a photo of Debbie working with one of our tutors (Andrew).  The next photo is of Tom and the new Provo City Center temple, taken during one of our lunch hours.

Both weeks, we were able to still work with our team in Europe with several more middle of the night or early morning video conference meetings and with a few more visits to the Church Office building in SLC.  With everything else that is occurring, we were still able to stay connected to the Self-Reliance initiative in Europe.  We were also able to participate in several more family activities.  These include getting Camila's citizenship application filed, tending grandkids and going to Idaho with Ammon to ask Flor's parents for their blessing in his planned proposal.  Each of these activities bring us closer to our children and help us to realize how much they each mean to us.  

The culmination of all this was our celebration of Thanksgiving Day.  As usual we started out with our traditional family tackle football with brothers and nephews on Thanksgiving Day.  This may seem crazy, but it is a tradition that many of our children look forward to each year.  For a few days afterwards we feel bruised and sore, but we continue to come back each year to do it again.  We had around 20 participants again this year.  After the football game we convene in our separate families for Thanksgiving dinner.  This year we celebrated in our daughter, Beckie's, home.  This is part of training for our family to carry on traditions in our absence.  In fact, Beckie did an absolute wonderful job of organizing and preparing for this special day.  All participated to make the work less for each.  We know that all will be well in our absence.  This year, Debbie could not resist her normal care to details, especially with the forty turkeys that she prepared for favors for each person.

Beckie's house was prepared with space for 20 adults to eat downstairs on one large table arrangement.  Young children were in a small table in the next room with older children eating upstairs.  It worked wonderfully.  The photo is of the adult table:

Others arrived after this photo.   We had a total of 38 individuals at our Thanksgiving dinner.  We had some of our children who were participating with their in-laws this year while others live out of town.  In total, these represented 10 of our 17 children.

Starting on the Saturday before, we took time to get our Christmas lights on our condo.  On Thanksgiving evening we took down the Thanksgiving decorations and decorated for Christmas, at least in our parlor.  We will be mostly ready for Christmas when we return.

With all preparations completed, we got on a plane for Paris, France on Black Friday, arriving in Germany yesterday (Saturday).  We filled our bags with a 20 month supply of CPAP supplies and several months of catheters, as well as serving as courier for some fellow missionaries in Europe and bringing U.S. treats and snacks for our upcoming SRS managers seminar in Germany.

We love being with family in the U.S., but really enjoy being back in our German apartment.  To celebrate our return we had our traditional German dinner, bratwurst with sauerkraut and salad, topped off with the following Christmas "Stollen".  Last night we slept for over 10 hours, recovering from our trip and trying to adjust to the jet lag.  Still not used to make that adjustment that comes with each trip back and forth.

Update on Debbie's medical condition:  With medication, Debbie is able to urinate more consistently. We have dropped the self-catherization to once a day.  She is feeling quite well.  She has undergone significant tests with a neurologist in the past two weeks, including full MRIs, MRA (for arteries) and heart imaging.  Testing will continue when we return to the U.S. in December.  Debbie was able to receive a Priesthood Blessing from Elder Robert C. Gay, of the Seventy, on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving which gave us much comfort.  Still no clear answers, but at least we have short term solutions that can continue indefinitely if needed.