27 August 2013

Summer Fauna


With the change to summer weather, unique aspects of the animal life in Monterrey began to emerge. All over the city, cockroaches found their beloved mates and began to create life in abundance. John has captured several mamas and papas near the front desk in the temple. One night, Linda captured a teenage cockroach scurrying through a session room looking for friends. In one graceful scoop, it was captured in a tissue and tucked safely in her pocket. After the session she went to the office to report the problem to the recorder and show him the specimen; but the little beast had escaped and the tissue was empty! We thought it was kind of funny until the cockroach families started popping up in our sinks and showers. Suddenly we knew why there was a drain cover in each shower!

Cucaracha Norteña
Our kitchen has an interesting drainage system that makes life without cockroaches more challenging. The open kitchen sink drainpipe goes out through the wall with water and food debris and then empties into the laundry drain. There is no cap, cover, or screen over the opening from the kitchen, which provides a direct route from the main outside drain up through the grate and directly into the pipe leading to the sink. Chemical sprays are a wonderful thing; but it is just too little, too late down here one the heat hits. Because of this, our nightly ritual is to place drain covers or plugs in every drain in the house before retiring--and gratefully, we are no longer sharing our home!

We discovered one night that cockroaches are not the only critters that want to be in the temple. One evening one of our female workers was in the Celestial room when she saw something move on the carpet. Quick as a wink, she grabbed some tissues and captured the unknown species. When I asked her what it was, she said, "An animal with long legs. It was white--an animal!" We discovered much later that it was a lizard--apparently they enjoy the peace of the Celestial room, too. We are told they feast on the cockroaches and spiders that creep into the temple through unknown portals or by clinging to patrons.

The beautiful gardens at the temple have something flowering all year long. There are almost always butterflies feasting on the nectar, but we never see caterpillars. The locals say that is because the butterflies come through here on migration. Some weeks we have thousands of multicolored, blue, or yellow butterflies swarming the gardens. They range in size from one-inch to three-inches in diameter. There is only one problem: butterflies do not cooperate well with picture taking.

Black and Yellow Butterfly on Yellow Flower

Yellow Butterfly on Purple Flower

When we work mornings, we take our walk to the park in the evenings when the cicadas are out in force.  They are skinnier and louder than others we have lived with. The sound begins with just a slight hum and then gradually, tree by tree, they all join in with a force that makes you cover your ears. The sound is a lot like walking under the high-tension electrical wires in west Farmington, but building to ten times more volume--then suddenly without warning, it all stops and there is silence again.

The giant green grasshopper appeared on our back wall one day. Yes, it is as big as Linda's hand!

Giant Green Grasshopper

And for my grandchildren's pleasure, this Mexican groundsnake stopped us in our tracks during our walk in the park one morning: Non-venomous, passive, and it was as confused as we were. 

Ground Snake

Finally, the birds continue to be terrific down here. We have had Altamira Orioles, Golden-fronted and ladder-backed woodpeckers, and, of course, our favorite parrot, Tomás.

19 August 2013

Estaca Libertad (Liberty Stake)

Estaca Libertad

Last Thursday was a day never to be forgotten. We were subbing as coordinators in the morning and then returned to work our normal shift in the afternoon--so we were blessed to be right in the middle of this amazing day. The Libertad Stake from here in Monterrey came to spend the day in the temple. They had been preparing for months for this experience and many, many of the patrons brought stacks of family names with them. For those that were doing the work for their ancestors, the temple experience became very personal, very meaningful, and very sweet. We have never been surrounded by so much joy before! 

The members of the stake were staggered throughout the day beginning at 8:30 a.m. and ending at 9:30 p.m. with an-hour-and-a-half for lunch in the middle at the stake center next door. As many as could, worked all day in the temple moving from one activity to another. Because of the numbers, five extra sessions were added to the normal schedule. More than a dozen regular temple workers showed up that day to support the extra workload--most of them from that very stake, and most of them coordinators of other shifts during the week. Youth came to do baptisms both morning and night and were begging to go back in to do more. Primary children came to meet the Temple President and receive a short message. Hundreds of families were sealed, hundreds of baptismal overalls were washed, and hundreds of people were given a chance at joy. It was estimated that over 400 people served that day doing everything that could be done in the temple. There was even a sister who came for the first time with her stake and stayed the day serving in the temple. As these sweet people filed out at the end of the day, they expressed gratitude for being able to serve, for hours of peace, for opportunities to learn, and for burdens lifted. Something deeply beautiful and tender happens to your soul when you know everyone in your session. Though we don't know the exact goals of this stake president, we do know that it was a powerful experience for everyone there. 

Hermana Calahorra

Saturday, I was working in the laundry. There had been several baptisms in a row and they were getting behind in washing the overalls. Suddenly there was a woman at the door and I looked up to see if she needed clothing--I was frozen, speechless, and very surprised to see Hermana Calahorra standing in front of me. She was one of our very finest sister missionaries when we served in the Mexico City Temple Visitors' Center. We threw our arms around each other and wept and laughed and hugged for a very long time before we could find the words to speak. 

She said that she had just finished a session and as she walked towards the Celestial Room she saw the profile of man that she thought looked like Elder Hoffman. Convinced that she was mistaken, she continued forward a few steps before turning around and walking back near where the man was. She said that she craned her neck to the side to get a better look and knew in that instant that surely it was Elder Hoffman! She said that she immediately went to the dressing room and began asking if "Los Hoffman" were in the temple. The first person didn't know us, but the second person was the coordinator of the day and she confirmed that yes, "Los Hoffman" were working in the temple and told her where I was--and what a sweet reunion we had! 

Our dear Hermana Calhorra had somehow missed the news that we were serving in the Monterrey Temple and so it was a complete surprise for her to find us there. She immediately went to find her husband to tell him the news and he said, "Who are the Hoffman's?" She quickly explained and he joined our little circle of joy at the front entrance. He was Branch President when they were married--and that little branch has how grown into a ward. They have a boy about four and a 7-month old baby girl. 

There are no words to express the joy that comes from seeing this beautiful women continue to serve the Lord with full purpose of heart. What a sweet, unexpected blessing for us to be able to reconnect with her again.  

11 August 2013

Americans in Monterrey

Occasionally we meet Americans during a temple shift. Most of them live here, but some are just passing through. Last week it was a woman from Layton. She was here in Monterrey with her two young daughters to visit her husband, who is Mexican. In spite of the fact that he had lived in the US for many years, spoke near-perfect English, and had a thriving business in Layton, he was not a legal resident. He wanted to correct the situation and become legal. The only way to do so was to leave his family and business and return to Mexico to apply for legal entry and await an interview with the consul. After an extended period of time, he had just received notice that an appointment for an interview had been set. The family was jubilant at the prospect that they would be soon be reunited.

Saturday, an American woman came up to me in the temple and asked if she could be of help in the laundry. She and her husband came with their ward up near the border and she had an hour to kill until the bus left. What a surprise to hear that her Mexican husband had also just received an appointment with the Consulate for a "permanent visa" interview. It is impossible to describe with words the joy and gratitude that filled her soul. They have been living in Monclova for the last 18 months. She has been working across the border in Texas to support the family while they navigated the legal problems facing her husband. At least they have been together, but it was obvious that it had been a long, hard slog. When asked about that she said, "Well, I am finally learning some pretty good Spanish!"

There is another American woman who often comes to the temple. She is very tall (about six feet), about 30 years old, and stunningly beautiful. She fits right in with the tall beautiful women here in Monterrey. When I asked her why she was here, she said that she was married to a "Norteño" (a person from Monterrey). She teaches English in a junior high school here.

There used to be hundreds of Americans working here in Monterrey, but most of the population left during the height of the drug wars. The main stake in the south-west part of Monterrey still has an American presiding as stake president and an American bishop in that stake just moved to Dallas. One Saturday I heard English in one of the rooms and went in to investigate. There sat two women about 24 years old talking like best friends. They had just met, but were so excited to be able to communicate in their native languages with one another. One was living here--her husband manages a bunch of posh exercise gyms for women here in Monterrey-- and the other was from the colonies in Mexico, where her husband is studying to be a doctor. He was here for an internship and they were getting ready to head back to Chihuahua to finish his studies closer to family.

04 August 2013


Secret Messages

Everywhere we go in Monterrey, we see secret messages for our grandchildren. 
How many secret messages from Monterrey, Mexico can you find? 
Don't miss the special one from Nana and Papa! 

Never, ever forget that we love you more than all of these! 

Forever and ever we will love you--more than purple, more than donuts, more than popcorn, more than pizza, even more than golf!!!