29 December 2013

A White Christmas

Snowy Egrets:
Our first hint of a white Christmas came with the glorious return of the Snowy Egrets to the Silla River Park. Our first sighting was a flock of nearly a dozen. They were feeding serenely right next to the path--the closest we have ever seen them; but--and there is always a but--we had no camera! We continue to see them in ones and twos, though too far away for a clear shot; but are grateful for each glimpse of snowy white.

Sunday, December 15th: We had the Bishopric over for dinner after church. There is only one counselor and Tony and Claudia Loredo are moving soon, so we wanted to thank them for their service. He was the Elder’s quorum president and then first counselor, and she has been Primary President and back-up chorister. 

Since it was close to Christmas, we decided to ask everyone to share their family Christmas traditions. Much to our surprise, there were almost none to speak of—not even trees or lights or special dinners. When it was the Bishop's turn, he tearfully told of his youth on the streets of Mexico City. He left home at the age of eight to escape an abusive father. Homeless and fending for himself, he said that he never experienced any aspect of Christmas--no gifts, no traditions, no family parties, no Christ. 

It was a dangerous and depressing childhood laced with immorality and addictions; but he managed to actually finish high school—paying the fees himself by begging and stealing. He said that in spite of many bad decisions, he also made some good ones. For instance, at one point his uncle was training him to use a gun in case they “needed” to kill someone during a robbery. He said, “ I knew it was wrong and never went near him again.”

He was introduced to the missionaries about four years ago—and as his wife says, “He is now a completely changed man—completely and totally different from when I met him!” We have never heard a more powerful testimony of the redeeming power of the Savior in someone’s life than the one that comes from this man who was “lost, and now is found." This new man who now helps others find themselves. 

A white Christmas, as promised by the Lord:  "...though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow..." (Isaiah 1:18)

Saturday, December 21st, three people from our ward went through the temple for the first time. They have all been working diligently toward this for many months and were very well prepared. I wish I had been as prepared as they were—the church has improved that process so much in the last 40 years. The blessings of modern revelation just continue to pour forth. The three people were Martha, Francisca, and Franciso. They were so happy with their day and the things they learned. 

Many of the ward members accompanied them to the temple, creating a very warm and comforting environment. As they shared their testimonies the next day in sacrament meeting, it was apparent the spirit had tutored, filled, and cleansed them.  So, once again, our Christmas really was a white Christmas—temple white!

One last white: In the Silla River park where we walk nearly every day, there are a few cultivated flower beds near the main office. Most of the flowers this time of year are red Poinsettias, but in the foremost flower bed, stunning white Poinsettias call out their message of hope to us all: "...though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool."  (Isaiah 1:18)

22 December 2013

Christmas Churros

December is all about churros here in Monterrey--crispy, long pieces of fried dough rolled in sugar! They are everywhere during December and we never pass up an opportunity for a taste test. This are the step-by-step instructions of how they are made:

Step #1--Fill the churro press with dough made from flour, salt and water.
Step #2--Brace the press against your chest and press the dough out into a perfect circle into a vat of hot oil.
Step #3--Stop adding dough to the oil when it is within 1-inch of the side of the vat. 
Step #4--Cook slowly until nicely browned on the bottom.
Step #5--Turn carefully using two long, stiff wires. 
Step #6--When thoroughly cooked, remove from vat to cool--do NOT drop it! 
Step #7--Cool slightly on metal tray and then quickly chop into ten-inch lengt
Step #8--Roll each churro in sugar (cover hand with plastic bag for hygienic purposes), place in paper bags,
collect money, and watch with delight as the customers come back for more.
 Cost to the consumer is about 40 cents/churro--worth every penny! 

19 December 2013

What do you do?

Since Tuesday through Friday we only work seven hours a day, either in the morning hours or evening, many of you have asked what we do with the rest of our time. Here is a recent, abbreviated version:

  • Morning shift, 7:30 to 1:15.
  • Lunch! (Main highlight as well as main meal of day).
  • Six-mile walk along river. 
  • Make Chili con Carne and Jalapeño Bread for Sunday guests.
  • Bedtime 10:00--two hours later than hoped for!
  • Up at 4:15 a.m.--work to 1:45 p.m.
  • Lunch!
  • Very short, much loved siesta.
  • Clean church downtown.
  • Soup at Mission President’s house and then the wrapping of 167 gifts for missionaries. Short walk to the “churro” stand for a late night snack.
  • Make salad, set table for Sunday dinner.
  • Leave early for church due to road construction at both ends of route.
  • Practice song for Christmas Sunday program
  • Final preparations for farewell dinner for first counselor and wife, who are moving. The second counselor moved three months ago, so that will leave the Bishop counselor-less. 
  • Serve dinner to the four people invited and the extra person that the Bishop brought along--rearrange table, find more dishes and cutlery, smile and make many welcoming noises. 
  • Take two people back downtown to their apartment after dinner so that the Bishop could go in the other direction to a meeting he had.
  • Clean up dinner--trying not to finish off the rest of the chocolate turtles left over from dessert.
  • Drag ourselves out of bed just in time to get the recycle sacks out for the early pick-up.
  • Six mile walk at the park--first snowy egret siting!
  • Sweep floors, dust floors, and mop floors of our little bungalow. Clean, clean, clean!
  • Wash patio, sidewalk, and street in front of house.
  • Quick, very quick lunch!
  • Even quicker showers to get ready for Temple Worker’s Family Home Evening.
  • Arrive one hour early to fiesta to practice song we are singing with another couple. Hermano Aguirre, the guitarist, arrives on time; but the neck of guitar he borrowed is broken. Using a tuning strap, the guitar is “tied” back together and tuned. Miracle of miracles, it works! We practice with the guitar (for the first time) trying to figure out how to turn the song into a duet. It is too high for Linda’s voice. Fifteen minutes before the program begins, the other two voices show up. One run through the song and Hermano Aguirre quietly says, “It would be much better with the piano.” We tried it with the guitarist both singing and playing, and added Linda on the piano--much better! One full run through and we head to the chapel. (It turned out pretty good, considering the challenges.)
  • Everyone is late to the party. It turns out that most of them work for a living. The devotional begins 15 minutes late with only a handful of people present--45 minutes later, the chapel was full. 
  • We make 100 photos of the temple to share with our friends that work at the temple--we run out of photos. Many of the people we have never seen before. We wonder where they came from and where they go.
  • Dinner and dancing follow the program. Not much visiting due to incredibly loud speakers. 
  • We are asked to coordinate the morning shift the next day. 
  • Work the morning shift at temple as coordinators, 7:15 to 1:30.
  • Stop at grocery store to buy Fritos to put in the leftover chili.
  • Eat leftover chili and salad, with lots and lots of Fritos.
  • Eat leftover chocolate turtles.
  • Clean up kitchen.
  • Put feet up for 15 minutes.
  • Return to temple for afternoon shift, 4:30 to 10:00.
  • Returning home, we find that the chocolate turtles are gone--every last one! 
  • We discover someone’s Christmas present in the back room. 
  • It is chocolate. We eat chocolate!
  • Before retiring, we make a note to replace the Christmas present.

So, there you have it--what we do in a nutshell. 

08 December 2013

Butterfly Migration and More

Mid-October to Mid-November is the time of the butterfly migration. They pass through nearby Estanzuela Park where favorite plants, bushes and trees have been planted for their feasting enjoyment. When we arrived in Monterrey last year, the air was teeming with butterflies--literally tens of thousands dancing around the beautiful blooms at the temple. This year, the weather has been colder and rainier;  but a few lovely friends survived, much to our delight.  (The noting of butterfly placement is for my benefit--I keep losing them--Linda). 

Butterfly pre-cursor

 Zebra Heliconian next to tiny white flower

Mazons Scallopwing, feasting on fushia

Arizona Sister Butterfly (Adelpha Eulalia)

Brown, long-tail butterfly, above.

Mimosa Yellow Sulphur butterfly feeding on purple flowers.

Monarch feeding on wild flowers
Chestnut Crescent butterfly above the red flowers--about 1-½ inch across. 
White Falcate Orangetip butterfly in center.

Unidentified, but still looking...

Butterfly to right of large leaf--about 1-inch wingspan (above and below)
Butterfly to left of green and yellow leaf

Black butterfly with yellow edges.

Brown butterfly with yellow spots on small green leaves.

Rust-colored butterfly in upper left quadrant.
Rust and white butterfly near center. 

Brown butterfly lower left, Black with Yellow and White top, center. 
Three butterflies: Brown at 7:30, black and gold at 10:00, and black and yellow at 1:30. 

Tan moth--I think

…And more from Estanzuela Park

One small, lonely frog:

One large, poisonous millipede (Narceus americanus, about five-inches long):

A plethora of beautiful plants:

And a few other lovely things: 

This became a raging river that took out roads and bridges during the hurricane.

Note Cacti on the roof

The walking path into Parque Estanzuela with Sierra Madre mountains in background.

Truly worth a little side trip to Monterrey!