Possum Trot

My dear brethren, sistren, et cetren,

As an illustration of my wild/wacky/wonderful West Virginian life, I am sitting in the tiny little Charles Town library (we usually email at the church but decided to switch it up this week) where they have a library card on file with a sticky note that says “the elders” on it. We were allowed to use it to lot on even though we are “the sisters.”
A fun fact about missionaries is that we are very popular among small children but very unpopular among dogs. I think the dog community puts us in the mail/newspaper delivery category. I have always been a little skittish around dogs I don’t know very well but since I got here and became a puppy pariah I am even more jumpy around dogs. This week we were walking around a neighborhood when I heard a ferocious yapping approaching from behind. There was clearly a dog wanting to nip at my ankles and me and my fleece-lined tights and practical shoes were having none of that. Without thinking, the natural person in me had me grabbing my purse off my shoulder and about to swing it at the dog. I promise this was not intentional and was purely instinct. Fortunately the spirit of my calling kicked in and I thought better of hitting somebody’s dog with my purse-ful of copies of the Book of Mormon. I turned around and realized that the tiniest, least ferocious rodent/dog was on my tail (so to speak) but I still ran away. I just hope nobody else saw my would-be battle because my companion is having enough of a field day. I’m praying for better dog skills.
This week was kind of special because we had exchanges! Exchanges are when you trade companions (PS: should there be a reality show called “Comp Swap”?) for a few days to make sure everyone didn’t forget how to be a missionary and probably secretly to give people a break from their companions. Sister P and I missed each other but it was also like a fun slumber party with our Sister Training Leader who came to Charles Town with me while Sister Pratt ventured abroad to the neighboring area. It was just a li’l bit terrifying because I was semi-in charge instead of being like a baby that Sister Pratt carries around in a little front pack. I kept having to “make decisions” and “talk” and other very scary activities. This was especially hard when all four of our lessons on Friday fell through. Two of them just didn’t answer their door, one of them said she couldn’t make it after all, and one of them called to cancel, which is becoming a real luxury. By the time our last appointment cancelled, my temporary companion and I just kind of laughed for a long time and then cried a little bit too.
Sidenote: a gentleman just walked into the library who is looking very regal in his white hair, leather jacket, and beret. He’s thinking very seriously about checking out a DVD of “Spanglish.”
Anyway, in the face of a gaping stretch of empty time, Sister Westbrook and I decided to heart attack someone. I’m not sure if heart-attacking is strictly a Mormon practice or if it’s known in the secular world as well? In any case, it is the act of taking a bunch of heart-shaped pieces of paper and writing nice things on them and sticking them to someone’s door. We had a friend who was just feeling down this week so we decided to heart attack her door, which was a blast, even in the cigarette-scented hallway of her apartment complex aka our craft room. Around 10 minutes before we were supposed to be home, she and I were trying to figure out what to do with our little chunk of time again. Poor Brother Noel broke his leg this week (but he’s a total champ and came to church this week rocking his BYU sweats and Ugg boots) so we started sticky-note attacking his door when who else but his fellow Mormons and next-door neighbors drove up and said “What the heck are you doing on the sidewalk like that? Come into our living room.” so we had the BEST impromptu Family Home Evening with them all writing nice notes to put on the Noel’s door.
Mama Tyrell continues to deliver hardcore on the food front. She taught me how to make beet-picked eggs this week, which apparently EVERYONE makes for Easter out here. I also casually mentioned my deep love for waffles so she fed us so many waffles with strawberries and cream and said that next week she would make us chicken and waffles. Waffle heaven out here.
Yesterday was the women’s section of General Conference!! Sister Pratt and I rallied a little crew together to snuggle up on a friend’s couch and eat guacamole together while we watched. The theme was “Families” (shocker, right?) which I expected to trunk me way out but instead I started thinking about all the sweet families I am working with and about my title. I think there is something really sacred about being called “Sister” by everyone we meet. If someone says “the sisters” everyone knows that’s me and Sister Pratt, even though we call everyone brother or sister at church. Right now I’m sort of a full-time sister, which is really cool. What is especially unique is being called “Sister” by strangers because that sort of recognizes our unity under the family of God even when we seem to have nothing else in common. It makes me way more open-minded when I am talking to new people.
Well, I sure love ya, ‘preciate ya, ‘preciate everything you do for this ward. I hope that Easter brings you all some feelings about Jesus and renewal and the atonement and all that good stuff. I loved each and every one of your letters this week and you can all expect responses this week because I had an actual letter writing festival today. It was the best. My address continues to be 14 Deerbrook Drive, Charles Town WV 25414 if you would like to write me. I love hearing from you and I am grateful for all the good friends and family I have back home,
Sister Ashland

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