Saturday, January 31, 2009

Another Busy Week

Late Saturday night, but I do not want to retire until I put in my "2 cents."

What a great week we have had. Finally it seems we are getting life in control. It is amazing how much is required to get set up and functioning. I begin cooking something and find I am missing an ingredient--which, of course, is on the shelf at home. It seems we have spent lots of money acquiring the basics in the pantry and the apartment. What is amazing is that we have the money available to purchase what is needed. Yesterday we purchased a computer table and two office chairs for $10.00 each at the MSU Surplus store. The chairs are comfortable, swivel, raise and lower and, when I clean the upholstery, they will look very nice. Best of all these purchases make our "office" work so much more convenient and pleasant.

We did a couple of great Munch 'n Mingle lunches this week. We are going to cut it down to one day a week, plus the lunch that goes with the Friday class taught by the institute director. With all the money budgeted for Munch 'n Mingle going for one day instead of two, we will be able to provide more food so they can expect to have enough to eat. Tuesday we made biscuits and gravy. Thursday I baked bread and we made potato soup. To go with the hot bread, I made honey butter. Was it ever good!! Erin shared the recipe with me--so easy and inexpensive:

Beat together 1 cube of butter and 1/3 cup honey. Fold this into 8 ounces of whipped topping and pile it on the hot bread. hmmmmm

The Student Living Center, where we live, is part of the Institute of Religion property. In this close-knit community, we have a pretty unique association. This evening, for instance, we were just finishing our meal, when there was a knock on the door. One of the graduate students came by to ask for some recipes. She sat down at the table with us and we shared the cookies just out of the oven. Before she left, three sister missionaries knocked on our door. They enjoyed cookies and played a game of Chinese checkers with us. Then one of the men came by to answer a computer question I had and we sent him down the hall with a few cookies in hand. So much for the cookies.

Last week at a potluck meal, I took my camera and now have collected about thirty pictures of individuals living here and attending church in the University Ward. It has helped a great deal as we try to match names and faces. Soon we will get acquainted with everyone at the institute and hopefully all those attending the student ward.

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Thursday, January 29, 2009


I can honestly say there is not a place anywhere I would rather be, or a thing of any kind I would rather be doing than what I/we are doing right now. Isn't that a nice condition?

When we learned we have only one lesson each to give per week, I was disappointed. But when we must work so hard at preparing, along with the other things we do, one lesson is about right. For one thing I really stress and strain just getting ready enough to teach sensibly. Ranelle is much more organized so she spends less time preparing, then gives better lessons in the process. I gave mine last night; she gives hers tonight. My subject this semester is "Missionary Preparation;" hers, "The Book of Mormon." Last night I had six students, one of which was a non-member of our church. Lovely young lady soon moving away to med school. Whether she is ever baptized is uncertain, but meanwhile she is seeing the very heart and soul of Mormonism. Last night I said, "Cheryl [not her name], the next time you hear Mormons accused of not believing in Jesus Christ will you please tell them what you've seen--from close up?"

It looks like the young people we work with number about forty--maybe more. A few are not students, and of those who are, a good half are in graduate school. All of these kids are remarkable because all by themselves--independent of parents or spouse or friends, they seek after the everlasting things. Most, most impressive, all of them, but especially those doctoral candidates. Masters candidates too. It would not surprise me at all to hear of some of those kids in the years to come.

Meanwhile, they generously let Elder and Sister O'Dell mingle among them, and we feel honored.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

It's the Sabbath. Elder and Sister O'Dell have just finished the sixth hour. One--maybe two--hours left to go. Pure joy. The first three hours--regular church. The next hour--ward missionary committee. Rushing home, clumsily I helped as Ranelle assembled "chicken a la king." Just in time. Over at the Institute we added our offering as twenty-five "pot-luckers" (students) filled plates and began eating. Nice gathering for otherwise-lonely Young Single Adults so far away from home.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

January 24 - Saturday Evening

With no scheduled obligations, today has been devoted to some household duties. I did make a batch of cookies. Monday is the Chinese New Year and since we have a number of Chinese students who reside in the Student Living Center, I thought it might be nice to give them a bag of cookies and a card wishing them a happy new year. About 4:15 p.m. we got in the car and drove around our area a few miles in each direction to get better acquainted with our surroundings.

Erin requested a picture of our "snowy woods" after John's blog telling of our walk in the woods--so here it is.

Last night we dressed up and attended a dance sponsored by the students in our Institute. Other young single adults came from a stake east of us close to Detroit and west of us at Grand Rapids. We danced a couple of times, but we really don't know how to dance to the music which appeals to this generation--no waltz, no swing, no cha cha, and no fox trots. We're pretty old--we would do better going to a dance with our grandparents than our grandchildren.

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snowy woods on an early Michigan morning

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Thursday, January 22, 2009

January 22, 2009 outside: 29 F

Today for the first time ever, Elder and Sister O'Dell trekked out into our new backyard and explored our hardwood forest. "Cool!" It took some doing for me to tromp down enough snow in order to convince Ranelle to step across the deep berm left by the snow machine. Once into the flat, we two waded back, back, back into the forest until we reached a lovely picknic area complete with tables and a firepit. Then walking beyond we came to the Red Cedar river and looked down onto its eminence, and all the foot tracks on its frozen surface. Hard to tell just what kind of tracks, but looking at the gnaw marks on the nearby trees made me wonder if they were beaver tracks. At one place we saw a set of footprints that made us wonder if they were made by a bigger animal like a linx or a fox--they came down together in wide, four-footed bounds as if brer fox were chasing a squirrel or something. They were there too, squirrel tracks were, but not as many as you might think. The reason of course: Mr. Squirrel "squirrels" away his food in summertime so he doesn't have to become food next winter!

The temperature is warmish today, but on the really cold days it is interesting to look into the forest and see all that is moving--exactly nothing! Not even birds. Obviously Mother Nature somehow provides for her little ones.

Tonight Ranelle teaches her second class; I taught mine yesterday. Good thing for second chances because all week long I was ready to pack up and go home! What happened, after preparing my Missionary Preparation class many, many hours I gets to class only to have but three girl students. No intention of serving a mission, none of them. And what's worse, one was not even a Church member and knew almost no Mormon Doctrine. Another had joined the church only two months earlier and knew little more, and the third was a member, but not interested in serving a mission. . So there I was serving "meat" when I should have ordered pudding. Needless to say, they did not return. But last night two prospective missionaries came, as did two presently-serving Elders. The result: a highly-stimulating lesson from which we all emerged edified--and instructed. Guess I have to stay another week now or so.

Friday, January 16, 2009

brrrrr - It's Cold!

We've been here in Michigan for ten days now. We have each taught our classes once, have prepared two Munch 'n Mingle lunches, been to church one Sunday, had Family Home Evening with the family of the institute director, spent some time at the institute, and settled into our new home. Today we drove through the campus and explored some of the area for a few miles around our housing area. Michigan State University campus is much bigger than the BYU campus. We've met many people and, of course, are having a difficult time keeping names and faces together.

It is very cold here. This morning it was 5 degrees below zero outside on our little deck. The radio reported -12 with a wind chill factor of -20. Though the sun has been shining, all the schools were closed all day because it was too cold for the children to stand out waiting for the busses.

Tomorrow we are going to Detroit to the temple with the University Ward members. It is supposed to still be cold, but also snow.

For our Tuesday munch 'n mingle, I made soup and bread sticks. On these cold days, the soup was very welcome and the bread sticks were especially delicious so I thought I would share the recipe with you. It is a recipe Patty McEwan gave me after she served them at dinner with us just before we left Provo. I chose this recipe over the other bread stick recipes I have used because it required less hands-on effort.

Bread Stix
2 cups hot water
3 tbsp sugar
3 tbsp oil
1 tsp salt
1 cup flour initially (with additional 4-5 cups)
1 tbsp yeast

Mix ingredients together -- easiest if using a machine with a bread arm. Add flour until dough pulls away from sides of bowl. Place in greased bowl -- let rise 1 hour. Melt 1 stick of butter and spread half on large cookie sheets with sides. Place dough (punched down) in pan and spread evenly . Then spread the rest of melted butter on dough. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese, garlic salt and parsley (don't get it too salty). Cut bread stix down middle of pan and then every inch across pan.

Cover and let rise 45-60 minutes. Bake at 375-400 degrees approximately 15 minutes.



Tuesday, January 13, 2009

"Settling in" in Michigan

Exactly one week ago this time (8:30 p.m.) we two were in bed and sound asleep. Dead tired. After a frightful day of travel we just hauled in our gear, made up our bed, brushed our teeth, and "crashed" (into bed). But truthfully, to re-count the hours of this past week would require lots of pages. And words. The week has been not only busy, but oh, so fulfilling. And rich. Lots and lots of wonderful people we've met; lots of places we've been; and lots and lots of merchandise we've purchased. It's a good thing we brought extra money or we'd be skimping like paupers. Our first visit to the grocery store cost plenty--just buying the basics! And as you can expect, we skipped over quite a few things so went back and got them the next trip.

But in terms of living quarters we hit a bonanza. The living quarters here consist of two separate apartment houses, placed end-to-end. One is for the boys; one is for the girls. We live in the girls' house, in a spacious two-bedroom apartment that is well-painted, and well-furnished. On one side of our apartment is a balcony; on the other side is a narrow back yard behind which is a dense hardwood forest that extends northward maybe one-half mile. And through "our" forest runs the smallish (maybe 30-feet wide) Red Cedar River that is apparently not chock-full of fish. "Drats!" Utilities here, are free to us and so too are the laundry facilities, and the rent is sub-par. Best yet, our apartment complex hires a maintenance man who clears the snow and keeps the place up.

As for wildlife we have not seen much. We hear there are raccoons that raid our dumpster, and tree squirrels too. Today we saw our first-ever-in-our-lifetime Great Snowy Owl, but aside from some of the humans walking the streets, all else seems pretty tame. I forget to whom I offered, but I suggested I might catch him a wolverine so he could keep it for a pet. I may reneg.

Right across the street is Michigan State University, home of the famed "Spartans." But lest that impress you, keep in mind that with a campus as physically huge as this one is, "across the street" probably applies to many, many, many residences. During our preparation for the move to the snowy north, we heard horror stories about the "balmy" Michigan winters. And while it does get cold here, so far we've not seen anything too outrageous. I think tomorrow's "high" will be about 10 degrees, but shucks, that's not so bad--especially when you get to spend most of the day indoors.

This past week has not been horribly filled with "must do" obligations. A few mandatory commitments, for sure, but at the end of each day it is astonishing how many incidental "things" and/or visitors pop in and gobble up the time. Example: I thought there would be plenty of time for planning lessons, but others deceive themselves too. Accordingly, all day long I have been scrambling to prepare my lesson for tomorrow night at seven. Luckily I've got all day tomorrow (Wednesday) or I might be embarrassed. Luckily, I have but one lesson to give during each week.

Such an entry as this "rambler" is could rave on ad-infinitum, but why let it? If you have questions, ask and I will answer. Otherwise, I will wrap this up and let you sleep--so that I can go and do likewise. Love, John

Monday, January 12, 2009

January 12, 2009--Note from John

(1-12-2009) In all the world there are few more adept computerers than my brother Glenn. Do you know what he told me? "I don't even know what a blog is!" Thank you, Glenn! Neither do I! But I plan to find out!

Life can be cruel. Example: yesterday into Sunday school bursts a young lady, her forehead crinkled for crying. Looking for her friend, she was. Then outside the door we could hear the two sobbing. Later we learned that she, a new convert since last September, had just been text-messaged by her two-years-duration boyfriend saying that "since she was in church again he was through." I was consoled later in seeing her standing beside that same girlfriend, and the two were talking with two very viril and handsome young men. I hope that compensates somewhat. Such are the dynamics of young campus life. And us two crinkled CESers get to be stand-off-and-watch participants.

Friday, January 9, 2009

The O'Dells are "at home" in East Lansing, Michigan

We're here. Tired, frazzeled, confused, but here. For much of the last day, we ran on snow and ice, but for the rest of the traveling, the roads were clear, and mostly dry. By now, we have all our gear inside and stowed away. Our computer is now set up. Nice country here--we expected that. Maybe fifty feet from where I sit is a thick woods, and through the trees is a small river. We are happy we came, but will be even happier when we get some experience behind us. John

Yes, we arrived about 5:30 Tuesday evening and with the help of some residents and employees of the Student Living Center, the car and car-top carrier were unloaded in record time. The young sister missionaries who live directly below us brought us dinner (and fixed breakfast for us Wednesday morning), we made up the beds, and unpacked nearly everything before collapsing for the night. Wednesday and Thursday was full of meeting people, shopping, and organizing our living quarters.

Immediately ahead are meetings, lesson preparation for each of us, meeting students--as well as breakfast with the mission president, his wife and the office staff on Saturday morning. Next week we will get to work with teaching assignments for Wednesday and Thursday, "munch 'n mingle" preparation for Tuesday and Thursday, plus many miscellaneous assignments. We've also been invited to have dinner and FHE (family home evening) with the institute director's family on Monday evening.

We still have only our limited-use cell phone--(801-319-2410 if you urgently need to reach us), but hope to have phone service set up soon. Our address is:

4912 South Hagadorn, #21
East Lansing MI 48823

We'll write again soon and send pictures when we are able.