Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Mormon Missionarying-it

Something's right about young men or young women primetiming-it. Two long years of it--for free. No wages; small thanks; hard work. No sweetheart. Two-by-twoing-it; two long years of doing it--for free.

And Ranelle and I watch them executing it. Kids for sure, but they succeed in it. Special--really special kids.

Zone conference yesterday. Forty-six black-suited, grown-up children. An all-day-long get-together; a work-and-social meet combined. And we, we got to go too.

High-spirited, agile bodied, handsome faced, well-dressed-and-groomed, they were all there powwowing-it--while serving their God.

And we, we got to go too.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

March 17, 2009 - ASSIGNMENTS

President Jones, our Mission President, recently emailed us with instructions regarding his expectations of Senior Missionaries. We are to attend all zone (every six weeks) and district (weekly) meetings. We are to help train missionaries in the following subjects: doctrine, language, dress and grooming, hygiene, and table manners. He further stated: "You are an example of family life, living the gospel, and enduring to the end. Many of these Elders (and Sisters) do not come from ideal family situations and need to see love and support from you. As with your own children, reprove with love and support." We will be making these presentations to all missionaries serving in the greater Lansing area after which the missionaries will break out into individual district meetings.

We met the other day with Brother Draut, the Institute Director, to work out the schedule for the summer and fall semesters. He remarked that we are responsible for much more than many CES missionaries. We have three major areas of responsibility: institute (teaching, Munch 'n Mingle, and activities), the Living Center, and the Michigan Lansing Mission. We are busy, but are better able to manage now than we were two months ago.

The weather has moderated; but as we experience in Utah, spring has not "arrived." The red buds on the maple tree behind are apartment are swelling, the snow has melted (except for piles in parking lots), and the birds are singing. We appreciate all this.

The other day on a walk through the woods, we came upon one more gallon of maple sap, frozen solid. We brought it in and boiled it down to about 1/3 cup. Those privileged to taste it pronounced it better than maple syrup from the sugar maple--a milder flavor. We have now had our "experience" and are satisfied and will leave it to the professionals to produce maple syrup.

This is my second draft of this blog. When I went to find pictures to add, I lost the narrative. I am going to publish this and look for the pictures to add later. We need to go to a class now.


Sunday, March 15, 2009


Once, a looong time ago, the famed baseball pitcher "Dizzy" Dean said, "If you done it, it ain't braggin." And me, I "ain't" braggin' exactly, but I do confess it was I who initiated this second mission. And just between you and me, for awhile the idea was not very popular. Slowly, however, the concept materialized until--"here we are." (Or in the vernacular, "Play Ball!") And ironically, with me having all the original verve, you'd think I'd at least get up to bat! Not so. They let me suit up for the game, okay, but I merely stack bats and carry water--that sort of thing. At other times, I sit in the dug-out cheering the super-star on!

And my, HOW she plays! I only wish there were a "play-by-play" broadcast; better yet, a DVD of it all. But all you get is my poor description. Trust me I am watching a thriller, and my big wish is that you were in the bleachers watching too.
The famous baseball pitcher "Dizzy" Dean once said, "If you done it, it ain't braggin." Well, please don'think I'm braggin if I said I initiated this idea of a second mission for Ranelle and I, and at first it wasn't very well received. Gradually, however, she eased herself into the mission mold

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

When white men invaded America, one treat their hosts furnished was maple syrup. It made the long trip worthwhile. Then after learning the syruping "recipe," the intruders trundled "sugarbush" saplings back home. No go. The trees would grow but the sap would not flow. Reason: wrong climate. Too late they learned that the only place maple sap flows is in American New England and eastern Canada, Michigan State included. So to this Californian-now-in-Michigan, the prospect of "sugaring" made him eager to make "some of that wonderful stuff."

And now with the "sugaring-off" season upon us, two weeks ago I purchased six stainless steel tree-tapping "spiles." Then with borrowed drill and drill bit, I poked holes in the nearby tree and it wept like a waterfall. So tapping in the spiles, I attached plastic milk jugs, and "let-er flow!" Next morning, nearly five gallons of clear-as-water maple sap went up to our kitchen and soon was boiling. I left for the dentist's chair. Upon my return, one whiff of indoor apartment air told the story: the boiling sap had quickly retrogressed from the "hard crack" candy stage to the "black crack" carbon stage. Ranelle felt sheepish, but I assured her that with the vast number of maple trees available for tapping, one miss step is but one tiny kink in the learning curve.

But then my conscience got to bothering. Something deep within suggested I had not been sent here to harvest tree sap. Then consulting with my companion, we reasoned together that we had accomplished our maple syruping purpose. So Sister O'Dell and I decided on the next thing to do--abandon ship.

I found a willing young man, handed him my sap-drawing paraphenalia, and finished out that phase of my mission--and one of my life's dreams.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Harmony and Jubilation

Just now two oldsters dragged themselves home all bedraggled and sore-fingered. The reason for being away: Family Home Evening. Our kids staged the weekly event and held it over in the Institute building which is maybe 200 feet from our apartment. For this particular Monday evening we played "parlor" games (whereas sometimes we have a spiritual lesson, or any other decent and clean activity that one of them can think up.) The object: wholesome togetherness. This evening there were probably thirty kids there, and after an opening prayer and brief spiritual message they broke into informal groups and played various "parlor" games--pool, foosball, checkers, Chinese checkers, some card game(s), pingpong, and air hockey. Really good, clean fun! And from my vantage, all were involved in something; all were included. I like to see that!

But "Elder" O'Dell (very, very aptly-named), and his elderly companion, "Sister" O'Dell, wore out looong before the kids, so they ducked out early and came home. I told Ranelle as we left the place that the Chinese checker set we brought from home has had so much use since we came that the corners are wearing off from the marbles to where they are actually getting round! She looked at me a little funny but I think she agreed.

Sometime remind me and I will describe what our Institute building is like, and what function it serves. Good night.

Sunday, March 8, 2009


It is interesting how a mission gets one out of the house and plants him into places and circumstances that he would've entirely missed had he remained his comfortable couch-potato self.

Example: Five years ago while still in Muncie, we learned that in their land the maple trees grow maple syrup--diluted. So upon learning we were coming to another land flowing with milk and maple syrup, I determined to fill my lifelong lust for tapping maple trees and boiling down the sap for making syrup. And since that process begins in early March, last week I hunted down a place where I could buy some maple tapping "spiles." Bought six of them. Then after my class was taught last Wednesday night, and having ahead of me an entire week with no teaching responsibility, I gathered some tools, took my spiles, some one-gallon plastic milk jugs, and set out for tapping into maple trees. They are all around me here--lots of choices. So drilling the first hole, I was amazed to see how much sap gushed out! I drove in my first spile, attached the plastic milk jug/receptacle, and let 'er drip! In all, I set out five catch basins around that big tree, and by next morning had nearly four gallons of sap. Bringing it into the house, I went to the dentist. Four hours later, I returned to an apartment house reeking of burnt maple sugar! (Almost as bad-smelling as burned beans!) A sheepish Ranelle explained that from the "hard crack" stage in candy making, it is but a brief time before the "black crack" stage begins--and she proved it.

No problem because around here there is plenty of "sugar bush," (that's what the maple syrupers call a collection of sugar maple trees) and plenty of sap potential for making all the liquid gold (that is how much we value pure maple syrup) we could need for a looong time. Then next morning while thinking about the project, I decided that I do not have the time for devoting to "sugaring," nor am I sent here for that purpose. So confessing my folly to my kind missionary companion, we both considered our syrup project a success in terms of what we experienced and what we learned. So by nightfall, I had given away my spiles, my drill bit, my plastic jugs, and my dream. That means forever after, the maple syrup we use will be the home made kind, which is cheaper, faster, easier, and almost as good as the real thing. Our one big mistake: no pictures taken of the project!