Sunday, April 19, 2009

Navigating the State of Michigan

I suppose each locality has eccentricities that cause strangers to smile. Michigan is no exception--the people here talk with their hands!

It's like this: When you ask where a "Michigander" lives, instantly he raises his right hand, the palm aimed at his face. Then with his left index finger he points to the area on his right hand where he "lives." And that to a citizen of the state, is tantamount to a roadmap to that man's front door! It's a language all its own! I call it "Michibabbel!"

The reason: the land mass of the main part of the state resembles a mittened hand, with the "thumb" jutting into Lake Huron. I had never noticed that before. Everyone here knows it though, and they all use it. You see a group across a crowded room talking, and when one of them raises his flattened hand in the air, you know exactly what he is explaining.

And then when they describe the entire state which includes the "upper peninsula," they first hold up the "mitten," then they hold up the left hand, palm forward and horizontal, and they almost touch the fingertips of both hands together, and that represents the entire land mass of Michigan.

Which brings up another curiosity. It is in the area where the fingertips "touch" that in real life is called the "Mackinac Straits." At one time ferryboats moved traffic across those straits, but now it is joined by a five-mile-long bridge, called the "Mackinac Bridge." And while the bridge is no curiosity, the condition it creates is--the people in the "U.P." (Upper Peninsula) refer to those living on the Mainland as "Trolls." The reason: "because they live under the bridge!"

Saturday, April 18, 2009

C.E.S. Missionarying-it in East Lansing, Michigan

When Ranelle and I signed up for our first mission we were timid about specifying just what kind of mission to ask for, or where to serve--we did not want to be telling the LORD what He was to do--or not do--with this pair of his children. So when we got the word that we were to serve a CES (that stands for "Church Education System") mission, we were gratified because of the feedback we had had from our friends Bill and Linda Lyda. So we went where we were told to go, and did the things the LORD knew we could do best. That was some five years ago, and we returned infinitely richer in experience and friends than we were before we left. Then when the impulse came to serve a second time, we were a bit more bold, and we outright asked to serve another CES one. Plus, after finding that this opening required roughly the amount of money we could realistically spend, we specifically asked for the opening in East Lansing.

I say this because you need to know that a CES mission does not entail the same hard-nosed, fill-every-second-of-every-day kind of devotion a proselyting mission exacts. Not that we don't work hard, but there are days where we can let up and look around a bit. Which is what we did today. Early on, Ranelle attended stake Relief Society conference, and I stayed home and wrote a stack of letters. She came home and since the day was sunny and nice (for a change), and warm, we dressed in "grubbies" and sauntered out for a walk. Most, most pleasant! First we walked up our favorite little street. Then up near the cul-de-sac, we descended into our favorite little forest (the same forest that's connected with the back of our "house," only we began walking about 1/4 mile east of here). Once into the wetlands that keeps our forest a forest (the land is not good for anything else), we tripped and wadded our way homeward along the river side. NICE! Very, very nice. And picturesque. And wildish, and private. Just the two of us, walking when we wanted, and halting and observing where we wanted--just looking and sensing the pleasantry of nature and the companionship of each other. Then before coming home, Ranelle re-counted what little wildwood friends we encountered along the way. (Care to join in?) We saw: two turtles; two Canada geese (from close up, and "tame);" a wood pecker; a blue jay; deer tracks; beaver tracks; a crayfish; two pond splashers (I suspect maybe frogs, or fish). We heard an unseen cardinal bird; saw two ducks, and a handful of tiny minnow fish who were daring the strike of some lunker fish that was lurking in the depths below. Closer homeward, we saw the marks of mighty beaver teeth that had either eaten off the bark of some standing trees, or had "necked-down" the wood of other trees, and toppled them over.

And that was just today. At other times we have observed white-tail deer, a snake (harmless garter snake), ducks mating; squirrels of course, one raccoon so far; vultures, two hawks eating; and maple trees yielding their sap.) What I'm saying is that besides the unspeakable privilege we have of declaring the uncomparable truths of the true Gospel of Jesus Christ, we also get the privilege of living a lifestyle we could never match in our back yard in Provo, Utah.

At Relief Society today they served a portable sack lunch. So Ranelle purloined (by invitation) a lunch for me too. It is suppertime now, so we missionary companions will take our two lunches to some scenic lake we know of, and eat supper together while sitting on a bench looking over Lake Lansing.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Maple Syruping-it

Before I/we leave this subject of maple syrup, let me inform you of something of which I know very little. It sure is delicious, maple syrup is. And except for sugar cane, and sugar beets, I know of little else that produces sugar in any quantity that yields a marketable product--maybe honey. As for maple syrup, it takes 40 gallons of maple sap to yield one gallon of syrup. And if you'll scroll down and look at the picture that is published way down from here, you'll see that one gallon jug full of sap that is hanging from one of the trees I tapped. After photographing it, we took the gallon inside and boiled it down. The small quantity of syrup in the cup is what resulted from that one gallon of sap. Last week I overheard a maple syrup producer telling someone how he recently produced 4o gallons of syrup in one day. I have a feeling that much syrup might, for once, satisfy my appetite for such a marvelous gift of nature.

Lovely Easter Weekend - 4-13-09 - Ranelle

Saturday morning a group of us left the institute building at 6:00 a.m. for the drive to the Detroit temple. The drive takes about 1 1/2 hours. This temple is a smaller temple and only a certain number of people can be accommodated for each session. Though we had checked with the person in charge of sending in the information for our group, we found our names were not on the reservation list. We had a tense 10-20 minutes hoping we would be able to participate with our group--we did get into the session and enjoyed the privilege.

We did not travel home with our group, but drove north and west about thirty minutes to visit Phil and Vicki Boling whom we had known in Muncie, Indiana, when we served our mission there in 2003-2005. We had such a great time being with the Bolings again. Vickie had prepared a lovely meal. It was fun sharing experiences, old and new, with them.

The drive home was relaxed and very pleasant. Most of this trip was not on a major freeway, the day was sunny, and we were not in a hurry. Back at our apartment, we did our weekly cleaning, took a walk in the woods, and after dinner we watched a movie (DVD) on the computer.

Easter Sunday was just about perfect--spiritually edifying talks and music with wonderful association with fellow saints. The Bishop was concerned that no one be alone on this day of celebration. We invited two young women to share dinner with us. Because of holiday, fewer residents in our apartment complex attended the weekly Sunday evening devotional, but we read 3 Nephi 11 about the Savior appearing after His resurrection to those living here on the American continent and watched the seminary video about how He healed and blessed those people.

Springtime is slow in its arrival in Michigan. Tiny leaves are beginning to show on the bushes, and we see a few daffodil and crocus flowers. We have planted some lettuce, spinach, and swiss chard in some planter boxes on our deck. We can see a few specks of green appearing. I am missing my yard and garden.

We have nearly completed our first semester of teaching--three weeks to go. Then we will have a break from the structure for the first two weeks of May. This summer John will teach two classes and I will teach one. A number of our students are leaving--some will return after summer's work, for which we will be happy. And, of course, new students will arrive bringing an expansion of our experience and more people to love.

Feel free to email us --

We'd love to hear from you too - Ranelle

Friday, April 10, 2009

Lansing, Michigan Swamplands--4-10-09.

Having a blogspot is like owning a horse one never rides. Our blogspot is something I don't think about except when I am out of the house.

If such can be counted worthy to be called a "thought," let me describe one phase of this "Land of Many Waters."

Recently I heard this: "Way-back-when," Michigan statesmen wanted a centralized capitol city; something besides Detroit. So that's where they set their capitol--dead center--from the east, the west, and the south. Then they gave it a name, "Lansing." But in order to set it here, I am told, the founders had to drain vast swamp lands. That being done, they went to work building their city.

If that story is accurate, this area must have been really swampy because there is still lots and lots of swampland left. I mean LOTS of it! Today, for example, as Ranelle and I drove about we encountered swamps everywhere! And you can easily spot them because most are surrounded by hardwood trees--lots and lots of beautiful trees.

Personally I love it! I am charmed by the thousands of ponds, swamplands, and "woodlots." Not only do I like the trees, but I like the "green" ambience they provide. I also like the protection those woodlands provide for the wild friends living in them. But were I a farmer, or a builder, or a land developer, I would go nuts. Reason: the awful wasted potential use of the local land. And as bad as I hate the cold here, I can just imagine what it will be like once the mosquitoes start breeding! (If there happens to be enough left of me, come summertime, I may try describing what it is like swatting mosquitoes.)

We love Michigan! We are so happy living here. My one great wish would be to transport this magnificent water resource out to the arid west (there would still be enough water left over for Michigan, too!). If somehow one could import the water, he would see the state of Nevada feeding the nation, with Utah, Arizona and California feeding the rest of the world.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

April 7, 2009 - Ranelle's Thoughts

Our weeks are getting more involved. We move from church meetings and the Sunday night devotional for those living in the Student Living Center, to preparing for Munch 'n Mingle and serving it on Tuesday, attending a class for adult members of the stake on Tuesday night, Missionary District Meeting on Wednesday, John's class on Wednesday night, my class on Thursday night, our visit to a care center on Friday where we read from the scriptures with two residents, various activities on Saturday, and than we start all over again.

We are involved with the students and their activities. On March 28 this institute hosted a state-wide dinner/dance. The response far exceeded the activities committee's expectations. Well over one hundred young people came from all over and had a wonderful time. The decorations, food, activities, and dancing were enjoyed by all.

We were able to watch General Conference here at the institute building. At 10:00 a.m. we had a waffle breakfast before gathering to watch the sessions at 12:00 and 4:00. I love General Conference and can hardly wait for the printed talks to arrive in the May Ensign. I also feel very close to family and friends when I know we are all watching and learning from the wonderful messages at the same time wherever we are in the world.

Will spring ever arrive in Michigan? Though it was cold and windy, we took a walk last Friday and could see baby leaves beginning to appear. But since Friday, it has not been pleasant enough to go for a walk.

This narrative makes life sound a little dull, but we are not in least bored. We are busy most of the time and love the experiences we are having.