Friday, May 29, 2009

May 29, 2009 - comments from Ranelle

We are just completing five months of being "Michiganders" and we are feeling quite at home. Our surroundings are beautiful. Everything is very green and there are many wonderful flowers in bloom. This is a very "clean" state: it has to be--it get washed so constantly. Wednesday afternoon enough rain fell in three hours to equal one-forth of Utah's annual rainfall.

We are two weeks into the summer semester. John and I are each teaching one class. Though enrollment is small, our classes are very rewarding. Along with the students, we feel we are also learning and growing in our understanding of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We are also attending a class taught by the institute director. He is an amazing teacher and we are educated, inspired, and edified as we participate in each class.

We've enjoyed some Muncie, Indiana, company this past week. Gene and Jim Hoban stopped by on their way to their cottage on Lake Huron. It was good to be with them again. Gene was my Visiting Teacher in Muncie and we biked with Jim and Gene on the beautiful Indiana greenways. They loved seeing our apartment, the institute building, and our woods--then they took us to dinner.

A few days later, Ryan and Betty Jo Shrack came for the weekend. These two were undergraduate students at Ball State University. Ryan served a mission in the Utah Provo Mission and we enjoyed lots of contact with him when he was in Provo. Betty Jo served a mission in Salt Lake City and we were able to see her when she entered the MTC and again as she completed her mission. They began dating when they both returned to Muncie and were married in December 2007. Now they are going to be parents in August. We had a delightful weiner roast with them in our "woods" and enjoyed two full days sharing this mission with them as we shared our first one in Indiana.

We are enjoying our garden on our deck. We are harvesting fresh salad greens now and will have tomatoes, cucumbers, green onions, and green beans later in the summer. We plan to plant some zuchini and yellow squash in the garden plot on the edge of our woods soon.

There are wonderful pictures to share, but I am still having difficulty learning how to connect them to the narrative. I'll still keep trying, but you might just have to use your imagination.

We enjoy your comments and emails.


Monday, May 18, 2009

Adrift in A Sea of Youth and Virtue

Last night I highlighted the missionaries, and yes, they are authentic heroes. Their counterparts--likewise heroes in their own right--are the young people who, with no formal rules imposed, follow their own self-chosen regimen using "rules" offered by the Lord God Himself. And without question or murmur they daily live God's way with scarcely any outside notice.

Take Family Home Evening for example. Tonight our young people held "FHE" here in the institute building. No outside supervision; no adult help, they simply go about their elective togetherness and have a great time doing it.

It goes this way--they gather in the Institute building, all twenty-five of them. Seated around one room's perimeter, one young lady was tonight's teacher. On the "board" she listed three scriptures that had been pre-assigned as "homework." Listed beside each scripture were associated questions. For the next hour the participants freely contributed thoughts and other passages of scripture. All was quiet; all was orderly; all was peaceful and calm. It was wonderful! (In a word, it was "heavenly.") After the discussion, the group adjourned to the playing field, and the sweet ambience erupted into energetic motion as lithe bodies raced full-speed while playing a game of "steal the flag!" It was fun for the old couple watching from a distance, but in the words of James Clyde O'Dell, "What a vulgar display of youthfulness!"

At times like these, Ranelle and I enviously watch and whisper to each other how blessed we are to be tolerated by some of the world's finest.
During the 1950's, a recent transplant to Californian was called an "Okie." (I am told that term has since become extinct.) Thereafter, his descendants could legitimately be known as "Californians." If one originated in Utah, he/she was/is called a "Utahn." I suppose children born in Oregon are called Oregonians, and New Yorkers are just as their name implies. But what happened when you came from Missouri? Of all things, in the past you were called a "Puke." And if from Illinois, in the past you were called a "Sucker." And from Indiana, you are still known as a "Hoosier." (And while we lived there, someone was manufacturing for sale, a cement statue of an animal they called a "Hoosier Goose.") I mention all this, because we have learned that citizens of Michigan are referred to as "Michiganders." (No mention of what the Michigan women are called.) Interestingly, however, the state of Michigan consists of two parts--the upper peninsula, that is connected with the lower peninsula by a massive bridge called the "Mackinac" bridge, and we are told that those living in the southland of Michigan are referred to as "Trolls." (Why? Because they live "under the bridge.")

Just a lot of nonsense, but it is interesting to experience this local flavor. I will say, however, that despite the cold, if you happen to be a Michigander, you come from one very lovely state!

I mention this, because last Friday Ranelle and I traveled to the "Celestial City" of Petoskey, Michigan (you need to experience it to appreciate what I am saying), and along the way we gazed in wonder at the greening farmlands, interspersed everywhere by just-leafing-out woodlands. All along the way northward, the countryside is lightly salted with stately red barns, and elegant farmsteads that resemble, in some cases, miniature cities. We feel most privileged to be here!

P.S. An interesting note about Petoskey is that down on the "seashore" (of Lake Michigan) one can pick up "Petoskey stones" that are found only in that location, and no where else in all the world. From a distance they resemble common gray rocks. But when wetted, and examined closely, they have pretty little crystalline rosettes that are somewhat like cells that make up the substance of the stone. And my guess is that the reason Lake Michigan is so large is because people gather for souvenirs, so many of those stones!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Mormon Missionary Miracle

I may wear this theme out entirely, but it bears repeating. And repeating. It is about Mormon missionaries.

Each week, and at various times in between, Ranelle and I get to sit in with about twenty of them in their zone conference meeting. And being the senior couple, we have been asked by our mission president to give them a ten minute lesson, each time, about grooming, manners, doctrine, or whatever we judge is helpful for the service they are giving. Last week Ranelle conducted a class in "conducting" (music). Today I gave them a class on teaching, and had them read six different scripture passages about what they need toward being more effective teachers of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Our parts went, I am happy to tell you, very, very well.

But our contribution is minimal in comparison with what materializes when those missionaries meet. Reason: Because present there is a group of the finest young people imaginable--just fine, young men. Handsome, courteous, confident, righteous.

And today Ranelle and I got to be a part of that miracle! I tell you, it is a joy to mingle with those kids, shake their hands, and listen in as they instruct each other, and discuss the nuances of their lives as they serve their Lord.

And Sister and Elder O'Dell get to be a part of it! We are blessed to the very core!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

pictures from Holland Tulip Festival

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Tuesday, May 5, we took a trip to Holland--Holland, Michigan. It is 95 miles from East Lansing on the coast of Lake Michigan. We took TiLan and her parents with us. TiLan lives in the Student Living Center and is graduating from MSU with her Ph.D. in Finance. She will be teaching at Clemson University in South Carolina. Her parents are here from China for her graduation. We went to experience the Holland Tulip Festival where they celebrate spring with a week-long extravaganza of displays, entertainment, and TULIPS. We enjoyed the day very much even though we could not communicate with TiLan's parents. Elder O'Dell taught Mr. Tang how to say, "See you later, Alligator" -- go figure! And he learned to say something in Mandarin Chinese.

The city of Holland retains a remarkable flavor of old Holland. For the festival, residents don authentic costumes and share Dutch customs, arts, dancing, music, and handicrafts such as Delft china, wooden shoes, lace, and wooden bowls.


Saturday, May 2, 2009

SO THIS IS SPRING? - May 2, 2009

Our first semester is behind us. Classes ended Friday and students are now finishing finals. Summer classes will begin May 18 and we will each be teaching a class Tuesday and Wednesday evening. The end of the semester means lots of changes in the institute, the Stoddard Living Center, and the Lansing University Ward. Some students are leaving, some will be back for fall semester. As the apartment improvements are completed we will have more residents in the fall than we now have.

We will have to move to another apartment sometime this summer for 3-4 weeks while our bathroom is remodeled. The apartment on the other end of the hall will be vacated sometime in June. If it is available before we have to move, we will take that apartment and stay there until the end of our mission assignment. It has the same floor plan as the apartment we are now in, but the living room faces east looking into the woods--ours faces west and from the living room we see the MSU campus and hear all the traffic on a very busy street.

Spring is slow in settling in. Finally, we are seeing some leaves on the earlier bushes and trees--the woods are a lacey, spring green. Some flowering trees on campus and around town are in full bloom. It is very pretty! Temperatures shot up temporarily last week, but it has rained a lot the past few days and has been cool.

Our break between semesters will be full of great things. We have stake conference this weekend. Today's meetings included a priesthood session, an adult session, and a potluck meal at 6:00 p.m. Tomorrow we will enjoy a two-hour session at 10:00 a.m.

Monday or Tuesday we plan to drive about 95 miles to the west to the city of Holland on the coast of Lake Michigan. There they have a week-long tulip festival celebration. We are told it is something we should not miss.

On May 15 we will have a half-mission conference/play day in northern Michigan. It will be a day-long involvement with meetings, activities, and lunch. The missionaries will go together in vans. We will probably drive up alone in our car. The only other missionary couple in this area and as the "office staff" they will be involved in much preparation and with a vehicle loaded with supplies. We are looking forward to seeing that part of the state.

At the end of the month we are going to have company. Ryan and Betty Jo Shrack from our Muncie, Indiana, mission experience are coming to spend the weekend with us on May 22, 23, and 24. They visited us in Provo last summer. We hope we will have other friends visit us while we are in this beautiful state.

We have our garden well underway in planters on our deck. I used the money April, Leland, Tiffany, and Sarah sent for my birthday to purchase a lovely hanging basket of ivy geraniums. We have planted two long boxes with spinach, swiss chard and lettuce. We found a large round container in the storage garage and have planted a tomato. We need one more round container to plant a cucumber. With tomato cages to contain the tomato and cucumber, we should be able to grow enough for our table use. And we won't be competing with the rabbits, raccoons, and deer for the vegetables.

Hopefully we can add some pictures to show you what we are experiencing here.

Thanks for checking in on us. Ranelle

May 1, 2009 - Ranelle

Today was the last day of the "spring" semester. Classes are over until May 18 when the summer semester will begin. We will each be teaching one class. We won't be preparing a Munch 'n Mingle during the summer, but we have a number of other projects which will suit the summer schedule. We answer to

Friday, May 1, 2009

When farm hands trade tractor seats for desk chairs, they soon learn that the car horns are louder than moo cows, and the air smells different too. It's a process called "adjusting." So when a southern Californian moves northward to colder Utah and thence upward to Michigan, our counsel when he complains: "Buck up!" So while squinting at the baby tree leaves outside, I still wonder at my surprise to learn that the seasons here are so different.