Tuesday, August 24, 2010


The word "closure" seems popular enough to not need defining. So in order for our blogspot to have "closure," I am told, I must add one final entry.

We arrived home--noonish--on May 6. And following as we drove up the driveway, it seems, was a member of the bishopric with two Church callings for us. So as of the next day (Sunday) I was the new cubmaster, and Ranelle was the new ward music chair person. Obviously, with those callings our mission ended and we were off and running on new and exciting "careers." Thus knowing that "work being the order of the universe," it is, if you are not working as a missionary, you are working somewhere else.

That has never hit me harder than in the days since we came home--work. Example: the Monday after arrival, Blaine and Geneil Harris presented us with the nicest, most-beautiful front door you can imagine. The door is made of solid mahogany, and is inlaid with seven decorative panels and a gorgeous cut glass window in the center. The door resulted when Blaine legitimately recovered it from the trash heap of a next-door home that had burned. And since the door was smoke stained, the contractor was replacing it. Blaine and Geneil saved the door for us, even cleaning off the smoke stains. So after our brief family visit to California, and a visit to daughter Erin (et al), and visits with April and her family, I went to work replacing the adequate front door that we had always used--lots of work. Two weeks of it for me.

And while I slaved, Ranelle cleaned--a monumental task. She also plowed, then planted the garden. Lots and lots of work. (Note: ever since, she has been organizing closets and cleaning grime off windows, venitian blinds, etc.) Once my door replacing was done (Note: it really looks nice!), she and I re-painted the living room and the hallway--another two-weeks' job.

Finally, it seems, things are leveling out and I can now go to work on family history. This has been a long time coming.

As for the mission, we carry in our minds and hearts and journals a massive bank of soft and happy memories. Each day we reminisce on a person(s), or an incident(s), or a love affair(s) (and resulting marriage) that has enriched our life(s) in ways you cannot imagine. While we long to return, and reunion, and re-live, we buck up to the reality that life must go on. But we trust that with love being the eternal entity it is, the friends we made while on our mission will be our friends in the eternities to come.

And it all began with the phrase, "yes, we will serve."

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

May 19, 2010 - Ranelle

April 30, 2010, our "mission-release date," came upon us in a rush. It completed 16 1/2 months of rewarding full-time missionary service. Our hearts and memories are crammed full of our experiences in East Lansing, Michigan, as we lived with, taught, socialized with, worshipped with, and loved the young single adults attending Michigan State University, Cooley Law School, Lansing Community College, and various other avenues of higher education. Church members who were not young single adults also had a great impact on our lives. We return to Provo with many friends, some of whom will be our friends forever.

It has now been 19 days since we left East Lansing. Of course, prior to leaving we were in a whirlwind of social activity which we enjoyed very much. We worked so hard to complete all our assignments, packing and loading the car, and preparing to leave our apartment for our successors--we hope there will be successors. We were exhausted and relieved to finally get on the road.

Before starting our trip home, we took four days to travel eastward, We spent time in Kirtland, Ohio, and Palmyra, New York, visiting important church-history sites. We spent a day at Niagara Falls, New York. Niagara lives up to all we have ever heard about it. The trip west allowed a visit to my nephew and his family north of Chicago. And we stopped to see one of our Muncie friends who has moved with her family to Lincoln, Nebraska. Then it was serious driving with stops only for food, gas, and sleep the rest of the way home.

The eleven days we have been home have been crammed full with lots of HARD work reclaiming our home and yard. John pruned a truck-load of excess growth from trees and shrubs. We spent an entire day hauling in mulch and plowing it into our garden and flower beds. We are still not completely unpacked, cleaned, or settled, and it will take time to get where we are satisfied with conditions here.

It has been wonderful to be with friends and family again. (We are going to Erin's this coming weekend--I can hardly wait!) While we loved Michigan and received so much joy from our experiences there, I find myself smiling as I am driving around Utah Valley--it is good to be home!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Leaving Lansing

If you'll look back, in previous blog-spot entries you'll see "crocodile tears" as this spoiled one contemplated leaving East Lansing, Michigan and returning home. They're gone now, the tears are, and what lies ahead is what matters. I don't mean to sound hard-hearted, but cry babies too must somehow grow up.

Part of that growing up happened last Saturday. Reason: Muncie, Indiana. You see, in 2003 Ranelle and I served an eighteen-months' mission there. And after living among kindly, saintly Mormons for that long, after awhile they not only tolerate you, but in time they they sort of "adopt" you. And being accepted that way, we in turn love(d) them dearly. In February 2005 our Muncie mission finished, and sadly we departed town knowing full-well we would never/could never return. (Reason: down in the deep south they call our kind, "po' folk"). But five years later we came once again on another mission to East Lansing, Michigan. And being far enough east, and living only three-hours' drive north of Muncie, one day we "gets" to thinking to ourselves, "why not?" So obtaining permission, and being just two weeks shy of finishing this present mission, we took a "sentimental journey back home" to Muncie. BONANZA! As good fortune provided, our return happened to coincide with the very day that two of the ward's "teeny boppers" (at least they were that five years ago) held their respective wedding receptions--same building; same time; adjacent rooms. So after "afternooning-it" with selected friends, come evening-time Ranelle and I cleaned up, attended both receptions, and reaped a windfall in terms of greeting more beloved friends than we ever dreamed we would ever see again! We could not possibly have chosen a better day for "returning home." And best yet, not only were the "Old Guard" Muncie-ites there, but also were many "movers-away-ers" there too, all paying homage to those beloved children they had known back in the brides' growing-up days.

Thank Heaven for blessed people who register love, and tolerate missionaries.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Leaving Lansing

Back while still young, I watched a movie entitled The Louisiana Story. Also about then, I "watched" Marjorie Kinnon Rawlins' "book," The Yearling. Both movies featured southern states' swamplands.

Because of inexperience and youthfulness, thereafter I "lionized" swamps.

Until now.

Let me explain. While reading Michigan's history I learn that after the state was formed, the founders by-passed Detroit as the capitol in favor of centralization. Accessibility they wanted. Bad choice. That explains why Lansing is "smack-dab" in the geographical center, never mind the square miles and miles of surrounding swamplands.

And while centralization is nice, swamps are not. Consequently, as one drives about, he encounters them--everywhere. They are not pretty; they are not productive--except for mosquitoes.

Time to go home.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Counting Down - RO

It is always astounding to experience the shortness of time as we close in on a goal or departure. Perhaps time goes by more quickly because more is wedged into the space remaining. These last two weeks and the four remaining have been/are filled to the brim with preparing and completing projects, lessons, and goals and cementing relationships which have been formed during our time here in Michigan.

We have experienced tremendous spiritual feasting with stake conference in March and General Conference this precious Easter weekend. Stake, mission, and general church leadership has abundantly blessed and inspired our lives. It is a time to evaluate and focus our spiritual lives on our purposes and the great blessings which are ours through the atonement of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Accompanying the spiritual growth has been the joy of cementing relationships as friends have made one more effort to bless our lives through invitations to their homes for dinner and other social experiences. We are returning to our home having had the privilege of association with some of the finest people on the earth. We have gained so much personally and hope we have made at least a little difference in the lives of those we've served and associated with here.

One accomplishment which gives me great satisfaction has been the documenting of the books in the library of the institute. The library has been in the "process" of organization the entire time we have been here. I did some work on it last summer, but was asked to turn my time to other things first. In March, Elder O'Dell made a suggestion which made organizing and using these books so easy that the institute director gave permission to proceed. He did a general organization categorically--then I proceeded to list all 870 books, giving them each a number and printing out lists by number, alphabetically by title, and alphabetically by author. Now students can find the book they need, check it out, and return it to the shelf removing their name from the checkout list. It is going to work and the library is beautiful.

These last weeks are continually becoming more crowded. Just today we were asked to speak in Sacrament meeting next Sunday, so besides lesson preparation we have talks to prepare. Wednesday is zone conference for the missionaries at which we will be asked to bear our testimonies as we finish our service here. Saturday is a ward temple excursion. Friday the 16th will be a senior missionary get together in Cadillac, MI, (about 2 1/2 hours north). Saturday and Sunday (the 17th and 18th), we have permission to travel to Muncie, Indiana, to see people from our last mission before we leave this part of the country. That will leave us less than two weeks which will be filled with the usual activities, plus all the final preparations.

Spring IS coming to Michigan--in bits and pieces. Early spring flowers and little green leaves are appearing. Temperatures are mellowing and we are seeing sunshine--still not consistently enough to suit me, but nonetheless spring is here. YEAH!!!

Perhaps there will be time for one more blog before we begin our westward trek. How we look forward to seeing all our family and friends and home again. Ranelle

Friday, March 5, 2010

"Goin' Home, Goin' Home...."

If I could somehow teeter-totter with myself, I think you would be impressed with just how level the board gets as we two sit facing each other static, our feet not touching the ground.

Now before you scoff at this counter-brilliance, please keep in mind there are other items than physical weight and gravity that need balancing. Emotions, for one thing. And for the past two days my emotions have teeter-tottered terribly--one instant I sitting on the ground; the next instant I sitting way up high.

You see, in Marine Corps terminology, I/we (Sister O'Dell and I) are "short-timers," meaning we can see departure day hard ahead. At face value that seems desirable. And when I allow myself thinking about it, it is desirable--our daughter's family; our son's family; our home; our garden; our wood shop; our friends; our familiar surroundings, etc., etc.

Those are the times I sit way up high looking around. And then the "other me" slips off his seat and lets the "real me" down! I land, the "real me" does, "ker-THUD!" So while that "other me" chortles and points, the "real me" sits grounded and stunned, wondering if he really wants being airborn again.

And so bewildered I ask, "do we really want to return home...?"

Thursday, February 18, 2010

February 18, 2010 - Ranelle

We are well into the the semester. We are kept adequately busy with lesson preparation, lunch preparation for the Friday noon class, attending classes, attending mission district and zone conferences, preparing food to share with the missionaries and students, attending Family Home Evening and ward meetings and activities--the list goes on. This semester I am teaching the New Testament: Acts to Revelations; and John is teaching Doctrine and Covenants. Now and then we are called on to substitute for other teachers as well.

We have the privilege of seeing some romances develop into weddings. We will attend the wedding of our Chinese neighbor, WeiWei Lu, and Richard Adams who is a composition professor at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo. WeiWei's parents are here from China. She has indicated that at the "party" after the wedding, we will be sitting at the table with her parents (with some Chinese speaking guests to help us with our communication). We have had the privilege of spending some time with these wonderful people from China. If we could speak the same language, I'm sure we would be great friends. Weddings for three other couples who are part of our ward will be taking place in the Chicago and Washington DC Temples in March and May. John, who feels it his duty to see that everyone single finds that "special someone," has kept you current with some of these romances. There are other romances emerging and we watch them with interest.

We are also actively involved with some of our students who are preparing or have left on missions. This is as exciting and rewarding as the romances. These young people have prepared well and are now serving in Brazil, two in California, and one in Salt Lake. There are four or five more making preparations to serve full-time missions.

Our "position" has now been posted on the mission assignment's list. We are praying there will be a couple prepared and eager to accept this opportunity. It has been a wonderful experience for us. We are anticipating leaving early the morning of May 1. Before turning West, we plan to go East where we will visit Kirtland, Ohio, and Palmyra, New York, and renew our memories of these Church-history sites. Something I have never done is what takes us east--Niagara Falls! We will work a visit to Muncie, Indiana, somewhere in the mix before we leave the area. We have not yet decided whether we will travel I-70, I-80, or I-90 as we head west.

This has not been as severe of a winter as last--still I will happily welcome spring. I am ready for sunshine and warmer temperatures. How about you?

Monday, February 1, 2010


If your grandfather is old enough, he'll tell you what a dashing. handsome young man Sargent Preston was. Your grandpa might also tell you the name of the sargent's lead dog, I can't.

I cite that great Canadian Mounted policeman because based on how we visitors to the north country feel, it is miraculous that those two dog-sledders could even get out of bed! I say that because I'm learning the best way to behold this cold northland is behind closed eyelids. (At least while still warm and comfortable in bed, if one is resourceful enough he can conjure up some landscape that is not snow covered, and bare of leaves for the trees. And cloudy. And drab.)

Now you can compare that dreary paragraph with one we wrote three months ago and you'll see a marked contrast. Back then, I/we were enthralled with Michigan. And in love with it, and reluctant to go home. Things have now changed. Plus, there is the added feature of our being released three months hence, and you can sense our feelings just now.

But did I recently read a phrase that said, "There must needs be an opposition in all things." (II Nephi 2:11)? That being so, you'll probably hear me say in a few more weeks that this Michigan country is truly all that I have imagined it to be in the past, and I shall forever cherish the privilege I/we have had of living here.

If only we can get past the wintertime.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

One Year Ago This Very Day

This very day one year ago, into Sunday School class bursts Paticia (not her real name) seeking her friend, Frances. Reason: just seconds before, Patricia's boyfriend had hung up on her saying, "if you're in church again, forget it!"

Instant choice to be made. We have not seen Patricia since.

Then last night Sister O'Dell and I witnessed a variation of the same drama. Different setting; different lines; different cast; but same, same old theme, "is it worth it?" Or, "is this really the Lord's true church?" Or, "is Eternal Life really worth all this sacrifice and effort?" The event: a young single adult activity consisting of hetereo-personalities. The intent was homogeneuity, hoping that all present were enjoying themselves equally. Some were; all tried.

Which brings to mind a song as old as the hills (older, even, than me): "If a body meet a body coming through the rye; if a body kiss a body, need a body cry." It all boils down to this: WE ARE LONELY--each of us. The feeling is at times desperate. And yet prudence dictates we cannot kiss everybody coming through the rye. As Elder Marion D. Hanks used to say, "Each of us is saying 'speak to me; listen to me; confirm to me that I am alive, that I matter....'" (or expanding that, "court me; marry me; make me a parent; give me a home, a family.")

Youth activities--imperfect substitutes.

Returning to that vexing question "is it worth it?," my mind reverts to the December, 1833 letter written by W.W. Phelps to the prophet Joseph Smith. After seven months of vicious whippings, murderings, rapings, horse and cattle stealings, and house burnings, and derision, in early winter while huddled beneath bed blankets serving as "shelter" from snow and freezing rain, many, many Latter-day Saints remained faithful and true. They were, in the words of Brother Phelps, "as immovable as the everlasting hills." Others, having less vision, had by then lost sight of the faith and had fallen behind. Boiled down, it takes grit not only to become a Saint, but also to remain one--lots and LOTS of "guts" and determination.

So last night while watching our beloved "children" socializing while wearing happy faces, I sensed some might be tempted to entertain that same question, "is it worth it?"

Knowing that no one merely falls into Eternal Life, I shout, "It is worth it! It is, it is, IT IS!"

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

One Year Ago Right This Minute

Just as I write, it is 5 o'clock p.m., January 6, 2010. Exactly one year ago at this precise same time of day, Elder and Sister O'Dell parked in the parking lot of East Lansing, Michigan's Stoddard Student Living Center. Momentous moment!

What a fine year it has been! Not that our eighteen months wasn't good that we spent in Muncie, Indiana, but in many ways this second experience has eclipsed any other chapter of our marriage.

Originally, we signed up for a one-year-long mission. Then sometime last summer we "shipped over" (that is, extended our mission) somewhat cautiously. But the months following have brought confirmation upon confirmation that we did the right thing.

So here we are, exactly one year hence, very, very happy, with four months left before returning home.

Yet in the sagacious words of Sister O'Dell--"I'm glad it's not one year ago!"