Tuesday, November 29, 2011


Thanksgiving was really nice this year.  We actually started a couple of weeks before Thanksgiving, deciding to invite our neighbors to our house so we could get to know them.  We had taken a loaf of banana bread to Ida (apparently everyone introduces themselves by their first names but no last name) who lives above us a few weeks ago, but just visited at her door for a few minutes.  We had also met Lucille (the mother) and Debbie (the daughter) one Sunday when they were coming down the stairs to go to church at the same time we were leaving.  And Gene, the man next door, we haven't officially met yet, just exchanged fleeting glances once or twice.  So a week and a half before the big day, we went upstairs and knocked on Lucille and Debbie's door.

They already had plans to go to Liverpool (a suburb of Syracuse) to Lucille's brother's, but they invited us in to visit.  We had a great time.  Lucille is probably about in her late 80s and stands about 4'10" tall.  Debbie is probably in her late 40s or early 50s, never married, but has lived with her mother since her father died about 3 years ago.  They have lovely "upstate New York" accents, broad "A" very much like Edith in "All in the Family" if any of you remember that TV show.  Debbie works in a Catholic day care for young children and really enjoys her work.  She worries a lot about the welfare of her mother, calling her 2-3 times a day while she is at work.  Lucille thinks she is a worry-wort.

Lucille told us Ida goes to her sister's for Thanksgiving, so we didn't drop in on her; Gene didn't seem to be home, so he didn't get invited, either.  This left us all alone, but we were invited to the Bulloch's, so we went.

We took the cranberry/apple/marshmallow salad that we had enjoyed in Japan, a batch of stuffing made from oatmeal bread, and a mincemeat pie.  No one but us seemed to know what mincemeat pie is made of.  I had fun educating them about this delicious treat.  The Bullochs provided the turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, sweet potatoes, corn and green jello salad, as well as pumpkin pie for dessert.  Elders Miller and Farrens, the APs, brought their scriptures.  The meal was wonderful, the company great and everyone tried a piece of mincemeat pie, but there was still plenty to take home to enjoy.  After we finished eating, we retired to the family room and told stories.  We all enjoyed Bill's stories about scouting, his family, especially the story about Emory hoisting the cat up the flag pole in a bucket again and again, becoming more and more enthusiastic until he forgot to stop when the bucket got to the top of the pole and the bucket stopped but the cat didn't.  The gestures and sound effects were priceless and had the whole company in stitches.  All in all, we had a really good time.

Sister Bulloch was kind enough to send home turkey, potatoes--we actually some of everything on the menu! So we have been enjoying Thanksgiving ever since.  We watched an episode of the Gracie Allen and George Burns Show and George was talking about turkey--all the ways they had eaten left over turkey.  His last comment was, "But I really enjoyed the turkey today.  I haven't had turkey for... Oh, probably three weeks when we finished the left overs from last year!"

Sunday, November 20, 2011

MORE Snow!

We woke up Friday morning to lots of snow!  I checked the Weather Channel and there was a severe storm warning--Lake effect snow!  Apparently the snow that forms when the wind blows across the Great Lakes is more dangerous than the average Wyoming snow--it has a greater moisture content.

This picture was taken through the window--you can see the screen.  I was afraid we wouldn't get any more pictures of this snow, so this is Bill after he finished cleaning off the car windows so we could drive to work safely.  You can see that there is no snow on the sidewalks or roads.  It's not because everyone is so diligent about cleaning them, it's because the ground isn't cold enough to keep the snow from melting.  When we got to the office, there was ice and a little snow on top of the ice on the driveway and sidewalk.  Maybe it is colder there because it is more exposed to the wind...

The snow is really wet and makes great snowballs.  I threw this one at Bill, but missed; I didn't get another chance because he wasn't going to throw one at me and made it to the car before I could make another one.  Oh well, there will be more snow.  The postman told Bill that the lovely, mild weather we have been enjoying all fall has a consequence--it makes for more lake effect snow later in the season!  This snow was all melted by mid-afternoon.

Elders Kunzler & Miller

This is Elder Kunzler and Elder Miller.  They were the Assistants to the President when we arrived back in August.  They are really great young missionaries.  Elder Kunzler was scheduled to go home the 29th of September, but there were an uneven number of elders created at the transfer (three elders left and four arrived) and If Elder Kunzler had gone home, the mission would have had to close an area, so President Bulloch asked him if he would stay till the end of October.  Elder Kunzler was more than happy to stay.

He has been fun to work with.  I said to him once, "Elder Kunzler, you look just like the Von Trapp boys in The Sound of Music."

He groaned and said, "I have heard that all my life!"  But it's true.

We invited them over for supper just before he left, but we waited too long to extend the invitation--they were gone most of the week before he left, and had appointments every night they were in town.  So they came over Sunday evening to say good-bye and we got this picture.  We miss him, but love his replacement.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


We got our first snow on Friday, 11-11-11!  It was magic!  It started just after we got to work, little tiny flakes. As the morning progressed, so did the snow--great big, fluffy flakes.  Then it stopped at lunch time, then started again when we got back to work.  Essentially, it snowed all day long, but by the time we left work at 5:00, it had stopped and was all gone--none on the grass, none on the streets or sidewalks.  It was windy and cold and we thought winter was here for good.  But by Sunday morning, it was quite balmy and by Monday we thought spring had come.  Everyone here says, "Fat chance!" but we are enjoying each day.

Last week was transfer week.  Even though I don't help with the meal preparation, I am still exhausted by the end of the week.  We welcomed 5 new missionaries into the mission--4 elders (Andrews, King, Portela, and Simmonds) and one sister (Blackburn).  We got to meet them Wednesday morning when they came to the church for training and to meet their Trainers.  Bill and I give short presentations during the training--I talk about mail (make sure all your mail gets sent to the Mission address) and making sure they notify us if their folks move or they get a new bishop, etc.  Bill talks about taking care of cars, driving carefully, sending in all their gas receipts and what they can be reimbursed for.  Then we all pour into the cultural hall where there are boxes and boxes of hot pizza, bowls of green salad and water.  Some of the missionaries who are transferring are there, as well as the missionaries who have finished their missions and are going home on Thursday.  The new missionaries are introduced by their new trainers, then the leaving (sometimes referred to as the "dying missionaries") have the opportunity of bearing their testimonies.  We said good-bye to 4 elders.  Elder Daniels-Brown is a very tall, very thin young man with a big smile and very friendly personality.  We got to know him because he has been a Zone Leader since before we got here and we see the Zone Leaders at least once per transfer. Elder Owens is a curly, red-headed young man with a smile that never stops.  We got to know him very well because he was assigned to the Oneida Branch.  We didn't know Elder Van Roosendaal well at all, only having met him once before during the previous transfer.  Elder West was also a Zone Leader, but he isn't nearly as outgoing as Elder Daniels-Brown, so we didn't get to know him very well, either.  After lunch, Bill and I go back to the office and get to work, getting mail that had accumulated for two days ready to be forwarded to the new addresses, writing letters to the parents of the new missionaries which includes a group picture of them.  I had written the letters to the new leaders (Zone leaders, District leaders and Trainers) on Monday, but now they needed to be mailed, along with copies of the letters sent to their parents, bishops, and stake presidents.  All in all, it was a huge batch of mail that Bill took down to the post office that afternoon.  The rest of the week was spent finishing up paper work that always piles up during transfer week.  And the weekend was spent resting, cleaning, and grocery shopping.

Our Branch President asked to meet with us after Church on Sunday.  He asked if I would accept the assignment of being Primary President and I said I would.  Then he asked Bill if he would accept the assignment of teaching the youth Sunday School class.  Like the Primary, there is only one class.  There is only one 13 year-old girl (Victoria Shorer) who attends regularly, and two boys (the Blakes) who attend about half the time.  Bill said he would be happy to teach.  I guess he won't be able to teach the Gospel Doctrine class anymore like he had that day, but the regular teacher (Sister Huddleston) should be back by next Sunday and if she's not, I guess President Colbert will teach the class.

Also after Church, I practiced with Sister Ransom who will be singing "How Great Thou Art" next week in church.  She is a funny little Puerto Rican lady who has some serious health problems and is married to a local man.  She speaks with a funny accent and has been teaching the Primary class since Sister Roll left.  She informed me that she would be singing "O, Come Ye Faithful" for the Christmas Program and the Primary children would be singing "Jesus of Humble Birth," and the Lullaby and she guessed I would be playing for them.  Apparently anyone who wants to be in the program volunteers and sings/reads/recites whatever they want to.  This will be fun!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Oneida Branch

We have been assigned to attend the Oneida Branch while we are on our mission.  The third week we were there, the Relief Society President prepared the room, then announced, "If any of you play the piano, we would like to have you play."  So I stumbled through "The Spirit of God" and "I am a Child of God."  After Relief Society, the Branch Music Director, Sister Sweeten, approached me and said, "Now that I know you play, I would like to ask a favor.  I have to be out of town next week, would you like to direct the music or play the organ in Sacrament meeting?"  Well, I knew there was no one else who could play the organ in the Branch, and I had never tried to lead the singing to the accompaniment of a CD, I decided to play the organ.  The following week she asked if I would play for Sacrament for the duration of our mission.

A few days before the Riedelbach's left, Sister Roll, who is the Primary President, came into the office to say good-bye to them.  Then she asked me if I would teach the Primary class--there is only one class and all the children attend it regardless of their age--that Sister Riedelbach had been teaching.  I was a little taken aback (I had never received a calling from an auxiliary president before) and told her I would be happy to substitute until someone was called.

A couple of weeks later, President Colbert (the Branch President) interviewed both Bill and I.  He asked Bill to serve as the Assistant Branch Clerk, explaining that the current Branch Clerk actually lives in Herkimer, but had accepted the Oneida Branch Clerk calling since it was short on Priesthood.  Then he asked if Sister Sweeten and Sister Roll had talked to me about playing and teaching and asked if I would accept those callings.  So we've been busy ever since.

I try to spend 40-60 minutes, 5 days a week, practicing the organ in the Utica Stake Center where our office is located. Then we arrive at the Oneida Chapel an hour before church so Bill can prepare the weekly program, so I get another 40 minutes in before church starts.  The he has to count tithing and other things for an hour or two after church, so I get more practice time and sometime a bit of a nap, too. I am getting better, but there are still some unintended sour notes that creep in in spite of the practice.  Maybe by the time we leave...

In addition to his clerk duties, Bill has taught the Gospel Doctrine class, and the combined Relief Society/Priesthood meeting last week.

A month ago we got word that the Rolls were moving, that Chris (the husband) had been offered a job in California and he was leaving in two weeks.  The rest of the family would stay here, get their house ready to sell, then move after December 9, which is the kids last day of school.  The Rolls have a 25 year old son who is profoundly autistic and they are unable to leave him alone for longer than an hour, so they attend church in shifts.  Chris comes to Sacrament, bringing Casey (14) and John (12) with him.  Then he goes back home and Sherry comes and presents Sharing Time and Music Time in Primary.  With Chris gone, she is unable to attend  church, so she asked me to do Sharing Time and Music, and Sister Ransom to teach the class.  So now I am acting Primary President until President Colbert calls someone to take that calling.  Whether that will be me, only time will tell.

Last Sunday was especially exhausting.  There were seven children in attendance!  Now, I have taught Primary classes much bigger than that and have not had a hard time.  But this one was tough.  The children ranged in ages 5-11 and ability from very bright to autistic with ADHD, and family background from very active families to families struggling to become active.  Three of the children come almost every Sunday.  The Branch President's son Cameron who is five, the Young Women's President's daughter Lexie who is 7, and Trinity who turned 8 last week and was baptized Saturday are the most active.  Then Christopher (9) and Kaylee (6) Blake come about half the time.  They come from a large family that struggles both financially and spiritually.  They are very needy, always asking for anything they see.  And Keagan (11) and Reiley (9) Ammer were there for the first time since we arrived.  I don't know much about them, except that Keagan is autistic and Keilley is quite bright and feels responsible for Keagan.  Hmmm.  After Primary was over, I retreated to the car and took a nap before I practiced.

It was a tough day for Bill, too.  They weren't able to count tithing last week because Church headquarters was having technical problems.  So they had twice as much to do this week.  And they are still on a dial-up connection, so that makes it slow.  And the computer they are using is as old as the hills, and that slows them down even more.  The frustrating part is that the high speed connection is installed and a new computer is sitting on the desk, but the Stake Technology Specialist hasn't had time to install the firewall, so they continue to plug along at ultra-slow speed.

But in spite of the frustrations, we are enjoying being part of this tiny branch.  We are slowing getting to know the members and are beginning to feel part of them.