Sunday, December 28, 2008

We Have Not See Much of the Sun

This picture was taken in Reykjavik on December 26 at 2:15 in the afternoon - notice how low the sun is over the horizon. We haven't seen much of the sun as is has been very cloudy plus this is as high as it gets so it often can't be seen above the buildings. The weather has been very hard to follow too. We went from shoveling snow several times a day for a week to no snow in two days of constant rain. Then when it came time to drive our 65 km trip into Reykjavik to serve a Christmas brunch to members and non-members without family (the missionaries asked us to provide a Christmas meal for them) we had a bigger surprise. Eileen cooked up a great brunch the night before and we headed off not looking at the road conditions or weather as it had been so nice. Just outside of Selfoss we hit a blizzard but it only lasted 5 minutes or so and then we could see our mountain drive ahead and it looked clear so we kept going. We made it to the top of the mountain without any trouble when the next blizzard hit. It was total white out and I was creeping along watching for the poles on the side of the highway and making sure the cars coming at us were in their lane. We came to a place where 5 cars were pulled off to the side headed toward Selfoss. Since we at times could not see the front of the car Eileen suggested maybe we should turn around. Just then I looked in the rear view mirror and could see the cars turning around to head back to Reykjavik and decided they must figure it is better the way we were going so we kept on. It was along time before we got out of the blizzard and then the road was a mess but we made it in time for our brunch. Afterward it was time to head back to Selfoss with the missionaries for a Christmas dinner we were all invited to. I check the forecast and road conditions and decided we would have to take a much longer route back which even looked chancy but turned out to be quite easy compared to the trip in. We had a great traditional Icelandic Christmas dinner with a great family that decided since the real tradition is smoked lamb but we would probably like regular lamb better had both. Since we had the traditional Icelandic Christmas dinner with another family Christmas Eve with the smoked lamb we knew she made the correct choice. On the 26th we had to take the missionaries back to Reykjavik so that is how we got to see the sun. I am also taking care of the work the couple that had to leave unexpectedly normally does, so I got caught up and sent off the weekly financial reports to the mission office before we came home Saturday. Saturday evening Eileen remembered the Branch President had called Monday and asked us to speak in Sacrament Meeting. So we spent the evening preparing talks but had to do them in English with so little time to prepare. One member translated for Eileen and another for me and all went well. We then got invited to another members home for dinner today. They have a young family so it was fun to be at their home and enjoy an all vegetable dinner that was very good. Tomorrow we are back with the missionaries to teach Auður who has January 17 baptism date and Gyða who postponed her baptism and the date needs to be reset.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Rotten Skate or how could anyone eat the stuff

“Rotten” Skate and Shopping Fury
Today is the last day before Christmas, known as Thorláksmessa (“The Mass of St. Thorlákur,” Iceland’s patron saint). The day is celebrated by eating putrefied skate and buying the last Christmas presents.
Thorláksmessa is celebrated in the memory of Thorlákur “the Holy” Thórhallsson, who was Bishop at Skálholt in Iceland in the 12th century. He died December 23, 1193, which became a holiday in 1199. In 1985 Pope John Paul II appointed Thorlákur “the Holy” as the patron saint of Iceland.
The Catholic Church in Iceland is the third largest religious community in Iceland and nine Catholic churches offer services in various parts of the country.
The tradition of eating putrefied skate originates in the West Fjords, but is now common in all parts of the country. The fish delicacy is usually served boiled with potatoes, turnips and hamsatólg, melted sheep fat.
People who want to avoid bringing the stench of skate to their homes—it smells strongly of ammonia—order the fish at restaurants instead. (avoid all restaurants this time of year or you won't be able to eat anyway)
Strange-Smelling Delicacy
Putrefied skata, or “skate,” a fish related to sharks, has a strange smell. That I have to admit, but nevertheless I love the taste of it and have eaten it since I was a small boy in the West Fjords. Many young Icelanders have failed to test this delicacy since the strong odor discourages them from trying it.
But skata is just like any strong smelling cheese or even some fruit, like Durian which is considered a delicacy in Thailand. Skata has a wonderful, sweet taste and those Icelanders who still eat it will stuff themselves on Thorláksmessa (Mass of St. Thorlák, patron saint of Iceland, celebrated on December 23) because most feast on it only once a year.
In the West Fjords people like to have their skata very strong. It is so putrefied that when you take the first bite it will numb your nose and throat – so strong is the smell. The habitual way of cooking it is to boil it for about ten minutes. Then the fish is taken from the bones, some lamb fat mör is added, and then this sort of stew is served with boiled potatoes and brown rye bread. When the skötustappa or “skate stew” has cooled down it becomes hard and can be sliced like paté and is usually eaten with butter and dark rye bread. It is a heavenly meal. But the smell is terrible and clothes reek of what they have been downing. The smell is persistent and the only way to get it out of the clothes is to wash them.
The strange smell of skata is everywhere in the air and some can’t stand it. Some try to lessen the odor in their houses by cooking their skata outside on the barbecue. Those well schooled in the tradition simply cook their Christmas smoked lamb hangikjöt after the skate and the odor disappears entirely as the wonderful aroma of the smoked lamb fills the apartment.
My father-in-law is as avid lover of putrefied skata. He is a former fisherman and processed his own skata for many years. In the South the skate is processed in a somewhat milder manner than in the West Fjords and salted. This is fantastic food, a wonderful gourmet meal for those who acquire the taste..........


Picture of skata courtesy of bb.is.

The processing is similar. Shark, though, can be poisonous if it is cooked fresh out of the sea. It needs the processing of being kept for weeks under stones and turf and then being hung out for drying in the cold climate. Skata is similarly processed but this kind of food is by no means rotten or damaged. It is only fermented like cheese, and is very healthy. The oil from putrefied shark is considered very good for the system. Some even believe it can prevent cancer.
I also learned many things about skata which I did not know: one guy whose entry I read claims skata takes his migraine away. My grandmother, who had stomach problems, always said skata was one of the best things she could eat. It made her cramps go away just like good putrefied shark did. (It probably burned the lining out of her stomach so what's left to hurt?)
I once had the opportunity to go to the West Fjords by ship at this time of the year. There had been no flights to the West Fjords for more than a week due to constant storms and blizzards. All roads were filled with snow, so the authorities decided to assign one of the Coast Guard vessels to take some of the unfortunate people who were locked in Reykjavík home for Christmas.
The weather was extremely bad: high seas and storm. We left Reykjavík at 5.30 in the morning of 23 December. The voyage over Faxaflói bay was rough and I could see that many of the fifty passengers were getting seasick. People’s faces were white and green and there was puke everywhere. Then at 11:30 the “wonderful” aroma of skata sneaked upon the other poor passengers who were only on the brink of sea sickness. That did it, puke multiplied for most of them, not me though.
I was beginning to feel quite groggy when I snuck into the mess to have a plate of skötustappa like I had done all of my life on Thorláksmessa. It was good for me and I felt much better in my stomach afterwards. The voyage was a wonderful adventure, although quite rough.
Now for my observations: Last night we were called and invited to partake of Skata at a local restaurant and then go Christmas Caroling and also, as an aside, could we possibly drive everyone around. This was from the SYAs of the branch in Reykjavik. We refused the Skata or even going to where they were eating it so we arranged to pick them up to sing and when they opened the door the odor that came in with them was a cross between old dog pee on your shoe and opening a bottle Ammonia to clean with. It had been two hours and a shower since they had eaten the Skata but they still carried the smell. The Elders told us that in the restaurant with them were a family introducing their young children to Skata. The one little boy took a big bite, gagged, spit it back out and would not eat anymore. Their parents pointed at the Elders and said to their children, "see those are Americans and they ate all of their Skata, do you want American's to eat it and not you." No problem, I am with the little boy, no way am I eating something that smells like I should be washing it away with a hose to clean up the back yard.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Oh Holy Night - Tradition Live On

Eileen has sung Oh Holy Night every Christmas I can remember except our first mission. This year we had a pianist who could play for her so she was going to sing at our Christmas program tonight. When the Wohlgemuth's had to return home early we looked for ways to provide accompaniment and found a two verse mp3 version. It was not the best but it works. Then this morning we did not have any special music for Sacrament Meeting so I suggested Eileen sing between talks. She sang as beautiful as ever and had several members in tears. The speaker following thanked Systir Bremner for bringing the Spirit of Christmas into her heart. The attached video is for those of you who miss hearing Eileen sing Oh Holy Night - sorry it is no where as good as her nor is it the version she sings but the best I could find! Have a Merry Christmas and may we ever proclaim His power and glory and serve Him.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Grateful for Studded Tires

It appears every time we have to go somewhere this is what we are greeted with - actually this is lite compared to some days. I developed the way to clear the car which is with a big broom first and then the ice scraper to clear the ice. We are blessed though with studded tires or as they call them winter wheels or tires with nails. The first week we were here we didn't have them and the Elders had to push us out of a members driveway. Now we can go just about anywhere. We almost got stuck in Reykjavik yesterday leaving the apartment as the snow had built up along side the car and when I pulled over it to get out of our parking (parallel) spot we had quite a time getting over the pile but thanks to studded tires we make it. I can see they are very damaging to the roads as there are groves in the streets and highways but they sure are nice for getting around in the snow and ice which we have lots.

My Snow Shovel Grew Up


After the last posting we headed to Reykjavik to take care of the work there since the other couple had to go home suddenly. When we arrived I had more snow to shovel there and their shovel was worse than what I was using in Selfoss. We went out to buy groceries and traffic was bumper to bumper on the main highway so I decided to take the city streets (first of all I have no knowledge of the street system but it was a better idea than bumper to bumper traffic in the snow). I came to a 3 way intersection and took the middle lane which meant I had to go up a hill. Sitting at the light I said to Eileen I think this was a mistake as the road doesn't appear to go anywhere at the top of the hill. I was committed though and so we went. The road went right into the parking lot of Byko - a Home Depot type store. I decided as long as were are here let's see if they have snow shovels even though the store in Selfoss did not. Sure enough they had them ranging in price from $50 to $100. I bought the $10 variety in the US - the $50 one here and went back to the apartment and cleared the sidewalks again and several more times before we left. Now we are back in Selfoss and if it wasn't for the weather forecast which says it is going to warm up and rain next week I think I have the way to bring about a White Christmas. Every time I clear the sidewalks it starts snowing just as I am finishing.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Let it Snow Let it Snow - NO!

Systir Bremner said I will help with the snow removal today. Well the picture shows how far she got as she is standing inside taking the picture of me as I finished the steps and the walk to our door but decided to quit before going on to our neighbors as it is snowing again. It seems I no more than get the walks and steps cleared and it starts snowing again. Seems crazy - at home we live in a townhouse where the snow removal is contracted out and here I have more to do than if I did it at home. You can see I don't really have a snow shovel either. You would think in a country where it snows so much you could get a snow shovel but when we asked the landlord for one this is what he bought us. I have looked too and can't find one. The worst is now that we spend time in Reykjavík when we get back here the snow is packed down from all the traffic to the neighbors. OH well the life of a missionary!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Sticker Shock!


Boy did I have a shock yesterday. We had a small paper back book and puppet to send home. It was very light and in an envelope. I figured it would cost a few dollars to send but not too much as the dress we sent to Heidi only cost $10 for postage and $10 for tracking. The package yesterday was lighter than the dress and we did not ask for tracking or any other services and it cost over $25. Inflation is high here but I didn't expect that at all.

For those who wonder about the picture - Eileen has been after me to take it ever since she saw it which was probably the first few days. As everyone knows all of our grandchildren are special and so she wanted to share this one.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Akureyri





Friday we left Reykjavík early for a 6 hour drive to Akureyri to visit the members who have been very isolated from the Church for many years. We visited with several members and had meals with a couple having traditional soups and breads. Sunday as we were getting ready to go to Church, Elder Wohlgemuth suddenly got ill. We gave him a blessing and he and Sister Wohlgemuth decided to stay at the hotel. (That is another story. We arrived Friday and the owner gave us keys, his bank account number and told us how much the bill would be and said he and all staff were leaving town until after we left so just make ourselves at home, get breakfast in the kitchen and pay our bill by bank transfer to his bank account.) We had Church with the four missionaries, 3 non members and 5 members. After Church I called the Wohlgemuth´s as we were going an hours north to visit another family. They said they would just stay in the hotel. It was dark as we headed north along the fjord on snow and ice covered roads and then a single lane tunnel that went at least a mile with pull outs so if you saw someone coming you could get out of their way. We had a great visit with Thiago and his wife who is taking the missionary lessons and their daughter Maindrah. We got back to the hotel about 9 PM to find that the Wohlgemuth´s were leaving to go home to Utah. He had called the Church doctors and his home doctor and it was decided based on his symptoms to go home to his doctor. Since they only had two months left on their mission and the condition was serious enough to warrant specialized medical care the Church felt it was best to fly them home immediately. Monday we took them to the airport and then started our drive back to Reykjavík on snow packed and icy roads that had developed even worse over the night. When we got to the Wohlgemuth´s we helped Sister Wohlgemuth pack (Elder Wohlgemuth was to do nothing) and then this morning we drove them to the airport and sent them on their way home to Utah. We will miss them very much and even more when I have to register the new missionaries arriving early in January. This was Elder Wohlgemuth´s job and he was going to train the new couple arriving mid January to take their place. So I will be busy learning the bureaucracy of Iceland as we were half asleep when we spent the day going from one location to another establishing our residency permit.

The photos are: the main highway #1 in Iceland Monday afternoon in northern Iceland, the fjord at Akureyri, the Thiago family, and those at Church in Akureyri.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The Blue Lagoon and a Miracle



The Wohlgemuth's who live in Reykjavík go swimming everyday for their exercise but their pool is closed this week so they asked us if we would like to go to the Blue Lagoon today. After teaching a lesson this morning we drove to Reykjavík and picked them us. We had a nice surprise when we went to pay. The cashier asked if we live in Iceland (which he could tell as we used our Icelandic bankcard to pay). He then said it is 2 for the price of 1 today. We later learned they are sending coupons to Icelanders for the 2 for 1 price. With the current exchange rate the cost was $19 for the two of us. We spent about 3 hours soaking in a variety of temperatures of water from cool to extremely hot. I tried the sauna but it was too hot for me and I went back to the hottest water where my head was freezing. The temperature was minus 2 with winds strong enough to keep the flag flying straight out so you can imagine the need to keep dunking my head under the water. Now for the miracle. With the low air temperature and the high water temperature my glasses kept fogging and then after many times of dunking them they got a film on them that I could not see through. I ended up pushing them up over my forehead. We had moved from one area where we had been sitting with our heads just above the water to where we were walking in about 4 inches of white silica mud on the bottom and just keeping our heads just above the water. To get my head warm I was floating around on my back. I reached up on my head and my glasses were gone. Now think about this scene. We have been moving around in water up to our necks, the bottom is 4 inches deep silica mud and the water is a milky blue white and salty. You can´t go under to look and you can´t see an inch into the water. We started feeling with our feet and I thought this is a waste of time. I have no idea where they came off and look how much area we have to look blindly through with our feet. Eileen quickly came to the rescue and said let's say a pray and ask Heavenly Father to help us find the glasses. About 5 minutes later Elder Wohlgemuth pulled my glasses out of the water. I said how did you find them and he said I just felt them with my feet. A miracle - yes, I don´t believe there is any other way we could have found them.

About the pictures, if we had tried to take pictures you would just see steam blowing. You could not see more than 20 feet at the most and most of the time much less as the steam was blowing across the water blocking sight of the facility.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Great Quotes

We just got the October Ensign and I really like the quote of Elder Neal A. Maxwell page 31 "Murmuring can...be noisy enough that it drowns out the various spiritual signals to us, signals which tell us in some cases to quit soaking ourselves indulgently in the hot tubs of self-pity! Murmuring over the weight of our crosses not only takes energy otherwise needed to carry them but might cause another to put down his cross altogether." Wow we all know murmuring is a waste of time and energy but even worse is what it might do to someone else.

Another great quote was on page 19 by a recent convert Norman Kamosi referring to an expression used in Africa. "When you see people throwing stones at the mango tree, you know they are doing so because the tree is bearing good fruit. So I said to myself, 'Since people are criticizing the Church, it must have something special, something good.' I said, 'We have to investigate the Church. Something good is in there.'"

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Watch Your Wallet


The pictures do not relate to my post heading - just thought I would share them. When we arrived in Iceland all was black between here in Selfoss and Reykjavík as we later found out the moss that grows on the lava was dead from lack of water. After the snow and rain the moss began to grow and it was really beautiful in the sun (sorry forgot the camera the one day it was sunny). The other is another sunrise from our apartment which we enjoy when it isn´t completely clouded in. The sun rises about 10:30 AM now. As for watch your wallet it is just a warning to watch that our government in the US doesn't mess up the financial system like has happened here. All payments (like rent, loans, ect) are pegged to an index of some category. This means that our rent goes up based on a particular index or if you have a house or car loan your payments will increase based on an index. Our rent was established on the September index of 310 and by December it had increased to 322.3. What that meant to our rent was an increase from 85,000 ISK to 88,000 ISK. The landlord rounded down from 88,373 ISK. The January index has already been set at 327.9 so you can see there is no slowing of the increases. Last night I walked across the river to get a head of lettuce that cost $3.88. The walk over wasn't too bad as the wind was behind me but coming home in the -8 C temperature with a wind in my face that kept the flags flying straight out was a bit chilling - all to save on the gas to pay for the lettuce (it was from Spain but even the local lettuce was just as expensive and it is not the same). Just remember the mess this country is in is the result to lots of greed and terrible financial policies and practices. Let's keep an eye on our legislators and financial gurus.

Friday, November 28, 2008

BURR!!




We woke up this morning to clear sky even though you don´t find out until later when it starts getting light. The sunrise was at 10:30 AM and the sunset was at 3:30 PM today. We had a beautiful clear day but with that comes cold temperatures. It isn't all that cold at 20 F but the winds are still high with the flags flying straight out so our walk across the river to the library was a cold walk. When we left yesterday to go to Reykjavík there was a little ice on the river but this morning it was a whole different story as you can tell by the pictures. It is a little hard to tell but in the center of the top picture the ice is piling up high in the middle of the river.

Thanksgiving



Much of Wednesday was spent preparing food for Thanksgiving except for the great teaching we had with Eyþor, Dagmar and Jón - great family. I made a berry cheesecake and peeled all the apples and potatoes for the apple pie and mashed potatoes, but then I blew it as I was heating up the berries for pouring over the cheesecake. Instead I burned the bottom of the apple pie (remember these kitchens are small and no where to put things to cool while continuing to make other things), so I had to run to the store and buy more apples for another pie. Maybe there was madness to my plan as I got a whole apple pie to leave home. Thursday we drove to Reykjavík for Thanksgiving dinner with all the missionaries and a young couple from the US going to the University of Iceland. The drive was treacherous with 45 MPH winds and gusts even greater but since the roads were dry and free of ice I managed to keep the car on the road if not always straight. Way too much good food with turkey (at about $5 per pound), dressing, jams, mashed potatoes, green beans, fruit salad, bread, cheesecake, and apple and pumpkin pie along with whipped cream. Wow makes me hungry even though I ate too much yesterday. We have so much to be thankful for and then we over eat!

Teaching




This has been a very good week. Monday we had three lessons all out of town. One was NE of town about 30 minutes out and the other two were SE of town about 15 minutes and another 15 minutes further SE. Tuesday we went east 2 1/2 hours to teach a man who had been taught several months ago by a different set of Elders. It took us much longer to get there as we stopped along the way to see two waterfalls and a glacier that you can see from the road but we stopped to walk up closer. The weather was cold and windy but Finnur was so open to the gospel message it didn't seem all that cold when we got to him. We had a great lesson with him and when we got up to leave he gave us two fish he had caught - one was a salmon but the other we are not sure. Then Wednesday evening we taught a great family about 15 minutes SE of town. They were very open to learning the Gospel and asked us to come back even before we could ask if we could.

Friday, November 21, 2008

The Denmark Copenhagen Mission Conference


On November 19, 2008 we attended one of those highlights of your mission. This was the full day mission conference session. It began with the testimony of a Danish convert of 1962 who was taught by Elder Larson one on our current senior couple missionaries. He told how the missionaries and particularly Elder Larson had taught his family the gospel and how it had blessed their family over the last 46 years. Then Brother and Sister Karlson of Sweden told how our current Mission President had taught and baptized them in 1966 on his mission in Sweden and the blessings their family - children and grandchildren have received because of President Olauson bringing them the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Brother and Sister Karlson are both ordinance workers in the Copenhagen Temple and were with us on Tuesday too. What an inspiration for all these missionaries to learn first hand from people who were taught and baptized over 40 years ago my men they are now serving with. We have four Elders in our couples who served in Denmark who have been able to reestablish contact with members they taught and baptized in the 60's. Probably the only part of the mission conference that was not appreciated by some was lunch time when we got our flu shots. There were several missionaries that did not want the shot. After lunch Eileen and Sister Larson sang a beautiful version of "Prayer of Thanksgiving". They both have beautiful voices and they sounded wonderful together. After more speakers and training by great Elders and Sister we concluded the conference with a testimony meeting and then Thomas Kofod who portrayed Jesus in The Testaments (small picture) sang the closing song "I Heard Him Come". He was amazing to hear and I don't think there was a dry eye in the building. President Olauson said he has been trying to get him to sing at a Zone Conference for over 15 months but schedules have not worked. He as well as everyone in attendance were glad they didn't so we all had this special experience.

The Christus in The Church of Our Lady in Copenhagen







After arriving in Copenhagen Monday all of the Icelandic missionaries went to see the Christus in The Church of Our Lady. Outside the church is a statue of Moses holding the Ten Commandments and inside is Jesus Christ at the front of the church with the 12 Apostles at each of the columns lining both side of the church. The statues are all quite impressive and it was great to see the original Christus as well as the statue of Peter holding the keys of the Priesthood that President Kimball talked about when visiting the church.

Denmark Copenhagen Temple


It has been awhile since we have posted as we have been very busy with the great mission work going on in Iceland and because Monday November 17 we went to Copenhagen Denmark for a Mission Conference. On Tuesday the entire mission went to the Temple and because of the large number of missionaries we had to split into two groups. I was in the 2nd group and again because of the numbers we had to find space for all the missionaries to wait for the second session. They ended up sitting on the stairs which were slightly curved within white walls so you could see all the way to the top. The treads were light blue with light glowing beneath each tread. With Elders sitting on each side of the stairs for almost 2 stories it created a most impressive sight. The Temple President when seeing it said it was a sight he would treasure in his mind and in his heart as it touched him so. It was quite the sight to behold - all that power and authority held by those great young men.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Sunsets



Not much time to write so just going to share these beautiful sunset pictures. All three were taken from our apartment. The top two are looking east and the bottom one is looking west.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Conservation?


Those of you who know me, know I am always turning off lights, shutting doors and windows and whatever else to conserve our natural resources as well as our money. So when we moved into our apartment and found the toilet ran constantly, I asked the landlord to fix it (I couldn't figure our how to get the top off to see if I could fix it). He could not figure out how to get the top off either and said we don't worry about the water usage so it is OK. Then this week the toilet wouldn't flush so I figured out how to get the top off and discovered the entire underside was covered with mold as well as the wall behind. I cleaned up the mold which probably accounts for our sore throats but I could not stop the flow of water so asked the landlord to again fix it as the constant flow also caused a constant flow of water on the floor from the sweating tank. He came last night and proceeded to break the insides and said he will have to get another and for now we are using a bucket to flush the toilet. He then said he noticed moisture on our windows and in Iceland that means we have to open the windows and turn up the heat. Again my conservation kicks in and he said OH it' OK that is what we do in Iceland to get rid of the moisture so it doesn't ruin the windows. So in our living room, kitchen and bedroom we have one each one foot square windows that are now open. It is nice though because we can hear the river better with them open especially in the bedroom. I am not sure how long this process will work though as we have the heat (hot water radiators) turned as high as they will go and it is in the 30's with no wind. When the winds pick back up which is most of the time and the temperatures drop again, I think the windows will have to go closed again. The picture was taken from our living room at 9:30 AM this morning.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Learning Icelandic

Eileen is reading a book on the history of Iceland which is written in a non-traditional manner. The writer is traveling with her father from their home in Scotland to learn about his homeland. She starts by saying her father is too fastidious about language - both English and Icelandic. On the flight to Iceland to deflect his wrath about her English she suggests talking in Icelandic altogether. This is a smart move because although my grammar there is a mangled mess, he is delighted I can manage anything at all. I horrified him by asking if he could remind me how to decline bók, a word I knew would prove useful. The nominative for 'book' was no trouble, but we were nowhere near the eight case variations, including all the plurals, before we gave up. And this is the man who is supposed to be fluent. But then, Icelandic is a seriously tricky tongue. We are talking about a language which has twelve different forms for every number from one to four. Twelve, I tell you. Everything which moves is conjugated, declined and mystifyingly altered. They would modify your grandmother if you let them. As a matter of fact, they do modify your grandmother: amma becomes ömmu when she is the object of a sentence.

We found her commentary on Icelandic funny but seriously it is very difficult for those of us who don´t even remember what an adverb is or a participle for that matter. We are learning though!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Iceland Conference



This weekend we had Zone Conference with all the missionaries and the Mission President - President Olauson. We also had an Iceland Conference for both branches in Iceland. It was a great two days to spend with all the missionaries, President Olauson and the great members in the two branches. Zone Conference was Saturday morning and afternoon followed by a Priesthood Session and an adult session in the evening. Systir Bremner spoke on service at the adult session and many of the members were very touched by her comments which included stories from our family. I think the sisters were touched the most as they related to their families. The conference theme was Trusting in the Lord. Many of the members have been greatly affected by the financial mess in Iceland and the theme was most appropriate. Sunday morning a sister originally from Uganda and now married to an American bore her testimony on Trusting the Lord and it was the most beautiful testimony and the Spirit filled the chapel. I was assigned to speak too but we had not been told when we would speak. As this sister spoke I thought I hope I don't follow her, but sure enough I was called on to speak next. I was prepared to give my talk in Icelandic and I wanted to say something about her talk but all I could think of in my limited Icelandic was to thank her. I guess I surprised everyone as the response from the members and President Olauson was more than I wanted. Of course now I have to work harder to try and learn the language as it is one thing to give a talk in a foreign language and entirely another to be able to carry on a conversation in a foreign language. A new twist to this language I learned this weekend makes it even harder to understand - people's names change just like the nouns, verbs, adjectives, pronouns, adverbs, etc. What does that mean - well an example: the name Anna in the nominative case becomes Önnu in the accusative, dative and genitive cases. Other names may change in all four cases. Anyway it makes learning Icelandic even more difficult than I already thought it was. Oh well we have beautiful scenery to look at. The picture of the geyser is right as it is getting ready to blow - I have never seen one so up close before. The other picture is just one of the many beautiful sunrises we enjoy most mornings.

Fish?

I think everyone know that Eileen does not like fish - either cook it or eat it! So even with all the great fish in Iceland I have not had any until today. I bought some smoked Icelandic salmon which the Elders told me was very good. So for lunch I had a salmon sandwich. It was very good but I have to learn how to get it out of the package and the skin removed without touching it as Eileen did not like the smell on me. Oh well I enjoyed it anyway. They do have a great imported dried ham product like prosciutto but not as dry that I enjoy for lunches. I may have to give that up if according to some Icelanders we are not getting food imported at this time. There is a real fear among the Icelanders that we are going to run out of food and that it is going to get really bad here before it gets better. It seems money is having a hard time getting here too at least from England. The money the Church sends to Iceland to pay bills for the buildings and the Elders apartments comes from England and even though we have a receipt showing the money was transferred last Wednesday to the bank here in Iceland, the bank cannot find the money. We have a missionary leaving on his mission and his parents told us they cannot send money out either to pay for his mission. The next 17 months will prove to be interesting.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Þingvellir National Park





The pictures in this post are from Þingvellir National Park which is about 30 minutes from where we live. We left home wondering if it would be a nice day and it was beautiful as you can tell by the pictures. Þingvellir is very significant historically and symbolically to the Icelanders. It was long the site of the original Alþingi or national parliament of the settlers and the setting for many of the most important events in the history of Iceland.

The top picture is taken near what they called the Law Rock where the law was read and the assembly of parliment was below them. The valley served as the living area for all the attendees.

The next picture shows the geological significance of the area. We are standing next to the American continent (high rock wall to the left). The continent of Europe is to our right and we are standing on a section of land that has been left between the two continents.

The next picture shows the American continent on the right and the valley below is the area between the two continents and the national park.

This last picture is just another fissure in the ground - there are many of them.

Another Blow of the Geysir

The name of the geysir is Strokkur. It sends up a column of water and steam up to 30 meters high very few minutes. The other one we saw is called the Great Geyser and is said to seldom erupt so I guess we were there on the right day

Iceland Geysirs (Geysers)


Just to show you the geysirs that are a famous part of Iceland since they go off every few minutes. They are unpredictable and one went off behind us that the Elders had never seen go off on their many trips. This is only 45 minutes from where we live. Note the blue bubble just before it blows.

Icelandic Horses

Iceland


We have been told we aren't keeping our blog up so I will try to do more. For all the horse lovers here are some pictures of the famous Icelandic horses. Eileen loves them and is always telling me to stop and take pictures. I'm not much for stopping on a highway to take pictures so these are actually from one of our Elders. I think I need to find another way to put my pictures on our blog since you have to click on them to see them.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Sveinbjörg Guðmundsdóttir

Sunday night we picked up the Elders from the boat and then went to sing happy birthday to a member of the branch - Sveinbjörg Guðmundsdóttir. It was her birthday and when I wished here happy birthday at Church she seemed quite surprised. I asked if we could come visit here with the Elders in the evening and she said yes anytime. When we arrived she told us she had turned down a dinner invitation from her son because we were coming. Little did we know what a special experience we were going to enjoy. Eileen asked her about translating the Book of Mormon into Icelandic. She proceeded to tell us the events of the translation. As she did the room was filled with the Spirit testifying of the special experience she had. When she finished she said I have only told that story a few times and then said maybe I shouldn't tell you everything but we said we would love to hear more and she then told us about translating the Temple Ceremony and her trips to Utah to do it. Again the room was filled with the Spirit testifying of the truth of what we were privileged to hear. We really hated to leave as it was such a fantastic experience listening to her and feeling of the Spirit. The Elders had never heard the story before and their two years are up in December - they were really touched by the experience too and were glad we took them with us.

Westmann Islands Trip

Westman Island
Click on the picture to see all the photos in this posting.
We went to the Westmann Islands with the Elders on Friday and Saturday to meet with the members (one family) and with investigators. We returned home Saturday night as we have responsibilities with the Selfoss Branch. The Elders stayed until Sunday night as they held Sacrament Meeting with the member family and one non-member. The trip over was rough and one Elder spent most of the three hours over the toilet. Eileen was the only one who did not seem affected by the rough trip. Friday it was wet and windy but still provided some beautiful pictures. Saturday Eileen and I got up early and did a quick tour of the island - less than an hour. The day was beautiful and we enjoyed time with the member family and an investigator before we had to get back on the boat.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Eileen is Teaching Seminary Again

Eileen was called to be the Seminary teacher in Selfoss and tonight was her first class. Sadly the two that live in Selfoss and committed to coming didn't. Instead the two that live 15 minutes out of town and do early morning Seminary with their Dad came. They loved it because Eileen gave them the Seminary Bible and they were so excited to have the Joseph Smith translations right there in the footnotes. It has to be fun to teach kids with their enthusiasm. Since I was called to be the 2nd counselor in the Branch Presidency and Branch Clerk, I used the time to try and organize the office. Organization has not been a priority and MLS has been used to just submit tithing and so there is lots to do there. Having never used MLS I was a little concerned but it has proved to be very easy to use. We did last Sunday's tithing and submitted the September 21 tithing that was input but never sent. I have also sent off three members records that are no longer in the branch. Wow talk about the lack a privacy. If you live in Iceland you cannot hide where you live or your birthday. Everyone has to notify the National Register where you live and all you have to is go on-line and type in the persons name and you will get their address as well as their birthday. Sure makes it easy for transferring membership records for those who still live in Iceland.

$120 Oil Change

I saw the bill for the mission van oil change and at the current exchange rate for the Icelandic króna it was approximately $120 for the labor, oil and oil filter. When the Wohlgemuth´s arrived 19 months ago it was equal to about $240. We complain about the cost of gas in the US, how would you like to pay those prices for an oil change! We certainly would not be driving much - makes flying look cheap.

A Beautiful Day in Selfoss






Yesterday we visited a family that lives about a half hour north of Selfoss in the high country. Coming home we we were getting the snow that was up higher coming down on us in the form of slushy rain. By the time we got down to Selfoss it was just rain. This morning we woke up to a beautiful day about 40 F. These pictures are from our walk which at times was a little slippery from the ice on the walks. The roads had been salted but the walks were very icy. The top picture is the state church in Selfoss. In the next you can just see the mountains in the far distance covered with snow. The next show where we live - the basement (daylighted) apartment on the left side of the center house. It is a very small apartment but very nice and what a beautiful location on the river. Our view is of the city of Selfoss across the river. The last two pictures are the same - one just close up. Those are the mountains in the distance we have to go over to get to Reykjavik and last night the trip was through the snow. The puffs of what looks like smoke are the hot pots blowing off steam. We see that every day the mountains are clear as we walk into Selfoss.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Still No Phone or Internet!

Our phone and internet were ordered in September and they tell us it has been installed but it still does not work so we are waiting for the line people to check out why it doesn't work. In the meantime we are using the library to get the internet. We have sent many emails to the family the last three days and several times they pop back undeliverable and I resend them. We have received a few emails that make us think ours are still not going through. Please let us know if you have received any emails from us in the last three days.

Still Learning Icelandic Money

Banking is in a high state of turmoil with the 2nd and 3rd largest banks being taken over by the government. We are trying to get a bank account set up with the 2nd largest because that is who the Church uses and thought it would be the easiest way to pay our rent as the Church made the rental agreement so they have to pay it and then we reimburse them. The bank would not let me make a deposit and then only 500,000 kronar which is approximately $500 right now. I ask why I could only make one deposit and they said with the mess the banks are in right now they are restricting what can be done. So today I will hopefully make another 500,000 deposit and then again on Friday so I can pay the rent. Our landlord is very upset with all that is happening and says she can’t even get her money which is in Denmark so she can pay her bills. Will be interesting to see what happens over the next several months. It seems if we could buy Icelandic kronar other than in Iceland we would get it really cheap but not here.

We were grocery shopping today and one of the clerks is a member of the Church. He was redoing pricing on the shelves and I asked if the price of everything was going up and he said yes. To give you a concept of high – toilet paper was approximately a dollar a roll.

First Snow





Our first night in Iceland was Thursday October 2, 2008 and what a greeting we got the next morning. We woke to a complete blanket of snow – about 2 inches. We had to go to Reykjavik which includes a climb over a mountain where the winds can be brutal and the temperature drops. We waited until about 10 AM hoping the roads would get better. The trip was uneventful because our car has traction control and electronic stability control which kept kicking in as we drove through the ice and snow going up the mountain. I don’t mind the going up but coming down is a whole other story. Anyway by Monday night the roads were finally clear of all the ice and snow.

$800 Oil Change

When we were in Denmark we were talking about the high costs of things in Iceland and our Mission President said well how would you like to pay $800 for an oil change? I said what in the heck do they do for $800 and he said they just open their mouths and say an oil change will cost $800. They then explained that just a liter of oil cost the equivalent of $100. It is no wonder there were people on bikes everywhere we looked. At least in Iceland an oil change will only cost the equivalent of $100 which still seems unreasonable but at least not $800 which would certainly keep us from driving. Of course if you can afford a car I suppose you can afford the oil change. In Denmark there is a 120% tax on the purchase of a car. Our Mission President had to buy a new car for his family and discovered they could buy the same VW mini van (smaller than a Chrysler Town and Country) but with a pop top and stove (not noticeable it had either) because there was a lower tax on RV’s up until the day after they made the purchase. Even though the model was more expensive than the same mini van without the RV options the total cost was $18,000 less than the less expensive model due to the difference in taxes. We don’t realize how good we have it in the US. I was reading an article on the plane in a newspaper from England and they were blaming all the economic problems on the working women who are deciding they want to stay home an raise a family - seems almost all women work in Europe including Iceland – and now that some have decided to stay home and raise their families they are taking the heat for ruining the economy. Guess the government can’t accept the blame for their own mistakes.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Iceland Here We Come

Here we are in the MTC (Missionary Training Center)in Provo, Utah. The MTC experience is one of the highlights of a mission. When we were here before going to Romania we had some of the greatest spiritual experiences of our lives. Those experiences helped us in Romania. This week has been the same with special spiritual blessing for our lives. It is great to be with other senior missionaries and the great young missionaries. All are so excited to serve the Lord wherever they are called. We have been taught by the Spirit so many times. Our Icelandic training has been fruitful and we are gaining understanding little by little. Tonight our tutor made us speak only Icelandic to him so between Eileen and I we struggled to keep the conversation going. We were allowed to ask him in Icelandic how to say an English word in Icelandic. We actually didn't ask very many times but we did have to use hand motions several times.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Blessing Dress


Since we know for sure that Heidi is having a baby girl and Heather is also having a baby, Eileen started making two blessing dresses just in case Heather has a girl too. While we were at the beach Eileen completed more than half the dress. But when Eileen showed it to Gonnie, the light was better and you could see two different shades of yarn were used. So Eileen took that one out and went on a search for the right shade of yarn. At the time she couldn't find any so she started this dress and just finished it. She has the yarn to finish the second but I doubt there is enough time to finish it before we leave for Iceland.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

The Value and Importance of Mothers

Today I was impressed by the comments of Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in April Conference. Here is just one excerpt from his talk. "I am impressed by countless mothers who have learned how important it is to focus on the things that can only be done in a particular season of life. If a child lives with parents for 18 or 19 years, that span is only one-fourth of a parent’s life. And the most formative time of all, the early years in a child’s life, represents less than one-tenth of a parent’s normal life. It is crucial to focus on our children for the short time we have them with us and to seek, with the help of the Lord, to teach them all we can before they leave our homes. This eternally important work falls to mothers and fathers as equal partners. I am grateful that today many fathers are more involved in the lives of their children. But I believe that the instincts and the intense nurturing involvement of mothers with their children will always be a major key to their well-being. In the words of the proclamation on the family, “Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children” (“The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” Liahona, Oct. 2004, 49; Ensign, Nov. 1995, 102)." I am grateful to Eileen for her commitment to our children and to see our children and their spouses work together for their children - our grandchildren - what a great blessing in our lives.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Our Home in Iceland

Elder and Sister Wohlgemuth found us an apartment in Selfoss, Iceland where we have been assigned and isn't it beautiful. After what we had in Romania this is fantastic. It may cost more than twice what it cost us in Romania and for that matter what our house payment was, but it sure is nice to have such a bright place with a wonderful view. Wow it sure beats the chicken and the outhouse in our backyard in Constanta and the garbage cans we had to walk by to get in and out of our apartment in Arad. We had the better apartments available in Romania but that isn't saying much. Our thanks to Elder and Sister Wohlgemuth.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Wow! We Have a 15 Year Old Grandson!



Today was Gunnar's birthday. Hard to believe it was 15 years ago we were in Provo UT waiting at the hospital for him to come. He has been a delight to watch grow in to a great young man. We are going to miss watching him in all his activities these next 18 months.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Zek's Night to Shine


Lisa, David, Gunnar, Zek, Amanda, Eileen and I all went to the Minnesota State Fair Friday for Zek to play Memories in the state wide talent competition. He won the preteen division for our county giving him the opportunity to perform at the State Fair. While our county only allows you to win once in a division most of the competition last night had performed many times at the state level. The talent was amazing yet Zek held his own and he has only had two years of training and is only 9 years of age. He played his piece absolutely beautifully and even without my prejudice better than the 12 year old that won 2nd place. The picture was taken by a recycle group that was promoting reusable grocery bags which they gave to everyone who would have their picture taken. So we have a picture of all of us at the fair. The crowds were horrendous and the cost of everything was too. Now I know why this was our first time at the Minnesota State Fair. The only thing that will induce us back is another performance of one of our many talented grandchildren - that makes it worth it.

Just a few more pictures!




The first picture is where we spent our week. The second is a little north of where we stayed and the last was taken from our condo. We love the Oregon coast as there is just so much beauty to enjoy rain or shine.

Friday, August 22, 2008


We are finishing up a great week on the beach at Otter Rock Oregon. We joked about the first several days being just for us to get us ready for Iceland - cool and rainy. The real benefit though has been the time spent working on our Icelandic skills. I didn't say learning because I am not sure how much we are learning but we have definitely been working on our skills. At home Eileen is always so busy doing other things so this has been a great time for her. She has really improved this week and with the extra understanding I am sure she will continue to learn and improve at a much greater pace.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Great News

Elder Wohlgemuth (the senior missionary in Iceland) just notified us that a letter from the Immigration Office arrived today, saying all is in order for us to come to Iceland. Of course, when we arrive, we must get our pictures taken at the Immigration Office -- those pictures go on our residency permit cards. We must also "sign in" at the National Registry office after we arrive. Elder Wohlgemuth also sent a pdf of the letter for our language studies - yea like we can read an official Icelandic letter at this time. Next our passports go to the Denmark Embassy in Washington DC for our visa stamps. Luckily we still have 5+ weeks to get that accomplished so it looks like a go for getting on the plane to Iceland on September 29.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Our New Car

We are being spoiled by the great missionary couple in Iceland - the Wohlgemuth's. The Church put them to work to get us a car and apartment. We now have a brand new Skoda Fabia Combi - pretty sharp looking isn't it? There is even a set of mounted studded tires for winter driving - November thru April. They are also looking for an apartment for us in the city of Selfoss - a town of about 6600. I think the car is for two reasons - we will cover a large area of country and two it rains most of the time.
Today we went to Church in the Newport Oregon Ward and the speakers were from another ward reporting on their mission. As soon as they started talking we knew they served with our good friends now President and Sister Boggess of the Nigeria Enugu Mission. When we talked to them we also found our their daughter and son-in-law just finished 3 years in Iceland with the US government. They said Iceland has a great need for senior couples so that must be why we are going there.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Saying Good Bye


We left home August 7 to say good bye to our family in Arizona, California and Oregon. We had a great visit with Heidi, Doug and Martin along with Doug's family. While there Heidi had a 3D ultrasound and there is no question she is having a girl - of course while we are in Iceland just like Martin while we were in Romania. We flew to California August 11 for a nice visit with Eileen's folks and sister and family in Gilroy. Next we are going to Oregon to see my Mom and brother and spend our first summer week at our beach time share. This wasn't expected as we thought we would be on our next mission before this week so we are looking forward to a summer week on the beach.

Great picture of Eileen and Martin

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Great Anniversary



Last night we went to Steven and Micah’s for a dinner we thought was Paige’s going away party as she leaves for law school on Friday. She drug her feet leaving the house and we almost left without her. She was stalling to make sure all the family made it to the house before us as it was a surprise 40th Anniversary Party for us. Food was great including a cake in the shape of the world with places we have lived marked including Iceland along with flags of each country in frosting too, Then Gunnar, Ezekiel and Qatar played piano solos, and Steven’s family sang "I am a Child of God" in Japanese. Next we watched a DVD of our life from beginning until now. Amanda found pictures I don’t even remember and put it all together with music and titles and it was fantastic. Amanda said she was disappointed because Mom didn't cry but we both had tears of joy in our eyes as it was so much fun to see how our lives have progressed and the great results. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is what has made this family what it is today and we are so grateful to the Lord for all the wonderful blessings he has showered down upon us. Then each of the kids told of one or two of their favorite memories. David even wanted to share one. It was a great evening that will long be remembered.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Proud Parents and Grandparents

Grandson Gunnar and son Steven in 110 in the Shade.

Tuesday night many members of our family and friends went to opening night to watch Steven and Gunnar perform. When Steven came on stage there was no mistaking the roll he was playing. He was the star and it showed! He brings such life, excitement and fun to the stage. Even though I have never heard any of the music before I loved listening to Steven sing on stage again. It brought back the memories of his days as Huck Finn in Big River at the Jackson Hole Playhouse. Gunnar was not only fun to watch but we could also hear his beautiful base voice in the chorus. Wednesday night Micah went again and we watched the kids. Then tonight Micah took all the kids except Peter so they could see their Dad and we watched Peter. Saturday night we are going to the show as we want to enjoy our son and grandson in the show again.

Steven's kids excited after seeing their Dad play the lead roll of Starbuck.

Friday, July 18, 2008

45 Years Old!

I forgot to mention that while sitting the kids today, I tried out their Wii-Fit and according to Wii-Fit I have a fitness age of 45 - not bad for an old retired guy.

Another Year Older!

Today has been a great day - starting with Amanda fixing my favorite breakfast for my birthday - love Belgium Waffles and ending with a Church Social with birthday cake. The party was out in the country and as we drove home we had the most fascinating sight. When we moved to Minnesota 29+ years ago there were no fireflies and the first time I saw a firefly was when we drove south into Iowa. We think the spray they used for years to kill the mosquitoes also killed the fireflies, but now they use a different spray that must not effect them and every year we have more fireflies. The sight as we drove down the county roads tonight was like there were twinkling Christmas lights spread out over the fields - a constant twinkling of lights just above the fields creating a very ethereal look. Back to my birthday - besides all the phone calls and cards, Steven and Micah bought me a crepe pan. Finding a crepe pan is not an easy undertaking and on top of the challenge of finding the pan Micah is going to make me a chocolate hazelnut crepe cake - doesn't that sound special. The reason behind the crepe pan goes back to when Kristi was here and I made the "sandwich" which requires cooking two batches of crepes and without a good crepe pan (mine disappeared in our move) it isn't too easy. So having had to do without, Steven and Micah knew just what to get me. One other interesting tidbit for the day. I made a Eastern Mediterranean bean salad for the party tonight which required removing the seeds from 10 tomatoes and chopping them up. I didn't get the tomatoes done before sat with Connett, Gideon, Abby and Peter while Benjamin went to Mayo with Steven and Micah. I dished up a bowl for Steven and Micah to try and Gideon sat down and started eating it. He is an unbelievable eater. Can you imagine a 6 year old eating a mixture of garbanzo beans, black beans, tomatoes, onions, parsley, garlic salt, olive oil and lemon juice. It is good but a 6 year old!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Cenneidigh's Baptism



Sunday was a special day for Cenneidigh and our family as we gathered for her baptism after Church. Cenneidigh asked Uncle Steven to preside, Grandpa to conduct, cousin Eric and Aunt Bonnie to speak, Grandma to sing a special song, Aunt Amanda to do a slide show of her, Uncle Steven and her Mother to say prayers and her Dad to baptize and confirm her. She also invited two neighborhood families. Later in the day everyone who came to the baptism enjoyed dinner at her house.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

What a Celebration

The community of Austin Minnesota really comes together for the 4th of July considering we are a small town of 22,000+. For three days we have had many activities for all type of interests. Besides Kristi and Karl's family being here we also had several of David's family too - everyone enjoys a celebration and along with Independence Day it was also Cenneidigh's 8th birthday. I took hundreds of pictures of the activities on the 3rd which concluded with the Austin Community Band and fireworks. Then on the 4th with a parade, a Ward picnic and Cenneidigh's birthday party in our old front yard (Lisa and David bought our house when we went on our first mission to Romania and they put on a great party) and finally ending with the Austin Symphony performing prior to the fireworks. Sorry for so many fireworks photos, but they lasted so long and were fantastic - the photos really don't do them justice. Kylie, Elle and Cordie enjoyed two weeks with their cousins, aunts, uncles and grandma and grandpa and really didn't want to go home, but I think Kristi and Karl were ready to leave this afternoon after spending the week with all of us. It was great fun to have so much family together for so long and Steven and Micah provided the space for all of them to be together this week.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Family Home Evening at the Nature Center

It is great to have Kristi and Karl's family with us so we decided another fun way to have everyone together was to go to the Nature Center for Family Home Evening. Lisa, Qatar and Zeke rode their bikes with JT and Cenny towed behind Lisa. Lisa is going to make sure she saves enough on gas this summer to pay for the bike. Luckily she thought to bring misquotes spray as the misquotes were bad. They sprayed in town so we didn't even realize they were a problem. We all hiked out to the fire tower and then back through the Nature Center across the covered bridge. It was another beautiful day and evening. The cousins are all enjoying the time together.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Kristi and Karl returned Saturday evening from their trip to Hawaii. So Sunday afternoon we had a family dinner with all the family in Austin - which is a big number - total of 13 adults and 19 children. Lisa and David provided their house and yard which provided lots of room for all. We were so grateful is was an absolutely beautiful day with no humidity. All the cousins had a great time being together and the adults all got to catch up and enjoy great food and too much chocolate - as if there can ever be too much chocolate.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Creativity


I receive so many creative items from my talented family including sons and daughters in-laws that I need to start sharing them with others. The most recent is a box of candy with each piece of candy wrapped with a special picture or saying which Kristi made. The other is a unique card Heather made for Randy to insert a special message which he did. It is fun being a father and a grandfather.

Cousins Having Fun!

Kristi and Karl are on their way to Hawaii but first they came to leave Kylie, Elle and Cordi with us for the week. We are going to enjoy them this week. Before Kristi and Karl left the family all gathered Saturday afternoon at Steven and Micah's for dinner and fun. We had Lisa and David, Kristi and Karl, Steven and Micah, Eric and Vanessa, Paige, Amanda, Grandma and Grandpa and all the cousins. It was a gorgeous day and we all had a great time. All the cousins especially had a great time on the slip&slide.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Flooded again!


Lightening and thunder started about 8 PM and by 9 PM the rain was coming down hard and never stopped until this morning around 4 AM. We listened to the rain pounding throughout the night. This morning Lisa dropped off JT, Cenny and Zeke so she, Gunnar and Qatar could help a family that had their basement flooded. Then the calls came for help sandbaging through out the city. Since I have been sick for more than a week and getting very little sleep I stayed with the kids and Eileen and Paige went to help sandbag. We even got water in our basement but just enough to soak the bottom of the boxes holding my stained glass. Not much work to clean up just the hassel of finding new boxes and handling the glass. The picture is Turtle Creek which normally flows quietly between the trees in the center of the picture approximately no wider than 10 to 15 feet. Click on the headline above for local news.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Icelandic?

Today was the beginning of our Icelandic language lessons. Our tutor is very complimentary telling us we were doing great. Sad thing was we got the wrong books but he was able to discover the right ones are available. We got them ordered today even though the lady at the bookstore wasn't sure what I was talking about until she finally found them.

We also got a call from President Olauson our Mission President. He said we will fly to Copenhagen to meet with him for two days before going to Iceland. We will also go to the Temple in Copenhagen. We had a great visit with him and look forward to meeting and working with him.

Minnesota Provides Great Contrasts

After spending several hours under tornado warnings we went to Steven's for Connett's birthday. Then at the end of the day we witnessed some of the most extraordinary cloud formations. Sadly I was a little slow getting the camera so this is the best you get.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

The New Tornado Alley?


We were out walking this afternoon to get some errands done when it started raining just as we got to the bank. It quit when we were ready to leave. We went to Lisa's to pick up Cenneidigh to spend time with us. It started raining again and we visited for a little while until it quit. Just as we got home it started raining again but we might as well been in the rain as we were soaked from the humidity. We turned on the air-conditioning and I sat down to read the paper. Just then the sirens started wailing and I turned on the local channel and we were under a tornado warning as a tornado had been spotted just south and east. We spent the next 1/2 hour in the basement until they cleared the warning. In about 15 minuted they put us under a warning because the storm is continuing across us again. The image to the left shows the progress of the storms as they move northeast over us - one storm after another. 30 minutes have passed since the last warning was canceled and the sirens are wailing again.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Nigeria Enugu Mission President

We met Elder and Sora Boggess in Romania (soon to be President and Sister Boggess). They were fantastic missionaries and taught us much about being effective missionaries. We were very grateful for their training and example. They returned home from Romania and within six months they were serving in the Africa West Area as Area Welfare Specialists. After a little over a year in Africa, Elder Boggess was called to be President of the Nigeria Enugu Mission. The have been home less than 4 months and in two weeks enter the MTC for mission presidency training to begin serving in Nigeria July 1. They submitted our names to serve in their mission but as we saw with others request for us the Lord wants us in Iceland where we are excited to serve.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Great Wolf Lodge

We went to the Great Wolf Lodge for the second time this year. This time it was with Steven and Micah's family. The pictures are from the arcade, Wiley's Woods and the water park. Great time was had by all.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Proud Grandparents






Tonight we enjoyed a piano recital including 5 of our grandsons. The piano teacher made a point of acknowledging us and our grandsons. Gunnar, Qatar and Ezekiel Peters and Connett and Benjamin Bremner all did great - how fun to see our grandchildren excelling at one of my favorite accomplishments - I love piano music. Sorry for the poor photos.

Travel Documents Completed

When we arrived home last Friday we discovered a long list of items the Church Travel Office needs before we can go to Iceland. The list - Signed passports (we got those in September last year), 2 photocopies of the passport photo/ID page (easy), Residence Permit (easy to complete), 3 Passport type photos (just sent the ones we used for our passports to Walgreen's and walked over and picked them up), Notarized police letter (a challenge as the person who does them has been out. When I went to pick them up they were not notarized as requested. I was told to come back later as the person was busy. Same story when I came back later but the clerk at the window was very nice and somehow got them notarized for me), Application for sickness cost insurance (for Iceland) (not to difficult), Authorization form (easy) and finally 2 photocopies of marriage certificate (finding it was a question but found right away). So today with our police letter finally in hand I overnighted all to the Church Travel Department as requested. It is no wonder missionaries assigned to Iceland spend their entire mission in Iceland. Also an interesting day - Iceland experienced a 6.1 earthquake.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Another Blessing

Another blessing of babysitting our grandsons in Utah is the access to great books in their libraries. I checked one out and brought it with me to Oregon and what a great book. I highly recommend it to everyone. It is "I need Thee every hour - The joy of coming to Christ" by Blaine M Yorgason. Many years ago he wrote Spiritual Progression in the Last Days. Then after several years serving his Ward as Bishop he was asked by Sheri Dew to update and republish it. After rewriting the many chapter it came to him he had written an entirely new book and thus the new title. He strengthened my understanding of the Gospel more fulling. The following is taken from the last page of the book: "First that virtually any on of us, no matter our station in mortality, has the capacity to achieve all the spiritual possibilities and triumphs the Lord holds out to us through His scriptures and His prophets. And second, that Jesus Christ lives and stands waiting with outstretched arms to 'take up his abode with us,'and that He will do so as quickly as we are willing to put aside the world and surrender our hearts and lives wholly to Him." The book will open your eyes to the scriptures in ways that I never understood before.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Eileen will love the food in Iceland?

For those of you who know Eileen's dislike for fish you probably wonder what she is going to eat in Iceland. It even gets better when you read what I just found out is the cuisine of Iceland.

"Iceland offers wide varieties of traditional cuisine. Þorramatur (food of the þorri) is the Icelandic national food. Nowadays þorramatur is mostly eaten during the ancient Nordic month of þorri, in January and February, as a tribute to old culture. Þorramatur consists of many different types of food. These are mostly offal dishes like pickled ram's testicles, putrefied shark, singed sheep heads, singed sheep head jam, blood pudding, liver sausage (similar to Scottish haggis) and dried fish (often cod or haddock) with butter.

Much of the cuisine centres around Iceland's fishing industry. Traditional dishes include Hákarl (putrefied shark), graflax (salmon marinated in salt and dill), hangikjöt (smoked lamb), hrútspungar (pickled ram's testicles), and slátur (sausages made from sheep entrails). A popular food is skyr made of cultured skim milk, in the summer time it may be served with bilberries as a dessert."

We had a hard time with the food in Romania - this is going to be even more interesting.

Icleand Here We Come!

I got a call from the Senior MTC language training personnel to set up our language training plan. The surprise came when he told me we would be speaking Icelandic. I called the Senior Missionary Coordinator to ask if that was the language we are to learn since there was nothing about language in our call. Yes we have been called to the Denmark Copenhagen Mission submission Iceland. So for all those who have told us they want to visit us on our mission, you may have second thoughts now. I had already requested Danish language train materials so I guess that will have to change. Learning one language is hard enough - I don't see two.

Monday, May 12, 2008

OUR MISSION CALL!

Eileen is in Tooele, Utah with our grandson's babysitting and I am in Lake Oswego, Oregon looking after my mother. While in Church yesterday my phone started vibrating so when I got home I checked it and Amanda wanted me to call Steven's. Mom also told me Steven called and we had our call. Lisa, Paige and Amanda gathered at Steven's and Lisa called Kristi, Amanda called Eileen and Micah called me (Randy was on an airplane and Heidi in Church and Steven had to catch a plane). Backing up a bit - we were in Japan when our first mission call came and so Lisa and David called us there and read our call to Romania. This time we wanted to open our call but you can see our kids didn't want to wait for two weeks until we got home. We were excited to find out too. So Paige opened and read our call to the Denmark Copenhagen Mission reporting to the MTC on September 22, 2008 to prepare to teach the Gospel. For those who may not know or remember, Eileen did not want to go on a proselyting mission the first time, but after our experience in Romania she is excited to do it again. This call is another example of the Lord's hand in the work. I was contacted by the Polynesian Cultural Center to be their Architect and they submitted a request for me to serve there. The family history department outside the US also said they were requesting us as well as the CES department and we think our good friends the Boggesses submitted a request to join them in Nigeria. With all those requests it was a surprise to be called to Denmark. We love the people in Romania and serving them so are excited for the opportunity to do it in Denmark even though the thought of trying to learn another language is still beyond me. What a blessing to be a member of the Lords Church.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Book for new parents and grandparents

We have been babysitting since Saturday and Tyler and Jacob are great kids and Jacobs sleep habits are amazing. I have never had or seen a one year old that goes to bed on a set schedule with absolutely no protest of any kind. We just put him in his crib with his blanket and say night night and he lays down and we don't hear from him again until his two naps are over or it is time to get up in the morning. I am sure you find that hard to believe and I would too if I wasn't here experiencing it. Heather tells us it is the result of the book Good Night, Sleep Tight by the sleep lady Kim West. While I haven't read it, I highly recommend it to all new parents and for you grandparents reading our blog to recommend to your kids when they have a new baby. If you have any questions call Heather - it truly is a miracle in my opinion and what a blessing for the babysitter!

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Ty's favorite Aunt




Aunt Lisa sent Tyler a Halloween costume which Tyler has decided is fun to wear right now. She also sent him snow boots which he was wearing for the first pictures I took but then I decided to take more and he had them off. Aunt Lisa is always sending clothes for Tyler which he loves to get but I don't think it will happen much more as Tyler is catching up height wise with his cousin JT. Jacob also wanted to be in the pictures.

Nothing like a blizzard in May!

About 3 PM we finally decided we had no choice but to stay in Sidney NE another night. We got up at 5 AM Saturday and took off without breakfast. There were still lines and lines of trucks parked from the day before so I wasn't positive everything was open. We ran into lots of ice on the roads as we left Sidney but that didn't last too long and the next bad area was the pass west of Cheyenne. We made it in time to spend an hour with Randy, Heather and the boys before taking them to the airport. Randy gave the boys a blessing that they would not be unhappy or cry while Mom and Dad were gone. When I got back from the airport Eileen said the boys were doing great - the wonder of blessings. We had a good evening with them and then today they were happy to see us in the morning and they did great at Church.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Stuck in Nebraska


We left Austin May 1 at 9 AM and we arrived in Sidney NE about 7:30 PM. I would like to have continued on but the winds were 50 to 70 MPH from the right making it difficult to handle the car. We got up this morning thinking we would continue on even though the winds never stopped during the night. We looked out the window and found it was nasty out but worse yet we found out I 80 was closed from Cheyenne to Laramie. Then we found out I 80 from Sidney to the Wyoming boarder was closed. The picture is of Cabella's well it would be if the snow and wind didn't hide it. We have been on the phone and checking all websites for weather and road conditions all day and the storm seems to have settled on top of us and we don't appear to be going anywhere. I have been in the lobby many times today and there has been a steady flow of people coming from the east having to get off here at Sidney to spend the night. The first one I talked to was at 11 this morning. He left North Platte and 6 AM and said the roads were bad mainly because of all the trucks that had jackknifed. The trip should have only taken 2 hours not 5 that it took him. He is on his way to Boise. The family moved and he was in the process to trying to sell the car and was going to fly with the cat to Boise but ended up driving instead and was not too happy about it. We are supposed to be in Tooele today to take care of Tyler and Jacob but we won't make it today. We are now praying we can make it tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

I was in the paper again!

When we leave on our mission there will be at least 4 people happy to see me go. Click on the heading above if you want to read the latest saga of our school board vs superintendent fiasco. I sure am glad I am retired as it is much easier to calm down after these meetings when you have the time to be able to call and email people with concerns and thanks. This town of ours has such the potential to be the greatest school district in the nation for our kids and yet we have four members of the board who can't see beyond their agenda to get personal revenge.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Mosiah 2:17 Learn Wisdom


Studying for Sunday School I liked the following from the Institute Manual - "King Benjamin's comment about service to fellowmen (Mosiah 2:17 And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God.) suggests in beautiful simplicity the doctrine taught by the Savior: "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me." (Matthew 25:40) The manual then goes on to quote Elder Ivins "The great value, I believe, that the Church has for us is the opportunity it gives us to serve, for, after all, the great benefits of life come from service. Generous, open-hearted, full service to our fellows, I believe, it the thing which brings us the greatest happiness. We can serve our families and gain happiness by it; we can serve our friends and gain happiness by it; but if we would be happy we must serve and serve generously, and I believe myself that the greatest happiness that comes to me from observing the standards of the Church and meeting my obligations to it is the spiritual values that I get out of that service." (CR Oct 1948 pp 47-48).

We had our final interview last night with President Spackman and he submitted our missionary recommendation to the Brethren. That event together with the blessings we received serving in Romania and the name of this blog made these thoughts have even greater significants to me. The photo is from when we entered the MTC July 4, 2005 but since we haven't changed that much we thought it appropriate to use for the required photo for the missionary recommendation.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

I keep trying

We have an issue in our town where a group got together to get elected to the school board as a bloc. I tried to tell everyone it was a bad idea to vote for these individuals as they had a hidden agenda. Well they got elected and we found out the agenda - to get rid of our superintendent. After investigating what has happened under our current superintendent and finding out she has accomplished great things for our district and the bloc only wants her gone for personal reasons, I spoke before the school board and got others talking too. Last night I decided to speak to the issue of the poor performance of the superintendent that the bloc is planning to hire, but the speakers before me were all so great I stood and said I would not give my prepared remarks. I then said Amen to all the things said before me and then gave a personal reason why our superintendent was not one my favorites but now she is because of the successes of the district. I then asked the board to renew her contract and do it now. This issue has been the talk of the town since the November election and the bloc is still trying to get rid of her. I know the bloc will be happy when we leave on our mission. I just hope our superintendent is still her when we return. If you want to read the article in todays paper click on the title of this post.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Clarification on Mission Call

Just to clarify further the last posting since we have had questions. We submitted for an 18 month mission with the limitation that we have to be back the end of December 2009 for Grandma Connett's 90th Birthday. So if they do like our first mission we will not serve a full 18 months. Also we did not request a specific mission. He have however written to the email addresses given in the listing of current missionary opportunities for Family History and Perpetual Education Fund, indicating our interest in serving in those areas. Eileen of course would like to serve a Family History mission if that is the right mission for us and I would like to serve a Perpetual Education Fund mission if that is the right mission for us. There are many other missions we would also enjoy serving therefore we are excited to learn where the Lord wants us to serve.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Waiting for Mission Call!

Today we pushed the submit button on "Submit Electronic Recommendation" for our next mission. All our paper work, medical and dental exams and forms are done and even all our shots unless we go somewhere exotic! We now need our Bishop and Stake President interviews before the real waiting to hear starts. We are excited to go again and know we will go where the Lord wants us.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Annual Water Park Adventure

This year Lisa and Steven's families and Grandma and Grandpa and Paige and Amanda were all to go to the Great Wolf Lodge for an annual water park adventure. Grandpa missed last year with the flu which was fine because he didn't get excited about being in the water for 3 days. You will note in the pictures below several people missing but the only ones that didn't make it were Steven's family who had to postpone until the end of May. We also had the addition of one of the Bishop's sons. As for the others missing - it is hard to get good pictures when you are trying not to get the cameras wet too. Everyone had a great time - even grandpa who spent more time in the water this time than grandma. We are finally home for rest of the month of April. April 10th we have our dental exams and then our mission papers will be submitted electronically and we will start the wait to find out where we will go.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Celebrating Elle's Baptism and Birthday and Easter

The last leg of our trip which started back in February has been spent enjoying time with Kristi, Karl, Kylie, Elle and Cordie in Columbus Ohio. We came to celebrate Elle's baptism and birthday together with Karl's Mom and Dad and brother Justin and Steven and Micah's family. It has been fun having so many together. Justin treated everyone to ice cream twice which made him a favorite. This long trip will come to an end this Thursday when we fly home. It has been great fun visiting all the family living outside of Austin and celebrating this special occasion with Elle. I took lots of pictures of the family at dinner and ice cream, but only posted a few as the candid shots were just too candid.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Our escape from winter to visit our family outside of Austin

We left Austin in February to visit family living outside of Austin with the added benefit of leaving the winter behind for warmer weather. We flew to Phoenix first and had a nice stay with Heidi’s in-laws while we spent time with Heidi and Martin. We visited the Phoenix Zoo and a great art show in Fountain Hills. Martin entertained us with his cuteness which you can also enjoy on their website (see links listed below). Next we flew to San Jose to visit with Eileen’s Mom and Dad and sister Pat. They are all doing well and we were able to also go to the Oakland Temple with Claire and Pat to do family work. Next we flew to Portland to see my Mom and my brother Fred and his family before going to the beach for a week of absolutely beautiful weather and gorgeous scenery as you can see in our slide show. We spent the week at Otter Crest Inn where the pictures are taken. We also went to the Portland Temple and visited Aunt Marion and cousin Elaine. My Mom is doing so much better and she is able to get around by herself now. Hard to believe at 91 she is on zero medications – I can only hope to be so blessed. Next we flew to Salt Lake City to enjoy time with Randy, Heather, Tyler and Jacob. Pictures will follow.