Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Our weeks are flying by in the mission!!  We get up on Monday morning and the next thing we know it is Friday afternoon.  Last week we both were intent on not only catching up but getting ahead in our mission assignments.  The church financial systems will be updated from the 15th of May until they are done with the update, which could take anywhere from a week to perhaps 10 days.  So, Dad has been busy paying rent and utilities.  This could not come at any more difficult time, as Dad is responsible for obtaining leases for 8 apartments by the first of June.  This means that he needs money!!!  His mission credit card was increased so that he can get cash, charge, and also use it as a debit card.  That was a huge blessing as the costs are enormous -- approx. $20,000 for furniture and furnishings, plus security deposits and first month's rent will cost at least $10,000 for the eight apartments.  Not having access to writing checks is a huge issue, but he thinks that he will be able to handle the situation with the increases with his card and the President's.  I am just paranoid about having another month like the first month we were here.  I might work myself out of a job if I am not careful.  I am more than caught up on the files, binders, booklets and such that need to be done for the next group of missionaries that come on the 11th of June.  I just do not like feeling that I am going to fall apart!!!  At last I am conquering Mail Merge, yippee!!!  I guess we both are becoming A-type personalities. 
Dad is starting to feel better, for which I am very grateful.  He gets really tired, and he just cannot do any lifting, so he is not doing the mail run so much anymore.  If it were just letters it would be okay, but there are huge packages that weigh a lot -- no can do.
Last week we went out for a walk one afternoon.  I have mentioned that we have not seen the golf course across the way from our apartment complex until the middle of April, so now we know that there is a green golf course nearby.  I think it is a private one, and without golf clubs, he won't be doing any golfing.  Just not enough hours in the day.   The weather last week was balmy and warm.  It was wonderful!!!  We opened up our windows and thoroughly enjoyed the fresh air.  By Saturday it was raining torrents and quite cold.  We did the laundry at the Laundromat.

 The countryside is all different colors of green,and the blossoms are out and very beautiful.  The rain kind of destroyed the blossoms, and hopefully any fruit trees did not get ruined.  We live in an area where there are lots of apples, and Dad loves to go to a store called Twin Orchards and get his Dutch Apple Pie.  He now is a fan of Pirate's Booty!!!  He has given me trouble for years about liking the tasty morsels.  I guess it is an acquired taste, but we are great fans.  I remember when Madelyn Staffieri loved the Pirate's Booty -- does she still like it?  This tree below is right outside of the mission office.  The blossoms are gone now.
We went out to dinner with President and Sister Wirthlin and the Barlows on Friday night.  It is fun to have the opportunity of rubbing shoulders with these great people.  We had a nice Sacrament Meeting on Sunday.  A young priest gave an incredible extemporaneous talk about how much his mother meant to him.  It was pretty remarkable since he thought he was going to be teaching a Primary class.  The main speaker spoke on the sacred nature of mothers -- talking about Eve, the prophetess/judge Deborah and Hannah, the mother of Samuel the Prophet.  We taught the 6-year olds in Primary, and then the Elder's Quorum took care of Sharing Time in Primary so the sisters could go to Relief Society. 
I was fine for the day and I guess I had a steel rod going up my backside to keep my emotions together.  As the day turned to night the tigers started coming out, and I pretty much had a meltdown. I can explain -- I grieve for the loss of Claire (even though I understand she is out of pain and all), but I also grieve as a mother for Debbie.  It is hard to watch any of our children struggling, and I think about each one every day.  Our mission experience has taught me a lot, for sure, and I see the difficulties many people are facing in this area.  Poverty is a real issue for many, and we are very blessed.  We are quite comfortable in our apartment.  I did two loads of laundry downstairs last night, so I am moving forward on that weekly chore.  I guess that is good......
I have been sad over the death of Nettie Noble on Mother's Day evening, but I know that she has suffered a lot the last while and she was very ready to move on.    Before the mission, Sharon Albrecht, Gretel Ferwerda and I brought lunch over to her and she proceeded to show us what her coffin would look like, where she would be buried (St. George) and we took some pictures that are priceless now. So cheerful while suffering.  So grateful I listened to a prompting to call her last Thursday -- there are no coincidences in this life!!!  I was able to tell her that I loved her while she could barely speak.
Enough of the preaching.  We know the church is true -- Christ is our Savior and we are very grateful for His atoning sacrifice.  We have had a good week so far and are loving the work.  We love each and every one of you and so enjoy calls, emails and notes.  We look forward to mail just like the elders and sisters do!!
Love to all,
Elder and Sister Cutler


Sunday, May 5, 2013

Coming back to the mission after an emotionally-filled week in Seattle was not easy.  We did not get back to Utica until 1:30 in the morning and slept in on Sunday until 10:00.  The quiet time together was nice. The next morning we were up early and at the mission office before 8:00.  We arrived to see these beautiful flowers sent by dear friends from St. George.  It was appropriately pink in every hue.  It was beautiful.

We have a staff meeting at 9:00 in the morning, and those are always good for us.  President Wirthlin gave a timely spiritual thought:  Scripture:  Job 22:21 -- "Acquaint now thyself with him, and be at peace:  thereby good shall come unto thee."  He shared a quote from President Ezra Taft Benson -- "It is a great blessing to have an inner peace, to have an assurance, to have a spirit of serenity and inward calm during times of strife and struggle, during times of sorrow and reverses.  It is soul-satisfying to know that God is at the helm, that we can with full confidence place our trust in Him.  I believe that all the truly great men of the earth have been men who trusted in God and who have striven to do that which is right as they understood the right"  (The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p. 68).  This was timely for me, and I believe he was inspired to say these words that morning.  I was caught up and the week gone was not a problem.  Dad had some apartments that needed to be found and rented, and the tender mercies continue as he does this work.  He had hernia repair surgery on Thursday, so he has been under the weather since that time.  However, he has gone into the office each day for a couple of hours and tried his hardest to get done what he needed to do.  He came out of the anesthetic asking for his mobile phone so that he could get the last apartment rental in order.  We went into the office on Friday night so that he could actually cut the checks and get everything done.

Plant arrangement sent from Relief Society friends in St. George -- Beautiful!!

This last week was transfers and we had 25 new missionaries come.  We are so lucky that the mission office is located in a stake center, as we are always in the middle of all of the activities.  We had two elders stay with us on Tuesday night, and were able to get to the office by 7:15 so we could get the breakfast done.  Sister Wirthlin is amazing, and we served breakfast for 45 and lunch for over 100.  When the new missionaries are assigned to their trainers, it is really exciting.  President Wirthlin relies heavily on inspiration from the Lord, and he is very drained when this is over.  On Wednesday night we attended the dinner for the missionaries who are going home.  It was a fabulous dinner!!! 

After dinner it is tradition to have a testimony meeting.  These missionaries are impressive.  I am so grateful that we are included in these special occasions.  One of the elders said something that made a large impact on me.  He said that the reasons we come out on our missions are not always the same reasons for which we stay.  The more we respond and are open to the promptings of the Spirit bring us closer to Christ, and our testimonies of Him, His mission and the Atonement greatly increase.
On Thursday night I did what I have been dreading for three months:  I went downstairs to do one batch of our laundry.  I am glad that I finally did it, but yesterday we did the remainder of our laundry at the Laundromat.  It is just so much faster -- even though the cost is more.  I survived the experience and know that I can go down to the basement if necessary.
Saturday we did a few errands and went to a late lunch at this Hot Dog/Hamburger stand that we have been looking at since we arrived.  It just reopened during April, and the lines go out to the street.  We wanted to find out what it was like.  It was great!  Dad had two great hotdogs, and I had a good hamburger.  It is quite the place and famous in the area for the good food. 
Today we went to the branch, and it was nice to be back.  We are rubbing shoulders with wonderful, humble people -- all have interesting stories from their lives.  We enjoy the drive over there and the scenery has changed drastically since we first started.  The trees are in bloom, the grass is green, and there are flowers also blooming.  Spring has been here this week -- we keep our windows open and the temperature gets up to 75'.  Now once Dad is feeling a little better we will start doing some exploring. 
We love each of you and love hearing from you.  You are dear to us.  We are blessed to be here on our mission and are grateful for this opportunity.  Although we are not proselyting missionaries, we know that the work we do is valuable and we feel the Lord working in our lives.  I have conquered the Mail Merge, so that is one HUGE blessing!!!

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Because it has been a while since we have posted, I will do a quick review of the last three weeks. 

General Conference Weekend:  April 5 - 7

We were able to get permission from our mission president to go to Connecticut to spend the weekend with Scott's family.  We left Utica about 2:00 in the afternoon and arrived at their home at 6:00.  It is an easy drive, and with GPS we were able to find their home easily.  We could not have found it without the GPS -- too many small roads, lots of turns, lots of trees, and no way to get our bearings as to whether we were going north or south.  It surprised us that we were able to manage the roads so easily.  Melissa had prepared an awesome spaghetti dinner, and we enjoyed being with the family.  It was so cute to have the kids tell us that we were not supposed to do anything but rest -- no clearing the table or doing dishes -- just relax.  We were so very glad to be there with them.  We so needed that time.... We relaxed at home that night while Scott, Melissa and Audrey went to the junior high production of "Once Upon a Mattress". Jack was participating in it and we planned to see it the next day. 

One of the highlights of the weekend was getting acquainted with the new little addition to their family:  a very small dog named Pepper.  She is one adorable dog and we fell in love with her.
The whole family is totally smitten with her, and they are doing a very good job of training her.  They have to be with her all of the time while she is outside, as she is so small that the hawks would get her in a minute. 
On Saturday morning Scott fixed an awesome breakfast.  We went to Matthew's LaCrosse practice, but it was so so cold that we did not stay -- he was very excited and did not seem to mind the cold.  We prepared to watch the morning session of conference at noon.  Each one had his/her place mapped out as to where they would sit. 

We watched the morning session (most of us) and then had to get ready to go see Jack's performance in the school play.  It was great!  He is growing up too fast, I am afraid.  He had a great time and enjoyed the cast party after.  We made it back home in time to watch most of the afternoon session.
Scott prepared a dinner of baby back ribs that was so incredible!!!  I am including the picture of Matthew, as this is one of his favorite dinners of all time.
Dad, Scott and Jack went to Priesthood Meeting and the rest of us went to bed early.  On the east coast the sessions are two hours later than Salt Lake City, so we had late mornings and late nights.  We enjoyed the spirit of conference. Sunday Scott prepared a great breakfast again -- we were so spoiled by their wonderful meals.  Matthew, Scott and I went on a walk.  They live in a beautiful area, have a great house, and a big yard that will keep them busy for a long time.  Matthew is very happy as long as he has a ball of some kind in his hand.  Audrey loves her ballet lessons, and Roman just loves everything.  Great family.
It was sad to leave on Sunday afternoon.  Melissa stocked us up with her jam, some frozen spaghetti and frozen stroganoff, drinks and such that we felt like a couple of college kids going back to school all loaded up so that we would have some good homemade meals.  We so appreciate the love we felt in their home. 
The sun was shining brightly, so it was hard to keep eyes opened without squinting, but pictures are needed as the weekend meant so much to us.  We love our mission, but we have definitely missed our family. Little did we know about the following week.
Monday morning, April 8 we awoke to three inches of snow.  Had to put on our winter coats again.
After listening to conference and being with Scott and Melissa and family we were refreshed and ready to get to work.  I was working well ahead of myself that week and was more than caught up, and Dad was busy again trying to find apartments for the new missionaries.  He is having the missionaries, and particularly the zone leaders, try to find appropriate apartments in the areas of their zones that the mission president wants to open.  It is working quite well, as they are able to email pictures and it is easier for Dad to approve the housing arrangements if he does not have to travel to the areas.  The mission covers a large geographic area, so this method is working out quite well. 
Wednesday afternoon we knew that Claire was not doing well, and by Thursday afternoon we knew that the end was probably very near.  I woke up about 3:00 on Friday morning and could not get back to sleep.  We received the word that Claire had passed away at 3:38 am.  Heartbreaking, to say the least.  We do know God's plan, and are grateful for our knowledge of the atonement and Christ's mission on earth.  That does not make this easy for us.  We went into the office about 9:00 and tried  to wrap things up so we could be gone for the next week.  We were able to get a flight out on Sunday and then needed to go back into the office on Saturday to finish some more things that needed to be done.
Melissa and Scott were at the Boston Marathon on Monday, April 15th.  This picture is right after Melissa finished the race and at the very spot where one of the bombs went off.  Scott and his friend Jess were right there during the race.  It give me chills to realize how close they were.  Scott felt that they needed to get out of the area, and they were one block away when the bomb went off.  They hurried to their hotel, packed up, and were about the last car to get out of the parking garage before it was closed down.  Text messages were going back and forth through the family -- and of course we are so grateful that they were not harmed.
The week of Claire's funeral covered a huge range of emotions for me.  Dressing her in the baptism dress I had made for Julie was sweet, sad, heartwrenching, precious, and an experience I will always keep close to my heart.  Melissa had bought some beautiful little white shoes that were perfect for Claire to wear along with some white tights. My dear friend Rhea had altered the dress for Claire to wear, and she made her a shocking pink tutu to wear under the dress.  It was so sweet.  She was covered with her "Cozy" and had her favorite pink minky in her arm along with a new stuffed animal (dog) named Pepper.  She looked so peaceful, and Debbie put a pink bow in her flowing red hair that was perfect.  I will never forget kneeling in prayer around her coffin and praying for strength and comfort as we did this difficult thing.  It was a beautiful and sacred experience for me.  Heaven has gained a fiery redhead who can walk, run, climb and stand without pain.  How she will be missed by us all.

The funeral was beautiful, a wonderful tribute to Claire and her family.  Each one who participated had carefully prepared, including prayers and talks.  It was an inspiration.  It was a tender time to be together as an extended family, and I so appreciated the efforts of each one to attend.  Our immediate family had a good time together.  On Thursday we went to the Paul Allen Music Museum in downtown Seattle, to the Food Court at the Space Needle, to the Space Needle, out to the wharf and onto a ferry and ending up at Cutter's for dinner that night.  On Friday we celebrated the 14th birthday of Mark Trammell by going bowling, to a sky diving center, then to dinner for pizza.  That evening the girls had their "spa" time by getting their nails done by their Aunt Lenessa and their hair fixed in special rollers.  The cousin time was awesome.

Leaving Seattle was not easy for me to do, and after being with family it was hard to think of going back to New York.  There was no question about whether we would leave and go, but needless to say it was difficult.  I was emotionally drained and physically tired.  We were grateful to dear friends Bob and Patty Folkman who let us stay in their home that week.