Sunday, May 24, 2015

All Work and No Play . . .

In our letter from the First Presidency our call was "as a records preservation specialist."  We've written a lot about our work in that regard, but our life here has been more than that 8-to-4 schedule at the county's document warehouse.  Being official full-time missionaries has brought us some added opportunities.  We have a closer connection with the young Elders and Sisters as they do their proselyting work.  We've joined them in lessons.  We meet their investigators and share in the joy as they accept the gospel and are baptized.
One of Terre Haute's newest members--Otto Ghrist in the center
We are included in the Zone and Mission training sessions and conferences, allowing us to "feel" like missionaries spreading the gospel to God's children.
At the All-Mission Conference at Christmas, 2014
Our call also included this catch-all phrase: "Your assignment may be modified according to the needs of the mission president."  And so it has been.  For a month now we have been the "group leaders" for the LDS Family Services Addiction Recovery Program meetings here in Terre Haute.  This is usually done by part-time church service missionaries from the area, but the local leaders had not been able to find "the right couple."  Thursday nights at 7pm we change badges and meet at the church with wonderful men and women seeking support recovering from addictions.  Our roll is to bear witness of the power of the Lord's atonement.  We love this opportunity.
My three "hats"
Being members of the local ward has been a blessing to us as well.  As called on, we teach lessons, play the organ or piano, sing in the choir, talk in meetings, and generally be stalwart members in the ward.  We are enriched by the new friendships and by sharing in their lives and feeling their testimonies.

What do we do with the rest of our day?  Most of the time we come home to our comfortable duplex apartment and crash, exhausted from the stresses and physical exertion of our FamilySearch work.  We enjoy emailing family and friends, Facebook-socializing, and some simple hobbies,

What better hobby than Family History!  Time seems to fly by for both of us when we sit down to "find our cousins."  Ann sees it as the best of puzzles.  For me it is like solving the most obscure of Miss Marple mysteries.  For us there is no better way to spend an evening than "digging about, pruning, and dunging" the Family Tree.  And we've enjoyed the fruits of our labors as we spend a day at the temple each month offering those cousins the ordinances of salvation.
Our "Day at the Temple" for May--St. Louis

Ann has taken up card-stock embroidery, creating beautiful greeting cards.  Each one is a mini-masterpiece, unique and tailor-made for the lucky recipient.
Hand stitched for a granddaughter

I cook for pleasure, keeping up my reputation of never following a recipe, which results in some pretty "interesting" creations of my own.  Trying to meet the goals of gluten-free, low-fat, high-protein, low-GI carbohydrates, etc. can make for some strange concoctions.
It's usually eatable, and once in a while, even good
We both love our music.  Ann has missed having a piano to practice.  The Lord loves her so much that things "fell into place" this last week.  We are now "storing" a piano for a sister who just didn't have room for it in her new apartment.
Chopin, Mendelssohn, and Delibes in the background as I fix supper.  
I enjoy my organ and French horn playing
We play games--Rummykub, Bananagrams, Monopoly Deal, Farkle, and Dominos.  We watch an occasional Redbox movie.  We indulge in Kroger's "death by chocolate" ice cream (yes, I realize it falls short on every point of my healthful food requirement list).  And we exercise--I lift and swim and Ann walks.  She has enjoyed photographing flowers and trees in the neighborhood while she is out.

My grandma used to say, "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy."  These little diversities in our lives are helping us recuperate and rejuvenate ourselves for the main work of our ministry, doing our small part in linking families together through the generations of time.

Sunday, May 3, 2015


It's true! It's true! The crown has made it clear.
The climate must be perfect all the year.
A law was made a distant moon ago here: 
July and August cannot be too hot. 
And there's a legal limit to the snow here 
In Camelot. 
Springtime in Indiana

     Terre Haute isn't Camelot, although I had to post this picture to show how much better our new town looks now that spring has arrived. Right now the weather is almost like Camelot. The flowering trees have been absolutely beautiful. The day time temperature is a sunny 70 degrees.  Everyone promised we would be thrilled living here in the spring.  They were right.

     As I thought about the possibility of a Camelot setting, I realized there may be one place that can boast of the perfect climate 365 days of the year.  Its location is tucked safely in the mountains east of Salt Lake City, Utah.  The place is known as the Granite Mountain Record Vault.  

Granite Mountain Record Vault
     The vault is operated by the Family History Department of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  Construction began in 1960.  Five years later, in 1965, the project was complete. Carved deep into a mountain of solid quartz monzonite, the vault protects microfilm and digital images from the elements outside.  It is an ideal environment for preserving historical records.

     The images we captured in Crawfordsville, and now in Terre Haute are joining the millions of other data stored at the vault.  A few weeks ago, as we were preparing a presentation to the Wabash Valley Genealogical Society, we opened up the Wiki menu on FamilySearch and found a description of our project.  It showed examples of documents we had captured when we first arrived in Vigo County three months ago.  We will be excited when the entire project is eventually searchable online.  But for now, we know they are safe, secure, and in good hands.

Aren't our images lovely?

     I found some interesting facts about the vault.  There are three conditions that are required to maintain the perfect climate:
  • a constant temperature of fifty-five degrees Fahrenheit
  • a relative humidity of 30 percent
  • a computer-controlled ventilation and air filtration system, ensuring air is scrubbed of dust and other particles."  (Ouimette, David S., “The Vault: A Mountain of Granite and Gold,” Ancestry Magazine, Vol. 23, No. 2, March/April 2005.)

     Why would these conditions be so critical?  The cool temperature slows any decay of the film and emulsion.  Maintaining the relative humidity under 50 percent is optimal; if the relative humidity were below 10 or 15 percent the microfilms may become brittle; if it were above 50 percent, fungus could actually grow.  The removal of particles from the air helps keep the surface of the microfilm clean and scratch-free.  It all seems so reasonable and makes sense. 
Stock certificates from the Wabash and Erie Canal Company

     Several weeks ago we captured our biggest set of individual images. Mr. John W. Wines gets the distinct honor of having approximately 1,150 images attached to his estate folder. Included in his documents were hundreds of stock certificates from the Wabash and Erie Canal Company dated in the 1840's. The paper was so fragile. We knew that trying to handle them would take valuable time and possibly harm the documents. We wondered what the next 150 years would do to these pieces of history.

     Under the right conditions, records can be preserved for hundreds of years.  Of course, just like "45's", "78's", 8-track, cassettes, CD's, etc., preservation procedures will evolve necessitating constant technology updates.  Thankfully, the Family History Department is on top of that. 

Michael entering the Probate Index into a database.
A big thank you to those who have volunteered to help.

     No blog would be complete without an analogy.  Unlike Camelot, it WILL rain before sundown.  It WILL snow in June.  July 24th WILL be unbearably hot.  But my analogy is not about the jet stream or El Nino effects.  I am more concerned about the climate in my home. Often my temperature soars depending on the crisis of the day.  My relative "humidity" varies depending on my relative "humility".  Harmful particles of sin and discouragement settle in all too often.  

     The Granite Mountain Records Vault has found a perfect balance to preserve its precious content.  I must do the same.  I am challenging myself to check my thermostat and barometer periodically.  In fact, every Sunday during the sacrament might be a good time to do that.  I will commit to filtering what is heard and seen through the criteria of what is "virtuous, lovely, of good report, or praiseworthy".  Camelot may be a fictional place, but I can still strive for the ideal climate at home.  I just need to remember the formula: a "cool" head, "relative" humility, and an effective "air filtration system" for my words and thoughts.