I would not have you ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. 2 Peter 3:8

We’ve been so surprised at how fast time is slipping by. We know that we have not posted for some time but did not realize that it had almost been two months. We have been very busy. We’re not complaining. Elder Howes’s Grandmother used to say that if you want to kill time, try working it to death. We will attempt to be better at finding a rhythm that allows us to Post more often.

Two Missions

On November 9th we were extended the call to serve in the Office to manage the properties of the Mission.  At the time President told us that we would need to commute to the office through January as the apartment that we would be assigned was the apartment that the couple we would replace were in.  They left early in mid January and we used the apartment during emergencies for several weeks during storms to keep from traveling in poor conditions but (fortunately) a need arose for us to use this apartment for an emergency transfer (Sister Howes would have never lived in that apartment).  As it turns out this was a blessing for our little New Paltz Branch as the Mission has not received a replacement Senior Couple for the Branch.  The result has been that we are MLS Missionaries serving the New Paltz Branch and Office Missionaries.  On the weekends and on Wednesday evening we make sure that we are in New Paltz to do our callings in the Branch.  During the week, we travel to the Mission office in Scarsdale, NY and around to the now 104 properties.  We have given up on one of our favorite assignments as Ordinance Workers in the Manhattan Temple as we are almost never available.

Teaching Cleanliness!

As we travel around we “check in” on the apartments to insure that we have our Missionaries in suitable accommodations with all of the things that allow them to focus on the work their called to do.  The biggest challenge that we have encountered is cleanliness.  Unfortunately many never learned to clean and organize.  The result for our Mission is habitual uncleanliness in every apartment.  The Mission grew so fast that keeping track of this was not done well so as we go out to the apartments Elder Howes chews the Missionaries out and Sister Howes gives instruction, her method (as in all things) is more effective.  It became so clear that this needed to be worked on throughout the Mission that the Mission President asked Elder & Sister Howes to follow him throughout the Mission as he conducted interviews and they taught a class on how to organize, clean and take responsibility for their apartments.  It was a two week process of long hours in five different locations around the Mission.  We got commitments from every Missionary that apartments would be clean.  Time will be the judge of our effectiveness.

Traveling Sights!

Several weeks ago I closed an apartment in East Harlem.  I had prepared to move out by bringing the Mission Van and Six Elders to the apartment.  As I arrived the Elders disappeared to the roof of the building, and sirens of Police and Fire Department were blaring up and down every street around us.

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Scene from the roof of our Mission apartment in East Harlem.

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An gas explosion took down two apartment buildings three blocks from where we were and a block from four of the Elders with me.

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A gas leak caused this explosion and killed 8 people with an additional 20 badly injured.  It took 30 minutes to get to the apartment from the office but 3 hours to get back.

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Cellquoia National Park?  Well not really.  This is one of the many cell towers throughout the area, they certainly stand out.

 

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Elder & Sister Howes are repenting of their constant complaining about their constant traveling. From now on we’re putting a positive twist on whatever we’re given.

I’ve been everywhere!

Do you remember that great song by Johnny Cash?

I’ve been everywhere, man.
I’ve been everywhere, man.
Crossed the desert’s bare, man.
I’ve breathed the mountain air, man.
Of travel I’ve had my share, man.
I’ve been everywhere.

Well he’s got nothing on us.  We’ve been to: Amsterdam  Athens  Belfast  Berlin  Bethlehem  Bombay  Boston  Cairo  Charlotte  Chili  Columbia  Cuba  Delhi  Florida  Frankfort  Geneva  Greece  Lebanon  Lima  Lisbon  Madrid  Mexico  Milan  Montezuma  Naples  Norway  Ogden  Ohio  Paris  Perth  Peru  Philadelphia  Sweden Pompey  Preston  Rotterdam  Russia  Sidney  Stockholm  Sweden  Wales  Warsaw Washington  Waterloo and that’s just in New York wait till we add the places in New Jersey and Connecticut not to mention travel to New York and what we may yet see for the next 5 month’s.

Our newest best friend is a man from Mexico that fills our car every two days in Mahwah, New Jersey.  When he sees us pull into the station he guides us into the first available space (much to the chagrin of those waiting in line).  Screen Shot 2014-03-02 at 6.23.25 PMIt probably doesn’t hurt that Sister Howes gives him a tip every time we fill up (I think she’s trying to make his house payment).

Zone Conference

We still get much needed opportunities to be involved with the “missionary” training and guidance that comes during Zone Conferences.  Zone Conferences are held in three locations.  We have three couples in the office, giving each of us the opportunity to participate in one.  We were pleased to attend with our Zones from the north of the Mission (were we continue to live) and hear the young missionaries speak about Consecration.  We had lunch with our northern Zones were we sing, Called to Serve, to those who prepared and fed us lunch and then sang Happy Birthday to those that have birthdays within the the three month period between conferences.

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We got to visit with current and former Missionaries who served in New Paltz.

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But the highlight for the Zone Conference was a reunion with our own Elder Miller.  Sorry Mom and Dad we’re claiming him as our own, for now.

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I was surprised to see how much this young man is looking like his Dad.  I had never noticed this before.  No worries Dad, he’s a good looking guy.

Our new challenge….finding and closing apartments.

Our mission has (for the most part) hit it’s peak on the number of Missionaries.  We are now at about 260 young Missionaries with about 100 apartments.  Our challenge is finding better apartments and improving the living circumstances of the companionships by insuring cleaner and apartments that are located within the areas the Missionaries serve in.  Finding apartments within the City of New York is a real challenge.  We look at about 10 apartments for every one that is acceptable and then we have to fight the battle of them renting to us because we are a Corporation (landlords find it harder to sue a Corporation).  After that we fight a battle on naming occupants (who constantly change) under what is termed Section 8 rules of rent control.

We are closing apartments because we are losing our Senior Missionaries at an alarming rate.  We once had 17 couples and by the end of May we will have only 10 with one leaving every couple of month’s after that with no signs of relief.  We lost two Sister Missionaries who were doing record retention recently and vacated their apartment at the end of their service.

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In case this looks familiar, this is the apartment that we lived in when we first came out over a year ago.  We were sad to let this apartment go.  First because it was our first home in New York and second because it was such a nice apartment and they are so hard to find.

Whoever said getting there is half the fun…Didn’t drive in New York

It’s been another week of driving in the snow and ice. What was a two to two and a half hour drive back and forth to the Mission Office has turned into two to three, and why you might ask?

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A picture is worth a thousand words.  Traffic slows to a crawl as motorist try not to hit or have to drive through some of the caverness holes in the roads.   To make matters worse the traffic doesn’t stop for crews to fix the pot holes and when they do stop the traffic the result is just that, traffic at a stop.

A Break is as good as a Vacation

During the past week we were unable to get to the office on Thursday and Friday because of snow. We got about 24 inches on Thursday and another 12 on Friday.

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Elder Howes cleaned of the car after the first snow on Thursday and then again on Friday and ended up (along with the young Elders) spending four hours helping  others dig their cars out as the snow plows cleaned off the parking lot.  One of the side benefits was meeting all of the neighbors that we have seen for the past year but not actually met.  We had so much snow that we began to run out of parking places as they plowed snow into parking areas.  Before the week was over the Apartment management company brought in dump trucks and loaded up truck loads to haul away.

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Before                                                                    After

While we spent the past few days away from the Mission Office we still had to work (besides clearing snow).  Since we are the closest members to the New Paltz Chapel we often get called on to help when there are problems with the building.  Such was the case during the snow storm.  We got called to open the building and make a path for others to enter.

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Dead Phone

Elder Howes’ phone very unceremoniously quit working completely.  No worries, Verizon promised a replacement for my “antique phone” which has been out of circulation for several years.  When the phone arrived, as promised, we thought they had made a mistake and sent us a small screen TV or a tablet.  Oh well it was replaced for free.  Hope that it will come out of a pocket when it rings or better yet hope that it will even go in a pocket.

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The bad news of having a phone go completely dead wasn’t the size of the replacement, it’s the fact that Elder Howes has absolutely no contacts in the replacement.  So if you hope to ever hear from him, you’ll have to call, text or email him your number.

Doctrine and Covenants 29:33-35

33 Speaking unto you that you may naturally understand; but unto myself my works have no bend, neither beginning; but it is given unto you that ye may understand, because ye have asked it of me and are agreed.

34 Wherefore, verily I say unto you that all things unto me are spiritual, and not at any time have I given unto you a law which was temporal; neither any man, nor the children of men; neither Adam, your father, whom I created.

35 Behold, I gave unto him that he should be an agent unto himself; and I gave unto him commandment, but no temporal commandment gave I unto him, for my commandments are spiritual; they are not natural nor temporal, neither carnal nor sensual.

As we serve in our current assignment, we have missed our involvement in “Missionary work”.  As we drive, which is a huge part of what we do, we have discussed that we now miss all of the things that we once grumbled about.  We use to comment that we did so many things that the Branch and Stake members should do to build their confidence and experience.  We now look forward to every request and assignment that gives us the opportunity to teach and be involved spiritually.

Housing Coordinators………

We now have taken complete responsibility for the 91 properties that the Mission uses to house our Missionaries with all of their challenges.  We have rats (that some describe as being as big as your arm???), Landlords that hate Mormons, leaky pipes, broken furniture and messy Missionaries.  Isn’t it great!  The scripture above has given us comfort.  We know that the Lord is confident in us and is aware of us and especially those that we serve.

We still drive more than ever.   We have been driving to the City on Sunday evenings to avoid the traffic on Monday mornings which makes a difference of one hour. Hence we have not had a time to update our blog for the past month.  We plan to do better but we are subject to forces outside of our control (weather, traffic and household complaints).

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On the way to work and on the way home.

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Two dash-board photos.  Notice the temperature on the one to the left and it warmed up on the way down the Bronx River Parkway shown to the right.  And also notice (Mom & Dad) the speed.  Elder Howes is actually driving under the speed limit.  On the other hand he is taking a picture while driving on the narrowest two lane road you’ve ever seen.

Dodged an apartment assignment.

We had an apartment assigned to us in Yonkers, NY by virtue of the couple leaving who performed the job we’re now assigned to.  We actually spent a number of nights at this place which saved us many hours fighting traffic and weather but we still have a MLS (Member, Leader Support) assignment in New Paltz which requires either Elder or Sister Howes to be there two evenings a week and all weekends.  Sister Howes tried very hard to find this spot acceptable but did not.

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We were asked at our last transfer to prepare a home that had been obtained during the last transfer for two more Sister Missionaries only to discover that they had no parking.  Instead of moving two additional Sister into that apartment we gave up ours for the four in that area.  Now what to do with an extra King sized bed.

A Luxembourg Visit for GiGi

Even before our current assignment was requested by the President, Ashley, Oliver and Kevin had told us that they would visit at the end of January.  Unfortunately, they came during two snow storms and in the middle of transfers.  Fortunately, Sister Howes was able to take those days off and enjoy Oliver and Ashley.  She began the collection of items to keep Oliver happy and Ashley and Kevin fed weeks before they arrived.

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And Elder Howes always took pride in his packing abilities, Sister Howes put him to shame.  Does anyone know the definition of a blivit (10 pounds in a 5 pound bag).

And then there were the toys.

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The guests of honor.

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And of course everything you do when you have a two year old is controlled by the youngest and smallest.

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A wintertime visit to West Point Academy.

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A visit to ToysRUs.  Remember they live in Luxembourg.

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He even felt comfortable when Papa brought home the Zone transfers during a snow storm.

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Well sort of.

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But he did make himself right at home.  And Gigi was in heaven right until the end.  And at the end the snows came again.

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Missionary Accidents…………

Part of Elder Howes’ responsibilities is helping with cars.  We have discovered the number one reason for accidents is Missionaries hitting Missionaries.  And this with back-up assistants.

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Elder Kohli couldn’t Holdaway in the snow and ran into the Sisters.  Sister Holdaway.  We now call him Elder Kohlision.

Bipolar Weather

We remember one of the Weather News casters in SLC saying “if you don’t like the weather in Utah wait five minutes, it will change”. Well Utah has nothing on New York. Except the extremes.

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Most of the news focuses on the New York City area, with good reason, with all the people.  However, up North, were we live, out extremes are more dramatic.  It was 10 in the New York area but -9 in New Paltz on Monday and in the 60’s on Saturday.  The good news for us is that all we do anymore is sleep in New Paltz, the rest of our time is spent in the City.  We have seen some very interesting sights as we travel around.

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Notice how the snow has disappeared in the last picture?  Days of snow and freezing temperatures and then 60″s with rain and all the snow is gone.  REPEAT over and over.  As we went out looking at apartments with one of our realtors told us that the Weather had Bipolar Decease.  Seemed appropriate.

We Didn’t know how great we had it!

As we have told you we have been transfered and we will soon move to Yonkers.  As we look at apartments we have decided that we had it really good in Goshen and New Paltz.  To find apartments in the City we are forced to use either Realtors or word of mouth from Ward members in the areas where apartments are needed.  Then begins the challenge of convincing the Management companies that they should lease/rent to the Corporation of the Presiding Bishopric.  Most don’t want anything to do with this.  Not because of the Church, just in general.  It’s harder to sue a corporation.  We get shown some very interesting apartments.

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This apartment, under renovation (obviously), was supposed to be ready in two weeks??????

But we also see some incredible buildings.

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As cool as the buildings and entryways are, the apartments make up for it, there “less good”.

We Just Thought We Drove A Lot Before…….

This is what we see for five to six hours everyday.

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Most everything we see is from the inside of the car.  Since November 8th we have averaged 1100 miles a week.  We leave our apartment in New Paltz before 7am in the morning for a two hour trip into the office and usually leave the office at around 5-6pm for another two hour trip home.  We now have become very acquainted with the City and are less stressed about finding places where we need to find or deliver supplies.  When we  came to New York, Sister Howes’ car had about 20000 miles and now has over 70000 and we still have 6 more months.  Time is flying by.

We miss our association with Missionary Work through the Young Missionaries!

We know that we’re needed doing what we have been assigned for the last few months of our mission but we do miss association with our young Missionaries, Zone meeting, District meeting and our teaching assignments with them.

We had a real treat during the past week as President Morgan invited us to “Leadership Counsel”.  We were associated with many of the Zone Leaders and Sister Training leaders through their assignments in our area but we met many more of these great young men and women that labor in this Mission.

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It reminded of why were out here and the importance of keeping these young men and women located where they can do their work and also keeping them safe and comfortable.  I guess we’ll keep showing up for work.

Weather……has become Our Enemy!

We spend at least 4 hours in the car each day traveling back and forth to the Mission office in Scarsdale from New Paltz and often much more as we hunt for apartments. The weather has been cold and icy on the roads. Elder Howes has learned to slow down (at least during the storms).

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One morning as we traveled into the office, we were traveling at the speed limit in the right lane of the Thruway when a Semi came up quickly behind us and swerved left and around us.  The Semi was followed by a small white car who tried to do the same.  As he approached he too swerved left to go around us but just kept going left into the guardrail and then back across to the other guardrail like a pinball.  Sister Howes, who was reading her Kindle, raised her head and asked why our rear windshield wiper was making so much noise?  The next morning we made our way to the office on a smaller road so that we could stop and inspect an apartment where the property owner was complaining about the cleanliness (for good reasons).  As we came around a corner we came upon a bad accident in Garrison New York.

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One of the vehicles had crossed over the center and three cars met head-on.  Several of the people were thrown from their vehicles but it was a miracle that no one was killed.  We have watched the news to discover that all survived.  We however were stuck on this small road for several hours.  We finally got turned around and found a dirt road that led us around the accident.  The silver lining was that we got to see Garrison New York.

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We enjoyed our travels with the find of Garrison despite the tragic accident.  We arrived at the missionary apartment to discover that they have a rustic apartment overlooking the Hudson River with a Nuclear Power Plant in the distance.  The Apartment was a Nuclear disaster area all on it’s own.  Sister Howes loaded 7 bags of garbage in a half and hour.

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Christmas Eve and Christmas Day

All of the Staff in the Mission Office spent the days proceeding Christmas managing the packages being sent to Missionaries.  On Christmas Eve, Elder & Sister Howes filled the SUV with packages for 4 of our Zones and set out to Connecticut to deliver.  We then went to two Zones closest to our apartment and delivered the remainder.  We and our New Paltz Missionaries were invited to a members house to celebrate.  We arrived late after our deliveries but the food was great.

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Our Hosts.   The Quillen’s ……….          Our Elder Quorum President & Wife.  The Guiglotto’s

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Our Sister Missionaries… Sister Lopez and Sister Holdaway.  Our Elders Kohli and Johnson are pictured top left above eating, of course.

Christmas Day

We had a great Christmas Day.  We got up from 12:30am to 2:30am to FaceTime with our Luxembourg crew to watch Oliver open his presents.  He got a Mini-Grand Piano (like Schoder’s) after that it was difficult to get him away from it long enough to open anything else.  We think that it was the first time we have seen him excited to open gifts.

We made breakfast for our Missionaries and they arrived at 9am to eat and to begin to call family on Skype or FaceTime.  A few tears were shed as they talked to their families.  But Elder & Sister Howes finally got control of their emotions and we went on to have a great day playing games and enjoying stories.

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On the day after Christmas we went into the City to look for an apartment and found ourselves going down both 5th and 8th Avenue.

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Pictures from New York City’s Christmas decorations.  Taken by Sister Howes while Elder Howes is trying to get “away”…..as fast as he could.  We hope and pray that your Christmas celebration had the Spirit of Christ.

A Season of…Change!

We learned a few days after out last post that we would be transferred. Our Mission President, President Morgan, called as we were walking out the door with our young missionaries for an appointment. He ask us to move to the Mission Office to take over managing Mission apartments. He then asked us to report to the office on the following Monday morning for Staff meeting.  On our first day we learned that we would travel 84 miles one way to the Mission Office with the traffic.  After saying this a few times it feels like telling you that we walked to school everyday – uphill both ways and that’s the way it feels.  We spend even more time in the car than ever before most of this traveling back and forth from the office.  We have traded.

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Our Old Office                                                Our New Office

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Housing that looks like this.                                       To housing that now looks like this.

We’re grateful for the time that we had to enjoy the country side of New York and now look forward to a faster pace in the City.  We’ll now move to the City and commute to New Paltz only on weekends to fulfill our callings until a new couple arrives to replace us.

A visit Home….

Both Elder & Sister Howes’ moms have had health issues and we wanted to make a visit to surprise them.  Mission accomplished.  We caught a flight home out of Albany that took us through Washington DC.  As we prepared to change planes Elder Howes spotted two familiar faces and as unlikely as it may be we were all on the same flight into Salt Lake.

IMG_0899Elder & Sister Winters were on their way home from Bosnia and Herzegovina after serving as Humanitarian Missionaries for 18 months.  What a treat for us to fly home with one another and be able to “catch-up”.  Because we were on the same flight “we” had a welcoming committee at the Airport.  Awesome.

The next morning we called Sister Howes’ Mom and learned that they were at Home Depot but were headed to Walmart.  As they made there way, we caught up with them and pulled into Walmart behind them.  Somehow Sister Howes’ sister recognized us through the rear view mirror and pulled over for a reunion.  It was great.

This was followed by a similar call to Elder Howes’ Mom and Dad, as we talked about the weather we pulled into their driveway, walked up to the back door with their little Yorkie yapping away at us through the door.  As Dad Howes went to calm his yapping dog we popped in and surprised them.  They too were grateful to see us.

We also got the opportunity to attend our home ward for Fast and Testimony meeting.  It was really great to see so many of the people that we love but we both felt that we were in the wrong place.  Our calling and assignment is New York and as hard is it may be to understand we were grateful to return.

Christmas Devotional

During our visit home Elder Howes worked to coordinate the transportation of all of our missionaries to Ossining New York.  Our missionaries are split between those that don’t drive (because they live in the City) and those that do (because they live in the countryside).  Elder Howes’ assignment was to effectively match them up at a Metro train station 40 miles out of the City so that they could meet together at the Ossining Chapel for a Christmas Devotional.  Mission accomplished.

We have so many talented young men and women.  Concert performers.  Pianists, Violinists, Singers and many other instruments were played to a choreographed musical program that was as professional as any you could pay to see.

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But then came the work of feeding 270 missionaries.  The Senior couples all came together to prepare and then to serve this mass.  It was a great and successful Devotional.

Army vs Navy

The couple serving as the Military Relations Missionaries completed their mission just before the Army Navy football game in Philadelphia and asked if we would chaperon the Cadets for this outing with the Midshipmen.

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Pictured above are most of the LDS Cadets and Midshipmen in a Chapel in Philadelphia after Army got hammered by Navy (they took it well).  Perhaps you can tell by their Uniforms that it was VERY cold and wet for this game.  We drove both ways in a tremendous snow and ice storm but all went safely for the commute.

A change of Seasons with Snow and Ice Storms

It turned very cold very quickly in New York.  This began when we left for Utah at the end of November.  We had enjoyed an “Indian Summer” Fall up to that point but when we retuned it was bitterly cold.

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We hear that the weather at home is also cold and snowy but that last few pictures show the Ice storm that came through.  The ice was 1/2 inch thick on all of the cars.  It was interesting cleaning them off.  All we did is scrap around the edges and then push the ice off in sheets.  A new experience for us.