Sunday, March 29, 2020

Wait, What's Happening Now? Our Missionaries Are Home!

This last week has been supercalifragilisticexpialidocious in the extreme.

Sunday 7-8pm: We received the following email from both Hannah and John's mission presidents:
March 22, 2020
In accordance with the latest announcements issued by the First Presidency with temporary adjustments made to missionary work and in response to the rapid increase of travel advisories and restrictions emerging around the world, the following steps are being taken in regards to foreign missionaries serving in Brazil:
  • All missionaries returning to the United States and Canada who have more than 180 days left to complete their mission will be temporarily reassigned after their arrival. Missionaries who have less than 180 days left on their mission will be released.
  • All sister missionaries returning to the United States and Canada who have less than 90 days left to complete their mission should be released. Sister missionaries who have more than 90 days left on their mission will be temporarily reassigned after their arrival.
  • All missionaries who return to the United States and Canada must be quarantined for 14 days upon their arrival. 
We will immediately communicate the flight itinerary to each missionary's stake president as soon as flights are confirmed.
We extend our gratitude, love and earnest pleading that the Holy Ghost may comfort us all at this time.
President Acosta/ Horsely
Monday 1:30pm: We received Hannah's flight itinerary. She would leave Brazil that evening and arrive home the next morning at 11am. Our efforts to prepare space for her and John here at home suddenly jumped in priority. The bunk bed that had been taken down when the carpets were replaced was re-erected in the boys room, to provide space for the three boys to once again share a room. Hannah's room was returned to a state where she could return to it. We decided to quarantine the entire family for the next 14 days. Before entering into that quarantine, I made a trip to the grocery store in an attempt to make sure we would have enough food for two additional people to last the next two weeks.

Monday 7:30pm: We received a confusing call from John's mission president... we figured out later that John was also supposed to leave that evening, but because his itinerary hadn't been sent to him (or us) he had missed the flight. He would spend that night at the mission office.

Tuesday 11am: We pick Hannah up from the airport. The airport itself was ominously empty so there wasn't much difficulty finding her, especially after she borrowed someone's cell phone to call me. It was wonderful to be able to hug her after the almost 17 months she had been away.

Tuesday 6:30pm: Hannah was officially released by our stake president via video conference. It was a bittersweet experience for her because her mission was cut short at the beginning of what had promised to be a productive time - in a new area with a new companion, with a baptism already scheduled and more that would be coming soon, and she wasn't mentally prepared for this change to happen so soon.

Tuesday 2pm: We received John's flight itinerary. He would leave Brazil that evening and arrive home around noon the following day.

Wednesday noon: We picked up John from the airport, carefully keeping at least six feet away from everyone, which wasn't much of a problem because once again the airport was almost empty. We brought him home and began our official quarantine.

Thursday to present: All six of us are here at home. For some reason it feels a little more crowded than it did when the six of us were all home before the kids started leaving the nest. Of course, the kids were smaller then. Peter is now officially the tallest kid in the family, having passed Hannah some time in the last 18 months. (Steven is still the tallest in the family while I am now the shortest.)

John was not released as a missionary so we are attempting to help him abide by mission rules during this quarantine period. Like many around the world right now, we struggle to keep ourselves occupied while quarantined. Steven continues to work from home, so he is kept occupied for much of the day. I helped sew masks as part of a RS service project this week. Hannah and John have enjoyed communicating in Portuguese with each other and comparing their experiences in Brazil. The younger boys have spent a lot of time playing games on the computer. (This past week has been their spring break. Remote learning will begin in a few days.) Peter and John have played a lot of non-computer games. Hannah has spent much time using technology to connect with friends from her mission and before. One highlight of the last few days was yesterday afternoon when the entire family went to a nearby park for a game of volleyball. It was a relief to be out of the house, in the open. Of course we kept our distance from the few other people who were also enjoying some fresh air in the park.

So here we are, awaiting another week or so of quarantine. We fast today for relief from this virus that has swept the world. We look forward to the day when we all can resume our lives, when John can return to active duty in the mission field. Josh and Peter recently got parts in school plays, and our hope that somehow they will be able to actually participate in the productions. But whether that happens or not, we will continue on, trusting in God.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Preparing for Quarantines

I'm feeling the need to write, to document my thoughts and feelings right now, but it is hard to figure out exactly what those feeling are. Things have changed so fast that my thoughts are still whirling. There are so many things I feel like I need to figure out, and I don't know what to do. Two weeks ago, who would have guessed that I would be preparing for both my missionary children to be returning home?

We received word Sunday night that missionaries from the US currently serving in Brazil will be returned to their home country. Those who are within 180 days of their release date (Hannah) will return home and be released. Those with more than 180 days left (John) will return home for two weeks quarantine, after which they will be temporarily reassigned to a mission in the US. Hopefully that means that he will be able to return to Brazil once the corona virus threat has passed. It will pass, right?

We've been given instructions for the returning missionaries' quarantine:
Parents or guardians should go to the airport alone to meet a returning missionary and practice safe social distancing while there. That way, the missionary is able to properly begin self-isolation. Upon returning home, missionaries should strictly follow the self-isolation recommendations of the CDC, which include limiting contact with others and avoiding leaving their homes for any reason. They are encouraged to stay in a well-ventilated room, preferably alone. If that isn't possible, the missionary should stay six feet away from others in the room. They should use good hygiene and regularly wash their hands. If a missionary develops any symptoms of a respiratory illness, they should contact a local health provider.
We ask families, friends and community members to help support and encourage missionaries to follow these guidelines to help prevent any potential spread of illness and to keep missionaries and those around them safe.
How do we do this? Giving Hannah her old room back won't be a big problem, but that leaves the three boys in the other bedroom... where it will be hard to stay six feet away from each other.  The room is about 12' x 8', but with three boys in there? Yeah, that's not likely to work. If John stood in the middle of the room, no one else could be in the room with him.

Would it be bad to put Hannah and John both in the same room to be quarantined together for those two weeks? We could put the two of them in the bigger bedroom with two windows so better ventilation, and put Josh and Peter on the bunk beds in the smaller bedroom. If they were the same gender, that would be perfect... but they're not.

The other possibility as I see it is isolating the entire family and for most of us that wouldn't be too hard... but Steven tried working at home for a week and he was so sore from the poor conditions in his "home office" that he gave up and today he sneaked back to his office to work there. At home he just doesn't have the leg room, desk height, comfortable chair support, monitors, privacy, or whatever other resources he needs to be comfortable working for any sustained length of time. 

Am I over thinking this? What to do? What to do?

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

More Letters

I find that when I'm writing letters to the kids each week to let them know what's going on, it is harder for me to blog for some reason... maybe because I'm writing it, I don't feel the need to write it again. So here I copy and paste the last month of letters to them for you:

Feb 16, 2020: Travel Plans, Sickness, Jury Duty and a hamster

Dear Hannah and John,

Hello! How are you?

Hannah - we got your travel plans this week!!! You leave Brazil on April 28th and arrive here mid morning on the 29th. We have an appointment with Pres. Moon that evening at 6:30pm for your official release. You get to speak in our ward on Mother's Day. Of course, this doesn't mean you can get trunky or anything. You still have 72 days to go - so make the best of them!

Also, after having only elders in the ward for the last several months, we got sister missionaries this past week. Hopefully we'll still have sister missionaries in the ward when you return so you can go out with them and continue with that missionary spirit.

As far as news this past week, I was sick, so spent most of the week sleeping, coughing, reading, and drinking lots of fluids. Wednesday evening I was feeling a little better and went to parent-teacher conferences, but returned home feeling exhausted. Josh stayed home from school sick on Wednesday, but either he didn't get it as bad as Peter and I did, or he just is more resilient because he was feeling well enough to go back to school the next day.

On Thursday I got to go to jury duty. I was still coughing, but not feeling quite as bad as I had been. I drove out there on slushy, snowy roads, but arrived safely. I got through security and to the jury assembly room. I turned in my information card and got my "JUROR" sticker. Then I went to sit for a while. They showed a movie about the joys of being part of the judicial system. Then they called up the first group of 25 people to fill out a questionnaire. My name was called near the end of that first group. A few minutes after I turned in my questionnaire they had our group line up by the door, and we played follow the leader to the elevators and then up to a court room on the second floor. After sitting on benches in the hall for a little while, they had the first 12 people line up in order and had them enter the courtroom and sit in the juror box. The rest of us sat in the "observer" area of the courtroom. The judge came in and explained some things about the case, and then the lawyers each took a turn to ask the jurors lots of questions. Finally, the lawyers went back to their seats, conferred for a few minutes, and then six of the people in the juror box were chosen to stay and all the rest of us were excused to go home. The whole thing took less than two hours. I think I'd like to have the chance to actually serve on a jury someday.

Last night Linda, Jaydon and Emma came for dinner. They are currently living with Grandma and Grandpa in Orem, but were in the Denver area for the weekend to visit friends. I was glad they came because it seems like ages since I've seen Linda and I really like her. They brought a hamster with them and at first they were concerned about what the cats would do with it, but by the end of their visit, they put the hamster almost nose to nose with Ishmael, and they just kind of sniffed at each other.

I think that's all the real news. I hope you both are doing well, and I wish you the best!

Love, Mom

Feb 23, 2020: Books, HOA, organ, music, pray!

Dear Hannah and John,

Hello! How are you? I hope everything is going well there. 

So I was trying to think of what has happened this week. It was Dad's last week of work, but he'll tell you all about that. I read Alcatraz and the evil librarians this week, and really enjoyed it. I've put the rest of the series on hold at the library so I can read them too. While I'm waiting, I've been rereading the Artemis Fowl books.

On Tuesday evening your dad and I went to an HOA meeting. A few years ago, Arlene (who used to work in the office here) retired and the HOA went to a management company, and it was just horrible. People would call or email with a problem and get no response at all. It felt like they weren't taking care of anything, and while we used to get HOA newsletters on a regular basis, I haven't received anything from them in about a year and a half. Anyways, at the HOA meeting, they announced that they had hired a brand new management company. Representatives from the company were there at the meeting and it sounds like they are going to do a much better job. They have an online portal where we can log in to pay fees, make maintenance requests - and track their progress! Anyway, compared to the company we had before, anything would be an improvement, but I have high hopes.

Today I got to play the organ in sacrament meeting for the first time. I've had about a month and a half to practice, but it was still a little nerve wracking. There weren't any major mishaps, but I learned a few things I need to work on. And there are a few things I'd like to teach the young women who conduct the music. Anyway, Brother Cleverley told me I did a good job, so if he didn't have too much to complain about, I must have done a decent job.

In primary, the kids are learning a new song, called "Liken the Scriptures". I've been practicing it for a few weeks, and it is so catchy, it has been stuck in my head. The kids really like it, and even though there are fewer than a dozen kids in primary, they sang it today with so much energy that they could probably be heard all the way to the YW rooms!

I guess that is all the news for this week. I chose our scripture for this week. It is Alma 37:37. "Counsel with the Lord in all thy doings, and he will direct thee for good; yea, when thou liest down at night lie down unto the Lord, that he may watch over you in your sleep; and when thou risest in the morning let thy heart be full of thanks unto God; and if ye do these things, ye shall be lifted up at the last day." Remember that the Lord can help you with your struggles and challenges if you will counsel with him - ask for help, but then pay attention to the answers he gives. Learn to recognize how the Spirit speaks to you, and he will guide you!

Love you both!

March 1, 2020: House, Plays, and Photos

Dear Hannah and John,

How are you? How is the work going? John - are you getting transferred? Hannah, how are things with your companion? Are there people for whom we should be praying?

Our week has been an eventful one. Dad took the week off before he starts his new job, but it wasn't a leisurely vacation. We packed up pretty much everything on bookshelves, desks, dressers, shelves, etc. We emptied closets and disassembled furniture, and even discovered haunted-house-worthy cobwebs. We taped plastic drop cloths to walls (sometimes repeatedly when the tape didn't stick as long as we wanted it to.) Dad textured the ceilings, and then we painted them, not really worrying about the floors at all. There were a couple days when the kitchen was so full of furniture and stuff that had been removed from other rooms, that we couldn't get in to prepare meals, and so we ate out.

Finally, on Friday, the carpet installers came and spent six hours or so ripping out the old carpet and putting in the new. I love it! It is dark enough to hide the dirt, and it looks great. We're still emptying boxes and putting stuff away, but I took a few photos so you can get an idea of what the new carpet looks like.

Josh hasn't been around to help much with the house project... I had to pack up most of his room myself. He would leave for seminary in the morning and not return home until around 9pm. Performances were Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and we went to see it on Friday. I really enjoyed it. Ethan (Pugsley) did a great job as the voice of the plant. Seymour was played by Josh's friend, Jorian L. Margot S. played Audrey, Jackson D. was her dentist boyfriend. Jason H. was one of the business men trying to get Seymour to sign a contract, and sang and danced. Sarah E. was one of the doo-wop girls and got to do a lot of singing and dancing. Dad took pictures of the set, including the fire escape (on the left of the bottom picture), that Josh built. (BTW, Ms Dill asked about you both.)

Did I mention that I was doing a color photo challenge with some of my sisters? I think so... the color for February was yellow, and it was a challenge to find photo worthy things that are yellow. March will likely be even harder - the color for this month is turquoise!

I think that's all for now. Love you both!

March 8, 2020 (Untitled)

Dear Hannah and John,

How are things going? I hope the work is going well. John, how are you getting along with your new companion?

As I'm sure Dad will tell you, he completed his first week at his new job. I love having him work so close to home. We were able to take turns taking the boys to seminary in the mornings. Friday was our temple night, and he was able to get home from work, start some pizza dough, eat dinner and change before we had to leave, and he wasn't already stressed out and tired from a long drive already.

Yesterday morning we attended a ward service project. They passed around sign-up sheets a few weeks ago for donations of things like jerky, socks, deodorant and water bottles, and then on Saturday we divided them all into zip-loc bags to donate to a shelter. They also had some fleece blankets for us to tie the fringe around the edges. The entire activity only took about an hour total, but it was fun.

We also had the sister missionaries over for lunch yesterday. They had a conference with a member of the 70s in the evening so they asked if we could do lunch instead. Of course we're flexible. We made pizza, and Dad even let them decorate the last one before he stuck it in the oven.

John, I finished reading the Alcatraz vs the Evil Librarians series this week. I really enjoyed it, but Brandon Sanderson really needs to finish writing that last book. I looked it up online; he is working on it, and it *might* be published by the time you get home.

Also Hannah - did you forget to click 'send' on your email last week? We never got it...

Anyway, I hope all is well with the both of you.
I love you!!!!

March 15, 2020: Pandemic II, IRL

Dear Hannah and John,

Hannah, I don't know if you will actually be able to read this this week. We received word from your mission that you weren't supposed to visit internet cafes. John, it was fun to hear from you briefly on Friday. I hope the bread recipe worked out for you. Both of you, we hope that you are doing well and following the instructions of your mission presidents: washing hands frequently, not touching your face, keeping things clean, not touching others, and generally protecting yourself.

Things here have been weird with how fast this whole virus thing has exploded. The week started out pretty normal, but as the week went on, email after email came out with news of new closures. The boys had Friday off school for a teacher in-service, but we got an email Friday that they would start spring break a week early, so they will have both this week and next off. Peter was disappointed because he and Josh both got into one-acts, but he doesn't even have the script yet to start memorizing lines, and with the way things are going, we don't know if one acts will even take place. The one-act Peter got into was called "If it don't hurt, it ain't love" directed by Joshua B. Josh is in "Bad auditions by bad actors" directed by Kirk N.

As you probably know, church, seminary, and all church activities have been cancelled until further notice. Today for our family-centered sacrament meeting we each prepared a talk to share, and Brother Keddington came over and helped Josh to bless and pass the sacrament. President Nelson told us six months ago that General Conference this April would be memorable - but I think it will be even more memorable than he knew. No one will be admitted to the conference center; everyone will need to watch it broadcast. The MTC is no longer receiving new missionaries; they will either be delayed or have to learn remotely. Missionaries in heavily hit areas (like Japan and Italy) are being quarantined, sent home, or reassigned.

The Anythink library has a sign on the door saying it is closed until April 6th. Our monthly HOA meeting has been cancelled. We've been discouraged from going anywhere that will have lots of people. So while Dad "gets" to go to work, the rest of us will have to find things to do here at home. It's bizarre that a virus that for most people is just like a bad cold could disrupt so many lives globally. I went to Safeway on Friday to pick up some milk and a few other groceries, and it was the most crowded place I visited all week. I understand that grocery store shelves have been emptied as people stock up before isolating themselves for the next few weeks. Luckily we have plenty of nonperishable food here at home.

I hope that you continue to be productive, somehow. I pray for you and those whom you teach.

Love you both,

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Do You Recognize This Book?

Have you ever read a book, and thoroughly enjoyed it, and wanted to share it with other people, but then realized that other people who don't have your same sense of humor might not appreciate it, think it was stupid, and thus think you are stupid for recommending it, and so you don't share it after all? But then did you ever wonder if anyone else you know has read that book as well and enjoyed it as much as you did?

We are planning on replacing the carpet in our home next week, and in preparation I've been boxing up the contents of our bookshelves in order to make them easier to move. That has left me with a shortage of reading material, and so I went browsing in my boys' rooms (I haven't packed anything there yet) for something to read. I came across a book that I know John likes, but I had never read before, although I have read other books by the same author. This one was geared for younger readers, however, and I had ignored it.

So I decided to read it, and I just finished it this morning. (I was reading it until bedtime last night, and begrudgingly put it down for the night, but I couldn't wait to pick it up again this morning.) It was a lot of fun - not that the story itself was over-the-top amazing, although it was definitely interesting, but the writer's style throughout was very entertaining. The author frequently goes off on little tangents, with an engaging mix of truth and irony that may or may not have anything to do with the actual story being told. It kind of reminded me of Lemony Snicket, although this was not him.

Here is a sample, from the beginning of chapter 18:
The book is almost done. 
The ending of a book is, in my experience, both the best and the worst part to read. For the ending will often decide whether you love or hate the book.  
Both emotions lead to disappointment. If the ending was good, and the book was worth your time, then you are left annoyed and depressed because there is no more book to read. However, if the ending was bad, then it's too late to stop reading. You're left annoyed and depressed because you wasted so much time on a book with a bad ending. 
Therefore, reading is obviously worthless, and you should go spend your time on other, more valuable pursuits. I hear that algebra is good for you. Kind of like humility, plus factoring. Regardless, you will soon know whether to hate me for not writing more, or whether to hate me for writing too much. Please confine all assassination attempts to the school week, as I would rather not die on a Saturday. 
No need to spoil a good weekend.*
If you recognize this quote, if you've read this book and enjoyed it also, congratulations, we have something in common! If not and you can't imagine why anyone would want to, my apologies. Please close your browser and go on with your normally scheduled life.

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

A Change of Employment

Guest post by Steven Hiatt

When I started work at my current job my boss was a guy named Kevin. He left the company a little over a year ago but in early January he reached out to me and offered to take me to lunch to "catch up". At that lunch he told me about the new place he is working at and about the people that are working there and in the course of the conversation mentioned that they had a need for someone with my skills and would I even be open to leaving MDC? I have been at my current job for over six years now and for the most part I have liked the job. I liked having Kevin for a boss, but the boss I have now I feel doesn't understand what I do or what my skills are. Plus I work on the other side of town which usually means about 45 minutes to an hour commute each way. The office where Kevin now works? About three miles from my house.

So I told him I would at least be interested in hearing what they had to say and so Kevin organized an interview with me and the CFO. Of all the job interviews I've had in my life this one was the least stressful. It was also the first where the company reached out to me instead of me applying to them. It made it more casual just like a conversation where he talked about the company and the things they were doing and I talked about some of my experiences and what I like doing. It was not a typical stuffy interview where they ask you a bunch of questions while you try to sell yourself. I hate that.

A week after the first interview I came back and met two other people from the company - the manager I would be reporting to and another guy in the department. It would basically be the three of us doing a lot of the financial reporting, creating dashboards, coming up with forecast models and other stuff. Again the interviews were very casual and I got along great with both of them and they seemed to like what I had to say.

The company is Concrete Pumping Holdings which operates Brundage-Bone Concrete Pumping and some other concrete related businesses. They are the largest operator of their kind in the US and even have locations in the UK. They just went public a year ago and are growing, so they need more manpower in their finance department and so that is where I come in. I would be doing similar work to what I'm doing now, but also have opportunity to do some more stuff that I want to do but at my current work is done by a different department.

Last week they offered me the job and I accepted. The salary is comparable to what I am currently making, but the big benefit will be less time spent driving to and from work. I will have more time in the mornings and evenings to do other stuff. I'll save a ton on gas. And if I don't want to drive, there is a bike path that goes from the park near our house to right across the street from the new office - almost all downhill on the way there and then I can get some exercise on the ride home. I can't wait.

So right now my last day at my current job will be February 21, and I will take off the last week of February to do some projects around the house. I will start my new job the first week of March.

Monday, February 10, 2020

Letters from Missionaries, A Template

Apparently it can be a difficult thing for a missionary to figure out what to write to their family and friends each week. I thought I would write up a sort of template (Madlib-ish style) of ideas for them to make it a little easier. (Of course they should feel free to elaborate on anything or skip anything that isn't relevant to them.)

Dear family and friends,

Hello, this is your favorite missionary in    (Mission Name/ Place)   . I'm currently serving in    (area)    with my companion, Elder/Sister    (name)   . He/she is    (adjective)    and we get along    (adverb)   . We struggle with    (verb ending in -ing)    but we are    (verb ending in -ing)    to do better. Something I really like about him/her is that he/she _________________________.

   (Name)    was baptized this week! Were were worried it wouldn't happen because ___________________ but it all turned out well in the end because ___________________.    (number)    people came to support him/her/them, including    (name)   . An interesting thing that happened at the baptism was ____________________________. Refreshments included    (food)  .

This week, we found    (name)     and started to teach him/her/them. He/She/They are about    (number)    years old, are married/single, have kids/pets/something else interesting about them. 

 We are also teaching    (name)    and they loved    (gospel principle)    but are struggling with    (gospel principle)   . We have a tentative baptism scheduled for    ( date)   .

On Sunday,    (name)    came to church. The talks/lessons were about    (gospel principle)   . I thought ____________________________.

At our    (type of meeting)    meeting/ conference this week we learned about    (gospel principle)  and we    (activity)   .

On P-day we    (activity)   . I thought it was    (adjective)   .

A new food I tried this week was    (food)   and I thought it was    (adjective)   .

An interesting/great/frustrating thing that happened this week was ____________________________.

Something I learned this week was _______________________.

We would really appreciate if you would pray for    (insert name or issue)    this week.

I know    (testimony)   !

Love/Sincerely/Yours truly/Best wishes/Yours in the gospel,
Elder/Sister          (name)            

Are there other things you would add to this letter? Other things they could write about?

Friday, January 24, 2020


Have you ever felt like you jinxed yourself? You thought something was under control, and next thing you know, it's not?

Sunday night, due to procrastination in getting a prescription refilled, I only had one of the two anti-seizure pills that I normally take every night. I remember thinking, "It's been over a year since my last seizure. If I can get through the next day or two without a seizure in spite of the half dose tonight, maybe they won't be a problem any more."

Monday around noon, my sister who also has seizures called, and again I found myself thinking about how long it had been since I'd had a seizure, and how nice that was.

Later that afternoon when I picked up my prescription, the pharmacist told me that my doctor wanted to talk with me. It had been several months since I last saw her, so on Tuesday morning I made an appointment for their first opening, in a few weeks.

Wednesday night, as I was falling asleep, I remember having a familiar dream (kind of like déjà vu) and recognizing it, thinking, "That's strange, this is that one dream - I only have it before a seizure..." And next thing I knew, Steven was calling my name and I had an awful buzzing in my ears and it was hard to think for a couple minutes. I'd had a seizure. *Sigh*

On Thursday I called the doctor's office back to let them know what had happened. I explained about having only taken the half dose on Sunday thinking that might have been the cause, although I had taken the regular dose every day before and after, but the doctor dismissed that saying the timing wasn't right - if that had caused it, I would have had the seizure on Monday or Tuesday.

She asked about other things that might have caused it - stress or change in sleeping habits, and I really couldn't think of anything. Since I was released from my Relief Society calling a month ago, I've actually had less stress in my life. Steven met with someone about a potential new job Thursday morning, but that was more stressful for him than for me. My sleeping habits hadn't changed - I try to stick to a fairly regular schedule. I really didn't know, unless just thinking about seizures and how long it had been since I'd had one over the last few days had brought it on and I'd jinxed myself. 

Anyway, she increased my dose of the medicine to 3 pills a day (1 in the morning as well as the 2 at night.) I'll go see her in a few weeks and we'll discuss it more then, I guess.