Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Saying Goodbye to a Friend

Right around the time that I was called as Primary President (leader of our church's children's group), Christy moved into our ward. A young mother with a couple young kids, she was God sent. I needed someone to serve as the primary chorister, the calling I had held previously, and in spite of her perceived lack of musical talent, she was willing to serve. She did a great job, with lots of fun activities for the primary children while teaching them the gospel through music. 

Over the next several years we became friends. Although her growing family is younger than mine, we both attended play groups and other activities. Hannah babysat her kids occasionally. She also has a son named Peter, and my children dubbed him "big Peter" while my Peter was "little Peter" in spite of the fact that my Peter is much bigger and older than hers.

When I was Relief Society president (leader of the church's womens' organization) and found myself in need of a new counselor, Christy was the perfect fit. I loved serving with her. There are so many things I admire about her. She always seems to have an extra casserole in her freezer whenever there is a family in need. She is always willing to help or serve wherever she can. She reminded me a lot of my own mother (and my friend Tabitha!) as her family grew and she managed to care for her children and homeschool them, as well as fulfill her other responsibilities even while her husband served in time consuming callings as well. As we had occasions to chat, I would sometimes hear about her frustrations and struggles with her children, but I always admired her incredible patience and quiet competence.  

But life changes and all good things come to an end. Her husband got a new job and Christy moved to Utah last week, taking about two thirds of our current Primary with her. (Our primary was already small and she has eight children now, the youngest born just earlier this year). So now she's gone. I'm so bad at keeping up with people who I don't see; I hate making phone calls. She isn't on Facebook. I'm really going to miss her. She says they'll come back to visit, but it won't be the same. 

Friday, May 8, 2020

Family Photos

A few weeks ago we took advantage of having the whole family together again to go to a park and do a photo shoot. In order to maintain proper social distancing, we didn't have a professional photographer. Instead I set up the camera on a tripod and then used a remote button to take the family pictures. I thought they turned out pretty good. We got several good ones and we've since updated the collage on our wall. Here are a few of our favorites:

Thursday, May 7, 2020

How we are Dealing with COVID-19

It started about a month and a half ago, but who knows when it will end.

All church meetings and activities were cancelled. Temples were closed. General Conference was viewed in person by only those speaking or otherwise participating; all others had to watch the broadcasts. Missionaries in foreign countries were sent home, and those serving in their native countries learned to do missionary work using social media, smart phones and other electronic means. A program called Zoom is now used for seminary three days a week (they have online assignments the other two days), weekly youth activities, and bi-weekly Sunday School classes. Our primary chorister records herself teaching singing time for the primary kids and sends links to the video each Sunday morning. As a Relief Society we have made and donated over 900 masks.

Schools were closed for the remainder of the school year and students are doing "remote learning" where they are given assignments on Monday which are due Friday, and teachers have "office hours" when students who are brave enough can contact them via email or chat when they need help. We have been assured that remote learning won't lower grades from what they were before remote learning began, but the boys are finding it a challenge to raise grades that were low to begin with. All school activities - plays, sports, prom, graduation ceremonies - have been cancelled or rescheduled or changed to a format that can be done online.

Businesses throughout the country and world have been closed. Those who can work from home have been strongly encouraged to do so. Unfortunately there are a lot of people who can't work from home. Unemployment is the highest it has ever been since the great depression. Rallies and protests have been held fighting the government restrictions keeping people from working and earning money to support themselves. Meanwhile people who are allowed to continue working - those who work in meat packing facilities for example, are getting sick and the supply of meat has been cut drastically leading to meat shortages. Shelves of cleaning supplies that were emptied in the first panic still remain empty.

We have been ordered to stay at home, except for when absolutely necessary like to acquire food, or to get exercise. For people struggling with cabin fever, this has been a challenge. Excuses have been found to go to the Walmart a few times a week, just to get out of the house, and maybe pick up some supplies as long as we are out. Many more people are seen walking, jogging or riding bikes around the neighborhood.

As of a couple days ago in Colorado alone, there were about 18,000 documented cases (but because of limited testing, that number is most likely much higher). Almost 3000 people have been hospitalized. And about 920 people have died. 75 of those are in the county where we live. At least one of our next door neighbors has tested positive for the disease.

So what does this mean for our family?

Steven worked at home for a month, but last week he chose to return to working at the office. He has enjoyed riding his bike to and from work. I think the number of people coming into the office has averaged around five, and Steven's personal office is near the front door so he doesn't come into contact with a lot of other people. He has a mask that he can wear when absolutely necessary, but he prefers not to wear one if at all possible. His general feeling seems to be that this is much ado about nothing.

Hannah has begun online classes at BYU-I, which has helped with her ever increasing cabin fever. Almost every day she is looking to go on an adventure to get out of the house and do something. When not adventuring or studying, she has been working on creating a paper-mache dragon which will be incredible when it is finished. She has also enjoyed cooking some Brazilian cuisine for the family.

John has decided to wait a year before returning to his mission. Hopefully by then the COVID-19 scare will have subsided. He has communicated with Colorado School of Mines and is planning on attending school there in the fall. I think of everyone in the family, he is the most disconnected, without things that he needs to be doing. He attended a daily on-line institute class for a while, but that ended last week. Job opportunities that he is interested in are hard to come by right now. He spends a lot of time playing Minecraft or writing computer programs. I think he was trying to create a compositor (or something like that?) a while back before it accidentally got deleted.

Now that the weather has warmed up a little, Joshua has chosen to move to the back patio, where he sleeps in a sleeping bag on a cot. He made a table from the wood from some old pallets that he got from a friend and uses that as a desk when he does his school work. There may be fewer distractions from the rest of the family out there, but I think that he is still distracted a lot by Minecraft and other activities. He comes inside for food and things, but other than that I rarely see him.

Peter spends several hours a day working on school and seminary, when he isn't creating or looking at memes or playing Balloon Tower Defense 5 or Minecraft. When his time on the computer has run out, he generally takes a nap, or plays Pokemon on his Nintendo or watches a movie, or is just bored.

And then there is me. I've always been a homebody, so staying at home isn't terribly hard. I clean and cook and do laundry. I try to help Peter stay focused on his school work, with limited success. I made close to 100 masks for the Relief Society. While e-book isn't my favorite format, I'm grateful that our local library has the means for me to find new books to read. I recently discovered a new series of mysteries (Charles Todd's Inspector Rutledge Mysteries) that I'm really enjoying.  I usually solve an Einstein's Riddle logic puzzle every day, and I try to take a walk every day to get out of the house for a while. I enjoy having my family around me but it does feel a bit crowded occasionally.

A couple other events of note have taken place, but I'll write about them another time. For now, this is where we are. Someday maybe a grandkid will ask what it was like during this time period, and I'll have something to look back on to remember.

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Kevin the Potato

While Steven was out on a bike ride yesterday, he came across this amusing story:
Once upon a time...

There was a potato named Kevin.

Kevin was going to Mars and he needed to get ready.

First he ate some greens to get healthy.

Then Kevin packed his suitcase.

Unfortunately Kevin was so excited he dropped his suitcase in a hole. Oh No!!

Instead of his suitcase, Kevin decided to carry his things in his sombrero.

Now Kevin was ready to go! He went to go get in his rocket, but it was broken. So Kevin decided to walk.

So Kevin walked. But as he walked through Louisiana, there was a light and Kevin was abducted by aliens.

Thankfully the aliens lived on Mars!

The aliens liked Kevin, but Kevin would turn into French Fries if he stayed too long so the aliens gave him a new suitcase filled with Martian gifts and sent him back.

The End
(author unknown, but assumed to live in the house where the story began)

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Memorable Times

"We're living in momentous times, Garion. The events of a thousand years and more have all focused on these very days. The world, I'm told, is like that. Centuries pass when nothing happens, and then in a few short years events of such tremendous importance take place that the world is never the same again."
"I think that if I had my choice, I'd prefer one of those quiet centuries," Garion said glumly.
"Oh, no," Silk said, his lips drawing back in a ferret-like grin. "Now's the time to be alive-to see it all happen, to be a part of it. That makes the blood race, and each breath is an adventure." (Eddings, David. Pawn of Prophecy, New York: Del Rey, 1982)
Hannah has been home for a week now. Tomorrow John will have been home for a week. Although we have already been in quarantine for a couple weeks now, it is looking like that quarantine will last for the next month or so. This morning, CPR reported "Colorado is approaching 3,000 cases of the coronavirus. There are currently 2,966 known positive cases, 509 of which have been hospitalized. The number of Coloradans tested stands at 16,849 and there have been 69 deaths."(source) Meanwhile we are doing what we can to stay home and help to "flatten the curve."

Yesterday we received emails from the Church and our stake president, and accordingly, John has been released from being a missionary for the time being. He now faces a choice of either waiting until things quiet down to be reassigned and finishing his mission with his original release date, or waiting several months, and then being reassigned with a new end date. He has until the end of the month to decide.

As I mentioned in my blog a couple days ago, over that past week we have found things to keep ourselves occupied. A lot of music has been played on the piano, viola, and ukuleles. Josh and Peter have played a lot of Minecraft. Hannah has spent a lot of time on the phone talking with friends she has made over the last 17 months. I've found crafts to work on and books to read. At least once a day, I've left the confines of the house to take a walk, careful to maintain my distance from others also taking advantage of the sunshine to get some exercise. Now that John has been released, we can watch movies and he will be able to find more things to do to keep himself occupied that were not allowed him as a missionary.
We've suddenly become very acquainted with Zoom, a meeting platform that I had never even heard of a couple weeks ago. Our mission president used it to release Hannah from her mission and chat with John when he returned. Our ward used it for a Sunday School class last Sunday. Josh and Peter use it now for seminary. Hannah and John have used it to participate in institute classes for newly returned missionaries. Josh and Peter will likely be using it for school, which just launched remote learning today.

In spite of everything, I'm really feeling very grateful. Steven is able to work from home, so we aren't facing unemployment or the financial difficulties that many are facing at this time. We are all healthy, except for some allergies and a knot in my shoulder that I haven't been able to get rid of. We have plenty of food and supplies, so we're not really affected by the shortage of TP and other supplies; in fact we've been able to help some other people out with what we had. I don't feel like we are totally cut off from the world as we continue to use the internet and phones to keep in touch with friends and family. I've really enjoyed the spirit in our home as we have worshiped together at home on Sundays. I am grateful for the many people who risk their own health in order to help others - doctors and other medical people as well as grocery store cashiers, mailmen, police officers and more. I'm looking forward to watching General Conference in a few days. I'm sure it will be memorable in many ways.

So I guess my point is that these are memorable times. I'm not sure whether or not I'm glad that I'm alive to see them, but they definitely make life an adventure.

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?