Thursday, March 21, 2019

Letters to Hannah

Here are some excerpts from letters to Hannah over the last several weeks:

This week has been one of those that seems busy as I'm living it, but looking back it is hard to say what I actually did. I made a lot of phone calls for Relief Society. I started crocheting a ladybug doll - I've got the body and one wing, I just started on the second wing yesterday.

On Wednesday and Thursday I went to parent-teacher conferences. The boys are doing well for the most part.

Peter has been out of school since Wednesday, and Friday all the boys were "out" of school, although John and Josh spent most of the day - and most of Saturday, doing tech and the lock-in, and other drama type stuff. Poor Peter was a bit lonely with just me (and the computer) to keep him entertained. Tomorrow is Presidents Day so there is no school, no drama, no work - although I have Relief Society appointments at 11am and 3pm... so much for being able to spend a quiet relaxing day at home with the whole family. *sigh*

This week has been a busy one as far as ministering goes... On Monday I visited with two RS sisters - one who recently moved into the ward and another who is less active. Tuesday evening we had President Fuller and Bro Gomez come visit us!!! (I guess it was discussed in bishopric meeting how our family hasn't been home taught in a few years, and they decided that for the stake ministering visits this year they would add active families to the list rather than just visiting less active, part member, or struggling families.) On Wednesday I went to book club (this month's book was a murder mystery) and visited with Amy for a while. Finally on Thursday night we did ministering interviews so I got to talk with a few different sisters about their ministering stewardship.

Friday evening it snowed. It was kind of weird - at 3:30 when I picked up Peter from school, there was no snow at all, but by 6pm when Dad got home and we left for our date night, there were about 4 inches of snow on the ground. We returned home right after eating dinner - it wasn't weather we wanted to be driving around in.

I finished my crochet ladybug this week. I forgot to take a picture of it though before I gave it to the family that wanted it at church today. Oops. Oh well. It was cute. I think I like making things specifically to give to people better than I like just making random things that sit around the house collecting dust.

2/24/2019 (From Steven)
The weather here is, in a word, cold. It snowed on Friday night so on Saturday morning we had several inches of snow on the ground. Since John and Josh were at rehearsals all day I took Peter down to the park and we went sledding. We even built a jump! (see picture attached).

Later in the day it got windier and colder so we were stuck inside. You know the feeling you get when the weather is bad outside and you are stuck inside and you just get this hankering to bake something? Something different, not just cookies or brownies or something? Well that happened. So I started looking through cookbooks to find something and Peter looked too and picked out - get ready for this - a souffle! Have you ever had souffle? Maybe when you went to Paris? Well I'm not going to lie but it is (maybe I should just stop here. I mean your mission president told us not to write things to the missionaries that might make them depressed and want to come home and I'm afraid if I finish this sentence it will make you so jealous that you will want to come home so you can try some souffle because they are..) amazing! So the tricky part with souffles is that you separate the eggs - the yolks you mix in with a white sauce and we also added some orange juice to give it a citrus flavor, but the egg whites you whip into a meringue which you then gently fold into the sauce part. Because the meringue is all fluffy and full of air it puffs up in the oven and the final result is this light fluffy and just amazingly delicious cake type stuff. And the best part is that you can add different flavors to the sauce part, so for example you can have a chocolate souffle, or make a cheese souffle perhaps with herbs to make it more of a brunch type meal. I also saw a recipe online for a berry souffle which had strawberries and raspberries which ....

I'm just going to stop there. I hope you have enough willpower to stick with your mission and not go to your mission president begging to come home so you can try some. But when you do come home next year some time you absolutely need to learn how to make souffles!

John and Josh performed in the musical "Curtains" this week. We watched it last night due to other obligations on Thursday and Friday evenings. It was fun. There were several very funny lines. John played the role of a theater critic, so he wasn't on stage much, but he had an important role! As I watched, I thought the murderer was one of the actresses (Margot) who the detective (Ethan) was flirting with because she was the one always bringing him clues with her fingerprints on them... but it ended up that the critic was in love with that actress and was trying to keep the show from being a success and leaving town... or something like that. It was a bit confusing. There was also a fun love triangle going on between the composer (Jackson), the lyricist (Emmalyn) and an actor (Felix).

Friday night I had a stake women's conference. They served us a delicious dinner of chicken cordon bleu, then we were handed paper and pens and asked to write a letter to a service man or veteran. Finally we went to the chapel and listened to a couple speakers. The first speaker was from family services and he talked about combating depression and anxiety by meditating, sleeping, exercising, setting small goals, avoiding hazardous technology, serving others and trusting in the Savior.

The other speaker runs medical missions to Peru, fixing cleft pallets, providing glasses, hearing aids, etc. She talked about how faith helps us. One story she told was about how one day a bunch of parents were upset because their children were hungry (they had to fast several hours before surgery) and they were threatening to talk to some nearby reporters about how horrible the mission was. They wanted to talk to someone in charge and this woman was the one who got sent out to deal with them and she was terrified. She prayed in her heart and she was given what to say to them: " I know this is difficult right now, and you are free to go and do what you want, but if you stay and endure, we will help you." She then related this to how our Heavenly Father feels about us. Life is difficult, and he allows us to do our own thing, even leave the church if we want, but if we stay and endure, God will help us and through the Savior's atonement we will be healed and blessed.

3/3/2019 (From Steven's letter)
This past Monday Peter wanted to try another souffle for FHE dessert so this time we made a chocolate souffle. What you do is first melt together chocolate chips and a stick of butter, then beat in some egg yolks. Meanwhile you beat the egg whites into a meringue and then fold that into the chocolate. Then bake. What comes out is, if you can imagine, a giant light fluffy brownie tasting thing, which as you can imagine, is delicious. Even more so when you top with chocolate sauce!

On Tuesday we went to see the performance of "Meet the Missionaries" which is the next version of the "Meet the Elders" that they did last year. This one had four elders and four sisters. One of the sisters played a non-member whose grandmother just passed away and has questions, and one of the elders played a pre-missionary friend who helps her out and invites her to meet the missionaries. The missionaries sing songs to teach her about the church, and also about what it is like to be a missionary. The two lead missionary elders actually wrote most of the songs and to be honest they were better than most of the songs you hear on the radio these days. But that is sort of what bugged me about it. When you have one guy playing a guitar hooked to an amplifier and another guy telling the audience to clap along and they are singing "This is the cause of Christ" you have to scratch your head for a minute and ask if we are in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, or in the Community Christian Church down the road? But other than that it was really good and the one lead missionary guy (who I found out had been one of the Nauvoo performing missionaries) can juggle, balance things on his chin, and even do a back-flip!

Then last night we went to see the high school production of Curtains. Pugsly was the lead guy, an investigator who is trying to solve the murder but who is also interested in theater. He could actually sing and also make his lines funny. John played the theater critic who wrote bad reviews of the show. It was cool because you never saw him walk out on to stage. There would be stage hands moving set pieces around, or pushing costume racks, and then John would suddenly appear from behind it as if he had been standing upstage the whole time. Also, ***spoiler alert*** he turned out to be the murderer. Nariana also had a decent sized role with speaking and singing parts and she did pretty good (better than the dancing even though she was listed as the dance captain - overall the dancing was pretty mediocre and only once did one guy start doing some impressive dancing with spins and jumps and stuff but then he gets shot halfway through a jump but it just grazes him and he doesn't die.)

I received a phone call from "security services" Monday evening, with a really strange phone number. I ignored it at first, but when they called back three times in succession, I figured I should probably answer it. I was surprised when they asked if I was "Sister Hiatt" and then said they were from Sao Paulo Mission, and told me that you were okay, but your wallet had been lost with your bank card and drivers license. That must have been an adventure... I hung up from from that call, and then spent a while on the phone with Wells Fargo trying to convince them to cancel your card. The problem was that since you are older than eighteen, I'm not considered a joint account holder any more... Anyway, eventually I convinced them to cancel the card.

The stake had teacher appreciation this week. John chose Ms. Eden as his teacher to appreciate. He took a lot of time deciding which teacher to choose, and even more time trying to figure out what to say about her, but I think she was grateful for the recognition. We asked Josh which teacher he would pick if he were graduating this year, and Josh mentioned Chuck. Chuck is retiring at the end of the school year, after 30 years as the drama tech director.

Friday night we attended "The Play That Goes Wrong" at the Buell Theater. The show was absolutely hilarious! You know how sometimes you can laugh so hard that your diaphragm hurts and you can't breathe because you are laughing so hard? I had several moments like that. It was very, very funny, and I think all of us enjoyed it, especially the boys with their theater background.

[Steven wrote a really detailed description of "The Play That Goes Wrong" in his letter, but I'm going to give that a post of it's own.]

This week we had our Relief Society birthday celebration on Tuesday. We had a puzzle theme, and I started by talking about puzzles - how you can get a feeling of accomplishment when you solve one, but it is really frustrating when there are pieces missing that keep you from completing them. I mentioned how we are each like a puzzle piece - we each have our bumps and holes - our strengths and weaknesses, but others have strengths where we have weaknesses and vice versa, so if we stick together, there are no gaps left. I also talked about how we need to find those puzzle pieces that are missing - those members of Relief Society who are missing, people who aren't members, ancestors who haven't received the ordinances of the temple. Then I read this cool quote:
“The gathering of Israel is a miracle. It is like an enormous puzzle whose pieces will be set in place prior to the glorious events of the Second Coming. Just as we might be perplexed with a mountain of puzzle pieces, the early Saints must have seen the commission to take the restored gospel to all the world as a nearly impossible task. But
they began, one person, one puzzle piece at a time, finding the straight edges, working to rightly frame this divine work. Little by little, the stone cut without hands began to roll forth; from hundreds to thousands, to tens of thousands, and now millions of covenant Latter­day Saints across every nation are connecting the puzzle pieces of this
marvelous work and a wonder. Each of us is a piece of the puzzle, and each of us helps to set in place other essential pieces. You are important to this great cause. Our view ahead is now clear. We can see the miracle continuing and the Lord’s hand guiding us as we complete the gaps that remain. Then, “the Great Jehovah shall say the work is done,” and He will return in majesty and glory.” (“A Witness of God” by Elder Neil L Anderson)
After my long winded speech (actually it only took about five minutes) each sister got to decorate a blank puzzle piece, we discussed a few historical members of Relief Society, and then spent the rest of the time doing puzzles - jigsaw, crossword, sudoku, word finds, etc. It was pretty fun.

Wednesday the storm hit. They're calling it a cyclone bomb... there was a lot of wind and a lot of snow. School was cancelled both Wednesday and Thursday. Several trees were blown down, including some electrical poles so several families in the ward were without power for a couple days and either stayed with friends, family or at a hotel until power was restored. Our power flickered a bit, but it was only for a few seconds at a time.

Yesterday morning we had a stake leadership meeting where Pres Moon talked about a pattern for doing Christ's work, and he applied it to missionary work, temple and family history work, ministering, community service... pretty much everything we do:
  1. Identify the person (Neighbors, members, ancestors, ward members, family, me)
  2. Discern need (to be baptized, to receive ordinances, blessings of atonement,...)
  3. Minister (Invite, take names to temple, serve, etc.)
  4. Follow up/ Report (ministering Interviews, PPIs, return to temple often, etc.)
Anyway, I found these things useful.

The Play That Goes Wrong - by Steven

This was from Steven's letter to Hannah after we attended this funny play. Beware, there are spoilers.

So on to the exciting things here in the U.S. Friday night we went to see "The Play That Goes Wrong" at the Buell Theater which my mom bought us tickets for. It was hilarious! It was the funniest thing any of us had ever seen. We were laughing throughout the whole thing. Halfway through the first act I looked over at mom and she said she couldn't breathe because she was laughing so hard. Here is a summary:

So the premise is that this acting group is trying to put on a play called "The Murder at Haversham Manor" but everything that could possibly go wrong does. It starts with the murdered man lying dead on a couch but throughout the scene he keeps moving. Originally he has his arm stretched out on the floor but after one of the other actors steps on it you see him move his hand out of the way every time someone walks by. When it comes time to carry the body off they bring in a stretcher made from two poles with a blanket between them but the blanket rips as they lift, so the actors just pretend to carry him off anyway. The scene continues but the dead man gets up on his hands and knees and tries to sneak off unnoticed, carrying the rest of the blanket, which of course means that everyone is looking at him. In the doorway he stands up, crosses his arms solemnly across his chest and then closes the door.

The butler character keeps flubbing his lines and sometimes he looks at his hands as if he has words written there, but he doesn't always know how to pronounce them. "Oh no! It looks like he was poisoned by [looks at his hand] kai-a-ni-dee!" (cyanide) In one scene he forgets one of his lines so he says a line from earlier in the scene meaning all the other actors have to do the whole bit again, which includes the butler pouring drinks, which due to an earlier mix-up is something like paint thinner that someone found backstage, so every time someone takes a drink they end up spitting it out, but then saying something like "That is good sherry!" or "Thanks, I needed that". The scene goes round and round several times with the other actors getting increasingly annoyed at the butler character until he finally remembers the right line to say and the scene can continue.

The stagehand character is also the one who is supposed to do the audio cues but you can see him off to the side in front of the stage listening to music on his phone and not paying attention much. The actors on stage will say a line and then they all freeze waiting for the doorbell to ring or whatever but the stagehand doesn't notice. Finally he realizes what is going on and starts frantically pushing buttons but ends up playing a bit of the Duran Duran music he has been listening to on his phone before finally getting the right cue out. Then the actors can unfreeze. "There's the doorbell! It must be the inspector." and the scene continues after the actors had been frozen there for way too long.

The female character gets knocked out at one point when another character comes in and swings the door open too fast hitting her in the face. She is laying on the ground passed out and the other actors are wondering what to do because she should have lots of lines and action at this point. So they say their lines and then pause for her lines. "Calm down miss, you're getting hysterical!" [pause while looking at her on the ground] "No need to raise your voice like that madam!" [pause] "Where are you going?" [pause] "She's left." Then they keep going, just stepping over her and the scene continues on another part of the stage. But meanwhile some actors backstage and the stagehands reach through the window on the set to try to lift the woman off the stage. But they keep banging her head against the set or dropping her and it takes four or five tries to get her out. The next time that character is supposed to come on stage though they have the female stage manager play her part. She has the woman's costume on over her stage manager clothes and she has to read her lines from a script. At first she is really nervous and just reads dryly but the longer she is there the more comfortable she becomes until she starts to add her own personality into it. Until someone opens the door too fast and hits her in the face and knocks her out. One of the actors and the stagehand carry her off, and then the actor hands the script to the (male) stagehand and has him read the female part lines! When he reads "Kiss me you fool" he just looks up from the script and says "Nope." Later the stage manager revives and is able to carry on with the female role and halfway through the second act the original female actress has revived and wants to take over but by this time the stage manager is enjoying it so tries to push the other woman off the stage. The two of them keep competing, each trying to get in front of the other or saying the lines first and eventually get into a full on fight backstage which you can see through the window on the set.

The set itself is almost a character in an of itself. Before the show even began the stagehand guy comes on stage to make sure everything is ready and closes the main door but as he turns to leave it swings open again. He shuts it again but again it reopens. This happens several times until the stage manager lady comes on and helps get it shut. When the play starts and the actors are supposed to enter through the door but they find that it is now stuck. You can hear them talking on the other side and you see the door handle turning but the door won't open. They eventually go around the set through the black curtains on the side. On the walls are pictures and other things that keep falling down. At one point the actors are holding up things on the wall so they don't keep falling and then the phone rings. They have to try to answer the phone without letting things fall. There is also a second-floor portion of the stage which has some action on it and people and props keep falling off of it and later someone knocks out the post holding it up so it tilts down while actors are up there and they have to hold on to keep from sliding off, or having any of the furniture props fall off. Throughout the scene it keeps tilting lower and lower until it falls down entirely and knocks out the stagehand guy (while he was performing the part of the female lady!) In the end of the play all of the set walls fall down and it looks like just complete chaos.

As I said, it was the funniest thing we had ever seen.