Wednesday, May 27, 2020

The Great Quarantine/Isolation of 2020

So far Marie has made 19 facemasks for us to use (and we do) in our outings.

Back in January in my political geography class during our weekly discussion about current events, we talked about how the government of China was putting a quarantine on the city of Wuhan which prevented residents from leaving the area or their home in what seemed like a very authoritarian appraoch to contain the spread of a strange new virus. Little did I know, or my students know, how that virus would change our lives.

January 24, 2020


As the virus spread from China to Iran and Italy and beyond, I started to take screen shots of cartoons and tweets to send to Joel in my weekly e-mail.

February was mostly normal for our family with weekly ski days and a trip to Vegas for a soccer tournament. On March 3 freshman Will played in his first pre-season Springville High soccer game with the jr varsity team, but then things started to get real. Here is my first social media post about how the virus was beginning to impact our family's lives:

March 12:
"Adding my lament: BYU has cancelled all spring term study abroad programs. Europe, it was nice dreaming about you. Now on to figuring out how to teach my classes remotely."

Will and I were really looking forward to this five week long father/son outing. By the time it was cancelled I had already taught the first two Monday evening orientation classes to the 15 students signed up to go.

Later that day BYU tweeted this: "Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update: Consistent with the CES guidelines issued last night, Brigham Young University has made the following decisions. Classes on March 13, 16 & 17 are canceled. All courses at BYU & its Salt Lake Center, will resume March 18 through remote instruction." Good to know. Unfortunately, this allowed for no final class period with my classes. 

Also on the 12th, Will played in the first season game against rival Maple Mountain (tied 1-1). There was talk among parents at the game about how the spreading virus might impact high school sports. Then after the game, Will and his teammates found out that all high school sports in Utah were being cancelled.

Next morning I posted this amusing conversation with Will:

Parenting in a pandemic (March 13):
"Driving my 15 yr old to Jr. High as he looks at comments on Tic Toc:
Puzzled Him: They cancel school sports, professional sports, concerts and even church all over the world, but not school.
Me: It's crazy
Dropping 15 yr old at Jr. High:
Me: Be sure to wash your hands before you eat lunch
Him: Where?
Me: In the restroom
Him: They're too sketchy at lunch.
Me: Just do it so you don't get sick and then your parents get sick and then your grandpa gets sick.
Defiant Him: No comment as he shuts the door."

Praso zone conference the first week of March. So far all is calm in Ghana.

Parenting in a Pandemic (March 18):

I woke Will at 10:00 by bouncing on his bed yelling Earthquake—which he slept through at 7:09. We delivered a make up assignment to the Jr High, mailed a package to Joel and then had him practice his gas pumping skills (still needs work on windshield squeegeeing). While I graded papers, he went on line and dutifully worked (with limited amounts of complaining!) through his first day of online assignments. Math overwhelmed him so we took a break. I owed him a shake so off to McDonald's we went. The kids know that I shun drive through—hate the wait and the exhaust. But in this day of distancing, I suppressed my standards and joined a dozen others in the double lined drive through. Came home and Sarah miraculously appeared and helped Will figure out his math, then the three of us brainstormed about a biology genetics project topic—Will liked the idea of DNA help in diagnosing cancer. 2:00 and school is out.

While the earthquake was strong enough to feel in bed, it did not topple the tipsy wood bugle from West Papua nor the ceramic eggs from Istanbul.

My first time through the very busy two lane local McDonald's drive through.


In the midst of all of the closures, I finally was able to gather all of the items Joel had requested for a care package--including a new Mission belt buckle from his uncle Bob, a new Nike fanny pack, and three tie bars (for him and his companion) plus Easter treats, Cliff bars, and a book (Safe Journey: An African Adventure by Glenn Pace). By now missionaries were being evacuated from places like Korea and Italy. There was limited COVID activity in Africa, but it was evident that the virus was going global, and so we knew that Joel's journey in Africa might not last much longer. I was hesitating to mail the package knowing that he may be gone before it arrives. I asked my friends on social media what they would do and most everyone said to go ahead and send it. A few noted that even if Joel was gone the remaining elders would enjoy the surprise. So with that I decided to spend $80 to mail about $80 worth of merchandise to Cape Coast Ghana on March 18th. I added the note below just to make sure some missionary(ies) enjoy a nice surprise.

Next morning we got word that the foreign missionaries serving in Ghana would soon be sent home. I tried without success to see if I could track down the package, probably still sitting in a Utah postal facility.

Next day on March 19th, Sarah decided that she could better social distance at home that by staying in her BYU apartment with some very social roommates.

On March 20th Marie worked here last day on campus. Since then she has managed to work 28 hours a week from home. 

Parenting in a Pandemic (March 22):
Last Monday [16th] in our weekly phone visit with Joel, who is serving as a missionary in the bush of Ghana, he pelted Marie and me with many questions about the Corona virus, which had only just reached Ghana with just a few known cases. He wanted to know all about its worldwide spread and most importantly about its symptoms. He reported that the day before on the first day of world wide shuttering of LDS chapels, he and his companion had visited most of the homes of the members in their branch in Nyenasi to administer the sacrament. Joel acknowledged that he had not felt well the day before and so he had intentionally not helped break the bread. From his photos I understood that most contacting and visiting takes place in the front of homes. When asked, he confirmed that the short sacrament offering was usually out side the simple homes. That made me worry a little less. At the time missionaries were being pulled out of other countries around the world, but there had been no talk of needing to leave Ghana. Later that day we got a letter from the mission president explaining the precautions they were taking in the mission including these reminders to the missionaries:
"• Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
• Stay in their apartment whenever they themselves are sick. Avoid touching their eyes, nose, and mouth.
• Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
• Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces with household cleaning spray or wipes.
• Wash their hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds (which should always be done if their hands are visibly dirty), and, if soap and water are not readily available, to use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol."

Early in the morning on Thursday the 19th we got this e-mail: "These have been interesting and exciting times to be serving as a missionary. Events have been very fluid due to the spread of COVID-19 and travel restrictions. Out of an abundance of caution, we have been notified by the missionary department and the Africa West Area Presidency that missionaries who are not native to Ghana will be temporarily reassigned to missions in their native countries....4. American missionaries serving less than 21 months will return to the U.S.

That was disappointing news. Now we are awaiting future updates. Hopefully charter flights are in the works like those now bringing all of the missionaries in the Philippines back to the states.
It has been a roller coaster week for us and for so many other families with members living and serving in foreign counties. Prayers for all those who are anxiously hoping and waiting to be reunited.
go a 14-day quarantine in their home, and then receive reassignments to a mission within the United States."

Friday Morning we got an email with Joel's flight plans: Accra to London to Dallas to Salt Lake departing Tuesday night and arriving Wednesday night. Joel also got to call and briefly talk to Sarah and Will.

Then yesterday afternoon we got this e-mail: "At the present time the flights are being cancelled and the borders are being closed. Any of our missionaries that have a flight with a transit stop or layover before United States has been cancelled. The travel office is now working on this situation. Please know all is being done to return your Elders home to the United States."

That was disappointing news. Now we are awaiting future updates. Hopefully charter flights are in the works like those now bringing all of the missionaries in the Philippines back to the states.

It has been a roller coaster week for us and for so many other families with members living and serving in foreign counties. Prayers for all those who are anxiously hoping and waiting to be reunited."

Marie's first zoom meeting with 90 year old father Blaine who was under strict quarantine at a senior residential center in Lehi.

During the first weeks of online teaching I tried recording and posting lectures via zoom. I did this in my isolated office on campus a few days each week. In between I savored back yard gardening opportunities, like pruning.

March 22. Last Sunday in Ghana for Joel with the young men who helped as Twi translators for Joel and his companions serving in Nyenasi.

Next morning we got a short call from Joel saying he had just been informed that a new charter flight had been arranged for by the US Embassy in Ghana and he would be flying out on Wednesday March 25th. He had a few hours to get packed up and travel to Cape Coast. There he would meet up with all of the other foreign missionaries being evacuated. They spend Tuesday night sleeping at the MTC in Accra before their early morning departure.

Departing missionaries.

Marie and I waiting as instructed in the parking garage at Salt Lake International Airport.

Here he comes.

First stop, Lehi to wave and talk via phone to grandpa Tueller. 

Corona virus decorated sign by Sarah

Together again. Last summer when Sarah left for BYU and then Joel left for Ghana, Will hunkered down for four long years home alone with his parents. Little did we know that we would all be back home together for three months the next year.

Parenting in a pandemic:
Look who joined us for two weeks of family quarantine. Joel, and many other Americans including all the LDS missionaries, flew out of Accra yesterday on an Ethiopian Airline flight chartered by the US embassy. After a night at a hotel near Dulles airport he flew to SLC where Marie and I picked him up while maintaining proper social distancing. He is very sad to have left Ghana and is anxious to know where he will serve next.

Later that day, Aunt Diane organized a drive by welcome home parade for Joel. Family, neighbors and school friends dove by (some multiple times) with waves, smiles, shouts and signs. It was a lot of fun.


Our across the street neighbors decorated their garage door.

For the next two weeks we really tried to do a serious quarantine, because that is what Joel was directed to do. In reality it was more likely that Joel would get the virus once in the USA than in his isolated village in Ghana. I was the only person to leave our home. Marie had done a great job of stocking up on food and supplies (Dr, Pepper supplies was my duty).

Here is an Instagram post from March 28th: "My unhappy, worn out, discouraged face after two days of failed recordings of two long lectures. I’m much better live and without the unpredictability of technology." After some rough starts, with some help from IT support and a great suggestion from my helpful colleague Ryan Jensen, I finally figured out how to use the record option on PowerPoint (which I found out after three hour marathon recording sessions failed to work on older version PowerPoints--hence my frustrations) to record the remaining lectures for my two classes.

Over the months Sarah has transitioned from her remote job of being a TA and RA to two BYU history professors to now helping out for the summer as a remote secretary in the geography office (not my doing). Joel was offered a job (initially just for a few weeks) helping in a local shipping department that was behind in its shipments. It soon turned into a more permanent position but then when one worker tested positive for COVID 19 he opted to quit given that he has a sister with cancer and parents over sixty.

Marie whiled away some of her time working on a puzzle found in the depths of one of our storage rooms. As she worked on it she kept noticing something written on the back. When she finished, she turned it over to see what the message was. It was addressed to Chad from Andi and talked about her giving him him some "lip candy". What? I wracked my brains trying to remember who Andi was.  Nothing. Of all my many blind dates over the years there was no memory of an Andi and her sweet lips. I finally came to the conclusion through vague memories that I had picked up this puzzle at a youth yard sale a few years ago and that it is another Chad. We later loaned this puzzle to our neighbors and neighbor Jeff discovered the message and asked for details. I told it wasn't me but he does not believe my story. I'm sticking to it.

 I tried to grow my own vegetable starts for the first time. It was a dismal failure. Only a few butternut and yellow squash still survive in the garden. We also put bears in the window for passing children to spy.

On Sunday afternoon I went on a drive southward via Levan, Gunnison, Manti, Wales and Jeruslem Utah. Wide open country.

We finally played our first game last week. Sarah won and everyone was happy I didn't win.

On occasion we united on a few projects that got us out of or own devises, books, TV programs, Minecraft playing (Will) and work.  One project that I came up with was to set up a lending library with books for all ages. We unloaded storage out of some shelving, hauled them up to the porch and then gathered books for people to come and borrow. It united us for about two hours one day. A few people have stopped by but not as many as I thought.


Marie and I both made efforts to clean and organize various drawers and store rooms. While cleaning out and organizing our under the front porch store room I came across this old box from my parents basement which dad, in his signature box letter printing, originally labeled as storing "miscellaneous crap". That classification made me laugh as I sorted through our own miscellaneous crap.

The kids and their cousins have been enjoying Kahoot games (mostly home made) focusing on favorite topics like Harry Potter, Star Wars, and Percy Jackson. One night Marie and I were invited to join in with the kids selecting topics that we might be more familiar with us. Not surprising, my only win dealt with musicals. 

On Easter Sunday I passed part of the day making a time consuming pot of Palestinian Makloubeh (upside down). It's a meal we all like.

After about a month of staying at home, I decided we needed a mental health outing (that was safe). Our former neighbor and bishop and now Marie's boss and soon to be BYU Hawaii President has a cabin in the Unitah basin that was heavily flooded last year after a devastating wild fire in the area the year before. I had provided basalt rocks for a Hawaiian pig roasting pit. I wondered if the rocks had survived the flooding. I texted Keoni to see if the rocks had survived the flood. He said he hunted for them, but they were washed away or buried in the mud. I asked if he wanted more. He was delighted. So off we went to Utah's Black Rock Desert west of Fillmore for a car load of black basalt. We all helped gather. Our only stop was in Nephi on the return to get gas.

Next day I drove the load up to the cabin.

For me gardening was always a nice diversion. My annual bonfire.


Hand tilling in fire ash, turkey poop and wood shavings. Sarah then helped me plant the garden.

We upped our subscription on Netflix so we could simultaneously watched competing shows on the big TV and on individual devises. On occasion we found common shows to watch (Onward, Frozen 2, the new Lion King). I also enjoyed the third seasons of Fauda, Occupied and the Crown (with Marie), Survivor with Joel and Marie and the Downtown Abby movie (my first try at the series) with Marie and Sarah. My Moroccan slippers worked great keeping my toes warm in our cool basement.

For my finals at BYU, I used a new app (supposedly to deter cheating) via BYU that takes screen shots every three minutes while students are taking their on-line exams from their homes . When I scanned through the screen shots I was amazed at the variety of test taking faces and postures, many of them painful. Here is what I wrote in a Facebook post with this collage of some of the test photos:

"Dear Middle East geography students: I am so sorry for the pain and suffering inflicted upon you during the taking of the final exam. Screen shots from Proctorio provide the evidence. I hope you have all recovered."

On April 30th Sarah discovered a nest of 13 quail eggs hidden in her widow well under an overhanging shrub. It was rare to find the eggs uncovered.

About a month into our sequestering I decided to give up shaving.

Multiple devises in use and staying up way too late.

Rhubarb crisp made with rhubarb from the garden.

On May 6th, in a call from the stake president, Joel got a new mission assignment to the New Hampshire Manchester mission leaving on June 15th. He is excited. This is a temporary assignment meaning he could get sent back to Ghana if and when it opens up. If not he will serve in New England until July 2021. In a creative Instagram story, Joel announced his new call while shaving off his month old (and quite wimpy) mustache.

One day we were surprised with a USPS delivery of the famed Easter package, which apparently never made it out of the US (given that Ghana shut down incoming flights) so it was returned. We all loved eating Easter Candy in May.

Every Sunday we have had a family sacrament gathering with Joel and Will doing their priesthood duties, while Marie and Sarah did some Sunday School (Come Follow Me) teaching and me playing the piano.

Personally, I was not always comfortable with our privilege of having worthy priesthood holders in our home and thus able to partake of the sacrament when many had no such option (including several single women I minister too). I was impressed by this tweet showing how some chose to deal with home church. Good for that missionary and mission president.

One day Joel approached me with a proposal--building a fire pit some where in the yard. I liked the idea, in part because it seemed a nice way/place for friends to gather. We talked about possible locations and design. I found this good on line tutorial
So one afternoon in May we built a fire pit.

Distracted by a snake.

The hardest part was getting the first course of pavers level. It helped when we added a layer of sand to the base.

Nice to have two strong and willing workers to do much of the work. Also nice to have Sodalicious drive through nearby.

last paver

We have plenty of wood to burn--the oldest and biggest logs are from our wind toppled globe willow tree. For now a few squirrels like hiding in the pile so they can slip out at night for walnuts or pea sprouts.

S'mores never tasted so delicious.

Will dutifully completed his 9th grade year on line at home. His efforts helped to maintain a 4.0 for all three years of Jr. High. One day four teachers surprised him with a gift and a yard sign. Well done Will!

On Sunday May 17th we took an epic road trip around the Great Salt Lake including stops at the Utah Tree, the Sun Tunnels, the Transcontinental Railroad National Back Country Byway and the Spiral Jetty. It was a wonderful outing with limited human interaction. see more here:

Last week the quail eggs hatched (see my Instagram for videos of the event). After a few hours the mother kept jumping up and out of the window well. Watching from Sarah's bedroom I wondered if she was nervous and unable to get the chicks out of what could be a death trap is a cat happened along.

I decided the family needed some help so I laid down a ramp of 2X4s. Eventually some chicks started to explore. Then while we ate dinner many of them, plus the mother escaped.

When I returned to watch the father had come to help/shepherd the last few.

To watch the last chick climb up the ramp to his/her waiting father watch this link on Instagram. Turn up the sound so you can hear the father calling and you can hear narration from Sarah and me.

Next morning when Will and I returned from his soccer practice, the parents and a few of the chicks (far right) were pecking at some walnuts I had put out the night before. The family has since relocated out of our yard. I hope they are safe.

As a family we consumed much food throughout the long days. My Trader Joe's and Reams runs always resulted in new and tasty surprises. Eventually I decided to offer some more healthy snack options including weekly batches of Chex mix.

 Over a month's worth of growth. My first beard ever. Not the prettiest.

Last night after eating a S'more--which is complicated by having a mustache. 

Slowly we are branching out, but as the kids tell us, our family is way behind other families (fine with Marie and me). On Mother's Day we gathered with members of Marie's family at her mother's grave in Provo. We all wore masks.

Photos courtesy of Jan Lowman

Then on Memorial we gathered with many Emmetts at Adam's Park in Logan for Grandpa Emmett's curry.

The kids are now permitted to meet with friends in parks and back yards. We have gone shopping (with masks) to get Joel a missionary suit and new white shirts. Will goes to soccer practices a few mornings each week. Every day I think of where and what we would be doing in Europe if there had been no COVID 19 and my Europe Study abroad had not been cancelled. Alas.

Today Marie and I celebrated our 23rd wedding anniversary with a family dinner of take out from the Bombay House.

The kids contribution to the event was painting the porch rocker I gave to Marie on our first wedding anniversary.

We look forward to the time when we can eat out and travel far and wide without worry.

Thanks to all the health care workers, the delivery folks, the airplane pilots, the store clerks, the kids' teachers and professors, our work supervisors and so many others who forged on doing what they could to help others stay safe, healthy, employed, fed and happy. I have been very impressed with glimpses of how so many of you have weathered this storm with grace, good will and good humor.

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