December 1, 2010 Dear Elder Joshua Dean Thunderbolt: As you are certainly aware, many people this time

of year write a Christmas letter to their longlost friends and loved ones. I have received several and the vast majority can be summed up thusly: Dear Old Friend: My kids are smart/cute/stinky. We went on vacation to Hawaii/Provo/nowhere. Our home was repossessed. Hope you are well. Love, Former friend that you would not now recognize. P.S. I will pretend not to know you if I ever see you in public. Yeah. Those letters are great. As you also know, I have also written Christmas letters for the past several years. However, mine differ from most others in that I completely lie through my teeth. I hope that you have enjoyed them as you have done the Lord’s tracting in Iowa. However, this is your last Christmas as a missionary, and you are the last of a long line of consecutively-Lordserving nephews. Since I have been secretly writing these letters only to entertain missionaries, it is now time to bring a stop to the tradition. So, there will not be a Christmas letter this year. Sorry. Anyway, Josh, I hope that things are going well for you. In answer to your questions: No, I do not know why your companion keeps calling you “Twinkles.” Yes, bleach can kill that, but I wouldn’t wear it again anyway. No, I do not think that Hungarian copies of the Book of Mormon will inspire your investigators to feast upon the word. As for the news around here, our kids are certainly stinky. We just got back from a fun vacation to nowhere. Our home was repossessed, but we hired another exorcist and the ghosts vacated post-haste. So that’s it. Sorry no Christmas letter this year. Hope things are good for you. Keep serving the Lord. We love you. Brent & Terri & Zoe & Sam & Daisy & Jeffrey P.S. Here are a few photos and stories and stuff.

 This photo is to show you that your cousin Jeffrey is also having

success on his mission in Turkmenistan. Here he is shown at the baptism services for his first convert, Vladimir Jose Kersmushikano. Jeffrey reports that Vlad, although a great guy, was a little difficult to baptize because as you can see, he is gigantic. As you know, Jeffrey is 6 feet tall, which makes me guess that Vlad must me at least nine feet tall. Jeffrey did manage to baptize him in a local lake. However, more than just being excited about Jeffrey’s first baptism, we are excited because Vlad is such a handsome devil.

____________________________________________________________________________ Well, the Hairy Krishnas, Speaking of religion, Zoe this apparently baptize you year decided to convert to the with color instead of Hairy Krishnas. It was water. Fortunately, her certainly a difficult time for conversion was shorther, but she has always been lived. She was fine with a rebel, and we are finally at the idea of shaving her the end of our rope. head and dancing and Accordingly, we decided to begging for money at the go along with this little airport, but when she journey of self-discovery. found out that she was Well, once she decided to going to have to become a join, the local Hairy Krishnas vegetarian, she said forget were so excited, they had a it. This was her face when giant ceremony for her she was told what Hairy “baptism.” At the opening Krishnas eat. It is pretty exercises, they sang a cute much all lentils and hymn, but the words were a eggplant. little repetitive. Then they dunked her. ____________________________________________________________________________ I have a good friend named Mark Meatloaf. Mark is a great guy, and a great friend. Mark Meatloaf and his wife Ruth spend their lives making others feel good. That’s all they do. From morning until night, they go around spreading cheer like Santa Claus on Red Bulls. They make everyone they meet feel like their best friends. Anyway, Mark Meatloaf has, from what I can tell, only two flaws: (1) he spends entirely too much time in Church, and (2) he keeps in his basement – in storage no less – probably two hundred thousand unopened baseball cards, and several autographed items from his close personal friend, the late Charles Schulz. Now before you begin wondering if my brain has moved to Cleveland, let me explain why these are flaws. You must understand that all my life, I have had two unhealthy obsessions: baseball and comic strips. My interest in these things is not

normal. I have read the funnies every day since I was six. I watch or listen to probably 200 baseball games a year (except in 2009, when no one in their right mind could have been expected to sit through an entire World Series between the Phillies and Yankees). I am psychopathic about these things. In fact, if someday I disappear, and months later you hear about a homeless man with a shaved head, wearing a yellow zig-zag shirt, standing alone in the rain on the pitcher’s mound at Fenway Park, babbling incoherently something that sounds suspiciously like “good grief,” please come find me and medicate me. AND MARK HAS THIS STUFF SITTING IN STORAGE!!! The vast majority of the baseball cards are not even opened, but still in their original wrappers. I am led to understand that when Mark was a tiny little uncooked pile of hamburger, he worked for a baseball card shop. He was also a rabid kleptomaniac and stole box after box of cards from his employer at every possible opportunity. So there they sit, about a million baseball cards. In his basement. Attracting worms. He showed me this several years ago. I have quietly wept myself to sleep every night since. And as for Church, see, not long ago I explained to him that I was never doing a Christmas letter again. Which I am not, by the way. Since then he has not been his normal jolly self. That would not be a particular problem if we could just avoid him. However, when we arrive at church, he is there. When we leave church, he is there. Three hours a week of worship services are not enough for this guy. He lives in mortal fear that he will burn in H-E-double hockeysticks if he goes home to grab a sandwich. I think that he may actually be living in that little room where they keep the choir music. So every single time we are at church, we see him, and every time we see him at Church, he reminds me that he really loves my Christmas letter, and lobbies for its reinstatement. Lately he has been resorting to bribes. Imagine then, my surprise, when he presented to me three unopened boxes of baseball cards, for my very own, if I would promise to write a Christmas letter. Three different brands of cards, all from the years 1988-1990. A fine gesture indeed. Probably over a thousand cards. Not bad. Not enough to make me reinstate the Christmas letter, but a fine gesture nonetheless. He certainly is a swell guy. Too bad it did not work. There will be no Christmas letter this year. Nevertheless, since that time I have enjoyed opening the cards, just one pack every few days. I have enjoyed finding some great cards, including some rookie cards of some hall of famers, some cards of some of my favorite players, and many many cards of the thousands of schmucks who made the major leagues just long enough to pose for the photographer, couldn’t hit worth a sausage, and are now realtors. So, I told you all of that just to tell you this: A twenty-five year old stick of gum that has been entombed for more than two decades with several cardboard cards in the musty basement of Mark Meatloaf’s house has PRECICELY and EXACTLY the same texture, consistency, and flavor as a stick of chalk. ____________________________________________________________________________ Daisy this year was very excited because we told her that she could join a local dance company. However, money is kind of tight right now, so we had to sign her up for the cheapest dance company in town. Daisy’s excitement was kind of short lived when she found out that she joined

the dance company for zombies. As you can see in this photo, all of the other girls in her company are dead. Naturally, that makes it tough for them to dance with the lights on, so they have to be turned off during all of the performances, which disappoints Daisy because quite frankly, she is the best dancer and no one can see her. Of course she is the best dancer, because all of the zombies either keep having their limbs fall off during the performance, or they just stagger around the floor groaning softly. It is also irritating for Daisy, because all of the other girls keep trying to eat her brain. Anyway, she is trying to make the best of it. ____________________________________________________________________________ One of my all-time favorite movies is Jurassic Park 3. Forget Parts 1 and 2. #3 is where it’s at. Nevermind that, as my brother Heath is constantly reminding me, there is not a single dinosaur in that movie that lived during the Jurassic period. Cretaceous Park 3 simply does not sound as cool. So we are sticking with Jurassic Park 3. Anyway there is a quote from that movie that goes like this: “There are two kinds of boys. There are those that want to be astronomers, and those that want to be astronauts. The astronomer gets to study amazing things from a place of complete safety. But then you never get to go into space.” This quote is about my son Sam. Sam is the astronaut. Sam cannot just watch. He must do. He cannot just sit and study. He seeketh adventure, excitement, fame and reknown. Well sir, we went on one vacation this year where, horrifyingly, he got what he seeks. We are cheapskates, and when cheapskates go on vacation, they camp. In fact, we are real serious cheapskates, and when real serious cheapskates go on vacation, they camp less than five miles from their home. We did that. We went camping this year up American Fork canyon. For those of you that have been paying attention, we live in American Fork City. As you may have guessed, these two creatively-named places are fairly close to one another. Makes for pretty easy camping – if it rains, we can just come home to sleep (see the Story of Lake Pancake, Christmas 2005). If we run out of food, we can come home and make a sandwich. Pretty rough, I know. We are such cheapskates that we even camped at the very first campground in American Fork Canyon, closest to our house, – called Little Mill. Camping ten minutes from home. No joke. We went there with all the kids, Grandma & Grandpa, and Heath, Kathy, & Lindsey. We all had camping spots there together making a little enclave not unlike some polygamous compounds. This was a good thing, because it just so happened that it was Labor Day weekend. Now I don’t know if you have ever been camping at a campsite at the bottom of a mountain right next to a big city on Labor Day weekend before, but whoa nelly. Everyone else on the planet was also camping at Little Mill right then. We felt like a pack of shrink-wrapped hot dogs. People were

crammed in there so tight that there were four families living in the port-a-john. We did enjoy a certain camaraderie and sense of community there though. For example, who there didn’t enjoy the beautiful music blasting all day from the stereo of our neighbor two spots down – with lyrics exploring such eternal mysteries as cheatin’ hearts, beer induced forgetfulness, or wonderful bigrig trucks? Or who doesn’t miss the natural wonder of breathing fresh clean cigarette smoke mixed with Jim Beam flavored halitosis from our other neighbor, who we’ll call “Blade”, as he regaled us for hours with campfire tales of home-tattooing and memories of his time as duly elected president of the Hell’s Satans motor club. That real sense of friendship with our neighbors, of community, really came into play at dusk on Saturday evening. Sam, being drawn by the aforementioned spirit of adventure, decided, as a boy his age is wont to do, to explore the local craggy cliffs all by himself. Being the conscientious parent that I am, and being completely unable to stop him, I sent the little scamp on his way. And while the astronaut explored the razor sharp jags, the sane astronomers like me simply sat and contemplated the beautiful sounds of Nature’s own Charlie Daniels Band. After much time had passed, Daisy stopped talking long enough to notice that, over the delightful strains of that classic love song: “You Stole My Dog,” there was another far-away voice. A hush fell over the crowd and indeed, the faint screaming of Sam could be heard from far above the rocky cliffs. Everyone strained their necks to try to find the source of the sound, to no avail. Several shouts were made in answer, but no coherent response returned. Instead, the distant shouting voice only became more urgent and agitated. The nearest that anyone could translate the exchange was thus:
Far away Sam: GARBERBAGRER BREGGLE BRONG GRAMMBEE! Brent: SAM! WHAT? Far away Sam: (Slowly) GAR-BER-BAG-RER BREGG-LE BRONG GRAM-MB-EE-BEE! Brent: WHAT? Far away Sam: AAAAAAARRRRRRRR! GRABBELBELBLE! RAGGER! Brent: Whatever. Daisy: Dad. I think he needs help. I think he said that he hit his head. Brent: (thinking that makes sense, although he could have also said that he was delighted to hear about my upcoming pregnancy) SAM! ARE YOU OK? ARE YOU HURT? Far away Sam: AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRR!

Following this exchange, I, Sam’s loving father, decided that I better go investigate. However, what happened next is what is commonly called “a failure of communication.” I began to look around the cliffs for him. While doing so, I continued to shout his name. He, on the other hand, no longer answered any calls. After a few minutes of this, others in our family started to likewise look for Sam and call his name. However, no response came. After several minutes, Daisy started to cry, convinced that she heard Sam say that he was now dead. Terri naturally started to worry. So, I, naturally, started to run up the mountain. Meanwhile, many of the other hot dogs in our little shrink wrapped package began to wonder what all the commotion was. Clearly, everyone was looking for someone who was lost. As you can easily imagine, this aroused great excitement in the camp.

And despite the fact that there were more people in Little Mill at that time than there were in Pittsburgh, the story soon spread that a 5 year old boy named Spam was lost in the cliffs, and with his last breath before losing consciousness, he was able to gasp out a message that a large rock had hit his head. Now he was teetering on the edge of a deadly precipice. Therefore, the story went, he must be found before darkness sets in and the bears consume his lifeless carcass. Nevermind that Sam is 15 years old, over six feet tall, it was not dark, and any bear with any sense had seen the crowds at Little Mill and struck out for Colorado. The entire campground was abuzz. People from all walks of life were searching, including Blade and the entire Local 134 Chapter of the Hell’s Satans. In front of them, I was climbing a steep mountain as fast as I could go, and even I had begun to fear the worst. Sam still did not answer the calls of the thousands gathered. I knew however, that I could not fail my son. I had to find him. I was sure that I was also having a heart attack and a stroke at the same time, and that I would never breathe again, but I was not going to leave him on that mountain. Once I found him, I decided, I could go ahead and die. But not before. I heard a rock tumble down the mountain near me. I decided to shout once more, before passing out. I gathered by breath, and screamed with all that was left of my life force: “SAAAAMM!” He calmly answered, without shouting. “What?” Startled, I said “Where are you?” He said “Right here.” And then he walked around the corner and stood next to me and smiled. I hugged him. We walked down the mountain. When Sam and I emerged from the mountain, everyone was quite disappointed at the anticlimactic ending. The neighbors all hoped for half-eaten body parts, or at least some historic helicopter rescue. Nothing. He was not lost, he was not injured, and worst of all, he was not three years old. Nevertheless, some well meaning neighbor, her head no doubt full of great tales of heroic folklore like the time Hillbilly Hank Got A Country Divorce By Running Over His Cheatin’ Wife With His Semi Truck, decided to make herself useful by hopping into her car, racing down the canyon, and as soon as she got into cell phone range, calling Utah County Search and Rescue. I am not kidding. That’s what she did. Well, there was no way to stop her, and no way to stop them, so Terri gave Sam a hug, and hopped in the car to head down the mountain to call off the search and rescue squad. Well, she was too late. As she reached the mouth of the canyon, so did the search and rescue, going the other way. 45 vehicles with blasting sirens at 80 mph on the way to the scene of absolutely nothing. When they got to our camp, I walked up to them as they were putting on their corpse handling gloves. I told them that he was fine. They did not believe me. I showed my strapping, strong, 15 year old to them. They poked him to see if he was dead. Officially declaring him alive, they took off their corpse gloves, expressed relief that everything was fine, and drove their convoy of rescue vehicles away, home to their hot dinner and Andy Griffith show. I went back to the hillbilly heaven, and Sam went back up the mountain. They have not, yet, sent me a bill. ____________________________________________________________________________ This is me starring in a movie about Samuel the Lamanite:

____________________________________________________________________________ Now, a poem: Zoe 17 years old. Zoe go to wedding of friend. Zoe peer-pressured to join bouquet catching scrum. Scrum like mosh pit but less fun, more painful. Zoe unenthusiastic. Zoe support friend. Zoe stand far back behind vicious pack of bouquet-grabbers. Zoe stand FAR to the back. Zoe figure safe. Zoe friend good arm. Zoe friend airball screaming mass. Zoe not move. Zoe make “Oh Crud” face. Zoe consider faking injury to hand. Zoe consider faking own death. Zoe not think of good option. Zoe hold out hand. Bouquet fall in hand. Crowd cheer. Screaming mass scream more. Zoe Mom laugh. Zoe Dad have stroke. ____________________________________________________________________________

Finally, I will tell you about the trip we took to Arizona this summer. We went down to Phoenix for three days and went to three DBacks games. Grandma went with us. She got to be on TV. Here is a screen capture:

Right here ↑. We had an awesome time. Except during the part where our hotel room had bedbugs. True story. Not cool. No way to make that funny.

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