Sunday, October 7, 2018

Kids of Kenya -

We love Conference weekend.  Hearing inspired talks and receiving wise counsel is always uplifting, but General Conference gives us two days packed with humbling instruction, hopeful encouragement and leaves us renewed and ready to face the world for another six months.

In most Conference announcements there are some surprises.  In April 2018 the longstanding programs of Home and Visiting Teaching were dissolved and the focus changed on actually ministering to each other.  That rocked our world.

This Conference had a bombshell of changing our meeting schedule from three hours each Sunday, to two hours.  This change does more than just let parents take cranky children home early, although that can be a definite plus.   It will allow wards in multi-ward buildings to meet earlier, and that is easier for everyone.  Other organizational changes were made that will make staffing easier and more streamlined and more flexible.  And eleven new temples will be constructed throughout the world.

So there was ample food for thought and spirit. 

In between the sessions of Conference we watched KSL live.  The programming that they have between sessions is usually very good, and on Sunday afternoon they had a particularly sweet session documenting a young man - Steven Kyalo who is rescuing street children that live in the Sewato ghetto.

Here is Steven Kyalo's Story   Steven has worked for more than 20 years rescuing orphan children.  He made and sold wood carvings to support this work.  Recently some couple missionaries have been working with him, and have established the Shamba Foundation to help fund even more kids.

We were really touched by how much good one person can do - unfunded, unsung, he just decided to do it, and many kids lives have been changed forever.

If you want to watch the whole show, The Kids of Kenya - here it is.  I hope that you enjoy it.


Monday, March 5, 2018

Dreaded Childhood Death Marches - The Dentist and The Piano Teacher

Recently in a Marco Polo post Son1 was in Denver looking at my boyhood home with my brother.  There are a lot of old memories in that house.  Dad built it in 1950, and he and Mom moved in while construction was in progress.  By that I mean that it had walls, a roof, window's, doors and functional plumbing and wiring, and not much else.

But love conquers all, and Dad went to work every day at Adolph Coors Company, and Mom stayed home and spackeled, sanded, and painted.  Dad would come home after work, Mom had dinner waiting and then he would work until 9 or 10 at night.  Mom would work the next day to get her part finished.  And so it went until two bedrooms were completed.

This is the house that Al and Norma built,  They built it up from a wheat field, and planted all the trees.  Now it is a Tri-plex, not much like home.

I've been asked to recount the 'Death March to the Piano Teacher' and the 'Death March to the Dentist'. 

I'm not sure that the Piano Teacher actually was that much of a 'Death March' person. There may be some things that my brother remembers that I have forgotten.  She was quite a large lady, and diabetic I think, but grew up at a time when nicknames were common, and sometimes cruel, and often opposite. Thus we took piano lessons from 'Tiny' T.  She was really a pretty nice lady, and I'm sure that if I would have contained even a single bone of musical ability that we would have gotten along famously.  But I didn't, and we didn't.  We actually did pretty well as long as I didn't have to move my hands, and all the notes were labeled with numbers so I knew which finger to use.  After that things went down hill.  The notes just looked like a bunch of flies on the music, and it meant nothing to me.  Frustrated with this situation, I stopped practicing, or would only play things that I knew, or scales or arpeggios which I liked.  Our piano was in my sister's room in the back of the house, and I remember on at least one occasion opening the screen and slipping out the window.  Sometime after this I went to a lesson, and Tiny told me to ride my bike home and find my mom and tell her that she would be along soon.  She pretty much followed me home and told Mom that she was wasting her money and Tiny's time by having take piano.  I don't remember how much longer my brother and sister took lessons - it seems like a year or two.  Dad said that the child who went the farthest in they music would get the piano, and it is in my sister's house now.

The Dentist's Death March 

Now, this is a more appropriate 'Death March' subject.  Our dentist, Dr. G. lived down the street about a half mile.  I'm sure he was a very upright and virtuous man, and would probably be appalled at the terror that he engendered in the kids in our family.  While I'm sure he was a good man, he was, to us, very strange.  Mom and Dad had a garden, but he was an organic gardener before it was fashionable.  He used the French method of double digging and replacing the bottom level of dirt with manure and peat moss.  His gardens were amazing, and even as a kid I could tell that he had a great gift.  I just wish he would have pursued it instead of dentistry. 

His office was kind of old fashioned, even then.  And he didn't like to use too much extra Novocaine, so every visit was pretty memorable.  He also was ahead of his time in the conspiracy department, being an early member of the John Birch Society.  His missionary zeal for the 'Birch Society' fully equaled his gardening ability.  But we were just kids, and he would get some Novocaine in us (not too much!), get our mouth's pried open as then ask us about what we thought of Lyndon Johnson, the Democrats, Bobbie Baker (scandal in the Johnson administration)....and on and on and on.  All the while drilling a little harder if we didn't answer right away, or the right answer.  Or so it seemed.

He had a little high speed drill that he liked to use for the rough work, but for some reason he always had to get out the belt driven drill to finish up before putting the filling in place.  There was something about that drill - when he used it there was a low frequency rumble that just about shook your other teeth out.  I hated it more than everything else put together.

But he fixed our teeth, fairly well for that day and time, and in fairness to Dr. G, much later a different dentist told me to remind him that I have an extra nerve that has to have it's own shot of Novocaine, so maybe the pain wasn't something deliberate. 

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Back from the Wasteland that is FB

Since the internet is such a new part of our lives, we tend to see the generations of internet fads and innovations fly by in our lives like a race car in a video game - the ride is kind of wild, bumpy and out of control, and we kind of try to keep the car on the road and not crashing.  At least that is how it seems to me.

I remember.....says the old man  with a cackle.....back when my son told me about email.  I was underwhelmed.  What was the point, I asked him?  You can just call someone on the phone and talk to them.  What is so great about email?  But pretty soon email was really important, and then it became the medium to tell all your friends, and many people that you didn't know at all, to tell them all the latest jokes.  And then it got so big that lists of jokes and stories were forwarded to hundreds of people on lists and that part of email became impersonal and annoying.

Sometime after that blogging  became quite the fashionable way to  communicate - not that blogs and vlogs ever replaced email, but they were new and in the spotlight, and a great deal of creativity was poured in to millions of pages of digital print.   Blogs came to be a great way to keep up with what was new in the lives of our children - most of them took to expressing their thoughts and telling their stories in their blogs, so Annie and I embraced them too.

And then along came FB.  The last four or five years I have been seduced by the siren song of FB.  It was so easy.  You can register your approval with a like or a love, or a comment.  You could share a meme or a video, and many of them were and are touching, funny, alarming, or tragic, or some mixture of emotions..  Several times I tried to get back into my blogs, but I had become lazy, and it just took so little effort to scroll through the FB feed.

And then came the election.  There were just so many voices...and so many of them were and are so angry.  I feel a little PTSD'ed from all the politics and so found myself backing away from FB, and not missing it much at all.  Feeling a little guilty for not checking in and wishing friends a happy birthday, or liking their posts.  But just a little guilty, and less so each day.

Then a couple of days ago my brother sent me (via email!) an obituary for the father of a childhood friend..  It was a sweet tribute to a gentle, kind and thoughtful man, but a man that I had been a little afraid of as a child because he was a pretty strict dad, and I thought that was a little scary.  Later on, as an adult I came to realize what a great man he was and wrote a blog post about that realization.  It was kind of my tribute to his many good and admirable traits and I dug through my old blogs until I found it (Walt) and sent it to my brother.

I guess that the conclusion of this story is the realization that I have wasted a lot of time on FB.  I probably waste a lot of time anyway, but re-reading some of my old posts, I came to realize that I put a lot more thought and feeling into each post than I did in all my FB posts, and so I concluded that I should be better about chronicling the events and adventures that Annie and I have in these sweet years that we have together.  I don't really need to share it all with the world, but it does need to be written down.  It's not anywhere near the New Year, but that's my September resolution.

Light My Fire! The Story of Our Wood Stove

In November of last year we decided to put in a wood stove.  We had a wood pellet burning stove that came with the house, and we used it from time to time to supplement our central heat pump system.  But it was noisy and it took electricity to run it.  Late in 2015 we had a heavy wet snow that knocked out the power for a good sized part of Douglas County.  We were out of electricity for about 22 hours, and the house got pretty cool (low 50's) by the time the power came on again.

We knew that we didn't like being cold, and that this area could be subject to freezing rain, and consequent outages from time to time.  So a wood stove seemed like a good idea.  But wood stoves can dominate the room, and having a big bore chimney going up the wall makes it hard to decorate and make the room beautiful.  This was important, especially for Annie as she has a discerning eye, and knows right away when something is out of balance, or just kind of ugly.

I wanted the stove to be a stove and not an insert.  We had an insert in our fireplace in Utah and even though it was a sophisticated design, advanced and efficient (theoretically) it didn't ever really heat the room that well, and it was totally necessary to have the fan running.  It was stuffed into a big stone fireplace....and, well, it just wasn't the best heater in the world.

We talked about this for a long time.  We really started talking about it right after the electrical outage, and we had a hard time coming to a good conclusion.  Wood stoves get hot, and they need to be some distance (depending on the construction materials) from walls, floors, and ceilings, so they tend to set out into the room, dominating it... Then the big chimney also dominating the view, and overshadowing any pictures or wall hangings...couldn't it be an insert? But an insert isn't efficient...we want something that will keep us warm when the power is off...but we don't want it to be ugly....but we want it to work.... This conversation kept going for almost the whole year.  Then one night while talking about it for the nth time we said what if we built a fireplace like surround around a free standing wood stove.....?

This is Annie's concept drawing:

And here are some progress pictures:

So we got pretty close to solving both problems. I haven't ever seen anything exactly like it, but the stove works well, and looks much better than the old pellet stove did.  We thought we would only be using it when the power was out, but found that it made the house so pleasant and comfortable, that we used it for most nights this winter, and it cut our power bill in half!