Adventures with My 100-yr-old Mother

Mother celebrated her 100th birthday in March. We had as fun party at Zion NP Lodge. Almost all of her immediate family were there. Many coming from the East Coast.

Unfortunately, mom is getting increasingly unsteady on her feet. So we are now providing more intense senior care. During August, I spent more than 2 weeks with her.

She loves going for rides in her car, a circa 2005 Buick with 50,000 miles on it. (It’s in almost new condition.) When I asked her about going for a ride, it is always an enthusiastic “yes” as she grabs her walker and heads for the garage.

We’ve visited Zion NP, Cedar Breaks NM, and Enterprise Reservoirs. Then we decided to be a little more adventuresome. We rented a pontoon boat and took a spin around Panguitch Lake.

Mother Enjoying a Spin Around Panguitch Lake.

On another day, we tried a helicopter ride over Canaan Wilderness Area.

Mother after Enpying a 30-minute Helicopter Ride

And after Chad (our son) and his family joined us, we took a easy 4-wheeling ride on the Joshua Tree Scenic Byway. The next day, we did some off-roading in Warner Valley. We cut mom’s participation short as it was hot and sunny and we had taken the roof of our Jeep Wrangler.

4-wheeling with Mom in Warner Valley

Mom enjoys getting out the house. My brother Ted has taken her over much of southern Utah and into Grand Canyon NP North Rim.

In addition to the family visits and adventures, the primary care for mom is provided by the very attentive Sherrie. Who visits every morning.

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Josephine Spencer: Early Mormon Revolutionary Progressive

By Michael Austin (excerpted from bcc)

Josephine Spencer [may be] the most important figure in Mormon literature that most people have never heard of.

Spencer was born into the middle-ranks of the Mormon aristocracy. Her father. Daniel Spencer, had been the mayor of Nauvoo and a member of the Council of the Fifty before the migration. In Utah, he was the President of the Salt Lake City Stake from 1849 until his death in 1868, when Josephine was 7 years old. She attended the Brigham Young Academy and received a certificate in English before joining the staff of the Deseret News, where she worked for most of the year as the Society Editor.

And she also wrote stuff. Lots of stuff. And she published it in almost every one of the Church’s periodicals during her lifetime. Her works appear in the Womens’ Exponent, the Contributor, the Juvenile Instructor, the Young Women’s Journal, the Relief Society Journal, and the Improvement Era. From 1890 through 1920, Spencer was one of, if not the most prolific writer in the Mormon world.

She also published to national audiences in forms as varied as The Black Cat (a fantasy and horror magazine published in comic book format), The Youth’s Companion (a Boston-based newspaper that published heart-warming stories of family life), and The Coming Light (a socialist /humanist magazine based in San Francisco). The work in this latter magazine comes from Spencer’s main side-hustle, which was calling down the wrath of God on the overfed heads of an oppressive bourgeoisie.

She was a committed progressive, a member of the Populist Party, a firm labor advocate, and a believer in a society that shared its resources equitably among all of its people.

Modern Latter-day Saints will probably be shocked at the way that Spencer’s fiction and poetry mix profound loyalty to Mormonism, uplifting morality tales for youth, and calls for the proletariat to rise up and throw off their chains. But this ideological combination was much easier to hold in balance during Spencer’s life, when many Latter-day Saints supported progressive movements.

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John Lewis’s Parting Message to America’s Youth

By Rep. John R. Lewis (Special to the NY Times)

Ordinary people with extraordinary vision can redeem the soul of America by getting in what I call good trouble, necessary trouble. Voting and participating in the democratic process are key. The vote is the most powerful nonviolent change agent you have in a democratic society. You must use it because it is not guaranteed. You can lose it.

You must also study and learn the lessons of history because humanity has been involved in this soul-wrenching, existential struggle for a very long time. People on every continent have stood in your shoes, though decades and centuries before you. The truth does not change, and that is why the answers worked out long ago can help you find solutions to the challenges of our time. Continue to build union between movements stretching across the globe because we must put away our willingness to profit from the exploitation of others.

Though I may not be here with you, I urge you to answer the highest calling of your heart and stand up for what you truly believe. In my life I have done all I can to demonstrate that the way of peace, the way of love and nonviolence is the more excellent way. Now it is your turn to let freedom ring.

When historians pick up their pens to write the story of the 21st century, let them say that it was your generation who laid down the heavy burdens of hate at last and that peace finally triumphed over violence, aggression and war. So I say to you, walk with the wind, brothers and sisters, and let the spirit of peace and the power of everlasting love be your guide.

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John R. Lewis and Mormon Missions

Rep. John Lewis and I are roughly the same age; he was 5 years older. What is particularly impressive about Lewis’s life is that he became engaged in a great cause at a very young age.

In August 1963, Lewis participated in the “March on Washington.” He orated along side Martin Luther King at the Lincoln Memorial. At the same time, I had just started my LDS mission and was working in Seraing, Belgium. While I was spinning my wheels on a questionable endeavor (which included trying to justify the Church’s Black ban), Lewis was already a major player in the Civil Rights movement, at the age of 23.

I wonder sometimes if my mission time would have been better spent working for civil rights, or some other social or humanitarian cause? There is much to admire when examining the life John R. Lewis. Not so much about examining the Church’s Civil Right’s record. It took 15 yrs after 1963 for the Church to remove its Black priesthood/temple ban.

For me personally, the lesson to be learned here is that the Church should seriously reexamine how it uses the time of its young missionaries. Maybe there should be a greater emphasis placed on humanitarian work, on secular volunteerism? And not just in the USA, but globally. It would do much to improve the image of the Church.

Let’s all honor the memory of John Lewis. And one of the best ways to accomplish that mission is by working to improve conditions around the world. The Mormon Church has the manpower, skills, and financial resources to accomplish great things. Yet the Church leadership dawdles.

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Assisting a School in the Sipi Falls Area, Uganda

Several years ago, Playgrounds Everywhere staff installed a 4-seat swing set, a monkey bar set, and a climbing tower at a school near Sipi Falls.

Sipi Falls is an important vacation area in northeastern Uganda. The recreation area includes a series of 3 major falls that drop off a mountain located near Mbale, Uganda.

Student Walking Toward Upper Sipi Falls

This week,a Ugandan team from P/E returned to the Sipi Falls school to make adjusts to the swing set and deliver 2 hand-washing stations.

Adding 2 Seats to the Swing Set Frame and Making Repairs and Adjustments

Two Hand-washing Station Delivered to the Sipi Falls Primary School

One of the favorite activities for Utah visitors is to take Ugandan students on field trips. One of the students’s favorite trip is to Sipi Falls.

Students from Queen of Peace School in Mbale Visiting Lower Sipi Falls

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Playground at Kidsway Education Center, Uganda

A friend of mine, Gabriel Arahi, runs a preschool, nursery, and primary school at a small community about 45 minutes south of Mbarara, Uganda.  Kidsway Education Center is a very well run school.

Students at Kidsway Education Center

I met Gabriel when he was my driver on a vehicle I had rented.  He was very handy and helpful when we were installing playgrounds.  So he has continued to help Playgrounds Everywhere on several installations in various corners of Uganda.

The playground at Kidsway started with a small metal swing set that Gabriel fabricated from parts he scavengered up.  He subsequently added a small wooden swing.  Last year P/E added a large 9-seat swing set.

Large 9-seat Swing Set at Kidsway Education Center

Since then a large A-frame tire climber and 3 hand-washing stations added.

Colorful Large A-frame Tire Climber

Students Using the Hand-washing Stations at Kidsway

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Playground for a Remote Peruvian School

Last week, our playground installation work in the Cusco/Sacred Valley region started up again.  It had been temporary halted by COVID-19 concerns.  This time the playground was installed at a school in Suyo, Peru.

The Road from Calca, Peru, to Suyo

The equipment was fabricated and installed by the Cardenas-Torres family and included:  a 2-seat teeter totter, a 4-seat swing set, a tire climber, and a monkey-bar set.

David C-T Placing Concrete to Anchor the Tire Climber

Teeter Totter and Swing Set Installed at Suyo, Peru, School

Children Testing Their New Playground Equipment

From Calca, C-T family members had to travel 6 hours to reach the school. The Playgrounds Everywhere effort is moving farther and farther away from the Calca/Sacred Valley area and into more and more isolated areas.

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More Hand-washing Stations for the Rwenzori Mountain Communities

Our NGO, Playgrounds Everywhere, recently sent 8 additional hand-washing stations to Kyarumba, Uganda, at the southern end of the Rwenzori Mountains (near the border with DR of the Congo).  Ugandan officials are requiring 2 stations at each school.  These 8 are destine for 4 primitive mountain schools.

Vehicle Delivering Hand-washing Stations to Kyarumba

Chrispus Mbusa Inspecting the 8 New Hand-washing Stations.

The stations are being distributed by Chrispus Mbusa, a local advocate for the Rwenzori Mountain communities, and he is also a friend.

Two Stations Provided to a Mountain Village School. Note the Happy Customers.

After a 4-month Corona-19 hiatus, we are slowly and carefully restarting our efforts in Uganda.

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LDS Church Buildings Post Epidemic

Are contemporary LDS Church buildings dinosaurs in a post-epidemic church?

Two of the more liberal LDS blogs have been speculating on how the Church and its many auxiliaries will emerge after the current epidemic abates.  Most of those commenting feel that things will never be the same, real changes are in the offing.

I  live in Orem, UT, on the Wasatch Front.  It seems like there is an LDS Chapel on every corner.  That is clearly an exaggeration, but there are churches galore.  And as I drive by them, their parking lots are mostly empty over 90+ percent of the time.  And it appears that Church parking lots are seriously over designed.

Typical LDS Church. Of What Future Use?

It was recently announced (or revealed) that Church meetings are to be limited to 2 hours each Sunday.  Guaranteeing that the church buildings will be used even less in the future than they were in the past.  The emphasis now is on home religious study.

With COVID-19 epidemic, Church meetings have been canceled.  Members have been encouraged to hold worship services in their homes.  This has engendered quite a bit of discussion about the importance of weekly church participation.  Particularly, since many members are really enjoying their home services.

The point of this OP is that Church leaders need to rethink their huge expenses for meeting houses.  Are their other options for the buildings?  Might there be a better design?

There are several alternative options for Church buildings.  Here are two:

  • Develop alternative uses for the existing structures.  This could include a variety of options including more adult education, language training, child care, working on and storing supplies for humanitarian projects, homeless support systems, etc.
  • Church’s property could be used for gardens, orchards, and small-animal husbandry.
  • In developing parts of the world, the Church’s large landholding could be used for playgrounds, soccer and volleyball fields, etc.
  • Have Church architects develop a radical new design.  One that minimizes the space required for meetings, cutting down on the large size of structures.

And I’m sure there are many other possibilities.  We need creative thinking.

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Adding Local Cultural Enhancements to Our Global Playgrounds

We’ve been searching for ways to give our global playgrounds a more local flavor.  One thing we have started doing in Peru is to add 2 cows atop school swing sets (typically the highest point of a playground).

The most traditional bulls come from Pukara on the altiplano between Cusco and Puno and two bulls side by side (male and female) are said to signify various things; they keep the house safe with a blessing to the “Apus” (the Inca mountain gods) and ensure wealth, health and unity of the occupants.

As you travel around the Cusco region of Peru, you see a pair of “bulls” atop many households.  So we thought it would appropriate in install them on playgrounds.  Hoping it will bring good mental and physical health to the school students.  And help them stay safe.

Bulls Destine for a School Playground Swing Set. The Corn Beer is Used to Bless the Installation.

Since swing set frames are in the shape of a roof, we are placing 2 “bulls” atop each of our swing sets.  Our latest, which is destine for Suyo, Peru, is being adorned with 2 “bulls.”

Attaching 2 Bulls to a Swing Set Destine for Suyo, Peru

Other cultural additions being considered include:  animal sculptures that the children can climb on, local mythological characters, totems, etc.

The playground equipment in Peru is manufactured and installed by the Cardenas-Torres Family, a Quechua Indian family living in Calca.  Photos provided by Willow C-T.

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