Sunday, April 29, 2012


I have two more days of work as a dentist.  I remember being accepted to University of Washington Dental School before we were married.  That was in 1972, around Christmas.  Going to Seattle single was not in my plans.  Fortunately Gaye said she would be willing to share my world if I would share hers and we have never looked back.  But that was then and this is now.

My career in dentistry has been a wonderful journey.  The profession has changed a lot since I entered school in September 1973.  Techniques, materials, regulations, costs, the organization of the profession, equipment, attitude of the public, continuing education requirements and opportunities...these and many more aspects of the profession have made dramatic changes.  Most have been good.  Some have not.

The most common question is concerning what I am going to do now that I have all this time on my hands.  I really don't think I will have a problem with being bored.  I have a huge garden to take care of.  In fact I am trying the square foot garden approach this year.  I'll let you know how it goes.  I have my pottery wheel and electric kiln, and a gas kiln that I am trying to get through the building inspection bureaucracy so I can use it.  Stay tuned.  The wood working equipment in the shop is getting bored from not being used enough.  We have kids in Ohio and Alaska (recently moved from Brisbane Australia) and scattered around the Great Basin.

(Actually we love seeing the kids but it is the grandkids that are the real attraction.  Sorry kids, but it is true.)  We get to the Twin Falls temple weekly.  I intend to stay tuned with my violin and the Magic Valley Symphony (we had our final concert of the season two days ago).  I am the assistant primary accompanist at church, which I love.  And I am learning to play the bagpipes.  Yep.  It is like playing 4 oboes or bassoons at once.

I have wanted to play the pipes for ever.  That reminds me of a Wizard of Id comic strip.  A guy is talking to the King, applying for the open position of Chief Torturer.  Asked what his qualifications were he replied proudly, "I can play the accordion and the bagpipes!"  He got the job, of course.

I think the first time I really heard the wail of bagpipes was in East London South Africa when I was there for a missionary business meeting.  There was a parade down town and a band marched past.  The sound nearly took my breath away.  Some of my ancestors are from Scotland.  Maybe it really is in my genes.  I tune in Thistle and Shamrock on NPR and any other program that plays Celtic music.  We went to Ricks College a few years ago to see the Black Watch.  I actually shed tears because the music was so stirring.  I have been thinking about learning to play but not knowing how to get started.  Then there was an article in our local paper about a bagpipe band in Twin Falls.  Are you kidding!  I immediately contacted the band leader and I will pick up my practice chanter next Tuesday.  I have already been practicing the fingering for the first 5 notes by holding a long pencil and moving my fingers to mimic the chanter.  They say it takes 4-6 months with the practice chanter before one is ready to graduate to the pipes.  I intend to do it a lot sooner than that because we will be on a mission by the end of September.

So there you have it.  Gaye will have a few things for me to do around the homestead, I am sure, but there are plenty of activities planned.  Oh, did I tell you I am learning to play the bagpipes?

That's it for now.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Blind and Sight

In my undergraduate days at BYU I had a scholastic scholarship that paid for tuition, but living and books were from my pocket. The $50 per month I received from ROTC helped with my rent and some of the groceries, but I was still a little short and I did not want to borrow money.  So I got a job with the university reading for a blind student.  The pay was not great, but a box of corn flakes was 43 cents then, so it balanced out.  
I was assigned to read for a young man, about 19 years old, from somewhere in southern Utah.  He was majoring in chemical engineering with a minor in music.  My job was to read his text assignments to him and to go with him to his class when he had a test or quiz and read that for him, too.  His name was Glen.  Not really, but that is what I’ll call him.  As I think about it, I learned a lot more from Glen than he learned from me.  We got along very well and I soon learned that he was fully involved in life.
For instance, Glen did not like carrying the traditional white cane.  He was acutely aware of what was going on around him and seemed to get along just fine with out the cane.  One time I was walking from one building to another with him and I tried an experiment.  At BYU, when the weather is nice, every sidewalk intersection between classes is a loose traffic jam of students standing and talking about whatever subject needed airing.  So as we headed along the walk to his next class, which I think was chemistry, I purposefully led him toward one of those gaggles at an intersection.  I wanted to see how he would pick his way through the crowd.  To throw in a factor of difficulty, I kept up a conversation with Glen as we walked.  He picked his way through the congestion without a mishap.  I was impressed with Glen’s ability to carry on a conversation and still be fully aware of his surroundings by listening and feeling.
Sometimes I went with Glen to a room in the library that was a designated assembly point for blind students on campus.  They all knew each other by voice and would call out a greeting as soon as someone else entered.  “Hi Glen!  It’s nice to see you,” one of them called out cheerfully. Another conversation going on included “well, let’s take a look at that,” and another young lady cheerily bid good-by with “see you later.”  I remember thinking something like, “You can’t use that word.  You can’t see anything.”  But it was not long until I learned that I was very wrong.  They could see things I was not even aware existed.  
One afternoon I had just finished reading an exam for Glen and he wanted to get to the Cannon Center at Helaman Halls for lunch before they stopped serving it.  Because Glen didn’t like the cane, he had a peculiar way of swinging his arms in a little circle in front of him so he could feel if he was about to bump into something and change course.  He turned quickly from me and ran smack into a door that was left open.  Ouch!  The force of the encounter knocked him backward a little, but he quickly recovered and, without any complaint, he adjusted his direction through the open door and on down the path to the lunch room.  I stood amazed.
My experience with Glen was a real eye-opener.  I have often thought of spiritual eyes and how the Light of Christ affects our vision.  When I read a phrase like “eyes of understanding” or “a vision opened up” I see things differently than I did before.  In a classroom discussion when one of the students asked if any of our Church leaders have seen Jesus, a whole new field opened up to me.  I thought, “If one of those leaders happened to not have physical sight, would it make any difference?”  Of course it would not.  Blind people can see God as well as sighted people.  That gift of vision comes through The Holy Ghost.  I have an increased awareness of my surroundings through a different kind of sight.  I often feel deep gratitude for having had the experience of seeing the bigger picture.  Truly, the blind can lead the sighted.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Where Love Is

One of my nephews came to visit last month.  He brought his wife and their three boys.  They just wanted to get out of town.  I think they wanted to be around Gaye for a day or two but she was in Ohio helping our kids there get ready to sell their house.  So Neph and his family came anyway.  We had a nice visit.  The house is pretty much back to a state of order, too.

Several years ago Neph contacted us and said he would like to come and live with us for a while.  He was caught in a situation that was not to his liking but he didn’t know how to get out of it.  He was failing in high school, he was caught in activities that he didn’t like but didn’t know how to stop, and he could see that his life was not headed where he wanted to go.  We welcomed him with open arms and with some inalienable rules to be followed.
  1. You be honest.  Mistakes can be corrected and courses can be changed, but honesty is absolutely required.
  2. You follow our house rules.  We don’t smoke or use alcohol or drugs.  Period.
  3. You go to school and do your best at your studies.
Neph promised to follow those rules and soon he arrived at our house.  His hair was done in the hit-man style of short on the sides and long on top, pulled into a pony tail.  That was a style none of our boys had ever tried.  He had a little ear pin in one ear, and he smelled of tobacco.  But he was pleasant to be around and we wanted to be of assistance where we could.
Our girls gently made fun of his hair and the next day it was all cut off.  We were off to a good start.  The ear pin also came out.  A week later he announced quietly that he was finished with smoking.  Alcohol had not been a problem.
The summer he arrived, and before school started up, we had an Area Conference of the LDS Church in Pocatello.  Neph was only a couple of weeks in our home and still trying to get things stabilized in his life.  The conference was presided over by President Faust of the First Presidency of the Church.  There were others visiting with him, but he was the presiding authority.  I was in the choir, so I was not sitting with my family.  The meeting was two hours long, held in the Holt Arena on the ISU campus.  One side of the bleachers was filled and there were chairs on the football field.  Several children went down to sit on the carpet and be closer to the speakers.  There were some good talks given and the music was up to high standards.  
The choir sang “Our Savior’s Love” by Crawford Gates.  It has a powerful message of hope and love.  President Faust was the final speaker.  I think he gave a good talk, but what I really remember is how he closed the meeting.  He said he might not be in the area again and he wanted to leave his Apostolic blessing upon us.  He then proceeded to pronounce a blessing on every person there, but in a very deliberate and orderly manner.  He blessed the little children and the young parents who were struggling to get their education and start their little ones on the right path.  He blessed the older people who had retired and needed help with some issues connected with being on the downslope of life.  He blessed the young single adults who were trying to resolve critical issues as they dealt with the challenges of their time.  He blessed the families that were well established in careers and social activities common to that age group.  And he blessed the youth, those who were struggling with negative peer pressures as they moved along the path.  Hold to the Rod, was the counsel he gave them, and he promised that they would receive guidance and direction from their leaders and especially from The Holy Ghost as they kept their promises.
Neph had actually dropped out of high school, but he was failing every class anyway.  He enrolled in our local school and started to get cranked up in his studies.  At first it was hard but he stuck with it and shortly he was bringing home good grades.  He went to seminary class and was interviewed for advancement in the Aaronic Priesthood to catch up with his peers.  He had some great Young Men leaders and the boys in our ward made him a part of their circle.  

He graduated and decided he would like to serve a mission.  In the LDS culture a Church mission is really the final step in making a boy into a man.  Life skills are learned there that are not gained in any other way.  The missionaries learn to focus on a very difficult task.  They get outside their own problems and comfort zone as they gain testimony of God’s love for His children.  They get to step off the merry-go-round for a couple of years as their compass bearings are established for the rest of life’s journey.  So he sent in his papers and received his call to a mission in California.  His mission president would be Val Clarke, on of my closest friends during high school in Rexburg.  Sister Clarke was from my own ward and we are third cousins, once removed.  Gaye and I were confident he would be in good hands.

The mission service was completed well and Neph decided he wanted to go to college.  He headed for Ricks College in Rexburg where there is a strong LDS influence that affects every aspect of life.  He returned to his home in Colorado to report his mission.  There he met the girl who would become his wife.  He transferred from Ricks to Colorado, was soon married, and was getting very good grades as he prepared for dental school.  He was accepted, has graduated, and is now a practicing dentist beginning on what will be a great career and opportunity to serve mankind.
So how was this young man able to turn his life around?  It took a lot of work on his part and a lot of prayers on the part of his parents and of his Uncle Dad and Aunt Mom.  (He calls me Ken but Gaye is Aunt Mom to him.  His kids call us Grandpa and Grandma.)  There were some struggles and a couple of brief re-sets along the way.  But I am convinced that one of the key factors has been the blessing of President Faust in Pocatello.  God honors His servants.  When lives are opened up to the influence of The Holy Ghost those lives are blessed.  When we make honest effort to be obedient to the Rules of the Journey we make ourselves available to be blessed by our loving Heavenly Father and His Beloved Son.  Love is the most important power in the universe.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012


A few years ago we decided to get our yard put together.  As a motivator we told Ashlee she could have her wedding reception in the yard.  It was a lot of work and expense, but the final product was very nice.  So was the reception.

Since then it has been another item of maintenance.  The universe is falling apart, after all, and my yard is evidence of that very problem.  One of the problems is that the grandkids love to climb on the colored rocks.  I have told them to please stay off the colored rocks.  I have begged them, cajoled them, threatened them, bribed them, reminded them, tried to pin the moral responsibility for a beautiful world on them, cleaned up after them--all to no avail.  They still love to climb on the rocks.

In fact, one day I was at the bottom of the little hill and one of the little lovlies was climbing around in the red rocks.  I told him to please stay out of the rocks.  He said, "Okay, Grandpa," and came down.  "We are making progress," I thought.  Then I turned around and there was little Emmett, age 3, panting as he climbed up the hill through the red rocks.  He was really proud of his mountaineering ability as he reached the top.  I lost my sanity and firmly grabbed his little shoulders.  I held him where he could see nothing but my eyes and put on my most fierce facade.  "Emmett!" firmly growled, "I told you to stay off those rocks.  Who did you think I was talking to?"  Emmett looked at me and started to cry.  I set him down firmly but gently and said, "I love you, but stay off those rocks!"

The following report came to me a couple of days later.  Gaye was laughing so hard she had difficulty telling the story.  She said Emmett came up to her and in his little voice said, "I wove you Gwandma.  I wove you vewy much."  He looked up just to see me walking past and said firmly to Gaye, "But not him!"

I have made up with Emmett.  These little ones are more than just fillers in my book of remembrance.  They are what life is all about.  I just hope the world they inherit will be something they can work with as they move along the road to their own dreams.  We owe something to them.