Thursday, January 31, 2008

Host Families

Rushing out the door this morning, I fumbled with my cell phone to retrieve an unexpected message. A woman's voice called me by my first and last name, and said she read the newspaper article and wanted more information about hosting. I knew we had planned to recruit host families for the Ecuador Youth Leadership Exchange, but what article?

Less than an hour later, an acquaintance from work passed me in the hall and said, "Nice article."

A few minutes later, a third person complimented the article, so I finally asked. "The Spokesman Review published an article today asking for host families. Your name appeared at the end."

"So that's what happened," understanding finally began to dawn upon me. We went to the kitchen and and rifled through the paper until we finally found the article in question. It appeared in the "South Side Voice" on page S11. It is printed here in its entirety.

And yes, we really do need host families, so if you or anyone you know is interested in hosting, let me know. My number appears on the article.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Anticipation the Saranac Building.

I haven't spoken much lately about the Ecuador Youth Leadership Exchange. Some time ago, I made a brief mention, but only in passing. Well, after a few bumps in the road, I'm still working on the project while feelings of anticipation slowly grow. I've spent more time downtown at the Saranac Building planning and attending meetings. The activities are beginning to take shape, including a visit to the nation's capitol in April. I will post more information as plans begin to solidify.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

More Snow

Riverfront Park in the snow.

Downtown Spokane in the snow.

Snow continues to dump over the region, forcing local schools and businesses into the extremely rare decision to close down for yet another day. Spokane Schools closed, as well as the Community Colleges. It's unbelievable. More snow is expected by Thursday. Of course, the kids are loving this unexpected holiday.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Observing Mormonism

A view of the neighborhood LDS Church, the morning after President Gordon B. Hinckley passed away in Salt Lake City.

As a former member of the LDS Church, it's a strange thing to watch Mormonism play out on the world stage. Generally, I shy away from this kind of commentary, mostly because it feels almost impossible to stay neutral. If I say anything negative about the church, people will accuse me of serving the anti-Mormon cause, but if I say anything positive, some will accuse me of promoting the church. Nothing is quite so simple, for nothing is all good or all bad. Most people and causes stand somewhere in the middle.

Having said that, two recent events stand out in my mind: the candidacy of Mitt Romney and the death of President Gordon B. Hinckley. I'll speak briefly of each.

Mitt Romney

Most recently, I've been fascinated to witness Mitt Romney's campaign, as the first viable presidential candidate in United States history. It really is remarkable, considering this nation once persecuted the Mormons and literally drove them into the American wilderness. Now we stand at the very real possibility of a Mormon rising above history to occupy the highest office in the land.

And yet despite the apparent triumph for members of the church, the cultural phenomenon surrounding Mitt Romney disappoints me immensely.

On the one hand, I find myself feeling increasingly annoyed, and even angered, by public displays of religious bigotry promoted by some members of the Evangelical community. In my view, it's perfectly acceptable to engage in civil discourse regarding theological differences, but many Evangelicals go too far when they accuse Mormons of not being Christians. I'm the first to admit I disagree with many doctrinal points of the LDS Church, but to say Mormons do not believe in Jesus is a damnable lie. If certain anti-Mormon ministries are to be believed, Mormons teach us to adore Joseph Smith more than Jesus Christ. Frankly, I believe that kind of misinformation discredits the Evangelical movement and weakens their message.

On the other hand, I feel disappointed with Romney himself for pandering to the Religious Right, as if his newfound social conservatism on issues like abortion and gay rights will somehow lesson the distaste so many Evangelicals feel for him. They will never forgive him for being Mormon, no matter how much he tries to sound like them and champion their causes.

Honestly, it's a bizarre cultural phenomenon. Mormons are clamoring to be accepted as Christians, while Evangelicals are doing everything possible to close that door. Somehow I think both sides miss the point. For my part, I would rather see Mormons and Evangelicals alike living the basic teachings of Jesus Christ, like loving our enemies, rather than arguing over who gets to wear the label.

As for Mitt Romney's candidacy, I would love to see the day when he truly stands for his conviction, rather than continue to recite talking points from the Religious Right. Perhaps then I might feel inspired to take him seriously.

Gordon B. Hinckley

As president of the Mormon Church, Gordon B. Hinckley commands a high degree of respect. He was revered by millions as a "prophet, seer, and revelator," and mouth-piece of the Lord. In a rather ironic, American sort of way, it can be said he held the keys of Saint Peter, though I'm sure the Catholics would disagree.

My experience with President Hinckley spans several decades. I remember his role in the First Presidency of the Church when I was baptized in 1984, at the age of thirteen. Hinckley was a counselor to President Spencer W. Kimball, but acted as the de-facto leader because of Kimball's frailty and advanced age. He later served under Ezra Taft Benson, and then Howard W. Hunter, before becoming president in his own right.

I once heard President Hinckley speak during a priesthood session in the old Tabernacle in Salt Lake City. Unfortunately, I remember almost nothing from his speech, except that he apologized for President Benson's absence.

Years later, President Hinckley came to Spokane to dedicate the new temple. I attended one of the dedicatory sessions, but was disappointed that I did not get to witness the ceremony from within the walls of the temple. Instead, I sat in the gymnasium in the stake center across the parking lot from the temple, and watched the ceremony via closed-circuit television. At the crowning moment of the dedication, all the members were given little white handkerchiefs for the proverbial "Hosanna Shout." We were instructed to shout three times while waving the handkerchiefs in unison, "Hosanna, hosanna, hosanna, to God and the Lamb," followed by "Amen, amen, and amen." Perhaps I unrealistically expected to feel something more than I did, but no one really shouted and I didn't feel the outpouring of spirit I had hoped to receive. At the end of the ceremony, we all filed out of the gymnasium and went home.

President Hinckley also attended a regional conference in the Spokane Arena, but I'm not sure if that event happened in conjunction with the temple dedication, or if it occurred separately. Again, I don't remember anything from the speeches, but I do remember how I felt. At the very end of the conference, President Hinckley stood to leave, and the crowd stood in unison and fell absolutely silent. At least 15,000 people were in attendance, but the silence became nearly palpable. President Hinckley turned to face the congregation one last time, smiled, and waved a white handkerchief in the air. Those in attendance returned the gesture by waving their own handkerchiefs, or by simply waving their hands. Over the years, the Spokane Arena had hosted rock concerts, monster trucks, hockey games, and circuses, but on that day I witnessed one of the most tender moments of religious devotion I had ever seen in person. That moment, more than all the words combined, impressed me the most.

In the years that followed, my reaction to President Hinckley was somewhat mixed. His outreach to other countries and his willingness to engage the media inspired me. At the same time, I always wished he would have done more to account for past issues in LDS history, rather than sweep them aside with a simple, "That's behind us..." as he often did.

Now as I read of President Hinckley's passing, I feel a mixture of sadness and longing. Part of me misses the simpler days when I felt such deep love and devotion for the president of the church, and yet I can never forget my own convictions. As much as it's impossible for many of my Mormon friends to conceive, the Lord has called me to other missions in life. Even so, I bid farewell to this man of God like an old friend. Gordon B. Hinckley stood like a father over the formative years of my spiritual development, and for that I give him honor and respect. In the end, we may disagree over points of doctrine, but love endures forever. May he find peace in the Lord as he makes his journey to the other world.

School Closure

Well, the kids got their wish after all; the school district canceled all classes today on account of snow. In fact, the Community Colleges also canceled classes, which means I'm not going to work either. I can't remember the last time the city shut down like this, with the possible exception of Ice Storm in '96.

Even so, it's quite beautiful today. The sun is shining brightly in the sky.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

More Snow

LDS Church with snow blowing off the roof...

North Spokane...

I went for a walk this evening to see the latest scenery under the snow. For the moment, the snow stopped falling from the sky, but more is expected to fall in the next few days.

Earlier today, my children watched with eager anticipation as Spokane Public Schools announced a school closure for the first time in about ten years. Sadly for my kids, they do not attend Spokane schools. So far, their district is scheduled to attend tomorrow. So sad...


From deep freeze to deep snow, the world has turned white. Some say this is the worst snow in Spokane since 1993, while those old enough to remember are comparing this to the winter of 1968. I was away in Guatemala in '93 and I wasn't born until 1971, so this is certainly the most snow I've ever seen in my lifetime. It's beautiful in its own way, but I hate the crazy drivers. And who can tell what will happen when this all melts. I guess we'll have to wait and see.

The photograph above shows my street just a little earlier this evening. My mailbox isn't quite visible under the big snow pile on the left.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008


The Clock Tower.

The American Pavilion.

Feeding the Ducks.

The Michael Anderson Statue.

The deep freeze continues across the Spokane area, with temperatures down to ZERO and below. The cold is miserable, but the sky is clear and bright. This afternoon, I braved the frigid air to photograph a variety of scenes in Riverfront Park. It was worth the effort.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008


Perhaps feeling the distance created by my long hours, Dakota asked me to spend the afternoon with him on Monday. We went to Mount Spokane and then bought an inexpensive dinner. He's getting older, so I feel the need to appreciate these moments before he doesn't need his dad anymore.

Mount Spokane

Dakota and I spent the afternoon together for a father-son outing. We didn't have any money to spend, so we decided on the least expensive option possible. Together, we drove to the ski resorts on Mount Spokane to appreciate the beauty of that place. I have to admit, it was quite spectacular. On the way home, we stopped at McDonald's and bought dinner from their dollar menu. We had to literally pull together our pennies, but we had a great time.

Long Lake

Long Lake near Tum Tum.

Rock cliffs near Long Lake.

I spent the weekend on the Spokane and Kalispel Reservations, attending ceremony. Maybe someday I'll talk about that, but not tonight. On the drive home, I got to appreciate the clear, freezing sky. Long Lake was especially beautiful under the cool sun.

Deep Freeze

The temperature continues to plunge into the single digits, sending the region into deep freeze. If possible, I would simply stay indoors and avoid the cold, but of course, we all have to travel to work or other places. The roads have turned treacherous under a solid layer of ice, with no relief in sight.

Thursday, January 17, 2008


I sang at a funeral yesterday, though I did not know the deceased.

Actually, the opportunity came to me in a very strange way. The deceased was a woman by the name of Vera Gibbs. She was a descendant of the Nez Perce Tribe, and the family had requested someone from the tribe to give a Native American tribute. Unfortunately, the Nez Perce were unable to send anyone on such short notice, and suggested they contact the Spokane Tribe. In turn, the Spokane Tribe contacted my uncle Pat Moses, who then contacted me. I spoke with the family and agreed to sing.

The family specifically requested "Amazing Grace" in Nez Perce, but I don't speak Nez Perce. However, I told them I would do whatever possible to accomodate their request.

Then I contacted my aunt Janet Blackeagle who is in fact Nez Perce and asked her to help me. She in turn sent me the words to the Christian hymn "God Be With You Till We Meet Again," in Nez Perce. She said that particular song is very commonly sung at funerals on the Nez Perce Reservation.

Having never met the family, I walked into the LDS Church in Riverside and sang "God Be With You Till We Meet Again." Something strange happens to me when I sing for that kind of purpose. I can't explain it fully, but somehow my voice becomes more clear and resonating. I believe it's the spirit and really has very little do to with me. The feeling of love in that room was also tangible.

As it turns out later, I actually did know Vera's grandson Cory, who shared several education classes with me at Whitworth. It also turns out one of the other grandchildren Connie is good friends with Rhonda's best friend Madonna. By the end of the day, I felt very strongly this event was so much more than coincidence. The spirit had a hand in bringing us all together.

Another manifestation of spirit happened during the funeral. In the days leading up to the funeral, I had felt quite dark and depressed, but I couldn't really say why those feelings had come upon me. Regardless of the reasons, my feelings began to change as soon as the service began. From the moment the coffin entered the room, we all stood, and a feeling of peace settled over me and seemed to wash away all my darkness. Tears filled my eyes, and I felt truly honored and blessed to witness such a deeply personal and sacred event. In a strange way, I felt like Vera blessed me from her new place in heaven.

Grand Entry

This photograph was also published in the Rawhide Press some time back in 1979 or 1980. It shows my grandfather Gibson Eli leading the Grand Entry as he carries the eagle staff. From what I gather, the Spokane Tribe dedicated the 1979 Labor Day Powwow to him.

Rawhide Press

As mentioned in my previous post, the Rawhide Press, a Spokane Tribal newspaper, published several articles about my grandfather Gibson Eli. This is one of them: "A Man of Power, A Man of Peace." Wow! Would that they should speak so kindly of me when I die.


Video camera at my grandfather's funeral.

Give-away items at my grandfather's funeral.

The other day I found an article about my grandfather's funeral tucked away in the Northwest Room at the Spokane Public Library. The Northwest Room holds "special collections," not otherwise available for circulation. In this case, I found the article in a bundle of old tribal newspapers, now yellow and brittle with age.

My grandfather's passing in 1980 was reported in several local newspapers, including the Spokesman-Review and the Rawhide Press. They referred to him as the "last medicine man of the Spokane Tribe," and as such, they gave him special notice.

Ironically, I didn't know my grandfather very well. I was nine years old when he died, but I had only met him once, that I can recall. Imagine my surprise when I attended his funeral and hundreds of people arrived to pay respects from tribes all over the Pacific Northwest and Canada. The article states only 300 or 400 people attended, but I think more were actually present. As I recall, some people had to stand outside. And then a television crew arrived to complete a documentary on his life. The whole experience was somewhat bewildering to me. Everyone seemed to know something about this man except me, and I was his grandson!

Seeing these photographs brought back a vivid memory of that day. Yes, I remember seeing my grandfather's belongings stacked on the tables (as shown above), and I also remember when they gave his things away to all the people in attendance. My father received a rifle, and my brother and I each received a choker-style necklace. I still have them.

The article mentioned several other facts not pictured here, but which I remember clearly. A man held up the clothes worn by my grandfather at the moment he passed away. A family member wearing a ribbon shirt blessed the memorial feast by singing one of my grandfather's songs. Scores of people lined up at a microphone to recount their memories of the "last medicine man" Gib Eli.

Sunday, January 13, 2008


If we go to the mall, Whitney likes to park on the uppermost level.

Atop a mountain of snow...

The other day, Rhonda said my little Whit was crying because she "misses her daddy." It's true, my work has taken me away longer than I would have liked. I'm only sorry my children have to suffer absence of their father. As things turned out, I had an extra day this Friday, and decided to continue our tradition of daddy-daughter dates. We didn't have a lot of money to spend, but we laughed a lot, so that was much more meaningful.

Some time along the way, we got to talking about all her nicknames. Of course, her mother is the queen of nicknames, so all our children received more than their fair share. We took an inventory, and these were the ones we could remember: Whit, Whitney Liz, Witter Bug, Whitney Bug, Tiny, Lady, Lady Bug, Bug, Lizzie, Lizzie Liza Jane, Liz, Lizard... I'm sure we'll think of more.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Uncle Marve

My wife called me at work today to let me know I received a letter from my uncle Marve. This was not totally unexpected, as I had sent him a Christmas card this year. But this was the first time I've heard directly from my uncle in at least 20 years.

Marve is my father's brother, and went to prison 41 years ago. When I was a child, we used to all cram into my dad's car and drive down to Walla Walla for visits. I can still vaguely remember passing through security into a grassy yard surrounded by high walls. I hardly remember saying anything. I just remember sitting on his lap and drinking red Kool-Aid. Strange the way memories work that way. One time we drove all the way down, only to be turned away by the prison guards. My auntie Marlene was furious, and as we walked back to the car she fumed about those "goddam cops..." Before long, I remember imitating my aunt in the way I stomped my feet and swung my arms. My dad thought it was funny until I also started huffing about those "goddam cops." I was only four years old. How should I have known not to say those things?

Since that time, uncle Marve moved throughout the prison system. From time to time I wondered what ever happened to him, but I never thought to contact him. Now that I have, I'm glad I did. He said he would answer anything I might think to ask, so I think I'll take him up on it.

By the way, my uncle is the man standing right in the middle of the back row. He's old enough now to almost look like the elder of that little group, but he says he doesn't know any of those guys.


Riverfront Park in the snow.

Ducks sleeping in the snow by the carousel.

Snow like a cap on a statue.

Once again, I walked through downtown Spokane, in Riverfront Park, and simply made observations of the snow. Crossing one of the suspension bridges, I looked back and saw where the river had melted dark watery channels through the white snow. Later I saw ducks sleeping in the snow. They were so lethargic; as I passed, they hardly looked up, even when I walked less than two feet away. The statue was somewhat humorous, with snow on its head like a strange looking cap or hat. It was partially melted and seemed to form tears that streaked down its face.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008


Nothing overly extraordinary happened today, except perhaps for the foot of snow we received the last few days. This is the most snow I've seen in this area for a long time. The top photograph is the view of my street as I went to work this morning. The bottom photograph shows a rather strange little scene on Main Street, where an antique store has two artificial palm trees in front, covered in snow.

The old Food Court in downtown Spokane now sits empty. For some reason I was struck by the symmetry and openness of the space. But after snapping a few pictures, a security guard appeared out of nowhere and became somewhat belligerent with me. It's amazing how so many people feel threatened by the presence of a camera, even in a vacant food court. Seriously, what kind of security risk could a photographer realistically pose in a place like this?

Finally, I passed through Riverpark Square this afternoon and saw the remains of the massive Christmas tree I posted earlier. For some reason the concentric circles in this scene drew my attention.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008


So today is the most difficult anniversary of the eight day "passion." This is the anniversary of my father's death, 14 years ago. Yes, I still remember him often, and it still causes a pain in my soul from time to time.

But if death is an ending, children are the resurrection. My children are the face of my father that lives on.

Saturday, January 05, 2008


Ed Moses, Richard Eli, Pat Moses, Sam Moses, and Barry Moses.

I posted this photograph a few months ago, but it deserves some mention today, of all days.

My father Ed Moses would have been 60 years old today; he was born on January 5, 1948 and only lived to the tender age of 46.

They say his mother almost delivered my father in a snow storm, but arrived at Sacred Heart Hospital with only moments to spare. She rushed with a panic from the family home in Hillyard, all the way across town to the hospital on lower South Hill. They rushed her into the delivery room, and she gave birth a scarce fifteen minutes after stumbling through the door.

Oddly enough, his death played out with eerie similarity. It was January 8, 1994, only three days after his 46th birthday, when he suffered a massive heart attack. He had attended a powwow at the Masonic Temple in downtown Spokane when he began to suffer unmistakable chest pains. He tried to tough out it, undoubtedly too long. By all accounts, he went back to change out of his dance regalia and fell suddenly to the dressing room floor.

When the ambulance arrived, they tore his wardance shirt from his chest and shocked his heart a total of five times en route to Sacred Heart Hospital. There was no use trying. He left this world just as quickly and abruptly as he arrived. They declared him dead in the same place he began his life 46 years earlier.

* * *

Every year since my father's death, January 5th marks the beginning of a shadowy, surreal procession through memory and time. Strange spasms of recollection filter back into my present mind and hold me hostage until the anniversary of the burial on January 12. In a bizarre way, every passing day reminds me of Holy Week, or my own personal Stations of the Cross. January 5: my father is born. January 8: he falls into death. January 12: we place his body into the icy, snow-covered ground.

But unlike the Catholic story of Christ's passion, there is no happy ending; no resurrection to triumph over death; no Day of Pentecost to heal my broken heart. No, only time will heal all wounds, or so they say.

Truthfully, the sting of his passing hardly affects me anymore, but these days... oh God, they always surprise me with their forceful bleakness.

Perhaps I am my father's resurrection. His spiritual legacy passed to me and my life changed in drastic, unforeseeable ways. Everything turned upside down, but not for all the "normal" reasons. The classic "stages of grief" can't touch what I felt, for my inheritance nearly killed me. I was only 23 and truly unprepared for what would happen, beginning on the inside and spilling out into the rest of my life. Only now, after 14 years, have I even begun to catch a glimpse of what it all means. His teachings awaken in me and nothing can ever be the same.

o sulustu, puti kw l'e l' qenple. anwi kwin l'ew. anwi kw i suxwme'meyem. nem chin put.

The Chain

I forgot to mention a rather funny experience I had a few days ago.

The orthodontist scheduled a regular tightening of my tin-grin braces for the day after New Year's. Of course, by now I anticipate the marginal discomfort the procedure causes, but nothing prepared me for what actually happened.

The doctor examined my mouth and then said rather ominously to his assistant, "I think he's ready for 'the chain.'"

Oh good God! Did I hear him right?

My family had recently watched 'Little Shop of Horrors,' where Steve Martin plays a crazed, overly sadistic dentist. In one scene, he delights over the terrified shrieks of a little girl wearing the most jarring, hideous-looking headgear possible. He breaks into song, "I'll be your dentist, and I get off on the pain I inflict." Something like that. Of course, when my orthodontist mentioned 'the chain,' I couldn't help but envision the nightmare scenario from the movie.

The doctor must have sensed my discomfort, because he made a point to show me the chain before installing it in my mouth. He held the tiny device in his latex-covered hand, as if to say, "See? This little thing could never do any harm." It looked innocent enough. It wasn't even metal. The chain was really just a tiny rubber strand with tiny chain-like links.

Seeing the chain made me feel a little better, but my relief didn't last long. As it turns out, the doctor's assistant had to stretch each link over the ties attached to my bottom teeth. The first one or two teeth didn't bother me, but the teeth closest to the ones I had removed felt horrid. With no anesthesia, I thought I might pass out from the pain. And then the assistant kept stopping midway to ask if I felt any discomfort. I wanted to scream, "What does it look like to you?!?" But I didn't say anything at first. She jerked my teeth again, so hard I thought they were going to pull out from their sockets. When I cried out, she paused again to ask if it hurt. I decided honesty would have to work better in this situation. "Yes," I snapped, "It hurts like hell. Will you please just do this quickly and get it over with?" She made a sheepish face and gave one final jerk, pulling the last link into place.

For two days my whole face was sore from the ordeal, but I feel much better now. I'm recovering faster than before. Anyway, I took this picture when I was still under a great deal of discomfort. At the time I thought, "Why should I have to suffer this alone? My readers should get to experience this too." Of course, you can't actually see the chain, unless you look very closely. No matter, my face says it all. :0


Sitting at the dining room table, our family played a game of dominoes. Earlier in the day, Rhonda and I had left our jackets on the backs of the chairs, and quite unconsciously, the kids put their arms into the sleeves while the jackets still hung in their places. We all noticed the ridiculous sight at about the same time. The chairs made them all look like they had impossibly large, hunched shoulders. We all laughed so hard, they insisted on taking a picture with all three of them posing in the chairs. They dragged the chairs into the living room, put their arms once again the sleeves, zipped up the jackets, and posed all tough-like. It was a very delightful moment for all of us; quite humorous and unplanned.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008


We had sort of a staggered New Year's Even party this evening; staggered because one couple stayed a while with us, then went home. Just as they left, the second couple arrived, and likewise, the third. It was like tag team or something. We played a different game with each couple and really enjoyed our evening. Just after midnight, Rhonda and I posed for this picture to welcome the New Year. Happy 2008 to everyone!!!


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