Monday, September 29, 2008

Family Picture

My family visited Finch Arboretum to take our yearly family portrait. Sadly, I was somewhat unhappy with all of them. For reasons known only to God, my family always gets upset when we take pictures. They don't seem to mind individual portraits. Only the group picture seems to bother anyone. At least one person always seems to cry on family picture day. They say I'm too picky. Maybe that's true.

Well, here is a sample of our day. This is not the "official" picture.

If you want to be added to our yearly Christmas picture list, please send me an email at:


My sisters...



My sister Michelle recently celebrated her 30th birthday. In her honor, my sister and I invited her out to lunch at a palce called the lunch box. They sell Thai food at a reasonable cost.

During our visit, we had a strange conversation about horoscopes. Michelle contends that horoscopes are written in such general language, they could easily apply to anyone. Half-heartedly, I defended horoscopes as one way to understand the subsoncious. It's not even that I really believe in their supposed prophetic qualities, but rather in their ability to elicit information from our minds, like an inkblot test. We see what our beliefs pre-dispose us to see. I suppose this would actually support Michelle's theory, but I would still disagree with her conclusion that they are not valuable at least on some level. In my mind, anything that helps people to bring the subconscious to light is valuable.

Of course, I didn't tell her all that. I just smile and tell her I thoroughly believe in horoscopes.

She challenges my belief and devises a simple test. She said, "Okay, I'm going to read three horoscopes at random. One will represent your sign, and the other two will represent other signs. I won't tell you which is yours. You will have to determine your sign based on the words only."

I accept her challenge and listen carefully to each horoscope. By the time I listed to the first entry, I begin to think she may have a point. I think silently to myself, "Wow, that sounds like it could belong to me." She reads a second horoscope and I think that one could also apply to me. but before she reads the third horoscope she says, "Now what sign are you?"

I smile and say, "Pisces. And now I know which one is mine."

She laughs as she catches her mistake. "Okay wait," she says. Let me read three more." She does this, and finally waits for me to decide. They all sound good, but one seems to fit better than the others. It's not that my choice had any special words, or any other objective measure. It just FELT right.

As it turns out, I guessed the correct horoscope. "Damn!" she said, "That's okay, we'll test it again some other day."

Of course, now that I've published this blog, I've given my secret away. :)


The other day I spent my last pennies to buy gas for my car. I had saved my spare change in a glass jar for over a year. Only occasionally did I ever take a few loose coins for parking meters or other odd expenses. Not bothering to count the money, I spilled the pennies, nickels, and quarters onto the floor for one last sentimental look. How quickly they disappear! From there, I bundled them into a cloth bag and brought them to a machine that counts the money automatically. It felt strange walking into a store with a bagful of coins. I thought they only ever did that it cartoons.

The money clanked into the machine and the tabulations began. Finally the noise stopped and a small receipt emerged. $10.56 was the final total. That would buy me less than 3 gallons of gasoline and would hopefully last until payday. What a sad strange commentary on the state of our economy. The oil companies make record profits, and I pay for gas with my last pennies.


One of several road to Wellpinit...

Alley in north Spokane...

I love to photograph empty roads and alleyways. They seem to tell a story of places yet to see or metaphoric journeys to make in life. They lead away and back again, always making communication possible.

Monday, September 22, 2008


Sometimes a few short words can change our lives forever.

This morning I received an unexpected email from the wife of a dear friend. In very few words, she informed me that my former missionary companion Jorge Alexander Argueta had died just a few days ago. I was stunned! I knew he suffered a debilitating accident a few years ago, but I believed he was getting well. Now he leaves behind a wife and several young children.

Just a month ago, he wrote and asked when I would go to visit him. He never read my response. His wife opened the message only today.

In its entirety, her response said:

"Elder Moses, espero que esté bien. Nosotros estamos muy tristes, Alex falleció el Lunes 15 de Septiembre. Hoy vi el correo y vi que usted le escribió. Agradezco mucho su amistad con mi esposo. Sé que me espera un camino duro, pero también sé que agarrados a la barra de hierro podremos salir adelante. El se fué antes, pero tengo fe en que estaremos juntos. Otra vez gracias. Rosa."

In English:

"Elder Moses, I hope you are well. We are very sad. Alex passed away Monday September 15. Today I saw the mail and I saw that you wrote. I thank your friendship with my husband. I know that a hard road awaits me, but I also know that by holding to the iron rod, we can move forward. He went before, but I have faith that we will be together. Once again, thanks. Rosa."

My heart aches for my old friend, and for his dear family! May God bless them all as they pass this mortal veil of tears. Rest in peace, my brother. Rest in peace.

Saturday, September 20, 2008


Vicki Broden with dolls from Otavalo, Ecuador.

A person never knows the extent of his or her influence.

Just yesterday I made an interesting connection as a result of this blog. A woman by the name of Vicki Broden works for Adult Basic Education in Colville and knows several of my previous co-workers. She happened to notice my blog one day while these same friends were reviewing online pictures of my trip to Ecuador. Vicki is originally from Quito, so naturally she took an interest in seeing photographs from her home.

She recognized all of the places we visited. In particular, she enjoyed the pictures from Avenida Amazonas in downtown Quito. As a little girl, she lived in the same neighborhood with her family.

Vicki was also moved by my account of the men with long hair in the LDS Church in Otavalo, so much that she brought two dolls to our faculty meeting as a gift for me. The dolls provide an accurate representation of the typical indigenous clothing of the Otavalo region. She especially wanted me to have the doll representing the Indian man with long hair.

I don't think I've ever received such a beautiful gift from someone who had been a complete stranger to me only moments before. Her gift moved and inspired me.

Thursday, September 18, 2008


A view of the Spokane River from the north bank.

The Maple Street Bridge passes over the neighborhood of Peaceful Valley.

Indian summer overtakes us almost imperceptibly. The sun still shines with summer-like vigor and fills the air with warmth and cheer. But nature feels the changing seasons long before we notice any difference. Standing above the Spokane River, I photograph Peaceful Valley and notice the tiniest change in color beginning to appear. The trees are slightly less green than before, the uppermost leaves tinged a faint yellow.

The world seems momentarily quiet, scorched, and tired. No doubt the earth welcomes the approaching renewal through snow and ice.

Sometimes the worlds of nature and men come crashing together in painful dissonance, perhaps moreso today. When I return to my car from the river, I unlock the driver's side door, and see black shards of broken glass strewn over the seats. For a brief moment I look forward in a blank stupor, as if the information before me has no reason or sense. I take a breath and then look more carefully; the back window of my pickup has been smashed open.

"Okay," I say to myself, "Is anything missing?" My school papers and my journal are still on the passenger seat. Even my eagle feather is still hanging from my rear-view mirror, but then I realize my cell phone and small camera are both missing.

Things change so quickly. Just a few minutes before, I was standing amid the wonders of nature. Now as I drove home, the sound of shattering glass played over and over in my mind, even though in reality, I heard nothing at all. It's such a small thing, really, but my hands are shaking slightly against the steering wheel. "It's done," I finally say to myself, and with a long breath I let it all go.

Mama Beans

The Institute for Extended Learning convened its annual fall conference in preparation for the coming academic year, and invited Stephy Nobles-Beans, affectionately known as "Mama Beans," as the keynote speaker. She addresses the IEL almost every year at our graduation ceremony, and inspires the audience with her passionate oratory skills. Her voice resonates with the fiery tenor of a southern-style preacher, but without the brimstone. She radiates positive energy and love.

This year she said something quite memorable. Speaking of her love for students, she said, "Every student has a sacred story." Her words remain with me, and no doubt change the way I see my own students as the new school year begins. I would like to be more liker her.

Her website can be seen below:

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Summer's End

As the summer reaches as end, one season fades to another and reminds me of all that has passed. I reflect on the previous months and realize I've had a very busy and productive year so far.

Travel played an important role. In February, Rhonda and I went to Hawaii to perform Gary and Linda's wedding. By spring, I flew to Washington DC to help facilitate the Ecuador Youth Leadership Exchange. In late June, Dakota and I attended a sundance ceremony on the Blood Reserve in southern Alberta, Canada. And perhaps most importantly, Rhonda and I traveled to Ecuador in August, and even spent several days in the Amazon Jungle. We visited a very diverse set of destinations.

I also met two celebrities this year: Hillary Clinton as she made a campaign stop in Spokane, and Blake Lewis from American Idol.

Major projects and life changing events also made their mark. During the spring, I helped organize the youth leadership exchange, and during the Labor Day Wellpinit Powwow I received my grandfather's wardance regalia. My brother Bradley came for a rare visit, and my sister graduated from Eastern Washington University.

It's been a big year on many levels. Of course, it's only September, but with the end of summer vacation and the beginning of a new academic year, I feel inclined to reflect on where we've been over the previous months and weeks. And then my normal schedule resumes and I find myself visiting my old hiking trails again. I've been all over the world, but the mountains and trees welcome me back as though I've never been away. That is the nature of my home; my spirit is connected to this place forever.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Comida Mexicana

Theo and Amelia visited our home on Saturday to share a meal with our family. Actually, Amelia cooked Mexican food, while Rhonda took lessons. Unlike other special dinners, I didn't lift a finger. Oh man, this was better than going out to eat. The food was delicious and more than abundant. Of course, the company was the best part of all.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Peter Pan

Peter Pan and the lost boys...

Congratulations to Dakota for getting his first role at Christian Youth Theater! He will play a "lost boy" in Peter Pan. More details to come as the performance comes together.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Christian Youth Theater

Yesterday my three children auditioned for two separate plays sponsored by the Christian Youth Theater of Spokane: the Christmas Story and Peter Pan. They each memorized and presented a one minute monologue, followed by a one minute song. They did a fabulous job and each received a call back. They went back this afternoon and read specific parts. We can hardly wait for Monday when we find out if they got a role.

Religion and Politics

We've all heard the old adage, "Never discuss religion and politics in polite conversation." This is especially true after the bitterly divisive political climate created during this current administration. We increasingly speak about faith in politics, but compassion for opposing viewpoints has arguably diminished in recent years. Both candidates promise change, but will either of them inspire genuine respect for others? Will either of them create true solutions to the problems affecting millions of Americans today?

The current political climate has become a self-sustaining beast. It would seem no candidate can win without bending to its pressure to at least some degree.

As a case in point, John McCain once said, "Division and slander are not our values. They are corrupting influences on religion and politics, and those who practice them in the name of religion or the name of the Republican party or in the name of America shame our faith, our party, and our country. Neither party should be defined by pandering to the outer reaches of American politics and the agents of intolerance, whether they be Louis Farrakhan or Al Sharpton on the left, or Pat Robertson or Jerry Falwell on the right."

I didn't always agree with McCain, but I admired his independence. Now he's chosen Palin as his vice presidential candidate, probably less for her leadership credentials than for her ability to energize religious conservatives. As McCain marches toward the White House, he begins an unhealthy dance with the very kind of pandering he once criticized.

Please understand my position. I respect the influence of religion in American society, but pandering doesn't help anyone. It doesn't even help the very people who would seem to benefit most. Like flattery, pandering is an insidious form of dishonesty. Under pressure, will McCain really fight for conservative causes of the people he once called the "outer reaches of American politics," or will he revert to a more habitual approach to the issues? So many conservatives seem desperate to shape the political agenda; they don't even see the insult given to them by John McCain's pandering, or even that of George Bush for that matter. In the end, they may have a platform that feels good, but lacking the substance they crave.

Lest anyone think me totally one-sided and unfair, I have at least one criticism for Obama.

Barack Obama began his campaign on the notion of dialog. In fact, I caucused for Obama on the belief that he presented the greatest likelihood of uniting Americans from every side of the issues. But as the Republican Party rallies behind the McCain-Palin ticket, Obama promises to sharpen his attacks. I understand the strategy behind his decision, but I truly lament the shift in focus. How will he create unity as he surrenders to the politics of division?

A nagging sense of disillusionment leaves me with several unpleasant questions. Do politics always inspire intolerance, negativity, and dishonesty? Will our nation continue to split along ideological lines? Is there no way to create a truly compassionate society in spite of deep religious and political differences?

Tuesday, September 09, 2008


Rhonda in downtown Quito...

We flew Avianca Airlines...

Soooo... after ten brief, wonderful, intense days, our trip to Ecuador reached an end. I look back with so much gratitude. Ecuador filled my heart more than I ever thought possible in such a short time. We will return soon.


In honor of our departure from Ecuador, the families of Marcos Lema and Valentina brought us out to Crepes and Waffles for their famous arequipe waffles. Just as we started out in the car, Alexis called Marcos' cell phone. He was the only youth from the exchange program we had not seen during our trip. As it turns out, we were able to swing by and pick him up for our farewell feast. Now everything felt complete. I had seen all my brothers and friends.


On Monday, we missed a very important meeting with Marko de la Cruz. Like all the other families, they prepared for our arrival with a lavish meal, gifts, and a warm heart, but Valentina's car broke down and we were unable to arrive. Not discouraged by our unexpected misfortune, Marko and his mom made the two hour bus ride to Quito and met us at Casa Sol. If we couldn't arrive at their home, they brought a piece of their loving home to us. They brought us to dinner and then showered us with gifts. The kindness is just so overwhelming.


Returning to Quito, we left the warmth and affection of the small towns behind us. We returned to the land of concrete towers, electric wires, endless cars, and choking exhaust fumes. Only ten days before, Quito dazzled us upon our arrival, and now it feels more foreign than ever; not foreign as in un-American, but foreign as in heart-sad and cold. Nobody smiles in the streets. People look at me like a freak if I dare to say hello or wish them a good morning. This is the city, and like cities everywhere, millions of people walk side by side, and yet remain absolute strangers to one another. I already miss the Ecuador of countryside pastures, mountains, and trees, where the heart has room to grow and hold all the world.

Monday, September 08, 2008


Valentina's car broke down, so Marcos agreed to drive us back to Quito. We left at 6:00 in the morning to arrive in time for his work duties in the city.

Our early departure gave us a chance to see the lake near Otavalo in perfect stillness and beauty. The water was so calm it reflected the fog covered mountains like a mirror. Marcos and his family posed for a picture by the lake, and I began to feel a faint sadness. Ecuador and its people had won my heart, and now I feel the pull, but as Marcos says, "This is not goodbye."


After nightfall, we returned to Santiago's house in Atuntaqui and enjoyed a light meal of bread with coffee or tea. The family gathered to sing and play instruments. It was a wonderful day, but as you can see from the photograph, the exhaustion was beginning to show. We finally returned to Casa Sol and bid farewell to our new friends. Their kindness, warmth, and generosity surpassed anything I've ever known in the United States.


Ibarra is a beautiful colonial city. We arrived just as the sun began to set, so unfortunately we did not get to see much history or arquitecture. However, we did have ice cream. Apparently, Ibarra is famous for a special kind of ice cream made with only whipped fruit and no dairy. It was quite delicious.


As we drove around the lake, we happened upon Marcos and his family taking an afternoon stroll. Santiago hollered out the window and the car came to a sudden stop. Everyone piled out of the vehicle and congregated along the roadside for a lively reunion of friends. We laughed, posed for more pictures, and then agreed to proceed to the next town for ice cream.

Lake of Blood

During our driving tour, we made a complete circle around a place called the "Lake of Blood," Yahuarcocha in Quichua. The lake gets its name from a terrible battle fought between warring tribes before the Spanish conquest. The victors executed more than 10,000 enemy warriors and dumped their bodies into the lake. Blood flowed from their throats and turned the entire lake red.

Such a gruesome history!

Now the lake is a popular destination with the local people. Everywhere we looked we saw signs of enjoyment: carnaval rides, food stands, children flying kites, kayaks on the water, and a racetrack. What a contrast with the past!


A band played live music in the city park.

Santiago's parents dancing in the park.

In the park...

Eva the beautiful...

Cesar Rex Romanum

After dinner the royal treatment continued. Santiago's family rented a car and took us on a driving tour of the neighboring towns. We stopped in several places, including the town square pictured above. We listened to live music and danced. This was perhaps the funnest part of the day.


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