November 11, 2014

Gail Halvorsen Gave Hope to a City with his Candy Bombing

I hope you watched the movie "Meet the Mormons."  We saw it twice!  It was wonderful!  Since it's Veterans Day,  I wanted to highlight more about the Candy Bomber, one of the Mormons in the film.  He is such an interesting man, and has done so much for our country.

Gail Halvorsen was born in Salt Lake City in 1920.  He grew up on farms in Salt Lake and in Idaho and learned how to work hard.  He was always a devout Mormon and learned how to be a Christian from his family and church teachers. 

As World War 2 was shaping up, Gail was learning how to pilot aircraft in a small program called the Civilian Pilot Training Program.  After passing the course, he enlisted in the Air Force.  He flew missions during the war.

When the war ended, Germany was divided into sections.  Russia claimed half and the rest was divided up among the Allies (United States, Britain and France.)  Due to an agreement made before the war ended, the city of Berlin was also divided up similarly, even though Berlin was deep in the heart of Russia's section.  Russia ruled it's sections harshly with Communism and the others were democratically governed due to their Allied hosts.  The Germans in the Communist sections began to leave, moving to the free areas.  This began to cause friction between the Russians and the Allies because Stalin didn't want his people to leave.  So he started a blockade, which became the beginning of the 'Cold war.' 

Stalin blocked all railways and roads into the free part of Berlin.  Food became scarce and the Berlin people began to suffer.   Electricity was cut off to the city except for a few short hours in the day.  News reports to the people gave the idea that these sanctions were the fault of the British, Americans and French Allies to encourage the people to want Communist rule. Stalin offered to stop the blockade if Allies would bow to their numerous demands.   

The one thing the Communists didn't stop were the airplanes flying into West Berlin.  How can you block the sky?  If Stalin ordered attacks on the airplanes, it would start another world war.  The Allies began bringing food into the city by cargo airplanes.  They didn't use fighter planes so that they could not be seen as an aggressor.  To feed the city, they needed to bring in 5000 tons of food and supplies daily!  The Allies added planes to the fleet and tonnage to their cargoes and stayed busy bringing food to the people of West Berlin.
Gail was assigned to pilot flights loaded with these supplies into Berlin.  As you see in the movie, he saw how grateful the children were to get the food and saw how carefully they shared the little bit of gum he gave them through the fence at the landing field.  He wanted to help them more.
Listening to the Spirit, he decided he'd put handkerchief parachutes onto his candy rations and drop them to the children the next day when he made his daily delivery.  He told the kids about his plan and that they could tell it was his airplane because he'd 'wiggle' his wings up and down.  He talked his buddies out of their candy and the idea spread.  The children loved the candy and looked forward to the drops daily from Gail, who they dubbed 'Uncle Wiggly Wings.' 

Gail's actions could have gotten him in terrible trouble with the Air Corps.  But fortunately, his commanding officer saw the good it did and let him alone.  It was good for public relations and went against the propaganda that was everywhere about how it was the Allies fault that Berliners were hungry. 

A reporter saw this and wrote about it in America and Britain.  Children from these countries wrote letters to Gail and enclosed their candy to give to the children.  Later candy companies donated tons of candy to add to the effort.  Soon many pilots were dropping food and goodies to West Berlin children.  'Operation Little Vittles' became well accepted and even supported by the Air Corps and gave families hope and helped them feel encouraged through this food blockade.

In time over 23 tons of candy was dropped to the children of West Berlin by Uncle Wiggly Wings and his cohorts.  Almost a year later, Communists lifted the blockade and food became more plentiful again.  Citizens of West Berlin were grateful to Gail and honored him by naming 2 schools in his honor.  The government also awarded Gail the highest award given.  In America, the new generation of large transport airplanes were named in his honor. 

I honor Gail for his service during the war, but especially because he acted on an impression to do something above and beyond his job to help.  It was such a great idea that it caught hold and gave hope to a whole city.  He's a great example of one who followed the Savior's example of love and service, even when it might get him in trouble in his profession.


"Meet the Mormons" movie, 2014.  Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Spencer Johnson, general war information.

Wikipedia, "Gail Halvorsen."  22 Oct 2014,

Wikipedia.  "Berlin Blockade."  7 November 2014,

November 4, 2014

Disadvantaged Sonya Carson Helps Sons Reach Potential

I have been thinking about Ben Carson's mom Sonya lately.  Elder Tad Callister spoke about her in his General Conference talk on Saturday afternoon session a few weeks ago.  (To read it, click here.Talk ) 

From the talk, we learned that she made her boys read 2 books a week and 'book report' them to her.  Because of that seemingly harsh rule, Ben got a Yale education and became a doctor.  That is remarkable because she had only a 3rd grade education herself and was raising her kids alone in the ghettos. 

I had to learn more about Sonya.  I found out that she had been raised in foster homes her whole childhood and married at age 13 to a much older man.  He pulled her out of poverty and abuse, and gave her a better life.  He treated her like a china doll, lavishing her with gifts and kindness.  Sadly, after her two sons were born, his attention to her waned and Sonya left the marriage. 

That left Sonya alone to raise her boys.  Sonya prayed, "I don't have any friends.  I don't have anyone else to turn to.  God, you're going to have to be my friend, my best friend.  And you're going to have to tell me how to do things and give me wisdom, because I don't know what to do."  She moved her family to Boston and moved in with a sister and brother in law.  She relied on God to help her.  She remembered praying, "Lord, if you can take nothing and make a world out of it, You can take my situation and make it work-- for the boys sake.  I don't care so much about myself, but the boys need help. They deserve a chance."  Her mantra became "Do your best and let God do the rest." 

Sonya worked two jobs in order to take care of her boys.  She cleaned homes and noticed that the wealthy families had lots of books on their shelves.  While she worked, Ben and Curtis (Ben's brother) watched TV after school or played with friends outside.  But they weren't doing well in school.  Ben had gotten a zero on a test; not one answer was correct.  Sonya prayed for several days, then presented the rule about book reports.  She said, "The Lord's told me what to do.  You aren't living up to your potential.  So I'm going to see that you do."  They were to read two books a week, write a book report on each and turn them in to her.  Only 2 TV programs were allowed per week, and homework had to be done before they went outside to play.  That was it.  No argument could budge her.  None of their friends had such strict rules, but the boys obeyed.

Ben had been the dummy in his 5th grade class.  One day his teacher asked a question about something he had just read about for one of his 'mom book reports.'  No one in the class knew the answer.  He was surprised and raised his hand.  The kids snickered, thinking that Ben wouldn't know the answer!  After all, he was the dummy!  Well, Ben surprised them all, detailing the answer so much that he stunned the teacher too. 

Ben described this moment, "I was the one most astonished in the class.  That day-- for the first time-- I realized that Mother had been right.  Reading is the way out of ignorance, and the road to achievement.  I didn't have to be the class dummy anymore."  Ben set out to be the best student in class.  By the time he reached 7th grade, he was the top student in his class.  His love of learning grew, leading him to his extensive education and successful medical career.

Curtis also excelled in school, becoming a manager for Honeywell Corporation.  He works in the aircraft landing division.

Heavenly Father heard Sonya's pleas for help.  He gave her the answers to her problems, which blessed her family abundantly.  He will always help us as we do our part. 


Callister, Tad.  "Parents-- the Prime Gospel Teachers of their Children."  Ensign. November 2014.

Carson, Ben and Cecil Murphey.  Think Big-- Unleashing Your Potential for Excellence. Grand Rapids, Michigan.  Zondervan.  1982.

Komancheck, Wendy.  "Sonya Carson, Mother of Famous Neurosurgeon Ben Carson."

Photo courtesy of Wendy Comancheck.

October 27, 2014

Saul Schanberg's Weird Results Changed the Way the World Treats Premature Babies

This week I read an article about others who gave their best, but it didn't seem to matter.  In fact, some thought that the tax-payer funded research was a waste of time and money.  The research they did seemed irrelevant to anyone until years later when their research started saving lives. 

In 1979, a scientist named Saul Schanberg was developing enzymes and growth hormones for babies.  To test them, he got funding to give them to laboratory rats-- baby rats.  In order to administer the drugs, they had to separate the baby rats from their mothers.  Inexplicably, all of the baby rats did not do well.  The 'control' group AND the groups given the drugs showed signs of 'failing to thrive.'  This was unexpected and Saul tried to figure out what was going wrong.  Saul realized that the problem was that they had taken the baby rats away from their mothers.  They struggled for a while trying to figure out how to keep the baby rats alive long enough to test the drugs on them.  Finally they noticed that rat moms lick their newborn babies a lot to groom them.  In order to simulate that licking, Saul rigged up wet paintbrushes to stroke the rat babies.  That was the missing link-- the babies all improved and their tests on the hormone and enzyme could resume. 

Because of this unexpected result, Saul learned more about the need for baby rats to be touched and massaged than he learned about the drugs he was testing.  Saul was intrigued enough by this result that he shifted his focus away from enzymes and growth hormones and toward the effects of touch in infant development.  Maybe he didn't need a drug to improve the growth and development of premature babies-- human touch may be the answer. 

After more research, they found that chemicals were released by the brain when baby rats were taken from their mothers that put them into an artificial hibernation.  That explained the lack of absorption of nutrients when fed.  It was necessary for their survival to not need food when their mother, the one who fed them, was absent.  Once the mother returned, the body went back to normal and they thrived again.  And researchers learned how to mimic the mother's return with touch that simulated licking, producing each effect.  If baby rats were in hibernation too long, it stunted their development or led to their death.   Saul theorized that the brain effects they found in rats would also hold for humans, because the basic neural and touch systems are the same.  Subsequent research proved that to be true.

In those days, premature babies and really sick babies were put in incubators and left alone.  Touch seemed to irritate them enough to cause breathing problems, so hospital workers didn't touch them.  They were warmed by lights, fed through tubes and only touched when nurses changed diapers.  In the late 1980's, doctors heard about Saul's research and began to hold and gently massage premature babies instead of leaving them alone in their incubators.  They found that carefully, gently massaged babies absorbed almost 50% more nutrition from the same amount of food, and that they developed faster mentally and in motor ability.  Massaged babies left the hospital 6 days earlier than the others.  Since then, hospitals all over the world have changed the way that they handle these at-risk babies.  Saul and others expanded their research into other groups of people with problems.  This led to better outcomes for depressed individuals, cancer patients and mentally ill teenagers.

Today Saul is known all over the world for his research.  The unintended problems he had with the baby mice became his research focus, leading to a change in the way the whole world treats at-risk newborn babies.  This helped save many lives in the process.

Often we set out to do something and have to deal with unforeseen problems.  Sometimes what we do doesn't seem to matter.  But we don't know if the problems might lead to a better solution to a bigger problem, as with Saul's research.  The key is using our problems for good and learning from them. 


Goleman, Daniel.  "The Experience of Touch:  Research Points to a Critical Role."  The New York Times, Feb 2, 1988.

Kuhn, Cynthia M.  "Obituary of Saul M. Schanberg."  Neuropsychopharomacology (2010) 35, 2650.

O'Brien, Theresa.  "Researcher Posthumously Wins Golden Goose for Preemie Massage Research."  September 5, 2014.

Ritter, Steve.  "Newscripts."  Chemical and Engineering News. October 13, 2014, p. 40.  Print.

Photo courtesy of

October 8, 2014

Rose Marie Reid Makes Swimming Modestly Fashionable

Last weekend our family flew to Utah for BYU's Parent's weekend.  We have three children and one daughter in law attending Brigham Young University so we can truly claim to be uber parents!  One of the things we did while there was tour a special collection at the BYU library.  Among old books, I was surprised to see a women's swimsuit in the collection.  I learned that it was a relic of the 1950's and was made by a very interesting Mormon woman named Rose Marie Reid.

Rose Marie learned to sew expertly at a really young age as she grew up in Utah.  She worked at the family grocery store which helped her learn entrepreneurial skills.  With her marriage in 1922 she moved to Canada.  Her husband coached swimmers and complained to her that his swimsuit was heavy and bothered him.  Like most swimsuits, his was made of wool!  Thick, absorbent and heavy when wet, like a sweater!  Men and women wore one piece sleeveless tank tops sewn to boxers for swimming-- and they were shapeless, ugly and heavy when wet.  With a different idea, Rose Marie took an old twill jacket and cut it up, making shorts for him that laced up on the sides for a good fit.  He loved them!

He asked her to make another men's suit and two women's suits for his competitive swimmers.  They modeled them for a local department store, which ordered several dozen of each to sell.  Rose Marie was flabbergasted.  She didn't want to start a business, just make a few suits.  She asked local women to sew them and filled the orders, and she was in business as 'Reid Holiday Togs.'  She refined her swimsuits to fit all body types and flattered all women.  This was such a difference from the shapeless tank shorts that women loved them.  Demand continued to outstrip what she could supply and Rose Marie kept expanding.  When she made more money than her husband, who was still coaching swimmers, the marriage faltered.  After the divorce, she moved to California with her three kids.  The demand for her swimsuits was the greatest in Los Angeles.  She renamed the business 'Rose Marie Reid' and got more creative in her designs.  Her biggest boosts to business came when Hollywood movie stars wore her swimsuits and spoke of them glowingly. 

The 1950's were Rose Marie's biggest years in business.  In 1951 Life Magazine praised her designs and the most revolutionary suit.  She was named Woman of the Year in 1955 by the Los Angeles times and Designer of the Year by Sports Illustrated and the American Sportswear Designer award.  Even though she was a single mom, she churned out design after design and seamstresses sewed like mad to keep up with orders.  At one point, they were making 10,000 swimsuits a day!  Other companies, seeing the new trends Rose Marie was starting, copied her designs.  One company owner bragged that they all copied her designs because if they didn't, they would be out of business.  Brazenly, one even named one of their swimsuits 'Rose Marie.'  This just prompted Rose Marie to be more creative with her next design.

Rose Marie wanted to help when the Los Angeles temple was being built.  In those days, members paid money into building funds to build churches and temples.  Rose Marie designed a specific swimsuit for the purpose of fundraising for the temple.  It was white with sequins sewn in patterns all over it.  She made the suits up and had the sequins sewn on by Relief Society sisters, then sold with all profits going toward the temple fund.  She raised $100,000 for the fund this way (which would be about a million dollars today.)  THIS is the swimsuit I saw at the BYU library.  Awesome!
In the 1960's, bikinis became popular.  Rose Marie built her company on the principles of the Gospel and refused to design immodest designs.  Her company had non-members on the board and they insisted that she follow the trends.  Rose Marie refused and left the company that she founded so many years before.  With her departure, the company became just like any other and slowly failed. 
Rose Marie held onto her values although she could have compromised in other ways as well.  Once she was offered $250,000 to appear on the back cover of Life Magazine.  The catch-- she would have to say she smoked Camel cigarettes and appear with a lit cigarette in her hand.  She refused, although she could have used the money at the time.   

She also shared the gospel with all of her associates, serving as a set-apart missionary for over 20 years.  She helped write pamphlets for the church that targeted the Jewish community, as she was good friends with several Jews and knew how to relate the gospel to them.  And she donated lots of money over the years to BYU. 

I admire Rose Marie because she stood firm to her values regardless of the pressure she felt in her business and social life.  In spite of her hardships, she valued her family and did her best with her situations.  And I love her designs, which help women be modest and yet fashionable.  Her designs are making a comeback today as modest values return.  She set a great example for me.

For more information, see:
Ainsworth, April and Michelle Brisendine; "Rose Marie Reid: Vingate Designer Bios,", August 27, 2011.

Peterson, Roger K and Carole Reid Burr.  "A Genius for Beauty:  Rose Marie Reid."  Mormons and Popular Culture.  ed. James Michael Hunter.  pp. 213-228.  

Smith, Julie M.  "Rose Marie Reid."  Times and Seasons, 12 September 2006.

Walford, Jonathan.  "Canadian Fashion Connections-- Rose Marie Reid."  Jonathan Walford's Blog.  December 3, 2010., "Rose Marie Reid."

Photo courtesy of

August 25, 2014

Constantine Influenced Christianity For Good

I read an interesting article (see below) this morning that taught me things I didn't know about the Roman Emperor Constantine.  After reading it, I appreciate what Constantine did to help establish Christianity all over the world.  I had no idea that one man had this impact on the world.  Pretty amazing.  And the timing was critical-- I'll explain.

Constantine lived a few hundred years after Christ's birth and ministry.  His mom Helena was a Christian, but living among nobles in Rome, Constantine grew up with Pagan idols.  His dad, Constantius Chlorus had divorced his mom to marry a woman who would help him become more prominent in government, which left his upbringing mainly to his mom.   And yet he wasn't a Christian like his mom.

Christians had been persecuted for hundreds of years at this point in time in Rome.  They were blamed for the burning of Rome, and the government turned a blind eye to crimes against them.  They were robbed, burned out of homes, killed, and the like while the government did nothing.  We read the beginnings of this persecution among the Christians in the Bible after Christ's death. 

Constantine served in the military, hoping to become a leader in the military and be able to govern territories as he proved himself capable of defending and protecting the people.  His father had risen to become Caesar or Emperor this way.  Over time, Constantine rose to assume the title his father had after his father died, ruling the lands of Britain, Gaul and Spain.

Although Constantine was recognized as Caesar, a rival named Maxentius felt like he deserved the throne.  He led a rebellion against Constantine and a great battle began.  The night before, Constantine saw a sign in the heavens that read 'Through this, conquer' and the letters which spelled out 'Christ' in Greek.  The next day Constantine beat Maxentius at the great battle at Milvian bridge.  He attributed his victory to Christ and became a Christian (although he wasn't baptized until years later so that his many sins as an emperor could be forgiven.) 

One of the first things he did after this victory was that he made Christ the 'patron deity of the Roman Empire.'  Declaring a deity for the whole empire wasn't new, but it was the first time an Emperor actually picked the right god.  Another first, Constantine encouraged Christian worship but didn't persecute any other religion, although he stopped funding the others.  He formed a state-sponsored 'Imperial Church' which worshipped Christ.  Similarly important, he declared that it was not a crime to be a Christian anymore, and declared that it was a crime to persecute them.  That ended hundreds of years of terrible persecution!

This moved Christianity from a small misunderstood, even hated religion into a world religion, accepted and practiced by millions.  Constantine built shrines on holy places and paid for artwork depicting events in Christ's life.  This started the vast creation and collection of Christian art we see today.  He declared holidays based on Christ's teachings that remain to today.  He built three cities, two of which remain the centers of Christian thought (Rome and Jerusalem.)  And as discord came into church leadership, he ordered a convention for them to work out their differences.  That resulted in the flawed but cooperative effort called the 'Nicean Creed' which attempted to describe God.  That ensured that all the leaders in their various places taught the same thing, helping it be similar throughout the kingdom. 

Although Constantine wasn't perfect, he did a lot of good.  He stopped persecution of the early Christians, probably saving the faith from total extinction.  He established Christianity as the religion of the Roman Empire, which allowed it to take hold and spread over the world.  Scholars say that Constantine was easily one of the most influential people in Christian History. 

I really like this story because it shows me that we can trust God and his timing.  Heavenly Father waited until Constantine was Emperor before helping him convert to Christianity.  Being a Christian any earlier would have made Constantine's rise in the military and country leadership impossible.  He may have instead been persecuted along with the rest of the religious Christians; he certainly would not have been elevated to the leader of the empire.  We can trust that Heavenly Father knows when to intervene in our lives and that He will help us wait for His timing.  He will bear us up and dry our tears and succor us through the waiting.

Take courage in knowing that Heavenly Father knows you so well, He has all the hairs on your head numbered.  He knows what is best for you and how to help you with your problems. 
(The article I read:  Constantine's Influence Can Scarcely Be Measured by William J. Hamblin and Daniel Peterson.  Deseret News, August 10, 2014 p. 6.)
References:  Wikipedia
Photo courtesy of National Geographic.

August 1, 2014

Alice Herz-Sommer Made a Concentration Camp Beautiful to Save Her Son

Alice and Stephan/Raphael a few years after the war.  Photo courtesy of
I heard about a really amazing woman named Alice.  She survived the Holocaust and lived to be 110 years old.  But the most remarkable part of her story is how she was so happy throughout her life, although she had much to be sad about.  She chose to see the beauty in an often ugly world. 

Alice was living in Prague, Czeckoslovakia when Nazi Germany took over the city in 1939.  She had recently married her sweetheart Leopold and delivered her first child, a boy they named Stephan.  And she was a renowned pianist-- performing beautiful music to adoring audiences.  Her happy life changed as Hitler began to persecute the Jewish people because, although Alice didn't practice her religion, she was Jewish.

Hitler made it clear that he disliked the Jewish people immediately upon entering Prague.  As he had done in other cities he had invaded, Hitler began to destroy the Jewish people.  He took all of their possessions, including their businesses, he moved them into Ghettos, split up their families, and ultimately moved them to concentration camps where he could finish them off.  Only a small percentage of the Jewish people in Prague survived Hitler's treatment.  This was a dark time in world history.  But the adversity created many heroes like Alice.

Alice watched as her family members fled to America or were rounded up and sent to a camp.  When Alice, Leopold and Stephan were ordered to move to a camp in 1943, Alice decided to do all she could to help her 6 year old son Stephan survive.  Because Alice was a performing artist, she was placed in a camp called 'Theresienstadt.'  It was where they put people with performing abilities.  Rumors had been going around that Hitler was killing the Jews and he wanted the rumors to stop.  Hitler wanted to keep the world thinking that his regime was treating the Jews well.  If Hitler could film Jewish musicians performing classical music and show it to the world, he could keep fooling everyone. 

Leopold was an accomplished violinist, but because he worked as an accountant to support the family, he went to a regular work camp nearby and visited Alice and Stephan (who was allowed to stay with his mother.)   Alice, Leopold and Stephan were cold and hungry in their camps.  And they tried not to worry about what would happen to them and their loved ones.

For Stephan's sake, Alice looked for the good in everyone and everything in the camp.  She wanted to find it and to point it out to Stephan so he wouldn't be afraid or scarred by this awful experience.  She wanted him to survive and when he was freed, to still see the good in life.   She tucked him within her arms at night and gave him any extra food she could spare during the day.

Alice was assigned jobs like breaking rocks or washing clothes.  But for a half hour a day she was allowed to practice piano.  She and the other musicians were to perform concerts regularly, although they were given no sheet music to use.  Alice had to remember the difficult music she had learned before.  Fortunately, she was a devoted pianist, having practiced 4 hours a day before her internment in the camp.  Her memory served her well.  She put on complicated concerts weekly for the guards, prisoners and German dignitaries, receiving great praise for her technique and expression.

Being able to play her music brought great joy to Alice and Stephan.  The music she played was so beautiful that it transported them away from the dark, ugly, and heartless camp back to the happier places in their past.  The guards and the other prisoners had the same experience of feeling happier when she played.  Her music became an oasis in an awful place.  Alice told people, "It is music that takes us to paradise."

Alice's combination of looking for the good in their awful world, and bringing beautiful music into it worked!  Alice and Stephan survived and were freed when the camp was liberated in 1945.  Leopold didn't survive, so Alice devoted herself to raising Stephan to adulthood by herself.  They first returned to Prague, but moved to Jerusalem shortly thereafter.  Stephan grew up to be a famous musician like his mother, performing the Cello worldwide under his new name Raphael Sommer.  And Alice practiced the piano for 3-4 hours every day until she died at the age of 110.  The music she played brought her joy and made her world beautiful, no matter where she was.  She forgave all those who hurt her and looked forward to each day optimistically.  She said, “Every day in life is beautiful...every day!”

No matter what trials we are enduring, we can look forward to each day as a beautiful gift and enjoy it fully.  Heavenly Father loves each of us and will bless us through our experiences. 

Sources:  Muller, Melissa and Reinhard Piechocki, Alice's Piano The life of Alice Herz-Sommer.  St. Martin's Press.  New York. 2006.

Watch documentaries about her:  "The Lady in Number 6" and "Everything is a Present." 

Terry Fox Runs for Other Cancer Fighters

Photo courtesy of
My husband Scott and I went to Canada recently and enjoyed the area very much.  While driving around, I saw a building named the 'Terry Fox Sports Facility.'  I asked Scott who Terry Fox was and he told me his story briefly.  So cool!  He's a real hero!

Terry Fox was a Canadian boy who loved to play sports.  Because he was short, his middle school coaches discouraged him from playing basketball, telling him he'd be a better runner.  So Terry started running, but kept coming back to basketball as his favorite sport.  He practiced so much that he made the high school basketball team in spite of his shorter height.  In fact, in his Senior year he was named Athlete of the Year.  He was offered a spot on the college basketball team the next fall, not because of his height or skill, but more because of his determination.

Shortly after graduation, Terry was diagnosed with Osteosarcoma, a cancer of the bone in his knee.  In 1976, the treatment for the disease was leg amputation in addition to chemotherapy and radiation treatment.  Terry underwent all of these procedures and started physical therapy with his new prosthetic leg.  He started running again, although it was very painful on his stiff artificial leg.  He had to hop on his good leg twice for each step on his artificial leg, since the spring in his artificial leg took so long to reset.  It made for a painful run, causing shin splints and bruises on his good leg, and sores, blisters and bruises on his stump. 

He had heard of a runner (Dick Traum) who completed a marathon with a prosthetic leg and chose a marathon several months away in which to run.  This gave him a goal to work toward.  Terry finished the marathon 10 minutes after the last runner did, to the cheers of the adoring crowds.  Emboldened, Terry announced that he would run across Canada to raise money for cancer research.  His mom was alarmed and unsupportive at first, but seeing his determination, she joined the rest of the family in supporting him.

Having successfully beat his cancer, he wanted to offer other cancer patients courage and hope.  He felt it was his new purpose in life and set about to make it happen.  He said, "My quest would not be a selfish one. I could not leave (treatment) knowing these faces and feelings would still exist, even though I would be set free from mine. Somewhere the hurting must stop....and I was determined to take myself to the limit for this cause."  

He set out a course across Canada starting at the Atlantic ocean and ending at the Pacific.  He called it 'Marathon of Hope' because he would run a Marathon each day until he crossed the continent.  He filled two bottles up with sea water in Newfoundland.  He intended to pour one into the Pacific ocean when he finished, and keep the other as a souvenir.  He asked for monetary contributions, securing enough funding to start his journey.  Then he asked Canadians to contribute, hoping to raise $1 for each of the 24 million citizens.  Terry's best friend would drive a van behind him and cook his meals. 

Starting running on April 12, 1980, he was faced with a snowstorm, heavy rain and intense winds the first few days.  Nevertheless, Terry ran a marathon each day, persisting in his quest.  Slowly, his efforts were noticed by the media and he began to get more support.   A hotel owner offered him a room every night in his hotel chain as he crossed the country.  That was probably a nice help!  People began running with him or cheering him on as he ran.  Local governments asked him to speak when he visited their towns.  And people began to contribute money to the cause, making him happy in spite of the pain he was in with each step. 

Running a marathon every day (remember that's 26 miles!!!) would exhaust any healthy athlete.  (He even ran on his 22nd birthday.)  Imagine how extra hard it would be for an amputee running on a prosthetic leg.   Remember that he had just endured surgery, chemotherapy and radiation treatments a few years prior.  Terry was exhausted by the time he reached Thunder Bay, Ontario (on Lake Superior) in September and doctors made him stop the run. Terry was devastated and said,  "Everybody seems to have given up hope of trying. I haven't. It isn't easy and it isn't supposed to be, but I'm accomplishing something. How many people give up a lot to do something good? I'm sure we would have found a cure for cancer 20 years ago if we had really tried." 

Even though the run was stopped, Terry had raised $1.7 million dollars to that date.  By the next February, $24 million had been collected!  Terry had met his goal, and the people kept giving.  To date, Terry has raised $400 million, all dedicated to cancer research.  One of Canada's leaders said, "It occurs very rarely in the life of a nation that the courageous spirit of one person unites all people in the celebration of his life...  [we think of Terry] as one who inspired us with the example of the triumph of the human spirit over adversity". 

Bridges, roads, schools, running trails and facilities are named in Terry's honor, as well as a yearly run to raise money for Cancer research.  A song was even written about him (Rod Stewart's 'Never Give Up on a Dream.")  In a 1999 public opinion poll, he was named Canada's greatest hero.  Pretty amazing.  It's a wonderful thing to see the difference one person can make. 

Terry took his struggle against Cancer and turned it into a way to help others.  He showed amazing courage, strength and determination as he thought of others.  What a hero!

June 20, 2014

My Experience with 'Pay it Forward' and Mother's Day

Our family has had a lot of company lately because one of my kids graduated from High School, then we went on a family reunion.  After that, my parents wanted to visit some nearby sites, so we did some travelling, then after they left, I was behind on bills and stuff.  So I was happy to have some time to write today.

One of the things I wanted to share was something that happened around Mother’s day.  My daughter Stephanie called me and told me that she had made a card for me and somehow she lost it.  She had used scrapbooking supplies and made this lovely Mother’s Day card, had her brothers sign it too.  But when she went to mail it, it was gone.  She felt bad and hoped that somehow it would make it to me.  But she assumed it wouldn’t, and wanted to tell me about it anyway, since she had worked so hard.  And she knew that now I wouldn’t receive it, so calling me was the next best thing.  I appreciated hearing about the card and I still had a nice Mother’s day.

Well, imagine my surprise when a week later, the card showed up in my mail box!  And there was a note on the back that read, “Dear Melanie, I found this letter on BYU campus.  Looked important so I decided to mail it out.  I got to mailing it rather late.  Sorry for the delay!  Otherwise you would have gotten it on Mother’s Day!  Pay it forward!  Happy Mother’s Day!  Cheers, K.E.”

K. E. must have known it was a mother’s day card because the return address read, “Your favorite children,” and it was the size of a card.  And it must have helped that it was right before Mother’s day.  

Such a small thing—mailing a dropped Mother’s day card—made me really happy.  Who knows if the 50 cents K. E. spent to mail it could have gone to more important things like food.  Students are generally poor!  But he/she did it anyway.  And I must add that it was a lovely card with kind things written inside, a real gift to me, definitely worth mailing.

It’s a good reminder that we can make others happy with little things.  And that doing those little things makes us happy too.  It’s like a ray of sunshine, bringing joy to everyone-- the giver, the recipient, and even onlookers.  And I’m sharing this little ray of sunshine with you.  And I’m on the lookout for other ways to ‘pay it forward.’

I also wanted to tell you that we found two more bird nests!  In my backyard, we have a deck that overlooks the yard.  Under the deck, right up against the house we found a nest full of chirping baby birds.  And at my daughter’s house, she has ceiling fans on her back porch.  Birds built a nest on the top of the center of one of the fans, housing several baby birds.  What an amazing year for birds!  It’s another little gift from Heavenly Father to make us happy.  

I know that every day we can find little acts of kindness to bring us joy, whether we give, recieve or just witness them.  Even bad days can become better when we are full of gratitude.  And even if we don't see any acts of kindness, this beautiful world gives us plenty of lovely gifts to appreciate.

April 29, 2014

The Amazing Foundation Beneath the Provo City Center Temple

Provo Tabernacle on stilts, Photo courtesy of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
When the Provo Tabernacle burned down in 2010, my husband and I joined the many members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints saddened by the loss.  Although fire claimed all the wood in the structure, the brick facade remained, but was damaged and weakened.  The Church supported it with beams while decisions were made about what would be done with the building.

My husband and I lived in Provo for a few years while attending Brigham Young University, where we met and married.  We attended church a few times in the Provo Tabernacle, when there was Stake conference held on the site.  It was a lovely building, rich in the history that we share as Mormon Pioneers.  With that in mind, we were happy to hear that the Church would rebuild the tabernacle and redesign it into a Temple.

Since then, each time we visit Provo to see our children attending Brigham Young University, we drove past the site to see how construction was coming along.  Last weekend, we did the same and found it covered in scaffolding, but looking as if it was nearing completion.

We were in Provo to participate in the graduation ceremonies of our son, who was graduating from the School of Engineering.  Convocation gave us a real treat, as the main speaker was Doug Welling, the Chief Executive Officer of Jacobsen Construction, the firm responsible for the renovation.  Welling spoke about how important it was for them to build a solid foundation under the tabernacle before they could make it into a temple.  It was fascinating to me!

Since the tabernacle was completed in 1898, regulations have been put into place to protect buildings against earthquakes and other problems.  To build the temple there, the building needed to be brought up to those standards.  And they wanted to do it without injuring the old building in the process.

Since the building is all brick with thick walls, it weighs a lot—some estimate it weighs 6.8 million pounds!  So you can’t just pick it up and move it, pour cement under it, then move it back.  They had to support it first, then dig all the dirt out underneath it, then pour the cement under it.  Additionally, plans were to expand the building downward to include two basement floors.  

Jacobsen construction worked with several Engineering firms to figure out how to do it.  First they stabilized the outer brick walls and tied them all to each other.  Then they drove about 150 thick metal rods into the ground 90 feet down around and under the temple.  They could do that from inside the walls, since the floor and roof were destroyed in the fire.   Welding all of these rods to horizontal rods, they created a platform that would hold the temple up.  Then they welded the supports holding the walls up to the platform, basically transferring the weight of the temple onto the 150 rods.  Now that it was supported, they could start digging.  They dug 20 feet down, exposing the rods, and welding cross beams to give more support and stability to the building.  They put up a wall around the outside to hold back the dirt from around the temple.  Then they dug another 25 feet down and welded those rods to more support beams.  The tabernacle was now up on stilts!  Now they could put a strong foundation underneath.

At the bottom, they placed 400 smaller rods into the ground, laid a grid on top of it and welded it all together.  Into that grid they poured 18 inches of cement, a nice firm foundation for a temple.  Two-foot thick walls were poured upward until they reached the bottom of the brick walls.  When the temple was resting firmly on those walls, the ‘stilts’ were removed.  Although it was a lot of work, the tabernacle can now be made into a temple because of the firm foundation underneath it!

If you want to watch it all happen, go to the live camera by visiting this website: 
Click on the link at the top left ‘watch movie.’  It’s amazing to watch the time-lapse photos make a movie of the temple being built!

Now that you understand what went into laying the groundwork for this temple, you can appreciate what Welling said about foundations.  (This isn’t word for word, just what I’m piecing together from my notes, but you get the idea.)  “If you have a strong foundation, you can be ready to do anything.  The best is yet to come.  Prepare yourself for it by building a solid foundation based on a testimony of the gospel, a good education and a habit of service.”  This is good advice to a graduating class of engineers.

This is also great advice for all of us.  A strong foundation based on faith in the Savior will prepare us for all of the great opportunities awaiting us.  We add strength when we take time each day to read the holy scriptures and commune with Heavenly Father.  Pondering is like boring deeply into the earth, reinforcing our base and anchoring ourselves to the bedrock of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  

As Jesus taught in his parable of the wise man and the foolish man, we must bore deeply into the rock so as to withstand the trials and problems that will happen to us.  

Matthew 17: 24 
Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock:

 25 And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock.
 26 And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand:
 27 And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.
For more information on how the Provo City Center Temple foundation was built beneath the old Tabernacle, see:

Cardno, Catharine A.  "In Utah, Historic Facade Saved with Stilts."  Civil Engineering.  June 18, 2013.  n. pag. web.

Our Friends the Swallows Nest on our Door Wreath

We had an interesting experience over the last month this Spring.  Near the end of March I put a wreath on my door-- an ordinary grapevine wreath, in which I had jabbed some flowers and greenery.  A long muslin ribbon made it moderately fancy.  After just a few days, I noticed extra twigs resting in the center.  Soon it was evident that a bird was making a nest in the wreath.
Having a nest on the door presented some problems-- how to continue to use the front door and not disturb the little bird and her nest.  Reading up on this occurrence, we learned of a law protecting nesting wild birds, requiring us to allow this without interference or we'd be subject to serious fines and penalties.  We had no intent to interfere, but worried about the safety of any eggs in a door that the kids slammed to close completely. 

This photo shows the 5 eggs, although blurry April 3rd.
Clear photo of three of the 5 eggs April 3rd.
On April 3rd we saw the eggs that had been laid in the nest.  Five small aqua spotted eggs had been laid and looked intact, in spite of the wild door swings and slams.  The kids were urged to use extra caution in using the door.  The older kids changed their routine, using the back door out instead of the front, to get to the car each morning. 

Looking up the egg online, we saw that these were probably Swallow eggs.  Apparently House Swallows often make nests in man-made structures, as these had. 

Blurry zoom of Mama Swallow atop the nest April 3rd.

On April 3rd, we took these photos showing the mother bird attending to the nest.  It's blurry because I had to take the photo from some distance or the bird would fly away.  She is facing left as she stands on top of the right rim of the nest.  Most of the time we saw Mama Swallow in the nest with her little head just peeking above the nest, looking around.

Fluff shows the baby birds April 10th

On April 10th, we saw three little fluffy baby birds in the nest.  We could hear Mama Swallow come and go, feeding the little birds.

Two birds rest on each other in this photo of the nest April 23rd.
In abandoning the use of the door, time elapsed before we noticed progress in the nest.  By April 23rd, the birds were much larger now, crowding the nest.  Nasty bird droppings were accumulating around the rim of the nest.  Although one bird startled at the opening of the door, the other remained.

One bird has flown away leaving the bird underneath.  April 23rd.
The empty nest, April 27th.  All the birds are gone, leaving just the nest and the guano mess. 

One small unhatched egg remains in the nest.  Maybe this photo is too nasty to post...
It was amazing to see three birds move from egg to independent in just a few weeks time.  I am reminded of how quickly our children grow up and move out.  People often told me it would go fast, but in the chaos of raising 7 children, I often didn't believe them.  Now I only have 3 left, and one leaves in just a few months for college.  And ironically, the kids have generally left a good-sized mess when they left!  Ha!

I believe those people now.  Raising my kids has been the most wonderful, challenging and tiring experience of my life.  Attending one of my children's college graduation last weekend filled me with a rare pride.  I'm happy to see the lovely people my grown children have become. Parenthood seems to be a fleeting time after all.  I have a few years left before my youngest is old enough to leave.  I will enjoy those years.