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:  http://churchofjesuschristoflatterdaysaints.workzonecam.com/ 
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.  www.asce.org/cemagazine.

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.

April 21, 2014

Blind Teen Musical Prodigy Kuha'o Case Sees No Limits

Kuha'o Case can play songs after hearing them just once or twice.  If you’ve studied piano, you know that for most people, it’s a lot harder than that.  For Kuha’o, who is blind, it’s a gift.  He discovered this gift when he was 12 years old in Middle school.  In his music class they brought out keyboards.  Kuha’o was able to play songs almost immediately.  He said, "The first time, my fingers touched the keyboard, I felt overjoyed. It completely changed my world and my entire life.”

Soon after this, Kuha’o joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  He had begun spending weekends with his grandparents and attending church with them.  One Sunday after church, he sat down at a piano and played the songs he heard in Sacrament meetings.  His grandparents were stunned!  Since he didn’t own a piano, he started practicing piano at the church building while his grandpa cleaned it on Saturday.  After a while, he wanted to learn to play the organ.  Using his grandpa’s cleaning time to practice, Kuha’o taught himself how to play the organ.  To help him learn, Kuha’o got up at 5 am on Sunday mornings to listen to the broadcast of ‘Music and the Spoken Word’ each Sunday.  Surely he understood that the more he heard organ playing, the better he could reproduce it.  

Kuha’o’s grandparents bought a piano for him to practice on over the weekends.  Now he uses his time at the building to practice on the organ.  Every other Sunday Kuha’o plays for his ward’s Sacrament meetings, as well as singing in the ward choir and playing the piano as needed.  Kuha’o said, “I do like to practice on the organ while others are doing their jobs, because we need music—music will help them get the focus to try to do the responsibility the right way,” Kuha’o said. “I get on the organ and play. Every Saturday I do organ practice, and every Sunday I prepare for sacrament. ... That is what [music] is for—you get to bring people closer to the Lord, to come unto Him.”

A couple of years ago, Kuha’o met a man named Andy Thunell, probably at church in Hawaii.  Andy was amazed at Kuha’o’s abilities and wanted to help him.  Andy recorded Kuha’o playing the piano and posted it on Utube.  Using Utube and a fundraising website, Andy helped Kuha’o raise the money to buy himself a piano.  They burned a CD to sell and raised money for Kuha’o to come to Utah to promote it.  Kuha’o now flies to Utah each summer to take intensive organ lessons from one of the Tabernacle organists. 

What makes playing the keyboard easier for Kuha’o is that he has perfect pitch.  (That means if you hum a note or press a piano key, he can tell you what note it is.  This ability makes it possible to dissect chords and reconstruct them to replicate a song.)  

The other thing that helps Kuha’o play music so easily is that he is blind.  That sounds kind of odd—that his disability makes playing the piano easier.  But Kuha’o insists that being blind enabled him to not see barriers.  Since he doesn’t rely on sight, he doesn’t need to see something done before he’ll attempt it.  

He explained, “In my life, I see no limits. You might want to laugh at that statement, because, in reality, I see nothing at all. So, of course, I see no limits. But let me further explain. I am not trying to say that one day, I decided to raise above the challenges that had been set for me. No. What I am saying is that, because I am not able to visually see the world around me, I do not understand boundaries and limitations in the same way as the rest of you, through sight, do. It seems to me, that, in very significant ways, having your sight, might be more limiting than being blind.”

Isn’t that a wonderful way to ‘see’ the world?  With that attitude, he taught himself to play the piano and the organ without owning a piano or taking any lessons.  Further, he set personal goals to play the Tabernacle organ, drive a car, serve as a Mormon Missionary and become a movie producer.  Of those, he has played the Tabernacle organ and driven a car on his grandpa’s property.  I think he’ll be a great missionary.  Will he become a movie producer?  It would be the first time a blind person had done so.  But does that make it impossible?

Kuha’o doesn’t think so.  He said, “Heavenly Father gave me this gift first because He loves me and He wants to bless me more.  And He would someday want me to be like Him.  We can follow and accomplish our dreams in life.  Anything is possible.”

One observer noted, “While it would be so easy for someone in his situation to wallow in self-pity, Kuha'o never succumbs to pessimism. Rather, his positive attitude is constant. He knows that being blind will never keep him from realizing his dreams. Like his music, being blind is a necessary part of him. His message is that no matter how difficult our circumstances, and no matter how hard things might be, we are all capable of greatness. As he has demonstrated in his own life, if we believe in ourselves, anything is possible.”

Photo courtesy of Utube

Anderson, Mike.  "Blind Piano Prodigy Kuha'o Case Tours Utah."  KSL.com.  July 16, 2012.

Besliu, Raluca.  "Kaha'o Case:  the blind piano prodigy who chooses to see no limits."  Taking on the Giant.  Web. December 26, 2013.

Dahm, Lisa Marie.  "Kuha'o Case."  North Hawaii News.  Web.  August 23, 2013.

Holman, Marianne.  "Blind Ward Organist Uses Musical Abilities to Inspire Others."  Church News.  Web.  23 July 2012.

LDS.org.  "Extraordinary Gift."  video.

Spanish Fork.org.  "9th Annual Harvest Moon Hurrah."  Announcement.  Web.

Thunell, Andy.  "Kuha'o Case, Blind Piano Prodigy to Produce his First CD."  Kickstarter.com.  Web.  June 21, 2012.

April 3, 2014

Clayton Sherrod Saw Himself as a Chef and Made Himself One

Clayton Sherrod was just 13 when his dad died of a heart attack.  Clayton was one of 10 children living poverty in Alabama before the Civil Rights era gave blacks equal rights.  As a young black teenager, he must have already felt like his opportunities for success were slim.  After his father died, his mother told him he needed to quit school to go to work to help support his family.  That limited his opportunities even further.

Clayton’s older brother had a job as a golf caddy at an all-white country club near their home.  When an opening came up for another caddy, Clayton applied and got it.  Only a few weeks later, a job as a dishwasher opened up in the kitchen.  Although it was a pay cut with harder work, less prestige and longer hours, Clayton learned that they offered free meals to the staff.  Besides, it was a steady paycheck, unlike the caddy job, which was more sporadic.

Clayton was soon eating gourmet foods in a fancy country club; foods he had never seen or tasted before with expensive cuts of meat and exotic ingredients.  He was fascinated with how the chef created these masterpieces and started watching him cook.  It looked like magic to him.  He said, “I just wanted to learn.  I would have paid them to learn.”

After a while, Clayton decided that he wanted to be the head (executive) chef there someday.  People thought he was crazy, because there had never ever been a black head chef at that country club before.  Clayton said, “but I saw something that everyone else didn’t see, that is me walking around with that big tall hat on.”  He counted how many promotions it would take for him to become the executive chef and set a goal to be promoted every 6 months.  Doing that would ensure that he became the head chef in 10 years.  Clayton worked hard, stayed late and polished the dishes to a shine.  And he kept watching closely as the chef cooked.

His hard work paid off; Clayton was promoted repeatedly over the next few years.  As he checked off each promotion on a poster on his wall, he would dance in happiness, knowing that his goal was getting closer.

When he reached the rank of ‘Sous chef,’ or the assistant to the head chef, the head chef came to him and said, “I know what you’re doing.  Don’t even think about it.  I will be the Executive Chef here for life.  You can either keep working for me or go somewhere else.”  That didn’t deter Clayton.  He came up with a plan to allow him to become head chef.  It wasn’t a mean plan, but it was sneaky.

Clayton wrote up a resume describing the perfect chef, put the head chef’s name on the top and started applying for jobs all over the country—for the head chef!  Soon the head chef was receiving job offers from everywhere.  That made him a bit proud—he was famous!  He started asking his boss for raises in pay, which his boss regularly refused.  After a time, the boss got tired of the discussion and told him he could be replaced.  The boss said turned to Clayton and said, “Will you take over until we can find another chef?”  Clayton was only too happy to fill in.  

Clayton never looked back.  And he attained Executive Chef in just 6 years.  He was only 19 years old!  He ran that kitchen for many 13 years, taking time off to attend formal culinary school in New York.  He finally quit to start his own catering business, which he has run successfully ever since.  
Although Clayton’s situation seemed hopeless, he saw himself as a future success.  He worked hard and studied with such determination that he reached his goal quickly.
Each of us can do the same if we keep our goal in mind while we work on the smaller goals that will bring us there.

To hear Clayton tell his story, http://storycorps.org/listen/clayton-sherrod/

Photo courtesy of Clayton Sherrod and NPR.