Befriender Ministry offers training at Westminster

By Shane Bell


I want to be known. I want someone to care about my innermost, deepest self. I want someone to listen to my experiences abroad, to know my mother’s personality, to imagine my father as the attorney and advocate he was. I want someone to touch my pain and feel my joy. I want friendship, I want love; I want someone to love me like a friend.


In today’s society, I imagine I am not the only one who feels this way, who feels like there is so much talking and so little listening.


This June, Westminster UCC is hosting a training workshop from June 19-22 whose sole purpose is to train individuals how to provide a ‘listening ministry of pastoral care.’ Taught by a certified trainer from BeFriender Ministry, this four-day intensive training from 8:30 am-5:00 pm will equip leaders with keen listening, counseling, and ministry skills.
“This is less about me,” said Jennifer Marquis, who is attending the workshop. “This is about holding their story, about being there for each other. We want to listen without fixing, to be a prayerful presence when people are having difficult times in life,” said Marquis. Difficult times, according to Marquis, include major job transitions, illness and injury, and death.


“We are in a non-stop communicating world. As I am listening to you, I am looking for ways to how I will respond to you.  And I am not really looking for ways to answer deeper,” said Marquis. “How does this affect you? How often do you have a conservation and not feel heard?”



Marquis, like so many -if not all- of us, has been impacted by such hollow conversation. “I am thirsty for conversation that connects us. It’s what I have longed for in myself. I think we are really passionate for what we most deeply long for. It’s that little mystery that I am still teasing apart,” finished Marquis.


In addition to Jenn Marquis, Francie Light will be attending the workshop. “We are looking for serious people to be a part of this workshop, and if they can’t do the workshop, to be a part of a program based on this idea at Westminster,” stated Marquis. This BeFriender Ministry-inspired program will meet regularly, partake in further training and continuing education, and vitally support each other as emissaries to those who feel surrounded by darkness.


As the host church, Westminster members are eligible for a $150 discount towards registration fees. To save an additional $50, enroll by May 22. Scholarships are available to those who are genuinely interested in participating in the training but do not have all of, or part of, the financial means to do so. Please submit any requests for scholarships to Pastor Andy, whose email is


To register for the ‘Foundations Workshop’ at Westminster this June, or for more information, or call the national office at (952)-767-0244 or (866)-468-8708.

Mardi Bras Party at Westminster UCC

By Shane Bell

Mardi Bras is an annual joint-fundraiser between Hope House of Volunteers of America and Transitions Women’s Hearth to raise bras, underwear, and STA bus passes for homeless women in Spokane. The fundraiser encompasses many parties, but this year Westminster UCC is throwing its own Mardi Bras Party on Feb. 10, between 11am-2pm, at Westminster UCC.

All women are encouraged to come to this party that champions and celebrates women. Festivities will include music, Gumbo, Mardi Gras-themed dessert like King cake, and a guest speaker, Director of Volunteers of America Jon Corollo. Attendees are asked to bring one of the following: new bra, underwear, or STA bus card(s). Though a women-only event, men are invited to donate money towards the effort.

“It’s even tougher being a homeless woman,” said Rev. Andrea CastroLang of Westminster UCC. “One of the things people don’t think about is that you need a bra that fits, you need underwear, you need feminine hygiene products. Many think the homeless are all men. That is not true. There are plenty of homeless women, too.”

Karen Nielsen, an organizer of the event and Westminster member, is excited for the church to host its first Mardi Bras event. “One of the missions in our church that I really connect with is helping our homeless neighbors. These items are essential but are often overlooked,” says Nielsen, “so it is really neat to meet those things specifically.”

“This is an opportunity for us to recognize our sisterhood, trying to honor that I am a woman and that you are a woman and that we are going to take care of each other,” said Rev. Andrea CastroLang. “In terms of dignity, every woman deserves a well-fitting bra.”

Baroque Christmas in Spokane’s Oldest Church

By Shane Bell


Baroque music was first played in intimate church settings and not glitzy, highbrow centers for the arts. The sounds were heard ricocheting off of chiseled stones and absorbed by warm woods, the musicians and their parchment lit by candlelight. Encompassing ‘art music’ from Western Europe between 1600-1650, the Baroque period of classical music boasts notables such as Bach, Handel, and Vivaldi, as well as more than a dozen other composers.


On Dec. 9th and 10th of this holiday season, A Festive Baroque Christmas will follow in this centuries-old tradition with the Spokane Symphony playing pieces by Vivaldi, Handel, Schmelzer, and Corelli. On Dec. 9, Westminster UCC, the oldest church of Spokane, will hold the first concert at 7 pm; on Dec 10, The Spokane Valley Church of the Nazarene will host the second concert at 3 pm.


“Playing in places like Westminster, the acoustics and surroundings are incredible,” said Dan Cotter, Clarinetist and General Manager of The Spokane Symphony. “It’s a slightly more intimate setting for a concert,” continues Cotter, “and we wanted to reach out to the community where they are, as opposed to them always having to come to us.”


Rev. Andrea CastroLang of Westminster UCC is also enthusiastic about the merging of music, history and place. “First off, I love Baroque music,” said CastroLang. “Secondly, if we can open our doors and show people this beautiful, warm space, we want to share it. It is really important that churches are warm and inviting and not judgmental, cold and closed. So in whatever way we can, we want to get that message of welcome out to our city.”


The Spokane Symphony will showcase 36 of its professional musicians, with violin solos of the Corelli Christmas Concerto performed by Concertmaster Mateusz Wolski and Amanda Howard, Principal Second Violinist. “Baroque music was designed to entertain and delight. It was composed to lift the spirit and bring joy,” said Conductor and Music Director of the Spokane Symphony, Eckart Preu.


The concert will last about an hour and will not have an intermission. Children older than the age of 5 years old are welcome, as well as aspiring young musicians, especially those who play string instruments. Tickets are $36, or $54 for the two-concert series, which will resume on March 17-18th, 2018.


To purchase tickets, visit the Martin Woldson Theater at the Fox Box Office at 1001 W. Sprague Avenue, (509)-624-1200, or visit online at or any TicketsWest outlet.


Local man, family man, Ironman: Inside the mind of triathlete Tom Dubos

Coeur d'Alene resident and triathlete Tom Dubos.

Coeur d’Alene resident and triathlete Tom Dubos.

By Shane Richard Bell

Staff writer/Coeur d’Alene Press

Tom Dubos was a triathlete before the Ironman was king.

In 1984, he ran his first marathon. He was smitten. In 1987, he completed Ironman Canada in Penticton, British Columbia.

But the crossing from marathon to mega triathlon wasn’t happenstance. In the winter of 1984 Dubos was in a serious skiing accident that required swimming exercises for physical therapy.

“I thought after that I can run, I can bike, and now I can swim, what the heck, let’s try a triathlon,” said Dubos.

Finishing an Ironman was his ultimate goal, said Dubos. “It’s really hard to put into words. It was more of a death march than a triumphant gallop to the finish line. After doing it, I thought, ‘No way am I doing this again.’”

But Dubos’ growing desires and aptitudes wouldn’t relent. He ran more marathons, triathlons, and even ultra marathons. “I did 105 miles in 24 hours,” said Dubos. “When you do the math, it’s pretty slow. But that is a long ways.”

Many mile markers and Dixie cups of Gatorade later, Dubos decided to conquer another Ironman competition. He succeeded, finishing Ironman Coeur d’Alene in 2010 and 2011. “You’ve got to work on your weaknesses.  I had real objectives. And for those two races I was solid, in the middle of the pack, at around 13 hours.”

Dubos notices the triathlon trends.

“Things have really changed. Back then for Ironman it was a paper registration you sent in with an attached check. Then you waited a few weeks for a response in the mail. Now it’s online and if you don’t sign up, it’s booked in 15 minutes,” said Dubos. “It’s too much about the equipment now. We used to ride whatever was in our garage. It was much more low key.”

This year marks his fourth time participating in the Coeur d’Alene Triathlon, occurring Saturday, August 10. His goals are to beat his previous times, avoid bike problems, and feel great physically.

While his triathlon resume is ever growing, there are certain people he looks for at every finish line. “I’m very blessed with a supportive family,” said Dubos, speaking of his wife and triathlon volunteer, Diane Dubos, and two daughters, Megan, 23, and Sarah, 31.

After finishing the Chelan Triathlon in 2008, Tom Dubos shares a kiss with his wife, Diane Dubos.

After finishing the Chelan Triathlon in 2008, Tom Dubos shares a kiss with his wife, Diane Dubos.

“You know, I wasn’t the all-American jock growing up; we were just always doing stuff,” he said. “I thought later in life, ‘I better get active, otherwise I’m going to be as big as a house.’”

But it’s not all physical. “This really helps me think. If I am stuck on something with work, I find solutions. It gives me greater confidence,” he said. “And when you’re confronted by a difficult situation, you think, ‘I did Ironman, how difficult can this be?’”

Nor is it all charitable. “I tell people, I have no pretense. It’s an incredibly selfish endeavor. And a lot of people will simply not see that or admit to it,” said Dubos.

“But it keeps me sane. It keeps me calm. It mellows you out and nothing rattles you. And I was just lucky enough to marry the most tolerant woman, too.”

Tom Dubos participates in the 2008 Steve Omi Memorial Open Water Swim in Coeur d'Alene.

Tom Dubos participates in the 2008 Steve Omi Memorial Open Water Swim in Coeur d’Alene.

Timberline Drilling restores old train station for company headquarters

Photo courtesy of John Swallow The restored Northern Pacific Railway station, now the headquarters for Timberline Drilling.

Photo courtesy of John Swallow
The restored Northern Pacific Railway station, now the headquarters for Timberline Drilling.

Photo courtesy of John Swallow The building before the remodel.

Photo courtesy of John Swallow
The building before the remodel.

Staff writer

No light entered its windows, no life passed through its doors. And no sounds came from within its lingering walls and foundation.

It seemed, in time, another historical building would be slated for destruction and erased from public memory. But John Swallow of Coeur d’Alene knew this building’s story as the former Northern Pacific Railway station.

He knew Northern Pacific Railway was the first railroad to reach Coeur d’Alene in 1883 and that this station, in particular, was one of the region’s most influential transportation hubs, linking North Idaho to the rest of the world.

“We saved the train station,” said Swallow. “And every guy who worked here did, too.”

The building was most recently known as Las Palmitas Mexican Restaurant but had remained vacant for almost two years.

John and Erin Swallow purchased the former Northern Pacific Railway station building at 201 N. Third St. in Coeur d’Alene to also house their company, Timberline Drilling, which is owned by Martin Lanphere, Lew Walde, and John Swallow. The general managers are CJ Larson and John Dietel.

The foundation and exterior walls — with a thickness of 13-inches — are original to a structure that was once teeming with the pursuits of man’s pleasure and livelihood.

By the late 1890s Coeur d’Alene was undergoing a population boom fueled by the value of the Silver Valley’s seemingly inexhaustible timber and precious metal reserves. Lake Coeur d’Alene merged the two through steamboats brimming with passengers and raw materials from mines and forests.

Those moments are captured in the building today.

In the train station’s old waiting area, now lined with old-fashioned desks making for airy offices, there are manmade ruts in the floors marred with tread from shoes where people once stood to purchase train tickets almost a century ago. Beyond the ticket booth is an overhanging window where the telegraph operator would sit to look up and down the tracks for oncoming trains.

Photo courtesy of NORTH IDAHO MUSEUM  A Northern Pacific Railway locomotives goes down Third Street circa late 1950s.

Photo courtesy of NORTH IDAHO MUSEUM
A Northern Pacific Railway locomotives goes down Third Street circa late 1950s.

To the left of the ticket counter was the women’s waiting area. “Some things never change,” quipped Swallow. “The women wanted their own area away from the men.”

Most of the maple floors are original, too- some are even engraved with the signature of one the business giants of the time, J.D. Carroll. Bricks comprise the building’s walls, a precaution taken after the first depot, located near the Third St. docks, burned down from a runaway mill fire. The ceiling lights are era appropriate. An antique telephone hangs by the wall near the bathrooms.

Their functional office refrigerator is from 1932, and an authentic “Railroad Crossing” sign from the Rathdrum Prairie hangs over the conference room, its reflectors made of marbles.

Some relics were found stuffed into the nooks and crannies of the station- like a piece of coal Swallow found and returned to the building’s coal chute as well as horse and mule shoes. Others were found on antiquing trips Swallow made with his wife, Erin, and their sons: Travis, 14, and Ryan, 16.

Photo courtesy of John Swallow Ryan, 16, left, and his brother, Travis, 14, right, help their father and co-owner of Timberline Drilling, John Swallow, with landscaping the grounds of the new company headquarters and former Northern Pacific Railway station.

Photo courtesy of John Swallow
Ryan, 16, left, and his brother, Travis, 14, right, help their father and co-owner of Timberline Drilling, John Swallow, with landscaping the grounds of the new company headquarters and former Northern Pacific Railway station.

On one trip the Swallow family took two days to drive to Portland using only country roads. “We’d get to a town… stop, get out, look it up on our phones and see what major industries built that town and why it was there in the first place,” said Swallow. “I think it’s just really cool for our family to experience history.”

Timberline Drilling, an underground and surface-drilling contractor based in the Northwest with headquarters in Coeur d’Alene and Elko, Nev., understands these lessons written on the floorboards of forgotten history.

The company, in the words of Swallow, is “the eyes and ears of mining companies, helping our clients determine the worth of precious metals.” Today the company has around 170 employees in Idaho, Washington, Nevada, and Alaska.

Rob Johnson of Johnson Construction was hired to collaterally restore the train station with Swallow and his team. Together they spent a year renovating and restoring the train station.

But Swallow sees the restoration project, the company’s headquarters, as a tribute to the past as well as an asset to the community.
Just the other day a woman walking by came in to visit the place after her son “bugged the heck out of her” to see the “old train station.”
“That’s why we did this,” said Swallow.

Photo courtesy of NORTH IDAHO MUSEUM  A Northern Pacific Railway train crosses Sherman Avenue circa late 1950s.

Photo courtesy of NORTH IDAHO MUSEUM
A Northern Pacific Railway train crosses Sherman Avenue circa late 1950s.

“The community needs more people to give back by doing things like this- restoring old buildings for the next 100 years, something that will outlast all of us.”

The restoration, in part, reflects Timberline’s successes as well. The value of precious metals has steadily risen since 2001, says Swallow, and with it the need for quality drilling.

“When the recession hit, we kept a lot of guys busy,” said Swallow.

“Like the Holte family in Blue Creek Bay east of town by Wolf Lodge. They’re great family folks. We take a vested interest in their success. Our employees are the ones providing the success for this company. To me that’s the sleep-at-night factor.”

To Swallow, history is worth its weight in gold.

“A lot of the success I’ve had is understanding history. The same mistakes are made throughout history over and over again, and if you read, you can learn from those mistakes,” said Swallow. “And that is why I think it is so important.”

“It’s an old train station; there are hardly any left,” he added. “I mean, you have to be almost crazy to take on turning a Mexican restaurant back into a train station during a recession. But it’s the ultimate feel good project.”

Beyond the finish line

Photo courtesy of IRONMAN KONA Coeur d'Alene resident Ivanka Kuran is an 18-time Ironman finisher.

Photo courtesy of IRONMAN KONA
Coeur d’Alene resident Ivanka Kuran is an 18-time Ironman finisher.

By SHANE RICHARD BELL/Staff writer/Coeur d’Alene Press 

One moment they all stood together, the morning sun on their faces, before the ocean. The next moment they were under the warm green currents, 1,400 athletes swimming as one into the Pacific.

“This is what I want to do,” said Coeur d’Alene resident Ivanka Kuran, witnessing her first Ironman Triathlon competition in Kona, Hawaii.

That was in the early 1990s.

Now she’s completed 18 Ironman competitions and is planning to participate in Ironman Coeur d’Alene 2013 on Sunday.

“My favorite event is swimming,” said Kuran. “It’s like you’re swimming in a school of fish. And it’s real quiet down there. It’s amazing.”

Photo courtesy of IRONMAN KONA  Ironman Kona

Photo courtesy of IRONMAN KONA
Ironman Kona

But Kuran didn’t start off swimming. “My history is running,” she said. “I’ve run 60-something marathons. I like sports.”

Born in Montreal, Kuran lived all across Canada growing up. Her father often transferred jobs, troubleshooting for various paper mills. Her father is of Yugoslavian descent and her mother Dutch. As a child, Ivanka was encouraged to play hockey and enjoy the outdoors, but never to attempt participating in a triathlon.

Competing in long-distance triathlons is not a Kuran family tradition.

“When my mom and dad came to watch an Ironman for the first time, I couldn’t find them after the race,” said Kuran. “Two hours later I found them sleeping in my truck since the race ‘took too long’ and they were tired of waiting.”

“Really they think I’m missing a few marbles,” she added. “My dad can’t believe people pay $700 to exercise all day and end up at the same place they started. They are European and prefer wine, cheese and Danishes to all this healthy ‘stuff.'”

Kuran knows she’s not in the same place she started, though.

“What I enjoy the most is hearing everyone’s story of how they get there,” she said.

“This takes some grit. You’ve got to toe the line; you’re going to figure out how to get there. It’s like life. Not everything is going to go your way, but it’s what you make of those problems that matter.”

Kuran admits after 18 Ironmans, understanding the methods for success makes competing easier. One of those methods, Kuran realizes, is to rely on others – volunteers and athletes – to make it to the finish line.

“How can you have a bad day when you have 3,000 volunteers helping you realize your goal?” asked Kuran.

Kuran likes to volunteer for Ironman as much as she likes to be an Ironman triathlete. Since she started competing in Ironman she has set up swim courses and organized athlete registration for Ironman Coeur d’Alene.

“She volunteers all over for Ironman,” said Mac Cavasar, Race Director for Ironman Coeur d’Alene. “She’s a real asset to our community. And she’s a constant performer as far as an athlete. It’s phenomenal.”

“Her volunteer position is not a one-day position,” added Michelle Haustein, Ironman Coeur d’Alene volunteer director. “She’s out there for four days before the race volunteering, then she races, and then she comes back the morning after to volunteer again.”

Haustein knows Kuran as an athlete, volunteer, friend, and physical therapist.

“As a friend, she is one of the most loyal friends you could ever ask for. Once she has your back, she has your back. She is so determined, too. She never gives up; she never gives up on anything.”

At 49, Ivanka’s friends and family wonder when she’ll retire from 2.4-mile swims, 112-mile bike rides, and 26.2-mile runs.

“That’s the biggest prize, though, having good health. It’s tremendous,” said Kuran. “Anyone can do it. You don’t have to be the best at anything. You just have to work hard and have perseverance.”

The events will test your patience, reminds Kuran – like when she slipped and fell in a portable toilet and nearly knocked it over. “Thank God, I had a helmet on,” she said. “You can laugh or cry, and I’d much rather laugh.”

Or that race three years ago when she didn’t make a personal record and ended up walking the last 10-15 miles of the race with a three-time cancer survivor. “At first we were both a little discouraged,” said Kuran, “but then I realized what we’d both been through in life. That’s when I looked at her and said, ‘We’re going to make it.'”

Last December she had knee surgery after an athlete accidently ran into her at an Ironman competition. “I want to say I’ve made a full recovery from the knee injury and that I’ll keep the streak alive,” she said.

Last year she volunteered and participated in Ironman Coeur d’Alene while completing her Ph.D in physical therapy and working as a physical therapist and co-owner of River City Physical Therapy in Coeur d’Alene. “What I like about Ironman athletes is that everyone’s a doer,” said Kuran.

In the end Ironman is not a trophy case to Ivanka Kuran, full of shining personal records, medals, and names of exotic places, but rather a mindset, a core conviction, fueled by an elevation of thinking beyond obstacles through the power of unrelenting determination and radiant optimism.

“It’s about the whole day, the whole experience, but one of the best parts of the day is the last six blocks,” said Kuran. “You can hear the finish line from Tubbs Hill and when you turn onto Sherman Avenue, you can see all the way to the finish line.”

Photo courtesy of IVANKA KURAN  Ivanka Kuran stands with a medal after one of her Ironmans.

Photo courtesy of IVANKA KURAN
Ivanka Kuran stands with a medal after one of her Ironmans.

The best on Worst

SHAWN GUST/Press Three generations of the Worst family, from left, Allen, Chris and Ken, are celebrating the business's 60th anniversary.

Three generations of the Worst family, from left, Allen, Chris and Ken, are celebrating the business’s 60th anniversary.

R.C. Worst & Company is celebrating 60 years of business in Coeur d’Alene this year.
“If R.C. Worst came strolling in here today, I think he would be really proud,” said R.C.’s grandson and part owner of the company, Ken Worst, who is in charge of the company’s accounting and technological development.
R.C. survived the Great Depression by fixing cars in Kellogg. Eventually he built himself an automotive business in Hayden.
In 1953, R.C. Worst bought Brown Construction from his father-in-law, Fred Brown, and named his business R.C. Worst & Company. In the early 1970s the general contracting business became a regionally reputable distributor of water and wastewater systems. R.C.’s wife of nearly 60 years, Geneva Brown, was the company’s accountant.
Together they raised a family and business simultaneously.
Today the business is a fourth-generation success with 18 employees as well as a sister store in Spokane.
The company is expanding its marketplace by selling its products throughout the Inland Northwest, the U.S., and now Canada. “Our inventory is the largest and most complete in the Inland Northwest,” said Ken Worst on the company’s website,
“When Worst is your last name and your business name, you have to rise above that connotation to really do the job right the first time,” Ken Worst said. “That’s probably the biggest thing we do. It’s not just gouge them and go on to the next relationship.”
Allen Worst, Ken’s brother and grandson to R.C. Worst, is also an owner in the family business whose primary role is sales.
“We’d like to continue serving our customers in expanded areas that we see fit, but our goal is not to necessarily have branches all across the country and become the McDonald’s of pumps,” Allen Worst said.
“True,” agreed his brother. “We’re not owned by General Electric or something; we’re a local business.”
Allen and Ken Worst attribute the company’s prosperity to their predecessors.
The brothers remember their grandfather showing them how to hold a wrench and how to use leverage with tools. At times they recall him as “gruff” and “hard to please,” but he was always present and practical. They remember how their grandfather’s primary concern, despite the day and time, was to help a client. “He’d hop up and help anyone,” recalls Allen Worst. “He had a passion for helping people.”
Jim Worst, R.C.’s only son and father to Allen and Ken, started working for the company during his summers in between school years. After completing his engineering and business degrees from the University of Idaho, Jim returned to Coeur d’Alene to his apply his education to the family business.

He excelled behind and beyond his desk, with handshakes and with details.

“Our values are what have kept us in business so long. We’ve tried to have integrity with dealing with people and be fair with billing so we’re not burning bridges. We’re not willing to take advantage of people,” Allen Worst said.

The underpinnings of the business are extremely technical in nature.

“A real quick and dirty way to describe what we do is water and wastewater systems,” Allen Worst said. “That covers the mechanical and electrical sides.”
When a customer calls, the Worst brothers are confident in their experience and knowledge, as well as their highly trained staff. “The values of the company carry through the technical nature of product lines,” Ken Worst said. “We try to break things down technically. We pride ourselves on having more knowledge than anyone in the area.”

“We have the knowledge so we don’t guess,” added Allen Worst.
In the Worst tradition, a man acts upon his words.
“We have a high level of trust with each other. We know that we will do what we say. And we make decisions with the business in mind, and not ourselves. We have employees that rely on the business and we think of that when we make decisions.”
Customers come first, business and employees second, owners third. That’s the Worst way.
“It rings a bell and people remember us because we’re R.C. Worst on Best Avenue,” Ken Worst said. “Business is picking up. We’re not in it to get a ton of money out of people. We’re in it for them to get what they need, and they do.”

Love 1, Fear 0

City celebrates ‘Love Over Fear Day’

SHAWN GUST/Press Jackie Gedeik reads the mayor's proclamation designating May 1 as Choose Love Over Fear Day during a gathering at Human Rights Education Institute Wednesday in Coeur d'Alene.

Jackie Gedeik reads the mayor’s proclamation designating May 1 as Choose Love Over Fear Day during a gathering at Human Rights Education Institute Wednesday in Coeur d’Alene.

Staff writer/Coeur d’Alene Press

COEUR d’ALENE – Surrounding the Human Rights Education Institute in a half-circle, several dozen people gathered to celebrate the city of Coeur d’Alene’s first “Choose Love Over Fear Day” Wednesday.
The festivities were aligned with the 10th annual Global Love Day.
Event organizer Jackie Gedeik read a proclamation from Mayor Sandi Bloem to the crowd.
“This is the first Choose Love Over Fear Day in Coeur d’Alene,” said Gedeik. “And at this very moment we are literally connected with thousands of people all around the world who are celebrating this day as we are in our own loving way.”
The day was inspired by Harold W. Becker, an American speaker, author and president of the nonprofit, The Love Foundation.
“That’s where Kathleen Lamanna and I got the idea back in January,” Gedeik said. “We thought this is a community where we need more love and less fear, so we came up with this Choose Love Over Fear Day. This day is a platform to get together, to be open, to love, and to put love into action. And the form love takes is less important than its intention.”
Gedeik asked how citizens can make that difference in themselves and others. Of course, she had the answer.
“We can give someone the precious gift of time,” she said. “We can buy a lottery ticket for a complete stranger. We can put some coins in someone else’s parking meter. Sincerely compliment at least five people today, including a stranger. Leave an encouraging note on someone’s car window, or your child’s lunchbox, or your husband’s briefcase.”
Later Wednesday, students from North Idaho College, in recognition of Choose Love Over Fear Day, offered random people hugs downtown Coeur d’Alene.
Tony Stewart, secretary of the Kootenai County Task Force on Human Relations, also spoke at the event.
“After hosting 1,800 PBS TV shows, and a teaching career of over 39 years, and the honor of presenting lectures across the U.S., I have come to the harsh realization that humanity has great difficulty in fully comprehending what is the true meaning of love,” said Stewart. “Fear has found a fertile field in which to flourish, unfortunately.”
Stewart attributed great citizens of the world, like Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King Jr., and Mahatma Gandhi, with “showing us a path to unconditional love.”
“Not long before her death,” said Stewart, “Mother Teresa was asked a very important question: What is the greatest problem that the human race faces? And she identified that as loneliness. That’s the greatest problem that she has seen throughout the world. I would suggest the fact emerges from a shortage of love.”
Stewart concluded: “It is not loving to remain silent in the face of hateful or degrading actions against anyone based on their race, nationality, color, origin, gender, age, disability, sexual orientation, or socio-economic status. True love for humanity does not allow for prejudice, for bigotry, or for discrimination directed toward God’s children. It is about action. And true love demands actions of love.”
Sean Moller, 21, Coeur d’Alene, happened to be walking by the Human Rights Education Institute at the time of the event.
“I saw the banner and just started listening,” Moller said. “It’s nice to see the community is moving forward with the thought of love. It’s reassuring that there’s a piece of humanity that has hope left, too.”
Karen Mello of Coeur d’Alene planned on attending the event as soon as she found out about it.
“I felt relieved that something’s happening in Cd’A like this,” she said. “It’s like with the whole thing that happened in Boston, we can focus on the two people who did the terrible stuff or we can focus on all of those people who were helping each other.”
Mello thinks Choose Love Over Fear Day will prompt community members to do more good.
“Isn’t this amazing?” asked Mello. “I hope it’s going to be a yearly event. We got too much prejudice and separation. I’m happy and I brought six of my friends, so I am like yes!”
Organizer Kathleen Lamanna believes Coeur d’Alene is a testament to standing up against inequality and discrimination.
“So many people here dug very, very deep through the years and stood for what is right and good and powerful as an incredible example not only to the state but to the world.”

Color this family beautiful

SHANE RICHARD BELL/Press The Washington family enjoys homemade chicken noodle soup at their home in Coeur d'Alene. From left: Kynzie, Mihret, Greg, Phebe, Jaxson and Maara.

The Washington family enjoys homemade chicken noodle soup at their home in Coeur d’Alene. From left: Kynzie, Mihret, Greg, Phebe, Jaxson and Maara.

By Shane Richard Bell

Staff writer/Coeur d’Alene Press Sunday edition

Mihret munches her third brownie after finishing a big bowl of homemade chicken noodle soup while pointing to pictures of her homeland. She talks about the sun, the lush plants, the fertile fields.

“Our houses are different, you see,” said the 6-year-old. “But we have lions in Africa.”

The pictures are the beginning of a story about fraternal twin sisters, Mihret Elise Kuma Washington and Maara Elizabeth Kuma Washington, and how they were adopted from Wolayta, Ethiopia, by two Americans, Greg and Phebe Washington of Coeur d’Alene, when the girls were 6 months old in 2006.

Mihret and Maara’s mother, Abebech, was in labor for four days. Dr. Duane Anderson and Jackie Anderson of Coeur d’Alene were working at Soto Christian Hospital at the time of the birth. Six days after the birth, the twins’ mother, Abebech, died. Their father, who’d spent all of his money on his wife’s medical care, couldn’t even afford to give his deceased wife a proper burial.

Their grandmother held the twins as she grieved the loss of her daughter.

Several hospital staff told the Andersons that the father could not afford milk for his daughters, and that if he took them home to his farm, malnutrition would likely kill them. The Andersons were temporarily entrusted with caring for Mihret and Maara.

The story reached Coeur d’Alene through a friend of the Washingtons whose daughter is married to Duane and Jackie Anderson’s son. After hearing the story, Greg and Phebe, who were in the process of adopting internationally, looked into adopting Mihret and Maara.

Six months later, they were in Ethiopia.

“When we were in Ethiopia, oh man, here I was, a white man with braces carrying a baby in a Moby wrap everywhere we went,” Greg said. “The Ethiopians were laughing out loud at us everywhere we went.”

The Washington family has stood out ever since — in Ethiopia, in North Idaho, wherever.

“When you’re all the same race, it’s easier to blend in,” said Greg, 42. “But when we walk in, we’ve got red hair, brown hair, white skin, and black skin. So we stand out big time.”

Greg and Phebe never envisioned this kind of family growing up on the banks of the Clark Fork River in Missoula, Mont.

Meeting for the first time at Big Sky High School in 1984, Greg and Phebe were soon smitten. Greg was especially excited when Phebe accepted his invitation to his high school prom, even though she’d graduated high school and was then a college student. “Yeah, it was a little awkward, but Greg’s still proud about that,” said Phebe. “I was the man,” quipped Greg.

They dated for eight years and then married. Greg moved to Coeur d’Alene for a business internship. A year later Phebe arrived. They had their first child, Kynzie, now 14.

“After Kynzie, though, we were struggling getting pregnant,” said Greg. “We’re pretty open about it. We couldn’t have another child traditionally.”

The couple tried in vitro technology and got pregnant with their second child, Jaxson, 9.

“It worked with Jaxson so we thought, ‘Oh wow, this is going to work great,” said Phebe, 45. So they tried again. Three attempts later, they decided to adopt.

“Our family is so diverse,” Greg said. “It’s something neither one of us envisioned or planned for ourselves. It never occurred to us that we’d be a multi-racial family, or that two kids from Montana would go to Ethiopia to adopt two children of their own, or that we couldn’t have babies the conventional way. And we never thought about having a child with special needs.”

Maara Washington has autism.

“We knew something wasn’t developing normally with Maara when we first adopted her,” Phebe said. “She’d just sit there. When we would lay her down, she would just lie there.”

When Greg and Phebe were filling out adoption questionnaires, they answered “no” to adopting a child with neurological or mental disorders.

“At the time we just didn’t feel like we were equipped to deal with that,” Phebe said. “But God gave us Maara who has autism and has enriched us because of it in so many ways.”

“What has she taught us?” asks Phebe. “She has taught our family compassion and grace, which is her name. Maara means ‘grace’ in Amharic, and Mihret means ‘mercy.’ Those are the names the Andersons gave the girls, including their second middle name, which is actually their birth father’s name. It’s an Ethiopian tradition out of respect for the birth father that we wanted to keep, so we blended their American-Ethiopian names all together.”

Greg sees Maara as his wife does.

“One of the reasons God gave us Maara is because our family is supposed to be one of those families that creates awareness about autism. They’re not trying to impress; their love is unconditional. So it’s not scary to us anymore.”

Unlike other mental or neurological disorders that are more visibly noticeable, autism is harder for others to discern, Phebe said.

“When your child is bouncing around and making noise at a restaurant, people automatically assume that you’re a poor parent,” said Phebe. “They sometimes stare and give you dirty looks. They don’t see what Maara is going through.”

But Greg and Phebe know Maara is changing how others view her, and view autism.

“She’s impacted our family and she’s impacted the community already so much,” said Greg.

SHANE RICHARD BELL/Press Maara, left, plays with Mihret in between playing with their cat and making animal noises.

Maara, left, plays with Mihret in between playing with their cat and making animal noises.

Suddenly Mihret, in the middle of rocking back and forth on a stool, falls off and lands on the dining room floor, her head making a loud thud.

“Mihret, Mihret,” calls Maara. “Oh poor, Mihret, are you OK? Are you OK, Mihret? Mama, is Mihret OK?”

Phebe picks up Mihret and carries her over to the couch where she cradles and comforts her daughter.

Other than a possible minor bruise, Mihret is fine; nothing more than a childhood mishap.

“They’re very connected with each other,” said Phebe.

“We like to cuddle when no one is watching,” chimed Mihret.

When Maara first started pre-school, she didn’t interact or play with other children.

“Mihret would make her. She’d stage a tea party and be like, ‘Maara, sit. Drink tea.’ So she was the perfect peer model for Maara. She’d tell her what she was supposed to do,” said Phebe.

Mihret was recently awarded student of the month at Dalton Elementary.

“One of the reasons why her teacher chose her is because there is a little boy she goes to school with who has autism in her class. Mihret helps this little boy out a lot, with many of the everyday things. The teacher told her she doesn’t always have to be the one who helps the boy out.

“Mihret replied, ‘Oh, that’s OK. My twin is an autism girl so I speak her language.’”

The Washington family lives like many other North Idaho families.

They pray before every meal, simple and humble words. They have two cats. They enjoy the outdoors. They live in a neighborhood, surrounded by dozens of other families. The siblings sometimes fight, voices sometimes rise, and tears are sometimes shed, but a solution is always found.

Every Friday night they pick up a pizza, rent a movie, and enjoy Phebe’s homemade caramel corn.

Every Sunday morning the family attends Coeur d’Alene Bible Church, where they’ve been worshipping for almost 20 years, and where Greg plays guitar every other week and occasionally sings on the worship team.

“I go early, kiss my wife goodbye, and then see them all roll in a couple hours later,” said Greg.

Every Monday morning Greg gets up to work as a Realtor for Windermere Coeur d’Alene Realty. Phebe attends to everything else.

“She doesn’t work outside of the home but she works very hard at taking care of all of us,” said Greg. “I owe her a lot of money; she hasn’t been collecting a salary for a while.”

Throughout the week their kids participate in a dizzying gamut of activities.

Jaxson, a third grader, claims “to be good at everything,” taking particular interest in reading, science, and social studies, as well as after-school activities, including climbing trees and taking care of his Beta fish, Dragon. One day he wants to be a Realtor and Ironman, just like his dad. He also wants to be a football player and learn a new profession every year.

The eldest, Kynzie, is in driver’s training and is involved with Christian Youth Theater as an actress and stage manager. She’s corralled the entire family into helping at CYT. Jaxson acts. Maara and Mihret take theater classes. Phebe and Greg volunteer.

Most people accept this North Idaho family.

“With the history of North Idaho and the Aryans, it’s always bothered me,” said Phebe. “But it never really hit home until about a year and a half ago when the Aryans were protesting the Mexican food stands and I had Maara and Mihret in the car as I was going by and could see the sign: ‘Honk if you want to keep Idaho white.’”

Phebe could feel her face begin to burn, blood rushing to her cheeks.

“I had anxiety. My heart was pounding. I don’t know if they could have done anything to us, but you don’t know,” she said.

“We know racism will happen, but we just hope we can react appropriately,” said Greg. “But most people go out of their way to make sure we know that this is not what our community is about.”

Phebe also recognizes both sides. “I appreciate the welcoming and graciousness the community has extended to us,” she said.

Mihret finishes looking at the twins’ photo album — for a moment.

“And that’s me,” she said, again opening the book to pages covered in glossy images and colorful paper. “And that is my birth grandma. This is my mother. This is my birth dad. And this is me and this is Maara. She’s sleeping. We’re zero in this picture.”

Greg and Phebe have two trips planned, the first to Disneyland and the second to Ethiopia. They’re waiting for the girls to turn 10, though, four years from now.

“We’d like to take a big trip to Ethiopia, and take the whole family,” said Greg. “We’re going to find their dad and the twins’ brothers and sisters. We’re going to find the family.”

SHANE RICHARD BELL/Press Six-year-old Mihret shows her brother, Jaxson, 9, pictures of Mihret and her twin sister, Maara, before they were adopted from Ethiopia in 2006. "This is me sleeping on a pillow," said Mihret. "And this is me smiling and making funny faces. We were very cute."

Six-year-old Mihret shows her brother, Jaxson, 9, pictures of Mihret and her twin sister, Maara, before they were adopted from Ethiopia in 2006. “This is me sleeping on a pillow,” said Mihret. “And this is me smiling and making funny faces. We were very cute.”

‘You must have a great mother’

By Shane Richard Bell

Staff writer/Coeur d’Alene Press/Family Publication

“Happy,” a feature documentary exploring what makes people happy globally, cited deep relationships with family and friends as the No. 1 contributor to a person’s happiness.

The second contributor to one’s happiness is derived from giving, volunteering and charitable works, according to the documentary.

Interestingly both of these contributors significantly shape the North Idaho family.

Last September we introduced our first Family publication dedicated to defining what the North Idaho family is- its framework, design, and color- through your voices.

Our goal then and now is to unfurl what family means to you.

That’s what we want to know. That’s our utmost goal.

For this issue we’re hearing from local author, radio commentator and co-pastor Raydeane Owens on what her family authentically means to her through her poem titled, “This is Family.”

Well-known columnist and radio presence Kerri Thoreson hones in on the changing roles of grandparents to grandchildren through the generations in her article as a baby boomer, grandmother herself.

Freelancer and health and nutrition extraordinaire S. Michal Bennett writes on how healthier habits create healthier families, and she’s included a stellar recipe for smoothies

And lastly, NIC student Duncan Menzies shares a life-changing experience he had with a homeless woman under a bridge in Portland. He told The Press it was one of the most sincere moments he’s ever shared with someone, like a family member you’ve never met before but absolutely love. The woman with whom he shared this experience repeatedly told him “how great of a mother he must have had.”

And that is why we know family is important to you.