Family

Just Like Their Dad

At the center of the universe.
There is family on the left that
equals the family on the right.
They go before.
They come behind.

Together, they get the job done.
And make their father proud.
Telling His story is their task.

It’s not the attendees,
but their father,
who was listening,
still very much alive,
that should give pause
at the enormity of task.

Be honest.
Be kind.
Be faithful.
Be brave.
Be super-human.
We should all want to be
just like him.
No pressure.
Whatsoever.

The nights might be slumber-less.
What story to tell?
The scaling of buildings?
The flying through skies?
The magic better than duct tape?
The smile of his eyes?

Our Father,
is a man full
of great power
and even greater love.

He will tell us what to say.
Brother one is a leader: faithful and wise.
Brother two: generous and kind.
Sister one: loyal and capable.
Sister two: organized and creative.
Brother three: handy and humble.
Sister three: enduring and strong.

All of them are
JUST LIKE MY DAD.
All, flawed by earth,
yet still,
perfect inside
seeking the right,
and
a remarkable force for good.
Our favorite people are
family.

Jolting our hearts
and paralyzing our tongues
is often one pathetic truth
that we dare not say.
No matter how remarkable we are,
It takes all of us
to make one of him.

Dad is a superhero.
A mortal and a God.

When people question Him.
Why doesn’t he alleviate
all the war?
all the suffering?
all the pain?

I think of Superman.
Who always did.
But, sometimes,
just like Dad,
maybe Superman is busy,
not dead.
He’s waiting.
On us.
To do His job.

Perhaps
it’s up to
His formative children,
to fill his shoes.

When one child suffers,
maybe
his brothers and sisters bury their heads
instead of praying for the strength necessary.
To be just like their dad.

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*Dedicated to my dad and my Father: the best Superman who ever lived. And, to the God of the Universe who also calls me His daughter.

Dear Mom [Week 8]

Hi mom,

I can’t believe it has been a whole week again already. Time flies whether or not you  are having any fun. I haven’t been having much fun lately, as you know from both of our conversations that ended in my tears. I really need to get it all together. Ha. I guess it’s a good thing that I am still young and can look forward to a lifetime of perfecting. I need so much!

The 25th marked 2 months that we have all somehow managed to  keep  living in a world without dad. I meant to do something in memory of dad on that day, but really the only thing I seemed to have time for was thinking of him both times we went over the date in my ESL classes. It was Tuesday and when my classes repeated with me, “Today is Tuesday, October 25th,” I silently reflected on my love for dad. How I wish he was here! Every dad seems like an eternity without him. I weep now just thinking about living without him. Without his quirky sense of humor that sometimes made him seem like a creepy old flirt. LOL I miss knowing that when I get really down with life’s hurdles, I can call and hear him tell me to just keep on keeping on. I miss his expertise when I need any kind of homeowners or automobile owner advice. I miss his laugh and his twinkle in his eye. I miss his big old rough strong hands. I miss him giving me a hard time because I would never give him a kiss. I miss him reassuring me that if all goes to hell at any given time I could come home and he would take care of me and my kids. I miss him telling me what it’s like for LG and how I can be a better wife. I miss his whistle. I miss his special potatoes. I miss his homemade tacos. I miss him telling me how lucky my kids are to have me. Every day there is always something that I miss. I cry knowing that I will never know those things again in this life. I will never experience them unless in memory. I don’t like that. Not at all.

I found some pictures tonight. I was so glad when they resurfaced as I had looked for them without any luck. I was so worried I didn’t have any picture of the kids with both you and dad. Even though we got a separate one with Abigail I am overwhelmingly relieved that I found these. And look at dad. He looked sick. I always noticed him declining for so many years now, but his health looks even more alarming to me now that I know what would be about a year later.

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I want my dad back so bad!!! I think I am in the angry stage right now. Unfortunately, that anger is kind of not helping me function at home. I wish people could see into my mind and heart and just know that I’m grateful to just function, no matter how limited I am compared to normal. I wish that we had some kind of ancient weeping rite that allowed mourners to check out of life for a bit. It’s as if we are supposed to be full-throttle upon return from the funeral and burial. I know, for me, LG and the girls were pretty tender with me for the first couple of weeks, but now it’s back to the usual grind. I don’t want to be in the usual grind. I want to be in the mountains listening to birds whistle like dad. I want to be at the beach digging for sand-crabs. I want to be in the Eucalyptus Forest with some zip-ties and some wheat to feed the ducks. I want dad snapping his fingers at us while we misbehave and drive you crazy on the front row of church. I want to be at your house watching dad fall asleep in his chair. I want to be telling dad to stop working so hard. I want to be back in my basement with its ugly bright blue carpet with just you and dad. I would  gladly take the horrendous carpet back if dad came with it. I was so content for that 30 minutes just laughing about the past and reflecting on the work of the present. I bragged that it may have been the first time in my entire life that I had you two to myself. I want to be eating gourmet hamburgers that cost you a fortune and neither of you liked. I had recommended the place, and both of you would have been happier with Burger King. Ha!

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This quote is often attributed to Plato, but researchers believe it’s origin is actually 1897 Maclaren in The British Weekly.

Oh mom, I don’t even know if this letter will be anything for you to look forward to. My intention of writing once a week was to give you something to look forward to and to keep dad’s memory alive. Right now, it all just feels to painful. I want to go to the temple and sit in the Celestial Room until dad comes and gives me a hug. I need to hear him tell me everything is going to be okay. I’m supposed to be writing a paper right now, and now I am exhausted from crying. How I wish I was a better daughter. It’s funny because last April’s Conference I was  reflecting on the question, “How can I be a better daughter?” And I didn’t take enough time to listen or do. I hope you know how much I love you. I need to come visit soon. I’d like to get away, but I have so much writing to do for school in the next month it may not happen ’til Thanksgiving or Christmas.

Well, I have to go, mom. It’s 11:30 pm and we have early church tomorrow. Wish me luck on getting to church on time. Ha.

I wanted to tell you one more quick thing. I called you on the way to our cabin and explained how dad was with us on our trip. We had traded our four days of campsite fees that we weren’t able to use when dad got sick for one night in a cabin. Then I was sad to not go camping with my family, and now how I would have loved to go back to the hospital with you and dad instead! It’s funny how perspective changes everything. Anyhow, we had a good time, but I wanted to tell you how dad was with us.

Look at this. Right as I took out my camera to capture LG with the kids at the reservoir, I had a series of flashbacks of dad. In Alaska. Then dad at the Carlsbad lagoon. Dad at the beach. Dad at the lake we went to on Abigail’s first birthday. Dad at Sandy Hallow. Dad always loved to be near the water, and in this moment I had pure joy. I shared it with dad.

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Look at these three-tall bunkbeds in our cabin. I told all the kids how this was just like Alaska, except our bunks were tighter fit and a lot smaller. In Alaska, there was just enough space under the bottom bunk for our suitcases that held our clothes and suitcase full of barbie dolls and clothes. I still have that DAV pink satin-lined suitcase. It now holds all of my childhood journals. I wondered if Dad intentionally designed our bunks with space for our luggage or if it was just a provident coincidence in our tiny living quarters. I thought how dad made a tiny house thirty years before anyone else. I wanted to call and tell him how cool he was and ask him about the bunkbed design, but I had to settle for eating cereal from a box. Tradition!  Tradition! These little boxes of cereal are a tradition on LG’s side, too. I tried to read a story out loud to my family because I needed to get some homework done. No one was interested in listening, and they all told me to stop ruining their vacation. I laughed and told them how dad did the exact same thing to me in the hospital. When I tried to read, he turned the TV up really loud. Ha ha.

cabin cereal

How I miss dad. While driving home from the cabin I remembered my drive to and from dad’s hospital room. On the way down it was storming pretty good. There was a lot of lightening shooting across the sky. The stars got swallowed by the storm clouds, but as they swept away with the storm the bright moon peered from behind. I can’t explain what really happened, but somehow I kept correlating all the different kinds of light to dad. His influence had been felt as small stars, and a large moon, and at times like a powerful and shocking electrical impulse. I was so worried that dad wasn’t going to make it ’til I got there, and I kept feeling him say goodbye in the form of light. This may not make any sense. When I got to the hospital he was still there, and I thought I must have just been overthinking things. But, then again on my way home four days later, just as soon as I hit the highway the sky was once again engulfed in storm clouds. There was a large group of clouds way to the west and I could see the electrical lightening pulses contained within the cloud. Once in a while one bolt would shoot down to the earth, but they mostly just stayed in the clouds. I thought of dad weak in bed and how he felt trapped..as if he was stuck inside a storm cloud. Then, on this camping trip, when we got out of the minivan at the very rural spot of Palisade State Park, we all exited the car and stood in place gazing upward. The unending stars were brilliant, but the most majestic and breathtaking was The Milky Way. It shot from horizon to horizon. I thought again of dad’s light, and how it was no longer limited. It was now going farther than we could see and longer than we could know. I can’t wait to see that up close and personal someday.

Love you mom! We’ve survived eight weeks. I’m so proud of us. I know dad is really proud of you. I’m sure he’s watching you like a hawk.

 

Dear Mom [Week 7]

Hi mom,

It seems every time we have talked on the phone lately , I’ve put you in the position of giving me a pep talk, and I should be the one giving you the pep talks! I guess that means we are both mothers. Ha. Oh, how I love you, mom. Thanks for keeping me going, even when you may not want to keep going. You are such a strength to me at this time in my life. Thank you. Now, the tears are forming again. It’s a good thing we aren’t on the phone.

I’ve been an emotional wreck lately. It’s not just that I am tired. And, oh, how I am tired. It’s because I’ve got so many emotionally draining issues going on simultaneously. I know I don’t have to rehash that here because you already know all of them. It’s amazing how much it helps to hear, “Oh Alice, try to stop worrying, I promise it will all work out. I wasted too much of my life worrying.” Because even when I am reminded that everything has a way of working itself out at every turn, I still have a hard time believing it. Plus, I want it to work out the way I want it to. And it never does. Even when it works out better than I thought it would, it’s like I am still mad that I didn’t get my way.

Yielding Our Hearts_edited-1.jpg

I went to the internet to look for the “It will all work out” picture above, and when I saved it noticed it was titled, “yielding our hearts.” Yeah, I really need to get better at that.

You know, it’s funny how life gives you perspective that can lead to greater faith, if you let it. For so many years, we all worried about Adam and Renee, and they are doing so good now. It really did work out for them. If you ask them, they would probably say it hasn’t worked out completely, but a lot has worked out. I have to remind myself that a lot of my own life has worked out, too. I hate being a perfectionist and an idealist. I just need everything to be worked out. And NOW. I have to learn to be happy in the moment and in the storm. There is always so much that still needs to be worked out, and I let it drag me down. Maybe by the time I am your age, I will have it figured out.

So, I want to write briefly about our conversation of your hopes that dad will visit. I loved your story about your friend’s deceased husband who didn’t visit for five years. Then the moment she started lamenting, he disappeared. It didn’t surprise me one bit when you said your newest goal is to not be in mourning because you want dad to be able to visit. I chuckled because the thought of you not mourning is comical. Not only because it’s an impossibility, but because you’re totally convinced that it’s the only way to see dad again and you want it ASAP. So, you are determined to make it happen. I’m sure you will succeed.

I haven’t lost a lot of loved ones, but from the people I have lost, I have learned through experience that we will do just about ANYTHING to see them or feel them close. In a dream. In a coincidence. In a voice. We just need to know they are still living. The thought of just being dead is horrible. I don’t know how anyone survives life with that kind of outlook for their finality.

So, really quick, I want to tell you about three cool experiences I’ve had in the past few weeks that are my own little tender mercies in knowing dad is alive and well.

First, this construction site right down the street. One day I was stopped in front of this house-build waiting at the stop sign. I looked ever and was watching the workers and my mind took me straight back to dad’s hospital room when we all looked out the window. You may not be able to see it, but they had those framing boards that dad explained were super expensive. Remember, they were slathering them with oil, and dad told us that they use them over and over again? Anyhow, I started talking to dad and telling him how much I wish he was still here. And, I am not kidding, mom, just then, a white dove flew straight toward my driver-side window, and just 1/100th of a second before hitting my window, it shot straight up. I’m pretty sure dad wanted me to know he is still close, and watching over me. It was a really hard day and that dove did more for me than 12 hours of sleep ever could.

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The next story is just silly, but it still meant a lot to me. Another day, another hard day. I checked my e-mail, and the only e-mail waiting to be opened was this random invite from dad to connect on his Linkedin. I know it is just a glitch from the website, but even if dad appeared himself at that stoplight, where I was trying to find the energy to keep moving forward, it wouldn’t have been more helpful.

linkedin

You will love this last story. I won’t mention any names here publicly, although I don’t think she would mind, but this happened with an old Carlsbad friend. She has left the church and lives in Hawaii. Two days ago she shared an article on Facebook and suggested that if members of the church would read it, it would help them have more empathy for those that have left the church. Well, that baited me in. Because, of course, I try to have true compassion, understanding, and empathy for other people.

Anyhow, I only read a few paragraphs of the article because when it started talking really disrespectfully about Joseph Smith, I couldn’t swallow anymore. I told the friend so, and told her I tried to read it, but couldn’t do it. “I still love, you, and respect your right to feel how you feel,” I said. She was nice about it. Some of her friends got onto me a bit, but I didn’t let it bother me, as they know nothing about me, and were just acting like a bunch of trolls. Anyhow, the friends didn’t bother me, but the little content that I did read kept pestering me. I questioned, “Am I wrong to believe in a latter-day prophet?” “Do I really belong to a cult?” “According to the articles standards, don’t all Christians belong to a cult for worshiping Jesus Christ?” You know my mind. It was just tumbling and turning with all kinds of facts, figures, and questions. I just wanted them to go away as I already had a million others things running around up there, and my brainwaves were feeling like Toys-R-Us on Black Friday. I was seeking the quickest checkout line and fastest route back home to my comfortable bed.

No one had any way of knowing my torment. But, dad did. And just like he always used to do when he was here, he eliminated it with one swift punch. Oh, mom, he has always been my hero. How lucky I have been to have a man that has always understood me in my pride, stubborn, obsessive, foolish ways. In a lot of ways LG is different than dad, but in the way of loving me, I married probably the only person capable of loving me like dad did. And LG is all the better because he doesn’t even think like Dad and I do, and he’s so patient in trying to understand.

Sorry, I got sidetracked from my story. Anyhow, in less than 24 hours after the initial reading of this article that had me shaken up, the same friend, who lives in Hawaii now, shared this photo on Erick’s Facebook wall. Of all the people for her to see, she ran into Connor at Costco. Yes, our Connor. Elder Wills. Serving a mission, in Hawaii, to teach people about Jesus Christ and Joseph Smith.

Dad knew. I don’t know the circumstances of Connor being at Costco or my friend being there at the very same time, but I do know it was a really dynamic way for dad to stop my brain from running me off a cliff. Or maybe it wasn’t dad. Maybe it was actually my other dad. My Heavenly one. Either way, I like to think that the two of them work together for my benefit now.

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So, there you have it. Maybe dad hasn’t come to visit us personally yet, but he is repeatedly showing me that he isn’t far away. He’s still my hero. Probably always will be.

Hey, mom, for some reason, this just popped into my mind. Remember how you guys used to always play the movie “I’ll Build You A Rainbow” at our baptisms? It seemed so morbid to me to watch a movie at a baptism about a mom that died. I remember feeling really traumatized from that show. I was also always really confused what in the world it had to do with baptism. Well, I just felt a little nudge from my eight-year-old self saying, “Hey Alice, this is the moment your mom and dad were preparing you for all those years ago.” Baptism has everything to do with your eternal family.

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He’s building us a rainbow, mom.

“If I can’t see you, how will I know you are there?”

Families are forever. And there is only one place on earth I know that doctrine to even be claimed. That’s why Connor is in Hawaii. And that’s why dad didn’t let my harmful obsessive thinking last longer than 24 hours. He’s visiting us every day, mom. We may just not be able to see him. But, we will see him. Yes, we will.

 

Dear Mom [Week 6]

Hi mom,

Wow, it amazes me at how much your voice has become a healing balm for my soul. I wish I would have recognized that more for dad before he was gone. Thanks for my pep talk on Wednesday night. Oh, how validating it is to just talk with someone over the phone who can see straight through the cellular airwaves. “Alice, you sound so tired. I hope you can get to bed  early tonight.” Even if I didn’t, just hearing that you wished it for me gave me greater strength to endure. Thank you, mom. For Wednesday and all the thousands of other times just like it. How fortunate I am to have you in my corner.

I was out walking Olive last night at 10:30 PM and a truck hauling a trailer full of stuff drove by. I had to sit down on the curb for a bit because my heart and mind felt like dad had just passed by showing me that he is still hard at work and happy. Then, I had a dream last night. It is my first I’ve had of dad since he passed away. I was showing a friend a video of my dad of how healthy he was on the day he died. He reached out from the cell phone screen jumping and hopping, waving and smiling. He was laughing. I never recognized the  full value of his smile until he was gone. While I dreamt, his smile filled my whole soul with light. It illuminated from his eyes and mouth to his face and everything beyond.  I woke up so happy. I felt like dad was telling me not to worry because he is right back to his old healthy happy ways. How much fun we always had with you and dad! Compared to our neighbors’ possessions, we had next to nothing, but we sure did have everything. I felt like we really got the best of both worlds. A third-world country carefree closeness combined with so many first-world conveniences.

I’m sorry these letters are getting harder to decipher.  I am so tired all of the time, and it is hard to write. I can’t even seem to think straight. When you called last Friday from the DI crying, it truly broke my heart. I wish I could take away your pain, mom. I hated (and still hate) that you were (and still are) lonely, but then when you said, “I feel better, just hearing your voice,” it made me so humbled and grateful that even though I can’t take it away, I could provide a little comfort in the moment. I am so glad Adam could come visit. I am partially jealous that he has the kind of freedom to do that, but I am more grateful than anything. I need to make it a priority to come visit very soon, no matter how crazy busy I am. Adam is just as busy, if not more so.

It’s Friday, therefore I should be getting homework done. It’s 1:13 PM, and I have yet to even start. I’ve had a great day. I woke up and listened to President Uchtdorf’s talk from Women’s Conference, and consequently I just wanted more. I then listened to Elder Holland’s talk from the Priesthood Session. In between my new visiting teacher came over. God has been with me today. He answered my prayers. He never answers in the way that I want Him to, but He does answer. I’ve been really preoccupied with LG and Abigail lately. One of my questions going into conference was how I could help both LG and Abigail with their individual struggles. I get so impatient, and I know a majority of the time I just exacerbate stuff. When I asked the question, I hoped God would tell me exactly how I could MAKE them do what I know is best. Ha. God has never answered me one time, in all my almost 43 years, to tell me anything about anyone else. Today, has been true to God’s pattern.

Between Sunny (my visiting teacher), Holland, and Ucthdorf I got three witnesses all telling me that same thing. I need to have more faith, I need to love better and deeper, and I need to be patient and kind. They all sounded just like you, mom. Maybe someday Abigail will actually write me a letter that says, “Hey, mom, thanks for telling me what I didn’t want to hear. I know you love me. And, you were right. My entire life.” Well, there you go, mom. There is everything you ever wanted to hear. You know me well. I know that you love me. And, I hope I can learn to love like you do, more devoutly and patiently. Why does it have to be so hard? I wish I could just make everyone else change to my liking, instead of having to work on making myself more like-able.

As I sat pondering how I could make the changes I needed to make, I saw a video a friend of mine posted on facebook. It was a song by Andrea Bocelli and Katherine McFee called “The Prayer”. As I watched and listened to the beautiful lyrics, I started praying along.

I pray you’ll be our eyes
And watch us where we go
And help us to be wise
In times when we don’t know

Let this be our prayer
As we go our way
Lead us to a place
Guide us with your grace
To a place where we’ll be safe

I pray we’ll find your light
And hold it in our hearts
When stars go out each night
Remind us where you are

Let this be our prayer
When shadows fill our day
Lead us to a place
Guide us with your grace
Give us faith so we’ll be safe

We ask that life be kind
And watch us from above
We hope each soul will find
Another soul to love

Let this be our prayer
Just like every child
Needs to find a place
Guide us with your grace
Give us faith so we’ll be safe

Need to find a place
Guide us with your grace
Give us faith so we’ll be safe

I almost felt like I was praying to both God and dad. I hope that doesn’t come across sacrilegious. When I got to the part where it says, “Let this be our prayer, just like every child, needs to find a place” I got a fourth witness. It was an answer from God, about me, about you, and about dad. It was jetted straight through my skin and brain and arrived straightway to my heart. “Create a place for every child, just like your mom and dad. Be their place. Be their safe place.” That means, I have to do that for everyone. Not just my kids, but my husband, too. It’s a daunting message. How can I ever do that when I am still such a child needing such a place? But, I will try, mom. I will try. How I love you and dad. You both have issues, but you both keep trying. You are children who need a safe place, but despite your own needs being met or not, you always created that place for others. You know how to love. Thank you for showing me what that looks like. I will try to be like you, mom. And like dad. Because ultimately I know I will end up looking like God.
Two more songs followed as I typed to you just now while listening to “The Prayer” again trying to muster my strength to get up from my laptop. I don’t want to. I just want to stay here where it is safe, and I won’t mess anything up with my controlling, impatience, criticism, or aggressiveness. The songs were “Time to say Goodbye” and then “Hero.” I could hear dad’s voice singing. He told me we will go together again in a ship, and that even though he knows he’s my hero, he was just an ordinary dude who kept trying and loving. I could hear him say, “Alice, you can keep trying. You can keep loving.”
It’s not Wednesday night. You aren’t on the phone. It’s Friday morning, and for the second time this week I got a pep-talk from my parents. My dad called all the way from heaven. How about that? I didn’t even have to ask you to talk to him. He just knew I needed him.
I love you, mom. Until next week… here are the lyrics. I hope you get to hear dad telling you about the ship you will sail again, too.

 

Excerpted from “Time to say Goodbye”
When I’m alone
I dream on the horizon
and words fail;
yes, I know there is no light
in a room where the sun is absent,
if you are not with me, with me.
At the windows
show everyone my heart
which you set alight;
enclose within me
the light you
encountered on the street.
Time to say goodbye
To countries I never
Saw and shared with you,
now, yes, I shall experience them.
I’ll go with you
On ships across seas
which, I know,
no, no, exist no longer,
with you I shall experience them again.
I’ll go with you
On ships across seas
Which, I know,
No, no, exist no longer;
with you I shall experience them again.
I’ll go with you,
I with you.

“Hero”

There’s a hero
If you look inside your heart
You don’t have to be afraid
Of what you are
There’s an answer
If you reach into your soul
And the sorrow that you know
Will melt away

And then a hero comes along
With the strength to carry on
And you cast your fears aside
And you know you can survive
So when you feel like hope is gone
Look inside you and be strong
And you’ll finally see the truth
That a hero lies in you

It’s a long road
When you face the world alone
No one reaches out a hand
For you to hold
You can find love
If you search within yourself
And the emptiness you felt
Will disappear

And then a hero comes along
With the strength to carry on
And you cast your fears aside
And you know you can survive
So when you feel like hope is gone
Look inside you and be strong
And you’ll finally see the truth
That a hero lies in you

Lord knows
Dreams are hard to follow
But don’t let anyone
Tear them away
Hold on
There will be tomorrow
In time
You’ll find the way

And then a hero comes along
With the strength to carry on
And you cast your fears aside
And you know you can survive
So when you feel like hope is gone
Look inside you and be strong
And you’ll finally see the truth
That a hero lies in you
That a hero lies in you
That a hero lies in you

A Simply Marvelous Life

caroline-harpWhile going through old class notes for my current paper, I found this story I wrote last spring. I remember how it made the student that presented after me cry. I felt so bad as she approached the podium upset. She explained that my story was especially tender to her because her dad had passed away recently. How was I to know that within months I’d be in the same “dad gone” boat?

I remember telling my dad of our plan to take a gift to the orphan boys and how he loved it. He wholeheartedly sanctioned it to my kids and he shared an inspiring story of his own. He cried. What a tender memory. He believed in the art of compassion. He lived the art. How grateful I am for him and his  example. He inherently knew that the true joy of life was within our relationships with others.

I am grateful to have come across this story today. I’ve been in a school slump, not feeling up to the writing task. Today’s discovery reminded me of the importance of storytelling. Even if I am not the most eloquent storyteller.

A Simply Marvelous Life

“Those poor, poor boys,” Mother said loud enough for the room to hear as she read the newspaper. I asked her, “What boys?” She explained. Twenty years before she used to work with this guy. They were nothing more than acquaintances. “But still, it’s just so tragic.” He was dead now among the remains of his personal jet. It crashed on take-off in Colorado. The crash also killed his wife, and two of his five children.

Mother seemed obsessed over the three children left. It was hard to understand how complete strangers to her sabotaged her heart for months. She talked about them to everyone. Her friends. Her kids. Sometimes she would even talk to random strangers about how grateful she was to be alive. “Shopping with a toddler is hard, but it makes it easier when I think about how blessed I am to be alive.” When the family knelt in the family room every night, mother would sometimes pray out loud for the family. “Bless those boys.”  When I complained about chores or homework or getting my phone taken away, she would remind me to be grateful. “You have both your parents, and all of your siblings. Remember, life is marvelous.” When Christmas neared mother told us that in the quiet of one morning she heard a voice in her mind. It was a woman begging, “They must have a gift from us under the tree.” Asking our forgiveness mother said she hoped we’d understand her stealing from us. She had withdrawn from her Christmas account, upsetting her carefully budgeted plan, to buy something for the orphans. She apologized and explained that we might have a little less this year. “But, I just feel it my duty to provide a gift for them from their dead mother. I can hear her voice as clear as day. I can’t ignore it.”

As Father drove us to the next town over, Mother watched her five elves stretch and giggle among the large sack of gifts in the back. The wrapped gifts would be left anonymously. “Because that is the best kind of giving,” mother said. The boys’ names, the ones their mother gave them, were monogrammed on their blankets. A note was included reminding them of their mother’s love, all the way from heaven. “She had found a way to hug them, through the mind of a stranger.”

Mother had done some serious sleuthing to get the names and address of the boys, but could hardly believe her eyes as they pulled up. When they verified the house number to the information on the paper in mother’s hand, everyone voiced their utter shock. A chorus of “no way” echoed the yelps of surprise as the vehicle reached the top of the mountain. The boys lived in a literal mansion. Mother laughed. “What in the world?” We all told her we should take the gifts back home, but she directed her elves to drop the gifts on the doorstep. “Be quiet. Don’t let anyone see you. Hurry up before someone calls the police.” As we sprinted our way back to the modest minivan that cowered under the massive gate, my little sister spared a glance for a golden harp glowing through the windowed fortress. We jumped in. The tires peeled. My baby sister described the harp’s shine to her amused mother. How badly Caroline wanted a harp. She had even written to Santa for one. She didn’t know what I knew.  Santa had already bought her a harpsichord. It was the last Christmas purchase she had made right after the wrapping for the boys’ blankets.

We never knew it, but in those first few moments driving home, mother deeply questioned the meaning of helping where help didn’t seem to be needed. Those boys had more than she or hers ever would. The answer came quick, at the traffic light on the way home. Flashing behind her eyes, red and green, it spelled one word. C-o-m-p-a-s-s-i-o-n. Mother turned to dad and said, “I guess tonight we got to help meet an emotional need, not a physical one.”  Yes, compassion knows no class structure. Or biases. Only pure love. And that night both mothers had managed, from separate realms, to teach their children the true meaning of Christmas.

The next day mother listened as her baby girl, surrounded by her parents and four siblings, transformed our family’s condo into a two-bedroom castle with music from her harpsichord. As Mother closed her eyes to enjoy the marvelous moment, a familiar angel voice spoke to her mind one last time, “It sounds just like my harp.”

 

The moment we dread. And after.

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My oldest daughter will be a senior in high-school next year. Look at her. Isn’t she just every mother’s joy!? I find myself in the middle of the day just rummaging through her things, trying to learn more about her. (I hope she doesn’t read this or that might kind of freak her out.) When she is zoned in on her phone, I sneak in more peeks just because I can. I think of her, and mentally check to see if I have her memorized. I think about the cans of Spaghetti O’s she forages. I mentally replay her body in motion racing around a track. I trace every line of her hairdos. At homecoming. That choir concert. That morning when she just got out of bed.

Favorite candy=hot tamales. Check. Most proud moment=hmmm. I’m not sure. I better ask her. Favorite color=green. Check. Biggest fear=birds. Bigger fear=being judged as less than. Talents=soccer, design, hair, fashion, math, anaylzing, singing. There are too many. I think about her voice and how it sounds when she sings next to me at church. I smile. I think about her voice when she was 10, 5, 2. Then I have to stop because it hurts too much.It makes me cry, knowing that she will never sound like a two-year-old ever again. She will never give me sloppy kisses again. She will never come crying because she just scraped a knee and she believes my kisses will make it all better. She will never navigate a new high-school or be at the wheel for a first time or learn to walk.

I don’t want her to leave. I don’t ever want her to go because part of me will go with her, and I am not sure how I will manage having part of me wherever she ends up. I know from observing others that I will figure it out. I just don’t want to. Not at all. I want to keep her all for myself. But, there is a world that needs her. A world I’ve prepared her for. A world that she needs. There are things she can’t learn from me. It has to be someone else to teach her physics and quantum life. I don’t know that stuff. There are jobs just for her. There are people waiting to know her and love her. There are people she is meant to love. There are little monkies of her own that she gets to recycle this  life experience with. All I can hope for is that she lets me visit once in awhile. Maybe she will even come home when she can,  and give me a hug. I will like that.

But honestly, every time we part ways, I will feel a little like Jane Goodall. Appreciated. Happy. Proud. And in excrutiating torment to see her go. She will take a part of my heart with her. And the day I die, after giving her one small piece at a time for decades, I will leave the last piece of it with her, so she will have more heart to give to her own monkies.  And I will wait in heaven to hug her on the other side when she comes stumbling through the veil with her own empty heart. And when we hug, in the touch, somehow, our hearts will miraculously ressurect. And the torment will be no longer. All that will remain will be the Pride. And the Joy.

Rainbow Theory

So, in my college literary theory class I am studying feminism and queer theory. It’s been a bit painful  for a  believer like  me. A bit painful is an understatement.  There are actually “theories” that say the future should be forgotten, and we should live for the present. How is that a theory? How does this theorist get recognition? My only guess is because much of academia has gone crazy for liberal hogwash.

Anyhow, liberalism has been swirling around in my brain like a fly larva excreting mad cow disease. I have sat through class after class trying to be open-minded and expand my thinking, but l have felt like the very fiber holding an actual being of existence is under attack. And the liberal theorists who stemmed from deconstruction will assure me that changing reality is exactly what should be happening with literary theory.

I completely disagree. And, if I get angry enough I might actually brave grad school, so that I can prove otherwise.

I like my reality. Thank you very much. I like my favored binaries.  I like my faith. I like the answers which my faith give me. They are concrete.  I don’t like abstracts. They are ridiculous. If I like abstracts I’d be a math major. Give me concretes. Like the idea of a God. He is real. He is an exalted being that was once a human just like me. I like that. It makes Him accessible. I don’t like wondering how in the world a big bang created man and then another  big bang created woman. And somehow that man and woman found each other in some cave existence and decided to perpetuate all of mankind. (After they figured out their genders. Psh) I believe in a big bang, but I also believe I don’t  need to understand it because someday God will teach me about it using telepathy.  After I’ve been resurrected, and my brain can grapple with it all  a little bit easier. I like my genders.  The gender roles are a little touchy, but please don’t tell me we should actually strive for a genderless society. That’s honestly a joke to me.

Oh man, I can see a guy from high-school with the initials of JP finding this post and going ape-crap cra-cra. Whatever. Leave my reality alone. I like it. It makes me feel safe. It gives my life purpose.  It gives my literature meaning. Like teaching me something. Not something like a black hole that deconstructionists want to sit in all day, but something like human beings are flawed and we can navigate through those flaws.

God will help us with flaws.  At least in my reality I think so.

I’ve been struggling with another person in my life lately. No matter how hard I try to communicate effectively, it never works out.

After months of being really crappy at seeking out God in my life, something happened. Give me a break, I was drowning in liberalism. I prayed. I read scripture.  A still small voice spoke to me. It didn’t say what I wanted to hear. “You are right.” It never says that. Dangit. It said, “Text her right now, and ask her to tell you how you need to improve.” Whu whu what???

I did it. She gave me good advice. I was happy. My reality was once again grounded. I got up from the kitchen table with restored faith and drove my husband to work.

On the way home, I saw Him. He was in a very very very faint rainbow, but I think He was smiling. He said, I got this. Don’t you forget it.

And then three hours later, I forgot.

It’s a good thing He has promised more rainbows. I need all the reminders I can get. I’ve got 60 more credits of liberalism to muster.

 

bow

Here are three other reminders I loved on the internet today.

Love weeps by Brene Brown.

Forgiveness by the Amish.

Young and old brought to you  by the daycare in the nursing home.

God is good. He’s real good.

My universe

The_life_of_Sun-like_stars

Thank you Wikipedia for this striking image. Find it here.

In all the vasts of nothingness
she cannot perceive a thing
though she strains her eyes.

It seems dark is sovereignty.
Blackness rules mighty.

Positive she’s a lone piece of refuse
discarded among the night,
She strains for strength
unaware of adorations from afar.

A drop of water fosters.
A breeze bolsters.
Anamnesis drives her forward.
Toward north.

A glow appears
trailing behind
creating a well-lit footprint
as she crawls, then walks.

Another clasps her hand.
Instinctually binary,
they learn to run and dance.

The two will bond a galaxy
of their very own.

And they will be a sun.

They’ll send stars
into the night.

Forever
she’ll christen them with tears.
And he’ll whisper in the wind.

You should collect kids instead of coins.

My kids don’t get what other kids get. Because there are so many of them they kind of get the shaft. I have five little clones and there just ain’t enough to go around. Ever. The shaft is not limited to my time. There ain’t enough of anything around here. Except kids…there are plenty of those.

So tonight, as I was brushing my teeth, I was thinking about my kids. (I always think about them when I’m brushing my teeth. Cavity bugs and kids have a lot in common…they sneak up on me every night at 1 AM.) Anyhow, I was thinking about how shafted they really are. When I compare what we give to our kids to what so many other parents give their kids it’s actually a little embarrassing and perhaps criminal.

It’s just impossible for us to give our five children what other people give their one, two, or three children. Maybe four is pretty even, but for argument’s sake let’s just skip four. Knick knack, paddy whack, give a dog a bone. (You double-figure families are a whole other story.) From me and my hubby, my kids may never get a European tour, a cruise, college tuition (much less room and board), ski passes, equestrian pursuits, private music lessons, designer clothes, sports camps, unnecessary shoes, to fly (anywhere), and/or a lot of other things.

I’m not judging you that do have fewer kids and/or can afford the finer things in life…more power to you. (Although, one warning: the therapeutic boarding school I worked at was full of kids from really wealthy families. They had a lot of “stuff” but not enough of what really mattered.) I’m also not writing this for you to feel sorry for me or my kids. I am just trying to paint a picture of what it is like to live in a large family. Let’s face it, when a couple chooses to have many children (I’ll let you define many, but I would definitely say our family is large) they know they are choosing family over wealth.

Interestingly, last month, in my environmental writing class I learned this FACT: When societies are more successful economically their family sizes drastically reduce…so, of course the opposite is generally true…when families are large there is typically less of a focus on materialism. In my family size I know I’ve chosen the better part. All one has to do is spend some one-on-one time with my kids to see that they trump any amount of money, possessions, or leisure I could ever stockpile. (Do not judge my opinion over one of our family dinners, with all the noise, you’d never possibly agree.)

So, as I was circling the bristles onto my gums encasing my molars I got a grand notion: instead of focusing on what I am NOT giving my kids, maybe I should start pondering on what I am giving them.

After all, they are amazing kids. They really are. I must be doing something right. I might as well give myself some credit.
what they getCome to find out, I am actually giving my kids a lot of pretty amazing stuff.
As part of a large family here are what my kids get.

They get to learn that the world doesn’t revolve around them.
They get to learn how to make do.
They get negotiating skills.
They get a model of two parents who value family more than “stuff”.
They get communication.
They get never-ending support.
They get to live vicariously.
They get first-aid proficiency.
They get “do-it-yourself”.
They get trade secrets.
They get friends for life they also call siblings.
They get respect for the institution of marriage.
They get respect for the organization (or chaos – however you see it) of family.
They get a master’s degree in child development before heading to college.
They get to learn selflessness.
They get make it from scratch.
They get more psychology, human relations, and sociology than most people.
They get others to divvy with the responsibility of aging parents.
They get to know how to share.
They get a greater understanding of the opposite sex.
They get a greater understanding of the same sex.
They get goodnight John Boy’s and Maryann’s.
They get how to take care of a baby.
They get their place in a bigger plan.
They get to serve.
They get to survive living with a hormonal teenager before ever having one of their own.
They get gratitude for the little things.
They get cooperation and collaboration.
They get “fix it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.”
They get emotional know-how.
They get respect for difference of opinions.
They get empathy.
They get joy in the little things.
They get real appreciation for anything and everything given to them.
They get frugality.
The get homemade.
They get love.
They get even more love.
They get so much love, they don’t want anymore.
They get real connection.
They get patience.

After writing this little piece, I am now believing that all of our societal woes are actually based in the shrinking family size. Also, I came across this video that expresses the four most important things that a parent give to their child. 1-Time 2-Education 3-Spirituality and 4-Love

I guess I am doing a pretty decent job after all. My kids now sound like the luckiest kids alive. And, well, maybe they are…even without the expensive vacations.

Next time I will write about what I get. I’m sure it’s way better than any coin collection.

It’s About Who’s Waiting For Us in the End.

Come with me back to a high school track meet. It happened two weeks ago. I sat in the stands watching my teenage daughter and hundreds of other high-schoolers, all vying for their own personal records, hoping to beat out all the other competitors. Unlike the athletes, I, however, had a completely opposing mantra for myself. “Let it go, Alice.” “Let it go.” The Sunday before, my track-star daughter, my husband, and I had a heart-to-heart. Come to find out, I have always put undue pressure on the poor girl in all areas of her life, but especially when it comes to sports and grades. Yeah, I’m not proud. What can I say? She’s my firstborn? That doesn’t really cut it. You’ll be relieved to know that I am working on it. I have specific goals, one of which is not being result-obsessed.

So, my daughter had just run her 100m. Unlike her past track experiences, she’s not typically in the Top 3 this year. She’s running at the middle of the pack. Thus the mantra. “Let it go, Alice.” I was pep-talking myself, “This is about your daughter, not about you. Abigail is having fun. Abigail is getting exercise. Just because you want her to be in first place, it doesn’t mean that is where she needs to be. Be happy. Love your girl. Let it go.”

Then an amazing thing happened.

the end

It was the boy’s mile. The mile takes forever. As my thoughts were repeating in circles, I haphazardly watched the male athletes going round and around. I watched while I wrestled with my only baby boy and started imagining his future. I wondered to myself if I could master being a better mother by the time he takes to the track. I hoped I would never put too much pressure on him, too. I questioned whether or not he will even be an athlete and silently wished I will be able to embrace whatever it is he decides to love, even if he only loves it with mediocrity.

The race was over….or so I thought. My mind moved on. Then, right in front of me, I saw some super energetic young man rally his whole school to their feet. He hooted, hollered, jumped, cajoled, begged, and demanded full participation. I silently hoped, “Oh, I don’t wish that for Max. Please let him be an athlete, instead of a cheerleader.” Stay with me. My mind was abruptly changed.

It so happened that there was one runner left. He was way behind the pack. He belonged to this crazy make-shift athlete turned cheerleader’s school. This runner was a runt. He was slow. He was in last place. Yet. Yet, as he slowly made his way to the finish line in front of the crowd, his school was cheering for him like he was an Olympic gold medalist. All because of the efforts of his crazy encouraging teammate (that he hadn’t even seen rally the crowd) his stride quickened. His chin lifted up in pride. There was a wide smile on his face. The finish of this race is one he will never forget. Neither will I.

I hid my face in shame for being such a proud person. And because I was bawling my eyes out. I whispered to Max, “You don’t have to be an athlete, but please be a make-shift cheerleader wherever you go.”

Then I ran over to tell Abigail that she did awesome in that 100m.

The following Sunday, while I was driving to church, this song came on the radio. It took me hours to find it but it was worth every search effort.

Enjoy.

It’s not about how fast we get there, it’s about who’s waiting for us in the end.