Musings

2018 Oct General Conference Printable

This post is for my friends the belong to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Of course, if you aren’t one of those, feel free to play along. We watch eight hours of sermons here. Four hours Saturday and four hours on Sunday. Schedule is currently showing on the link and when it is going, live feed will be available at the same link.

It’s that time of the year, and because two new apostles were sustained in April, we needed a new printout for our treat schedule.  {AND HOW EXCITED ARE WE TO SEE SOME ETHNIC APOSTLES!!!}

Feel free to use my print-out instead of taking the half of an hour to create your own. Here is a screenshot and a direct link to the printable google doc.

Happy conference weekend, y’all! They really are my two favorite weekends of the year.

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General Conference

There are a lot of different ways that desperate parents try to engage antsy children for this bi-yearly event, and I have tried many of them. However, I finally found my perfect system for the simplistic mom about a decade ago. It has stuck and is always looked forward to, so it must be a winner. It’s super low-maintenance. Here is a photo of it being put to use a few years back. Thank you insta for making a photo easy to find.

I write numbers (chronologically) in sharpie next to each of the members of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. I then go to the store and buy 15 snacks and write the correlating numbers on the snacks. They kids have a snack bingo all weekend long. Beef jerky is always the favorite and for some reason it often correlates with another favorite, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland.

I know, I know. It’s kind of gluttonous, but aren’t all the best times of the year about hanging with family and over-eating? At lease on these two weekends we are also deeply fed spiritually.

Enjoy! And feel free to share with your friends.

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Pole Creek

Twenty miles south from my home, there is a raging forest fire occurring. The other day, a neighbor put out a call for some donations to take to the firefighters. As usual, I started to ponder on which items I could donate and which items I should donate. I thought of my budget taking another hit. We’ve had several weddings this month, a totaled car, a friend whose home burned down, school fees, etc. etc. There is never enough to go around. I started to worry because I wanted to help, but I didn’t think I could. I thought of the baby wipes up on the shelf and some beef jerkey that I had bought with a coupon a few weeks ago, and I determined that those would be my personal pledges for support. I prayed to God and told Him I would do more if I could and that it was on my heart to serve however He saw fit.

A message came back loud and clear. It rang in my mind, “Alice, this is not one that you need to do this time.” I didn’t understand. Didn’t the firefighting heroes deserve some clean socks, protein, and water? I prayed again. I got the same message. I decided to go on with my day, but it kept itching at me. I wanted to help where I could, but I was determined to follow the prompting I had received even though I didn’t understand it. This was on Friday.

Imagine my surprise, when yesterday I read this news report:

Cannon also tweeted: “The American Red Cross is saying thanks to the generosity of local citizens they no longer need donations. There is a waiting list of people offering space in their home for evacuees. Thank you all.”

Utah Lt. Governor Spencer Cox also tweeted: “Update from the Red Cross noting a few problems: 1) Big waiting list…of people that want to HELP and provide shelter for others. 2) TOO MANY donations. Please stop for now. 3) 6,000 people evacuated and no one staying at the shelter. Well done Utah. Well done.”

You guys, God is real. He speaks to us if we listen. He speaks about things that may seem inconsequential. He knows all.

Oh, and people are amazing. I am so glad that so many stepped up to provide what was needed. They all beat me to it, but my budget is grateful.

The Peace of Wild Things

When I was eighteen, a few of my friends brought me a stuffed animal wild thing for my birthday. This was back in the days when my nickname was Crazy Ali, and I was a wild thing. I was free. I wanted nothing more than to wander. I also loved the book Where the Wild Things Are. I didn’t even associate loving that book with my own desire for adventure where Max had the ultimate adventure when he met the wild things.

If I were to write a book about my own perfect adventure, I would be the wild thing, and my adventure would be finding my way to peace. But, gosh dangit, Wendell Berry beat me to that story. And, how I love him for it.

My Post

Just another scholarship application

wolverine

I began my college journey at UVCC in 1992. I was barely eighteen, and I had scrimped and saved money for my tuition working full-time at Stevenett’s Malt Shoppe while also paying my own living expenses. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life back then, but as I rode the UTA bus back and forth from Provo, I would stare out the window and think about how someday I would graduate from college. If I would have known then how long it would take me to achieve my Everest-sized goal, I probably would have thrown in the towel, but over the last twenty-seven years, my aching for a college degree would only grow. I think the real story of my decades-long commitment is in my why. Why is graduating college so important to me?

A college degree is so important to me for many reasons. One, I am not a quitter. I always have and always will finish whatever it is that I start with an iron-stubborn will. Even if it takes me a third of a lifetime. Two, I have a sick passion, almost an obsession with reading and writing, and I am driven by the inescapable strings attached to my fingertips that attach my brain and heart to books and dictionaries, papers and pens, and computer keyboards with word processing windows open in monitors. My strings are more like fetters, and they won’t let me be. They sing to me, whisper, and often shout that my calling in life is to preach the power of the word. Three, I am a proud life-long learner. During the last thirty years, I have been a professional blogger paid to review books, a PTA board member, a Title I school community literacy coordinator, and an ESL adult education instructor. I never stop learning and growing and increasing my capacity to know and teach. It’s what I love to do. I currently work at UVU as a part-time administrator which has allowed me to continue to provide for myself and my family while also privileging me with an unofficial study of art on a daily basis.

A college-degree is important to me for the greater future it will provide for my family. Over the last twenty-seven years, I have been a wife of a double-achieving grad student and a mother of five. (My husband earned his undergrad at UVSC in 2002 and his JDMBA from the University of TN in 2008.) I earned my own associate degree from UVSC in 2002. I was cume laude, working part-time at Kinko’s every night to save money for my husband’s law-school applications, and soon-to-be pregnant with my third child. Never, not ever, not even for one second, did I give up on my goal of becoming a college graduate. For many years, the goal was on the back burner because of resource scarcity and the time it took me to support my husband and nurture my children, but it was always boiling over in impatience. I came back to UVU in 2015, and I am now proudly (and proud is a gross understatement) three semesters away from a goal I wrote for myself over three decades ago. The moment I walk into my first classroom as a certified English teacher with a college degree, I will be passing out sunglasses to all of my students because I am sure that I will glow as bright as the sun. I am a living breathing example of what I hope all of my students will become: a college graduate, a lifelong learner, and a committed goal setter. And my paycheck? That will hopefully pay for my children to attend college. My husband and children are my fourth why, but really my first.

There is one last why. Actually, two. Their names are Richard and Sharon Wills. My beloved parents. They never graduated from college even though they both valued learning deeply. Like me, they were always busy providing a living for their seven kids. They were both farm kids. My dad’s family raised dairy cows; mom’s raised chickens. They got married right out of high-school and both went to a community college on scholarships. Mom’s was in band; dad’s, in football. However, my dad would be drafted into the Marine Corps for Vietnam, and my mom would follow him wherever he went. When it came to college, they never finished what they started. My dad passed away two years ago from the Agent Orange he contracted there. As I stared at his casket draped with the American flag, I heard him tell me, “Keep going, Alice. I know what you are doing is not easy. You have 5 kids, a husband with crippling anxiety, a part-time job, and you are in college. I am so proud of you. Don’t give up. Please finish what your mom and I started.” When I walk across the UVU platform and receive my diploma, the tears down my cheeks will be the ones that my mom and dad granted me by giving me life, instilling in me my work-ethic, inspiring in me my love for learning, and most of all because of my farming heritage that will not ever allow me to give up on a worthy goal.

Keeping The Christmas Card Real

 

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You guys! I love getting Christmas cards in the mail. Over the years, the number of cards that our family receives has dwindled. I get it. I haven’t sent a card out in over ten years. So, consider this my huge THANKS for those of you that still send us some love even though you know it won’t ever be reciprocated in the form of envelope, stamp, paper, or photostock. With all the posting I do here and on my social media accounts, and with my limited funds going towards playing Santa for six kids, I just can never seem to justify spending another $50-100 on this out-dated tradition.

Please consider this my most sincere apology. I want to make your pantry door look as festive as mine (and let’s face it, my kids would look really good up there), but I just never do it. I’m sorry for being the epitomy of The Christmas Card Scrooge. Always receiving, never giving. My guilt is as unpleasant as the grinch’s termited smile.

Over the years, Christmas cards have got a bad rap — that they are only for the prideful braggers. A family member and I chuckled the other day as I mentioned how lovely their Christmas cards were on their wall. They mentioned that they were all the cards from the spouse’s side of the family because they were the only ones still playing the game of having it all together. I laughed because LG and I had the exact conversation the day before; we wondered why a large majority of our cards come from his side. This year there is literally not a single Christmas card up from my family. Is it really because my family can’t keep up? Is his family just more traditional? Do they have more money to throw around? I have a few pretty well-to-do family members. Do they have more to brag about? Surely it can’t just be that certain people buy into the picture perfection more than others. Doesn’t everyone buy into that? I got some pretty real cards this year from the hubby’s side that made me chuckle and even breathe a sigh of relief. (I’m talking to you Julie and Newell -thanks for the wandering children stories.)  I felt solidarity in the insanity we call parenting. My sister-in-law whose husband is in the Air Force has literally hundreds of cards on her wall every year. LG and I always laugh because we don’t have friends. “Is it just a military thing?” we always wonder. Or is our bare wall just evidence of our social ineptitude. Probably a little of both. Probably also, her wall is the result of her consistent Christmas card tradition.

Well, as in everything in life, I am learning to accept it is what it is. Whatever that is, I don’t really know, but I need to let the Christmas card mystery die. It’s most definitely monopolizing a little too much of my mental capacities…and let’s face it, those are already a little limited.

As I was doing the dishes last night, I constructed our real Christmas card in my mind. I thought you all might like to hear it.

LG had a midlife crisis in May. He quit his job which was promptly followed by 5 months of grueling unemployment. As least it wasn’t with a mistress. Ha. He’s finally employed again, and 2017 was the year we discovered that it only takes exactly 5 months of unemployment to make it okay that he now lives two hours away during the week. In the good news, he’s mentally healthier than he ever has been. Some therapy and anti-anxiety meds have made him happier than ever, and he’s really enjoying his work and the challenge of being a .net programmer.  He is the primary pianist at church which has been an awesome reprieve from scouting, which we aren’t really sure we want to support anymore unless they let our hetero daughters in.

AG got a great compliment from her literary theory professor. The fifteen-page paper she turned in about postcolonialism in collegiate humanitarian travel may be publish-worthy with just exactly eighty more hours of work. Yahoo! But really, I survived this year which is major bragging rights. It was a doozie. Thanks to all my friends who chipped in one-week post LG’s mid-life crisis, so that I could travel to Nicaragua on a once-in-a-lifetime collegiate humanitarian trip that I would later write about. My consensus was I loved the trip, but I definitely was guilty along with the rest of my group of postcolonialist oppression. I’ll send the paper your way if you offer up some free editing! This year I got my first passport, and I also was hired by UVU’s Art and Design Program as an administrative assistant. I can’t wait to work for my beloved university while I finish my degree. Just 40 credit hours left. My running is still hanging out in the wings waiting to be reclaimed. One of these days, I’ll wake up at 5 am to do it. Or not.

Abigail got married! Yes, you read that correctly. My first married kid did it exactly how I I didn’t want her to….at EIGHTEEN years old. However, we do love Kaleb, and after about two and a half years of courtship, it was time for them to make it facebook official. Their wedding was all the brainchild of Abigail and it was perfection from top to bottom, except for the bridal bouquet that we had to start late for. We all have ADHD, I consider only one small glitch a major victory. For my Mormon friends still waiting for their kids to go to the temple, know you aren’t alone, but learning to accept others’ choices seems to be a trend of this Christmas card, eh? Kaleb is our family body-guard and personal trainer. He’s a sensitive and loving and generous soul, and treats Abigail so well. Abigail has been working at a local vintage toystore called Blickenstaffs, and she has generously offered to provide daycare for Max twice a week when I go back to work. She may never go to college, and I am working on being okay with that. They have the cutest new puppy named Kita who is the proud owner of her own Instagram account.

Sophia is the amazing eclectic fun-loving care-free girl that she always has been. Her spirit animal is a rainbow cat that pees diet coke. After losing our cat, Kit, to a random accident where she got stuck in our fence that needs to be replaced, Sophia begged me for another. I refused. We still had Rufus and our dog, Olive, which I felt was plenty. It took only exactly 24 hours of me being out of the country for her to convince her dad to adopt the desperate cat in a box at Walmart. They wanted to name him Nic, after the place that made his adoption possible, but we settled on Charles Barkley, the best rebound cat of all time. Sophia continues to pursue her art and occasionally cares about her grades when she isn’t wasting her time on her iphone playing Sudoku or Sandbox. She is a music and technology aficionado, like her dad. She worked at her Uncle Bubba’s restaurant for five months until he fired her. True story. She didn’t deserve it, so I guess we’ll just call it being laid off. But she got an even better job the day after being fired. She now works at Utah Idaho Supply Map World. (Funny story: one hour after posting this, we read this article online. I guess Sophia will be looking for another job!) She’s enjoying dating, driving, and kissing. I asked Sophia what she would have me say about her, and her reply was, “She’s smokin’ hot and ready to mingle.” She’s only partially joking. She really is pure and meek and mild. When LG and I had a really rough summer and quit going to church for awhile (don’t judge until your marriage is in shambles and you are 43 with an above-average-energetic 3-year-old), her and Bella would go all by themselves.

Bella woke up one morning in a model’s body. We aren’t sure what exactly happened, but we blame her friends, the Lawrences, who only eat organic food. Bella is a mini-Alice, but much more gorgeous and taller. She also has way bigger feet. She gets that from her dad. She wants to be an astrophysicist — also gets her science smarts from her dad. She’s obsessed with Wonder Woman — she gets that from her feminist mother. Bella has managed to secure exactly a 4.0 for her first two terms of high-school, and she promises me she will graduate from college, so that I can feel like I actually taught one of my kids something.  A school teacher has to have at least one of her own five children graduate from college. Bella is hilarious, and she often gets roped into helping Sophia with cleaning her room as payment for free rides wherever she wants to go. Bella rocked it onto the sophomore volleyball B team, and she’s only a freshman. She rarely got playing time, but she loved making new friends. We think her new coach didn’t quite see all of her talent that her recreation coach Alice had instilled in her. She wants to play club volleyball, but she can’t afford it with her babysitting funds. Bella is a great kid. She often begs LG and I to take her and her friends to the temple at 5 am before school. She might need some sanity meds, too, like both her mom and dad. Who voluntarily goes to the temple at 5 am?

Caroline is an eighteen-year-old stuck in an eight-year-old body. She is obsessed with YouTube, probably because her parents don’t monitor her screen time as well as they should. She prefers videos about scavenger hunting, get-out-games, kid-toy-reviews, and The Pearl Dude. All of her dreams came true this summer when I found out a neighbor was selling and opening live pearls at a local street market. She became the proud owner of exactly two pearls — twins! Because of all her YouTube watching, she knew exactly which oyster to pick. She is still learning Mandarin at her Chinese-Immersion school, and she has gained a lot of independence this year walking home from school with her friends. She was baptized in July. She starts playing basketball for the first time next week. LG is so excited. She has taken a liking to reading with mom every night because we are working on the whole Battle-of-the-Books list, and she got glasses this month which have helped her significantly with her reading skills.

Maximus is a walking hurricane. He tried to tackle a complete stranger at a restaurant last week, and almost succeeded against the 6-foot-man. He was so close. Just a few years away from his NFL goals. Max loves throwing, hitting, jumping, shooting, climbing, and pretty much every other action verb. He is killing us. We get ten years older every day. We are convinced God waited to send us a boy until we were too old to hurt him. It’s true what they say: Boys are the little devils that can melt their moms hearts. One minute he smacks me across the face with a toy gun, and the next he is kissing my cheek telling me how much he loves me. I feel like I’m in an abusive relationship. He is a sweetheart that doesn’t sit still and refuses to go to nursery. Next week, he’ll be a Sunbeam at church, so I’m really looking forward to LG taking him to primary and watching him run back and forth from his class to the piano instead of clinging to my skirt while I’m trapped in a tiny room with 30 toddlers. Max really is exactly what we always wanted, but we often wonder why we wanted a boy so badly? He is more challenging than all four of his sisters put together, but he brings us all a lot of joy each time he wrestles one of our cats.

So, there you have it. Our real Christmas card. We really don’t have much to brag about, except for a new awesome son-in-law and Bella’s 4.0, but we do love each other, and like it beautifully showcases in the newest Pixar movie, Coco: family is a pretty great thing to have.

We hope you all had a Merry Christmas because so many of you made our Christmas the most remarkable we’ve ever had. Who knew 5 months of unemployment would end up with so many Christmas presents from generous friends? It almost makes us tempted to try that again next year…or not. Here’s to 2018 being the best year ever. We’re hoping that by next Christmas, Max will be able to sit through a whole movie.

Here’s a photo, in case you forgot what we look like.

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The Best Compliment

, tIt wasn’t the place I expected any kind of good news. It was at my dad’s funeral. We had all gathered at the church after the burial for a luncheon with the crack-infused food (Oops – I mean the love-infused food. Crack just seems more affectionate). Nothing tastes better than ham and funeral potatoes freely made and donated with loving hands for the grieving. If you’ve never been able to eat church ham and potatoes as part of the 10% tithing package, you’ve never had the best food mankind has to offer.

Anyhow, I had run out in the hall to find my wandering 2-year-old. And there it was…the best compliment ever. As I was heading back to the cultural hall empty–handed wondering where in the world that little devil Max had disappeared to, the compliment came in the form of Brother and Sister Atkin. Okay, okay. Their names are Roy and Pat, but we have this brotherhood thing in the Mormon church. I’ve called them Brother and Sister Atkin my whole life, which is kind of weird because they are like second parents to me.
mom and dad

Brother and Sister Atkin were heading back home to California. We exchanged hugs. I told them how much we appreciated them being there. They had traveled ten hours. They insisted they would never miss it. Then, Brother Atkin hit me with it.

“Alice, you really are the best of both of your parents!”

Sister Atkin then agreed.

I did my best to hold back my tears, but I probably failed. I thanked them, and I’ve continued to think on that compliment for the last year and a half.

The best of both my parents.

Wow.

There isn’t a better compliment than that. If you don’t believe me, it’s only because you’ve never met my parents.

Let me tell you about my parents.

My dad was (as I am sure he still is in some spirit form waiting to be reunited with his body) the strongest man I know. I’m pretty sure he could lift a car all by himself. We affectionately called him Superman sometimes and McGyver others. Yes, it takes a superhero who can fly and throw planets around with x-ray vision as well as a man who can fix anything with a piece of bubble gum and duct-tape to describe my dad. I could count on my dad to do anything and everything he promised. He even seemed to be able to time-travel: working a full day 45-145 minutes (depending on the traffic) away in downtown San Diego, while driving a commuter bus there and back as his second job and still making it to my volleyball and softball games often. He would leave us donuts and $3 for lunch on the kitchen table every school day. He would always have pink bubble gum sticks in his briefcase for each of us every day he arrived home from work. He went to the convenient store on the bottom floor of his building every day on his way home. He knew the worker by name and she knew that he was looking for that pack of gum to take home to his 7 kids. He would need a new pack tomorrow because they may or may not sneak an extra piece or two.

My dad was also a gentle giant. He was an animal whisperer. Dogs took to him as if he was a combo of Cesar and Bert from Mary Poppins. It’s like he danced through life singing “Feed the Animals.” He had a huge soft spot for others. His hard abusive upbringing made him extra aware of everyone around him. One time I woke up to find that he had taken my best friend Kristen’s car and put four new tires on it. When I complained that I needed new tires and he got her some first, he reminded me that he was never far away to rescue me when I got a flat, but Kristen’s mom worked full-time and her dad lived 2,000 miles away. Wise and kind: my dad. He was a combination of Joseph, the father of Jesus, King Solomon, the wise judge, and Sampson, who could move mountains. My dad would wake up early every Saturday (after working a 60 hour week) and do 6 loads of dishes by hand and then make a buffet-style breakfast for his family + whichever kids happened to be spending the night. My dad built on three bedrooms and a bathroom with his own two hands to accommodate anyone and everyone who needed a home. One time he let some immigrant workers sleep in our shed in the backyard. My dad was the adventurer extraordinaire. When I was terrified, he insisted that I climb on top of the floating iceberg in the Prince William Sound because it was a once-in-a-lifetime and a great way to die if we were going to die, and he always took a bucket to the beach so we could take it underwater like an antique diving helmet. He would always use his last $5 to buy us ice-cream on the way home from the beach.

My dad’s the greatest guy. When I sang this song as a kid, I knew it was written about my dad. No other dad was as amazing as mine.

That’s my dad. Compliment enough already, right?

So, let’s move on to my mom.

I’m not sure my cheeks can handle the tears that the rest of this post is going to require. I’m all cried out.

My mom.

Just those two words will have a lot of my friends shaking their heads in laughter. There is no one in the world quite like my mom. She’s that crazy lady you saw at the wrestling match waving her sweater around her head in circles while whooping it up as if she wasn’t actually Caucasion. She would cheer for our team as much as she would cheer for the opponents. My mom is as beautiful as my dad is handsome. Look at them on their wedding day. They were high-school sweethearts, and never quit being in love like they were 16.

m and d wedding

My mom’s best meal was something she made up on the fly one night. It’s called Porkchops and Noodles. She was always making do in the kitchen. Feeding seven kids is not cheap! One night, while cooking, she found that she didn’t have any canned soup to make a sauce for the noodles. She threw a little butter in the pan and then the noodles and wha-la, the most delectable pork-flavored butter noodles were born. They live on to their fullest potential in my kitchen. My mom single-highhandedly (with a crew she organized) did all the make-up and hair for the Buena Vista Elementary School play called Rainbow Connection. She had 5 kids in it, so of course she wanted to help. There were about 300 of our classmates in that play. As we were leaving the cafeteria and walking to our car after she provided three hours of the finest Broadway-inspired gussying, I was terrified because she passed out in from of the school office from exhaustion. Somehow she picked herself right back up, went home and cooked dinner, got her own kids ready, took pictures, and showed up with a smile on her face to the auditorium where my brother Adam starred as Mr. Coleco. I was an old lady. Shannon was a dancer. I can’t remember what Sarah and David did. To top it all off, Mom makes friends wherever she goes. She talks to everyone! She tells them they are important and they are loved. She always has a word of advice, whether you want it or not.

My mom can find anything at a thrift-store. I mean ANYTHING! I have a fancy portrait on my living room wall. People always compliment me on it. I tell them with pride that my mom found it at a thrift store. This woman knows how to get it done. She took great care of her kids with a husband who was almost never home and very limited resources. She loves books and knowledge. When we were kids, we had this train with the circus alphabet peeking out from the twenty-six separate train-cars hanging like fancy crown-molding all around where the dining-room walls met with the ceiling. She would take out the old family Bible and point to a verse just so we could see how we could apply it to our current position. She made a literary analyst out of me. My mom made Christmas a big deal. I really big deal. We would spy on Santa every year. Oh what fun! Like my dad, she taught us to take care of all the people around us. I can’t tell you how many times I would find my mom making a meal that looked exquisite only to be told that it was going to a neighbor. Something in my heart knew my mom had it all figured out as I reached for the mac-n-cheese or cereal for the umpteenth time. As animals took to my dad, plants took to my mom. Not that the animals didn’t love my mom too, but her real secret lied in our whole house smelling like fish food at least one day a week. My mom taught all of her kids to sing. Car rides were never complete without at least two songs: On Moonlight Bay and 100 Bottles of ________________ (fill in the blank, we always did). My mom is the reason, I always sing to my kids one of my favorite songs from Sesame Street.

I don’t have enough internet to write all that my parents are to me. I appreciate them more every day. What a lucky girl I was to be born Alice Elaine Wills.

Being the best of both my parents is too high a compliment. In fact, it’s impossible to live up to. I would have to be double super-human. But, it’s a compliment I’ll never forget. And, I’ll gladly keep striving to live up to it.

For Max

If—

BY RUDYARD KIPLING
(‘Brother Square-Toes’—Rewards and Fairies)

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

Dear Mom [Week 56]

Hey Mom,

Week fifty six!!! I don’t want it to be true. 23 weeks since my last letter. Shame on me. But, a whole year and month without dad. Shame on God. Yes, I just said that. People can get over it. God can handle it. I’m angry. I want my dad back. I’m stuck in the anger part of the cycle. Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. I feel like I am trying to stay in denial, but I’m really just stuck in anger. What is there to bargain for? It’s not like God is going to bring him back to me. And I want my dad. I need my dad. I especially need my dad this year. It’s been a hell of a year.

I love getting stuck in anger. I’m like The Incredible Hulk. Anger is where I am comfortable. My kids have started to refer to me as The Hulk when they want me to tone it down. I find this practice a little relieving. It simultaneously gives my weakness permission while calling it to order in a humorous way.

hulk

Dad was a hulk, too. I always wanted to be just like him. He’s my hero. Dad’s anger actually scared me many times in my life, but I came to accept it as a necessary flaw to an otherwise perfect man. I guess that’s why I justify my own anger.

Man, I am angry. I hate everyone right now. I am especially angry at God. I’ve tried to give Him my whole life, and look how it has all turned out for me!

Last week, LG and I had the honor of attending a family sculpture therapy session for a friend of LG’s. She was molested by her brother as a kid. Her family swept it under the rug. The secret needed to be kept at all costs. This brother of her molested many of her 10 siblings, and she has never talked to her family about her turn at his hand. She was near the bottom of the pack and violated starting at such a young age that she doesn’t remember a time when she was actually safe. Anyhow, the therapist is trying to work with her to get her anger out. She is suppressing it like the good little Mormon girl that she is. They used me to act as her sister. I was letting my anger fly around like a cornered raccoon, calling the acting pedophile a monster and yelling at LG and the other dramatic mom for being the worst neglectful parents of all time. Our hurting friend couldn’t get anything out but a polite, “I don’t understand.” Our other friend at the session told her that she needed to get to the stage of anger with her past. She needed to go through the stages of grief for her past. I never thought of the stages of grief being applicable to anything but death. It opened up all kinds of emotional possibilities.

I’m good at anger. I will never need any help with that…unless it is to escape it. I need a full-time life staff doctor to cure me. Please, doctor! Do you have a magic pill for my green skin, bulging muscles, and raging scowl?

I guess I like anger because it’s a productive emotion. Unlike shame or sorrow, which feel totally wimpy. I’m all about productivity and being capable. Just like my dad. Get out of my way. I will get it done. Even if I have to plow over your reluctance.

I think that someday on my tombstone, someone might write, “Forever angry.” I’m serious. I’m so close to the dark side that I can feel its embrace. I don’t even want to turn to the light. I just want to disappear into the dark, and talk like Darth Vader for the rest of eternity. I’m going to go kicking and screaming and raging that life was not fair.

Then maybe dad will know how much I need him, and he’ll brave the divide to come and give me a comforting soft therapeutic healing hug. If his black hole and mine combine, maybe we’ll figure out light, instead of running from it with our fists outstretched. Two negatives make a positive, right?

I couldn’t make breakfast last Saturday. I laid in my bed and trembled. My body convulsed as I explained to LG that breakfast was all wrong without my dad. LG told me I never had to make breakfast again. That’s true love right there. That man loves his breakfast.

And when we were prepping the pavilion for Abigail’s wedding, Darolyn showed up. She marched over and declared that Rick would be right there in the middle of all that chaos. And he was. I just couldn’t see him. And I was stuck doing the work of two mighty humans. Mine and his. No wonder I am angry.

Dear Mom [Week 33]

Hey mom,

I’ve taken two trips to your house since the last time I wrote, so that has to count for something, right? It’s been ten weeks since my last letter. So much for every week. In my defense, it seems like it’s only been one week. My life is so crazy, time beats me to the finish line every day. I sure love you. I love how I feel at your house. I feel like I matter. Like I mean everything. I don’t feel like that at my house. I never feel like that at home. I mostly just feel like everything would fall apart without me, but I never feel like anyone really cares about me. I know it’s not true. I know LG loves me and I know my kids love me, but LG is modest in his communication and sentiment and the kids are…well, kids.

Thanks for making me matter, mom. I need to come to your house every day about dinner time when I am in dire need of a nap. HA! I have been thinking a lot about home lately. Not your home or even my home, but HOME, home. I use my keenest imagination to picture my Heavenly Mother and Father’s family room couch. How far is my room from theirs? What does the kitchen smell like? How do I get one-on-one attention when there are so many others? Is it boisterous like yours and mine? Is it the peaceful perfect quiet that I wish I could command? All I am left with is clouds and gold. That’s it. And light. I don’t know anything else. I can’t even conjure it up from any storybook.

I was thinking about how I love Chocolate Malted Crunch from Thrifty’s. When I eat it, I feel the joy of a long day well-spent with family and friends at the beach. I feel sand in my hair and sun on my nose and shoulders. I want to walk straight to the car and be the first to dib shower number three. My kids think I am so silly with my sentimentality. LG thinks our whole family is a little weird about our attachments, but I think that they are the ones who don’t really get it.

I know without a doubt (well, maybe with just a tiny doubt) that someday I will sit at God’s table and eat something that I can only get in His realm. I will close my eyes and feel all the feels that I love. I will remember all the other times that I sat there eating the same thing and feeling so wonderful. I will wonder how I could ever let it go again. I will want to stay right there forever. And, then God will send me away on another mission, and I will have to wait years to get that taste again. The taste will always be my favorite, and the view from Her window will always feel like clouds and gold. Someday, you and me and dad and everyone else will laugh about how I thought chocolate malted crunch was as good as it would get. We will laugh because we will be glad that we can remember now. Remember it all, including the malted crunch, but laughing at it’s inferiority to whatever it is we get at God’s house. We’ll be glad that the veil is gone. And, then I will take a walk to dad’s dairy and you will consult with the Barsons and make up a batch for Family Home Evening.

I cannot wait for that reunion.  I will ponder it the rest of my life. How I miss my daddy. It hurts at every skin cell. I feel like I will never be whole again. I will never be totally happy again. I used to think you were overly emotional when you talked about missing your dad. I get it now. There is a hole. Not just in my heart, but everywhere. There is a hole in my peanut butter jar. There is a hole in my jumper cables. There is a hole in the green frog tape on my garage table. There is a hole in my cedar jewelry box on my dresser. It says Valdez. Dad mailed it from Alaska. There is a hole on my porch where he jimmy-rigged some wood slats to keep my screen door from opening too wide. There is a hole in my dog because dad loved her. There is a hole in the house down the street because I used to walk past while they were building it and smell the sweet scents of construction and think about dad. That hole happened after he was even around. There is a hole in the Pacific Ocean the size of the Pacific Ocean. Because it is dad’s ocean. There’s a hole at Disneyland because he took me there. There is a hole in Abigail’s car because one time dad bought me a new tire when it was flat. There is a hole EVERYWHERE. A hole only he fills, and I need him here to fill it. Not there. Here. So my tears roll down my face as fast as they can trying to make their way to the Pacific. They feel gravity pulling them to fill up the hole.  They will never succeed. The hole will remain until I am gone to a place that I no longer have to feel it. A place where he will be.

Oh mom. I hate this. I hate living without him. I know you feel the emptiness thousands more than I do. Thanks for letting me write to you about it. It helps. A little bit. I hope it helps you, too.

This array at your house helped me a lot. Thanks for your lovely storytelling, mom. You always know the most important things to say. Sometimes without saying a word.

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The Home I Can’t Remember

The home I can’t remember
seems too far away.
Especially since you beat me back
You always win – touche.
Someday instinct will find me there
You’ll be the first I’ll find.
We’ll deserve our rightful place
on our favorite restful couch.
Yet, we will know it won’t last long.
No one there dares slouch.
Mom is always up there cooking.
Dad is usually off at work.
You and me are now like them.
Never will we shirk.
Yet, before we run off to help,
we eat our favorite treats.
We breathe, we sigh, we reminisce
from our favorite seats.
We won’t miss home down there on earth,
there’s no need to even visit.
This best home of gold and clouds
is the most affectionate.