The Wills Family

Dear Mom [Week 23]

Dear Mom,

I have so much studying to do. It’s my second night at the library this week. I have to read the entire novel Sense and Sensibility before Tuesday. I am just getting set up in a study room for another four consecutive hours of reading. I talked to you on the phone yesterday and told you how on Tuesday night after an 18 hour day I was completely shaky and nauseous and had to quit my studies early at 11:30. I hope to quit tonight by 10, so I can go home and see LG before he falls asleep. That is the the hardest thing about being in school and working. I feel like I never get to see my family, and when I do, I am taking care of so many needs at once it doesn’t feel like quality time. I’m damned if I do, I’m damned if a don’t. I know Abigail gets mad at me for pushing and pushing her to make sure she gets her college done early in life, but I need to stop. She has her own journey, and if it isn’t a priority for her right now, maybe she too will have to do it the hard way at 43, like me.

Enough about me. I just wanted to explain quickly (mostly to LG if he ever reads this & for my future self) that right now I needed to not study for a minute. I was drinking my smoothie and hunkering in, but as I was checking some e-mails, I was drawn to my blog URL in my signature line. I wanted to check how long it has been since my last letter. Remember my original goal of writing every week? Well, I guess that is a monthly goal now. Ha. Welcome to my current life. I am barely surviving. I definitely don’t feel  like I can thrive in any area. Home, work, or school. But, I keep plugging along. Nothing is going to stop me. And, tonight my hours of homework are also not going to stop me from writing to my mom.

Every time I sit down to write you a letter, mom, I have to calculate what week it is. How long has it been since dad actually died? What a horrible exercise. I hate it. At the same time, for me, it seems necessary. I don’t want to not keep track of every single day that I have lived without my dad here with me. On August 25th 2016, my life changed forever. I have my days before that. Not enough. And, my days after. Every day is a strange mixture between being too long (as he isn’t here and that is excruciating to rediscover over and over again) and too short (because every day I live is one day closer to my children experiencing the same loss).

So, we are at 23 weeks. If I got pregnant around the time dad died, I would now know the sex of the baby. I would have gone straight to the store to buy  something baby blue or pink by now. I would be thinking about names. Instead, all I have is an amputated womb (thank you, hysterectomy) and an only son not named Richard (after dad), like I wanted, but Maximus because it sounded better with Gold, meant the greatest, and wouldn’t be shortened to Rich. Rich Gold. Ha. 23 weeks! Too long. I love my little Max, but every time I look at him I think I should have tried harder to convince LG to name him Richard. It would have been the perfect way to honor dad. Maybe someday, one of my girls will give us a Richard because if/when they get married their last name will be something other than Gold – a horribly comical match for Rich. The thought of having a grandson named Richard is making me all kind of weepy right now. Life really does keep moving forward. And, so many people right now are obsessed with politics. It’s not about Trump. It’s about family. My grandkids will hardly know the name Donald Trump, but they will Richard, and LeGrand, and Maximus.

Butterfinger bites were my hard moment last week. Bella had no idea that they were the treat dad wanted more than anything while lying in his hospital bed when she suggested them to me at The Dollar Tree. Also, Krispy Kreme donuts. I went to get some for my kids as a special treat. I was initially bummed that the “hot” light  wasn’t on, but immediately relieved when I thought how sad I would be to not share with dad his favorite.Also, whistling. Someone was whistling. I told LG how I wanted to hear him whistle more. LG has a great whistle. Dad’s was better. I just want to hear dad whistle, right now. Avocados are in danger because  of Trump’s tariff. That would not make dad happy. Dad wanted to vote for Trump, but dad would never want his cherished avocados to be messed with. How that man loved avocados! It is like he was half Mexican. Full Mexican if we consider how hard he always worked. If I had two minutes more with dad I would give him an avocado and let him eat it while I hugged him the entire two minutes. Why didn’t I hug him longer before I left that hospital room? I hate that regret. I hugged him good, but no hug is ever good enough to be the last.

I was thinking about our avocado tree in CA. I wonder if it is still there. It was a good little tree. So, was our peach tree and our apricot tree. I was wishing I could go back in time and watch the day(s) that you and dad planted all those trees after buying that house. How I would love to observe that happy time. I can imagine in perfect detail, dad in his twenties with a shovel. He was so strong and capable even in his seventies, but he was a handsome devil in his twenties. No wonder why you guys had so many babies. One of my favorite things were apricots off our very own tree. I used to feel like that tree was just mine, as it was on the north side of the house, and I convinced myself that everyone else forgot it was there. Then, thinking about our fruit trees makes me think also about geraniums and gardenias. You see, you and dad, are inseparable. Just like fruit trees and flowers. You planted them together. You enjoyed them together. Now, your kids reminisce about them without being able to separate the two of you in them. Maybe 100 years down the road your great-grand-kids will be reading about them, straight from this page. I hope they will know what wonderful people you and dad are. I hope they will be convinced of a little house in heaven surrounded by the same exact trees and flowers. I can’t wait to smell the gardenias dad is planting right now. It will be one of the last things I think about before stepping through the veil.

Right now, I will be starting Sense and  Sensibility imagining dad after a hard Saturday of yard work. He’s dirty. The entire broad back of his thin cotton button-up is drenched with sweat. He comes into our tiny kitchen with a proud smile from ear to ear. He looks satisfied and content. You are cooking dinner. He comes up behind you and waits for you to turn. He holds out the flaps of his  shirt and reveals the source of his pride. 8 or 9 perfectly ripe avocados. As big as softballs. He says, “Sharon, I don’t know what you’re cooking, but whatever it is, can we have avocado with it?” You shorten the distance, ignore the dirt from his shoes on your recently mopped floor, admire the avocados, then you meet his smile. Your smile is as proud as his. You say, “Maybe I should quit cooking and we can just eat those. There is just enough for the whole family. Oh Rick, look what you’ve done. These are the most beautiful avocados I’ve ever seen.” His smile gets bigger. The look on his face reveals the way he feels: all powerful like nothing in the entire universe could grow without his intervention. You reach for the salt and pepper. Mom, I didn’t know it until right this second, but that’s the kind of wife I want to be. I want my husband to beam with pride, just because I state his name and follow it with, “Look what you’ve done.” That’s grace. You gave dad a gift like that every single day. I will try to do better.

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.

img_20170106_131502

*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 14]

Hi mom,

Wow, I’m fired from my weekly writing duties. I don’t even want to apologize because it seems so trite. I know you don’t expect an apology anyhow. You, of anyone, have an understating of my time constraints.

I know I already told you this on the phone, but I just think it means something  more to read a sentiment in words. I hope you know how much you are the highlight of my life. My conversations with you have become one of my Top 5 life joys. I’m so glad we battled our wills and differences out to get to this point. It is such a powerful place to be in a relationship where there is full honesty, yet no enmity.  I hope and pray I can reach this same place of pure acceptance and love in all my relationships. I wish it didn’t have to be such a struggle.

Joy is the word of the month. I already posted on instagram and told you over the phone about my Christmas decorating epiphany, but I want to write it here as well. Please humor me again. For the record. I know you, like me, are a fan of the record. It’s probably ingrained in us to write things because of our lack of memory.

joy
As I was decorating for Christmas, the word joy kept repeating. Over and over again. I started to suspect the universe was trying to send me a message. I then chuckled thinking of dad controlling the universe in his new elevated state.  Immediately, I was dumbfounded. If dad was controlling the universe and its messages to me, why in the world was he exaggerating the idea of joy? That seemed so awful. Surely, he couldn’t expect me to be joyful this Christmas. Not when he isn’t around. He couldn’t be joyful either, could he ? Yet, it kept coming. In tree ornaments and on the new wall vinyl. Joy. Joy. Joy. It was shouting at me. I shouted back from the grieving recesses of my heart. NO JOY. NO JOY. Go away. I have no need for you this Christmas. I just want my dad back.

I had already decided that I wasn’t going to unpack my precious Willow Tree Nativity because I was sure Max would destroy it one crushed figurine at a time. But, something kept biting at me. Mom and dad wouldn’t care if it was broke. They don’t care about materialistic things. They wanted that unpacked. They wanted it to be enjoyed. So, I started unpacking. One box at a time. Abigail helped. We marveled again and again at each and every piece, and there was a palpable feeling of reverence as we placed each piece on my beautiful turquoise buffet. The buffet that is also a gift from you and dad. (It’s hard  to remember that we all worked on it together just six months ago. Dad wrestled with the shoddy hardware and told  me what to do in the future in case he wasn’t around. I thought he would always be around.) I especially love how Mary is cradling Jesus in this set. I pondered in my heart about the baby Jesus and how grateful I was for him and what he grew to do.

I got to the last box and immediately noticed one significant difference from the rest. Each box had my name written on it in black sharpie. With your signature angled cursive, you had labeled my boxes to be differentiated from the 6 identical ones meant for my siblings. But, the last box had my name, yet it wasn’t in your deliberate and feminine scroll, it was written in dad’s boxy and rushed block letters. It was as if he was in the room with me. My eyes welled with tears. “Oh dad, I wish you  were here. I don’t want this box with the last remnants of your handwriting. I want your hands. I want your voice. I want you!” I hugged the box to my chest, and the name of the contents on the top of the box slowly focused upward through my tears. One tear dropped on the spacing of the letters. S-O-N-G  O-F  J-O-Y  A-N-G- E-L. The universe whispered. “Hey it’s your dad here. I’m right here. I’m an angel now. And angels only declare one thing. JOY. Glad tidings of great joy.”
img_20161123_102731 img_20161123_101130

 

 

 

 

 

 

I placed the angel among the other figures in her place of honor. Looking down on mortality.  I quietly thought about her singing with dad – the glad tidings of great joy. What exactly were those tidings? Why should I be joyful when my dad and I were separated? The answer came powerfully. The joy is that because of Jesus, you will see your dad again. Jesus paved the way. Jesus opened the way. Jesus made it all possible. I alarmed Abigail as a loud weeping escaped my mouth. I sat on the couch. She stared, not knowing what to do. I told her I was okay. I was just thinking about my dad. She’s gotten used to the sudden outbursts. I showed her his handwriting on the box. I told her how he used to write me letters from Alaska and how he always included a smiley face and an X and an O. Max climbed  up on the couch beside me. He pointed to our family picture. He was listening to the message from the universe. His chubby finger announced, “Families are forever. Because of Jesus.”

Thank you for teaching me, mom. Thank you, dad, for indulging mom’s wishes to get all of her kids a nice nativity. It was your last Christmas gift to us. And it is everything. Literally everything. You are both so wise. You always had your priorities straight. You weren’t perfect. No one is, but you had perfect perspective. You still do.

I love you, mom. Merry Christmas. I hope you will feel the joy that dad is shouting from the heavens. It rings crystal clear.

I know you can’t watch the video I am including here. It shows dad as he talks to all of us at Erick’s house in 2014. (I’ll show it to you next time I see you.) It was the very last time we were all together. You and dad had just handed out all of our  Christmas nativities.

I quote dad: “Most of all, I want to thank you all for staying close to the gospel, and  bringing it to a setting like this today. You cannot imagine what  it means to grandparents to know that all of our children are close to the gospel. And are being taken care of by Him. I don’t have anything else to say except I love you.” I love you too, dad.

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.

mom and dad and kids.jpgabigail-with-mom-and-dad

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!

maclarenquote_landscape

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.

resevoir

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.

img_20160927_172455411

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.

connor

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.

mi0000198731

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

Happy birthday, buddy.

Today my nephew Braxton is sixteen. He’s most definitely celebrating on the other side. With some green balloons and maybe an airhead or fruit roll-up.  Oh, how we miss him. There’s a special story that I hold dear to my heart about Braxton and my son Maximus. Someday I’ll share it. I know these two were buddies in another realm. Even though Braxton had graduated from earthlife and Max hadn’t started yet, I know that they were together cheering one another on. It’s a special thing to think about. I’m actually pretty jealous about it. On days when I’m Max-ed out as a mom and I’m wondering why I had Max at 41, I think of Braxton, and I thank him for sending me Max. I can’t wait to someday sit around a fire, and hear the story from Braxton’s perspective.

Happy birthday, buddy. We sure love you!

How I Am Like My Mother

On mother’s day, I’m grateful for my mom and I’m grateful to be a mom.
Being a mom makes me even more grateful for my mom.

IMG_6789

This mother’s day I am giving my mom what she always requests…..
just write me something Alice.

Like me, my mom is human, therefore she is a masterpiece of perfect imperfection. I love her with all my heart. Her heart is in my heart. Without her my heart would not beat. Without her love, I would not exist. Without her lifetime of love, I would not be who I am. It took me a long time to admit it, but I am a product of my mother. She molded me intentionally with her every action – unintentional or not. Daily for my entire forty-one years her every choice has left an imprint on my soul. I cannot leave a mere footprint in the sand without my mom being represented.

I am like my mother in many ways…the good, the bad, and the ugly. The beauty of our relationship is knowing that no matter how I act or what I believe, I have someone who gets me and loves me. I hope she knows she has the same from her daughter.

So, mom, this is for you. I will print it (because you don’t know how to use a computer) and mail it (because you aren’t so great at texting either) and I hope when you have it in your hands, when you read these words, you will know how much you are loved and how much you matter. Your influence will live on forever and ever. I’m doing my best to pass it all down…I intentionally and unintentionally leave you in the hearts of my children.

Before I go to the ways I am like my mom, I just had a memory come flooding in to my mind that I want to share. My mom will love it. I was in second grade. It was Valentine’s Day. My teacher had a tradition of having the parents write their kids a love note. She would save them for the very last thing of the day. The teacher had made a really big deal about our special valentines. I remember as she passed out the notes, I was so nervous, I was so worried I’d be left out somehow. Maybe I had been naughty and thought my mom wouldn’t have anything nice to say? Maybe I was used to being a member of a very large family and I inherently knew that my mom couldn’t keep up with all the little things required of her? Maybe I knew my mom was super pregnant with baby #7 and that made my chances of receiving a letter really slim. Whatever it was I steeled myself for whatever was to come and promised myself I would not cry. I knew I was loved by my parents. I also knew they were imperfect.

I braced myself as my teacher came up my aisle of desks reaching in and out her special heart box with the best valentines of the day. I sat at the very back of the aisle. Unlike the other kids who were tearing through their already delivered goodies, almost disinterested in their special delivery, I sat quietly full of anxiety. Would I be able to show strength when my teacher didn’t give me anything? I looked down trying not to seem to care. I stared at the hemline of Mrs. Einertson’s flowery 70’s-type shirt where it met her brown polyester bell-bottoms. (She was a cheery strawberry blonde, a great teacher, and taught all of my family. I loved her so much.)

I clenched my sweaty fists and blinked back the threatening tears. She now stood reaching in her box right above me. I was the last delivery. I couldn’t make myself look, but at least it would be over with either way now. I felt like she could see right through me and that her empathy would at least make something appear…even if it was just a leftover. All of the sudden, a note dropped right into my hands. I stared at it in pure relief. A tear may have dropped anyhow. I looked at my teacher who smiled so sweetly. I was surprised in myself as I looked right into her eyes and smiled right back at her. Then I quickly took my attention back to the note staring.

I studied every detail. The envelope was addressed to me in my mom’s gorgeous small and straight-lined italic type cursive handwriting. It was a special envelope. My mom had used her special flowery stationary that she hid away in her room and told us not to touch. Then, the smell hit. It was a smell that was unfamiliar, but it was the most pleasant thing I had ever smelled in my life. It was a hint of rose, but it was different so it must have been some other kind of flower too. I put the envelope to my nose and inhaled it in as deep as it would go. I couldn’t believe that my mom had found something that smelled so good. And she had given it to me! I wondered if the stationary just came that way or had she sprayed something on it. I thought maybe the teacher had sprayed everyones and asked the kid in front of me if his note smelled good. It didn’t, so I let him smell mine. I opened it and read it. It wasn’t anything I hadn’t heard before. My mom loved me. She was proud of me. I was her black-haired beauty. etc. etc.

I sat taking it in. Tears ran down my face. I was the most special girl in the world. My mom gave me a smelly note. She was the most busy mom ever, but my note smelled better than anyone else’s in my class, better than any scratch and sniff sticker in all of existence. I sniffed and sniffed, like a drug-sick addict. I felt the smell of love run through every vein of my body. I can still smell it after all of these years. Somewhere in my basement tucked in a box is that note. Whenever I get it out, I still sniff and sniff…the scent still lingers on the paper. If someone was to cut me up and tear my heart out I am sure that it smells like that letter…it’s imprint is eternal….from my mom.

I can only hope to give each of my own kids a moment like that where they know without any doubt the depth of my love for them. I probably never thanked you mom. Thank you. I love you. As a busy mom, I somewhat understand now. You may have remembered that note at 2 am after folding 12 loads of laundry and you just wanted to crash in to your bed or maybe you even got a call that morning from the teacher and you had to skip your grocery shopping to run something to the school in just the nick of time. I will never know the specific sacrifices you personally made for me, but I know of them, and they mean even more to me now than they did then.

So, back to the ways I am like my mom:

I sacrifice for my children.
I hate mornings.
I love to thrift-shop.
Hamburgers for dinner are my favorite.
Anything I don’t have to cook is my favorite for dinner.
I cry at the drop of a hat.
I love to garden.
I love a good cup of Postum.
I need medicine to sleep.
I’ve never met a stranger.
I always make do.
I love my children.
I enjoy a good movie.
I have a stash of soda in my bedroom.
I have bad bowels.
I’m tough.
I never give up.
I’m quick to give advice.
I have black hair.
I love Disneyland.
I’m a night owl.
I experience the beauty around me.
I love the sound of waves breaking.
Scripture soothes me.
I love other people’s children.
I need more sleep than other people.
I believe God talks to me.
I try to do what He tells me.
I have black hair.
I’m not afraid to share my beliefs.
I’m emotional.
I love to read.
I adore my husband.
I’m a sucker for strays.
I keep a stash of medicines for emergencies.
I love people.
I always keep a full bowl of fruit in my house.
I have a hard time with snooty people.
Gardenias, geraniums, CA poppies…can’t get enough.
I pray. all day. every day.
I love American sports: football and baseball.
I love sunny weather.
I find peace among fellow saints.
And the rain.
I embarrass my kids by getting worked up over their sporting events.
I don’t like to be cold.
I’m grateful.
I love my Jesus.
I believe in His atonement.
I have to work on not commenting too much at church.
John Denver.
I know the struggle.
I stare it down day after day.
I have four daughters.
I don’t need fancy things.
I love primary songs.
I’m glad that I live in this beautiful world.
I will give the shirt off my back for someone with less than me.
That’s why I don’t have much.
But I have everything that matters.
And more.
So much more.

mom2

Last, like my mom,
I doubt my importance to other people
and undervalue myself.
Mom, for mother’s day,
I want you to
once and for all
know your infinite worth.
You mean everything to me.
I’m proud to be a mom.
Just like you.

I’m sorry, mom.

I haven’t blogged since Father’s Day. I feel like I haven’t even breathed since Father’s Day. Life has been nuts. Between moving, summer visitors, and being pregnant, I have felt totally depleted every. single. day.

And then today it somehow got infinitesimally worse.

IMG_0439

People ask why I don’t blog like I used to. I give them various reasons, but one reason towards the top of  the list is that as my kids have gotten older it’s very shaky business blogging about family life. As a mother, I don’t want to disparage them, and let’s face it, they just don’t do things quite as cute as they used to.

Yesterday we had a family pow-wow that consisted of LG and I wrangling the kids in for the recurrent lecture about sibling kindness, taking personal responsibility…yadda yadda yadda. LG whispered to me after the half hour of torture that “everyone has to suck at parenting.” At least he still makes me smile every day.

The older your kids get, the more your weaknesses manifest themselves in your kids. It sucks. Big time.

[Let me start out this story with a disclaimer that my kids are pretty good. They each have great strengths but like every other sucker in this world, they have weaknesses. I need the readers of this post to know that I love my kids with all my heart. I believe in them. I am proud of them. I have faith in what they will accomplish in their lives. I wish I was a better mother equal to their greatness. I also just feel a need to write honestly. I hope this won’t cause harm.]

Well, after a really rough 24 hours where our last night’s lecture didn’t seem to do anything but make things worse, LG came home tonight as my knight in shining armor saying he wanted to have an emergency family meeting. (This could or could not have been prompted by my cry for help via e-mail earlier today.)

Just an hour ago, we sat down with our kids and LG talked about things we need to do differently,  improving individually and collectively. The kids all responded in their own way. Abigail takes after her dad and I in a lot of ways. One thing that she instinctively does is point fingers at others in a way of avoiding her own overwhelming emotions of self-doubt and disappointment. Somehow, I became her target tonight. I am always the target. They never go after their dad…he’s just too nice.

She laid into me, “If you would just stop talking about how horrible it is being pregnant and start doing some more fun activities with us. …. if we could just have a real summer, like all the other kids…we need to have fun…we need a vacation…” (Tell me about it!!!) At the end of my rope, I came unleashed. Out of my mouth, came the exact words I remember hearing from my own mother so many times. I hated that also accompanying the words were big huge heavy sobs.

“Abigail, you have no idea what you are talking about. You don’t know what it feels like to be forty and pregnant. You have no idea what I’ve done just for you this summer. I’ve sacrificed mornings for soccer, money for physical therapy, time for your two stints at girls’ camp, and money and time that could have been used for a family vacation for you to go to EFY. You need to get out of your selfishness. I have given up my ENTIRE LIFE for my children. Everything I do is for you and your sisters.”

I said a few more things, and then stopped myself and sat sobbing into my palms as LG quickly finished up the family counseling session. Second parent-fail in two days. I had no smiles to give in secret this time around. I sat badly hurt and frustrated not just with my teenage daughter but with my life and even my husband who always seems to escape the fury even when he holds as much responsibility for it. Five-year-old Caroline kept asking, “Mom, why are you crying?” LG saved me more talking and told her that I didn’t feel appreciated and rightly so.

I hurried to my bedroom afterward and sobbed into my pillow some more. “How did I get here?” I thought. “How did I become my mother?” Years ago, when I was Abigail’s age I promised myself I would never lay into my kids like that…I remember how horrible it made me feel when she did it to me. But, by golly, Abigail needed to hear it. She’s an adolescent becoming more wrapped up in herself every day. I’ve given her everything I’ve had to give this summer (even if is has been pathetic) and the fourteen others before that.  Why didn’t my rant make me feel any better? Was I solely in the wrong? Is she totally right? Am I really not giving enough?

And, you know what. I don’t have the answers. And it sucks. Big time. I hope we can find them together.

I do have one thing to say though, “Mom, I am so so so very sorry for ever saying anything or doing anything or not doing something that made you feel how I did an hour ago. You matter. Your sacrifices are known. I love you. I appreciate you. And the longer I live, the more I want to emulate you as a mother. Yes, there are ways that you let me down, but there are so many more ways that you supported, sacrificed, and loved unconditionally. You were the BEST mother you could be. Not perfect, but the BEST. Motherhood mattered to you more than anything, and I take that example into my life every day. I love you eternally.”

But, mom, I also have a question….if we are such good mothers who both sacrifice so much for our kids…….how the heck did you and I both end up with such a rotten ungrateful selfish daughter? Is that just part of the journey? Do I just need to hold on for another twenty years until she writes me my very own apology? PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE share with me all of your mothering secrets! I feel so clueless.

Learn How to Play the Ukelele – Check {vlog}

I love the ukelele. I LOVE it.

I love IZ. I love Ingrid Michaelson. I love Mindy Gledhill. I love anyone and everyone on the ukelele no matter how good or bad they are. Asian, Hispanic, White, or in all the languages of the world, I love it. I grew up among a lot of Polynesians and so I think my love for the uke’s simplistic and tropical sound stems among the great great people surrounding my upbringing.

No these guys aren’t Polynesian, they are my white family. I wish I was Polynesian. In this picture I come pretty close. I am the girl in the Hawaiian style blue shirt on the right.

wills family-001

So, we’ve established that I am in love with the ukelele. I bought one for my husband for our anniversary last year because I figured both of my loves should live in the same space. He hasn’t really picked it up, so I decided that I should.

Here is a video of the progress I have made playing. I am so impressed with myself. Try not to laugh. O.k. go ahead and laugh all you want.

Thank you Ukelele Mike for the wonderful you tube tutorial.