The Wills Family

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Sunday = family

Sunday is a slow day for us. We use it to go to church and rest from our labors.
Enjoying one another’s company is what we do most.
Today was an especially great Sunday.
Not only did I get to enjoy a lot of this….

but I also got to enjoy my own six siblings on the same conference call.

They are always a good time.

wills

Father of the Year

Photo courtesy of Wave At The Bus.

daleI just read a wonderful article about a bunch of great dads. It is a must-read. It’ll get your tears flowing in gratitude for so many wonderful men around the world.

The article highlights one of my favorite dads on the planet: Dale Price of WaveAtTheBus fame. He resides close in Utah and has a lovely wife whom I adore.

The article also brings to light some other pretty awesome dads who do things like…

  • photoshop ewoks into family vacation photos.
  • hack Donkey Kong so his daughter can play as Pauline to save Mario.
  • build a spaceship simulator.

and

  • draws amazing art on his kids’ lunchbags.

As I read through this article this morning I was stunned by my realization:

These best dads didn’t do anything totally out-of-this-world. They did things that any other dad with the same talent could do. They did simple things that accentuated the positive that they already possessed. The difference between them and other successful men in this world was that they used their talent/interest towards their children not away from them. They used their creativity to show their children that they loved them; they included their children and honored their children.

I am the lucky daughter of a dad like that. When I was a kid, there was a newspaper article written about him entitled, “A Man Who Always Has Time For the Children.” My dad did always make time for me and my 6 siblings, and our friends, and a lot of other kids who needed a father figure. He didn’t draw us things or build spaceships or dress up silly but he built awesome tree houses, and left donuts for breakfast, and included us when he was working on the cars (which was often). He spent a lot of time with us in the ocean, installed industrial sized toilet paper dispensers, and videotaped EVERYTHING.

My hubby is also one of the greats out there. He hasn’t hacked Donkey Kong (well at least not that I know of) but he has shared his love of electronics with our daughters, teased them incessantly, taken way more daddy/daughter dates then one can count, and helped with homework. He watches the show Psych with the girls just so they can quote back and forth the funny lines and he has passed along his love for gumballs, beef jerky, and bacon as well as the bands The Beatles and Fun.

The moral of the story:
If you want to be a good dad (or mom),
be good at what you love and be good WITH your children.
You may not get five minutes of fame but you will be called “Best” by the ones that matter most forever.

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Live each day like it’s your last.

love people

My grandma died of Alzheimer’s. My mom has memory issues. I won’t be surprised if she’s got it too. When I give myself time to think about it (which I try not to make too often) I am totally convinced that this too will be my lot in life.  I am 39 years old and have struggled with my memory for at least a decade already. It’s scary when I sit down to the computer and can’t remember the name of a website that I frequent every day or when I have to turn around in the car 5 times in the same trip because I keep turning in the wrong direction. I can’t remember people’s names, movies I just watched, and conversations that have taken place. It’s terrifying.

Last weekend my parents were in town. For some reason (I can only figure it was her attempt to connect with me) my mom pointed out my grey hair. I hadn’t had time to color the roots and at 39 years old it’s a source of embarrassment for me. I have told my mom many many times that I don’t like her pointing it out, yet every time I see her she does. I immediately got defensive. It’s part of growing up with a critical mother. I was immediately irritated and forcefully said, “Mom, why do you do this every time I see you? You always point out my grey hair when I’ve told you I don’t like it.” She stammered through her response, “I think it’s great. You are going to have the beautiful white hair like your Grandma and Aunt Shirley.” I do hope for their beautiful hair but not for at least 20 more years. My mom walked off obviously shaken. I felt awful. I went over to her, gave her a hug, and said, “Mom, I’m sorry, I know you just forget.” With tears in her eyes, she said, “I’m sorry Alice, I do forget.”

Yesterday I had a thought. It was short-lived but was extremely powerful. What if God wants me to spend more time at home because my memory will be completely gone in the next ten years? I know that is being paranoid but I had just read about a son who lost his mother to early onset in her 50’s and sometimes I am an hypochondriac. Although I pushed the thought out of my mind as quickly as it came its affect lingered. What if I only had today as my last day with my kids? What if this was my last week? My last year? What would I change? A lot. Too much changing needs to take place, but I was able to view this little faith experiment called being “in love at home” with a new perspective as a gift to me and my family. Instead of being bitter, I got down on my knees and said thanks to my God and asked Him to make the changes faster. I pleaded, “Help me make the most of my time, and connect with my family.” It’s still a challenge. It’s not like it just gets simple when we are dealing with every day life, but my heart had a tiny change and I am grateful for it.

I learned last year that it’s a lot easier to be kind to the ones around us after a family member has died, but I am more determined to be kind and loving when it’s not as easy like when someone hurts my feelings for the 15th time.

He’s flying.

Pictures

One year ago on this first Thursday morning in May, I was sitting in a conference room adjacent to Primary Children’s Hospital ICU in SLC. Many of my family members and I had kept an all night vigil just waiting for my nephew Braxton to come back to us. He was unconscious from an accident the day before and we feared the worst.

At about 6 a.m. I was feeling suffocated. I needed to escape and I thought if I could just go outside and see the sun rise then I could glean some energy to face whatever may come. I paced the street in front of the hospital. It was pitch dark. I kept looking over the city wondering where the sun was. I admired the beauty of the downtown lights, especially the SL temple. The temple brought me some peace. But more than anything I was wondering how would life ever move on for our family, but especially my brother’s little family if we lost Braxton?

I heard a little voice. It said, “Turn around Aunt Ali. Look and see.”

And there it was. The sun rises in the East, silly me. I was staring at the most beautiful sunrise I had ever seen. I felt Braxton riding in the rays. I can’t explain in, but I knew that this sunrise belonged to Braxton. He was going to be alright. “The view here is amazing,” he communicated with me through the sun.

I went back inside feeling a greater sense of peace. I felt an urge to play the song on my phone that we had listened to the night before about flying. My spirit was somehow connected to his spirit and I just knew one thing: Braxton was flying. He was o.k. He was aware of us and wanted us to know he was o.k. Moments later they called the red code. He was going. He wouldn’t be allowed to stay. His time was up with the sunset. He loved us. He didn’t want us to be sad because his new adventure was beautiful. Even the best sunrise on earth could not compare to what laid ahead for him.

I found these photos in my computer the other day. Moments like these are tender mercies. I heard Braxton say, “Make sure you show these to my dad. Let him know I am still flying.” What a special special boy. Love you Brax.

Braxton Richard Lane Wills

Today is an emotional day for me.
My nephew Braxton,
who passed away in May,
would have been 13 today.
The loss a whole family feels
is so profound
and lingering.
We miss this little guy
so much.
He was so full of life.
He is known for being
sensitive and caring
kind and loving
and
all boy.
He has
a great
sense of humor.

I have seen several

miracles
since his passing
but one that sticks with me
the most
is the day
that Braxton found me on
my running trail.
He just ran right along with me
until I stopped
at the top of a hill.
His presence was
so profound,
I had to stop to see if
I could see him with my own eyes.
I talked to him
and told him how much
I love him.
When I started to cry
and tell him how sad I
was that he was gone,
he immediately ran off the other way.
He turned back with a smile
as if to say
“Don’t be sad,
I’m happy,
I’m busy,
in fact I have to run right now.
I’ve stolen away enough time
to find you today.
I just wanted to tell you
to be happy
because I love you too.”

I am giving myself permission 
to sit around today
and cry
because sometimes
tears are the best way to heal.
I thank my beautiful niece Dani
(Braxton’s oldest sister)
and her band
Roatrip Romance
for writing and recording
called 
“Wait on you”
It’s balm to my soul today.
 I guess heaven
couldn’t wait on
Braxton.
And I guess I better
quit crying
and get out on the
running trail
like I would normally
to show Braxton
that I am honoring his wishes
to not be sad
and to
live my life to the fullest.
I know he wants
me to
appreciate life
for all that it is.
Another thing
he told me
on the running trail is
how blessed I am
to have this mortality.
I love you Braxton.
Thanks for
teaching me so much.

Here is a great talk
by a living apostle
about
finding
joy in life.
Braxton would
approve of the message.
In fact,
it’s the same message
he delivered
to me
in about
300 less words.

I look to you

I love this song. It’s an old Whitney Houston number
and was recently redone on Glee.
After hearing it on my i-pod yesterday,
I’ve been searching it out on youtube.
I want to send it to my brother
who recently lost his son Braxton.
(I can’t type that last sentence
without my eyes welling up in tears)

I’ve been through some hard things in my life.
I’ve been diagnosed with a mental illness,
I’ve lived through serious poverty,
I’ve come within a hair from losing my marriage,
I’ve experienced cruel prejudices,
I’ve struggled with my weight,
and I’ve lost people I’ve loved.

But right now nothing hurts more than Braxton.
Even though I didn’t spend as much time
with him as I would have preferred
(due to living in poverty half a world away
in Tennessee for a decade)
I loved that kid.
He was a complex mixture of the best of his mom and dad.
He was so compassionate (mom) and determined (dad).
He was so funny (dad) yet smart (mom).
Ha ha. O.k. he could have gotten both of those from both of his parents.
He had an infectious smile (mom and dad).
He was the life of the party (his aunt ali) 🙂
He was and is such a good kid.
The kind of kid that anyone would be proud to call their own.

We all love and miss him so,
and are left with such a huge hole in our hearts,
as we try to make sense of his passing.

I worry for my brother and his family every day,
and I simultaneously try to soothe my own pain.
Every day I send my brother a little message on facebook
to uplift, inspire, strengthen, and happy-make.
It’s been amazing to me how much that little act has been the best balm for me.
Sometimes I end up searching online for hours for just the right thing,
but for those hours I am finding little gems to my own soul.

Like this song.
Wow.
What a great reminder to where we need to look.
In all our troubles.
I can honestly say that God is the only way I’ve survived.
And I proudly say that I have done more than survive.
I have flourished under his tutelage.

I love this singer’s journey to her own health.
It really does boil down to the fact
“I can do all things through God whom strengtheneth me.”
I know that if my brother and his family know anything,
it is to look to God for their strength.
They do such an amazing job at it.
I’m so grateful they have their God.
And I am so grateful that they are my constant reminder
to look to Him too.

Little Orphan Annie

While I was growing up,
my sisters and I loved Little Orphan Annie.
We didn’t just like it, we were obsessed with it.
I guess we kind of wished we had a Daddy Warbucks too.
Even though we had great parents,
we wanted Daddy Warbucks’ house.
And Pun-jab.
We also wanted to dance like that
and sing like that.
One thing bothered me about the movie though.
I know, I can only think of one thing. Weird.
Little Orphan Annie’s rat tail.
Imagine my surprise when Caroline was sportin’ the same “do” last night.
I cringed all up inside.
My little girl Alice wanted to brush it and make it right.
Yeah, I am weird.
And a little obsessive.
Even orphans deserve good hair.
Especially if they are on TV.
This video is for my little sister Renee.
I want her to know that I finally forgive her
for placing the VHS Annie in the VCR
with peanut butter all over her hands.
And like Annie taught,
there is always tomorrow.
And this tomorrow we will be watching Annie on DVD.
And the next tomorrow we may even have Blu-Ray.

Did I tell you my new secret obsession?
I want to make Caroline famous.
She deserves to be the modern day Shirley Temple.
She is sooo dang cute.

If we dyed her hair red she could play Rosie.
And if LG lost 80 pounds and grew his hair out he could sooo be Matt Damon.
I guess Abigail will have to play Scarlett Johansen
since I am nowhere near close.
Man, all we need is a zoo.
See it always goes back to Daddy Warbucks.

(We loved the movie by the way,
but beware there is a lot of language)