Eleven Months

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Dear Zinger,

Eleven months. E-leven. E-leaven. Like electronically baking bread. This is blowing my mind. I can’t even wrap my head around next month, when you’ll be a whole year old, so I’ll try my best to focus on this letter.

That sassy expression in the above photo makes Dadda and me laugh a lot. Your personality shines in everything you do. You know how to tease: you hold things out and offer them to us, then you pull them away and don’t let us have them. It’s a fun little game, but where did you learn how to do that? Is that something all babies know?

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You have a favorite kitchen cabinet. You haven’t gotten inside it as much lately, but you do open it a lot and put many of your things in there, from shoes to books to toys. It seems you’re slowly taking over the apartment. You’ve recently learned how to open the broiler part of the oven, and just two days ago I found two of your toys in there. Does this mean that you don’t like those toys and want to broil them, or is that your way of claiming the oven as your property?

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You also like to wait by the bathroom door whenever someone is in there. Sometimes you knock on or scratch at the door while you wait. Once I got out of the shower and found Gina the Giraffe so thoughtfully placed at the door.

The bathroom has greatly interested you these past few weeks.  You enjoy standing by the tub and marveling at its structure. Or maybe you reminisce about bathtime and plan what you’ll do next time you take a bath. You really do like bathtime, with splashing and fun bath toys and trying to play with the faucet. You don’t like water being poured on your head, but you seem to enjoy the shampooing of your hair and scrubbing of your ridiculously soft skin. And when you’re done with a bath, we carry you in a towel to the futon in your room, and you run and jump around while I try to get your diaper on you.

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This past week your turned on the dishwasher. Like it was no big deal. Like it was a chore you’ve been doing since you were born. Of course the dishwasher wasn’t full, and I had to turn the dial all the way around to turn it off, but I was still impressed. Should I have been? I mean, I didn’t shower you with praise, and when it was actually time to run the dishwasher, I called you over and pointed to the dial and you looked at it and did nothing. Like it wasn’t your turn to do that chore. And you looked at me as if to say to me that I should know how to operate the dishwasher so why am I asking you, a mere baby for help. You watched me turn on the dishwasher and gave me an approving look. I was so proud of myself.

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You are learning how glorious sleep is and are steadily sleeping anywhere from eight to ten hours every night. Of course falling asleep is a different story. You still drift off peacefully in Dadda’s arms as he rocks you, but when he lays you in the crib you wake, realize he’s leaving you alone in a dark room, and cry. But then you understand that on the other side of waking is a brand new day of eating, reading, and play. And you finally fall asleep.

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The other day I noticed you standing and spinning in one place. This morning you’re spinning a lot. It might that your head is full of snot and every time you sneeze it’s like Spiderman spraying a sticky, weblike substance, except it’s from your nose and not your wrists. Or it could be because Dadda and I are on our computers. He’s preparing a Sunday School lesson, and I’m writing about you. It’s a few seconds later, and Dadda’s not on his computer anymore, and now you’re playing contentedly by yourself. Interesting how that works.

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Today, we have church from 1-4pm. Staying for the entire three hours has been very challenging for you, but you do a decent job. You sit through most of the first hour, then I let you walk around and give you a snack for the second hour, and sometimes if I’m feeling especially daring, I’ll take you in to Sunday School for the last 10 minutes. Then Dadda has you for the third hour, during which you two usually go for a drive and you get a much-needed nap.

Church is so important, little one. Even though we don’t spend a lot of time in our classes, it’s important that we go and start forming good habits. Fellowshipping isn’t a problem for you. You approach different people and reach out (literally, and point to them), and either give them a sincere, caring look or a great big smile.

About five weeks ago, Lola was called to be the Relief Society President of her ward. Observe the progression of her texts to me.

January 29:

Hi May, Poppi got me this new phone and I’m learning to text. I also have been called to be a relief society president and I’m scared out of my mind so remember me in your prayer. I love you.

February 1:

Hello May, I was sustained and set apart today. I bore my testimony on how Heavenly Father placed people on our path as an answer to prayers. In this I testify that it is true. A testament that our Heavenly Father loves us and will always be there to help us. I have been thinking of you and your little family and how blessed I am. I love you and thank you for being you.

February 17:

Hi May, just thought of you and how Heavenly Father keeps you close to him. He truly loves you with all the tender heart of a father. So very grateful for that knowledge. Now you are a mommy and you will have a glimpse of that kind of love. I guess what I am saying is … I am so happy to see you have happiness and fulfillment. I love you very much. Mom

In each text increased confidence shows in the words of each message, which also indicates to me increasing faith. She’s a very loving and compassionate woman who supports and encourages everyone around her unconditionally. I know this because I am her daughter, and there were times when I made her very mad or disappointed, but she still hugged me and reminded me of my potential. Right now, she lives in a ward with a lot of aging members and a lot of need, and if anything, my stubbornness helped her to develop patience and longsuffering. She’ll be amazing at her calling. You are very blessed to have such a spiritually strong Lola.

She’s right about being a mama. The glimpse I have of the kind of love Heavenly Father has for us is still beyond what my mind can grasp. My heart feels like it could explode all the time. I’m so very lucky to have your endless affection and generosity. May you never lose that.

So this morning, we’ll get ready for church. I will be at church, even though I’m sneezing and my nose itches constantly. I will also try not to fall asleep, and I will remember the example you’re setting for us. You’ll be at church, and I’m grateful it’s not a place you hate. We’ll tell everyone you’re eleven months old, and even though you’re tired, you’ll toddle around and explore the pews and hymnals. Even though you’re sniffly, you’ll smile. Our little sassy, carefree, and caring spirit, you raise us up.

Leaven.

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Love, Mom

My People from the Land of My Birth

This morning I looked at my newsfeed and out of over 120 articles, 20 of them were about damage or relief or something about the typhoon that struck the Philippines.

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I’ve been thinking about my mom’s family who still live there. Because they’re my mom’s family, they’re also my family, even though I haven’t met very many of them. Aunts, uncles, cousins. I’ve been worrying the past few days if everyone is okay.

The LDS Church issued a statement that all its missionaries serving in the Philippines are accounted for. Definitely good news.

But I’ve been thinking more about the 10,000 or so who are missing or did not survive. This morning I called my mom and asked if she heard anything about her family. Mom lives in Florida, but she spoke with a cousin who keeps in touch more often with our relatives in the Philippines. Mom said that everyone is fine; they live in a more northwestern part and the typhoon did most of its damage in another part of the country.

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Mom said she’s sure her family got a lot of wind and rain, since the typhoon was as big as or bigger than the country itself, but she’s relieved that her family are safe. I’m relieved, too.

One of the things I found encouraging about the headlines above is the clarion call to the world to get moving and help the Filipino citizens. Times like this remind us that we know how to reach out and be good people. These times motivate us to think about humanity and nudge our hearts to beat again, three times bigger.

If I could fly over there and start separating debris and hugging people, I would. I’ll have to find another way. Find your favorite organization, and see what you can do to help.

Keep praying.

Manalangin para sa Pilipinas.

Mom’s Birthday

Do you know my mom? You should. Everyone should. She’s great. She’s been great all her life, and she’ll probably keep being great, because once you’re great, there’s no point in stopping. I don’t think she’d even know how to stop.

This is my mom:

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Super cute, right? I don’t know how old she is in the photo, but I’ll guess late teens or early 20s.

Here’s a photo of mom and me. I like the way she appears to be adoring me:

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But today isn’t about me; it’s about my mom. Today’s my mom’s birthday. She was born in the Philippines in a tiny town in the middle of the 20th century. After 8 siblings. She was 9th out of 10 children total.

I am taller than my mom. This shows how unselfish she is, how she doesn’t have to be at the forefront of every situation. I really admire how my mom knew to stand back and let me be taller.

Just because I’m taller does not mean that I am stronger. My mom has amazing upper body strength. And since she watched a lot of Bruce Lee movies while I was growing up, I know that she can use her compact body to force a thunderous fist to send me crashing through a wall if I ever provoked her. My mom has worked hard her whole life, and the result of that is a wonderful balance of brute strength and endearing gentleness.

My mom also pounded rice when she was a kid. My brother and I attribute most of her strength to this traditional chore. Here is a short video of some villagers pounding rice. I don’t know if this is the way my mom did it. I remember a bowl carved in a log and then the poles you see in the video are used to pound the rice.

Of course she’ll give you what you deserve. She won’t let you walk all over her or disrespect her. She won’t hesitate to lecture you if you’re being a jerk. She’s learning Spanish, and one of her favorite phrases is to tell you to kiss her butt.

And if you deserve a hug, she’ll give you one. If you need a hug, she can tell and will give you one. And even if you don’t feel like you’re doing anything to deserve it, she will raise you with your best interests in mind and make sacrifices so that you can have wonderful opportunities and encourage you in every way to be happy. She will love you with more energy and effort than you think is possible coming from any one person. Which is what she has done for me.

Happy birthday, Mom.

Top 10 List for May’s 2012

I cannot believe this year. So much has happened, and I have only 56 entries to show for it. At least there are fewer blog posts to choose from for the annual countdown.

10. May: No one told me I’d eventually get to play against the BYU quarterback. I joined an intramural kickball team, and tonight was our first game.

9. July: Smartphone apps have a tiny dear place in my heart.  I looked around to see that I wasn’t the only one crying. I loved it.

8. July: This is the year I really got into hiking. And most of it during the season of a broken camera. Thank the Lord for making geology pretty.

7. August: Reilly’s birthday, and first time in New York City. We wondered about Glenn Close.

6. January: Careful to put ego-puffing somewhere in the middle. Being published in an academic, peer-reviewed journal would be a nice touch to my last semester.

5. September: The Oklahoma visit went along with going to NYC. Dad still finds happiness in little things. In simple things.

4. November: What an election year. I’m sorry to the friends I may have pissed off. But,  I spent maybe at least 5 minutes voting/playing with the fancy machine.

3. October: Recap of April’s commencement ceremony. I only slept because my friends who sat by me made me so very comfortable.

2.5. April: Full of transitions and excitement and bending rules for lists of 10.  The past four days have knocked me squarely on my rear. Three flights, up and down, up and down. My things, my books. His things, his books.

2. December: Can we distinguish the source of our tears in December? We talk about future names, but what is the name of our future?

1. June: Well, duh. Mindblowing. Incredible. Fantastic. Amazing. This.

This list doesn’t even include events like Christmas and wedding showers and getting jobs. It’s true that I am often vague in my blog posts, but know that these top 10 entries include the top people in my life. You’re always in my thoughts and prayers. You’ve done so much for my happiness and helped me to become a decent person. Thank you for your support. Thank you especially for your friendship and kindness and generosity, which I know will carry over into the new year and our upcoming and continued lives together.

I wish you all the blessings and happiness you deserve. Nothing less.

Churchery and Blogs I Read

It’s a little weird when someone you don’t know all that well approaches you and says that they’ve been reading your blog. Then they say something about your life that you know you didn’t tell them, which is pretty jarring until you realize that they read it on your blog.

You get to know people through their writing, and you feel a certain closeness to them. They recount experiences that you can relate to. They help you to remember that you’re not alone in this world. Even though you haven’t met them, even though you’re not friends, they understand that parts of life can be especially hard.

I faithfully follow the blogs of two people who have been married for 10 years. On Monday they announced through their blogs (here and here) that they are getting a divorce. Over the years their blogs have shown what a great couple these people are. They’ve expressed love and appreciation for each other, and they’ve written about how they support each other in situations where they have struggled with mental health.

They announced their separation a few months ago, and when they announced their divorce, I couldn’t help feeling a bit of sadness for them. It made me think back to my parents’ divorce, and I guess I felt like lending a little bit of support and sent Dooce an email. Here’s part of it:

I didn’t understand my parents’ divorce when it was happening. They announced their separation in 1997, during my junior year at BYU. Everything finalized sometime in 2002. My mom was an immigrant and worked a minimum-wage job, and my dad’s lawyer somehow convinced him to sue Mom for child support for my then teenage brother. Dad came out looking like the bad guy.

But Dad has always seemed like the bad guy. Navy man. Almost draconian in disciplining us. We were spanked (belts, switches, whatever he could get his hands on), we were afraid of speaking up or forming original thoughts or developing our identities. He never listened, and he was always right. So I guess he felt he didn’t have to listen. The more I thought about it, and the more I talked it through with a therapist, the clearer the reasons for the divorce became.

They say that sometimes divorce works out to everyone’s happiness. Mom has since remarried, and my mental health has greatly improved. But my brother has stopped talking to my heartbroken dad, who has recently developed dementia and now convalesces at a Veterans Affairs place in Oklahoma. (When the house emptied, he moved from my childhood home in Florida to live closer to his sister.) I say “but,” but maybe Dad has found a little soothing in his blurry moments, like white noise or static on a tv screen. And maybe his lucid moments–when he recognizes his sister, when he and I have a good phone conversation–provide a little peace, too.

I see my dad in a different light.

Dad’s dementia has been an interesting extension of my therapy, an added reason to forgive him for the physical, sexual, and mental abuse I received as a child. He never remembered the sexual abuse (two isolated incidents), and I’ve debated confronting him about it for so many years. But now he’ll never remember it again, so why should I keep clutching a hurt that’s healed? When my aunt called with the diagnosis, it was like the tide came in after 25 years, and the sand I was holding in my fists magically washed away. I could finally swim.

Not that the divorce caused Dad’s dementia: causation, correlation, blah-blah-blah. Yet the divorce did seem to allow other events to unfold. And everyone in my family has learned to take varying degrees of charge of their lives. The happiness has been hard to find sometimes, but it has been there for the finding.

Today in church we talked about forgiveness, and one of the points that people kept mentioning was that many people don’t even realize they’ve offended you. They don’t set out to hurt you, but somehow it seems easier to assume maliciousness, so that you can take the high road and forgive. Which seems silly. The most sensible thing is not to take offense in the first place, because you don’t know the lives of those who may have hurt you. The better thing is to try to be more understanding, because forgiveness sometimes is so unbelievably hard.

Then again, if an offense is committed and your feelings are truly hurt, the other people may need your forgiveness as much as you need to forgive. It depends on the situation, I guess. So maybe my point here is not to let the grudge fester. Don’t let your refusal/unwillingness to forgive hinder your ability to see and the best in people, to understand them, to see them in a different light. Forgiveness can bring out the best in us, which is what the Lord always sees.

The happiness is there.

The Year I Didn’t Blog About Christmas

I have nothing new or original to add.

There were quite a few entries prior to this weekend, prior to finals where I mentioned Christmas. It’s been a while.

I didn’t even think about getting people Christmas gifts. Not on purpose.

Won’t my presence be enough. Won’t my company suffice.

I certainly wasn’t expecting anything.

It’s  nice taking classes at BYU; I’ve felt the Spirit more this semester through my professors and the texts than I have in a long time. Not even religion classes I took long ago offered the same experiences that I’ve had the past few months.

That’s because being 18-22 is so different than what I am now.

When my mom came home my first night back in Florida a few days ago, she said something snarky. Not to me, but to someone else, but it was about me. It hurt my feelings, so I snarked back. Hard.

I stayed angry for a little bit.

I’m so glad you’re  here.

Are you really, Mom?

I always feel like a stranger, because I don’t feel at home anywhere.

An appendage, an afterthought, a guest.

This is my fault, though, because I don’t feel like a daughter or much of a friend.

Poor me, right?

What kind of loser do you take me for?

I’m a great daughter and extraordinary friend.

Mom and I stayed up for the next couple of hours. She showed me some wedding photos and her wedding DVD; I showed  her some videos on YouTube, and we talked for a little bit.

She stood up to head off to bed. She hugged me.

I’m so glad you’re here.

Me, too, Mom.

So, what’s everyone else’s problem?

No problem, really; they’re off being awesome, too.

This is Christmas, right?

We know through Christ all things are possible. We know that all the Father has is ours, and we can enjoy it at this very moment.

Carpe diem is part of gaining eternity.

I’ll just sit here with my chocolate cake with peppermint frosting (for breakfast) and cheer you on.

I am happy for you.

I am happy.

Happy Birthday, Mom!

Me: So, you know how old she is?
Boo: Um, [an integer, x,  between 1 and 100]
Me: Ha, did she ever tell you the story of when she looked at her birth certificate one day and discovered she was actually born a year later? So she’s actually [x-1]! (That exclamation point does not indicate factorial.) 
Boo: What? May, you can’t do that. You can’t tell someone they have the wrong answer when they think the information they have is correct. That’s like saying, “Two plus two does not equal four because one of those twos is actually a three.” No, she didn’t tell me that.

But there it is, Mom is a year older today, but a year younger than one would calculate given information from over four or five years ago.  Oh my, every year she’s the same age!

She says it’s raining down there today, so there’s not much to do outside. She really likes spending time at the nearby parks, especially by the river.  A couple weeks ago she saw a manatee family grazing in the St. Johns. She called me and left a message that day. I love manatees.

She did work the bishop’s storehouse this morning, though.

In the rain.

On her birthday.

And she probably had a blast.

Now the internet knows of two secrets that keep her so young. The world should thank her for the grace of her presence among us mortals.

I wish I could spend the day with her.

I miss you, Mom. I’ll see you soon, though.

Happy Birthday!