Embracing the challenges & blessings of a blended & bicultural Samoan family

Archive for July 2011

FFPMoMent Fridays- Prioritizing

FFPMoMent Fridays- Prioritizing

Do you blog? Maybe you can relate (although even non-bloggers slip behind sometimes too)?

  • Over 750+ unread blog posts
  • 16 days since my last post
  • time just slipping through your fingers
Today I am a FFPBloGGer.  Have you ever felt that way?  I have only been blogging for a few months (since March 2011) and while I feel like I have let down my readers, I know I am not to label myself as a failure.  This might have been something I would have done years ago, but not today.
I have learned how to prioritize (well, sometimes as this is a work in process…will be for the rest of my life).
  • My family had some urgent things come up which needed to be addressed
  • a trip with my Pule & MM to visit my in-laws(it was far from a vacation, so we will leave it labeled as a trip, and MM agrees to this)
  • a new client for my WFH business
  • weekend-filled events giving no room to recover, thus the evenings were for that
  • designing a new blog (yes, I have still managed to squeeze my blog in somewhere, you just cannot see it yet)
With blogging being so new, yet something I LOVE, it just had to go further down the list.  So, now that I am playing some catch up (and I have my own way of doing it)…how do you catch up from blogging (writing & reading)?
  • Do you gradually work your way through all the blogs you haven’t read so you can mark them as read?
  • Just scratch everything so your list is at 0 (oh…so tempting!)
  • find the blogs that are your favorites, or personal friends which need/should be read and just go to those marking all the others as read?
  • other?
  • Apologize to your readers while promising next time you will take a scheduled blogcation?
  • write as though you never missed a beat
  • make a plan so that you can take time away without anyone noticing (hmmmm, sounds like some planning needs to happen, but what about those posts that are “weekly”, thus relying on current information?)
  • Allow yourself to be human and not over-compensate, or “guilty” of letting people down
what are your thoughts?  Do you have problems prioritizing or walking around with “guilt” sitting on your shoulder?
Salt Lake City “trip” July 2011
I love blogging and am looking forward to picking up where I left off on some things, while also putting to keyboard much in my head (being served before serving,  The wedding & after, how to make MM…and my…favorite Samoan dessert, what to way to a runaway teen, and the much anticipated Pule updates!  Help!!!! I still need some name ideas… I am winding it down though.
It feels so good to be “back” and I hope you missed me as much as I missed writing to you.  I’m looking forward to stopping by and saying hi on your blog too…if you have one that I follow :) .  For now, here is MM favorite picture from our “trip”

The calling of motherhood…not for me (initially)

I’ve gone through the phases.  10+ years ago I really wanted children.  I was in a relationship with someone who had 6 children, although they didn’t live with him.  I was surrounded by a few families that all had young children and babies.

I really wanted one, but I also really wanted a husband.  They went hand in hand (in my mind at the time).  Have you been there?  Thinking your life would be complete if you had a spouse and a baby?  Or maybe if you had the right job and making more money?  Whatever place we are not currently in seems to be better.

That’s where I was at.


Have a family

I would then be happy

Until the bomb dropped and the man I thought I was going to marry changed his mind….about many things, or depending on what you want to think, lied from the very beginning.  I personally think he was lying to himself.  No matter.

It took me a few years, but after time alone and time with my First Love, I came to realize that my independence was a gift in and of itself.  I surrendered the thought of being a wife and a mom. This was not an easy process and not said lightly at all.  Even if I was a wife, would I be able to be a mother? Was it physically possible? One never knows until it is time to know or not.  What I knew was that I needed to embrace my life today, now, the gifts I was given and not strive towards something that was not yet part of God’s plan (you know that issue of control is such a bugger…)

And yes, usually when things become clear and we are in the right place, things begin to fall into place.  I met my man, the one God planned for me to spend the rest of my life with.  But after all this time, I was now at a place I was surprised to be at:

I didn’t want to be a mom.

Not everyone is called to be a mother or a father.  The white-picket fence, 2.5 children, 3 pets, suburbia life is not for everyone.  I am glad for that.

Why did I feel this way? Why didn’t I want to be a mother?  I was quite selfish when it came right down to it. I had been independent for for 36 years of my life, been waiting to share my life with a husband for 36 years…let’s spend the rest of our lives together and discover what God’s plan is for us.  To be responsible for a child and the demands it would require did not interest me.

Things change…God changes us…your spouse can also change you.  Are you open to be changed?  I tried to be.  I hope I live every day with the desire to be changed.  Sometimes we are not YET in a place ready for what is next.

I cannot really tell you what happened, how it happened or what was different, except that I walk through life trusting God to direct me.

MM and I knew we were not going to discuss having children till after we had passed the one year mark of our marriage.  He knew how I felt and I knew what he wanted (12 children if he could!).  We respected each other’s desire and had discussed it prior to being engaged.  This was no surprise.  We also knew we would both be at the same place when the time was right.  There would be no need for persuasion from either one of us. That time came, the discussion happened and we were mutual with the decision.  Trust God.  Stop the birth control (thus my control, however God is bigger than birth control!) and allow God to do His work.  What was His plan?  And How do I deal with the guilt I was feeling when friends of mine struggle with not being able to have children themselves?  I write more about that here in I Take Joy

I would be okay if God wanted me to be a mother.  I didn’t despise the idea by any means.

You know by now that I am a mother to an incredible 15 month old daughter, Pule.  God is much bigger than anything we could ever understand or dream up.  I still don’t know what my calling looks like as a mother, however I am fully embracing this responsibility and joy that God has blessed us with.  Our Pule is our daughter, however she is God’s Child first.

My blog is not a place for me to step on a soap box and preach the gospel, but I do intend to share God’s role in my life with the hope it might encourage you somehow.  When have you trusted God in a way that has changed your life?  Or, share a situation where you have let go of your control to see what would happen?  I would enjoy reading your story too.

All you pinners out there…I’ve got a community board, Pinned there, done that, you might be interested in participating.  Come over an join us!>

Yet-to-be-named Pule update

Wow…things are just busy! It’s not my summer making me busy, but everyone else’s summer that is crazy!

Also given the fact that there are some personal things happening in our lives right now that are taking up a good chunk of time and emotion.

While I had a few moments, I wanted to write a quickie for our Pule.

Our little girl who’s three dimples pop out when she grins from ear to ear,

These past two weeks have been a whirlwind for our family.  You have been a trooper.  But I will be honest, I have struggled.  We are in the middle of a phase (I say middle to be optimistic, but it might very well be just the beginning!) where communication is our greatest challenge.  I know, I know…all you more experienced mothers out there thinking “girl, you just wait!”.  I know that communication with my child will be on-going for the rest of our lives, but the challenge today is what I am dealing with.

I long for the day when

  • you will respond to me when I call with “yes MaMMa?”
  • I talk to you and need to correct you that you will look me in the eye instead of hurling yourself backwards into a fit
  • you are upset with me for something and are able to tell me what it is instead of slapping me or scratching me in the face
  • “yes” will be added to your vocabulary
Yes, this list may not be significant to you, my fellow readers, however between me and my daughter, it is the world right now.
While we may be challenged with our communication and independence, we are also so proud when
  • you hold our hands to pray with us before each meal
  • it is time to brush your teeth and you patiently sit on the counter while I run the toothbrush back and forth
  • you sign “more” instead of shout and point for “more food!”
  • you quietly go to bed and take your naps
  • dad comes home and you run out to meet him
  • when Nana and Papa come to visit and you eagerly wait by the door to watch for their van to pull up
  • we stay out till 11:30 on July 4th to watch the fireworks with friends and you steal the show
  • you warm up to family and friends visiting
  • we try out the swing for the first time. You didn’t love it, nor did you hate it either.
  • you blow kisses
Our beautiful Pule, we love you more than words can say, more than our eyes can express, more than our hands can hold. We also know that God has entrusted you to us. You are not ours alone.  You are God’s child. We pray and hope that our day to day, minute by minute decisions are the best for you and are what God wants us to do for you. That is our desire.  You are our gift from Him.  One day we hope you will understand this, and in turn understand how that is our expression of love to you.

Five minute Friday…that’s all I’ve got, but I’m GRATEFUL!

Five minute Friday...that's all I've got, but I'm GRATEFUL!

I usually have my own Friday meme: FFPMoMent Fridays.  However this week has been A WEEK.  I have not posted since Sunday.  I’m glad for those of you following the Before and After Series, as I was able to get through the cliff hanger stories.  Had I not, you would have been waiting a long time!  If you are interested in those here are the links:
Part 1
Part 2

Part 3
Part 4
Part 5

I don’t have but a little more than 5 minutes so I thought I would do the Friday meme over at The Gypsy Mama.

Here’s what you do:

1. Write for 5 minutes flat with no editing, tweaking or self critiquing.
2. Link back here and invite others to join in {you can grab the button code in my right side bar}
3. Go and tell the person who linked up before you what their words meant to you. Every writer longs to feel heard.
OK, are you ready? Give me your best five minutes for the prompt: GRATEFUL
Want to link up? Here’s here to link on up…
Ready…set…hold on, what was I thinking about?  Oh yes…Grateful…GO
Friday, so grateful this week is over. While Monday was July 4th, and such a wonderful day to celebrate our Freedom, I am just exhausted….I have gotten behind in work (now officially caught up!), behind in my blog (not really caught up, but that’s ok), behind in reading other blogs (yes, that would be 220+ in my reader), I think my daughter still loves me, I know MM still loves me, am hoping to see my family again soon.  However, I am so grateful for Monday and what it represents to our country.  I am also so grateful that tomorrow one of my dearest friends (and roommate of 6+ years) will be coming to visit with her husband for a while.  It has been too long.  Grateful for our Saturday mornings where we would sip coffee and eat our cinnamon rolls while catching up from the previous week…hopeful to catch a few Friends repeats.  Grateful that we have both found the loves of our lives and we get to share that with each other. Grateful for the friend who introduced us a LONG TIME AGO and we get to now celebrate her happy marriage with all of us together on Sunday for dinner. How awesome is that?  I am so grateful for my freedom and that on Monday we celebrated with friends visiting from Peru where one of them saw their very first baseball game.  And fireworks to boot!  I am NOT grateful for the fall I took down the stairs while walking to our front row seats. Am grateful that MM was carrying Pule and not ME!  Grateful for the man who reached out to stop me so it wasn’t a.l.l. t.h.e. w.a.y….d…o…w…n.  STOP. yep, honest to God, that was 5 minutes!
Your turn to try. Have fun…I liked doing that. Especially when you only have about 10 minutes to write! Gotta run….MM on his way home and I don’t have Pule prepped to meet him in the driveway.
Hoping to have more for you next week.  And hoping you will hear from me on your blogs soon too!

before & after (part 5)

Ok, I know… I’m sorry.  I promised this post yesterday and I failed you.  Honestly, I didn’t have it in me to write it yesterday, added with the fact that I was not home and didn’t have access to the photos.  Hopefully it is worth the wait though…

I will warn you.  This is going to be a lengthy post.  If you skip to the end (which is the best part) I understand, but the story behind ending is part of the bigger story.

If this is your first time visiting FFPMaMMa, then welcome!  I’m so glad you are here and hope you make yourself at home.  I am currently in the middle of telling the story of MM (hubby) & me.  How we met, dated, engaged, and all the in between stuff. If you would like to catch up you can do so here:

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

Fast forward just over a year…

July 2, 2007
Walking through the freezer section of the grocery store.  I was gathering groceries for my Monday evening dinner date with a friend. You know, there are moments that happen in your life and you remember exactly where you were when it happens.

I couldn’t understand him at first and I said “what”?

“He’s dead!  My brother is dead!”


I don’t remember what I said next.  I just took off…the groceries ended up on some floor display in the store.

I remember him saying something about him waking up dead.  I made sure someone was with him so I didn’t keep him on the phone

I was about 15 minutes from his house and in that time I made two phone calls.  Through my own garbled voice and without any information I called my sister and mom “please pray and I’ll call when I know more” was all that I could fumble out.

What do you say? What do you do?  I prayed myself while doing my best to keep my eyes on the road.  ”Lord, give me words, strength and discernment to know what MM needs”.

Thankfully we have incredible friends who stepped in and were able to help me in knowing what he needed.  People came over to make food & clean the house.  MM just needed me near, knowing I was there, holding his hand and allowing myself to mourn as well.

Just the previous April I had the incredible pleasure of visiting MM’s brother “AP” in Snowmass, CO.  Every year Snowmass hosts the National Disabled Veterans Winter Sport’s Clinic. An amazing site to see disabled  men and women skiing down the mountain with volunteer guides.

AP had suffered injuries from an IED a few years before.  Lost many of his men in the explosion.  After numerous surgeries, his injury that crippled him the most was the PTSD.  Severely.  He would have horrible dreams night as well as episodes of confusing reality with past situations.  A situation where he was not comfortable with his mom coming to visit him.  He never knew if he might cause her harm at night.

I remember phone calls MM would have with him.  I would usually be able to tell what was going on as MM would slip between speaking in Samoan and English.  AP was usually more comfortable speaking in English as that was his day to day language and seemed to be easier for him.

“he just didn’t wake up this morning” MM told me.

AP was currently at one of the VA hospitals in CA.  He would be admitted off and on depending on how he was doing.  He had just been arrested due to confusing a middle eastern taxi driver with the Taliban he had encountered overseas.  He was released to the authority of the VA staff for further treatment.  Usually he would meet up with the nurses to work on his physical therapy and when he neglected to show up that morning they went in to check on him.  No pulse.  Once we finally received the autopsy from the coroner it stated that he had died from an enlarged heart.  And oddly enough, it was not until a year later it was stated he died as a casualty of war.

10 short days away was our upcoming visit to CA to visit with him again.  That trip was now sped up for us to leave only 3 days after the 2nd.  There was going to be a lot of paperwork and details to take care of.  The rest of the family was in UT.

This was going to be my plunge into the Samoan culture of burring the dead, as well as the US Military and the incredible detail of honoring family who have fallen.

I did some research before I left so that I would have some idea what to expect, but it really didn’t offer too much help.  I knew that there would be specific gifts given and monetary donations to cover the costs.  Yes, the military was covering the burial costs and all that, however with the Samoan culture things are a bit different.

People come to pay their respects over about a week’s period of time.  If an appointed Chief or Elder is not present, then usually the eldest male family member takes charge of all the event planning and authoritative decisions.  The pastor and church family are invited one evening to pay their respects as well as other family and friends.  Every night the house was full and meals were served.  The main gathering place in the home is cleared of most furniture and the floor is covered with “fine mats”.  The women cooked during the day while the children would serve everyone in the evening.

When people came to visit there were specific gifts brought and that would usually include money and a fine mat to present to the family.  Depending on the family presenting the fine mat, it would be received and possibly would be returned.  This is all out of respect.  The family in mourning would keep some mats to be given as gifts.  Gifts to the pastor, friends and family who sacrificed time and money. When a fine mat is presented as a gift it is usually from a previous event and thus they continue to be passed around.  To me this represents the tight community that the Samoan people represent.

During our time in UT, MM would bring the family together for an evening meeting.  Discussing the next day’s activities, who would be visiting, and a time to read scripture.  The children would serve us and then come and join us.  I will be honest, learning to sit and be served by the children was probably my most difficult thing to get used to.  I slowly began to understand that this was how traditions were passed down to the next generation.  The youngest one learning was about 5.  If the children were too young to help they were kept downstairs and watched by a few of the youth.  Keep in mind that I am talking about 15 kids here.  As one learned and grew, they would then help the younger ones learn.  Pretty amazing really.

There is so much detail that I could include in this post, but for time’s sake as well as your eyes, I will cut it short and allow the photos to tell the story…

This is a series of pictures prior to the funeral service

The day prior when AP was delivered to the church from the street for the viewing, there were no police blocking the street where the hertz was parked and blocking a lane.  AP’s death was getting media attention. A pedestrian, who was also a veteran, called into Salt Lake City mayor’s office complaining that there was no respect for a fallen soldier by not providing someone directing traffic.  The day of the funeral we saw 12 police motorcycles parked in the middle of the street and one parked behind the hertz prepared to direct traffic when he was brought out of the church and loaded back into the hertz.  Amazing what one phone call can make. The 12 police motorcycles also escorted 30+ vehicles approximately 25 miles to the burial site

One challenge I was assigned to was video taping as much of the week as possible.  This included the first viewing when he was brought from CA to UT for the family…with the open casket.  For me personally I have always struggled with an open casket ceremony.  To top it off having to video tape it and catch photos with the family and AP was very uncomfortable for me.  I explained to MM that I thought this was intrusive and he had to explain to me that this was very normal.  Their way of capturing final pictures & moments with their loved one.

I have lost a few loved ones.  Ones close to me.  I’m used to meals being provided, condolence cards received, possibly a viewing, the funeral then a reception following.  However, having a week long morning till evening of food preparation and visitors in and out of the house as well as 3 different ceremonies was a lot for me to take in.  Included, most of it all was in Samoan.  I wish I could say that I am so glad to have experienced this cultural opportunity, but that is not true.  I greatly appreciated the experience I had, but I would take knowing AP over that experience.  Since then I have visited 3 other Samoan funerals, I’m well acquainted now, thank you very much.

Now for the story you are all waiting for…I know you thought you had read enough, but I think you will understand that this experience played a very large role in the next event.  And who to better tell it that my own beloved MM.  He wrote this for a book a friend of mine put together for us.  The only editing I have done is adjust the names.

The original plan was to POP the question to Leah on Thanksgiving Day of 2007, if and when I receive Mike’s (Leah’s dad) approval, permission, and blessings.  

But because God called my dearest brother USMC SSG “AP” to come home, I had to adjust and change plans. I stop thinking about what’s next in regards to my relationship with Leah. Now I have to take care of business in hand.  My brother died the week before I planned to tell him about asking Leah for hand in marriage and I wanted him to be my Best Man in my wedding, but unfortunately it did not happen.  

I prayed and prayed and prayed to God to use this unfortunate circumstance to reach out to my family and friends, especially my daughter “BH” and my nieces. In the midst of celebrating my brother’s life, God revealed a plan within me. 

The day after we place my brother in his resting place, Saturday July 14th 2007, I asked my sister  that I needed her help with my plan. I told her my original plan about asking Leah’s hand in marriage and about our brother’s involvement. Now the challenge was to go shopping without Leah. So I told Leah I need to spend some private time with my sisters and that we will be back, and of course it work. Sulu and Maggie went with me. 

Later in the evening, everyone was told to be at my Mom’s apartment for prayer and dinner.   I then picked up Leah from the hotel and drove to my Mom’s apartment. When we got there I again told Leah that Sulu, I, and the girls (daughter and nieces) have to leave to pick some stuff up and we’ll be back. I notice the disapproving look and disappointing body language from Leah ,but it did not change anything. (I was praying for God’s help through out all this). (Leah’s comments: I was told we were going to have dinner, but come to find out everyone else already had. Then Maea decides to mention that he has to run an errand TONIGHT with Sulu, so dinner will have to wait.)  

After we picked up the ring, I called Mike and asked for his permission and blessings for Leah’s hand in marriage. I explained that I did not want to have this conversation on the phone, but since this a rare occasion that my family are all together in one place, I wanted to take advantage of the opportunity presented to me. Mike shared and expressed his emotions and most important to me was that he approved. 

On our way back to the apartment we made a stop at Starbuck’s and did not buy Leah a drink on purpose.  (Leah: everyone else in the car got one!) Leah was HOT with me when we got back but she did not lose her composer. (Leah: By now it is close to 9:00 pm and I have been WAITING PATIENTLY for Maea so we can have dinner.) 

We then gathered in the living room with Leah and I sitting on chairs while everyone else were on the floor. I then led our prayer meeting with the hymn “It is well” in Samoan version. Afterward, I acknowledge everyone for their help and how they handle themselves by smiling and celebrating AP’s life.  I also acknowledge the support , love, prayers of friends and families who were not with us. 

Especially Leah’s parents & sister’s family. I then acknowledge Leah with all she has done for me and my family. Words can not express how grateful and thankful I am to God because of Leah. She is a blessing to me from God. 

In front of my mom, sisters, cousin and her husband, nieces and nephews, and my dearest daughter “BH”, I got down on my knees and ask her “Will you be my wife?” and Leah responded with tears “What did my DAD say?” …yup…that was her response…I did not tell her what DAD said but I just said, “What do you think?”  (By this time everyone was yelling…”Well, what’s your answer?”) Leah then said with confidence and tears….YES!

Yep, you read that correct.  I asked what my dad said first.