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

Archive for the ‘my parents’ Category

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.

before & after (part 4)

Our Journey to Marriage

In honor of MM birthday today, I wanted to put up another post about us.  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

Let’s jump ahead to May…I think it was May first (sorry honey, don’t get mad, I may have forgotten the date).  We were in the habit of calling each other in the mornings.  Me to wake him up and make sure he was on his way to work (3:30am) and then he calling me to get me up and out of bed at 5:30am.  Sappy, I know…

When he called me he didn’t sound like he was at work in one of his trucks.  I wanted to not think much of it, but I did.  Wondering why he wasn’t at work and what he was doing, but I didn’t ask.

Around 11:00am, MM shows up at my work AGAIN!  This time I did a double take…he was bald, no hair.  OMG!  I don’t think I had ever seen him without hair.  Today his hands were full again… white roses in one hand (this was now his signature flower for me…not red…not pink…but white) and in his other …the to’oto’o (first time readers…did you think you could go ahead and read without catching up first? Think again… you have no idea what I’m talking about right?…go on, we will still be here when you are finished.  From what others have been saying, it is worth the read).

The divorce was final…he had come straight from the courthouse…and all dressed up too!  We went and had lunch outside and told me why he shaved his head.  Turns out that when something major has happened, or is about to happen, he shaves his head.  It is a statement he is making to himself (and now to others who know him) of a new beginning.  Did I every mention that he likes the shock effect?  You know, when people do that double take? Or the mouth drops open? This is a goal in his life.  To do this as much as often to others. The shaved head is merely one of the ways he does just that.  ”What The ?????!!!!!!” Oh yes, he’s now happy.

He asked me if I could take an extended lunch…of course!  He wanted to go to my parents house who didn’t live very far away and tell them (okay… I did day that I was going to be honest in this blog.  It was me… I WANTED TO TELL THEM!, but he knew that would be happening, he was prepared and wanted to).  Talk about guts! He was not afraid of my dad whatsoever.  When we arrived he took my dad outside and explained to him his intentions (or so I found out later).  His intentions to pursue me and that he wanted my dad’s blessing to do so.  Twist his arm!  My parents really liked him.

It was after THIS day that he OFFICIALLY asked me out on our FIRST DATE (first-time readers… are you still here and haven’t read the other posts…come on! Go do it NOW! It’s so much better that way and I will thank you….).  A nice romantic dinner at a high-end restaurant (we are not “high-enders” but we like a really good meal and were disappointed).  While we were disappointed in the food, that didn’t stop us from having a good time.

We also had the pleasure of having a birthday party for the friend who introduced us and used this opportunity to “share/announce/tell the world” that we were “dating”!  Sort of felt like high-school days and here I am in my mid-30s.  I didn’t care. I was happy to finally let others know he was taken…and he was MINE!

The next year MM had personal milestone dates as he pursued me.  When we would hit a date he would tell me about the date and what it’s purpose was (I never knew before the date what his next “phase” was).  This is where things got pretty personal for us and so I will spare us from sharing those with you.  Yes, spare us…I will tell you they involved our first kiss, setting physical boundaries for being intimate (notice it is listed after we had our first kiss, yes that was intentional!), meeting with our pastor (maybe that should have been before our first kiss…doh!), MM meeting with his mentor, as well as a few other things.  This was MM’s way of keeping him accountable and on track without jumping ahead too quickly.

Stay tuned for Part 5…yes…the final installment.  It will be posted tomorrow as tomorrow is a very memorable day for us.  Be prepared for it to be a long one too.  You might want to grab a box of tissue to have handy.  You cannot say I didn’t warn you.

MM: this one’s for you babe.  I am thrilled that you chose me…that you are still mine and always will be.  That the fue & to’oto’o finally were able to be brought together and have since that day, never been separated again.  I am blessed that God brought you into this world.  I pray that this year you learn to fear God so that you might experience true joy.  Thank you for your life.

Asking for help is humbling (Part 3 & 4) and Weekly FFPMoMent mixed in

I’ve been getting quite a few messages from friends about “the yard looking great!” That’s funny cause you haven’t seen it yet!  So, here’s the update you have all been waiting for… we finally have SOD!  Now I thought I was done with watching the clock to make sure my daughter was getting enough food, but no.  Now I have to watch the clock and set the timer to make sure my sod has enough water.  Never thought my day would revolved around having to water my lawn!  Oh well, it’s only for the first two weeks.

Here is a short synopsis of Tuesday & Wednesday’s activities

Dad taking water break (isn’t that hat awesome?!)
Father/Daughter working side by side. Still finding rocks.

Things were going great on Tuesday. Dad took care of roto-tilling the ground.  Found water tubing that was for what and going where…we have no idea.  Cut up a bunch of roots for the aspen.  That’s okay they are pretty hearty trees and it won’t damage it at all.  Talk about a root structure!  All I can say is that we found rocks…rocks… and more rocks… Plus we found a few hidden treasures.  Here is one of them:

How old do you think this car is? 

Things were moving right along…however a word to the wise: Plan two days to lay sod. One day to prep the dirt and one day to pick up the sod and place it.  I had only about 300 square feet, but still two days would have been better than the rush to complete it in one day.  Well, we were forced into two days regardless.  Everything came to a screeching halt.  Did you hear the breaks?

Here’s your FFPMoMent for the week.  Have a second person measure the space.  You just might have gotten it wrong.  Yes, I got it wrong.  We were short about 10 rolls.

not quite finished…

So, finally, on Wednesday Mom and Dad returned to help me complete the job.  After picking up 10 more rolls we got to work doing the final trimming around the edges and it was a perfect fit!  I never could have gotten close to finishing this project if it were not for my friends who helped prep the area and for my dad’s servant heart for his daughter.  Not to leave out my mother who watch Pule during this entire process!

So without further delay… here are your before and after shots.  I look forward to sending more photos once Pule has had a chance to play on it

From the other side of the lawn

Did you see it? The next project?  It’s in one of the above pictures…Let’s see your guesses…Need a clue? Don’t forget we have these guys

Oh, and if you have been encouraged in some way or another by my blog, would you consider voting for me? I am on the Top 25 faith blogs by moms.  Voting is through June 8th. Here is a direct link to my page to vote. Thanks!

Yet-to-be-named Pule update

Baby Pule
Each day you continue to amaze me. Your father and I love watching you grow stronger and stronger each day.  When you fall down, or hit your head you pick yourself up so quickly and recover with grace. When we are with groups of people everyone comments on how well behaved you are.  You are at a phase of life where everyday you discover something new: a facial expression, new taste, new feelings between your fingers or toes, watching something flying by, making a new dance move.

Meeting Bo, May 2011

  • We also had the opportunity to visit friends of ours who welcomed a foul into their family.  He is a beautiful baby that is all legs right now.  He was born with a beautiful white heart-shaped batch of fur.  Our friend who delivered her was home alone at the time so she was very grateful once she saw his head, and to see the white patch of fur in the shape of a heart made it all worth-while.  After some nudging he came over to say hello to you.  I think you made a new friend.
  • It’s spring and that means moth season. You are fascinated by these flying creatures.  I am doing my best to keep them out of the house, but a few find their way of sneaking in.  When you typically throw a tantrum while I change your diaper, I welcome the stray moth that keeps you focused away from what I am doing. You two seem to have your own form of communication.
  • Last week while I took you to visit your Nana and Papa, you discovered flashlights.  While you love to look at the light, you are not grasping the concept that the object in your hand is what is making the light.  So as you were moving it around the room you were more focused on the light and not what was in your hand.  Once the light was on the floor it ended up in between your legs and behind you.  Your eyes followed the light and you bent over to chase it, only to find you almost did a somersault!  Really wish I had my phone or flip video taping you.  
  • Your desire to dance has increased much this past week.  Before you would bounce your knees a bit or twist your little butt, but now you move everything, including your feet.  While you were with Nana I got a text that you were dancing throughout the house to one of our favorite CDs! It brought a smile to my face.  You also stop and dance in your chair or wherever you might be when you hear a beat on the TV or radio.  Your daddy has been waiting for this very thing.  He loves to dance and looks forward to his first dance with you (well, you have danced with him already, but it was before you were walking- I don’t think that counts).
I’m looking forward to discoveries this week as we will be fixing our deck so it is safer for you to be on it, as well as putting down sod. This past week you had your first experience with grass. You have gotten so good at walking on cement, small rocks & dirt.  While you enjoy it, MaMMa doesn’t enjoy how dirty you are getting. I think you will have so much more fun on the grass & when it gets warmer in your baby pool!
I love you my Pule. Thank you for bringing me joy each morning with your warm hugs and lickin’ good kisses. Parenting by grace alone,

The Scent of a Woman

Yesterday was my Mother’s Birthday.  I was hoping to post this yesterday, but due to a series of unfortunate events (more on that in another post tomorrow) I just ran out of time.

Grown up I had the blessing of parents who wanted to be involved in my life, and that of my sister’s.  If we wanted to spend time with our friends they were usually always invited over to our home.  Little did I know that my parent’s intention was to KNOW my friends and be involved. This worked out well.  My friends enjoyed coming over to my home as they were always very comfortable.  Even while I attended college, which was only 30 minutes from home.  Friends & roommates would spend holiday weekends and vacations in our home.

Out of these relationships with my friends, my parents also established relationships.  Even today they are in touch with them.  When we have the opportunity to be at the same gathering for weddings, birthdays, and various events, it is inevitible that a couple of my friends will come up to me and say: “It was so good to see your parents.”  Followed by: “your mom still smells the same! I love it.” Or: “I always feel so good after giving your mom a hug.”  Seriously?  Kind of sounds strange huh?  Do you wear perfume?  Is it one you have worn for 30+ years, or will wear for 30+ more years?

My mom’s perfume of choice, and only perfume she has worn (that I know of) is Chanel Cristalle.  Just about every year for Christmas my dad will buy her a new bottle. She uses just the right amount that gives her a scent, not a smell (do you know what I mean?).  It is never a cloud that follows her, rather you can only smell it when you give her a hug.

Scents can stir up memories.  Good memories and bad.  When my friends of 25+ years give my mom a hug they have memories of comfort and friendship.  ”Your mom always smells so good”.  I love hearing that.  I don’t wear perfume much at all.  Sometimes for special events.  I have no idea how long I have had my one bottle of perfume so I should probably check the expiration date!  What I have started wearing is natural scents. Sprays with essential oils.  Right now it is lavender (even though I am not into flowery scents, I love lavender).

I know what my mother’s scent is and it does bring many fond memories.  Even memories that are not ones I want to remember, however those are followed by comfort as my mother is an incredible comforter. I hope I am the same for my Pule.  I want to stir up loving & comforting memories for her and even her friends…even if it from something so simple as my scent.

I love you mom.  Happy Happy Birthday.  Thank you for being consistent not only with your Cristalle, but also with your love.  I celebrate you.  Because of you I have life as does Pule.

Do you wear a scent? Do you have a similar story in which someone close to you wears a scent that stirs up memories?