"Life is change. Growth is optional. Choose wisely."

Monday, May 18, 2015

This Mother's Day

I recently read an article written by a woman my age.  It was about her mom, for her mom.  It was beautiful, and it made me realize that I don't need to write about my mom's death to process it any more.  What I need and long to do is write about her life! I started writing on Mother's Day weekend, and soon realized that what I had to say would be much longer than a blog post - or even 10.  So here it is - just a few words of tribute to my beloved mother, Ruth.

This is my mom when she was a little girl.  I don't know what age she is in this photo, but I think maybe around 10.  I love this for so many reasons.  When I look at this picture, I feel like I'm looking at myself too.

Here she is as a college student - beautiful, ambitious and ready to take on the world!  I never could tire of her vivacious energy or warm smile. 

I think one of the things that made mom so great is that she never tried to fit any mold.  She never fretted about how to be a good mom.  She never sat around reading articles about how to perfectly discipline a child, how to create chore lists, or how to make the perfect birthday party.  In fact, my mom was not a disciplinarian at all.  She never was super organized about chores (or about anything, really), and stressing about a birthday party was the last thing on her mind.  Don’t get me wrong.  Her kids were her life!  We were the very heart beating in her chest!  To me, mom’s genius was that she just lived her life with all the integrity, courage, and gusto she possessed…and it was a lot!  She didn’t stress out constantly about whether things were perfect, and she certainly wasn’t comparing herself to others (frankly, she was too busy to notice what they were doing)!  She just lived well.  We were along for the ride, and what we learned was huge. 
(Me and my mom when I was 4) 

(Me and mom at my wedding - 9 years ago)

Our birthdays were amazing even though she usually threw something together last minute.  She was just so incredibly good at getting 8 million things done at once!  When I turned 5, she made the most perfect Strawberry Shortcake Cake ever.  She didn’t spend the month before trying to figure how to make a perfect cake, she just bought the cake pan from the grocery store and whipped it up like it was no biggie - as though she had worked in a bakery half her life!  She had so much talent for decorating and beautifying, that I’m sure she’d have been a pinterest guru if pinterest were around when she was raising us.  But she would have never had the time for that – or the interest.  There were bigger priorities on her mind than cake tutorials. 
(This is the only picture of that birthday party that I have - I wish I had been looking at the camera or that we could get a better look at the cake, but this was the 80's, people.  Regular moms did not take 300 pictures at every event back then.  Nor did they fancy themselves photographers.  So, I guess it'll do!)

She could whip up a mouth-watering meal in 30 minutes out of scraps…and she often did!  I can’t tell you how many times we’d ask her on the way home from church what was for dinner, and her enthusiastic and cheerful reply would be, “it’s a surprise!”  Amazingly, the surprise was always delicious.  And no matter how hungry she was, she would ALWAYS give us what she had to eat if we wanted it. I know it seems trivial, but this really underscores her generosity.  
(Here mom is baking up a storm, or maybe just modeling a new apron on Christmas Eve a few years ago)

Mom led a purposeful life, full of many meaningful ventures.  She loved her business because her business gave her the opportunity to change lives.  She was all about inspiring people to fulfill their purpose on earth…to live intentionally.  Her intensity and drive to pursue goals gave us the opportunity to do the same.  To me, it seemed like the only normal way to live!  I won’t lie and say how much I loved her being on business calls all the time or having endless meetings.  What I loved most were the times that she wasn’t working…like the week before Christmas when we’d bake cookies and make wreaths and decorate and beautify and play games every night as a family!  

(Mom spending some quality holiday time with Weston and Sophie - 2010 and 2011)

I loved weekends, just like all kids do.  On Saturdays, my brother often had soccer games.  My mom rarely missed any game Mike played in.  Even though it was fun, I was sometimes embarrassed by her excessive enthusiasm and over-involvement.  I can still see her on the side-lines repeatedly shouting, “be aggressive Mike!!”  I’m sure it never occurred to her that the other moms didn’t do that.  Why should it?  I also remember going to the Price Club and watching Star Search on Saturday night.  Those were the days!
 I loved Sundays too because mom NEVER did work on Sunday.  She would play the piano and I would sing hymns (cheesy perhaps, but we loved it)!  We often baked on Sunday, and during the warmer months we’d lay out by the pool and talk and do our nails. 
(Mom and me in Hawaii when I was 9 years old - that trip is a truly sweet memory from my childhood.  I love the way my mom is looking at me in this pic!  I wonder what book I was reading...)

Every time mom prayed, she would thank God for allowing us the privilege of living on the earth at this time.  She seemed to always have uppermost in her mind the importance of preparing for the return of Jesus Christ.  She emphasized that we should never waste anything – not our time, our talents, our intelligence, or our opportunities.  She constantly taught by her actions and words that we should anxiously be engaged in the things that truly matter (learning, serving, working, doing).  I love that about her!  She certainly wasn’t perfect, but you could never say she was lukewarm about anything.  She didn’t let her imperfections prevent her from pressing forward with genuine enthusiasm.  She’d try to improve, but not waste time on regrets.  Her positive attitude permeated our life.  I didn’t fully appreciate these golden traits until I was older.
 (Mom doing business in Europe - it is so like her to take a pic next to some gorgeous flower arrangement!)

 (Proof that mom didn't always work.  Yes, those are UNO cards in her hands!)

It seems that motherhood was effortless for my mom.  Life wasn’t effortless, but lovingly bringing us along for the ride was second nature for her.  All of her pursuits would have felt meaningless without us. She adored and admired us, and seemed to have confidence that we could do anything…which she told us all the time!  No challenge was too great that we couldn’t succeed with flying colors (according to her)!  She would have us help her with business presentations – whenever she could convince us to, anyway.  She once had me fly to Ireland (when I was 19) to do a couple days of business training before she even got there.  I seriously didn’t think I had a clue what to do, but I guess I did well enough, because she seemed pleased with how it all went.  It is impossible to measure how much confidence she instilled in us with her sheer certainty that we were brilliant and could do anything, but I know I want to instill this same confidence in my own children.  I realize now that she saw our weaknesses, but didn’t focus on them. 

(My mother's greatest achievements. How I love this picture of my brother and me!)

Mom was in no way perfect, but for every flaw she had, there were a million ways that she made up for it.  For example, she made huge messes, especially when cooking.  And she usually cooked everything on high because she was in a hurry.  But she never got mad at us when we spilled things or messed something up, or locked her out of her room without a key.  Yeah, I did that once on accident.  She didn’t waste one second being upset with me.  She didn’t ever waste her time getting upset over the mistakes kids are bound to make – even if it meant huge inconvenience or added stress on her.  We never felt that we were a disappointment to her, and we never wanted to.  She loved us so well and esteemed us so highly, that I don’t think either of us could bear the thought of disappointing her.  I know I couldn’t.

 (Me and mom at my high school graduation)

After she passed away, I became quickly and painfully aware that no one else was as proud of me as was she, and if they were, I certainly wasn't going to hear about it on a daily basis!  Her encouragement didn't make me arrogant.  It made me feel loved and capable.  I am still surrounded by people that love me and are kind to me, but I sure miss the lady who knew my weakest spots and still believed in me one hundred percent of the time without reservation.  I am pretty sure this quality she possessed to truly believe in others is the reason that at least 15 different people told me after she died that she was their best friend.  She made everyone feel amazing, important, glorious.  The truth is, she believed that they were!

 (My mom with her dad, on the day my grandpa and grandma remarried each other (I was 12).  I found a letter recently that my mom had written me when he died (I was on my mission at the time)...she talked of how much she would miss his frequent phone calls, enthusiasm, and constant encouragement.  I know the feeling, mom!)

She especially could think no evil of her children, or so it seemed.  I am not sure really how this fierce conviction in our absolute goodness didn't produce conceited, ridiculous humans, but I think it had to do with something deeper.  She didn't think we were perfect, but she had an amazing way of reminding us of who we were and of what we were capable.  Once, when I was wasting my time hanging out with a boyfriend on a Sunday, not really feeling like going to church, she responded in a genius way that I'm sure she never thought twice was the only way she would ever think to respond in a situation like that.  Instead of lecturing us or trying to force us in any way to get our butts to church, she simply asked, "Are you two noble spirits going to church today?"  She was so sincere and earnest in her praise of our noble nature, it was nearly impossible to resist the invitation!  And that was her way.
(Mom was always an affectionate person...and she certainly was never too busy or preoccupied to 
snuggle with one of her grand kids!)

(My mom with her lovely mom a few years ago.)

This Mother’s day, I am strengthening my resolve to be more like my mom - to love my kids more perfectly, to encourage them more continuously, and to choose patience over regret.  I won’t waste time obsessing about my imperfections; instead, I will push forward with gratitude for the opportunities that each new day brings. 
I love you, mom!!!!


Lori said...

You write so beautifully! This is a tribute that any mom would be honored to receive. You are a lucky girl to have had her in your life...and she was a lucky girl to have you as a daughter. What a great team!

Le'o Hafoka said...

Such a beautiful, loving tribute to your mom!! Thank you for sharing this hermanita!! I'm sure it brought so much joy to your mom!! I know you are an amazing mom and your kids are so blessed to be a part of this legacy Ruth has left behind!!! Love you hermana!!

Unknown said...

This is a very heartfelt and wonderful tribute to Ruth. She made friends, and kept them too, because of her non-critical nature! I think she knew a loving and non-critical Father in heaven and his Son. It is so true that she did not focus on the negative, and always looked for solutions.