August 24, 2015

My Brother’s Keeper

As many of us strive in our lives to care for our brothers and sisters around us, there is always a mixed set of emotions. Sometimes our efforts are met with gratitude and love, other times we are scorned, questioned and spurned. It is these times we wonder if our efforts are even worth it. But they are. Because people matter. And people that matter need to know they are loved too.

Years ago (think high school) I remember coming home from work extremely frustrated with a coworker who was rude and at times, unbearable. Most of what they said and did I could ignore, but when it became personal attacks on me and others I struggled with it. Madre and Kell listened to my frustrations and gave me some advice that has stuck with me (one of the many morsels of wisdom I received from them, right up there with “act like to know what you are doing and work hard to figure it out along the way and nobody will question you”). They told me that often the people who are the hardest to love are the ones that need it the most.

This advice is so true. As we are striving to be our “brother’s keeper” and help ease their burdens, lift their hands that hang down, strengthen their feeble knees and heal their hearts, we must remember that at times those hardest to love need it the most. Often they are trying to cope with the struggles of life and the hurtful actions and words are the evidence of that coping mechanism. Love is the answer.

But giving love at times, at least for me, is not easy. It is easy to be bogged down with my own struggles to think I don’t have time to help others. Or be about my busy day and not have time to write that note or sit and listen for a while. What a shame. Because like this experience when I was in high school after some time of showing a little extra love I began to see where my coworker need a boost in life and soon we became fast friends.

Now, we all know someone who is so natural at loving and caring for others. I can think of many people like this whose examples I would love to emulate. Lady Hiva and I have many times been the beneficiaries of these loving examples. One of those is a family dear to our hearts. Both the husband, JQ and the wife, CW are amazing people. Although they have their own burdens and fears to carry, they are the first to jump at an opportunity to serve. (It is so natural to them that they will be embarrassed to know I wrote this).

We met JQ and CW through a program at church. Because the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has only lay ministry, that means the leaders of the congregations have other jobs and responsibilities. Their time  is valuable and limited and caring for all the families in the congregation is nearly impossible. So they enlist others to help. This program is called Home Teaching, not to be confused with Home Schooling. Home Teaching is a functional program when carried out correctly, all families will be assigned a pair of home teachers who will come visit at least once a month, share a spiritual message and be another pair of hands to care for the needs of the family. I have seen some miracles occur as great Home Teachers truly do become their Brother’s keeper. Yet, sadly that is not always the case. People become busy, burdened and do not see it as important. That means chances to serve are missed and lives go unchanged and untouched.

JQ is not one of those people. He was assigned to be our Home Teacher and at a critical time. Coming once a month was not enough for him and he truly became part of our family. As a result CW and their children became part of our family too. JQ was there when Lady Hiva had her high risk pregnancy, often driving an hour to come see us. JQ and CW were there celebrating for us when we adopted Alekia and with Tau’aho was born. It was JQ who left work and showed up on our doorstep minutes after Aleki went back to his birthmother (sad experience) he enveloped us both with hugs and cried with us. It was JQ that we called when we needed help.
Years later JQ and CW and their kids are very much a part of our lives. This last week they were in Utah and called to say hello. They found out we were busy working and even on their holiday and living thousands of miles apart, JQ showed up to be our keeper with words of encouragement and Slurpees to cool us off. He makes a difference in our lives. CW makes a difference in our lives.

We watch them carry their burdens and the strive to lift the burdens of so many around them at the same time. I hope that I can recommit to being a better home teacher, a better friend and most of all find opportunities to be my Brother or Sister’s keeper.

August 13, 2015

Broadway Among the Red Rocks

A few weeks ago Lady Hiva and I decided to try and get a New York fix by traveling to…St. George, UT! In St. George there is the Tuacahn Theatre that is connected to the Tuacahn high school for the arts. Every summer the Tuacahn puts on three different musicals in the open air theatre.

We decided to go to the Tuacahn’s version of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. As we were driving down to St. George and it started to rain! Rain so hard. Now if any of you have been to Southern Utah during August, you know that it doesn’t often rain, nor does it rain hard. This rain was so hard that the wipers would not keep up and there were flash floods everywhere.

We were not sure that we were going even have a show to go to because there was so much rain and as we said before, the theatre is outside. But the clouds opened up and we decided to go buy some jackets. Now we thought rain in Utah’s Dixie was rare…finding jackets was even harder. We had to laugh when we would ask the salespeople where the jackets were and they would look at us as if we had three eyeballs! Luckily, target had a few jackets in the clearance section that just fit—I felt like we were in Frozen there for a minute and found the one store with two jackets that fit perfectly when the random chill comes in.

The Tuacahn theatre is beautiful. The red rock canyon is a V shape that towers over the stage. The bleacher seating going up one wall and facing the other.

The show was fun and because it was outside they had fireworks, animals and plenty of other theatrical flares that you would not have otherwise.We fully enjoyed the experience and wished that we had brought Tau'aho with us. As much as he loves music and lights he would have loved the show. 


August 11, 2015

Tongans in Tents

Gathering for a is too big to all fit in one shot from where I was standing

Summer time is all about reunions and Lady Hiva’s family loves to have them. Every other year they alternate where the reunion is held and the family members from that area “host.”  Past reunions were held in Hawaii, Seattle, California, Australia and this year it was Salt Lake City’s turn to host.   Since we are back here in Utah, that meant we were part of the hosting team.

The different colored shirts represented the Tuifua brothers.  The oldest brother was Asipeli so all his descendents wore green shirts.  All of Feliha'a's descendents (Lady Hiva's grandpa) wore navy blue shirts, Kefus' wore yellow and Ofa's descendents wore light blue.

Hosting for this event means planning for, cooking for, and providing a place to stay for the nearly 200 people that arrive from all over the globe to attend. PHEW! Talk about work. Luckily there are some really organized women in the family who put the entire program together.

Most of Team Asipeli came from Seattle - Seahawks in the house

Can you spot who picked their nose and was deciding whether to eat it or not?

Stop pu'i and turn around already so we can take the photo!

No seriously, turn around!

Finally, she shows her face...

Of course Lady Hiva and I don’t have any camping gear of our own—we don’t even have all our stuff from Istanbul yet (we are literally still living out of suitcases)—so we went to buy a tent and other camping gear for us to use and an extra for one of the visiting families to use. (Lady Hiva’s family made fun of me because I wrote our names on everything we took…but hey, if we spent the money I at least want to get a few years use out of them.

For several weeks leading up to the reunion Lady Hiva practiced a dance called the ma'ulu'ulu with all of the Salt Lake family to perform on the talent show night. That meant we literally spent every day in Provo and every evening somewhere in SLC. Poor Mongoose has had more miles put on her in the last three months than she did the entire other three years she has been part of the family!

And on the first day of the camp it was Lady Hiva’s siblings turn to cook for the masses. So we stayed up late the night before preparing food that would be cooked over a fire. Lady’s sister and her husband even had twelve pigs running around their yard for a
week waiting to become dinner—not something you see in their suburban neighborhood very often.
Cleaning the pigs

This is what Leni's lawn looked like before the pigs.
This is what the pigs did to her lawn.
Hulihuli Chicken

The camp was on the Jordanelle in Heber, UT. It was so beautiful up there. I was almost tempted to tell Lady Hiva maybe we should live in Heber. It was fun to see all of the family come and the noise level of the entire campground raised about 10 notches for the next five days.

We gave hundreds of hugs and kisses. We laughed together, we ate together, cried together, we ate together, we told stories together and ate and ate together. Did I mention we ate? If not, you should know we ate. But I can tell you my very FAVORITE night of food was the one they actually had a fresh green salad! Like real, uncooked leafy vegetables. I was so happy that is all I ate that night! There was never a lack of three or four kinds of meat and late night coco and bread. 

I tried to tell them ducking just made it worse

I guess she was jealous her sister is always taking the spotlight

Two sisters...two VERY different reactions to a photo!

For two of the days we played out on the Jordanelle—trampolines, jet skis, paddle boards and kayaks were enjoyed by all. Of course our little Lucky Dragon loved every minute we spent on the water. If we were not swimming in it, he wanted to go throw rocks into it. Nothing to pass the time like throwing an endless supply of rocks into muddy water!

Mountain wheelchair


They also had several nights of talent show where the different groups of people danced and sang. One night it was Salt Lake City’s turn—you know that dance they have been practicing for weeks—and it started to rain. HARD. Which made it all the more fun. They kept dancing and singing despite not being able to see and having to wipe their faces as they danced (new dance move), and they kept dancing despite shivering with wet and cold and wearing white shirts, and they kept dancing when people came to give money and instead of falling to ground until the end of the performance as normal the soggy money  just stuck to them.
Team Asipeli performing on Talent Show night

You can see the pool of water that is beginning to form before they even start dancing.

It was raining so hard Leni couldn't even keep her eyes open!

The kids were given aluminum pans to use as umbrellas

The highlight of the experience (sarcasm here) was the pouring rain and lightning that was so close it felt like it was going to strike away all our sins at any moment. Lady and I woke up in the middle of the night to add a layer of tarp on our tent so we could stay dry. Luckily, Lucky Dragon slept through it all.

There is nothing like having family to come and enjoy. So here is to another 2 years until we get to reunite in the homeland - Tonga 2017!

Name tags were needed because there were too many names to remember

Game Day - How well do you know your family?  What's the name of the person standing behind the mat?