hugmamma,m.d.

Here’s a bit of medical trivia. Just to set the record straight, I’ve returned to self-diagnosing my condition of a few days ago. Given my very close proximity to the patient, whose symptoms I’ve watched with extreme interest, it seems, in my “expert” opinion that I’ve been suffering from symptoms of “dry mouth.” Referring to my copy of  “The Merck Manual of Patient Symptoms”, it seems likely that my dry eyes, dry skin, rash on my eyelid and neck, and decrease in saliva may be owing to “dry mouth.” In my case it is probably due in large part to Claritin, an antihistamine I’ve been taking for a couple of months to combat allergies. Under GERIATRIC ESSENTIALS, the book claims that “…dry mouth becomes more common among the elderly,…probably due to the…many drugs typically used by the elderly rather than aging itself.” And I am getting elderly.

A walk-in-clinic physician at Philadelphia’s airport had prescribed Claritin. I’d been suffering allergy symptoms for some time, without realizing it. I know I’m affected by seasonal changes, but they seem to occur without my taking notice. Only after I’m forced to see a doctor for relief, am I aware that allergy season is in “full swing.” Not wanting to ruin my trip to Venice, I did as the doctor prescribed. Claritin was added to my daily intake of vitamin supplements. Who could know that it would cause an altogether different ailment, like “dry mouth.”

In the recent visit to my own GP, the symptoms hadn’t yet fully developed. So my doctor felt I was still suffering allergy symptoms and prescribed Benadryl when needed, in addition to continuing the Claritin. So after doing what I was told by 2 physicians, and still not  finding relief from the problem, I’ve decided to follow my own advice for now. I discontinued taking both antihistamines. We’ll see. As of now, my diagnosis and prescription seem to be working. Oh, and I should probably be getting more sleep, according to Merck. Well, that may be a difficult pill to swallow with my recent appetite for blogging. It’s now 2 a.m. 

I don’t take medical conditions lightly, although I address them with “tongue-in-cheek” humor. But I am a proponent of being an active participant in my own well-being. I heed expert advice, but I question it and continually assess my symptoms to make certain that my health is improving. Doctors offer their best-educated opinions in the moment, but they are not experiencing it first-hand. I know what I’m feeling all the time. I wish my medical team lived with me 24/7, but they don’t, so I’m the next best thing.

I can see the next patient now…hugmamma

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attitude adjustment

One day I had occasion to visit a beautiful, upscale mall in sunny southern California, The Costa Mesa Mall. Sprawling over several acres, it was a shopper’s paradise. A favorite phrase,”eye candy,” coined while strolling the cobblestone streets of Venice, seemed just as applicable at this retail complex. Anchoring this shopping mecca, were giants Bloomingdale’s, Macy’s, Nordstrom’s, Sak’s, and Sear’s. Sprinkled in and around them were other name stores, Gap, BCBG, MaxMara, Mango, Barney’s New York, Abercrombie & Fitch, and a seemingly endless list of other brands. Rolex caught my eye. I’d not seen it in any other mall I’ve visited. In fact, I’ve never seen its storefront before.

My first stop had to be Bloomingdale’s. Our first “introduction” was at 53rd and Lex in NYC in 1976. Several years ago, my daughter and I visited a branch in Soho, New York. There’s a distinct vibe to the retail icon. It’s upscale with a contemporary, youthful flavor. New York is culturally diverse, with Chinatown and Little Italy as neighbors, deli workers commuting alongside doctors on subways, and homeless setting up house across the street from Trump Tower. As a result, Manhattan’s Bloomingdale’s caters to customers from all walks of life. Everyone is treated equally. When you enter the store, whether you browse or buy, you’re a BFF (best friend forever).

As I wandered through Costa Mesa’s Bloomingdale’s, the mood was the exact opposite of its “sister” in the east. I felt invisible as I made my way through different areas of women’s wear. Several of the saleswomen were young and Asian. None approached to assist me, instead greeting and speaking with Caucasian shoppers. I took notice because I’m half-Chinese. Perhaps I didn’t appear to have the money to spend. No matter I thought, I’m just browsing. If something “grabbed” my attention, I would’ve made myself known.

In lingerie, I looked at a selection of bras displayed on a table. While fingering one in particular, a lovely, black, young saleslady approached saying “Isn”t that nice!” I replied that it was, but couldn’t find the price. She checked one like it nearby. It too had no price, so she left to make inquiries, indicating she’d be right back. Upon returning with the price, she pointed to another bra that was on sale. Following her to the “sale” rack, I explained that I had been searching for one that I had seen more than a year ago at Free People. The saleslady quickly informed me that the store had a branch in the mall. I was pleasantly surprised that she referred me to a competitor. Her recommendation reminded me of the Santa Claus in “It’s A Wonderful Life.” If an item was not in stock, he sent customers from Gimbel’s, where he worked, to Macy’s where he thought they’d find exactly what they were looking for.

Leaving Bloomingdale’s I pondered what had just happened to me. I was ignored by my own ethnic “sisters”, and treated kindly by a black woman, who reached out in true sisterhood. On my way out of the store, I saw BCBG, a retailer of expensive, designer wear. Stepping inside, I strolled about, stopping to more closely inspect items that were of interest. The 3 young, Asian, sales help never acknowledged my presence. Interesting, I thought. As I made my way from the back towards the exit at the front, I stopped to allow one of the sales women to pass. I noticed a half-smile on her lips as she walked by. Continuing towards the door, I saw a Caucasian customer enter and heard one of the sales ladies call out “Hi! How are you?”

In my 20’s I perceived such affronts as there being something wrong with me. Almost 40 years later, I find such experiences curious. On its face it might seem that the Asian women thought I was “beneath” them and their Caucasian clientele. I was dressed well, but not anything like their regular customers. By contrast, the young, Black woman treated me as an equal or better, since I was a potential consumer. But setting aside what might seem like the obvious, it may be that the Asians were behaving according to stereotype, quiet and shy. And the black woman was, perhaps, more outgoing by nature. Murmuring to myself, I continued on my way.

My next encounter, more pleasant than those previously, added another dimension to the racial question. Sylvia, in DKNY, greeted me with a pleasant smile and “Hi! How are you?” As I wandered from table to rack, looking at Donna Karin designer digs, Sylvia’s eyes followed me. Stepping closer, she commented that I should let her know if I needed any help. I thanked her. When I finally spied a long, grey, sleeveless dress that might fit my daughter nicely, I asked for Sylvia’s assistance. We talked a little about the details of the dress, its fit, its color, its multiple use. I shared a picture of my daughter. Sylvia complimented my daughter’s beauty and her pursuit of dancing as a career. I learned that Sylvia was of Korean-Polish ancestry. I expressed my feeling that marriages between easterners and westerners, can produce attractive offspring. My husband and daughter who are Hawaiian-Chinese-Portuguese are proof-positive. I left in a very good mood, promising to return later that day, my daughter in tow.

Before heading off to get a bite to eat, I stopped in at Free People. Immediately inside the doorway, Ashley greeted me with a huge smile and friendly manner that wrapped around me like a warm blanket. We chatted continually while I moved hangers aside to better inspect each piece of clothing. I couldn’t stop staring at her, wondering who she looked like. After a few moments playing charades, we arrived at the conclusion that she bore a close resemblance to the youngest of the 3 protagonists fighting the “good fight” against the witches in “Hocus Pocus,” a Halloween favorite on the small screen. Throughout the boutique, Ashley met up with me to comment on an item that I’d hold up for a better look. A native Californian, she was the friendliest I’d ever met, and I told her so. She laughed, and thanked me for the compliment. To better explain myself I told her of my experience in Bloomingdale’s. “Oh!” she exclaimed, eyes rolling, “They need an attitude adjustment!” Well, I just loved her absolute candidness. She was too precious, I thought.

It was so refreshing to make small talk with a young person, so totally unimpressed with outward trappings. She was Caucasian, but it didn’t matter. She was a resounding reminder that it’s what a person is like on the “inside” that matters, not skin color, or social status, or age. Because of her innate skills for serving customers, Free People made a tidy sum when I returned with my daughter to make a number of purchases. I felt like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman. I wanted to return to Bloomingdale’s and BCBG to say “I was the one you wouldn’t help. Big mistake! Huge mistake! Huge!”

best not judge a book by its cover…hugmamma

new album

Not sure if there are any Michael Jackson fans reading my blog. If there are…good news! A new album of 10 unreleased, new songs should be in stores in November. Evidently someone found a hard-drive with hundreds of songs sung by MJ. Among them, was “Hot Time In The Summer Sun” by Sly and The Family Stone. In my mind, I could see and hear Michael singing the lyrics to the rhythmic tune. Head bobbing up and down, back and forth, while he sat moving to the beat. Happily doing what he loved to do, what he was obviously born to do. That’s how he should be remembered, how I’ll remember him.

My favorite memories of MJ are captured on a DVD of his live concert in Yokohama, Japan. He was in his late 20’s at the time. He cut a lean, mean, “dancing machine” figure. Belting out song after song, gliding and spinning across the stage, he owned it. The ultimate performer, MJ gave himself totally to the act, to the fans. Therein lay his Achille’s heel.

Jackson grew up in front of his fans; realized his full artistic potential because of them; he earned hundreds of millions of dollars because they bought his music, attended his concerts; and he felt completely engulfed by their love. On the flip side, Michael didn’t enjoy a normal childhood; he didn’t grow in other areas which might have given balance to his life; he spent money as fast as he made it, knowing he could always make more; and he kept many individuals who knew him and loved him, at arm’s length. He dedicated his life to his fans, the only ones he seemed to trust as being loyal and truthful to him. He lived in a fantasy, peopled only by himself, his fans and a select few, very few.

In his naiveté, MJ’s total trust in his fans was his final undoing. Inviting those who seemingly adored him to take shelter under his roof cost him dearly. While he went about the daily routine of his life, the free-loaders dug in their heels aiming to stay on the payroll for as long as they could. When MJ’s attention and devotion strayed from them, mother and children resorted to “bringing him down.” And they did.

Michael fled Neverland, a land of fantasies and wild imaginings, where all his dreams, and nightmares, came true. Living abroad with his 3 children, MJ tried to heal his life, himself. Their love, an innocent one, nourished his soul, bringing him back to a shadow of his former self. But at least he was alive, focusing upon them, and not his audience, his fans. But at 50, he contemplated a comeback, a personal performance for his children now old enough to understand and appreciate his talent. But in the bigger picture, Jackson owed millions in unpaid debts. Creditors were clamoring for their money. So “This Is It” was an answer to so many prayers.

Performing 50 live concerts was probably not in the realm of possibilities for Michael Jackson. In older age, he was not what he had been as a dancer, or even as a singer in his earlier years. But he was still amazing. My daughter and a couple of dancer friends were dumbfounded when they saw the film showing what might have been “the greatest show on earth,” for this generation. In their 20’s they could not believe MJ could belt out tunes and “shake his body” alongside younger dancers. They sat in the darkened theatre until the credits were done and the last strains of his voice were heard. I think they felt humbled by Michael’s huge talent.

Sad that MJ is gone, but like Elvis and others before him, such a predictable end to a glorious, but unreal life. Too much too soon, too fast to slow down, and fans always wanting more, expecting more. And their icons always aimed to please.

who controlled whom?…hugmamma

not so friendly skies

 Hearing about a Delta Airline flight whose passengers were closeted in a plane for 3 hours on the tarmac, inspired me to write this post. An engine problem was said to be the culprit, but upon close inspection nothing was found to be amiss. To Delta’s chagrin, the event was broadcast worldwide on YouTube. A very resourceful passenger captured his image with the camera on his cell phone.  Beads of sweat were shown cascading down his bald scalp, over his brows, and onto his cheekbones. It wasn’t a pretty sight. I can’t imagine that it felt any better than it looked. This picture ran countless times throughout the newscast. The Network drove home its point, and then some. Of course they included snippets of an interview with the passenger. In it he underscored how awful the situation was by explaining, that as a soldier, he’d served in Africa where temperatures soared well over 100 degrees. He’d also endured grueling conditions as a navy Seal. But nothing, he said, NOTHING could compare with the abhorrent conditions he experienced onboard Delta’s “flight from Hell.”  

Pictures of fellow passengers showed their disgruntled faces. Children’s cheeks were flushed from the heat. The air-conditioning was left off because of the supposed engine problem. A lone flight attendant finally took it upon herself to distribute bottles of water. Meanwhile, no announcements were made to explain the situation to the passengers. And according to the man in the picture, no apology was extended by Delta. I don’t remember what was contained in a formal letter sent by the airline. But judging from the man’s demeanor, it didn’t contain the mea culpa he expected. My husband and I experienced a similar situation on a USAirways flight leaving Philadelphia, but the outcome was considerably different.

Taxiing out on the runway, we were lined up with other outbound flights. It wasn’t clear if a passenger forced the captain to relinquish his place in line when she went to the bathroom, ignoring the “fasten your seat belt ” sign. I gathered that’s what happened because announcements were made to that effect. Pulling out of position, the plane went to the back of the line. Then Mother Nature stepped in, and “leveled the playing field.” All flights were delayed indefinitely because of bad weather in the Midwest. 

TV newscasts showing scenes like the one described earlier, drifted through my mind. I let myself go numb, knowing there was nothing to be done but settle in for the long haul. Getting agitated wouldn’t resolve the situation, and the accompanying stress would go against my resolve to stay healthy, and avoid Alzheimer’s. You know the old saying “Don’t cut off your nose to spite your face.” 

Unlike Delta’s indifference to its passengers, USAir kept us apprised of the status of our delay. It was like having an open phone line between the cockpit and the cabin. When the captain wasn’t on the line, the flight attendants were. At the time I was slightly annoyed. (I told you I was calm, not dead.) I just wanted them to stop talking and do something, anything, to relieve our discomfort. Even in business class, the seats were HARD. More disturbing, you’d have thought there was a party going on! (Helllooo…am I the only one wanting to get underway here?)  The  flight attendants strolled the aisle, smiling and laughing while serving up cups of water, and casually visiting with passengers who got up to remove items from overhead bins. All around me were voices chattering, while I sat with furrowed brow.

Finally, the captain announced that our plane would be returning to the terminal. Once there, the door was opened and a ticket agent came aboard. From the cockpit came a further update that our delay would depend upon reconfiguration of flight patterns due to the thunderstorms and lightning. What came next must have surprised my fellow travelers as much as it did me. We were told that, because of new government regulations, passengers were free to disembark to make other arrangements if they so chose. Now THAT caught my attention! Wow! An airline wasputting the passenger ahead of the “bottom line.” Of course they had their “neck on the block,” but no matter. While it didn’t make a loyal fan of me, USAir won my respect.

My husband and I have both worked in the airline industry, he with Pan Am, and me with Iran Air and TWA.  Airline employees enjoy very nice perks, foremost of which is traveling free or at greatly discounted rates. It does involve going “stand by,” where they literally stand around waiting to hear their names called if space is available on the aircraft. This can be nerve-wracking, especially when accompanied by young children who wonder aloud “Why can’t we get on yet?” The wait is worthwhile, however, if they’re upgraded to first class…for free.

When we flew our own airlines, we awaited takeoff, giddy and delighted at our good fortune.  Gazing out the window, we’d admire the planes bearing the company logo. We felt proud, and special. Proud to be employed by companies who transported people all over the world. Special, because we were part of what seemed a fantasy, air travel. We dressed accordingly, suit and tie for my husband, dress and heels for me. Stewardesses were fashionistas, carefully groomed from head to toe. How I admired, and wanted to be one of them. But they seemed an elite class. Pilots too seemed like mythical beings, ensconced in their private domain, the cockpit. Catching a glimpse inside was a treat, sitting in one during flight was memorable. I had that privilege once, on an Iran Air flight.  Reminiscing about air travel in decades past, makes me think how different it is today.

I’ve agreed with friends that flying today is like riding a bus. Line up; get your ticket punched; squeeze into a seat; read your book or paper; eat food you’ve brought aboard; get to your destination, deplane, and go your own way. Flight attendants are likened to waiters and waitresses, except they may, or may not, serve you something. These days, you couldn’t pay me to be one of them. I’d much rather sit in my comfy jeans, “catching 40 winks” or some part thereof. Now, passengers try to cram as much as possible into carry-on luggage, not wanting to hand over $15, $20, or $30 for checked bags.

Airline travel has certainly changed. Deregulation enabled airlines to set their own rates which allowed consumers more options in popular markets; not so much, in  less traveled markets. Big companies scrambled, some eventually closed their doors, or merged with others to survive. Small companies like Southwest and Jet Blue grew to prominence with travelers who wanted the biggest “bang” for their buck. The industry continues to expand and contract, mirroring the economy upon which it depends.

My initial experience with Southwest was terrible. Traveling with my husband and daughter, we stood in the haphazard line waiting to board. People were sitting on the floor or standing, luggage at the ready, making sure they’d get a good seat, for it was “first-come, first-serve.” Then unexpectedly a voice was heard over the loudspeaker calling out a gate change. A mad scramble ensued. Everyone made a dash for the new gate. Upon arriving there, our family was nearer the front of the line than before. Eventually we heard murmurings at the back that there was another change. Slowly the line unraveled, people running in another direction. Finally making it aboard the plane, my husband, daughter and I managed to sit together in one row. There and then, I made my husband promise never to book another Southwest flight again. He promised. 

Fast forward to now, and Southwest is my airline of choice. Management figured out that herding passengers like cattle wasn’t good for public relations. A new system was put into effect lining people up according to positions assigned upon check-in, A-1 through 30, B-1 through 30, and c-1 through 30. People are more civil; boarding runs more smoothly. Without the lengthy process inherent with other airlines, it seems Southwest is in and out of the gate more quickly. Service on board is comparable to major carriers, sometimes even besting them. Air fares are comparable or better.

Current air travel is a “free-for-all.” Passengers get, or don’t get, what they pay for; airlines make, or don’t make, a profit. Fate seems to have the upper hand these days. I’m not sure what to think.

what do you think?…hugmamma.

no mystery, off the court…or on

Well, just as I suspected. I’m sure you did as well. “NO PEANUTS!” ordered my doctor, when I saw him a few hours ago. At least not until my “thick” tongue and abnormal throat symptoms disappear. Prescribing Benadryl should the symptoms return, I laughed knowing he’d give me some good old-fashioned remedy, just as he did for the rash on my right eyelid. For that, he told me to apply a dab of non-prescription 1% hydrocortisone ointment. I like my doc, he’s just a regular guy, nothing “fancy schmanzy” about him.     

After typing the final period on my previous post, I noticed my throat slowly starting to constrict once again. Time for playing doctor was over. I needed an expert’s opinion. Fortunately there was a cancellation, if I could hurry myself over to his office in 20 minutes. I said “You bet! I’ll speed.” To which the receptionist laughingly replied “No! Don’t do that.” I laughed back “No, no. Just kidding. I won’t.” And off I went, driving like a bat outta…

The male nurse ushered me into the examining room with a look of surprise. “Weren’t you just here?” I told him I had been there a couple of days ago for my eye, but now it was my throat. “Old age,” I declared chuckling, “I’m falling apart.” We both laughed in commiseration.

Once we were seated in the room, the nurse began telling me about his ailments, a problem ankle and a hip needing replacement. Now mind you, this young man, and I say young because he must’ve been some 15 years younger than me, got my total attention. Listening to his tale, I felt like I had a superficial cut in need of a band-aid. He was injured during his service in the army. When I asked what had happened, he told me I would laugh as others had done. I said I wouldn’t, and I didn’t, because an injury is no laughing matter, however it occurs. In fact, I told him my husband would totally sympathize with him because he’d been in a similar accident. But unlike my husband who waited a couple of years before the injury was really bad and in need of surgery, the nurse’s leg was immediately placed in a cast. He wasn’t ambulatory for some time.

Basketball is not child’s play when you’re up against a guy weighing 209 pounds, or when you’re “pushing” 40 and going up against a college kid. Moms and wives know these things. Why won’t men ever listen to us?

enough said…hugmamma

medical mystery

Preparing  to head to my exercise class, I felt my throat start to constrict. Standing still, I focused upon what was happening inside my mouth. My tongue felt “thick” and slightly swollen. My throat was beginning to exhibit similar symptoms. “Don’t panick. Don’t panick.” I thought. “Calm down. Calm down. Think. Think.”

Feeling like my tongue is “thick” is not new. I’ve felt it for several days, chucking it up to my voracious downing of shelled peanuts for more than a week. Having a few handfuls a day didn’t seem like a crime, although I’m very aware that nuts are high in calories, extremely high. There, you’ve discovered my Achille’s heel.

While I thought the salt intake might be the culprit, a niggling thought sat menacingly at the back of my brain. Because I was drinking water to salve my swollen tongue, was I actually on the brink of moving from pre-diabetes to full-blown diabetes? My common sense said “no,” but the self-diagnostician in me said “might be… could be…you think?”

So I whipped out one of my many self-help books, “The Doctors Book of Home Remedies-Thousands of Tips and Techniques Anyone Can use to Heal Everyday Health Problems” by the editors of PREVENTION Magazine Health Books. It wasn’t a visit to my doctor, but hey, it’d do in a pinch. And I felt my throat starting to “pinch.”

Scrolling down the list of headings under “Asthma,” my eyes fixed upon “Watch what you eat.” Among other things it stated “…foods that trigger asthma are…nuts…” This didn’t register as too worrisome since I’ve never had a problem with them before. Yes, I know, there’s always the possibility my sensitivities can change. As age has crept up on me, so have the countless things I can’t eat or do anymore. But another section did catch my eye.

“Be Salt Sensible.” It maintained that “In a study conducted at the Department of Community Medicine of St. Thomas Hospital in London, researchers discovered that table salt could have a life-threatening effect on your asthma.” They found a strong link between salt purchases and asthma mortality for men and children. “Buying the salt wasn’t killing people; eating it was.” You think my gender might save me? Something to think about. Further down the page, another section peaked my interest.

Use nonaspirin pain relievers.” Allergist Richard Lockey, M.D., director of the Division of Allergy and Immunology at the University of South Florida College of Medicine said ” ‘If you have sinusitis and nasal polyps and asthma, I wouldn’t recommend any nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory like aspirin or ibuprofen because it could make your asthma worse or even kill you.’ ” Allergist Sidney Friedlander, M.D., clinical professor of medicine at the same college adds “This aspirin sensitivity could just suddenly develop, so it’s best to stay clear of aspirin products altogether,…’ The problem doesn’t happen when you use acetaminophen,…’ ” I don’t know if I have nasal polyps, but I have had chronic sinusitis in the past, and I have mild asthma, so I’m 2 for 3.  Something else to consider.

And finally, the last paragraph “Listen to your lungs.” offered the wisest advice yet. “Of course, the best way to fight an asthma attack is not have one in the first place.” So while  willing myself not to have an asthma attack, I got a second opinion from the best source of all. I phoned my husband, at work, of course. He’s always “on call” for me there.  Himself an asthmatic for many years, I reviewed the mechanics of using my inhalant. Rarely needing it, I had to refresh my memory as to how I should administer the puffs, and how often I could use the inhalant during my episode.

During my “attack,” I had calmly gotten my purse and removed my inhalant, put it to my open mouth, and sucked in my breath while inhaling a quick “puff.” I repeated this a second time. Consulting with others was to confirm what I already knew, including no peanuts (for a while anyway) and cutting back on my salt intake. (Did it contribute to my “thick” tongue?) I’ll have to ponder the aspirin piece. My physician prescribed it as a daily regimen for staving off strokes. Difficult to choose between having an asthma attack or a stroke? Maybe I should ask my doctor?

hmmm, something else to consider…hugmamma

huge thanks, readers

Taking time to read my posts, dear reader, is hugely appreciated. Like me, you have a “full plate.” Some, much fuller than mine. So I lift my cup of green tea (it’s too early for a lemon drop martini), and toast your taking the time to visit my blog. If I win the lottery, I promise to share. (You gotta be in it to win it. Hmmm…I’ll get right on it.)

Writing is my passion, but having readers completes the equation. I don’t imagine I’ll be another J.K. Rowlings, especially since I don’t dabble in fantasy, except when it comes to real life. (I wish I had a housekeeper, a gardener, a chauffeur…) But having this space on the internet where I can fulfill my own fantasy of writing, knowing that “they will come,” is like making it on the New York Times Bestseller’s List.

So I thank you profusely, and from the bottom of my heart, for taking the time.

huge hugs as you go about your day…hugmamma

trivia, but not trivial

Life is about the minutiae in our lives. Details that make each of us unique. Oh, we may all have similar routines: awake, brush teeth, down a cup of coffee, get to where we’re going, try to beat the homebound traffic, feed our tummies, put our feet up in front of the TV… where we doze off. (Well, at least half the population does this, while the rest of us find our way to bed. You women know of whom I speak.)

It’s what we use to carry on, how we prioritize things, and how our personalities affect what we do that separates us one from the other. Therein lies the substance of our individuality. All this to say…let’s focus on the “small,” for it’s the “new big.”

A reader’s comment on another blog site prompted me to coin the phrase. He asked if we ageed that Oprah was losing her humility. He felt her behavior strange in that upon leaving her residence she bid farewell to the doorman, nearby flowers, and so on. My reply to his query was that I felt Oprah realized that the “small” things in her life were more important to her, than all the material wealth she had garnered. The big stuff comes and goes; the small remains…right to the end.

So here’s my small stuff.

  • Sitka, one of my Maine Coone/mixed-breed cats, behaves more like a dog, than even my dog does. Reaching for my hands as they flutter over the keyboard, Sitka’s huge paw interrupts my typing while he peers at me from under my elbow, with huge, pleading eyes. He nudges me so that it’s difficult to continue what I’m doing. So you’re mistaken if you think I just sit here merrily cranking out blog, after blog, after blog. There are interruptions.
  • Just returned from my monthly hair appointment. Without my hairdresser, my BFF, Best Friends Forever (as defined for me by my daughter), I couldn’t “hold back the hand of time.” Is that from an “oldies, but goodies” tune? Anyway, it seems my stylist is allergic to dark hair coloring. First thought? Oh, oh. The hunt is on for a new BFF. But she put me at ease in explaining that she’d just use gloves. Problem solved. Love my hairdresser, my BFF.
  • Speaking of where I’ve just been. I schedule my hair appointment on a weekday because the salon is less busy than on Saturdays; but  of equal importance is the receptionist on hand. Her smiling face and warm demeanor welcomes me like family. In the moment, I like to feel I belong. I think we all do. It’s more fun than hanging around the periphery feeling left out. The more I feel I’m part of my community, the more I feel I belong…I’m home. And we all have to do it in our own way, and in our own time. (My husband’s favorite refrain when I ask him to do something.)
  • Driving home today, I noticed taxpayer money at work. Construction has picked up in and around our town, even in our own neighborhood. One common aspect that I noticed are the workers holding the signs, SLOW and STOP. I often think how boring their job must be. Hours of standing, dust flying in their faces, dirty looks from drivers, in the path of traffic as they stand alongside the busy roads. Who’d want to spend mindless hours, days, and months in a seemingless thankless job? So I’ll take this opportunity to say THANK YOU to all those who serve us in the “line of duty.”
  • By now you know my husband has compelled me to read the Wall Street Journal regularly. So if I have to deal with it, you dear reader, must too. But there really are articles for you and me, the normal folk. I cite 2 articles in today’s copy. “Tired of Nit-Picking? Lice Are Peskier Than Ever” and “Fighting Happily Ever After.” Both are relevant to me, as I’m sure they are for many of you. Kids are away at summer camps. Who knows what they’ll bring home amidst their belongings or on their scalps? I’ve personally experienced trying to get the little buggers to give up residence on my youngster’s pretty, little head. But here’s what caught my eye in the article “Another possible treatment: applying Cetaphil and letting it dry on the hair overnight to suffocate the head lice.” It goes on to say that there’s no guarantee it’ll work. Cetaphil! I use it as a daily face cleanser with great success. My skin feels ageless. How it looks is “in the eye of the beholder.” I think “I look maaahvalous, dahling!” But maybe I’m biased? As for the Journal’s other article? I think it’s self-explanatory. Even a newspaper that is daily reading for Wall Street types, can have advice for the lovelorn among us local gazette readers.
  • Just untied a tiny, rolled up piece of paper that was placed into the bag holding a stretchy, silver bracelet I’d bought at a small gift shop on Saturday. Had toyed with the idea of simply tossing it in the garbage, unread. But I didn’t. My curiosity got the better of me. It is true that “good things come in small packages.” Unrolling the paper whose edges had been carefully cut, forming scallops all around, was a gift of words “May You Receive His Amazing Grace.” I pass this along to you as you go about your day.
  • Did you know that ENTERPRISE, that bastion of rental cars, is rolling out the latest addition to their fleet, Nissan’s Leaf, an electric car. The partnership allows the auto maker a platform from which to familiarize the car-buying public with its newest “toy.” Enterprise is our agency of choice, but I’d hate to run out of electricity with nowhere to recharge on the open road…in unfamiliar surroundings. Something to ponder. Hmmm…
  • WIKILEAKS, the whistle-blowing website that leaked 76,000 documents on the Afghan war, may be guilty of doing so to raise its public profile. Reader beware. Don’t believe what you hear, until you look at the “fine print,” the facts behind the facts. Remember it’s “in the details, dummy.” Fitting, but not my words. I know I’ve heard it somewhere…but where?
  • Reality shows make me chuckle. Sometimes I even laugh out loud. I don’t follow them religiously, but if I happen upon one that interests me I may settle into a comfy chair. My husband despises the “Housewives of…” saga. He’ll stomach a lot, but not tales of bitchy women. I’m beginning to wonder if that show is giving us real housewives a bad rep. I mean are we getting a bad rap? Of the many, and there are now quite a few, Bethenny Frankel-Hopy wins my vote for “most real.” This is totally apparent on her spin-off, “Bethenny gettin’ married?”   “What you see is what you get!”, a New Yorker who doesn’t give a “…” what people think. Bethenny lives her life her way, takes her lumps, and gets back in the fray. What I especially like about her own show is that it exposes an endearing side. Proof? Jason, her new husband, and his parents are the most loveable, normal people. And they love Bethenny to pieces! They “get” who she is under all the sarcasm, a woman scarred by selfish parents, who made it to the big league with her talent for cooking. Having lived and worked in New York, and having friends who are natives, I know they are people with big hearts willing to embrace you with oversized hugs…if you let them. So let them.

The bewitching hour has arrived, prepping for dinner. So adios, muchachas y muchachos…

until we meet again…hugmamma

a “hand-up”

Soccer doesn’t make my heart race, but my dearest friend, a Brit, absolutely loves the sport. She and her son are aficionados. It was fun to spend time with them one evening, when family and friends gathered to celebrate her birthday at a local restaurant. It was obvious that soccer leveled the “playing field” between generations. Sitting next to one another, they continued to banter back and forth about the recent World Cup results. They both rooted for the Dutch, but heartily disagreed about the Argentinians. My friend refused to believe that they were a team deserving of respect. Her son did his best to cajole her into agreeing that they were. Mom was not to be swayed, and that was that.

Writing in the Wall Street Journal’s “Opinion”, John Harkes, ESPN broadcast analyst and member of the National Soccer Hall of Fame and board member of America SCORES, proposes that soccer be a weapon in our country’s fight against childhood obesity. “…it’s imperative that organized sports like soccer are recognized not just as recreational activities but as educational tools to promote physical health, academics and social skills.”

Beyond the obvious, however, Harkes asks us to look past our borders and witness how revolutionary soccer has been in countries riddled by “racial and ethnic conflict, economic hardship and political strife. In the poorest countries, children play makeshift soccer, kicking around cans. “In the process they acquire sportsmanship, leadership and commitment. Whether it is learning to pass the ball when you could as easily shoot a goal, or shaking hands at the end of a contentious match, soccer teaches life skills. Is this not something America needs too?”

America SCORES uses soccer as a vehicle “…to empower students in the nation’s most under-resourced school districts…”, providing 8 to 13 year olds “…10 times more physical exercise than the national average for their age, improve literacy skills, increase school participation, and spark community engagement by encouraging kids to use teamwork learned on the field to support each other off of it.” Harkes challenges us to “Get an America SCORES program into your kid’s school, or better yet, the one down the road that needs it even more.”

I’d like to take the challenge even further. Americans honor their sports idols with monetary compensation beyond their wildest dreams. There’s no denying they’ve dedicated their entire lives toward that end. Some were potentially high school dropouts. Many saw sports as an escape from a life of poverty for themselves and their families. In rushing to exploit their talents, both the athletes and the businessmen ignore the fact that “You can take the boy out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the boy.” Our superstars can earn millions, but they haven’t learned how to spend their earnings wisely, and with a lot more heart.

I’ve often felt some of these millionaire athletes could support third world countries. But even closer to home, these super-sports-stars could give a “hand-up” to the less fortunate among their peers.

Ballet, as well as other forms of dance, is a sport according to Webster’s definition. “… an often competitive athletic activity requiring skill or physical prowess.” Unlike European governments which subsidize dance companies so that their members can earn a living wage, American dancers fend for themselves, as do the companies for whom they work.

Our family has personally experienced my daughter’s growth as a person, in great part owing to her years as an aspiring ballerina. I’ve often said to friends who’ve asked, “We have no regrets supporting our daughter in her quest to dance professionally. Whatever happens, we feel she has already achieved so many life skills:  responsibility, discipline, commitment, sacrifice, leadership, teamwork, communicating with management, maintaining her health, handling competition, and being  independent. Living frugally, she was already prepared for our current economy.   

The media has begun showcasing  dance as a major form of entertainment for the masses, as is evident in TV shows like “So You Think You Can Dance,” “Dancing With The Stars,” and “Dance Your Ass Off.” But it’s also evident that it is not paying off big-time for dancers, the way the major sports are doing for their athletes.

Artists of all genre will agree that they do what they’re passionate about for the love of it, not for huge sums of money. Wouldn’t it be awesome if American professional dance groups in need of financial support, were sponsored by millionaire athletes? In doing so, they would undoubtedly bring value and meaning to their materialistic, and perhaps “empty”, lives. Their wealth would go much farther, if they invested in others with talent like theirs.  

from my lips to their ears…hugmamma.

a treasure trove

Deciding to enjoy a day in the sun, hubby and I briefly visited friends to see what goodies they were selling in their neighborhood yard sale. I snapped up a set of 4 square, etched glass lunch plates with matching mugs for $10. While there I did a little rearranging, bringing to the front items that would catch the eyes of passers-by. I left, hoping the changes would increase sales.

Residential communities and shopping plazas behind us, we found solace in the wide open spaces the farther along we drove. Heading toward a favorite restaurant for lunch, I saw a street sign out the corner of my eye. I immediately asked my husband to “Go Back!” Turning the steering wheel, he made a quick right turn. It put us on a road that was sure to connect with the one we’d passed. After a short drive, we came to a stop sign. As we turned left, I knew we’d been here before. It was deja vu.

As buildings came into view at the bottom of the street, I squealed with delight. Ahead lay the historical train depot with its museum, the bookstore that carried “out of print” titles, and the restaurant/bakery that served up “to-die-for” home cooked meals and baked goods. We’d eaten there 12 years before when we first moved West. At the time it seemed we’d driven umpteen miles in search of a haunt favored by the locals. 

Impatient to see if the inside looked the same, I jumped out the door as soon as the car was parked. Not waiting for my husband, I entered the restaurant. It seemed more spacious than I remembered; but it had the same, comfortable vibe as before. Looking around, I saw people smiling and chatting as they munched away at their food. I was so happy that we’d found this “hidden gem” again.

After dining on a hearty meatloaf sandwich, coffee and lemon meringue pie, I was ready to explore. Contentedly burying himself behind his e-book, my husband waited while I browsed the nearby shops. He helped carry an armload of old books, mostly biographies, that I’d purchased for “pennies.” (Compared to what I pay at big retail bookstores.)

Expecting to make a quick stop at the train station museum, I did so only because it was there. I half-heartedly hoped that the antique shop I’d visited before was still housed within. But I was pretty sure it had gone out of business a while ago. Walking through the front door, I felt I had traveled back in time.

An avid collector of vintage items, I’ve searched for treasures from Hawaii to New England to Venice. But I wasn’t prepared for the overwhelming inventory of memorabilia I saw before me. Wherever I looked there were walls of old black and white photographs, wedding certificates, baseball uniforms, tools and so much more. There were glass cases displaying old typewriters, a mannequin dressed in a vintage wedding gown, hats, dolls and a miniaturized train depot complete with trains, tracks, landscaping, and the like. There was a bank safe and a phone booth. Both looked like they might still service customers. There was a grouping of old Singer sewing machines, and a small cart that might have been a child’s or one used for delivering goods.

I couldn’t stop “oohing” and “aahing” as I marveled at several vignettes. One was of a barbershop; another of a classroom with children sitting at old school desks, filled bookcases alongside. A third showed a kitchen complete with all sorts of cooking and eating paraphernalia from bygone days. For me, the most significant find stood at the foot of the stairs descending to the basement, a ringer-washing machine. I smiled remembering my childhood encounter with that antiquated contraption. 

At 9 or 10 years of age, I helped my older, married sister put the washed clothes through the ringer of the machine, ridding them of water. In shocked horror I watched as my hand got caught in the rollers. I probably waited to see how close my fingers could get before letting go. Blood curdling screams brought my sister, and everyonelse in the house, running to see what had happened. I’m happy to say I escaped, fingers, hand and arm completely intact. I made sure not to tempt fate a second time.

The curator couldn’t have been lovelier, allowing me to snap some pictures, as well as sharing tidbits about preserving the antiques and explaining how they came to be in the museum. We parted friends, deciding to keep in touch via emails, blogs and Facebook.

I rejoined my husband,  who was patiently sitting on a bench just outside. He listened as I recounted all the details of the past hour or so. He hadn’t realized that more than train artifacts were on display. He might have come inside had he known. Well there’s always the next time, for we’ll be back.

trust me,we will return…hugmamma.

in the spotlight

Did we miss out on something as children? The need to talk or be seen are phenomena which have overtaken our lives. On its face, blogging and reality shows seem like the highest form of narcissism. Why our need to be heard, to be seen? Author Lisa Sabin-Wilson says it best in “WordPress For Dummies.” Blogging is “…a means of expression.” I’d say the same might be true of reality shows.

I was very fortunate to accompany my husband on a recent business trip to Venice. Attending several scheduled events, I was able to watch the President and CEO of the company speak before large assemblies of people. What a performer! Of Norwegian descent and striking at 6’4″, his appearance alone commanded one’s attention. Speaking in accented English, smiles interspersed to lighten the mood, one couldn’t help but be charmed. He seemed unrehearsed, yet he spewed forth facts about the business which boggled my layperson’s mind. Most appealing was his humility in sharing the stage with employees recognized for their longevity with the company, serving in the least skilled to the highest skilled positions. Don’t you just love a boss who doesn’t take all the credit, and hog the limelight? (If I think really hard, I might have had one or two in my corporate career. Hmmm…thinking… thinking. Still thinking.)  And this is a man who rubs elbows with corporate giants, heads of state, European royalty and ambassadors.

In a million years I could not walk about a stage, owning it. I did try in my middle and high school years. In the ’60″s I was the dancing “queen”, doing the “mash-potato” all over campus. I harmonized in an all girls, Beatles look-a-like group; captained the cheer-leading squad; and choreographed theatrical school shows. When I wasn’t entertaining the masses, I was still a “cut-up” before family and friends, mostly friends.

In my own family I am still the “ham.” My daughter’s favorite description of my antics is that I’m “goofy”, loveable, but goofy nonetheless. I’m sure my in-laws would agree. But I pride myself in bringing humor to their lives. Without me my husband’s life would be pretty quiet. I bring a little luster to his life, according to my daughter and mother-in-law.

On the other hand, it’s my husband and daughter who work in front of people all the time. He makes regular speeches in meetings and public forums.  My daughter dances for a living. How much more public can she get? Talk about getting “butterflies” in one’s stomach. They would consume me before I ever made an entrance! Yikes!

So I blog. I blog to express myself as a writer. Therein lies my passion, putting thoughts into words. I will never have “writer’s block”. In fact I sometimes wish the ideas would cease flowing. They rush tumbling over one another trying to be heard. It’s as if I’m sitting encircled by little children, raised hands in my face, clamoring for attention. Calling upon one who begins to speak, only to be interrupted by others too impatient to wait. I have no choice but to give voice to them, these thoughts that are restless, wanting out of my head.

I think we all have a hint of Narcissus in us. A youth who in Greek mythology “fell in love with his own reflection in a pool and was transformed into the narcissus flower.” Did you know that it has a beautifully, pungent fragrance? Perhaps we’re all reincarnations of this heavenly blossom.

are you? I am…hugmamma.

totally surprised

While I wallowed in human kindness, my husband and daughter gasped in surprise! Was I the same person who always reminded them to “drive carefully and be safe?” How could I then hitch a ride with total strangers, far from home. Not until days later when we celebrated Thanksgiving did I learn of their dismay.

A friend of our daughter’s dined with us at a charming restaurant. Because of Nutcracker rehearsals, she wasn’t able to spend the holiday with family living in another state. Sipping martinis and nibbling appetizers, my family recounted my sojourn for the benefit of our guest. Until then I hadn’t realized how much my rash decision affected them.

Our daughter likened my behavior to Kevin’s mom in “Home Alone” when she begged a group of traveling musicians for a ride. “Come Hell or high water” she was going home to her son. He’d been inadvertently left behind when his family set off on their vacation. Like her I was determined to see my daughter sooner, rather than later.

Moms will agree that we do whatever is necessary where our children are concerned, even putting ourselves in harm’s way. Instinct “kicks in” and reason “takes a hike.”

no regrets whatsoever…hugmamma

journal tidbits

Two items in the Wall Street Journal caught my eye this morning,  “Gene Shows Promise for Alzheimer’s”  and  “Family Blames AIG In Bet on Mom’s Life.”  The first article provides a speck of hope; the second sets off a red flag,  “buyer beware.”

“Scientists have found a way to dramatically reduce the erosion of memory and learning ability in mice with a version of Alzheimer’s disease, potentially offering a new approach for tackling the illness in humans.”  MIT researchers discovered that a genetically engineered gene, SIRT1,  “regulates the production of a class of proteins known as sirtuin one.”  More sirtuin in tested mice allowed them to retain both memory and learning ability as they aged. GlaxoSmithKline PLC’s consultant Dr. Leonard Guarente,  “a biologist at MIT and the lead author of the study,”  suggests this may be a drug-based approach to treat Alzheimer’s. However  “Much more research is now needed …” according to The Alzheimer’s Society in the U.K.

The article further indicates that resveratrol, an ingredient in red wine, has been found to slow aging in mice. This seemed to affirm the intake of grape seed supplements recommended by Dr. Vincent Fortanasce, a practicing neurologist, in his  “The ANTI-Alzheimer’s Prescription.”

whatever works!…hugmamma

“A dispute over a huge life-insurance policy on an Indianapolis woman who drowned, fully clothed, in her bathtub took a new twist this week when her family alleged American International Group, Inc. ran a  ‘scheme’  to let investors buy big policies on older people as speculative bets.”  Reading this I was reminded of a TV documentary exposing just such a scam. How does it work?

An insurance entrepeneur encourages an elderly person to purchase a huge life-insurance policy, often paying for it with a loan. The policy is then sold to an investor who pays the premiums and collects, when the insured dies.

In the reported case the entrepeneur expects to be paid the $15 million involved, while AIG wants the policy declared null and void. A spokesman claimed AIG  “stands by its allegations that the policy was procured under a  ‘fraudulent scheme.’  ”   The victim’s estate is seeking control of the $15 million, and filed suit for $45 million in damages against AIG claiming they ” ‘engaged in minimal underwriting efforts’  and issued the $15 million policy, ostensibly for estate planning,  ‘without verifying key information,’  including whether Ms. Tomlinson could afford such costly insurance.’  ”  The article continues  ”  ‘Even a cursory review’  of various application materials would have raised red flags about…annual income, but AIG…turned a blind eye…to warning signs in eagerness…reap enormous benefits,…’  ”

“buyer beware!” …hugmamma.

ride with strangers

Eagerly anticipating a visit with my daughter, I took a connecting flight to where she lives on the east coast. Rather than fly into a major hub, I chose to connect at a smaller airport closer to my destination. From there it was only another hour until I saw that beautiful face, which always brings a huge grin to mine.

Relaxing into the first leg of my trip I drifted in and out of sleep. Finally the plane touched down on the tarmac. Scurrying through the exit door, I hurriedly made my way into the airport. At the nearest flight schedule board, I searched for the gate number of my continuing flight. I could feel my blood pressure rise when I soon realized that it was not listed. Panicked, I found an agent who directed me to the nearby ticket counter.  Walking towards it I noticed a short line of customers waiting.

When it was my turn, I stepped up to the counter and inquired about my flight. To my dismay I was told that all flights had been cancelled. The next available wasn’t until 9 a.m. the next day. Not accustomed to finding myself in such a situation without my husband who usually manages such dilemmas, my heart sank. All I could think was that my daughter was so close, but yet so far.

As is my custom when I’m flummoxed, I phoned my husband who still happened to be at work. My words came tumbling out faster than he could comprehend. But finally he understood my situation. Stepping away from the counter to speak with him, I soon realized that I’d have to figure this one out myself. While still half-listening to him, I overheard a conversation between a man and a woman. Drawing closer to hear what they said, it became clear that she was traveling with him to the city where I was also headed. The gentleman had rented a car beforehand.

I quickly jumped in to ask if I could also hitch a ride. Just as I was told that I could, a younger man joined us to confirm that he would be our fourth traveling companion. Needless to say my husband overheard my maneuvering and was flabbergasted when I said “Bye. I’m riding with Larry. Call you when I get there.” Without waiting for his reply, I hung up.

Lucky move on my part. Seconds later a woman asked if she could join our group. Unfortunately, the car could only sit 4 comfortably on the 5 hour drive.  I felt badly but knew she had the option of staying the night on the airline’s “dime,” and catching a flight out the next day. If I felt any reluctance about the trip, a ticket agent acquainted with Larry reassured the other woman and I that we were in good hands. As a frequent flier for business he was a regular customer.

The journey was nothing short of amazing. My fellow travelers and I established an easy camaraderie. We spoke of family, work, ourselves, our interests. The two men were natives of the area to which we were headed. Larry was returning home from business; John was visiting family. Jane was joining her husband who had gone a day ahead to attend a conference.  At times it was a four-way conversation; other times the 2 men talked, while Jane and I murmured quietly together in the back seat. We all agreed that Larry could pick the time and place for our one and only rest stop. We were all in a hurry to get where we were headed.

As we drew nearer our destination, I was sad to part with newfound friends. I become attached easily. After dropping Jane off at her hotel, we drove to the airport where Larry would return the car, John would rent one to continue driving another 2 hours, and I would meet my daughter. Getting out of the car I hugged Larry, pressing a $20 bill into his hand. Without pause he pushed my hand away refusing any compensation. It was enough, he said, to have pleasant company on what would otherwise have been a long, lonely drive home. Choking back tears, I thanked him profusely and gave John a big hug as well.

Once I saw my daughter, it made little difference that I arrived at midnight instead of 7 p.m.  She always “makes my day”, no matter the hour. I couldn’t ask for more, especially after being bestowed with the gift of a Good Samaritan who came to the rescue of strangers who became friends.

forever grateful to Larry…hugmamma.

good samaritan

Just watched a local news segment spotlighting a “Good Samaritan.” Brandon, a youngster 12 or 13 years of age, found a wad of hundred-dollar bills curled up with a credit card receipt on a sidewalk near an Olive Garden Restaurant. Not able to decipher the owner’s name on the receipt, the boy turned to his mom for advice. Exclaiming that they couldn’t leave on a planned vacation until the money’s owner was found, Brandon asked what he should do.

Acting upon his mom’s suggestion to call a local tv’s consumer reporter, Brandon located the out-of-towner whose money was found. The stranger named the restaurant near where the cash had lain. Brandon knew he had found his man, gladly returning the bankroll while declining the reward offered. Choking back tears, the young boy’s mom explained that his good deed was even more noteworthy because the money belonged to a 21-year-old soldier who had been on leave.

Kudos to Brandon’s parents for instilling their son with old-fashioned values. He may not be a rarity, but in an age where the media reports our moral failures more readily than our successes, I found this story very heartwarming. In Brandon, our society has an upstanding adult citizen in the making. Can we clone him?

think positive thoughts…hugmamma