interests, so varied

As with the surge in readership that I got from “stumbleupon” traffic, my recent posts “put a ‘face’ on the ‘unknown,’ and to a lesser degree, “an expert, in my opinion,” sent views “through the roof.” Where a day or 2 before, I had reached 3,027 views, 2-3 days after these postings, views are up to 3,470. It’s pretty heady to think that my words can draw so many to want to read what I have to say. I must admit to returning to re-reading what I wrote a number of times, trying to discern what it was I said that might have made such an impression. Whatever it was, I’m humbled to know that I struck a chord. I was moved by comments telling me as much, including one from Janice Langbehn and her children.

When I write about a topic, I am intensely passionate about what I’m saying. My feelings are genuine. Those who know me know that I am candid, only given to expressing my honest beliefs. Sometimes it’s integrity gone amuck. I’m not prone to do “battle” in person because my emotions can tend to twist my tongue, better known as being “tongue-tied.” And so I blog.

As a blogger I can say what I want, in a responsible way. Any writer will tell you that readership is key to sustaining the motivation to continue. I’m no different. When I first started, I thought I’d be content merely floating my “voice” out in the internet universe. I published 38 posts on blogger.com, never knowing if they were read, with the exception of a handful of friends who told me they had. So I went in search of another platform from which to launch my voice, and found Oprah.com. 

For the most part, I was a happy blogger in Oprah’s universe. There I honed my writing skills further, and began learning about the technical details. When that site changed its format to being more about OWN, Oprah’s upcoming, new venture, I gradually ceased blogging. I rediscovered my passion for it after taking a Blogging 101 class with Cat Rambo. The information she shared inspired me to look into WordPress.com.

One of the main things Cat told the 9 or 10 of us in class was that we’d need to write “something of value,” whatever that meant to each of us. A guy wanted to start a small business, an Asian woman wanted to post photographs, an Indian woman was a total novice but wanted to share her thoughts and feelings, another woman works for a nonprofit and was looking to increase its visibility. Cat thought sharing the details of my life experiences was an interesting blog. So I bought several “blogging for dummy” books, including “WordPress.com for dummies,” and proceeded down the path leading to the magical, yet mysterious, kingdom of Oz, or Blog-dom.

So here I am, happily residing in a “cottage” of words, offering shelter by the “side of the road” to passersby in need of a boost, as they continue their journey through life. My interests are so varied, that I am passionate about many things. But the mainstay will always be my compassion for people, especially the downtrodden, and more especially, children. Humor and laughter are also very important to me, and is often reflected in my “tongue-in-cheek” style of writing.

I blog, hoping what I post will be enjoyed, but I don’t write to increase my readership stats. Just as some “stumbleupon” readers have continued life’s journey with me, I would welcome having HRC, Johnny Weir, and AARP devotees along for the “ride” as well. But just as my interests are varied, everyone must pursue whatever catches their fancy.

so go chase some “butterflies,” hugs…hugmamma.

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“getting to happy”

One of Oprah’s guests today was author Terry McMillan who had written the book “Waiting to Exhale.” I remember having seen the movie it spawned, enjoying the 4 black actresses who portrayed the story’s main characters. I can’t recite what it was about, only that it dealt with the all too familiar romantic difficulties between men and women. McMillan’s newest book, “Getting to Happy,” brings the 4 women full circle. Maybe I’ll read this, her second book, or wait until the movie is made. I’m not overly fond of reading fiction, preferring non-fiction instead.

While I missed most of the interview, I was present when McMillan’s ex-husband was speaking of the hellish 5 years following their divorce. Feeling betrayed when he cheated on her with a gay partner, McMillan sought revenge by suing her husband and his attorney for $40 million. To his relief, she eventually dropped the suit. In her explanation to Oprah, the author explained that while she harboured resentment against her husband, she continued to suffer, because she’d hung onto the hurt. Once she released the pain and rescinded the lawsuit, McMillan was on her way, “getting to happy.” Sitting side by side, she and her ex teased and laughed, sharing the friendship they’d once had.

Interjecting an anecdote of her own life experience, Oprah told of a long-held grudge against someone she happened to observe one day at a distance, walking into Tiffany’s, laughing.  The woman looked like she’d carried on with her life, while Oprah had dwelt upon the rift between them. How could that woman not continue to be as agitated as Oprah over the incident? This was the question she asked the audience in total disbelief. I understood the look on her face.

When I lived in New York, I had worked for a black manager who involved me in his ongoing battle with his boss, the department’s director and her close friend, the vice president, both white females. I would return home each evening, upset and crying to my husband about the grief I was experiencing. Something he said finally sank in, shutting me up once and for all. “While you’re spending all your nights bemoaning something Tony’s done or said, he’s probably enjoying himself with friends, and a glass of wine.” Picturing him relaxed and laughing, angered me. I decided not to let my boss have one more minute of my day. “Out of sight, out of mind,” has become my motto when dealing with aggravating people. That’s not to say I always succeed, but I never stop trying.

of course Oprah learned the same lesson, long ago…hugmamma.

putting a “face” on the “unknown” (an update)

I received information that requires I update my previous post, the “unknown,” put a “face” on it.

My nephew and his partner were married in San Fransisco in 2009. The happy news is that he was the one who had nursed my nephew back from a near fatal illness, that must have been a nightmare for all who love him, especially his parents, my sister and her husband, who then cared for my mom years later, during her decade long bout with Alzheimer’s. I’m not sure they’d agree that God only gives us what He thinks we can handle. But I’m certain their reward is their children and grandchildren. 

My nephew’s 2 daughters had been in the L.A. Social System before their adoption, and they now attend the school where their dad teaches 5th grade. Writing these words brings a lot of warmth to my heart. Two young girls, one 12 and one 6, were rescued from a system, an orphanage of sorts, and restored into the welcoming arms of a loving family. I would hate to imagine where those youngsters might be today, if not for their dads. From my perspective, the product of a dysfunctional, straight family, 2 fabulous dads who love 2 “broken” children, deserve a lot of thanks and support, in their efforts to create a normal home in a society too quick to judge. My great-nieces, young innocents, are another couple of faces of the Human Rights Campaign.

the “unknown”, less so…hugmamma.

it’s a good morning, there’s always hope

We all have moments of “why me?” I had one all day yesterday. Always wanting to “fix” things, it’s frustrating to sit around waiting for someonelse to do the “fixing.” I’m a professional wife and mom, an amateur decorator, an amateur Julia Child, an amateur antique dealer, an amateur psychologist, an amateur writer and blogger, an amateur exercising fanatic (since I’ve not been consistent lately), an amateur, self-diagnosing “m.d.” Don’t all these amateur positions qualify me as an amateur “fixer-upper?” Forgive the rambling, one day I’ll clarify. For now, trust me when I say “I’m having one of those moments,” going forward. At this moment, the end is not yet in sight. Just keep me in your thoughts, along with whomever else it is you wish good karma.

But the point of this is to say it’s a “good morning.” Every new day is a good morning, an opportunity to right what’s wrong. I am blest and fortunate to feel hopeful that I can fix whatever needs fixing. Without hope, where would we be, any of us? Maybe not here, but that’s not a viable option. Because we do have hope. That was our legacy from the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. If we favor reading fanciful tales to our children to instill hope, why can’t we adults do the same for ourselves? We’re all of us just over-sized children, or should think of ourselves that way. Children always have hope, no matter their circumstances. We can learn a lot from them; I’m learning phenomenal things from my amazing daughter, who has the youthful beauty of a ballerina and the old soul of a wizened Merlin.

If we could all learn to listen to our children, that’s my hope. Isn’t that what we wished for when we were children? That our parents might have listened to us? But we can’t turn back the clock, so let’s all revel in a new day of renewed hope, of compassion for ourselves and others, and for a more positive environment, politically, religiously, and personally.

with a new day, there’s always hope…hugmamma.

an expert, in my opinion

Since I’ve no other authors on my blog, from time to time I may reprint someone’s opinion other than my own, especially when my thoughts run parallel to his or hers. I’m a member of the AARP, having joined when I was invited some 6 years ago. We all have to place our faith in something, someone; I choose to believe that this organization is working for the overall benefit of people my age. AARP may not serve my specific interest in every instance, but who does? If I’m never served by them, then I can opt to make my voice heard, or opt out. So I share the following, which appeared in the Editorial Section of today’s Wall Street Journal, because I’m in favor of helping ALL seniors. In this economy, we may have bread on the table today, and be standing in the “bread line” tomorrow. So I opt to share my “bread” with the not so blest, now. Someone may share theirs with me, tomorrow. I think it’s called “paying it forward.” Wasn’t there a movie by that name? I think it garnered populous praise.

Obama Care Will Help Most Seniors

“How Seniors Will Pay for Obamacare” by John C. Goodman (op-ed, Sept. 23) provides a grossly misleading analysis of the health-care law’s effect on seniors and the value of Medicare to 45 million older Americans.

Of course, Medicare is not perfect. But the new law significantly improves it, with better benefits for prescription drugs (phasing out the ‘doughnut hole’) and the elimination of co-payments for a range of preventive services and screenings. It also advances high-quality care in traditional Medicare through an array of pilot programs that seek to improve patient safety, care coordination and treatment of chronic illness.

That is the big picture. These improvements can help all seniors, not just those who have opted for the private, government-subsidized plans known as Medicare Advantage. New quality bonuses, which we support, will also reward those Medicare Advantage plans that provide quality care.

Those who share our concern for low-income households should support the improvements to Medicare that help all needy seniors. By strengthening and improving traditional Medicare, we can ensure a more competitive marketplace that offers genuine choice to health-care consumers of all incomes.

No one understands better than AARP–or has worked harder to fix–the gaps in Medicare coverage. Despite widespread misunderstanding, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act takes major steps to achieve this goal.

John Rother, Executive Vice President, AARP, Washington

for ALL seniors, hugs…hugmamma.

another milestone, another thank you

As of today, viewings of this blog have reached 3,027. Two months and 10 days since I began, I’m still typing my thoughts and feelings about the “small stuff” in my life. I like to think the appeal has been that my life is no different from yours. Outward appearances might be different, but the innards are the same. We all walk the same “cafeteria line” in life, making individual choices, hoping they’re the right ones to give us nourishment, while still exciting our palates. As with food choices, life decisions can be detrimental to our well-being. If they are, we must regroup and make different choices, ones that better suit our mental and physical compositions.

Life is a never-ending banquet of small meals. Some are fabulous, some are okay, some are downright cruddy. Lesson learned? Don’t choose the junk stuff, or if you do, then vomit! Don’t keep it roiling around inside your gut forever. That’ll be like dying a slow death. There are so many more options in life’s smorgasbord. So “eat” hearty, “eat” often, ” but most importantly, “eat” to live your best life, going forward!

see you in “line,” hugs…hugmamma.

putting a “face” on the “unknown”

Glad I stepped away from the keyboard to visit with dear friends last night. Because of them I overcame my reluctance to get gussied up for a fundraising event in the city. My husband knew nothing about the organization sponsoring the dinner; he didn’t know what the letters “HRC” represented. The hours slipped by quickly, as we listened and learned about the “Human Rights Campaign.” 

We’ve attended other fundraisers over the years, ballet balls, zoo events, symphony dinners, among others. At the ballet ball, I remember ending the night rocking to the deejay’s music on the dance floor. At zoo events, I thought it was cool to visit the butterfly house, and witness the jaguar feeding, afterhours. And at a symphony fundraising dinner, my husband bought me my favorite watch, which I wear every day. Unlike these, last night’s event had no gimmicks, unless one considers the guest speakers as the “drawing card.” If so then, in my estimation, they were the most relevant “gimmicks” I’ve ever entailed.

Washington’s U.S. Senator Patty Murray spoke of her genuine efforts on behalf of her constituents. She focused on 2 in particular, who wrote letters asking for  her help. One was sent by a young girl whose dream it is to proudly serve her country in the military, but isn’t allowed to do so while proudly “owning” who she is, because of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. The other letter was written by a dedicated teacher of 30 years, who tried to help a young student suffering the harassment of peers after she “came out.” Failing to garner official support for the youngster’s plight, the teacher informed the girl. Three days later, she committed suicide.

In his turn at the podium Joe Solmonese, HRC President for 5 years, brought me “up to speed” on the organization’s efforts to achieve total equality for a segment of the population that has been disenfranchised for too long. I was especially impressed when he emphasized that they are NOT victims, that they will not be deterred in their efforts, no matter what obstacles they encounter as they campaign for their freedom and rights. In the evening’s program, Mr. Solmonese wrote, in part, “Our community’s voice has never been more influential and never have we had a more friendly audience in our lawmakers. With your support, HRC can make our community’s voice heard loud and clear.”

A Child Protection Social Worker, Janice Langbehn, related a moving story of “man’s inhumanity to man,” to coin a phrase from a long ago episode of “All in the Family,” where Gloria attempted to explain a simple truth to her family. While she elicited chuckles from the viewing audience, including me, Ms. Langbehn’s words resonated with both my husband and I. With her legal partner, Lisa, and 3 of their 4 adopted children, they celebrated their 15th anniversary in February 2007, by boarding a ship in Miami to cruise to the Bahamas. While waiting to sail, Lisa oversaw a basketball game the kids were playing. Within 20 minutes they ran to their stateroom to get Janice, telling her that Lisa was sick. Janice and the children made their way to “Jackson Memorial Ryder Trauma Center, where Lisa had been taken. When her family, Janice and the youngsters, arrived they were told by a trauma social worker that Miami and Florida were “an anti-gay city and state” and were not allowed to visit Lisa or receive any news of her condition. Despite securing the couples Medical POA required by the Center, Lisa’s family continued to meet with resistance, until Janice accompanied a priest who gave her partner the Last Rites. The children were also finally allowed a few minutes with their mom. But in the end, Lisa died alone on February 19, 2007. Since then Janice has publicly spoken on behalf of change to homophobic policies like those of Jackson Memorial. In April of this year, President Obama phoned Janice apologizing for “the treatment her family received and described the Presidential Memorandum he sent to HHS to direct Federal Regulations to allow same-sex couples the same hospital visitation rights as other families.”

What makes Langbehn’s story even more compelling is the dedication with which she and her partner committed their lives to helping children. “Their love and life together was defined by their care and passion for aiding special needs children. In 1992 they were the first openly gay foster parents in their county, fostering 25 children, 4 of which they adopted, and all with special needs due to drug and HIV exposure. Janice’s long history of social work and care for children began while employed with DSHS and the State of Washington as a Sex Offender treatment provider in a juvenile prison. She saw a need to intervene earlier in a child’s life and so became a Child Protection Social Worker. Janice completed her first Master’s in Public Administration in 1995 and in 1997 was accepted to the University of Washington Master in Social Work Program. In April of 1999, Janice was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. From 1996 until Lisa’s untimely death in 2007, the two were intimately involved in their children’s lives. They managed HIV appointments, taught first communion classes, volunteered in the children’s school and began a successful Girl Scout troop.” Janice continues to speak out as part of “the educational process that comes with the fight for equality.” To a standing ovation and thunderous applause, she was honored with the HRC Equality Award.

Introducing the final speaker of the evening, was a dentist who shared a childhood secret with us. He had always dreamed of becoming a figure skater. But he put aside his dreams, and fulfilled his mother’s dream instead. Forty years later, thanks to Johnny Weir, the dentist is taking ice skating lessons. Bravo!

The name meant nothing to me, until a video clip showed Johnny Weir in the spotlight, representing the U.S. at the last winter Olympics. He is a flamboyant figure skater, in his style, dress and makeup. He was not my favorite, so I wasn’t as impressed with his performance as I was with some of his competitors. But after hearing his story, I have more admiration for him, as a person. Starting late, he taught himself to ice skate at age 12 on the frozen ponds in back of the cornfields at his home in Amish country, Pennsylvania. With the love and support of amazing parents and younger brother, Weir “hopped, skipped, and jumped” his way into figure skating history, capturing the hearts of millions around the world (he is knowns as the “people’s skater”), and U.S. Figure Skating’s 2010 Reader’s Choice Award for Skater of the Year (Michelle Kwan Trophy). 

Weir makes no excuses for being gay, embracing his “fabulosity.” Having concluded that he wasn’t representative of the image of the U.S. Olympic figure skater, and would therefore not medal, he decided to do his best, for himself. So he brought to his dynamic performance 13 years of hard work, sacrifice and passion for his craft. When he finished skating, and stood up from a back bend, his eyes were met with an arena of waving flags from around the world. I understood his joy, for as a ballerina, my daughter strives to connect with an audience appreciative of her talent, sacrifice, hard work, and passion for her art.

I think in our own personal struggles to come to terms with life, we don’t see that others are also struggling. I’m guilty of such tunnel vision. It’s human nature to think there’s not enough time or energy to be stretched so thin. Some of us are more capable than others, depending upon our own circumstances of health, finances, and commitments. We needn’t all react exactly alike; we can’t, by virtue of our individual DNA. Perhaps what we all CAN and SHOULD DO, is “put a face on the unknown.”    

Senator Patty Murray, HRC President Joe Solmonese, Johnny Weir, the dentist, and most prominently, Janice Langbehn and her children, are the “faces” of the Human Rights Campaign. America’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community are no longer the “unknown.” I now know who they are. Each is someone’s child living on the periphery of society, “assigned” rights which are already theirs by virtue of their citizenship in the human race, and their birthright as U.S. citizens. I don’t feel their rights are mine to give or withhold. I believe they’re inalienable, as written in our Constitution. I am a spiritual person, a member of the Catholic church. I think religion offers us sound principles with which to live our lives, but I think we’ve succumbed to using religion as a weapon to pass judgment upon, and excommunicate, those who are non-compliant. I’m not God, and I don’t want to be God. As with Oprah, the job has serious responsibilities which I’m not equipped to handle. Better I leave it to the experts, God in his domain, and Oprah in hers.

I’ve been fortunate to know the men behind the “faces,” good friends we’ve known since moving to the Pacific Northwest. Leon and Ken made me feel comfortable and welcome, when I met them at the first gathering my husband and I attended at his boss’s home, 13 years ago. Before their arrival, I felt self-conscious and awkward, being a stay-at-home mom trying to mingle with career people. The 2 men were interested in knowing more about me, and soon we were joking and laughing like old friends. Through the years, our friendship has remained steadfast, and I’m able to relax in their company as soon as I see them. They’ve never had an “agenda,” other than to know that I’m fine. I always welcome that concern in friends, straight, or gay.

My friendship with Brent and Rick is more recent, although my husband’s known them for several years, because he and Rick are employed by the same company. Although I was acquainted with both men, I got to know Brent better when we accompanied our significant others on a business trip to Victoria, BC. As with Leon and Ken, I felt comfortable in Brent’s company because he made me feel my contribution to the conversation was valuable. Although he’s taking college courses toward becoming a social worker, I never felt like my 60’s college experience was arcane. In fact, Brent complimented my common sense approach to life. That’s music to the ears of a senior citizen! A smart man 20 years my junior is inspired by what I might have to say. Kind of novel in this day and age. Needless to say, I’m very happy to be in the company of Brent and Rick, 2 men with discerning tastes for quality of life for all, including the elderly.

Personally I know that I’m unlikely to be swayed in my opinions unless I can put a “face” on the “unknown,” whatever that might be. Rather than having someone force me to think differently, I’m inclined to change because of personal motivation. I don’t think any of us like being browbeaten into a decision. My husband and I made a contribution to the HRC, because last night we were educated about their worthwhile efforts, and because Leon, Ken, Brent and Rick are real “faces” for the cause of human rights.

Another real “face” is a nephew of mine who “came out” to his parents decades ago. He was a wonderful, young man when I knew him. He played the piano beautifully; he seemed a sensitive soul. Having lost touch, I learned years later that he’d contracted a near fatal disease. His partner at the time helped nurse my nephew back to complete health. He has shared his life with another partner for many years, adopting 2 girls who had been students in my nephew’s middle school class, several years ago. Before they became a family, the youngsters were in and out of foster homes.

Children are my concern, because of my childhood experiences, and because I wish all children would know the unconditional love and support to be who they are, and not what others want them to be. Our gay peers are intelligent, resourceful and hard-working. They will evince long-term change through their commitment not to return to the “dark ages” of society’s earlier days. We can either embrace the inevitable and co-exist, all striving to live our best lives, or we can maintain our isolation from certain segments of society, holding onto historical prejudices. It’s our choice; it’s our freedom. I choose, that others might enjoy the same freedom. I may have an island mentality about driving on freeways, and fear of black bears, but not in matters that are substantive. In these cases, I prefer to draw from the “aloha spirit” inherent in my native fibre, and welcome all as “ohana” (family).

hugs for conquering our fear of the “unknown”, by putting a “face” to it…hugmamma.

portuguese bean soup, recipe

Here in the Pacific Northwest autumn doesn’t sneak up on us, it merely takes a coffee break letting summer step in for a quick 15 minutes. So while elsewhere around the country citizens were barbecuing for months, we never once took the cover off our grill. And regardless what month of the year, I’m always perusing cookbooks and magazines for cold weather recipes, especially soups and stews. Because some of my relatives are faithful readers I decided to share the following recipe, which is a staple of some Hawaiian families. Having said that, I can’t explain why our family ate such hearty fare in the hot tropics. Never thought of it until now. But there’s really no rhyme or reason to why island locals eat what they eat. If it’s “ono,” (tasty) it’s a no-brainer, we’ll eat it.

The first time I can recall eating Portuguese bean soup was at the monthly “Hui Akoni Hemolele” meeting. As the name implies, it was a club to which native Hawaiians belonged, although there were members of other ethnicities, like Japanese and Portuguese. A few men belonged, but the majority were women. My mom had served as an officer a couple of times. Once a month they would all attend a particular Mass to worship. Immediately afterwards they would gather at the church hall, where everyone would be updated on the club’s current affairs. My brother and I would accompany my mom, waiting impatiently until the breakfast of Portuguese bean soup and Portuguese sweet, or white, bread, with butter, would be served. I can still picture the huge steaming pots, from which the serving women would ladle spoonfuls of the thick, homemade soup, heavily laden with chunks of meat, potatoes, carrots and cabbage. It was heaven on earth to eat food that even God would want served at His table. I exaggerate, but that’s how wonderful it tasted, especially for my brother and I who weren’t use to eating an abundance of red meat in those days. I think we thought ourselves extremely lucky if we ate hamburgers.

When the talking finally ceased, members seconding the motion to adjourn, and the short capes of yellow and red bird feathers removed from around their shoulders, we knew that signaled “Let’s eat!” My brother and I didn’t need to be asked twice. We made a beeline for the food. I think my mom would bring up the rear, because she’d always get sidetracked talking with this person, and that person. But the soup never seemed to run out before everyone got their helping. Sometimes there was enough leftover, so we took a potful home. Lucky, lucky us!

I have several recipes for this soup, this being one of the simplest. I’ve not made Portuguese bean soup since Christmas, so I’m starting slow. At some point I may cook the version that has many more ingredients, including papaya which is a natural meat tenderizer. So as the cold season unfolds, I’ll post one or more recipes for this delicious concoction. If you’re wondering why Hawaiians cooked a food traditional to the Portuguese, the short answer is decades ago they were brought to the islands to serve as “lunas” (bosses) on the pineapple plantations. They oversaw the laborers, first the Chinese, followed by the Japanese and finally, the Filipinos. With the influx of these nationalities, came a melting pot of foods, which became Hawaiian food as we know it today, a smorgasbord of this and that. Still my favorite, I’d easily double my body weight if I were a resident. I’d have a plate lunch of beef teriyaki, spam, portuguese sausage, macaroni salad, and rice, instead of a Big Mac and fries any day of the week. Bring it on…

Meanwhile hope you try this recipe, enjoying its hearty flavors near a blazing fire on a cold, wintry Fall evening, or on your lanai, in the shadow of the setting Hawaiian sun, the gentle ocean breezes lightly caressing your cheeks.

PORTUGUESE BEAN SOUP

  • 2 lb Portuguese sausage, cut into 1/4-inch pieces (if unavailable, try another sausage, like Kielbasa)
  • 1 lb ham hock
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 2 quarts water
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 3 potatoes, diced
  • 1 small cabbage, chopped
  • 1 can (8 oz) tomato sauce
  • 2 cans (15 oz size) red kidney beans, including liquid

Put sausage, ham hock, and onion into a large pot; add water. Cover and cook on low heat for 1 hour. Remove meat from ham hock. Put meat back into soup and add carrots, potatoes, cabbage, and tomato sauce; cover and continue cooking for 1-1/2 hours, stirring occasionally. Stir in beans, including liquid, and cook a few more minutes, adding more water if necessary. Makes 12 servings.

hmmm, onolicious…hugmamma.

bears, update

At coffee with the ladies this morning, got an update on the neighborly black bears that have taken up residence in and around our town. Kristina was on a daily walk with her dog yesterday, when she was stopped by a policeman who warned that a bear was nearby. Undeterred, she continued down the path where she saw a group of high schoolers. They’d also heard about the bear sighting. Looping around, Kristina eventually returned to the same path and the same students were now watching the bear and her 2 cubs, scrambling up trees. Seemed like everyone was enjoying themselves, the bears frolicked, putting on an unexpected, but obviously appreciated, display for onlookers. Safety in numbers, I guess. That’s what Kristina decided, anyway. I would’ve had one eye on the cute bears, and the other on the quickest escape route. “Pauk, pauk.” I admit to being a real chicken. At least Kristina credited me with knowing my limitations. Hey, I can hold my body in the plank position for 32 counts, even a minute, but outrun a bear? “Oh no she didn’t!” as Bethany Frankel-Hopy (TV’s “Bethenny Gettin’ Married?”) would say.

One of the other ladies who works part-time at Bartell’s Drug Store, spoke of photos a customer had taken of bears in her backyard. The cubs were perched in the branches of an apple tree tossing fruit down, mama bear quickly gobbling them up. Now that’s what I call progressive, children feeding the parent. Another in our coffee clutch told us how her pet alpacas emit high-pitched squeals, warning of nearby threats, like bears. Reading about bears, cougars and alpacas, you must think I live in rural America. Actually there’s a huge, Microsoft complex about 8 – 10 minutes drive from my home. I wouldn’t be surprised if the techies have seen 4-legged creatures lumbering across their campus.

In the most recent post about my minutiae, I mentioned that Kristina’s cousin from the UK has been hiking in the Pacific Northwest region since mid-July. Sixty-year young, Christopher Townsend, has authored anecdotal books about his treks in the great outdoors. He also has a blog, “Christopher Townsend – The Outdoors,” which I plan to check out. We ladies decided he’s an amazing specimen to walk about 26 miles a day in his current hike, sleeping on the hard ground, days and weeks on end. Kristina’s joining him for a couple of days, but admitted she may overnight at a motel if camping becomes a drag. Good for her that she’s going to give it a try. I’d be soaking in a hot tub, sipping a martini at a posh hotel. In fact, forget the hike, I’d just do a weekend getaway at some resort in a warm clime.

With all our talk about black bears, I must admit to being really spooked as I walked Mocha through our neighborhood a short while ago. I rang my bear bells like Santa was paying an early visit, “jingle, jingle, jingle.” And I kept imagining whose door I’d knock on, if I saw a bear coming around the bend. Of course clueless Mocha wanted to sniff everything alongside the road. Meanwhile my eyes scanned patches of overgrown blackberry bushes, hillsides behind houses, and overhead trees, hoping not to see menacing eyes staring back at me. I’m here typing, so…

no bear sightings, yet…hugmamma.

roses, with thorns

Was just thinking that my blog might be mistaken as portraying a life lived in a garden of fragrant roses, devoid of any thorns. It couldn’t be further from the truth. Living an impoverished life, the youngest of 9, raised by a widowed 30 year old, native Hawaiian, whose only source of income was as a laundress for a Catholic orphanage, was not without physical pain or mental anguish. At our best, we were a dysfunctional family, at our worst, we were individuals trying to survive, until we were old enough to get out of the house. I’m sure our story is replicated the world over. Rather than remain the victim of circumstances, and take my “mountain of pain” to even greater heights, I prefer to dismantle it altogether. At 61 I don’t have decades left in which to experiment, to learn by trial and error. I’ve dabbled sufficiently in life’s “ups and downs,” to know that, going forward, I’d like to live with a positive frame of mind. I don’t wish to allow negativity to take control of my life, the only one I have. What example would I be setting for my daughter, who puts great stock in the examples set by my husband and me? She’s worth more to me than any pain I suffered as a result of the personal baggage I dragged around, like a ball and chain. Better to sever the shackles that bind, and be rid of the accompanying stress forever. I’ve come a long way, but I’m far from done.

still a work in progress…hugmamma.

strategies, just in case

Returned to exercise class after being absent for 3 weeks. Luckily I can depend upon muscle memory; once the music starts it’s all about bumping and grinding to the rhythm. It takes a few minutes for my brain cells to fall in line, moving to the beat as one, with my body. But I know that in older age it’s going to take many more classes, as well as walking the track in the evenings, to peel off the pounds I put on while visiting my daughter. I made sure she ate well, unfortunately I partook of the same bounty. Because my husband and I share the same health concerns, it’s easier to return to a stricter diet, lots of veggies and fruits, much less carbs, absolutely no butter, and no snacking whatsoever. My daughter could afford to digress from her normal diet of salads, veggies, fruits and protein, because she exercises all day, every day.

I received a hearty welcome from Kristina, the instructor, as well as my exercise cronies. It’s nice to be missed. Quite a few ladies were absent from the group. But once the weather reaches down into the 40 degrees, the rest will return. Chilly weather correlates to heartier meals like soups and stews, while the holidays seem to give us carte blanche to overeat. Only when we’re sufficiently guilt-ridden, and have packed on enough extra pounds, do we make our way back to common sense, and exercise. So I’d better undo what I’ve already done, in preparation for what I’m about to do. Make sense?

After class, Kristina and I made our way to a charming coffee-house which I’d not been in before. The owners of the adjoining wine bar, Vino Bella, opened this deli which serves up breakfast and lunch sandwiches, in addition to espresso drinks. Will definitely return with my husband on the weekend to sample the food. Over lattes, Kristina and I chatted about topics ranging from politics to families. Of particular interest was her advice about bear encounters. She’s a fan of the great outdoors, having seen a fair number of wild animals while hiking. We decided that avid hikers learn not to panic, as well as what they should, and shouldn’t, do during encounters. My guess is that practice makes perfect. Problem is, I don’t want to practice meeting up with wild animals, in order to figure out how best to deal with them when I do. I would like NEVER to encounter a wild animal, period. But if I do, I’ll try to follow Kristina’s advice.

  • It’s her opinion, and others, that black bears are not as inclined as grizzlies to attack humans. In the rare case that a black bear does harm a person, there’s probably an extenuating circumstance. In the recent case reported on the local news, it was found that the bear was malnourished, and afflicted with parasites.
  • If I encounter a black bear (Kristina assures me there are no grizzlies in the area), I should not look it in the eye, I should not run. Both responses will trigger the bear’s defensive and predatory instincts. Instead she recommends I go limp, and “play dead,” covering my vital organs and head. I’ve seen this recommendation enacted in a TV documentary where the speaker slumped to the ground in a fetal position, hands cradling the back of his head, fingers intertwined. Kristina related the recent Yellowstone incident where 3 people were attacked by a bear. A woman who was bitten, screamed. The bear responded by biting harder; the woman screamed louder, and so on. Realizing she needed to change her strategy, she went limp, playing dead. The bear ceased biting her and, unfortunately, went after another person.
  • Kristina and I also discussed what I should do if I came across a cougar (or mountain lion), because they’ve also been seen in neighboring backyards. She enlightened me to the fact that, unlike black bears who subsist primarily on grass and berries, cougars are predators. Because they fear other predators, my best defense is to present myself as one, by making noise, swinging a rake or some other weapon, and even pulling my jacket or shirt up over my head to appear larger.

We hadn’t planned on discussing defense strategies should I come face-to-face with black bears or cougars, but I can never arm myself with too much information, just in case. I just hope  my brain’s muscle memory will go into automatic cruise control. It’s little consolation that while assuring me black bears don’t attack humans, Kristina admitted that on the rare occasion one does then, unfortunately, it must be that victim’s destiny. Okay…

A cousin of Kristina’s is here in the U.S. from his home in the UK. Like her, he’s an avid outdoors person. Since mid-July he has been hiking mountain ranges, making his way through  several western states. Kristina and her daughter have joined her cousin on some of his treks. He told them of 3 encounters he’d had with black bears, who all took flight at the sight of him. The speed with which they turned and ran, confirmed his knowledge that a human could never outrun a bear, so best not try. Through his binoculars he saw a grizzly with 2 cubs in a field, some distance away. That would still be too close for me, unless I was safely ensconced in a huge tour bus, surrounded by fellow travelers.

Like you I think bears and wild cats are cute, when they’re behind glass or across moats, in a zoo, or on the African plains, but not roaming around my neighborhood. And if you live where there isn’t the slightest  possibility that you’ll come eye to eye with a wild animal, then thank your lucky stars. I don’t mind co-habitation, as long as we’re not doing it in the same spot, at the same time.   

you never know, you just never know…hugmamma. (local news just reported black bear seen “hanging out in a grassy area” down the road from our neighborhood, same place where another one was hit and killed by a car last week. hmmm…we may have to build mocha an indoor bathroom. not sure i’ll be walking her anymore, unless it’s around the track in the gym.)

my minutiae, an update

As in the past, here’s another post to update some of the minute details that make my life, mine. We all have them, some are commonplace, some are unique. If you’re ever inclined, feel free to share some of yours.

  • While I was visiting my daughter, a huge tree fell in our back yard, landing precariously close to our house, perhaps 20 feet away. The top branches lay across the arbor that serves as an overhead roof to the back deck. A “chunk of change” later, a local tree service removed the precariously perched tree right down to its trunk, leaving our house intact. An act of Mother Nature, from which we were spared catastrophic damage by the hand of God. Thank goodness I wasn’t on hand to witness the event. Might have been too much for my heart. Something to ponder.
  • Yesterday was the first day of Fall. The season usually portends of rain, chilly weather, gray skies. So I guess those of us in the Pacific Northwest had exactly one month of summer, August. Retiring to Hawaii or Florida sounds really enticing. Also something to ponder.
  • On the local news yesterday they reported that a man returning home from walking his 2 dogs, was attacked by a black bear at the foot of his driveway. His wife could be heard on a 911 call, pleading for help. Because black bears have been sighted in our neighborhood, I’m very fearful of encountering one. In addition to the one bear bell attached to my dog’s leash, I may have to sew a whole bunch to my jacket. Who cares if I sound like the “Good Humor” man selling ice cream from a truck. I may look like “princess pupule” (Hawaiian for “crazy princess), but I’m sure the bears will avoid me, but so might the neighbors. Hmmm, something else to ponder.
  • The other night my husband announced that we’d been invited to his boss’s home to dine, one of the other guests being the new bishop of our diocese. It always surprises me when we’re asked to socialize with the CEO/President and his wife, because they “run” in such different circles from us. I love them dearly, having told them once that they bring out my maternal instincts. A decade younger, I look upon them like my other children. I’ve met both their parents, whom I also find enchanting. What surprises me is that my candidness seems to endear me to them. I do tread carefully, however, because my husband hovers nearby making sure I don’t say something too outrageous. But what do I chat about with a Catholic bishop? Hmmm…even more to ponder. One thing’s for sure, I’d better not have a lemon-drop martini. You know what they say, “Loose lips sinks ships.” And if I get too loose, oh my goodness…
  • A dance career can be an obstacle course because of the “detours” that unexpectedly present themselves. The last week I was with my daughter, she was unable to dance. Towards the end of the previous week, her male partner had brought her down from an overhead lift too quickly. Caught off guard, my daughter’s pointe shoe hit the ground hard, probably exacerbating an already tentative ankle. As a preventive measure from further injury, her foot is in an orthopedic boot, awaiting a doctor’s diagnosis. She’s hoping it’s not serious enough to sideline her from performing in Swan Lake. As a professional she knows such mishaps are part of the job. All she can do is seek resolution so that she can move forward. We can all learn something from these young folk, I know I can, and am.
  • Dr. Oz’ show shared some good information today. It included a discussion of “obesogens.” From what I gathered, since I tuned in late, environmental factors may contribute to our obesity, from plastics and canned foods that leach chemicals into our food, to farmed-fish, like salmon, whose pesticides and coloring agent also promote obesity. One tip, among several suggested, is not to microwave foods in plastic containers because of the leaching effect. Better to cook or reheat in glass containers. Another topic was dehydration, which many of us fail to recognize until we head to the emergency room for resuscitation. Drinking plenty of water to maintain our body’s 60% composition, is essential to keeping our cells, and the surrounding areas, hydrated. One tip was specifically helpful since I consume a lot of green tea daily. Coffee and tea are diuretics which cause us to lose water. Because of this, we need to replenish the loss by drinking 8 ozs. of water for each cup of caffeinated beverage we consume. Years ago when I followed the Weight Watcher’s Diet, I understood that coffee and tea would count towards the required amount of water consumption. Perhaps their information has been adjusted to reflect more current data.
  • My husband and I are starting our Fall weather regime this evening, going to our community center to walk the track and use the fitness equipment. Wish us luck, for the long haul.

small stuff, that’s life…hugmamma.

wordpress.com, working for me

Having blogged on 2 sites prior to WordPress.com, I find that this site is the most user-friendly. Being technologically challenged, I thought I might have given up before now, frustrated that I wasn’t reaching an audience with whom to share my journey. Two months later, I’m still blogging, and you’re still reading, with many more having joined us. There were moments of doubt, but my passion for writing kept me going, as did several handfuls of viewers who said my words meant something to them. Their sentiments went a long way in “stroking my ego,” something we all need to maintain our motivation, and grow our self-confidence. Thanks to them and now, many more like them, I continue to share life experiences which might help those in need of compassion, validation, consolation, laughs and perhaps, hope. None of us are going it alone; we’re all striving, to live our best lives. I’m not Oprah, but I am one voice trying to make a difference, one person at a time. 

WordPress.com has been an ally in my efforts to share my writing. While I’m not one of the famous bloggers on this site, I still feel my voice is welcome. I’m certain I have far less traffic than the Wall Street Journal’s blog, but I’m grateful for the readership I have. It’s more than I would have imagined. Once I established its  look, purpose, technical details, and alerted friends and family to my blog, I began composing my posts.

Along the way I made new discoveries about WordPress.com, some intentional, others accidental. Since I’m anal about details, I always figured my way in, and around, obstacles. When I succeeded, I cheered my own efforts. When I ran into a “wall,” I turned to my husband for help. His assistance was limited however, because I was more familiar with the inner workings of WordPress.com than he. I never thought I’d see the day when I’d know something more about the computer than my husband. Feels kind of good, except when I’m really stuck. The great thing is that I’ve always been able to resolve a problem by consulting WordPress for Dummies by Lisa Sabin-Wilson, or search through the site’s extended inventory of helpful information, or email the support staff.

When I’m blogging the last thing I want to encounter are technical “hiccups.” On Oprah.com I would lose what I’d written from time to time. Because of this I’d first type my draft on Microsoft Word, then copied and pasted it onto my blog site. WordPress.com automatically saves my writing as I’m typing. I’ve published 124 posts, not having lost one in the process. While comments are encouraged, WordPress.com moderators will hold off publishing ones which might be “spams,” letting me decide whether or not they are. This gives me a sense of security, which was a definite plus on Oprah.com. But while both sites had that in common, over time I felt Oprah.com’s moderators were sometimes too involved in whether or not something was or wasn’t allowed. That aside, I might have remained on the site if it hadn’t morphed away from personal blogs, in its transition to Oprah’s new venture, OWN TV.

Crafting the look of my blog was fun, especially personalizing the header with my own photograph. As I became more comfortable with my new “home,” I found inserting photos and YouTube videos relatively easy, thanks to WordPress.com instructions, and my own dogged determination. Growing readership is always a challenge, but this site also assists by “threading” posts throughout their system, as well as offering various other aids, one of which is “stumbleupon” which has garnered additional readers for which I’m very grateful. Early on I took advantage of a link to “Facebook,” which also quickly bore fruit. While typing away contentedly, WordPress.com continually informs me of further services that can enhance my blog experience.

The one disadvantage to WordPress.com is the inability to sell items. Since I dabble in antiques, collectibles, folk art, and crafts, I might look elsewhere to satisfy my retailing inclination. While this feature is available on Blogger.com, the first site on which I blogged, its “no holds barred” attitude about privacy is somewhat discouraging. I understand it’s going through changes to make it more competitive with other sites, so I’ll keep my eyes and ears open. Meanwhile, I’m happy where I am.

wordpress.com, working for me…hugmamma.

parenting, the rewards

This post is especially written for parents, who are wending their way along the very tricky path of raising children. It is one for which we were never formally prepared, managing to make it from one day to the next by sheer will power, and an abundance of trials and errors. We were fortunate if we could look to successful role models, but how many of us had that privilege? I congratulate those who did, because that’s what all of us aspire to being, great parents. But circumstances, including personal “baggage” we lug around, tends to hamper our good intentions. Nonetheless, we have no choice but to press on and do our best. How do we know when we’ve succeeded in parenting upstanding, future citizens, ones who will be compassionate in their relations with others? Having spent 3 weeks with my daughter, I know that all my best efforts as a parent were well-received, and “hit the mark.”

Perhaps children of any age who read this, will want to acknowledge their own parents’ struggle to get through each day. No amount of reading, or well intended advice can do the job for us. Of the several careers I’ve had, parenting is the most difficult, most gratifying, and by far the most rewarding. And here’s why.

In a card hidden in my carry-0n duffel, my daughter wrote:

‘I just wanted to say thank you so much for being with me these past several weeks. You are just what I needed… All of the little things you did meant so much. The wonderful meals, playing Bananagrams, watching movies and ‘I Love Lucy,” shopping, ‘girl’ talk, laughing, and your just being here supporting, loving and encouraging me, meant the world to me. You were there when I needed you and I know you always will be. You and Dad are the best parents, guides and friends I would ever ask for and I’m so blest to have you. I love you with all my heart, Mom.  Aloha wau i’a oe.” (I love you) …

hugs, for children, and their parents…hugmamma.

in-laws, like siblings

Unlike my own siblings who were older and not living at home during my childhood years, my husband’s 11 brothers and sisters were very much present during the 3 years we dated, and the early years of our marriage. Because my husband was the eldest and we were a couple, it seemed as though his siblings were mine also. And the respect and admiration they had for him, was extended to me by virtue of our relationship. That was different from being the youngest in my family, where I had to mind the wishes of my brothers and sisters. I reveled in the role of  “big sister,” and I couldn’t have asked for a more welcoming, loving, fun brood of in-laws.

  • My age, Michael was the bronzed, Greek god of myths, who surfed and dated Miss Hawaii’s, one being the niece of Hawaii’s governor at the time. Glad I was never competing for his attention, I relished the position of future sister-in-law instead. But through the years, my brother-in-law has aged into a soft-spoken, humble man of spiritual substance, happily married for many years.
  • A year younger than me, Kathy was a beauty who turned heads. While the details are fuzzy, I do remember having driven her in my car to a rendezvous with a young man, after she climbed out of her bedroom window, unbeknownst to her parents. I don’t think they ever found out, until after I was safely married to their son.
  • Twins John and Mary were usually out with friends, so that I was less familiar with them. Both attractive, they seemed ensconced in a world of beautiful, fun-loving, party people. At the time, I felt they were so totally out of my league. Thank goodness middle-age levels the playing field.
  • Homemaker Julie has always been the surrogate mom. Even at a young age, she seemed to relish cooking, cleaning, supervising, counseling. She always did it from love, never out of obligation or for mercenary reasons. So it didn’t surprise me when she rose to Director of Revenue Services at a renowned, boutique hotel on Waikiki Beach. 
  • Dan is a man with a big heart for his wife and 4 daughters. Nothing is too much for his bevy of lovely women. In his younger years, I saw little of him, since he was a teenager who kept to himself, as most young men that age do.
  • Cindy has always been a sweetheart, with a smile as big and open as her generous personality. Things may have frazzled her from time to time, but I never noticed. Her husband knows he’s a very lucky man for having won, and kept, her heart these many years.
  • I don’t remember Louise’s younger years, except that I was told she looked most like my husband when he was young. But in recent years we’ve enjoyed a great camaraderie with she and her husband, one based upon good-natured teasing and laughter.
  • A handsome, little boy Richard captured my heart with his sweetness and adulation. He seemed to treasure the times my husband and I involved the youngest siblings in crafts we would make as Christmas gifts, or goodies we would bake for the family, or on outings where we would take them along. He was like a little brother who always wanted to be at our side.
  • Rambunctious Lily was always heard AND seen. Her wide eyes and large smile readily admitted to mischievousness. She had no patience for fools; she still doesn’t. She and her husband have made life fun for their 3 sons and 1 daughter, all beautifully raised to be respectful of their elders. My husband and I always enjoy hilarious times when we visit with Lily and her family, no matter how infrequently it may be.
  • The youngest, Pat, will always have a special place in my heart because she and I share the last rung on the family “ladder.” My husband is glad that he’s becoming better acquainted with his youngest sibling, 13 years his junior. Again, it’s nice when older age “levels the playing field.” My most vivid memory of Pat as a child of 2, was when she climbed onto my lap upon our first meeting. While I chatted with others in the family, getting to know them better, she kept trying to put her hand inside the front of my shirt. I’m sure I was blushing, as I kept trying to stop her. I think my husband finally came to my rescue, taking his sister into his arms. I thought she was cute then, I still think she is now.

my in-laws have always been generous, and loving…hugmamma.