mandatory? blogging?

I can’t help but think that we should all be made to blog. Why? Because it’s become obvious to me that the connections I’ve made with other bloggers, complete strangers, has nothing to do with socio-economic factors, like ethnicity, income-level, achievements, religion, age, appearance, political-bent, physical well-being, or aspirations. Blogging is about shared interests, values, hopes, concerns, anxieties. All with whom I’ve shared more than a passing nod, express compassion for others. 

Blogging Heroes

Image via Wikipedia

From what I’ve witnessed these last 8 months or so, people take to blogging to have a voice in the world. We begin as individuals, venturing forth onto the internet, getting adjusted to the new environment, getting cozy with our surroundings, making adjustments as needed. Some soar quickly, taking flight, experimenting without fear, gathering new treasures which they quickly bring back to their “nests,” feathering them beautifully. Others, like me, pursue one goal, writing, picking up enhancements by accident, or through much effort and deliberation, even getting caught up in viruses and spams.

Blogging is committing to print, what buzzes around in our brains. For me blogging allows my thoughts to alight now and then, like moths that come to rest on a windowpane near a lit lamp. Moving from writing in isolation to having others gather around to read, is indeed a bonus. But it becomes more than that. The blogging community is a microcosm within a macrocosm.

Monkeys Blogging

Image via Wikipedia

All species are interdependent. We humans are not meant to live as islands unto ourselves. Relating to one another is essential to our entire well-being. Blogging connects us, without consideration for the trappings that can separate.

though not perfect, it is an option to seriously consider…hugmamma.

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an energetic organizer, and true christian

Haven’t posted about our pastor, Father Bryan Dolejsi, in some time. But today’s Mass reminded me of the gifts with which he has been blest, and which he uses with enormous energy, and generosity. I’m sure there are many others like him, in positions of leadership, within the religious world, as well as within the secular. I, for one, have rarely seen someone possessing all that it takes to be a force for good, in a world that has gone so bad. I say we clone the man, and distribute him to the furthest corners of the universe. Yes, even the aliens could use Fr. Bryan.

Why do I go on singing his praises? Have you ever heard of a pastor, one in his late 30s, instigating neighborhood gatherings? After Mass, the parishioners were invited to sign up for community dinners according to our zip codes. If no one steps forward from among those listed, Father hosts the dinners at his own home. I’m certain it’s a pot-luck meal, but still. In my 61 years, I’ve never eaten a meal at the home of a priest. I’ve had them to our home, but never been reciprocated, and never expected to be.

Obviously Father Bryan’s purpose is to bring his congregation together, to know one another, beginning with small groups, and eventually growing so that there is camaraderie among all in the parish. Sensitive to the isolation of individuals, Father attempts to gather all unto himself, infusing us with his love and energy to go forth and spread God‘s word of charity and compassion towards others.

Breaking of the bread.

Image via Wikipedia

After Communion, Father Bryan asked that parishioners of less than a year gather before him to receive his blessing, and ours. Then he asked that they turn toward the congregation and receive our applause, welcoming them into the fold. He then asked that we speak to our new members, say “hello” or offer assistance if needed.

Now what mom wouldn’t be proud of a son like Father Byian? Not having met the woman, I’m positive his mom couldn’t be prouder of the man she raised from birth. 

for a leader who shows by example…and for the mom who set the example…huge hugs…hugmamma.

who is trini lopez?

While I love, love, love moving to the jazzed up folk song “If I had a hammer,” as performed by Trini Lopez, I must admit I knew nothing about him. So to satisfy my curiosity about this 60s entertainer I did some research.

Cover of

Cover of Jefferson Airplane Loves You

Trini Lopez, after years of scuffle as a pop-rock singer, became one of the biggest LP sellers in the world with 1963’s AT PJ’s, a live-in L.A. night club set with family Latin go-go rhythms. Lopez played electric guitar on the rocked-up versions of “If I Had a Hammer” and Woodie Guthrie‘s “This Land is Your Land,” and Mickey Jones, later to play with Bob Dylan on his 1966 World Tour, was on drums. “I took the song, and I made it not only listenable, but also I made it danceable,” claimed Lopez regarding his hit cover of “If I Had a Hammer.” Folk music was really in. I liked the melodies, I liked the lyrics. But I didn’t do them the way they were written. I did “em my way. I changed them around for my own satisfaction, my feelings of the songs, and MY beat. I bet you people that weren’t too much into folk-rock progenitor sounds heretically far-fetched, consider that Marty Balin of Jefferson Airplane cited him as an influence in the liner notes to the JEFFERSON AIRPLANE LOVES YOU box set, telling Jeff Tamarkin: “I remember when Trini Lopez was doing folk music to electric instruments and it was very tacky, but the idea was cool.”

Richie Unterberger in Turn! turn! turn!: the 60’s folk-rock revolution

Ooh, ooh ooh
Ooh, ooh ooh
Ooh

If I had a hammer
I’d hammer in the morning
I’d hammer in the evening
All over this land

I’d hammer out danger
I’d hammer out a warning
I’d hammer about the love between my brothers and my sisters
All, all over this land

Ooh, ooh ooh
Ooh, ooh ooh
Ooh, ooh

If I had a bell
I’d ring it in the morning
I’d ring it in the evening
All over this land

I’d ring out danger
I’d ring out a warning
I’d ring about the love between my brothers and my sisters
All, all over this land

Ooh, ooh ooh
Ooh, ooh ooh
Ooh, ooh
If I had a song
I’d sing it in the morning
I’d sing it in the evening
All over this land

I’d sing out danger
I’d sing out a warning, yeah
I’d sing out about the love between my brothers and my sisters
All, all over this land

Ooh, ooh ooh
Ooh, ooh

Now, I’ve got a hammer
And I’ve got a bell
And I’ve got a song to sing
All over this land

It’s the hammer of justice
It’s the bell of freedom, yeah
It’s the song about the love between my brothers and my sisters
All, all over this land

Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah

All over this land
Ooh, all over this land
Hee, all over this land, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah

All over this land
Hee, all over this land

from http://www.lyricsmode.com/lyrics/t/trini_lopez/if_i_had_a_hammer.html ]

remember when we use to dress like the audience?…and sit quietly, listening, not screaming?…seems eons ago…hugmamma.

“turn, turn, turn,” a folk song

Joan Baez was a songstress who epitomized the folk song era. She had the peaceful appearance of the “flower children” who grew like wildflowers all over the 60’s landscape. And her voice lulled those who were listening, into believing that life was beginning to replicate Heaven. I wonder what she thinks of the way things have turned out decades later?

To everything turn turn turn there is a season turn turn turn
And a time to every purpose under heaven
A time to be born a time to die, a time to plant, a time to reap
A time to kill, a time to heal, a time to laugh, a time to weep

To everything turn turn turn there is a season turn turn turn
And a time for every purpose under heaven
A time to build up a time to break down, a time to dance, a time to mourn
A time to cast away stones, a time to gather stones together

To everything turn turn turn there is a season turn turn turn
And a time to every purpose under heaven
A time of love, a time of hate, a time of war a time of peace
A time you may embrace, a time to refrain from embracing

To everything turn turn turn there is a season turn turn turn
And a time for every purpose under heaven
A time to gain, a time to lose, a time to rend, a time to sew
A time of love, a time of hate, a time of peace, I swear it’s not too late

To everything turn turn turn there is a season turn turn turn
And a time to every purpose under heaven
To everything turn turn turn there is a season turn turn turn
And a time for every purpose under heaven

 

“lemon tree,” a folk song

While puttering around, I listened to folk songs on the PBS station on TV.  Wow! Did that bring back some great memories. Had me humming along in some cases. Here’s one song that got me reminiscing. You don’t have to hum though, I’ve added the lyrics below the video. “Lemon tree very pretty, and the lemon flower is sweet, but the fruit of the poor lemon is impossible to eat.” La, la, la, la la la la…

When I was just a lad of ten, my father said to me,
“Come here and take a lesson from the lovely lemon tree.”
“Don’t put your faith in love, my boy”, my father said to me,
“I fear you’ll find that love is like the lovely lemon tree.”

Lemon tree very pretty and the lemon flower is sweet
But the fruit of the poor lemon is impossible to eat.
Lemon tree very pretty and the lemon flower is sweet
But the fruit of the poor lemon is impossible to eat.

One day beneath the lemon tree, my love and I did lie
A girl so sweet that when she smiled the stars rose in the sky.
We passed that summer lost in love beneath the lemon tree
The music of her laughter hid my father’s words from me:

Lemon tree flower in Vietnam

Image via Wikipedia

Lemon tree very pretty and the lemon flower is sweet
But the fruit of the poor lemon is impossible to eat.
Lemon tree very pretty and the lemon flower is sweet
But the fruit of the poor lemon is impossible to eat.

One day she left without a word. She took away the sun.
And in the dark she left behind, I knew what she had done.
She’d left me for another, it’s a common tale but true.
A sadder man but wiser now I sing these words to you:

Lemon tree very pretty and the lemon flower is sweet
But the fruit of the poor lemon is impossible to eat.
Lemon tree very pretty and the lemon flower is sweet
But the fruit of the poor lemon is impossible to eat.

did you sing along?…hugmamma.

weekly photo challenge: spring

I’ve been dying to post this picture. Am resolved to try this when the sun, and its companion, heat, take up residence again.

not sure how many hoops i can tackle at once though…hugmamma.

pets, can’t live with them…

What do you do with pets who want you to morph into their playmates, 24/7? Read a funny post where the writer felt her cat was a terrorist, stalking her all the time. Meanwhile I kept thinking of Sitka, and Juneau his brother, part-Maine Coones, who want at me all the time.

Whether seated, standing, or walking around, Sitka wants up. He’s like my daughter who when she was 2 or 3 used to come to me with outstretched arms, saying “uppy, uppy, uppy.” Sitka doesn’t say anything, he just stares at me with soulful eyes. But I can tell he wants “uppy, uppy, uppy.” Sometimes I think I should get one of those things new moms use to carry around their newborns. Then I might at least have 2 hands free to do something, other than hold Sitka. It’s impossible to multi-task with him in my arms.

At least when I sit to eat a meal, Sitka’s learned that’s my sacred time. But as soon as the plate is put away, he’s back at my side, demanding to be “uppied.” I have to look him straight in the eye, and say “Not now,” and mean it. He’ll try to outstare me, until I give up and walk away, feeling guilty. That cat can do that to me. 

Even when I sit-a-spell with Sitka in my lap, he’s always inching his way up into my face, trying to wrap himself around my head. Barely able to breathe, I have to remove his grip from around my throat, gently, or roughly, pushing him back down onto my lap. Only if I continue petting him, does he remain in place. If not, the struggle to regain higher ground starts up again. I’ve never had a cat like Sitka before, and I’ve had a lot of cats as pets in my lifetime. Ask my husband.

Juneau, Sitka’s litter mate, is another force with which to be reckoned. That cat could be a footstool, he’s so big and solid. In fact, he often wiggles his way under my feet as I’m blogging. As I rub them back and forth over his body, Juneau seems content to let me. Unlike Sitka who wants me to wear him like a crown or a bike helmet, Juneau prefers I use him to warm my feet. When I do pick him up, it’s like lifting a large bag of groceries. I have to remember to bend at the waist, or I’ll injure myself. With a grunt I hoist Juneau up onto my chest where he pulls back, squinting at me as if to say “Don’t hurt me.” I hold him tight, stroking his back assuring him that it’s okay to be on Sitka territory. Once Juneau settles in, he starts with the body-slamming.

Just as Sitka has his own unique mannerisms, so too does Juneau. He’s the only cat I’ve ever owned who literally throws himself against me, my legs if I’m standing, my chest if I’m sitting. He body slams, as my daughter has often remarked. It’s as if he wants inside my body, as if he can’t get close enough, and just wants to find a way in and stay there. Creepy, right? 

Juneau will even go so far as to nip me to get my attention. While I’m blogging, he’ll stretch up towards me, mewing pitifully. If I don’t stroke him immediately, he nips my elbow. It’s like a bee sting, which gets my attention quick! I reprimand him, after which I coo and pet him. Like his brother, Juneau can easily send me on a guilt trip. He’ll even nip me when I’m holding and stroking him. It’s either to reassure himself that I’m his, or that I’m not giving him my undivided attention. He doesn’t even want my eyes wandering toward the TV. Nope! My hands AND eyes have to be on him. Of course, I’ve had to scold him about his manners, otherwise I’d have nicks all over my body.

While Sitka and Juneau were rescued from an animal shelter, Sunkist is my purebred grand-dame. At $100, she was actually cheaper to purchase from a private owner than my 2 boys who cost $125 apiece to adopt. A 16-year-old Persian, Sunkist sits like a sphinx before me, as if willing me to get down and pay homage. (Here comes Juneau, mewing alongside me. Gotta give him a few strokes.) While Sunkist does allow me to pick her up once-in-awhile, to hold and pet her, and coo sweet nothings in her little ears, she much prefers I crouch on all fours and massage her endlessly. And I mean…endlessly.

Unlike the others, Sunkist has the patience of a sphinx. She will sit for what feels like hours to me, awaiting her turn for my undivided attention. Whether it’s right at my feet, or at a small distance, her head dropping from time to time as if in a doze, Sunkist never wavers in her efforts to get one-on-one time. When I do get down beside her, inevitably one or 2 of the others will try to steal me away. I have to nudge them out-of-the-way, saying it’s their sister’s turn to have at me. Either they get the message, or Sunkist walks off in a huff. It’s her way, or no way.

Where does my dog Mocha, a mixed terrier-beagle, fit into all this? She just takes over the whole show if that’s what she decides. But most of the time, she’s more than happy, or not, I can’t tell sometimes, to let me pay attention to the felines in the family. Being the biggest, and most companionable of all our pets, it’s hard not to give Mocha more than her fair share of my time. Besides walks during the day, we romp around the house in the evenings. Me chasing her around the coffee table, or the other way around. She looks at me in confusion when we play this game as if to ask “Are you Alpha, or are you my pack mate?” Why the confusion? Because I often get down on all fours when we’re carousing. She never bites me, but sometimes she has this gleam in her eyes as if she wants to grab me by the scruff of my neck, as she does her toy, and shake me violently from side to side. Or as with Juneau who allows Mocha to nibble at his neck, seemingly in an effort to clean him.

One thing I can’t bring myself to allow, is letting Mocha lap my face with her tongue. I know others allow this all the time, her vet, Dr. Rice for one. Having seen where Mocha’s tongue has been, i.e. licking her poop hole, I just cannot stomach her licking my face afterwards. Sorry, just can’t. Funny, I’ve no problem when Gretchen, Sylvia’s dachsund gives my face a few quick licks with her tongue. The difference, however, is that Gretchen surprises me before I can turn away, Mocha looks me directly in the eye as if asking “Are we doing this, or not?” I mean when I’ve got the option, I’m always going to say “Duh… I don’t think so.” She settles for my mashing instead. I’m all over her, like Sitka and Juneau are all over me. Mocha just lies there and takes it. I can only imagine what she’s thinking. I hope it’s not “God, she drives me nuts with her mashing!” But as long as she says nothing, I guess I’ll keep mashing and smooshing her.

gotta love those animals…i do!…hugmamma.  

mothers, compassion for

Cast of Family Ties from a later season. (From...

Image via Wikipedia

Through the first three-quarters of Meredith Baxter‘s autobiography, Untied, I found myself extremely frustrated. Here was an actress whom I thought had everything going for her. She was best known as Elyse Keaton, Michael J. Fox’s TV mom on “Family Ties, an 80s sitcom. But sometime before that she had been one-half of the handsome couple in Bridget Loves Bernie.” David Birney played her spouse, and became the real thing after the show ended.

What was disappointing about Baxter’s real life story is that through 3 failed marriages, she was always the victim of her husbands’ verbal, emotional, mental and in Birney’s case, physical abuse. Where she might have projected a woman-in-control on the small screen, she was anything but, in her personal life. Yet in one important area she was in charge. Able to get regular acting gigs, Baxter became the “bread-winner,” and wound up paying alimony to her ex-husbands.

The source of Baxter’s inability to be an equal partner in heterosexual relationships, for she did recently out herself as a lesbian, was because her mother had opted out of that role when Baxter was very young. 

 

Craftsman-style bungalow in North Park, San Di...

Image via Wikipedia

I can remember coming home from first grade, walking through the front door of our little white Craftsman-style house on Indiana Avenue in South Pasadena, and calling out, “Mommy, I”m home!” 

No answer. I was confused; her car was out front. I stood very still.

“Mommy, I’m home!”

Still nothing. Then I remembered.

“Whitney?”

“Yes, dear?” her musical voice rang out from the middle bedroom, where she kept a vanity table at which she’d do her makeup.

Although I believe she had no idea about the psychological impact this might have on her children, now that I’m older I realize that Whitney was probably just giving us what she got. Whitney’s mother was born Martha Mae Wilkerson–my brothers and I called her Memaw. She was a scrappy, tough, smart, and wily survivor. She wasn’t the soft, fuzzy type; she didn’t coddle Whitney and she didn’t coddle me. …married five times…Memaw would leave her kids behind, once with a couple of former missionaries and another time with her elementary school teacher. …It wasn’t until the fifth grade that Whitney discovered drama class…From that day forward, Whitney realized that no matter what school she was in, the drama department would become home…(and) that the nearest thing she had to a real family when she was growing up were the casts of the plays that she appeared in.

AA meeting sign

Image via Wikipedia

It took Meredith Baxter the better part of her life to sort through the mess it had become. Having drifted into alcoholism, she eventually sought help from Alcoholics Anonymous upon the urging of the producers of a particular TV show she’d been working on. But even after attending the group’s meetings for 10 years, Baxter hadn’t engaged in the self-examination process recommended by the program, until a good friend intervened.

Carla noted that…I’d not laid to rest many of the issues that brought me into the program in the first place ten years before, the primary issue being my mother! Drinking had been but a symptom of my alcoholism; I used drinking to solve my problems, but my problems were caused by my thinking, my selfish, self-centered, self-seeking, self-pitying thinking, and the destructive feelings and resentments that resulted. This way, I developed and preserved a belief system that filtered all information through a warped prism of being unwanted, unloved and unlovable.

Baxter set about replacing her old belief system with a new one. She found clarity in acknowledging that she deeply resented having to call her mother by her stage name instead of mom or mommy, and that she didn’t acknowledge her children as hers for a long time, and that she left them in the care of their stepfather while she pursued her acting career.

In order to help herself heal, Baxter decided that she needed to understand her mother.

…figure out who she was, learn what kind of mothering/role modeling she received, what did she want that she didn’t get, what were her disappointmens in life and how did she deal with them? And why did she make the choices with her children that she made? 

After answering all of these questions for herself, Baxter found great relevance in the words of someone speaking at an AA meeting.

A woman was talking about our parents as wells and that we were wired to go to our parent-wells for nurturing and sustenance. Many of us found our parent-wells were empty, but they weren’t empty at us. They were just empty.

Meredith decided that while she felt she was the target of her mother’s empty well, there was no basis in fact to support it. Instead, the supposition was based upon personal feelings.

As a followup to her discovery, Baxter needed “to learn to have compassion for (her) mother’s empty well, to accept (her) mother’s limitations and forgive her.”

Well, as soon as I started thinking of ways I had disappointed my own children, I quickly had a much better perspective. I thought about being too fearful to protect them from David, times when I traveled and worked when they probably needed me, times I left them with nannies, times I, like Whitney, had chosen work over my kids, times when I’d had too much to drink to be useful to them in any way–the list is endless. I could honestly say, however, that I did the best I could given the tools and information I had at the time, and therefore I had to allow the same for Whitney.

What I came away with was a sense of understanding Whitney and appreciating her in ways I wouldn’t allow myself to before. In truth, she gave me the very best she had. What I thought of it at the time is not important because I wasn’t in a position to know.

Finally, Meredith Baxter enumerates the ways in which she has been a better parent as a result of her own mother’s failures. “Many of what I think are my best traits as a mother were developed as a protest to what I had experienced with her.” Where Whitney never spent time with her children, Meredith was sure to be with her own youngsters when she wasn’t working, “making breakfasts, packing lunches, doing carpool, play dates, homework, projects, school breakfasts, soccer games and practice, gymnastics, baseball games and practice, swim meets, piano, violin, track meets, open houses, teacher meetings, performances.” And she was thankful that she loved being a mother, who loved doing it all. For that Baxter credited her mother for leaving a legacy, of which she had no knowledge. 

I found this portion of the book the most befitting my own experience. Like Baxter I had to let go of painful occurrences with my mom as I was growing up. What I didn’t understand as a youngster, I understood only too well when I became a wife and mother. Furthermore I’ve had the love and support of my husband for 40 years, and counting. While my mom never remarried after becoming a widow at age 30, pretty much shouldering her burdens alone. I had only one child for whom to care, my mom had nine. She had serious health issues all of her life, like diabetes, high blood pressure, arthritis. And they only worsened as she got older, added to which she also developed Alzheimer’s. I’m able to see to my health on a regular basis, because I have a spouse who provides a comfortable life.

Parents do the best they can with what tools they’ve been given. Rather than find fault, we can try to do better with what we’ve been given. But if at times we fail, and we will, we should be prepared to forgive, ourselves and others, and show compassion, knowing that we can always try again.

for moms…huge hugs…hugmamma.

the “good old days”…in merry ole england

The following is from my English friend Sylvia, whom we’ve not heard from in a little bit. She’s been saving it up for this one. It’s kind of an in-your-face reminder that people of a certain age lived “on the edge,” by today’s standards,…and are still here to tell, or brag, about it. You have to admit, they’ve got a point. Enjoy, guvnah! As Sylvia would say.

CONGRATULATIONS to all my friends born in the 1930s, 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s!

Tatto-Flavored Wine

Image by Joe Mud via Flickr

First, we survived being born to mothers who drank while they carried us and lived in houses made of asbestos. They took aspirin, ate blue cheese, raw eggs, loads of bacon and processed meat, tuna from a can, and didn’t get tested for diabetes or cervical cancer.

Our baby cots were covered with bright-colored, lead-based paints. We had no child-proof lids on medicine bottles, doors or cabinets. And when we rode our bikes, we had no helmets or shoes. We would ride in cars without seat belts or airbags. We drank water from a garden hose, not from a bottle.

Balmoral KFC workers and allies picketing the ...

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Take away food was fish and chips. There were no pizza shops, McDonald’s, KFC, Subway, or Red Rooster. Even though all the shops closed at 6 p.m., and didn’t open on weekends, we didn’t starve to death.

We shared one soft drink with 4 friends, from ONE bottle, and no one ever died as a result. We collected old beverage bottles, and cashed them in at the corner store.Then we were able to buy toffees, gobstoppers, bubble gum and some bangers so we could blow up frogs.

We ate cupcakes, white bread and real butter, and drank soft drinks that contained sugar. But we weren’t overweight because we were ALWAYS OUTSIDE PLAYING!!!

We would leave home in the morning, and allowed to play until the street lamps were lit. No one could reach us all day, but we were okay.

We would spend hours building go-karts out of old prams. We would ride them downhill, forgetting that we had no brakes. We built tree houses and cubbies, and played in river beds with Matchbox cars.

Matchbox 1-75 models typical of the modern (Ma...

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We didn’t have Play Stations, Nintendo Wii, W-boxes, video games, DVDs, 999 channels on SKY, mobile phones, personal computers, the Internet, and its chat rooms. WE HAD FRIENDS, and went outside in search of them.

We fell out of trees, got cuts, broke bones and teeth. But no lawsuits were filed because of these accidents.

Only girls had pierced ears.

We ate worms, and mud pies made from dirt, and the worms didn’t live in us forever.

Easter eggs // Ostereier

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We could only buy Easter eggs and hot cross buns at Easter time. 

We received air guns and catapults on our 10th birthdays.

We rode bikes or walked to friends’ houses, knocking on their doors, or ringing the doorbells, or just yelling their names.

Mum didn’t have to go to work to help dad make ends meet.

Football and cricket had tryouts, and not everyone made the teams. Those who didn’t, learned to deal with disappointment. Imagine that! Making the team was based upon merit.

Our teachers used to hit us with straps and sand shoes. Bullies always ruled the school playground.

Parents never bailed us out if we broke the law; in fact, they sided with the law! They didn’t give us stupid names like Kiora, Blade, Ridge or Vanilla.

We had freedom, failure, success and responsibility, and learned to handle them all.

Congratulations! You’re one of us.

You might want to share this with others lucky enough to grow up as we did, before the lawyers and government regulated our lives for our own good. While you’re at it, you might email this to your kids too, so they’ll know what brave parents they have.

pip-pip…cheerio…and all that rot!…hugmamma.

getting back into the “game”

Returned to exercise class at the community center on Wednesday; went again today. While my upper body, including my arms, neck and head acclimated to the strenous movement, my lower extremity went into shock. After all, it’s been 3 months since I’ve dragged body and soul out of bed at 6:45 a.m. to make it there by 8:15. Somehow climbing into bed after midnight doesn’t quite jive with getting up again in 5 hours, especially if I expect my body to rock-and-roll at such an ungodly hour. Having left the work force 25 years ago, this month, early morning risings are ancient history, especially when I’m feeling ancient.

Besides missing the release of endorphins, I missed the camaraderie of my fellow exercisers who, like me, are not in it for vanity. We all figure if we don’t keep moving, we won’t be moving! Exercise keeps the joints limber and the muscles taut. They, in turn, ensure quality of life as long as we’re on God‘s earth. When we retreat to His heaven, well then maybe, just maybe we’ll be able to coast on our good looks. ha, ha.

Postcard:

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Yesterday being St. Patty’s day, Kristina, our instructor decided we’d celebrate the holiday today, with Irish music. Although I’m more inclined to bump and grind to Michael Jacksons‘s beat, I’ll dance to anything, even church music if need be. After finishing our usual aerobics routine, we turned to some fancy Irish footwork, including a touch of Riverdance, and a couple of jigs. You’d think I’d have these routines memorized, since Kristina has had us do them for as long as I’ve been going, which is about 5 years. But, of course, older age and a corresponding decrease in coordination, sabotage my efforts at remembering. No matter. All of us laugh at each other’s failed attempts to get the moves right. In some instances, even Kristina forgets.

Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones in the ea...

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As a bonus for dragging myself to exercise class, I sometimes join a couple of the ladies for coffee afterwards. Today Kristina, Mary and I gathered at one of our favorite watering holes, Starbuck’s. Conversation is always so varied and, therefore, really interesting. Today was no exception. Discussion flowed from gay relatives, to attending a wedding where the bride’s family are all “gushers,” to biographies of Keith Richards and Meredith Baxter, to husband’s and their peculiarities. Whether sharing like-minded ideas or venting about personal gripes, we ladies are on the “same page.” We’re there for one another, or as my daughter and I are wont to say, “We’ve got each other’s backs.”

An interesting question was raised when we were chatting about Baxter’s recent “outing”  as a lesbian. It was obvious from reading her autobiography that she’d been through 3 heterosexual marriages that failed. I believe she was married to the wrong men. Baxter was the “bread winner” each time, although her husbands dictated their lives, each in his own way. She allowed their abuse, mentally, emotionally and in David Birney‘s case, physically. Faulting her mother’s total lack of involvement in her life from a young age, Baxter leaned towards “invisibility” in her relationships. Only when she finally fell into gay relationships did she feel an equal partner. So I posited the idea to my coffee-drinking buddies, that perhaps Baxter wouldn’t have gone Lesbian, if she’d met a man who treated her more like an equal, than like a doormat. My friends nodded their heads, but didn’t look quite convinced.

No matter if the conversation turns toward more serious topics, my companions and I always find ourselves caught up in fits of laughter, sometimes even hysterics. I guess we middle-aged women tend to laugh at our own jokes. Whatever?!? We have a lot of fun…and the pain of exercising seems a million miles away.

as they say…no pain, no gain…hugmamma.

one family’s story, japan

TV news reports are jam-packed with videos of the destruction in Japan, including snippets of interviews with those in the midst of it all. Somehow viewing the catastrophe on such a large-scale makes it impersonal, like it’s happening over there, not here. We breathe a collective sigh of relief, and go about our business. I pause every now and then unable to wrap my brain around the fact that under the same blue sky, someone in Japan is desperately trying to hang onto any visible shred of hope that she, and her family, will once again live a normal life, and here I am, living a normal life. “There but for the grace of God…”

Rather than try to retell the story of Hideo Higuchi and his family, I’m giving writer Eric Bellman that privilege since he authored “Winding Road to Reunion Bridges Three Generations,” which appeared in today’s Wall Street Journal

Ishinomaki city miyagi pref

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ISHINOMAKI, Japan–Hideo Higuchi and his wife sat in their truck, staring at the long lake in front of them. Beneath was the road to their daughter’s home.

The Higuchi’s hadn’t heard from her since Friday’s earthquake and tsunami. Water and debris had blocked the road into town. Phone networks remained down. So when floodwaters receded enough Tuesday to let them through, the couple rushed to Ishinomaki on Japan’s devastated eastern coast, where their daughter lived with her husband and three sons.

“I am not from here,” said the 70-year-old rice farmer, as his bloodshot eyes tried to measure whether his boxy white truck could make it through the knee-deep water. “I don’t know any other way around.”

Flag of Ishinomaki, Miyagi

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“What is the damage like in Ishinomaki?” his wife, Sayono, 68, anxiously asked a stranger. The Higuchis live 15 miles inland from Ishinomaki, in a small city shaken by the earthquake but unaffected by the tsunami.

The Higuchis turned their truck around. The bed of the Isuzu, emptied of the usual farming equipment, held a cardboard box of food and drinks. They were for their daughter’s family, if the family could be found.

The couple decided to try to find the primary school of their three grandsons–Ryo, 12, and the 10-year-old twins, Chihiro and Masaki. In many small towns like this one, schools are often the tallest buildings and likeliest emergency shelters.

But the Higuchis weren’t sure of the school’s name. Pointing to a map, Mr. Higuchi asked people on the street. “Is there a grade school around here? Is it an evacuation center?”

Port ishinomaki miyagi pref

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They wound through the narrow back streets of Ishinomaki, a town of 164,000 people. On the roadsides were sights rarely seen in Japan: men in military fatigues directing traffic, girls with plastic bags taped over their sneakers, old men grilling a fish over a fire in an oil can. A middle-aged woman, bowing with a particularly Japanese shame at the thought of inconveniencing a stranger, held a sign: “Please give me a ride to Watanoha.”

Mr. Higuchi stepped out of his truck and adjusted his baseball cap as he talked to some neighborhood boys. The grade school was underwater, the boys said. People there might have been taken out by helicopter.

The couple found the middle school. To search the four floors of evacuees, they split up. Each room had a roster pinned outside the door, naming the people who slept there and their age. Mr. Higuchi, with thick glasses and poor eyesight, went through more than 10 rosters.

“Oikawa…Oikawa…Oikawa,” he said repeating the married name of his daughter, Miyuki. There are a lot of Oikawas here, so his crooked fingers paused often as he went down the lists.

When Mr. Higuchi asked a cluster of kids sitting near a third-floor window if there was a grade school nearby, they answered obediently. “See that yellow building with a green roof? It’s behind there,” one boy said.

Children in Kimono, circa 1960s. In Ishinomaki...

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Beyond the yellow building was the grade school. It wasn’t underwater. It was eerily quiet. There were evacuees on the third floor, the Higuchis were told. The couple quickly walked up the steps, moving faster than they had all day. Before she finished sliding open the first classroom door, Ms. Higuchi gasped. “Ryo!” She waved her hand, apparently reluctant to enter the room. “Ryo, come here.”

It was her grandson. In the room, also, were their son-in-law’s parents. “You’re all right!” they shouted at the Higuchis.

Three adults, in a display of emotion seldom seen in Japan, jumped up and down holding hands, hugged and cried. The three grandsons were then dragged into the group hugs.

The Higuchis learned their daughter’s home had been ruined by the tsunami shortly after their daughter, the only one home at the time of the earthquake, evacuated and met the rest of her family at the school. The daughter and her husband were there now, seeing if any of their belongings were salvageable. “Thank God, thank God,” the four grandparents repeated, wiping away tears and smiling.

Mr. Higuchi brought his eldest grandson down to the truck to give him one of his favorite drinks. Ryo, wearing the bright blue gym uniform he was wearing when the earthquake hit Friday, started to sip.

“We will go meet our daughter now,” said Mr. Higuchi. Asked if he knew the way, he said, “I’m OK now. My grandson is here.”

twice in one lifetime, memories of hiroshima

 

Atomic bombing of Nagasaki on August 9, 1945.

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Weighing heavily upon the minds of elderly Japanese are memories of that infamous day when the atom bomb was dropped on their country, in the hopes of bringing an end to World War II. Success in achieving that goal, brought agony beyond words for countless Japanese. 

Today’s Wall Street Journal articleHiroshima‘s Legacy Heightens Fears” by Mariko Sanchanta makes the case for one who has now known the unbelievable devastation of his country, not once but twice.

Mikiso Iwasa was 16 years old when the atomic bomb struck Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945. He was in the backyard of his house, a little less than a mile away from ground zero. He was smashed onto the ground by the force of the bomb.

Mr. Iwasa escaped, but the effects of radiation caught up with him later. He suffered from skin cancer twice as well as prostate cancer. He lost his hair. His nose and gums bled. He developed rashes all over his body.

Victim of Atomic Bomb 003

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For the only country ever to have experienced the atomic bomb and the horrific effects of concentrated radiation exposure, the nuclear crisis escalating in Japan has had a crippling effect on the nation’s collective psyche. 

Panic and confusion swept through Japan on Tuesday after a fresh explosion at one reactor and a fire at another at a damaged plant in Fukushima.

In Tokyo, 150 miles away, people lined up waiting for bullet train tickets to Osaka, Kyoto, Kyushu–anywhere to get as far away as possible from the northeastern coast of Japan.

The crisis comes on the heels of last year’s 65th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, in which the U.S.–in a poignant move–for the first time sent a representative to attend the annual memorial.

In a country famed for stoicism, there is a quiet, mounting sense of anger toward Tokyo Electric Power Co., which operates the nuclear-power plant. Mr. Iwasa, now 82 years old, accuses the government of playing down the risks. “They’re saying there was a leakage, but that it won’t affect the human body. They’re just fooling us.”

Even for a generation that didn’t experience World War II–two-thirds of the country’s people were born after 1945–Tuesday’s events were enough to send young people scurrying for cover. Reina Kudo, 19, a college student in Tokyo, said her parents have been imploring her to come home to Kansai. “Now I really want to go home,” said Ms. Kudo, at bustling Tokyo station

Japan’s confidence had already been on a decline during a decade of economic malaise. More recent blows have exacerbated this sense of despair: China this year eclipsed Japan as the world’s second-biggest economy; political infighting has resulted in five prime ministers in as many years; a record proportion of college graduates can’t find full-time jobs.

The devastation from the earthquake and the tsunami, and rising nuclear fears are now deepening the gloom as businesses close plants, foreign nationals leave and rescue efforts have only just begun in earnest.

Hiroshima in ruins, October 1945, two months a...

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Despite the latest setbacks, some say the Japanese will persevere, as always. This catastrophe is “showing the resilience of the Japanese people,” says Jon Tanaka, a real-estate investor in Japan. “This is not so palpable to the outside world until you see it.” 

I cannot imagine another people, except maybe the Israelis, more resigned to their fate and yet never relinquishing the hope that they will overcome. The only part of the Japanese culturethat gives me pause is their code of honor. In the days of the Samurai, dying to “save face” was a given. I hope the traditional practice of “hara kiri” is left to the history books, and the movies, and tales handed down from one generation to the next. Except for that ancient commitment to suicide “if all else fails,” I feel a kinship with the Japanese in many ways.  

hoping the “other shoe doesn’t drop”…hugmamma.

(note: for results from a Japanese study about the practice of hara-kiri in contemporary society, visit http://www.nci.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20427155. )

a tribute to my mom…ironing

Ironing board

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Do you iron what you wear? With drycleaners popping up on every corner, and the grunge look being in fashion, and ripped jeans looking cool, why bother to get the wrinkles out of everyday wear? I’ve got a small stack of shirts and jeans, both mine and my husbands, sitting atop the dryer waiting to be ironed. Sometimes I pull an item or 2 from the pile and give it a quick press when I’m in a hurry to wear it then and there. But most of the items have been patiently waiting their turn, collecting dust. Literally. It’s kind of an “out of sight, out of mind” thing.

When “the mood” hits me, I’ll gather the load of folded, by now very wrinkled items in my arms, bring them upstairs in front of the TV, and plop them down on a chair. Then I’ll ask my hubby to drag the ironing board up as well. He’ll usually go the whole “nine yards,” situating it in its usual spot, plug an extension cord into the nearby wall socket, plug the iron into that, and voila! I’m good to go. I’ll find a good show to watch on TV, and start ironing away. Once I get started, I can hardly wait to see the pile of clothes get smaller. It’s like a competition with myself, but also against the clothes. Will I get through all of them, or will I get pooped first?

Toritama produces 15% of the Brazilian jeans

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Because my husband’s clothes are larger per square inch than mine, ironing them seems to take twice as long. But I muddle through, knowing I’m being a good, no great, wife! Truthfully, I think he’d probably wear his clothes wrinkled. In fact, he’s tried that. Upon closer inspection I’ll give him the thumbs up, or thumbs down. The older I get, sometimes I’ll just squint and give a quick thumbs up.

How my mom ever managed to work for years as a laundress for a Catholic orphanage, I’ll never know. She spent 8 hours standing on her feet, ironing, ironing, ironing. In between that she’d put loads of wash on, and then hang them out to dry. She dealt with pieces of clothing that ran the gamut from kids’ play clothes to nuns’ habits, including their head gear. Starching items was a biggie in those days. For those not familiar with that term, select types of clothing were doused in thick liquid, that really seemed like glue. I don’t remember if it was then lightly rinsed, or just wrung out and hung to dry. What puzzles me to this day is how my mom managed to get the nuns’ heavy, black, woolen uniforms, and head pieces, looking like they’d been drycleaned? She should have gotten an award or something. I imagine her pay was even paltry, given the orphanage was run on a dime and lots of prayers.

Needless to say my mom taught my siblings and me to iron correctly. On a shirt or blouse, we learned to iron the collar first, then the upper neck area along the back, then each sleeve, then the front of one side, moving around the back of the shirt or blouse, to the remaining front. On a pair of slacks, we would iron the front, then the back, then fold the legs together so that we could iron one side at a time, being certain to iron the inside of each leg as well. It was expected that when we opened the pants up again, there would be creases down the fronts of each leg.

Image by me. Larger version available on Flickr.

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Talk about learning to iron as if we were artists, or scientists. My mom took great pride in not only mastering the technique, but having each item of clothing looking a thousand times better than when she got it. And that skirt or overall may have passed through her hands a gazillion times! No matter, my mom washed it, dried it, and ironed it as if for the very first time…and never complained. Even when she developed varicose veins as a result of working barefoot on concrete floors. The sight of her calves marred by streaks of blue bumps, were a constant reminder to me of how my mom sacrificed her own comfort to keep us kids fed, and clothed, with a roof over our heads.

Being widowed at such a young age, 30, my mom was immensely grateful to be working. And the Maryknoll nuns were like guardian angels always hovering to make certain we had enough food and clothing, even if both were surplus from the orphanage’s own stockpile.

So yes I still iron, however minimally, in memory of my mom who made the task monumentally important. Such a small, everyday occurrence, that for her meant all the world.

i try not to underestimate the small…for they are usually larger than they seem…hugmamma.  

a “human” cougar

 

Kami-Daigo in Kyoto, Japan

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Events in Japan have put me in a thoughtful mood of late. Decided to lift my own spirits, and perhaps yours, by reprinting the story of Nashi, an elder statesman, who recently passed away. A long-time resident of a local zoo, he seemed to be viewed as one of them, by his human caretakers. Needless to say they mourned him as they would a member of their families. The following tribute ran in today’s local newspaper.

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The community is invited to Cougar Mountain Zoo to honor the life of Nashi, a cougar transplanted from the woods of Minnesota to the zoo more than 17 years ago.

Nashi died from old age Feb 24. Though he had been showing signs of slowing down for the past several months, the loss was still devastating to staff, volunteers and zoo visitors. Cougar Mountain Zoo General Curator Robyn Barfoot said.

“He was a fantastic cougar. He had a lot of spunk in him,” she said. “He enjoyed talking with the visitors every day.”

The Nashi Memorial Celebration will be at March 26 at the zoo. Instead of holding its traditional cougar lecture, the zoo will open the stage for people to talk about Nashi. Staff members who raised and worked with him will talk about his life.

Cougar“I used to joke around that he’s a rock star, because he is,” Barfoot said. At the zoo, Nashi would model for product labels, television shows and nature documentaries. “He actually sat in the mayor’s chair when he was a cub,” she said. “He definitely made the rounds and left a mark on many people.”

Volunteers and zoo visitors are also encouraged to share their Nashi stories, talking about how he made them feel when he chirped or purred in their presence.

“His purrs were really unique,” Barfoot said. “He had a low guttural purr and he would stick his tongue out. If you got a purr from Nashi, your day was pretty darn perfect.”

A Blackfoot indian on horseback

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Nashi came to the zoo as a cub after he was found orphaned in Minnesota. His full name, Nashidoita, is Blackfoot Indian for Spirit of the Mountains.

“He was a great cat and everyone who worked at the zoo had a relationship with him, not just the people who worked directly with him,” Barfoot said.

My family and I were fortunate to watch Nashi prowl the confines of his Cougar Mountain Zoo hideaway. He looked every bit the master of all he surveyed. And obviously he was.

hugs for cats…big and small…wild and not-so-wild…hugmamma.