remembering…

She was like a second mother, my sister Ruby. While it’s difficult to remember all the details of that time, I can distinctly recollect her being warm and understanding where my own mother was sometimes gruff and exacting.

Misc July 2010 00069The event that remains permanently etched in my memory was when Ruby allowed me to help run the wet clothes through the wringing rollers in her old-fashioned washing machine. I was probably 7 or 8 years old, and very conscientious it seems. Wanting to do it correctly, I hung onto the piece of clothing a tad longer than I should have as it made its way through the wringer. In seconds my hand was being dragged along, all the way up my forearm. Screaming bloody murder, I was rescued by my sister who came running to unplug the machine. I’m sure I steered clear of that fandangled contraption after that.

As a youngster I spent a good deal of time with Ruby and her cowboy husband, Steve Autry. I’ve no idea what brought him to Maui back in the ’50s. Perhaps he was lured by the image of roping horses and riding Brahma bulls in the annual rodeo held at the base of Haleakala, the island’s dormant volcano. Or maybe he thought he’d work at what he knew best…being a cowboy and whatever that entailed.

My sister and her husband made an unusual couple in those days…a lanky, 6 footer whose mischievous, blue eyes peered out from beneath strands of blonde hair streaked by the island sun. His tanned face, deeply lined and freckled. Standing alongside him, Ruby was inches shorter. Hair cut short in the natural ebony color of the island women. A jaunty smile compared to her husband’s. A crooked one that partially hid his tobacco-stained teeth.

Watching my brother-in-law roll cigarettes was always captivating. First came the crisp, creamy-hued slip of rectangular paper, followed by the tobacco pouch. With deft agility he’d tug at the strings of the pouch so that a slim rivulet of tobacco dribbled onto the paper. Taking the strings between his front teeth, Steve would draw the pouch’s opening to a close. Returning it to the shirt pocket over his heart, he’d take the nearly finished cigarette between his thumbs and index fingers. Using his pointy, long tongue he’d spread just enough saliva along the length of one side of the paper allowing him to fasten it to the other side. Slipping the newly-minted cigarette between his lips, my brother-in-law would light it with the strike of a match along the underside of his boot.

To a clueless kid like me, it was pretty cool stuff.

A few years younger than me, my niece and I would often accompany her dad, as he scoured landfills and roadsides for stuff to resell, especially scrap metal. Growing up poor meant not having many toys like friends who did. So climbing over piles of junk in search of hidden treasures was fun. It was kind of exciting to see what I’d find under the rubble. One discovery turned out to be more than I bargained for. Watch for that story in a future post.

They might have made it as a country singing duet. With Steve on the guitar and Ruby singing harmony, they sounded like the real thing. Not that I’d had much opportunity to hear country music, but I knew what I liked and I liked what I heard. My favorite was a haunting lullaby which included some yodeling. My sister yodeled beautifully. Imagine that! An island gal yodeling as naturally as though she’d been born on the range. I’m certain my love of singing blossomed during these impromptu song fests right there on the front steps of their house. 

 Sadly for Ruby and her daughter, the cowboy didn’t remain a permanent fixture. He and my sister divorced when I was a preteen. Since they’d moved to Honolulu, the islands’ designated “big city,” I would spend part of my summers with them. And much later when I returned to attend the University of Hawaii, my sister Ruby’s apartment was where I went the first couple of summers after I vacated the college dorms.

My sister didn’t have an easy life, raising a child on her own. In fact, my young niece lived with my mom and me for a couple of years on Maui while Ruby sought to earn a living. I’m not certain, but it may be that she continued to struggle until the end which came on July 27. She died of lung cancer, a result of decades of cigarette smoking.

I will remember Ruby as a soft-spoken mediator, a comforting presence, humble, self-sacrificing and perhaps easily overcome by stronger personalities, like my mom. I truly believe she would give the shirt off her back if someone needed it more than she. I’m sorry we’d not been in touch later in life, but she seemed content with where she’d finally landed…living with her daughter and her family. Secreted away from the turmoil she’d known, it felt right to let her be, to let her live in peace and quiet, no longer saddled by the burdens of others. At least I’m hoping that’s how it was.

…blessed are the peacemakers…

…for they shall be called children of God.

………hugmamma.Miscellaneous Pictures July 2010 124

 

 

 

 

 

 

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hard to believe…

…it’s been 50 years since I graduated from high school! Jan 14 024

I don’t think I’d have remembered if I’d not received an email reminding me. Unfortunately my daughter’s wedding precludes my attending the reunion.

Half-a-century ago the island of Maui was my entire world. As a youngster, I only knew mainland America as it was reflected in TV sitcoms, like I Love Lucy or variety programs, like The Ed Sullivan Show. Anything beyond the United States might as well have been somewhere out there in the universe.

Today, Maui is one of the most sought after destinations in the world. Oprah Winfrey calls it her home-away-from-home, with a beautiful spread in Kula.

The Maui I knew was small-town USA, in the middle of nowhere. Actually, it was in the middle of the Pacific Ocean…still is. Kids were kids, trying hard to be seen but not heard. Entire neighborhoods were ours to explore. We were allowed to wander as far as our small legs could carry us, to and from. Walking to the local library, 45 minutes from home was not a big deal. Lugging a bag of groceries home from the supermarket was a fact of life for me.

Scoring a dime from my mom for an ice cream Dilly stick at Dairy Queen’s was a rare treat. Joining my best friend and her dad for a Saturday morning cartoon, and having him pay my 25 cent theater admission was a huge deal! And waiting outside the local bakery’s back door for hot-out-of-the oven butter bread, was well worth all the kneeling and praying I’d done at church just prior.

For 12 years, St. Anthony’s School was my life. And while my feet were firmly planted in Maui, the nuns who taught me helped grow the wings I would use to one day leave behind my idyllic, island life. Much to my chagrin at the time, the good sisters would prod me on to do better academically. It was easier for me to dance the night away, than it was to recite correct algebra answers. Pranks were more my style, like the time I squirt dish soap into the fish tank. Sister Dominic, the biology instructor, was not too happy at having to empty the tank of all the suds and refill it with fresh water.

I learned about boys, even dated a few…in spite of the nuns. Although I’m certain they had a hand in keeping me virginal until the right time…and man…came along. Thank you, Sisters!!! My husband thanks you as well…

Periodic newsletters arrive from my old alma mater. Images of fresh-faced, young students rekindle a flood of memories reminding me of simpler times. When folks lived simpler lives…enjoying one another…and being thankful for what we had.

Then, as now…

…getting back to basics…is life in a nutshell…no matter where I live.

………hugmamma. 

 

 

…faux fur…

…and arthritis.

I can see that quizzical look as you read the title and first line of this post. What the heck does one have to do with the other? On the surface? Not a lot. However when you knead down into the folds of a faux fur coverlet you’ll see what I mean. No doubt!

Rainy, cold, gray days like we’re having here in the Pacific Northwest make me want to fly away to the balmy, mostly sun-filled days in my native Hawaii. Every winter without fail I half-jokingly insist to my husband that we should return home. I am definitely like a fish out of water when it comes to the weather here. Every bone in my body throbs like a drum beat, as if chanting…”Give me heat. I need heat.”

As if to satisfy the relentless request for warmth, I switch on all the lamps in the living room..a total of seven…as well as the space heater. I also turn on the one down the hall near the bedrooms, and the one in the kitchen. All the while the furnace in the lower level laundry room blasts heat throughout the entire house.

As for me, I’m covered from the neck down…a hoodie over my long-sleeved shirt, comfortable pants to my knees…AND compression socks from my knees to my toes! If I could work with gloved hands I would.

So after a full day puttering around the house…doing a little bit of this, that and the other…I usually call it quits at about midnight. I always aim to end the day earlier, but it never seems to work out that way. Don’t get me wrong. I take little…sometimes long…breaks here and there throughout the day. I’ll catch snippets of HGTV’s “Love it or List it,” “Flip or Flop,” “House Hunters,” or “Million Dollar Listings, Los Angeles.” Sometimes I’ll stop to play computer games on my Nook. And, of course, I can’t just play one game. I usually go until I successfully finish a level and can go on to the next one.

One of the last things I do before calling it a night involves water…hot, cold and somewhere in-between. There’s dishes to wash or load into the dishwasher, depending…how big, how fragile, how much cooked-on-grime. When I turn out the kitchen lights…and all the other lights upstairs, I head downstairs to our master bedroom suite to shower before diving under the bed covers. Of course I run the water as close to hot as I can stand. It soothes all the muscles, especially those in my lower back.

In recent weeks, as the weather has gotten colder and wetter, I’ve taken to pulling the faux fur coverlet, that usually lies at the foot of our bed, over all the other covers under which I bury myself…the sheet, the quilt, and the duvet. Sometimes I even wear socks to bed! In addition to all this, we’ve begun using our gas fireplace to bring the bedroom to a cozy temperature, before turning it off and going to sleep.  

While I never, ever feel hot enough to kick the covers off, my husband spends most of the night…partially outside the covers. I call him…my “hot-blooded Hawaiian!” ha, ha.

Last night, for the first time, I noticed as I pulled the faux fur up to my chin and lay my hands on its luxurious warmth…how soothing it was to my arthritic fingers. While I still couldn’t completely bend my stiff knuckles, I felt relief. Kneading my fingers into the folds of the “fur,” whatever stress remained from the day disappeared. My lips curled into a soft smile, as I lay, eyes closed in the dark…thankful for my…

…little piece of faux fur heaven.

………hugmamma.

 

vacation home rentals…

It’s become a thriving business…renting your home to vacationing tourists. And in our family’s case, short term rentals for our daughter when she’s gone out of town for dance gigs.

The first rental I booked was when we returned to Honolulu, Hawaii for my mother-in-law’s funeral several years ago. Hotels in Waikiki are understandably uber-expensive, thanks to the island’s booming tourist industry. Access to the beaches makes that strip of land prime real estate. So instead I decided to have a look at VRBO…Vacation Rentals By Owners.

It’s been about 4 or 5 years since we booked that first condo. It wasn’t exactly as I’d expected from the photos. The balcony off the bedroom…where 2 chairs were sandwiched between the sliding, glass door and the wrought iron railing…overlooked a huge parking lot. IMG_4456Good luck sitting out there to enjoy a cup of coffee or a glass of wine. Needless to say hubby and I didn’t dare go there. The view of the mountains was a peekaboo one…a sliver of green between two skyscrapers. The balcony off the living room was exactly like the other, except it had a couple of tall, potted plants which the owner asked if I could water. I think I tried to oblige…once. The kitchen, newly remodeled, was awkwardly configured…cabinet doors opening into one another…knick-knacks taking up valuable counter space, what little there was…dishes stored where a “shrimp” like me couldn’t reach. And because the vent fan in the bathroom, which must have been original to the unit, was sooo loud…I’d do whatever I needed to do in the tiny bathroom by candlelight. You see, the light and the vent were on the same switch. All of this combined, however, did not compare to a couple of other downsides to this rental.

The linen closet where the towels were stored was rigged with an old-fashioned light bulb screwed into a porcelain base. The worst part was that the switchplate to turn on the light was not secured to the wall. It stuck out an inch or so. So when I flipped the switch, sparks flew. You can bet I never used the light when searching for anything in that closet again.

Another drawback, albeit minor by comparison, was that the carpet in front of the wicker dresser was wet a good bit of the time. We’d lay down beach towels to soak up the moisture which seemed to work for awhile. When I mentioned the problem to the housekeeper, she agreed that the air conditioner might be to blame. 

I never did complain to the owner about my disappointment with her rental. You see she was out on a yacht with friends somewhere off the coast of Canada. Getting a hold of her the first time to book her condo was a trick, especially when I’d awoken her in the middle of the night…or early morning. I had no clue where she was from her cell phone number. So how could I know she’d be asleep. 

According to the owner, I was the first one to book her recently updated unit in a building that dated back to the 1960’s. She’d not even seen it since the renovation. And thinking I would love it as much as she, she asked if I’d write a review recommending her rental to others. After what I’d experienced…I didn’t have the heart to say anything. Instead I moved on to another unit in the same building the last day we were in the islands, because the first one wasn’t available for our entire stay. And thank goodness it wasn’t.

The unit we rented our last day was far and away a step up from the first. In fact, it was 8 floors up, on the 16th floor, with an ocean view…AND a balcony where two of us could sit facing one another across a bistro-style table. But who needed to sit out there when we could enjoy the panoramic view through the sliding glass door wall, comfortably lounging on the sofa and chairs in the living room. The price, $159/night could not be beat! Needless to say, it’s been our home away from home whenever we visit family in Hawaii.

Finding such a gem encouraged me to investigate other rental properties when we traveled. My daughter stayed in two different ones for a couple of jobs she had with the Houston Grand Opera. Both were found on AirBnB, another site where owners can rent their properties.

IMG_5126The first place was somewhat of a disappointment. As with the first Honolulu rental, the photographs did not show the hidden flaws…one overhead light bulb in the living room (we bought cheap lamps for more lighting)…an antiquated gas stove that burnt food if you weren’t careful…a French door in the bedroom whose frame was cemented shut with putty making egress extremely difficult if there was a fire or carbon monoxide poisoning. Worse was the open flame heating system which, thank God, our daughter never had to use even though the mornings could get cool.

Thankfully, the second rental my daughter stayed at in Houston was a newly built apartment over a garage. The owners whose house occupied the front of the property were very gracious and the accommodations were exactly as pictured. 

Another time my daughter spent 7 weeks summering in NYC…dancing, what else? We rented from owners who lived in Chicago. Because of the lengthy stay, we were able to get their family rate of $175/night. Extraordinary for The Big Apple. It was a 1 bed/1 bath with a 24-hour doorman in a residential area, directly across from a small Broadway theater where “Kinky Boots,” which won the year’s Tony for Best Musical was playing. Surprisingly enough, once inside the upper-floor apartment, we were oblivious of the street noise below. It was a magical time…for my daughter who thrived on the big city vibe…and for us as a family when my husband and I joined her for a week. Being close enough to the action without being IN it was the best we could hope for in…”the city that never sleeps.”

Needless to say I’ve once again turned to looking for a rental when my daughter marries next year. Close family members from Hawaii plan to join us for the happy occasion. Finding a house large enough to accommodate 8 or more is like “looking for a needle in a haystack.” Take it from one who’s been searching for a couple of months. That’s why I started my search this far out. There aren’t many affordable ones out there. The savings are well worth the effort, however. Hotel rooms in June can go for $300/night and more. Divvying up the cost of a house is a lot less than a hotel room for 2, and provides a lot more space to gather and enjoy everyone’s company. And being that we’ll get to spend time with family whom we only see every so many years is priceless.

Just when I thought we’d nailed down “the deal of the century,” along comes a hitch. A big one. The owner has a clause in his rental agreement which states that he won’t refund us our money if on the day we check in, his house is uninhabitable due to some unforeseen event beyond his control.

The fact that the owner has 3 other properties, one which he and his family occupies, makes me think he uses renters’ monies to pay his mortgages…like “taking from Peter to pay Paul.” A “red flag,” I think. Yes, we would be refunded our money if we cancelled 30 days prior to check-in. After that, we’d forfeit all. However, learning that we had nowhere to stay on the day we arrived, out the money we paid in advance, would cast a tremendous pall over what should be one of the happiest occasions in our family’s life.

So we’re backing away from this rental. Way far away.

And so, it’s back…

…to the drawing board.

………hugmamma.

what i did this summer…

Remember those essays we had to write the first day back to school?

How I spent my summer vacation.

I probably wrote that I played with friends and helped my mom around the house. Apart from that I went to an occasional movie with my best friend, gratis her awesome dad who’d pay the price of my admission…a quarter. Yep. A quarter. Back then…the 50’s and early 60’s…we could see a news reel, a cartoon, and a feature film for twenty-five pennies. On Maui, at least. Not sure what mainland theaters were charging.

Our family wasn’t rolling in dough so there were no trips to California, New York, or Europe. Those places weren’t even on my radar. The most I could hope for was a short trip to nearby Honolulu on a propeller plane. That’s if my older sister paid for my round trip ticket, inviting me to visit for the summer.

It shouldn’t be difficult to figure out that my world view was pretty narrow…that of an island girl out in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Fortunately, that all changed when I got married.

My husband’s first job was with Pan American World Airways, so we honeymooned in Tahiti. His second job was with American Express, with whom he got a promotion which moved us to New York. A short couple of years later he joined Norwegian American Cruises…and the rest is travel history.

Our first trip to Europe was in the 80’s. This time it was on me, since I was working with TWA in New York. It included a quick 2-day glimpse of Paris. Years later when our daughter was a teen, I dreamed of returning to that glamorous city with her in tow. I knew she’d never be able to afford it on her dancer’s salary.

This summer my dream trip to Paris came true. Except that my daughter had to work. No whisking her off to Europe. So instead it became…a second honeymoon for hubby and me.

While not the romantic scenario acted out in movies by the likes of Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant, hubby and I managed just fine for a middle-aged couple. We held hands. We looked lovingly into one another’s eyes. We teased and bantered, sharing intimate jokes at which only the two of us could smile and chuckle.

And yes, there were moments of frustration. When we got on each other’s last nerve.

Like when we went in search of Rodin’s Museum and Napoleon’s Tomb, and instead found ourselves wandering the streets in an isolated industrial neighborhood, while my poor aching feet screamed…”Get off of me! You’re killing me!” And when we had to go in search of the nearest “toilette,” so I could pee for the hundredth time.

Dead tired from scouring every corner of Paris we would fall into bed early. No evening soirees for us. No moonlit boat rides on the Seine . No gazing into each others’ eyes while dining on squab and chocolate souffles. We were content with a simple meal, an I Love Lucy video we’d brought from home, and finally snuggling side by side, snoring contentedly beneath a fluffy, white duvet…the nearby Eiffel Tower keeping watch over all, and lighting the skies above.

Funny what rocks your world when you’re old.

My favorite tour was wandering amidst miles and miles of tombstones at the Pere La Chaise Cemetery.

(Photo courtesy of…ohbythewayblog.blogspot.com)

Morbid? Just the opposite! It was other-worldly. Seeing row upon row of oft-times centuries-old graves. It was as though, those poor, deceased souls were sneaking glimpses of us…as we were having a peek in on them. With my cell phone I snapped photos of such notables’ tombs as Oscar Wilde, Edith Piaf, Sarah Bernhardt, Chopin, and Gertrude Stein. Even Jim Morrison of the rock group, The Doors, was interned there. I was especially delighted to see the simple graves of actors Yves Montand and wife Simone Signoret. They had been larger than life on the big screen. Now they lay like common folk beneath the hard earth.

Especially sobering were the graves of those who had suffered under Hitler’s demonic regime. I could still feel their wretched agony, pulsating beneath the stone.

 

(Photo courtesy of…cemetery explorers. blogspot.com)

I could hear my mom lecturing from her grave…”Don’t be taking pictures of the dead. They’ll haunt you. Wait and see.” Dismissing such thoughts, as best I could, I’d remark to myself…and yet loud enough so the dead could hear…”You’re a good person. I’m just honoring you, your memory.” Of course I didn’t wait for a response as I quickened my pace.

One particular tombstone stopped me dead…pardon the pun…in my tracks.

The image of a young man from the Victorian era…captured in bronze, dressed as though he’d been out and about, leather gloves and all…lay full length across his grave. He looked to be 6 feet tall. I kept staring in disbelief at the gorgeous hunk of cast stone. My eyes scoured every inch of him, hesitating where his crotch bulged…the only part not green from oxidation. Curious…

(Photo courtesy of…canvasoflight.com)

I was certain mine weren’t the only eyes bewildered by what lay before me. I’d had to wait my turn while a couple of men gazed down at what seemed a very unexpected and highly unusual tombstone. I admit I was afraid of taking a photo of the dead man’s likeness. Looking at him through the lens, I thought he’d wink…or frown…or sit up and smack me. I admit, I was a tiny bit scared. Calming my fears, I turned to the inscription and quickly snapped a shot.

That night in the comfort of our rented apartment, I looked through the photos I’d taken. I paused at the image of the young man made of bronze. He continued to fascinate me. When I moved on to the snapshot of the inscription, I held my breath. Were my eyes playing tricks on me? How could the inscription be upside down? I was positive I’d not turned my cell phone around to take the picture. That would’ve been awkward. There must have been a good explanation, although neither my husband nor I could come up with one.

I was spooked. I could not look at the picture of the inscription again, without feeling as though a ghostly urchin was having fun at my expense. I almost believed my mom’s scolding that I would pay for disrespecting the dead. Almost. I finally convinced myself that whoever had commissioned the sculpture deliberately requested that the inscription…in French…be written upside down. After all, it seemed in keeping with the provocative tomb. Perhaps it was done so the deceased could read what it said without too much effort on his part. He could just…sit up.

Aaahhh, Paris…all of its sights and smells, large and small, grandiose and humble…captures the essence of European culture. Refined and earthy all at once. Grounded in centuries of history, yet comfortable in its modernity..

I left with a deep respect for people different from me. Folks at ease in their daily lives. In fact, I marveled at how easily Parisians worked and relaxed throughout the day. They don’t seem to subscribe to our American need to work 60-hour weeks, playing only on weekends, if even that. As we toured the city, we saw, and heard, many a Parisian bicycling, and lunching, along the Seine. They sat at nearby cafe tables, sipping wine and conversing as tour buses and motorcycles whizzed by.

Yet I was glad to be home, settling back into our normal life…resuming our normal routines…comforted by our cozy, familiar surroundings.

We’re no different from Dorothy, who preferred Kansas to Oz…

…there really is…no place like home.

………hugmamma.

(Note: I will post my own photos of Paris…as soon as I figure out how to upload them from my cell phone. I couldn’t wait until then to write about it. Something I already know how to do.)

…a man at peace…with himself…

It could be said that President Obama is as unpopular these days as Donald Trump.

Where Trump spews volumes of empty words, Obama speaks only when he has something important to say. Both are equally bad in the minds of some.

There’s no doubt that Trump is an egomaniac. I’m sure The Donald himself would agree…and wholeheartedly. Some say Obama is just as arrogant, holing himself up in the White House, unwilling to glad hand Congress in order to wheel and deal.

Trump uses the media, as does Obama. Don’t all folks who find themselves in the glaring spotlight of 24/7 coverage?

It’s said the back story makes the person. Trump, the real estate prodigy with NYC in his veins. Obama, the interracial child nuanced in the ways of a tropical paradise. Both, strangers to main stream USA.

Trump, in his own convoluted way, is convinced he is what America needs. So too did Obama feel the need to bring Americans together for the good of the entire country. Just as the President fell short of the mark, so too would Donald Trump. Neither man can be all things to all people.

I didn’t expect much of Obama when he took office. I was just happy to see what I thought was a good man, occupy the White House. The fact that he was raised in Hawaii, where I was born, gave me hope that the Aloha Spirit could spread to all Americans. And maybe that’s what he thought too. Islanders can be naive that way. After all, we’ve not the sophistication of mainlanders who have experienced more of everything.

The fact that Obama was the first black president was a plus. How nice, I thought, to have someone other than a white man in charge of our country.

That Obama was an academic, was even more appealing. Finally! A thinking man. A man disinclined to pull the trigger first, and ask questions later. Of course that hasn’t sat well with the trigger-happy, gun-toting bullies who want our country back up on the pedestal, our God-given right in their eyes.

For me it’s enough that Obama has accomplished what he has…saved the country from fiscal armageddon…brought a halt to health insurances denying coverage to those with pre-conditions…returned the country’s focus to the need for quality education…rid the world of Osama bin Laden…made it possible for gay partners to legally unite…resisted the clamor to send our sons and daughters, husbands and wives, into harm’s way yet again.

Yes, it’s more than likely that the future president should be a glad-hander…a back-slapper…a social drinker…someone more akin to Bill Clinton, who refused to accept that he couldn’t make friends with his enemies. Next time around, I’ll probably vote for a person who’s a schmoozer, even though I’m not crazy about having to do it too much myself. But I’m not running for president.

What I am crazy about is my family…my husband and my daughter. And it’s obvious to me that Obama shares the same craziness for his wife and two daughters. Barring a national emergency, he has dinner at 6:30 every evening with his family. More importantly, he’s moral. Michelle is still the the love of his life…and his children remain uppermost in his thoughts.

Recently I wrote the President a letter thanking him for Obamacare. I explained that earlier in the year my daughter, who dances as an independent contractor, had had a surgery to repair a tear in her bowel wall, inflicted during a prior surgery to remove fibroids from her uterine wall. Thanks to the surgeon correcting the mistake, my daughter recovered completely. Unfortunately she was saddled with medical expenses in excess of $52,000 and unable to work for a couple of months. That meant no money coming in. Thank goodness she had obtained insurance coverage only 6 months before. It paid $49,000 of her $50,000 hospital bill.

I was surprised, and impressed, to receive a letter in return. While I’m certain it wasn’t penned by President Obama, I’m almost positive the signature is his. And even if it isn’t, my words of gratitude were acknowledged.

Politically, I’m only a constituent. Personally, however, Obama and I are “ohana,” having both grown up under the same rainbow in our beloved…

…hawaiian islands.

………hugmamma.

living her best life: #57…pat’s new normal

Just the other day someone asked how my sister-in-law Pat was doing after her recent stem cell transplant at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. It reminded me that I’d not posted about her ongoing battle with multiple myeloma and amyloidosis in some time.

Not a day goes by that I don’t think about her, it’s just that I’d not been posting anything in quite some time. When I sit down at my laptop for any extended period, I tend to lose track of time and forget about everything else. In deciding to see to other areas of my life, I’ve resisted my passion…to just write.

Pat is doing well. She’s not perfect, but she’s on track…feeling healthy and looking forward to what each day brings. She’s returned to work. Yes! She’s back at work. She’s eating as best she can, given that her molars were extracted. From a photo she texted me a week or so ago, Pat’s smiling broadly. And best of all, her sense of humor is still intact.

When I asked if she wanted to reflect upon her time in Minnesota, Pat replied…

I haven’t really reflected yet on everything I went through at Mayo. Part of me doesn’t want to relive it and the other part thinks “Oh. That’s old news. I’m looking more toward the future…the uncertainty of it is a little scary so it’s still a challenge. I’m thinking of going back to work next month…I wish I could just retire and know that everything will be fine. On the other hand work keeps my mind sharp and occupied.

A week later, she wrote…

We are all doing good here…keeping an eye on the approaching hurricane. I’m feeling stronger every day and am planning to go back to work on Tuesday. I figured out the best time of day to take my meds to optimize how I feel during the day. I just have to remember to be careful in crowds and stay away from sick people. I’m back to “I don’t feel sick” which is good, but I have to remind myself that I’m not in the clear yet.

What’s next for Pat? 

As I understand it, she’s looking forward to the 100th day-post-stem cell transplant…and what it brings. She won’t need to return to the Mayo Clinic, instead she will meet with her own physician in Hawaii. Meanwhile she will be on one medication til then, and at least two others for the next year.

Once she left Rochester and the Mayo Clinic back in August, Pat and Brad spent a few days in Duluth, Minnesota, before heading to Minneapolis where they caught their flight home.

We are enjoying ourselves in Duluth right now. From our room we can watch huge ships roll in night and day…it’s pretty amazing. Lake Superior is pretty cool too. If I didn’t know better I’d think it was the Atlantic Ocean. Being here is therapeutic, nice bright room, lots of sunshine and a body of water that reminds us of home. We’re staying one extra day here.

We are in Minneapolis now…big city…long gone are the fields and fields of corn. Duluth was very therapeutic and I’m glad we went there. Now that we’re in the city we have the opportunity to go to concerts or shows but I don’t think I’m up for that. Theaters and shopping are close by and we are near Target Center (basketball arena?) and where the new stadium for the Vikings is being built. Neither team has anything going on…thought we would catch a ball game or football training camp practice. Well I’m really ready to go home…the sisters and my mom-in-law are going over on Saturday to clean. Julie’s also going to clean out my fridge and do a little shopping for me. I also asked if Dennis could make some pork with squash…yes, my appetite is back full force but my tongue is still swollen so sticking with soft foods and lots of soups.

So “How’s Pat doing?” Well, she could be better. She’d probably prefer it if she could revert back to her old normal. Yet that’s not how my sister-in-law operates. Pat pretty much goes with what’s on her plate. She’s acclimating to what’s been dished up without a whole lot of whining and complaining. It could be her island mentality…her Catholic upbringing…being the youngest of twelve..the mother of two teenage boys…or having awesome parents as role models. It’s more likely a combination of all these factors.

All I know is Pat’s become my role model.

Life is about change, good or bad. Better to accept that as fact and work with what we’re dealt at any given time. None of us can go back to the old normal. It’s always being tweaked…by us or by fate. We can make life good…or we can make life hell. It’s up to us.

I count myself lucky to have someone in my life to show me how it’s done.

…thanks, pat.

………hugmamma.

living her best life:#56…hawaii bound

Yesterday Pat text me some great news …

Wanted to update you…I’m doing really well.

We meet with Dr. Gertz tomorrow and expect him to release me. If that happens then that means we can go home! [whoopee!!!]

Because our flight is not until the 8th we’ll have some time to play tourists again. The plan is to check out of the Transplant House on Monday and drive to Duluth near Lake Superior for a couple of days and eventually be back in Minneapolis near the airport before the weekend.

Can’t wait to go home [!!!!!]

Without a doubt…

…pat’s living her best life…

………hugmamma.

living her best life: #55…can’t wait!!!

I text Pat today…

How are you? Whatcha doing? I am headed to the antiques shop to put some stuff. [I sell antiques/collectibles at an antiques mall.] Armsful of hugs…

And Pat text me right back…

Hi…actually just had lunch and am ready for a nap…can’t take the Hawaiian outta this girl! [tell me about it] I’m eating more of my meals as opposed to drinking them. My numbers are continuing to go up and I’m feeling much better. They stopped a bunch of meds…woohoo! [double woohoo!!!] 

I have a followup appointment with Dr. Gertz on Friday along with the transplant coordinator. This is to go over what to do at home [home…yahoo!!!] for the next 100 days and thereafter. Usually patients return on Day 100, but I’m pretty sure that appointment will be with my oncologist back home.

Not sure when Dr. Gertz will actually clear us to go home but our flight is scheduled for the 8th. [yippee, yay yeah!!!] 

If we have a few days we’ll leave the Transplant House and maybe drive to Duluth. In any case we’ll be in Minneapolis the night before our flight so we won’t have that long drive.

Looking forward to going home!

Quite a woman, my sister-in-law. The way she tells it…it’s just another day in the life of. And yet we all know it’s been anything but. I’m sure Brad would have more to say about the journey he’s traveled with Pat. Knowing the two of them as I do though…

…she’ll go back to work, and he’ll go back to fishing…and their sons will enjoy having mom and dad home again.

…all our love and prayers go with them.

………hugmamma.

living her best life: #50…more girl talk

On 7/11, Pat texted…Hi [hugmamma]how exciting to be planning [a] wedding. We are looking forward to visiting Nashville next year.

Right now I am lying in bed getting the infusion of chemo…almost done. The bad side effects (IF ANY!) will start after a few days. Just gotta get through the next … Sorry…nurse came in and we are done. Heading back to the house…will text or email later.

Hi[hugmamma]got back to the house and took a nap…ready for some food now…always ready to eat. Have to make the most of the good days…thank God havent’ had any bad ones yet. 

So what is [your daughter’s] color scheme? Will the maid of honor and bridesmaids wear different dresses in the same color palette? I like that trend. So as the bride’s parents are you planning everything or are [the groom]s mom and sister helping? Just don’t get too stressed…did they set a date? I doubt you will get back to Hawaii between now and then so at some point I will get all the aunties and cousins together for a bridal shower…Hawaiian style…we’ll videotape and send it to you.

To which I replied…That is sooo beautiful. Made me cry. Been crying off and on…hormone therapy…oye vay! Also watching Hallmark Xmas tear jerkers…besides which I’m realizing that I’m losing my daughta. No more inside family jokes among the three of us. Have to mind my p’s and q’s…at least til I get really comfortable with [SIL.] He’s very nice…but we’ve only been with him twice now…in close quarters, for sure. Anyway, thank goodness I’ve you to confide in. You know [your brother]…don’t worry, be happy. Thank God, you [and your siblings] are so laid back.

Because [SIL and PIL] plan a trip to Hawaii, with our help, I am sure they’d really appreciate you’re all…whoever wants, of course…to contribute to their honeymoon fund. As you might guess, they have all the household goods they need…and clothes…since [PIL] has lived on her own for 11 years. Again, only a suggestion. 

Continue to pray you stay under the radar as far as the effects of chemo goes. How’s Brad doing with being the “hausfrau”??? hugs…

To which Pat replied…That’s a great idea…we can do a “bring them home” theme. 

Brad says the mistress of the mansion has not yelled at him yet…we do pretty good together…must be that “don’t worry, be happy” thing. For now when I watch movies, they are all comedies…I’m thinking of streaming the old Carol Burnett Show…

Then me…You and Brad haven’t had to put your feet in a kiddie pool yet? [hugmamma here: I had kidded Pat a while ago about visiting with her in Minnesota and the two of us dangling our feet in a plastic kiddie pool to cool off in Minnesota’s hot, humid summer heat.]

Then Pat…No…to pretend we’re on a relaxing vacation or because of the weather? It’s comfortably warm here…cooler when it’s overcast.

Me…Just got that..so there’s a mistress of the mansion? Someone who takes charge??? Hmmm…interesting.

[No reply from Pat.]

Today is the first day it’s not sweltering. TG we had our AC serviced. It was starting to poop out.

Pat…It’s really hot in Hawaii too with several tropical storms back to back blocking the trade winds. Luckily, so far they’ve tracked away from the islands.

People see Brad making dinner and serving me…a few have commented to get used to it and make sure he continues to do it at home!

Me…Too many distractions in Hawaii…like fishing and work, of course.

On 7/13, I texted…Love you both…the flowers are lovely, especially since they’re from two of God’s best people on His earth…armfuls of hugs and smooshies!

On 7/17, I texted…How are you doing? Hope you’re okay. Let me know. Love you two…lots!

…and i do.

………hugmamma.IMG_4128

 

facing our demons…

When I was a child growing up in Wailuku on the sleepy island of Maui, I sometimes wished I could attend Sunday service at the Jehovah Witnesses Hall near my family’s rented house. Walking past the Hall on my way to buy a few things at the grocery store, I could hear the members singing. Unlike the solemnity of my own Catholic church, the Jehovah Witnesses sounded like they were having a blast. What I wouldn’t have given to sing my heart out just like those folks. 

While I never thought twice about what the Jehovah witnesses looked like, I assumed they were blacks. Why? Because of pictures I’d seen on TV and in print of blacks smiling and clapping their hands as they sang their prayers to God. I wanted to be like them. Still do.

I believe in a joyful God, one who focuses upon goodness. One who overlooks our flaws, knowing we will improve…if we want to improve. 

This morning as I watched CNN news, I wished I was sitting among the parishioners of the church where 9 blacks had been gunned down. 

If you’re asking “Why?” The simple answer is “Because instead of hatred for the racist killer, those present inside and outside the church were filled with love for the victims.” As one commentator put it…the dead are now in heaven with God…having died in the church they loved. 

Unlike the media, the church goers were focused solely upon their loved ones.

According to that same commentator, we cannot deny the killer’s ideology of racial hatred. In fact, we should not. We need to face it head on, armed with the ideology of love.

The fact is…evil exists…as does good. The battle will continue as long as mankind does.

If we can learn from the congregation of Charleston’s Emanuel AME, to honor one another with love…

…good will always conquer evil.

………hugmamma.

nurturing thursdays: celebrating the goodness of people…

My husband’s 40+ years of dedicated service to the traveling public has come to an end.

What began as a summer job with Pan American World Airways in the mid-to-late 60s, followed by a stint with American Express as a travel agent in the early 70s, eventually flourished into a full-fledged career in the cruise industry.

I have never doubted my husband’s charisma and talent to do anything he wanted. Although his seeming shyness and humility had me wondering if he could ever climb the corporate ladder. I didn’t think he had the killer instinct required to get from one rung to the next. Last night’s retirement dinner confirmed the fact that he remained true to himself through all the twists and turns of a career that took him from airport ticket agent in Honolulu to Vice President of Human Resources in Seattle…via The Big Apple, New York City.

One of three executives who retired the beginning of this year, my husband listened as others spoke of their personal and professional experiences with him throughout the years.

The man who heads the entire brand has known my husband since their younger days working at another cruise line headquartered in NYC. That’s going back some 30+ years. My husband was then a reservations supervisor; the other, a purser on board one of the ships. I didn’t know him then. We only became acquainted about 6 years ago, when my husband moved out of Guest Programs into Human Resources and reported directly to his former colleague, now in charge of the whole operation here on the West Coast.

Small world. Even smaller when folks remain in one industry throughout their entire careers. Our daughter, the dancer, will confirm that.

It’s always deeply moving for me when others reiterate the same qualities I most admire in my husband…his compassion…his fairness…his trustworthiness…his calming influence. Once a prospect for the priesthood…before we met, obviously…he has never lost his Christianity. He continues to practice his faith in God and others…in all ways.

Last night some jokingly referred to him as a saint, including his boss.

During one of our first arguments as newlyweds 44 years ago, I asked if he knew how hard it was living with a saint. Genuinely hurt, he said that was the worst thing I could have said. Of course I never went there again. Nonetheless…it isn’t always easy trying to modify my behavior according to someone who is so uniquely wired.

I had worked for a number of corporations before opting out of the rat race for the best career ever handed me…motherhood. None has been more satisfying or rewarding. I got out what I put in. I couldn’t say that about the corporate jobs I’ve had. I always felt I put in more than I got out. It was always…”manana”…tomorrow. Do this today and you MIGHT see some payback tomorrow…or the next day…the next year… or the year after. I didn’t have that kind of patience. Still don’t. A little better, but not the same as my husband’s.

I’ve always felt, still do, that employees are a reflection of those for whom they work. They embody the corporation’s principles. The management style of the person at the top filters down throughout the entire workforce. Great employees are a credit to a great boss; on the flip side, a mediocre boss inevitably breeds mediocrity among his employees.

Having had access to the back story via what I saw for myself as well as what my husband confided in me, the corporation from which he recently retired was the best I’d seen in all my time in and around the business world. 

The man at the top, my husband’s boss, held to the same values as us…uncompromising integrity and family above all else. The leaders he chose to effect his agenda were men and women who demonstrated similar principles. I can attest to it because I met many of them, even getting to know some well. Talk of family, interest in our daughter’s dance career, was always part of the conversation. And, of course, we always asked after their children’s well-being and what they were doing.

My husband’s boss and his wife are the only executive couple with whom I have ever been able to speak freely and from the heart. So I guess it was no surprise to them, that when after all other speeches were made, including those by the retirees themselves…I asked if I could say a few words.

Speaking from the heart…as Hawaiians do so well…I explained the attachment I felt to my husband’s boss and his wife. Once, some time ago, at a social function I had said I would have loved being both their mothers. (They are good people. They would make any mother proud. Having met both sets of parents, I understand why they became who they are.)

I went on to explain to those gathered my own corporate career experience, and how I’d never witnessed the same familial environment apparent in my husband’s company. I credited that fact and my husband’s ability to thrive within such an atmosphere…to his boss’s management style. One that wasn’t only focused upon “the bottom line,” but also upon the coming together as…ohana…Hawaiian for “family.” 

In conclusion, I asked that those present…all in varying leadership positions within the company…”hang onto that feeling of ohana. That it is a rarity, as much now as in the past.

Hugging both the CEO of Holland America Group, Stein Cruse, and his wife Linda, I said I loved them. She and I shed tears as we hugged. Just like a daughter… And he stooped to embrace me in a bear hug, whispering that it was sweet of me. Just like a son…

Public speaking has never been my forte. My voice cracks. I ramble. I say things which might make most husbands and daughters cringe with embarrassment. Fortunately for me, mine “get” who I am. As my daughter explained…whatever I know might go public. She knows too that it’s only done out of love and compassion.

I have no filter when it comes to praising others. I say what I feel. Perhaps because I craved approval the better part of my life, and probably still do, I give it freely whenever I am afforded the opportunity.

Seeing others warmed by a few words of praise…blesses me.

And so I count my blessings…

…as often as i can.

………hugmamma.

Enjoy other inspirational words at
https://beccagivens.wordpress.com/2015/03/26/nurt-thurs-you-are/

 

 

living her best life…#37: wabi sabi

Wabi Sabi. A phrase I’ve now heard 3 times within the last couple of months. A phrase I’d never heard before.

Pat’s husband Brad first mentioned Wabi Sabi just about the time she was diagnosed with multiple myeloma and amyloidosis. Then Pat’s sister Mary spoke of it again in an email. I’d been meaning to bring it up in a post, but never did. And so…the “third time’s the charm.”

A Blog for Humans at   https://tomrains.wordpress.com/2015/02/19/sehnsucht/  defined Wabi Sabi as “a Japanese philosophy concerning the beauty of imperfection.”

The beauty of imperfection. 

Describes Pat’s life at the moment…at least insofar as how Pat is living her life…in light of her health issues.

Life really is as the Japanese perceive it…Wabi Sabi. 

Beautiful in its imperfection.

Following is an email from Pat updating her “imperfectly beautiful life.”

*****************************************************************************************************************************************

Hi [hugmamma…]

How is Sitka doing? I felt so sad reading your post about him. It was really hard when Lady died. It took a while but I’m finally ready for another dog, but the timing is just not right. And how is the renovation going? Smoothly, I hope! I’m not sure if my text messages from my phone are going through, so wanted to give you another update, as things are starting to move forward…

First things first, though. Had an enjoyable, busy weekend. Saturday was a bridal shower for John’s (my nephew) fiancee, Estee. Then we got together on Sunday at Johnny’s (my brother) because Carol and her family are in town for the week. Any time family’s together is a good time…

I’m still working 3 days a week and will start doing half days on most Thursdays. Basically, I’m running out of sick leave and vacation time! There’s a “shared leave” program at work where co-workers can donate leave. My boss says there’s a lot of interest from people at work who want to donate, so I’ve put in a request and hopefully will get some additional time. I’ve also put in for leave without pay for June – August. I will be able to keep my medical benefits as long as I pay my premiums, so I wanted to make sure to set that up.

We just got a letter from the Mayo Clinic scheduling my first appointment for May 11. Chemo is scheduled to end Wednesday, May 6, so the following Monday we’ll be in Minnesota. The Kaiser transplant coordinator told us Mayo said to plan on staying for 2-3 days. That doesn’t help us much so we are trying to get more details before we make our travel arrangements. I have 2 appointments the first day we’re there which look like a consultation and possibly a bone marrow biopsy. Kaiser has said all along that the Mayo Clinic will most likely want to do their own tests, etc. So there could be additional appointments while we’re there.

Brad and I still have so many questions, as well as a lot of preparation for the trip and beyond. 

Ethan will still be in school. Need to make arrangements for him to stay with Brad’s sister. Aiden is due to return home on May 10, so we’ll be crossing paths in the air. What’s unknown is how soon after this first trip we’ll be returning to the Mayo Clinic for the actual transplant. We’ve learned that they won’t want to wait too long from the time I end my chemotherapy before starting the transplant process. So we’re guessing we’ll fly home only to fly back soon after. Not so easy when traveling from Hawaii!

It’s still a little ways away, but I get anxious if I think about it too much. Just have to take it one day at a time, because…

…life goes on…things needing to be done this week…a meeting with our tax consultant…chemo treatments…

…and things to look forward to…John and Estee’s wedding in a couple of weeks…the annual Easter brunch at our house.

Maybe we can talk on Wednesday or Thursday morning? Chemo on Wednesday is at 1 p.m. 

Anyway, must be going. Trying to gather all our tax papers for tomorrow’s meeting.

Love to you and the family,

…and all my supporters…

…pat…and hugmamma.

 

living her best life…#36

In response to Pat’s email in the previous postclose friend Lei, a college counselor, wrote back…

Hi Pat,

Am I the worst Catholic ever if I don’t know who Mary Helen is? She sounds like an important nun and I’m embarrassed if I’m the only one who isn’t familiar with her work. I’ll have to google her.

Glad to see your sense of humor is intact. LOL. That’s a good sign.

I gather the poi (a traditional Hawaiian food) I dropped off didn’t do it for you, huh?

Keep your chin up, Pat.

You know I’ve become sort of an expert in this field, and you’re doing a fabulous job!!!

I love you tons and you’re always in my prayers. I’ll call later to get some nourishment into that body of yours.

HUGS AND SQUEEZES…Lei.

living her best life…#35

Pat updated immediate family and close friends on her condition about a week-and-a-half ago. Following is what she had to say…

It’s been a while so I thought I’d send a quick update. Being that I haven’t sent any in a bit is a good sign. It means everything remains the same.

I’m tolerating the chemotherapy and haven’t had any really bad side effects. It’s mainly been fatigue and feeling somewhat loopy. Don’t know how else to describe it.

Still trying to find the right foods that also taste good and are nutritionally best for optimal health. Thank goodness for the internet…there’s a lot of info out there.

I usually work 3 days a week, unless I have other appointments. This Wednesday will mark the halfway point for my current treatment.

According to my doctor, my labs suggest that I’m “responding to treatment with disease improvement.” His response was to an email I’d sent him about a week ago. I think it means we’re on track insofar as controlling the cancerous cells/protein deposits…in preparation for my transplant. Brad and I will have a chance to ask questions and get more detailed information when we meet with him next week. (No worries. Doc is…wwwaaayyy…more personable than it might seem.)

Other than that, things are as normal as can be…considering.

One trippy note.

Out of the blue, cousin John called last week. I don’t think I’ve ever had a conversation with him in my life! We’d see him during the holidays when I was just a little girl. As a teenager he couldn’t be bothered with me. 

John had me try to guess who was calling. I had no clue. The only person who came to mind was Jimmy (my brother-in-law). LOL! (hugmamma here: I’d say that was a pretty good hunch.) It’s a good thing John didn’t keep me in the dark for too long and indicated that he was family right off the bat. Otherwise I probably would have hung up on him. Julie warned him that might happen.

Anyway, John called to see how I was doing. After the initial shock wore off, it was pretty cool to talk to him…getting philosophical and all. I wasn’t aware that he hasn’t completely recovered from a stroke he had about 2 years ago. John assured me that he and the rest of his siblings, including Sister Mary Helen and her fellow nuns in Rome, are praying for me. How cool is that?

I’ve also heard from Aunty Therese and cousin Marion as well.

Well, I’d better get on with my day. I’m off from work since I had to go to one of those “other appointments.” Loads of laundry to do. Which reminds me…Aiden is home this week for spring break. He’s loving the warm weather and surf at Makapu’u and Sandy Beach.

Chat again soon. Love you all always…

…and all my supporters.

………pat…

………and hugmamma.