this…12th man

Not normally a football fan, I admit…I was caught up in the thundering tsunami that was the 12th man as it made its way to the Super Bowl.

That the outcome was not the event we had hoped for does not, in fact, dispel the gigantic wave and its accompanying roar that came crashing down in Arizona. And like the tsunami that caused seismic damage to Japan and its nuclear power plants, the Seahawks weighed in as a heavyweight contender. 

Russell Wilson, in only his third season as a pro quarterback, gave seasoned veteran Tom Brady something to think about. Wilson can only get better, as Brady surely has in all the years he’s been quarterbacking.

I feel as much for the ardent Seahawks fans as I do for the players themselves. For all their sake, I wish the team could have brought home the win. Fans and players alike did all they could to make it happen. No one can fault their fervor or hard work.

While the media replays that game-changing moment over and over and over again, perhaps it’s good to remember other more significant life-changing ones.

Pat’s battle with Multiple Myeloma and Amyloidosis.

Greg O’Brien eventually succumbing to Alzheimer’s.

The Japanese reporter slain by Isis.

Syrian refugees fleeing their homeland by the thousands. 

Jewish people once again facing annihilation at the hands of mad men.

African natives dying from ebola.

The havoc being wreaked upon the earth because of environmental changes caused by man.

Innocent lives lost because of crazed gunmen.

Young folks being bullied into taking their own lives.

Veterans returning…only to face death on the home front.

And the threat of another World War…as the Middle East continues to unravel.

There’s always another Super Bowl to win next year…

…but what will happen to the world in the interim???

………hugmamma.

Advertisements

inside alzheimer’s…o’brien #2

This is the second in NPR’s series “Inside Alzheimer’s,” about the experience of living with Alzheimer’s. In part one, Greg O’Brien talked about learning that he had the disease.

A diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease…doesn’t mean your life is instantly over. There is this stereotype that…you’re in a nursing home and you’re getting ready to die…That’s not true.

In fact, in the five years since he was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s, O’Brien has taken copious notes about his condition and published a memoir.

There are times when I, I cry privately. It’s an emotional thing, the tears of a little boy because I fear I’m alone and the innings are starting to fade.

Alzheimer’s…is like ‘a death in slow motion.’

It’s like a plug in a loose socket… Think of yourself, wherever you are in the country, and you’re sitting down and you want to read a good book, and you’re in a nice sofa chair next to a lamp at night. And the lamp starts to blink. You push the plug in and it blinks again and you push the plug in. …Well, pretty soon you can’t put the plug back in again because it’s so loose, it won’t stay there. And the lights go out forever.

Interview Highlights

On putting his assets in his wife’s name…
The doctors told me that I needed to turn everything that I had over to my wife. I’m not allowed to own anything anymore. That was a difficult thing for me because our house on Cape Cod, which I had built, was exactly the kind of home that I wanted to live in and raise my children in. And now I felt that I was a renter.

And that was the beginning of the stripping away of my identity. And I knew no one got that but me. You know, God bless all the doctors and many of the caregivers in the world, but it’s really the people who are fighting through early Alzheimer’s who…who get it.

And…now I forgot the rest of your question. Can you repeat it?

On waking up confused each morning
I don’t have a self-identity; I have to find it. I’m an old-school guy, and I think of a file cabinet and think of the who, where, what, when, why and how of your life, arranged in files in this filing cabinet. Then at night, someone comes in and they take all the files out and they throw them all over the floor.

And then you wake up in the morning and say, “Oh my god, I have to put these files back before I realize my identity.”

LISTEN! IT’S 24/7.

What is there to look forward to anymore? What does the future look like to someone with Alzheimer’s disease?

You want an honest answer?

I DON’T KNOW HOW LONG I CAN KEEP THIS FIGHT UP.

On labeling everyday objects
Right now I have to label toothpaste because I’ll grab for soap or lotion and brush my teeth. I also label mouthwash, because there was a time when I grabbed the rubbing alcohol. Knowing, looking at it…it said rubbing alcohol, Greg! But I said ‘No,’ and I took a swig. Let me tell you, rubbing alcohol doesn’t have a thin, minty taste.

On short-term memory loss
Sixty percent now of my short term memory can be gone in 30 seconds. More and more, I don’t recognize people. And now people understand that and, God bless them, they come up and introduce themselves to me. These are people I’ve known since childhood.

In addition to my short-term memory loss, there are times when I’ve hurled a phone across the room, a perfect strike to the sink, because in the moment I didn’t know how to dial. I’ll smash my lawnmower against an oak tree in the backyard in summertime because I don’t remember how it works.

I cry privately. It’s an emotional thing, the tears of a little boy, because I fear I’m alone and the innings are starting to fade. You know, a fish rots from the head down.

…like being buried alive.

………hugmamma.

 

 

 

 

how do you tell your children?…

That you have…ALZHEIMER’S???

As we usually do while driving around on errands, my husband and I listen to NPR News on the radio. In addition to the news, it offers regular anecdotal snippets of ordinary peoples’ lives.

The following hit home because my mom had Alzheimer’s for almost the entire decade prior to her death. It was rough-going for she and her caretakers, one of my older sister’s and her husband.

Hearing about the the disease from someone caught up in its web of deceit, might help us understand the victim’s traumatic journey into the unknown from which there is no return. Perhaps when we glimpse the unrelenting misery of someone losing his identity, built up over a lifetime, we can understand that the person we once knew is metamorphosing into a complete stranger. 

And yet, he is no stranger at all.

He is like a newborn having to begin again. Unlike a baby, however, he is fully grown making it difficult for us to embrace him as though cuddling a tiny human being.

Journeying with someone stricken with Alzheimer’s is like living in Purgatory…halfway between earth and Heaven. As such we can’t expect to be completely human, and we’re certainly not angels or saints. 

Alzheimer’s is…what it is…for both the victim and those suffering alongside him. No more…no less.

Here’s NPR’S broadcast…

ARUN RATH, HOST:

It’s ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I’m Arun Rath. Today we hear from a man who’s chronicling his own experience with Alzheimer’s disease. Greg O’Brien is a writer and journalist.

O’BRIEN: You ask me the question of who I am, there are days when I’m not quite sure. But in reality, my name is Greg O’Brien. I’m 64 years old. I’ve been married 34 years. We have three beautiful children. At age 59, I was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s. The disease stole my maternal grandfather, my mother, and now it’s coming for me.

I was diagnosed in 2009. It was scary. I remember sitting in my neurologist’s office. He had all the tests results and the clinical tests that I failed and all that. And he’s sitting next to my wife. And he said that you have Alzheimer’s. The doctor looked at me, and he said, are you getting this? You have a battle on your hands. I’m talking to you – excuse me, this is hard to talk about -as if you’re terminal.

Now I have a strong faith, and I know I’m going to a better place, but I started thinking of my wife and kids. And I could feel water running down the side of my face, and they were my tears. How do you tell your kids that you got Alzheimer’s? It sucks. I had planned this family meeting so all the kids were home, and we were going to go out to dinner. I’m in the bathroom, you know, I felt a little bit like Luca Brasi in “The Godfather” practicing my speech, you know, on the day of your daughter’s wedding. And so I could hear, Daddy, where are you? So I came out and, you know, went over the fact that their great-grandfather, my grandfather had died of Alzheimer’s and my mother, which they knew, and now it’s come for me. And they were stunned. They didn’t quite know what to say. And Conor kind of cut through it, and he says, so, Dad, you’re losing your mind. And everyone laughed, and I laughed. And I said, you know what? That’s enough talk for today. Let’s go to dinner. And that’s what we did. And we started talking about the Boston Red Sox and the patriots and the Celtics. And I felt more comfortable in that.

So about a week later, we had a family outing in Coronado Island. And I had just basically assigned my son to be my guardian should something happen to Mary Catherine, and made him power of attorney. So I said we need to talk about this, and he didn’t want to. He wanted nothing to do with the discussion. So I said, OK, I’ll be right back. And I went inside, and I got 80 pages of medical notes that talked about my diagnosis. And I said, Brendan, you need to read it. I don’t want to read it, he said. So I started reading it. And he started yelling and screaming. I don’t know what words I can use here. He started saying bull [bleep], bull [bleep], bull [bleep]. And then he said, expletive, bull [bleep]. And I said, Brendan, you need to get this. He grabbed my medical records, tore them up and threw them off the balcony. And then turned to me and said, Dad, it’s bull [bleep] ’cause I know it’s true. Excuse me. He put his head in my chest. Here’s this guy now in his late 20s, and he cried like a little boy.

It’s difficult doing interviews like this. It’s like getting up for a big sporting event. You know, I say my mind is like my prized iPhone – still a very sophisticated device, but one with a short-term battery, one that breaks down easily, pocket dials and gets lost. So in writing and in doing an interview like this, it beats the crap out of me. But I’m feeling and doing it. I’m beating the crap out of Alzheimer’s. And there is a stereotype that Alzheimer’s is just the end stage when, you know, you’re in a nursing home, and you’re getting ready to die. And the point is no, that’s not true. There are millions more out there suffering through the stages of early onset Alzheimer’s who are afraid to seek help; they’re afraid to talk to people. And if I can help give them that voice so maybe things get a little better for them, then that’s good.

RATH: Greg O’Brien is a writer on Cape Cod. His memoir is “On Pluto: Inside The Mind of Alzheimer’s.” We’ll be following Greg as he chronicles his experience with the disease. Next week, he tells us about how his life changed since his diagnosis five years ago.

O’BRIEN: More and more, I don’t recognize people. And now people understand that, and God bless them, they come up and they introduce themselves to me. These are people I’ve known since childhood.

RATH: That’s next week. And you can read more about Greg O’Brien at our website, npr.org.

Copyright ©2015 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

journeying towards her best life…#4

Hillary Clinton first coined the phrase…“It takes a village.” The truth in those three words is becoming increasingly more apparent as the population of the world continues to explode.

As Pat settles in with her adversarial companions, Multiple Myeloma and Amyloidosis, she will need a village to help sustain her spirits and keep her health from being completely sabotaged.

Sister Kathi and niece Kelli recommended Pat see their Naturopath, Dr. Burke.

Kathi warned me that he could be a little quirky and I thought…”Okay. No worries.”

Every time I see Dr. Burke, I laugh, that’s just the way it is.

To get to his office, I drive past Sandy Beach and Makapuu to Waimanalo, with the ocean on one side and the mountains on the other. Needless to say it is calming. No freeway. No stop lights. One lane coming; one going. [There’s] traffic…sometimes, but it’s beach traffic. So it’s all good.

LOVE that side of the island. 

[Dr. Burke’s] office is in his house. So leave your slippers outside. It’s like going to a friend’s house to talk story.

He did some research on Amyloidosis and said there were studies on the different organs [into which] the amyloid proteins might deposit [themselves.] 

The studies included an investigation into whether or not the deposit of amyloid proteins in the brain might result in Alzheimer’s. Something that would have compounded Pat’s already overwhelming health concerns. Another disease with which she would have to cope. Fortunately, amyloid proteins do not nest in the brain. 

Dr. Burke gave his patient the good news…with a straight face. “So you won’t get any dumber than you already are.”

That was just what the doctor ordered for it brought Pat what she needed…sweet relief.

We cracked up almost to the point of tears and I told him that’s the nicest thing any one has ever said to me!

Seems Pat is pretty fond of her Naturopath for she “always feel[s] so much better after meeting with Dr. Burke.”

And in her own words…

…i think you would like him.

………pat.

 

 

friday fictioneers: the devil incarnate…

PHOTO PROMPT - Copyright - Adam Ickes

It was devastating to see her sitting there, on the edge of her bed, scissors in hand, cutting her dress into shreds. Thin, wiry strands of hair fell carelessly across her face. Eyes swollen and puffy, tears streaming down her cheeks, she was in agony. 

We approached, my toddler and I, fraught with anxiety at the horrible scene. Uncomprehending, we tried to console the poor soul. 

She would have none of our pity. Flailing her arms to keep us away, we could only watch as her consumption began.

Alzheimer’s was feasting on my mother.

I could do nothing.

Except cry. 

IMG_4143

man-made food…and i don’t mean home cooking

Corn

Wonder why sweet corn no longer tastes…sweet, or for that matter…like corn? I could say the same thing about…farmed shrimp. But that’s a whole other kettle of fish…farmed vs. wild.

Only recently have my taste buds been questioning the corn I’ve been buying, specifically canned and frozen. Fresh ears of corn have not yet given me pause to wonder. Emphasis on…YET. 

There’s a Washington State vote on the horizon, I-522, to do with genetically engineered foods. I’ve read enough to know that messing with food made by Mother Nature is not good for my health. In fact, eating stuff created in corporate laboratories probably contributed to my digestive system being out of whack for some time. Thankfully I’m back on track with the help of a naturopath, and literature I’ve read on the subject.

According to local nutrition educator Nick Rose, genetically engineered foods are not more nutritious as is being touted. Instead they’re ” ‘stacked with foreign DNA so they will either produce pesticides or withstand herbicides or both, such as Monsanto’s new ‘double-stacked’ sweet corn.”

Rose goes on to speak of his concern about salmon…”the very first GE animal for human consumption, genetic engineering has produced a food offering less nutrition than the original food it is replacing.”

Salmon intended for consumption as food

Salmon, easily the most iconic food celebrated here in the Northwest, will very likely soon become the first ever GE animal food for human consumption. And the company that produced it admits their GE salmon is less nutritious.

What’s the unique nutritional benefit from salmon? Omega-3 fatty acids that supports brain health, helps manage inflammation, and is found in very few foods.

So, why would anyone want to put eel-like genes into salmon, knowing the end result would be a less nutritious food? To make the fish grow faster. GE salmon reach their market weight in about half the amount of time it takes today’s salmon to be ready for market. As a result of this super-growth, the GE salmon contain higher levels of the growth hormone IGF-1, a known carcinogen.

To summarize, the biotech industry has created a new “food” to replace one of the healthiest foods on the planet, except that the new and “enhanced” GE salmon will offer fewer heart-healthy omega 3s, and more cancer-promoting IGF-1 growth hormones. Oh, and did I mention that consumers won’t be able to tell whether the salmon they are buying at the store is genetically engineered? That is, unless…

This November, Washington voters have a chance to tell the food industry that they would like to know whether or not their foods are genetically engineered. Voting “YES” on intiative 522 will require foods produced with genetic engineering to be labeled in Washington state, making it much easier for everyone to make an informed choice when shopping at the grocery store.

GMO labeling is important to eaters around the planet for a wide variety of reasons, and 64 countries around the world already label foods produced with genetic engineering.  Do you want to avoid GMOs in your breakfast cereal, lunch box and salmon dinner? Then vote YES on 522!

Needless to say I intend to vote YES to labeling genetically engineered foods.

I understand that the practice of speeding up nature’s growth cycle may have been in response to feeding the planet’s hungry. Unfortunately success seems to have caused the industry to run amok. It’s as though a new magic trick has been discovered and all manner of magicians want in on the act. The fact that there are health risks seems of no consequence. After all, we never think preventative until we’re in the iron grip of some dastardly disease like cancer or Alzheimer’s or diabetes

Having Diabetes

Having Diabetes (Photo credit: MsH_ISB)

Why is it that mankind is always “behind the eight ball?” Is it because we think we can always dig ourselves out of the hole we dive into? Or is it because we’re just…plain stupid???

I don’t know if you live where foods have to be identified as having been genetically engineered. If you do, count yourself lucky; if you don’t…start reading labels…and everything else you can lay your hands on to do with genetically engineered foods. After all it’s your life…and those of your loved ones…that’s at stake! Even a capitalist society should allow for…freedom of choice. 

Yes, we all need to eat. But need it be at the expense of…

…our health?…

………hugmamma.

ConAgra: Genetically Modified Foods You Love (...

ConAgra: Genetically Modified Foods You Love (g1a2d0035c1) (Photo credit: watchingfrogsboil)

 

born…62 years ago

Thanks to the well-wishers both here and on Facebook who sent birthday greetings. I think we’re all humbled and grateful when singled out from the crowd, and we’re assured of that at least one day a year.

I considered myself lucky to have both my husband and daughter with me on my birthday…the entire day. Since it occurred this past Monday, they would normally have been working. But fortunately for me, we’ve spent my last 3 birthdays together, flying home from California.

My daughter’s season with her ballet company usually ends in May, so that she seeks dance gigs where she can during the summer months. For a number of years now she’s been able to find summer employment both in Oregon and California. And my husband and I have been able to see her perform closer to home, than traveling cross country to where she normally works. Our family is very grateful for these small blessings.

Before heading to the airport to return to  Seattle, our daughter in tow, we opted to have a nice birthday breakfast at the Hyatt Hotel located near where we stayed while in California. As we sat awaiting our meal, tears came to my eyes. Noticing, my husband and daughter asked what was the matter. I replied that I was thinking of my mom.

As I sat amidst the splendor of the Hyatt’s restaurant, I was saddened that my mom hadn’t experienced a life such as mine. That she never remarried after being widowed at age 30; that she faced the remainder of her life without a loving companion by her side; that for each and every birthday, she didn’t have her own family doting upon her; that she lived on love leftover from what others could spare.

My mom’s life was good, considering how it began, she being the youngest of 14, widowed early and left with 9 children to raise. We, her offspring, did our best to provide for her while trying to provide for ourselves and our own families. But while her physical needs could be met, providing for her emotional and psychological needs were difficult at best. 

Diagram of the brain of a person with Alzheime...

Image via Wikipedia

Like the rest of us, my mom perceived life according to her own experiences, both good and bad. Without a companion to help highlight the good and diminish the bad, it’s my feeling she amassed negativity until it totally consumed her. Falling victim to Alzheimer’s did not help. But I’m certain her negative frame of mind contributed to the onset of the dreaded disease.

Being the youngest in my family meant I was the last to leave home, and was therefore alone with my mom as she began middle-age. On a daily basis I bore witness to her inner struggles, her insecurities, her doubts. I often absorbed the brunt of her personal frustrations. And there was no one in whom I could confide, except a few best friends with whom I’d grown up. My siblings were gone, and had families and lives of their own to tend.

Throughout my adult life, my mother and I continued to struggle, she trying to continue dictating to me, and me obviously resisting, trying to live my own life, especially after I married, and had a child 16 years later. Not until she passed away, and I experienced firsthand the challenges of motherhood, as well as middle-age, did I fully appreciate the purgatory my mom’s life must’ve been.

Though we were often at odds with each other when she lived, my mom was the one human being who knew me best, until my husband and daughter arrived on the scene. My mom was there for me, moreso at certain times in my life than others. But she was my world, my family, for she was all I had day in, day out, for years growing up. For better, for worse…she was always there for me.

So when I celebrate my birthday, I celebrate my mom’s life…

for she gave me life…one that i now treasure…with my loved ones………hugmamma.

details…little known facts

Secret Service agents in response at the assas...

Image via Wikipedia

In summing up what I’ve learned about President Ronald Reagan and First Lady Nancy Reagan from reading I Love You, Ronnie, a couple of details came to light which I’d not known before. And according to Mrs. Reagan, only those close to what occurred at the time, knew. The first dealt with the assassination attempt on the President’s life 3 months after he took office. The second was an incident that probably caused the premature onset of his Alzheimer’s. Only a handful, it seems, were privvy to both occurrences.

Waiting for news, Nancy Reagan sat with Sarah Brady, whose husband Jim had also been shot in the attempt on the President’s life.

As we waited, I looked out the window and saw how, in the buildings all around the hospital, people had thrown sheets out the window saying things like GET WELL, MR. PRESIDENT and WE LOVE YOU, MR. PRESIDENT. Every now and then, a nurse would come and report to me on Ronnie’s progress. At first, the doctors were having trouble finding the bullet, which was a devastator bullet, the kind that explodes inside. One time, the nurse came and said, “We just can’t seem to get it out. We may just have to leave it in.” Well, that didn’t sound so good to me. And then another time, she said, “They’ve found it, but the doctor is having a hard time removing it–it keeps slipping from his fingers.” Finally, she came back and told me that the doctor had gotten it out, but I almost lost him then. The bullet had been lodged an inch from Ronnie’s heart.

We were lucky–we didn’t realize how lucky, in fact–because when Ronnie had arrived, all the doctors were in the hospital for a meeting. No one had to be called in. Everyone Ronnie needed was right on hand, and there was no waiting. …

I wanted to stay there all night, but the feeling was that it would be better for the country if I left and went back to sleep at the White House. Otherwise, people would have assumed the worst and there would have been panic. As it was, Ronnie’s aides had to do all they could to calm the country down. The briefings made to the press were partial, to say the least. The assassination attempt was really a much closer call than people were led to believe at the time. Everyone was trying not to frighten the people in the country, but the fact was, Ronnie almost died. It was a miracle that he didn’t. And I knew all along how serious things really were. …

Needless to say, I was terrified. After the shooting, every time Ronnie walked out the door to make a public appearance, my heart would stop–and it wouldn’t start again until he came back home safely. Ronnie knew how scared I was. But if he was frightened too, he never let me know it. As always, he was cheerful and optimistic. God had spared him, he believed; there had to be a reason why. By making jokes…he tried to take the edge off my fear.

The Reagans wave from the White House after Pr...

Image via Wikipedia

Who could fault the First Lady’s hovering over the President thereafter? No wonder her seeming control of his life, personal and public, for which the media liked to criticize her. I know because they had me convinced she was running the country with her husband, an unofficial cabinet member, as was constantly written and spoken of in the news. How the spinmeisters love to slant the facts. Readers, beware!

Fast forward to July 1989, after the Reagans had left the White House. Visiting with friends Betty and Bill Wilson at their ranch in Mexico, the President went riding. An accident occurred.

Ronnie had been thrown off his horse. He was riding with some other men, going up an incline, when one of the ranch hands had hit something that made a loud noise and spooked Ronnie’s horse.

The horse reared once, and Ronnie stayed on. It reared a second time, and Ronnie stayed on again. Two Secret Service men tried to move in and calm the horse, but they couldn’t do it. The horse reared a third time, bucking so hard that Ronnie fell off and hit his head on the ground, miraculously missing the jagged rocks all around.

President Ronald Reagan

Image by edalisse via Flickr

We got him on a plane and immediately took him to a hospital in Tucson, Arizona. He should really have stayed there, but it was my birthday and the Wilsons had planned a celebration, and Ronnie was determined to go back to the ranch. We went back–but at my insistence, we took a doctor with me.

The day after…we flew home. I was very uneasy and kept at Ronnie until he agreed to get his head X-rayed. We went to the Mayo Clinic, where we’d gone every year for checkups. It turned out that Ronnie had a concussion and a subdural hematoma. He needed to be operated on right away. It all happened so quickly that I think, once again, I was in shock. …

I’ve always had the feeling that the severe blow to his head in 1989 hastened the onset of Ronnie’s Alzheimer’s. The doctors think so, too. In the years leading up to the diagnosis of the disease, in August 1994, he had not shown symptoms of the illness. I didn’t suspect that Ronnie was ill when we went back to the Mayo Clinic that summer for our regular checkup. When the doctors told us they’d found symptoms of Alzheimer’s, I was dumbfounded. Ronnie’s fall from the horse had worried me terribly, of course, and I’d had to urge him to take time out to recover after his operation. But I had seen no signs of anything else.

There’s no telling if President Reagan would have enjoyed more years of retirement, free from the debilitating symptoms of Alzheimer’s. How fragile the brain, with only the skull as protection from the hazards of everyday life…like horse back riding. Spared from the assassin’s bullet, Reagan succumbed to no less a devastating end. As his devoted wife, and true witness to her husband’s last 50 years on earth, Nancy Reagan suffered Alzheimer’s alongside him.

Senator Corker greets former First Lady Nancy ...

Image via Wikipedia

…First of all, there is a feeling of loneliness when you’re in this situation. Not that your friends aren’t supportive of you; they are. But no one can really know what it’s like unless they’ve traveled this path–and there are many right now traveling the same path I am. You know that it’s a progressive disease and that there’s no place to go but down, no light at the end of the tunnel. You get tired and frustrated, because you have no control and you feel helpless. We’ve had an extraordinary life, and I’ve been blessed to have been married for almost fifty years to a man I deeply love–but the other side of the coin is that it makes it harder. There are so many memories that I can no longer share, which makes it very difficult. When it comes right down to it, you’re in it alone. Each day is different, and you get up, put one foot in front of the other, and go–and love; just love.

I try to remember Ronnie telling me so many times that God has a plan for us which we don’t understand now but one day will, or my mother saying that you play the hand that’s dealt you. It’s hard, but even now there are moments Ronnie has given me that I wouldn’t trade for anything. Alzheimer’s is a truly long, long good-bye. But it’s the living out of love.

Photograph of Newlyweds Ronald Reagan and Nanc...

Image by The U.S. National Archives via Flickr

…blest by true love…even in the face of adversity…hugmamma. 

 

something in common…an uncommon love affair

Official White House photograph of Nancy Reaga...

Image via Wikipedia

I’m in the process of reading I Love You, Ronnie – The Letters of Ronald Reagan to Nancy Reagan, and I must admit to loving it. Never in a million years would I have thought I’d be interested in their relationship. Mostly because I have never, ever been a fan of hers. Silly reason being I always thought her head was too large for her body. Seeing the couple side-by-side only confirmed my opinion. I was always gaga about Reagan’s Greek god, good looks. As an actress, Nancy Davis had a pretty face in a plain sort of way, but it was larger than his, larger than anyone’s. But my opinion softened the more I glimpsed of her as First Lady. I’m certain her hairstyle did much to downplay the size of her head. In fact I thought she was very attractive while living in the White House. And now I know why. Nancy was radiant because of her all-consuming love for her husband.

Looking back now, I still can’t define what it was about Ronnie that made him seem so very perfect to me. I think we were just right for each other. And as the evening went on, I was more and more convinced. Ronnie had a great sense of humor, and he wasn’t like any other actor I knew–or anybody else in the movie business. He didn’t talk about himself. He didn’t talk about his movies. He talked about lots of things, but not about “my next picture, my last picture…” He was a Civil War buff, loved horses, and knew a lot about wine. In fact, he had a broad knowledge of a lot of different things. I loved to listen to him talk. I loved his sense of humor. I saw it clearly that very first night: He was everything that I wanted.

 Oddly enough I can relate to how Nancy Reagan felt. I met my husband when I was 17, and he was 18. I think it was “love at first sight” for both of us. Or maybe it was passion. Whatever the case, it seemed we were both hit by lightning when our eyes met.

I was a second semester freshman at the University of Hawaii, while my future husband was attending a small Catholic college nearby. Having returned from San Francisco a week earlier where he had been in a seminary, studying to be a priest, he was now one of many available “fish” in the sea. We met at the birthday party of a mutual friend. She and I shared a class at the University; he’d known her in elementary school. The party was in full swing when he rang the doorbell. When the hostess opened the door, all eyes were riveted upon the tall, dark, handsome guy standing there. If I’d have been a fly on the wall, I’m sure I would’ve witnessed all the girls eyes pop out of their sockets, and their mouths drop down to their chests, including mine! A huge Elvis fan, to me the guy in the doorway could’ve passed as a double.

I was introduced, as were all the other girls. But unlike most of them I was certain I didn’t stand a chance. Why? I’ve always had this perception that part-White, part-Asian girls are some of the most beautiful in the world. Still do. My husband is Hawaiian, Chinese, Portuguese. So of course he represented my viewpoint as it pertains to men. Naturally I assumed he and the girls with similar pedigree would go off and make beautiful music together. You can imagine my shock, and delight, when it was me he pursued! My best friend at the time watched with me, as he made his way from bar stool to bar stool to bar stool, until he was sitting right alongside me. The sizzles went right through me! I’m certain I couldn’t keep my thoughts straight, and I know I must’ve been grinning from ear to ear. I had only thought to make him comfortable when we first met, with my unflinching gift for blah, blah, blah. Well it seems I charmed the pants off my future husband from the get-go. And the rest is history, as they say.

Who would’ve thought that Nancy Reagan and I were sisters beneath the skin? Or in matters of the heart? Even as it applied to outsiders who seemed intent upon coming between her and her man. While we dated, and throughout our marriage, women seemed attracted to my husband. I could only wonder when a realtor asked me how it was he married me, or when a friend let me know that she was next in line for him, or when a sister-in-law teased that if she’d met him first, my husband would’ve married her. Then there were the sales women who lined up to kiss him on his birthday when he was in his early 20s, and a woman who offered her phone number should he ever visit her hometown, Chicago.

While in the White House, Nancy Reagan was unattractively depicted as being overly protective of the President. At the time I was probably swayed by the media to agree. But in light of what I’ve read, I give her credit for having the confidence and obvious self-esteem to stand up to the criticism, or ignore it altogether. I had neither, and so I felt like a doormat as women left their off-putting remarks and actions imprinted upon my fragile psyche. But like the Reagans, my husband and I have weathered the years like 2 buoys bobbing up and down in rough seas, or like 2 seagulls sitting atop the glassy surface of calm waters.

Of course none of us are saints, even though I called my husband one during one of our first arguments as a married couple.  With tears still glistening in his eyes he told me how hurt he felt when I had yelled “Do you know how hard it is living with a saint?” I promised never to say such a thing again. But I’m sure I failed to honor my word, at least once or twice thereafter. Any woman who’s lived with an ex-seminarian knows what I mean. When we’d argue, I’d be on both sides of the fence. I’d be just as vociferous about his inability to comprehend my woman’s needs, as I was about fighting for my rights as an equal partner. The nuns did a great job instilling guilt into my moral fiber. I’m still picking off the leftover lint to this day.

It came as no surprise that the Reagans were like other married folk. They didn’t always sail the ocean blue without so much as a white cap.

Like any other couple, we didn’t agree on everything, of course. But we never really argued. We worked on things. And I think that’s why, beyond our love for each other, our marriage has always been so happy. What we felt was right out there, just as it is the letters.

In response to a letter from a bride asking for tips towards succeeding in her marriage, Nancy wrote:

I’ve been very lucky. However, I don’t ever remember once sitting down and mapping out a blueprint. It just became “we” instead of “I” very naturally and easily. And you live as you never have before, despite problems, separations and conflicts. I suppose mainly you have to be willing to want to give.

It’s not always 50-50. Sometimes one partner gives 90 percent but then sometimes the other one does, so it all evens out. It’s not always easy, it’s something you have to work at, and I don’t think many young people realize that today. But the rewards are great. I can’t remember what my life was like before, and I can’t imagine not being married to Ronnie. When two people really love each other they help each other stay alive and grow. There’s nothing more fulfilling than to become a complete person for the first time. I suppose it boils down to being willing to try to understand, to give of yourself, to be supportive and not to let the sun go down on an argument.

I hope that yours will be a happy road ahead. I’m afraid I’ve rambled a bit, and of course, I can only speak for myself. However, when I married, my life took on an added meaning and depth and truly began. I’m sure yours will too.

I couldn’t have said it more eloquently myself. And like Nancy to this day I dread my husband’s business trips. In my 20s I would cry the entire week before he left. I no longer succumb to youthful self-pity, but I miss my husband’s presence. He likewise confesses to being unable to sleep when he’s not nestled comfortably in his own bed, with me by his side.

When Ronnie traveled now, I missed the little things most of all–the ways he loved and cared for me, how he would cover my shoulder with the blanket every night before we went to sleep, how we always slept on the same sides of the bed–him on the left, and me on the right–how we had breakfast on trays in bed together on weekends, which we started doing in our new house in the Palisades. I hated it even more then, when he went away. No matter how necessary it was for his work and the family, I never got used to it.

And then there’s Alzheimer’s. Those of you who’ve been reading hugmamma’s mind, body, and soul since the beginning of time, know that I’m proactive in my efforts to battle the disease which had my mom in its iron grips for nearly a decade before she died. Knowing of the Reagan’s devotion to one another over the course of 50 some years, I have great empathy for the loss she suffered when Alzheimer’s made off with her husband. All who have become one in body and spirit with their partner, would feel similarly. But thanks to Ronald Reagan’s propensity for writing, his presence lingered on in his love letters to Nancy.

President Ronald Reagan cutting in on Nancy Re...

Image via Wikipedia

When Ronnie and I were married, on March 4, 1952, I had of course no idea what the future would hold for us. I only knew that I loved Ronald Reagan, and being his wife was then, as it is today, the most important thing in the world for me. “My life really began when I met Ronald Reagan,” I said some years ago, and I also said, “I can’t imagine life without Ronnie.” Those statements, for which I was criticized back then are just as true for me today as they were five decades ago–despite Alzheimer’s, aging, and all the things that have happened to us. As the years have gone by and Alzheimer’s has taken away Ronnie’s ability to share our happy memories with me, his letters have come to mean even more. In fact, they are a kind of lifeline–preserving the past, Ronnie’s wonderful voice and humor, his character, and his special way of seeing things and expressing himself. As they bring back Ronnie in his own words they help me go on into the future. Many people have said to me after reading I Love You, Ronnie , “I had no idea Ronald Reagan was like that.” But I of course always knew, and I treasure these letters especially because they bring back the Ronnie I have always loved.

The inevitable, final parting awaits all of us. Perhaps it need not be without its own happy ending, “a la” Ronald and Nancy Reagan.

…as I reflect some more on the life Ronnie and I have shared, I would add that saying how much you love each other–to each other and also in letters that can be saved, read, and reread over the years–is a wonderful way to stay close. It is especially important in our busy lives to keep alive what really matters most: love, caring for each other, finding concrete ways to say it and show it, every day and in every way you can. It’s what endures, after all, and what we retain and hold on to, especially in our hearts.

…Ronnie’s letters move me to this day. They are his gift to me across the years, and throughout the decades of love.

Former President Ronald Reagan and First Lady ...

Image via Wikipedia

…an uncommon love affair that continues to endure…

…like mine…hugmamma.

 

 

 

a tribute…to my mom’s legacy

Happy..Happy.. Mother's Day :-)..

In a couple of days we’ll be celebrating moms. What they mean to us; what they do for us. My mom has been gone a number of years now. But there’s never a day that passes, when I don’t remind myself that “because of my mom, I can endure this struggle.”

While she was alive it seemed my mom and I were always engaged in our own struggle. Up until Alzheimer’s completely overtook her mental capacities, she was forever willing me to do as she wished. Perhaps I was too much like her, for I had difficulty bending to her will, especially after becoming a wife and a mother. Although I was her youngest, I felt I deserved respect as an adult having to make my own way in life. I was footing my own bills now, and picking myself up after life smacked me a blow to the head. This became even more apparent when I moved away from family in the islands, to reside permanently on the mainland. I think I learned early in life that I needed to take care of myself…without whining.

So whether or not my mom intended to give me the strength to endure, I learned by osmosis. She did it, so I do it. And because I do it, my daughter does it. But I must admit she does it with a whole lot less…whining. I like to call it venting. I like to get things off my chest with good friends, including my daughter, and hubby, of course. Now that I’m blogging, you naturally hear some of it as well. But you’ve always the option of…tuning me out.

My daughter’s recent experiences have served as a reminder of the strength instilled in me by my mom, which I have obviously passed along. My daughter’s dance season began with a sabbatical during which she returned home here for medical treatment. After 2 months, she was able to rejoin her ballet company. Cast in a couple of wonderful roles, she was elated to be dancing again in February. As she geared up for the final performance of the season last weekend, my daughter broke her hand in a freakish accident during rehearsal. While stressful, physically and emotionally, she carried on as cheerfully as possible. The beginning of last week she learned her apartment was mildly infested with bed bugs.

Bedbug

Image via Wikipedia

Advised to strip the place of everything except the furniture in preparation for treatment she, with a broken hand, but with the help of a friend, did just that. Renting a storage unit in which she placed bins and trash bags full of her belongings, and boarding her cat at the vet, my daughter has now been waiting almost 2 weeks for her apartment to be treated.

Management is dickering with 2 pest control companies about the price. Meanwhile my daughter is boarding here and there with friends because she doesn’t like the thought of being live bait. The rep from the second company consulted, suggested my daughter sleep in the bed where a couple of bug larvae were found so that the infestation would not spread to other areas, since the bugs would go in search of her blood. You can imagine her reaction! He went on to say that she needn’t have emptied her apartment of its decor and her clothing. Caught in the middle of 2 supposed experts saying opposing things, who should she believe?

Unfortunately management of the apartment complex is in the same quandary, and my daughter is the guinea pig in its efforts to devise a game plan going forward. With bed bug infestations throughout the country being widely broadcast in the media, I wonder why there was no best case/worst case scenario in place with the apartment complex‘s regular vendor of pest control?

HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY.....

Image by Daisy.Sue via Flickr

With a broken hand, and living like a nomad, my daughter maintains an upbeat attitude about her life. She’s rehearsing a piece she’s choreographed for this weekend’s show with trainees of the company; she’s been a model in a photo shoot for the company, albeit minus the hand splint which she’s now sporting; and she happily accepts invitations out with friends which often includes a place to bunk for the night. As a beacon of light on the horizon, my daughter will soon be reunited with my husband and me for some much-needed R and R. I promised that she and I would “tie one on” when she got home.

Mother & Child, Coc Ly Market

Image by Hanoi Mark via Flickr

Any mom who cherishes her child can appreciate that what my daughter has been through makes my spirit go limp. At my age, I don’t even have the fire to take on the adversaries anymore, at least not as I did in earlier decades. I have my husband to thank for that. In our household wiser heads now rule, for which I’m eternally grateful. For it has meant that, unlike my mom, these, my later years are free of the kind of stress she inflicted upon herself through negativity. And that I truly believe, is a key component of Alzheimer’s. I may still not escape its grasp, but I maintain control over the number of factors that might contribute to eventually being overcome by the disease. So while I still have my wits about me, I’ll continue to fight the good fight. That’s something else with which I can gift my daughter.

giving thanks…for what my mom has given me…and what i’ve been able to give my daughter…and for the legacy that will most certainly… live on…hugmamma.

Wild Roses Mother's Day Card

Image by Flora Powell via Flickr

365 photo challenge: mountain

Mount Rainier over Tacoma, Washington, USA.

Image via Wikipedia

It’s probably taken me the last 24 hours to climb a “mountain.” Not just any mountain, for it felt as though I was scaling Mount Rainier, what with the monumental effort I had to exert to get to the summit. My friend Sylvia, and perhaps other like-minded seniors, will understand how ominous it is to undertake any task that involves technological lingo.

Reading the book and writing its review for my previous post “the daughter’s walk”…spokane to nyc, were easy. Figuring out the remaining components required to publish my post on Blogging For Books and retailer Amazon.com was excruciatingly painful. My back still aches from the stress. But my mind is still doing cartwheels and handstands from the phenomenal exercise it got. I’m positive I grew trillions of new brain cells that are building new networks even as I type.

Through the many hours that I labored to copy and insert images from Blogging For Books to my blog with the corresponding URL links, and then go through a whole other process with Amazon.com, I probably racked up enough miles for a frequent flier’s trip to Europe, or maybe even Australia. But just as journeying to either destination would require a lot of preparation, so too it was necessary for me to jump through hoops to get everything perfect for publication of my review on Blogging For Books and Amazon.com.

Lesson learned? “Free” doesn’t really mean “free.” Getting a free book required not only writing a review, but having the wherewithall to publish it on 2 other sites besides my own. That is certainly a “no brainer” for someone with the wherewithall. But even though I’m a couple of months shy of my blog’s one-year anniversary on WordPress.com, I still don’t know it all…technologically speaking. I know just enough to publish my posts, and include some pictures. Except…

i did just climb…a “mountain”…so take a hike…alzheimer’s…hugmamma. 😉 

(Note: So now that you know the “behind-the-scenes” story, won’t you read my post “the daughter’s walk”…spokane to nyc and click on “rank my review.” My arthritic back thanks you…as do I!)   

justin bieber…huckabee rival?

Image representing Mark Zuckerberg as depicted...

Image via CrunchBase

Adults are apt to dismiss the young members of society as not having anything of substance to contribute. But I think that’s definitely changing. No longer can we admonish them with “children should be seen and not heard,” as was the golden rule in my younger years. Not that those approaching middle-age were ready to relinquish power without a fight. It’s more that upstarts like Bill Gates and Paul Allen at the tender ages of 13 and 15, respectively, began turning our world on its ear when they sought to create what became a global power, Microsoft. Others followed in time, Google founders, Sergey Brin and Larry Page, and Facebook’s creator, Mark Zuckerberg. These of course are the more prominent among the brainiacs of their generations. I think it’s safe to say these young men who were probably considered “still wet behind the ears” by their elders, grabbed the world’s attention, never letting go.

I personally have witnessed the power of those younger than me. My 25-year-old daughter continually teaches me about life, its radical highs and lows, as well as its moments of calm and serenity. The tables have turned, where I taught her, she now teaches me. Although sometimes I wonder if she hasn’t been giving me lessons all along, ever since she was a babe in my womb.

As I’ve made my way through this, at times overwhelming, internet adventure, 20-year-olds have reached out to help me. Blogger Scriptor Obscura was the first to regularly “like” my posts and leave comments. More recently, author B.C. Young agreed to be interviewed about self-publishing, sharing insight into an area that’s still evolving. In turn he invited me to share a fictional piece of my own on his blog, introducing me to his readers. More than anything this young man gave this senior writer a “hand up.”

Thanks for giving me my first break, Ben. It’s heartwarming to know that there are published writers, like yourself, who will give a hand up to those of us still struggling to have our words read in printed form.

“mahalo”…thank you…millie aka hugmamma.

Yesterday when I volunteered at the office of the Pacific Northwest Writer’s Association, Trevor Barnes, the assistant director, shared encouraging words of support when I expressed doubt that I even belonged among such an elite company of published writers, as per the bios I viewed on PNWA’s website. Trevor assured me that there were thousands of members like me, just looking to write something that would someday be published and read. I left the office with hope. And I got that from someone in his 20s.

One Less Lonely Girl

Image via Wikipedia

So when I saw the following I felt inclined to share it. Why? Because quite simply I was shocked to learn that the young pop idol, Justin Bieber, had something going on under his blonde, mop of hair, than just hip-hop lyrics. I think you’ll be as astonished as I was.

“Go Ahead, America, Leave It to Bieber”
by Joe Queenan (Wall Street Journal, 2/26/11)

Justin Bieber got slammed good last week when he opened his yap about abortion in Rolling Stone. Some people objected to his views, others scorched him for the way he phrased them, still others questioned the very notion of a 16-year-old boy offering his opinion on any serious moral, political or legal question.

Susan Sarandon at the premiere of Speed Racer ...

Image via Wikipedia

The apoplectic response to Mr. Bieber’s comments is not fair. As of Tuesday, when he will be exactly one year short of the age when he can legally vote, drink or kill Taliban, the diminutive Canadian has every right to express himself on any issue he feels passionately about. The idea that youth somehow disqualifies him from speaking out on issues is the very thing young people–now grumpy old Bieber-Bashing Baby Boomers–fought against in the 1960s. After all, Justin Bieber is at least as smart as Susan Sarandon.

But the worst thing about all the Rolling Stone kerfuffle is that it has drawn attention away from other opinions Mr. Bieber has offered on major issues of the day. And in his clear, articulate, reasoned analysis of these issues, Mr. Bieber has shown himself to be that rarest of creatures: the precocious youth whose opinions must be heeded.

It’s Mr. Bieber, for example, who was the first person to warn that spiraling commodity prices would lead to unrest in Bahrain and Yemen. Interviewed by the BBC in January, he said: “Once you see that disconnect between pork belly futures and 30-day wheat, look out! When food prices spike–and this goes all the way back to the days when Mark Antony had to import grain from Egypt–there is no way to put a cap on civil unrest back home. Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, Libya, maybe even Iran. It’s the domino effect.”

Mr. Bieber’s comments did not go down well in the futures markets, where copper and tin immediately tanked. Who died and left this punk in charge? Why should anyone care what a celebrity of any age, gender or height cares about anything important? Don’t you have to be at least as old and gray as George Clooney before anyone starts taking you seriously?

Gaga on The Monster Ball Tour in Toronto

Image via Wikipedia

Generally speaking, this anticelebrity bias is justifiable. Sean Penn is an idiot, Madonna a dope, Christina Aguilera a nitwit. Lady Gaga never says anything that isn’t stupid, obvious or self-serving, and Martin Sheen should have spent less time protesting in the streets and more time in the home parenting. As for Bono, who definitely seems like a sincere, well-meaning sort, exactly how much wisdom can one impute to a man who wrote the music for the Spider-Man musical?

But in Mr. Bieber’s case, the animosity and condescension are not jusfified. Mr. Bieber, after all, was the first person–not the first celebrity, but the first personto warn that Ireland’s economy would implode because of a bloated real-estate market. More recently, at the World Economic Forum in Davos, he was way ahead of the curve when he suggested that cash-strapped states like Illinois and California should simply threaten to default on their debt if it was the only way to get unions to come to the negotiating table.

“Trash the muni market and you’ll see unions fold like a cheap accordion,” he says, “Just look at the yield curve.”

Not everything Mr. Bieber says is astute or prescient. He was wrong when he told a Japanese TV reporter that 3-D TV would take off last Christmas, and he seriously underestimated the ability of Apple’s competitors to respond to the appeal of the iPad. His forecast of a 4.5% GDP growth rate for the U.S. economy in the fourth quarter was way off base. What’s more, he has a lamentable tendency to express his views on topics where he has no expertise whatsoever; whether the Knicks gave up too much to sign Carmelo Anthony, whether learning a second language can help stave off Alzheimer’s, why the next pope should come from Bolivia. But for every target he misses, he hits at least one bull’s eye. And when he speaks out on issues that pertain to the world of music, he is wise beyond his years.

Mike Huckabee's band at the Lincoln Day Dinner...

Image by IowaPolitics.com via Flickr

“If Huckabee doesn’t stop trotting out that stupid bass guitar,” Mr. Bieber told Rolling Stone, “he has no chance in hell of winning the Republican nomination. The American people are not going to elect a president who plays the same instrument as Sting and Flea. Not now. Not ever.”

i have to chuckle…but i also have to…wonder…if out of the mouths of babes?…hugmamma. 

(note: who the heck is “sting and flea?”)

“walking a fine line”

Once in a while it’s good to step away from my own blog to visit others. There are so many on WordPress that are interesting and well written. And there are as many personalities as there are blogs. Each unique unto itself.

WordPress.com

Image via Wikipedia

The Worpress community repesents a microcosm of the world at large since its members are from all over the globe. The conversations run the gamut from religious beliefs to political persuasions to everyday life. Sometimes a blog includes a range of topics, like mine; sometimes there’s a particular focus, like a journal of one’s daily activities. What’s valuable to the writer, is what drives the blog. Otherwise what’s the point?

What fascinates me about the blog world is that we all coexist, side by side, with true freedom of expression, except for what might be deemed inappropriate by “management.” Except for a short period where I was mistakenly being spammed from leaving comments a month or so ago, I’ve not otherwise seen evidence of suppression by WordPress. Heck, they’ve even allowed some spams to come through for my deletion. Although they have fortunately prohibited more than 26,000, for which I’m extremely grateful.

Just as in life, bloggers can rally with others who seem like-minded. Many do. I have. I guess that’s how we form relationships as human beings. It’s comforting; it’s secure; it’s familiar. But what’s nice about WordPress is that we can step outside our comfort zone to “test the waters” without being “seen.” We can read others’ opinions, get a feel for who they are, and decide whether or not to engage in conversation. That’s not always easy to do in real life, without “getting into it” from the get-go.

I think most of us want to be part of the larger community. I don’t imagine too many prefer isolation. I know I don’t. When I first began this blog in July of 2010, I was hell-bent on writing. But I learned in time that while I had readers, most were not really interactive. They came and they left without leaving their imprint. So I worked at making connections by getting out and about. Leaving comments on others blogs, brought them to mine where they reciprocated. I’ve formed strong bonds with a few based upon respect, compassion and positive support.  

The Westboro Baptist Church picketing at the m...

Image via Wikipedia

There’s a fine line between “telling it like it is” and expressing one’s opinions, I think.  Walking the line between both is difficult at best. Refusing to walk that line can mean isolation, a lone voice in the desert. I don’t think we were built to live like islands unto ourselves. Where are we when Mother Nature upends our lives like Katrina or Japan? To whom do we turn if our loved ones are wiped out in a tsunami, and we’re left alone having isolated ourselves from others?

8 12 09 Bearman Cartoon Freedom of Speech

As I’ve indicated, it’s hard to be true to one’s own self, while coexisting with others who feel as strongly about their own true selves. It’s a matter of give-and-take, compromise really, just as in any relationship, even political ones and religious ones. It really does come down to compromise. Being correct can be isolating.

Research still points to the fact that Alzheimer’s might be in my future since my mom suffered its effects for years before she died. That is an isolating disease. I don’t care to self-impose more years of isolation…

by not being open to compromise…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.

“blog buddies,” getting it…finally

Figuring out how “blog buddies” works has been a bit of a mystery. But I think I’m finally getting the hang of it. It seems to be a matter of finding bloggers with whom I share common interests, and once found, trying to establish continuing dialogue. I’ve begun doing that with a couple of sites, by growing the conversation. It’s not easy keeping several conversations going at the same time. But it is fun, once you begin. I’m sure I’ll find the technical components that make it easier to check in with everyone, without having to click in all the time. Takes me a little bit, but I eventually manage. Good exercise for growing brain cells, and staving off Alzheimer’s.

The first blogger who taught me about being a blog buddy was Scriptor Obscura. A knowledgeable techy, she was the first to leave regular comments and “likes” on my posts. I was very touched when she asked to run some of them on her blog. She allowed me to decide which they should be, but I left the decision with her, emailing those she “liked.” Not all mind you, I didn’t want to overrun her site. As passionate as me about causes, Scriptor Obscura minces no words in her support of issues. A person less than half my age, I admire her conviction to promote compassion for those less fortunate.

Another blogger with whom I’ve begun a conversation is jeanne’s blog. I just learned that she and I share a love of antiques, hunting them down, owning, and cherishing great finds. Her blog’s photo header displays 2 adorable lhasa apsos or shitzus, not sure which. I had a shitzu, years ago, named Sushi. She was the sweetest, smallest dog. Loved her to pieces. Jeanne’s gardens are lovely, like an oasis. Mine will be, once the last dregs of winter pull up stakes and leave. She also shares recipes, which shows a love of cooking, another interest of mine. She’s gotten me started doing book reviews. And the lady has a compassionate spirit, as is demonstrated in inspirational messages she posts.

Image representing Etsy as depicted in CrunchBase

Image via CrunchBase

The Daily Dabbler is another blog with whom I’ve begun another conversation. It’s centered around crafting, a shared interest of ours. Both dabblers in creating things, I think we both realize making a living at it is best left to the professionals, not amateurs like ourselves. Nonetheless it’s fun to check out the creative offerings on ETSY, where all manner of beautiful crafts are sold.

My French friend has shared so much of herself in my interviews with My English Thoughts. Besides our love of travel, though we’ve both not the kind of time or money to globe trot, we have the commonality of the theatre, where she works, and my daughter performs. I can understand the trials and tribulations she must endure in such a unique occupation, because of those my daughter herself has endured. But I’m sure they would both say that there’s also something magical about the stage, especially behind-the-scenes. What’s also captivating about Isa is her simplicity. She seems to “go with the flow,” dealing with life as it presents itself. At this stage in my life, taking life as it comes is less stressful. My friend from France has learned it at a young age. Kudos to her!

I’m getting to know other bloggers as well. Random Thoughts from Mid-Life speaks my language, although much better, I think. An excellent writer who expresses herself so clearly, with seeming understatement. By contrast, I think my words explode on the page. But we’re different people, with different messages. Learning from others is always good, great in fact. And I’ve a lot to learn.

Space Buddies

Image via Wikipedia

Pet lovers such as those who blog at The (mis)Adventures of Sage, and Lifewith4cats remind me of my own four-legged family, and how much joy they bring their human family. Never underestimate the healing power of animals. They give so much of themselves, asking so little in return. And they get me up and exercising, even when I’d rather be lazy and blogging. A walk with Mocha, or running down the hallway with Sitka and Juneau, or crouching on all fours to stroke Sunkist, remind me that I too need to move about to keep my joints oiled. And how they make me laugh, watching some of their antics. ha, ha.

So I take my hat off to all who’ve nurtured their own communities of blog buddies. It’s an art form which when begun, takes thought and effort to maintain. But the rewards of connecting with like souls is immeasurable. I encourage you to visit these blogs mentioned above, and I’ll let you know of other blog buddies with whom I start a dialogue.

writing is fun…sharing with others enhances the enjoyment…hugmamma.