precious, precious…sunshine

Just left the blog of friend and fellow blogger…pocket perspectives. Her post on sunshine  stirred up wonderful memories of my 27-year-old.

http://pocketperspectives.wordpress.com/2013/02/21/you-are-my-sunshine-so-much-potential-sunshine-in-our-lives-each-day/#comment-8635

Her birthday’s tomorrow. 

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“You are My Sunshine” was the song we dubbed my daughter’s very own, often changing it to “you are my moonshine.” Of course we weren’t referencing the alcohol some folks took to concocting behind the barn in the good old days. (They’re probably still at it.)

Watching our only child’s face light up as we sang the words, was like seeing her standing in the middle of a sunbeam…or moonbeam.

We were three happy mousketeers…warmed by our love for one another.

Still are.

I’d forgotten that there was another song about sunshine, until I saw it reprinted on Pocket Perspectives. 

Now that my daughter’s grown into a lovely, young woman…I’d like to dedicate the following to her.

Happy birthday, precious! You still are our sunshine…and moonshine.

Sunshine on my shoulders makes me happy
Sunshine in my eyes can make me cry
Sunshine on the water looks so lovely
Sunshine almost always makes me high

If I had a day that I could give you
I’d give to you a day just like today
If I had a song that I could sing for you
I’d sing a song to make you feel this way

Sunshine on my shoulders makes me happy
Sunshine in my eyes can make me cry
Sunshine on the water looks so lovely
Sunshine almost always makes me high

If I had a tale that I could tell you
I’d tell a tale sure to make you smile
If I had a wish that I could wish for you
I’d make a wish for sunshine all the while

Sunshine on my shoulders makes me happy
Sunshine in my eyes can make me cry
Sunshine on the water looks so lovely
Sunshine almost always makes me high
Sunshine almost all the time makes me high
Sunshine almost always

Words by John Denver

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.

a celebration…of life…sylvia’s

I’ve never set foot in an Elk’s Lodge before. Truthfully I think the stereotypical image I’d grown up with was that it was a refuge for white men of some means. Perhaps their wives would partake in the occasional festive celebration, but I wouldn’t imagine it was the norm in olden times. Of course I’m only speaking from hearsay; I’ve no concrete proof of what went on in the past. But I can speak to being pleasantly surprised by what I personally witnessed a couple of evenings ago.

It wasn’t raucous, but it was rocking for sure. My husband and I were probably among the youngest in attendance, being in our 60s. But the old-timers were the ones getting down, singing and dancing, and having themselves one heck of a good time. It was infectious, because we found ourselves smiling and moving to the rythmn of the band, if only in our seats. Gone are the days when I would beg my husband to take a spin on the dance floor. If there isn’t a crowd of folks among whom he can bury himself, he’s not jumping up to make a fool of himself before onlookers. At least that’s his viewpoint. Nothing I say will get him to budge. So I’ve learned to content myself with watching others dance, unless other women decide to go it alone, then I’m in. Dancing is dancing, as far as I’m concerned.

But on this particular night, friends and family were there to celebrate Sylvia’s birthday. She’s everlastingly young in appearance and spirit, that I never think to ask her age. I know she’s in her 70s, but even that surprises me. She seems no more than a couple of years my senior, if even that. She continues to be a role model in aging ever so gracefully.

As I observed those around us having a great time, I admired their joyous abandonment. Yes, they were seniors, but they laughed, joked, sang, boogied, ate heartily of hot dogs, hamburgers and cake, and downed glassfuls of beer and wine. I saw no sorrow, no giving into the ravages of time, no letting up on living. It’s been a while since I’ve seen a group so intent on squeezing out every last ounce of “joie de vivre!” I felt lucky to be a witness, and yes, to partake in a celebration…of life!

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i’m blest to have sylvia…in my life…hugmamma.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY…GIRLFRIEND!!! …and many, many, many more…

best gift…ever!

Twenty-five years ago today, my husband and I were blest with the perfect gift, our daughter. Without child for 16 years, we’ve counted our blessings every day since her miracle birth. Because of her we know the joy of celebrating holidays, especially Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. Because of her we know what it means to love without conditions, and to sacrifice without expectations. Because of her we’ve come to accept who we are, with our own idiosyncrasies and human failings. And because of her, my husband and I have found a deeper love for one another.

Holy Family: Mary, Joseph and child Jesus

Image via Wikipedia

Life isn’t perfect, it wasn’t meant to be. But being gifted with a child surely put us on a direct path to God, not always an easy one. On-the-job training, trial and error, challenges, compromises, and blending individual personalities into one smoothe-running household, was probably not even easy for Jesus, Mary and Joseph, the Holy Family. But look where they are. Sitting at the right-hand of God.

But I don’t need to look that far ahead to know that I wouldn’t trade being a mom for any other gift in the universe. My precious daughter has brought me to where I belong…to my own, true self. Twenty-five years ago, today, I began my journey “home”…

and i owe it all to my daughter…hugmamma.

cemetery scavenger hunt

On a recent trip to California’s Orange County, to see our daughter perform as part of the National Choreographer’s Initiative, my husband granted my only wish for my 61st birthday, which occurred while we were there. We visited Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale. I wanted to see Michael Jackson’s burial site, but also glimpse where stars of Hollywood’s “Golden Age” were buried. I’d picked up a thick paperback from Barnes and Noble, which was like an encyclopedic “map” of historical celebrity sites, hangouts, studios, homes. Hollywood: The Movie lover’s Guide – The Ultimate Insider Tour of Movie L.A. by Richard Alleman, even detailed the specific locations where the famous were entombed. Book in hand we went on our very own scavenger hunt, seeking out dead people.

Pulling through the enormous wrought iron gates of Forest Lawn Memorial Park, we were taken aback by the serenity that greeted us. Yes it’s a resting place for the deceased, but it looked like a park with acres of lush, green grass. It seemed like an oasis in the midst of Los Angeles, for right outside the gates were strip malls as far as the eye could see in all directions. Just inside the entrance was a Tudor style building which lodged a combination floral/gift shop, as well as an information desk and restrooms. From what little I saw during MJ’s private burial ceremony on TV, I expected more security and less warmth from staff members. To my amazement there were no security guards patrolling the compound, and the few workers with whom I spoke, were pleasant and forthcoming with answers to my questions.

Driving on in our rental car, we meandered along tree-lined roads that wound their way through the verdant landscape. I could not stop “oohing” and “aahing.” Along the way we saw a few cars and other tourists, but luckily nothing compared to the likes of Universal Studios and Disneyland, which we vowed not to go near. In his book, Alleman describes Forest Lawn where “there are no rows of ordinary tombstones. Instead, there are acres of gardens and courts, with names such as Slumberland, Lullabyland, Everlasting Love, Inspiration Slope, and Babyland, where flat stone markers scarcely alter the smooth contours of the green lawn. There is a swan lake. There are two mausoleums—one of which resembles a great sprawling Medieval abbey. There are churches that are full-sized reproductions of churches in England and Scotland. Not only used for funerals, these are sometimes the scenes of weddings. In 1940, for example, Ronald Reagan married Jane Wyman in Forest Lawn’s Wee Kirk of the Heather.”

After visiting a couple of the churches and a museum showing works by artist Paul Gauguin, we finally went on the hunt for movie stars, albeit dead ones. At the Court of Freedom, we viewed a 20-by-30 foot mosaic replicating John Trumbull’s famous painting, “The Signing of the Declaration of Independence.” In the nearby Freedom Mausoleum I spied my first celebrity crypts, those of Alan Ladd, Nat King Cole, Jeanette MacDonald and Clara Bow. On the lower level, Gummo and Chico Marx were laid to rest, as was Larry Fine, one of the Three Stooges. Back outside I went in search of Walt Disney’s resting place without success. According to Alleman, “Whether Disney is here or not (and it appears highly likely that he is at Forest Lawn), it seems fitting that he should be remembered in a place that has the same fantasy/reality quality of the great park that his own dreams created: Disneyland.”

The “piece de resistance,” Jackson’s burial site was off-limits to the viewing public. Set apart from the main section of the Great Mausoleum, his body rests in an annex with a guard posted outside the wrought-iron gate. Keeping watch with him the day of my visit, were 3 women in their late 30’s, early 40’s. They seemed contemporary counterparts of the women who watched and prayed on the ground outside Jesus’ tomb. Their eyes hid behind dark glasses. One had brought sunflowers, placing them against a column at the corner of the building where they would go undetected by the guard. I inadvertently drew attention to them when I asked if I could snap a picture, knowing they were MJ’s favorite flowers. Flummoxed, the guard nodded his assent, but added he would need to remove them to another area where well-wishers left keepsakes in memory of the entertainer. I think the woman who brought the flowers was upset that I had pointed them out. Turning on my heel, I heard her plead to have them remain put.

Inside the Mausoleum we were directed to a viewing of the gigantic stained-glass version of The Last Supper, “which is unveiled several times a day at regular intervals complete with special lighting effects, music, and ‘dramatic narration.’” In the same room are reproductions of Michelangelo’s Pieta, Madonna in Bruges, Medici Madonna and Child among others. With a handful or more in the audience, I listened to the beginning of the narration. Antsy to hunt down the stars, I quietly stepped away into the nearby Court of Honor. Unfortunately a metal link chain kept me from moving through the hall for a better view of the names inscribed on the bronze plaques, vertically lining the walls on either side.

Scared that someone would come along, particularly the woman standing at the entrance of the building, I paced the length of the chain struggling to make out names as far as I could, squinting my eyes. I made a preliminary attempt to go around the chain but thought better of it, and returned to where I’d stood. Extremely frustrated to be so close, and yet so far, I tiptoed back to peek at the audience still seated on the other side of the wall from where I was. Hurrying back I sucked in my breath, passed around the chain and raced with determination through the narrow hall, glancing furiously at all the bronze plaques. At the other end was a smaller, separate room where “Gone with the Wind’s” famous director David O’Selznick was buried. Slowly retracing my steps I almost leapt out of my skin with joy, for in front of me were the names of Clark Gable and his wife Carole Lombard. I was in Heaven, absolute Heaven! I raced back out to where I’d left my husband, heart pounding, grinning from ear to ear. He, of course, was not surprised at my antics, but playfully scolded me nonetheless.

As we all moved to leave the building I stopped at the nearby Sanctuary of Benediction where I could see, leaning over the chain this time, the crypts of Red Skelton and Sid Grauman (of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre). I was unable to see around a wall to the crypts of Jean Harlow and others, who were mentioned in Alleman’s book. During the few hours I was at Forest Lawn, I felt I’d made a special trip to Heaven to meet some of my favorite Hollywood movie stars.

Except for the traffic, I had a “maavalous” birthday,“daahhling”…hugmamma.

may be my best year yet

I awoke to a “new” year, my 61st. My husband reminded me, indicating that he’d forgotten until he saw my sleepy head come into the living room. He’s an early riser, unlike me. On the weekend, he enjoys his favorite pastime, reading his e-book. I enjoy mine any day of the week, any time of the day, writing on my blog.

As “empty-nesters” our lives have settled into a comfortable routine. There’s work; there’s play; and there’s the in-between time. Forty years of wedded bliss and 3 years dating prior to that, can make the passing of years a challenge. How do we keep life together interesting? Fun? Getting into a rut happens to the best of us. We’re probably “middle-of-the-road. “We’re not jumping onto roller-coasters (I know I’d throw up my innards.) But we aren’t lying around in hammocks either (We’d never get up.) We enjoy similar interests, like visiting Barnes and Noble Bookstore or Half-Price Books, shopping at Lowes and Home Depot, going to an occasional movie, and spending time with our daughter. As we’ve become more comfortable with each other, however, our individual likes and dislikes have made their way from the “bottom of the heap” to the top. Funny how that happened, without our realizing it.

My husband abhors dancing. When we first met, he had “2 left feet.” He made no secret of it. But I didn’t think it was a permanent flaw; I thought I could fix it, with a tweak here and there. Not until our 38th anniversary, give or take a year or two, did I realize he really DOES have “2 left feet.”

The story of our first date is one my husband loves retelling. I was 17 or 18, he a year older. Living in Honolulu at the time, we headed to Waikiki Beach for some fun in the sun. I was so awestruck by his movie star good looks that I was speechless most of the time. (Can you believe it?) Furthermore, I was sensitive to the fact that he was the oldest of 12 children. With so many mouthes to feed, I didn’t think he had money to feed mine. Visiting the nearby zoo, he asked if I wanted some lunch, perhaps a hot dog, popcorn, soda? Lying, for I was starved for food, I replied that I wasn’t hungry, that I’d had a big breakfast at the dorm’s cafeteria. In disbelief, he pointed out that it was hours since I’d eaten. His protestations fell on deaf ears. Adamant that I didn’t need a morsel, I did give in to his offer of a soft drink. Not until 8 hours had passed, when he drove me home, did I fly down the dining room steps just before it closed. I ate like a truck driver who’d fasted for a week. I scarfed down everything I could lay my hands on. My husband left me that day thinking I was the quietest girl he’d ever met (not that he knew many since he’d been a Catholic seminarian before we met), with the appetite of a bird. Well, it didn’t take too long for him to learn the truth. He’d married Lucille Ball who ate like Ethel Mertz.

I enjoy shopping; my husband waits patiently, e-book in hand. My husband “saws wood” when he sleeps; I use ear plugs and lay a pillow between us, partially covering my head to muffle the sound. I enjoy tuning in to “Bethenny Gettin’ Married?”, “Say Yes To The Dress'” and “The Bachelor;” my husband can’t stomach reality TV, so he leaves me in peace and heads to the lower level family room to watch the History channel. I find pleasure in talking with people, including total strangers; my husband doesn’t interrupt, but he doesn’t hang around either, preferring to wander off.

Laughing over inconsequential, silly, little things at one point today, my husband and I agreed that he rarely speaks a whole paragraph. His reason, “Why should I say a paragraph when a word will do?” I replied that it might make him more approachable socially. Not skipping a beat, he merely smiled back at me. He is a man comfortable in his own skin, never personally needing the approval of others. I have always admired that quality in him. I, on the other hand, am like most who need to know that we are loved. Into my 6th decade, I am finally seeing my husband’s point of view. I am who I am.

We make our marriage work through give and take, neither of us doing all the taking or all the giving. It’s a balance that requires daily effort. It helps to think “Would I really want to start all over again, bringing a total stranger ‘up to speed’ about me and my likes and dislikes?” And more importantly, “Would someone else love me as much for the person I am, and not the person he’d like me to be?” So growing older with my husband of many years is a gift for which I am very, very grateful.

As I advance through this decade of my life I find myself happily reinvigorated. Writing has enabled me to get my creative “juices” flowing once again. I’ve always favored the left side of my brain. For most of my business career I sat behind a desk, watching a clock. I relished my “free time” when I could do cross-stitch or other handiwork, prepare a gourmet meal, decorate and then re-decorate my house. But transitioning from career to motherhood didn’t allow much time for self-fulfillment. Not that I minded for being a mom has always been my favorite job, hands down. But now that I’ve regained use of my own life, figuring out what to do with it has given me pause. There were the “fall back” options, volunteering, part-time work, full-time work, ramping up my exercise regimen, spend more time cleaning house or tending the garden. None of these possibilities caught my fancy, my creative fancy that is. So I bided my time and continued doing whatever it was I was doing, until now.

Fleshing out ideas, thoughts, opinions and feelings in my blog posts has grown new brain cells for sure. Writing has given me a youthful outlook that is couched in the experiences of a 60 year old. I’m rediscovering my past, reflecting upon my present, and pondering my future. With my mind leading the way, I’m sure my body will strive to keep pace. Writing makes me process my thoughts, then attempt to formulate them into words. It’s like going back to school, without having to go there. I’m motivated to live life large, in the moment. It may be that I’ve found my own “fountain of youth.”

hope you find yours…hugmamma