“charism,” a call to serve

The other evening my family and I attended a lecture by a visiting priest. We’d heard him preach during Sunday Mass, and liked what we heard. Wanting a little more spirituality in our lives, we were open to hearing more of what Father had to share.

At 7 p.m. we’re usually settling in for the night. After chores, errands and work, we’re not inclined to venture out again on a week night. But after a hurriedly prepared dinner of scrambled eggs with sliced turkey kielbasa thrown in for added protein, we made our way to church. God must’ve been smiling down upon me, because sitting quietly on a hard pew, one day a week, is more than enough for me. Remember an earlier post when I mentioned that my mom would pinch my butt, as it slid back to lean against the edge of the pew? Happily, I can now repeat the same offense without repercussion. It’s one of the benefits of old age. I can also catch “40 winks” behind closed eyelids, while the Mass drones on. I don’t do it often, but as I’ve said before, my mind does tend to wander.

About 35 parishioners were assembled in the pews at the front of church. Father stood before the group. As he spoke, he would refer to what we were seeing projected onto the screen situated near him. While I can’t remember all he said, I do recall that Father spoke of “charisms.” The word isn’t in my paperback copy of Webster’s Dictionary, but perhaps it’s the root for “charisma – a personal magnetism that enables an individual to attract or influence people.”

According to Father, God has bestowed us with “charisms.” These are unique “gifts” that make us feel good, when they are shared with others. Ultimately they bring us the fulfillment we seek. This is our vocation as Catholics, disciples of Christ. Each of us, according to our own “charism,” is called to serve others in our daily lives, out in the secular world. Priests are not the only ones who are “called” to serve. As an illustration, we listened to Jan Vallone tell her story, up on the screen.

Having grown up Catholic, Jan always did what her parents wanted. It was her dream to teach, but she became a lawyer because that was her father’s desire. During the 18 years she worked in law, Jan felt neither happy, nor fulfilled. When the firm she was with downsized, she took the opportunity to apply for a teaching job. To her astonishment, her application was accepted. As a high school English teacher, Jan’s spirits soared. It meant a great deal to her that she was making a difference in the lives of her students.

In addition to teaching, Jan began writing. Her memoirs caught the attention of a publisher. But because marketing her manuscript consumed so much of her time, she felt distracted from her true calling, teaching and writing. So she plans to return to both, leaving the selling to someonelse while she teaches the high schoolers she loves, and begins writing her second book. Jan feels fulfilled, knowing her “charism” is helping others, something which neither practicing law nor marketing a book could do for her.

I think I’ve found my “charism” in Hugmamma’s Attention to Detail. In my blog, I’ve been able to combine my passion for writing with my desire to be a voice for compassion and positivism. In sharing my experiences, thoughts, and feelings with others, I hope I’m able to provide a ray of light in a darkened corner of someone’s life.

My husband’s “charism” has always been as a role model of integrity and compassion in the business world. He “climbed” the corporate ladder without chicanery, or “brown-nosing.” Solidly committed to his principles throughout a 40 year career, he has garnered the loyalty and admiration of peers and employees, as well as business associates. I’ve even suggested that I’d be a great hire, to which my husband has always replied “I already have a CEO and President at work. Thank you very much.” I guess he’s right. Better that he leaves work behind, when he leaves the office.

Dance has always been our daughter’s “charism.” Beginning with her first performance as an 8 year-old tap dancer, she drew the attention of the audience. Afterwards a father approached me to say, he thought our daughter had tremendous “stage presence.” We’ve always been told that, and often by complete strangers. People have also said they can’t take their eyes off her; that they track her throughout the performance; that she’s their favorite dancer. Our daughter has always said that she feels blest with a gift that she wants to share, in the hopes that it will touch someone.

As Father put it, God would never set us up for failure. Our “charism” is what He has called us to do, as his disciples in the world. 

your “charism” calls,… will you answer?…hugmamma.

      

 

parenting, the rewards

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

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

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

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

hugs, for children, and their parents…hugmamma.

caring friends

The company of dancers to which my daughter belongs, are an especially caring group of young folk. People unfamiliar with their world might conclude that its competitive environment would prohibit close friendships. As with any career, there are individuals who refuse to look beyond their wants and needs. But having witnessed my daughter’s experiences first hand, I know that most dancers reach out to one another, offering a shoulder or a pat on the back, as the situation warrants.

Dancers work under demanding physical conditions. Their minds are also constantly challenged with learning choreography for several pieces simultaneously. Add to the mix, their ongoing concern for keeping healthy and fit. Their jobs depend upon their doing so. And yes, there is some anxiety about what roles they will get to dance. While they can hone their skills to achieve their personal best, the artistic staff, and sometimes the choreographer, have their own selection criteria. The dancers must abide by their decisions.

Unlike many professions, dancers must be passionate about their choice of a career. Given the unique demands and stresses, someone doing it half-heartedly could not withstand the physical pain nor the extraordinary mental stimulation. (Although some have tried, and still try.) Dancers rarely take sick leave, that’s how “crazy” they are about what they do. (I have to admit to taking mental health days once in a while during my stint at a career outside the home. Actually, I still do.) Working as a team to bring a ballet or contemporary piece to the stage, the dancers support each other’s efforts. For the good of all, they forge close relationships based upon respect. They celebrate together, and they share disappointment together.

Making big bucks is never a consideration for dancers. Unless they are with major metropolitan companies with $15 million budgets, dancers barely make a living wage. Many work 2 jobs to support themselves. Again, that’s how “crazy” they are about what they’re doing. Occasionally they may dine out on shared appetizers and desserts. Or they may splurge at a sushi joint or a local, college hangout. Most times they relax at one another’s apartments, having already eaten their meals at home. There are group celebrations for birthdays or Christmas, where everyone brings pot luck. They are as generous as they are frugal. That is to say, they spend within their means.

I admire my daughter and her dance friends. They are passionate about their careers, while showing compassion towards each other. They have showmanship, but are not flashy. Each believes he or she is the best, but realize there’s better, when they see it in another dancer. They congratulate each other when great roles are garnered, and they cry together when they are not. Their hearts are big; they pet-sit for free when friends are away for a few days or a few weeks. They transport each other to and from the airport, even during  rush hour traffic.

My daughter has a family of caring friends, and we, her family, cannot express enough appreciation for those young men and women. They are the siblings she did not have growing up.

those who care for our children as we do, deserve our thanks…hugmamma.

attitude adjustment

One day I had occasion to visit a beautiful, upscale mall in sunny southern California, The Costa Mesa Mall. Sprawling over several acres, it was a shopper’s paradise. A favorite phrase,”eye candy,” coined while strolling the cobblestone streets of Venice, seemed just as applicable at this retail complex. Anchoring this shopping mecca, were giants Bloomingdale’s, Macy’s, Nordstrom’s, Sak’s, and Sear’s. Sprinkled in and around them were other name stores, Gap, BCBG, MaxMara, Mango, Barney’s New York, Abercrombie & Fitch, and a seemingly endless list of other brands. Rolex caught my eye. I’d not seen it in any other mall I’ve visited. In fact, I’ve never seen its storefront before.

My first stop had to be Bloomingdale’s. Our first “introduction” was at 53rd and Lex in NYC in 1976. Several years ago, my daughter and I visited a branch in Soho, New York. There’s a distinct vibe to the retail icon. It’s upscale with a contemporary, youthful flavor. New York is culturally diverse, with Chinatown and Little Italy as neighbors, deli workers commuting alongside doctors on subways, and homeless setting up house across the street from Trump Tower. As a result, Manhattan’s Bloomingdale’s caters to customers from all walks of life. Everyone is treated equally. When you enter the store, whether you browse or buy, you’re a BFF (best friend forever).

As I wandered through Costa Mesa’s Bloomingdale’s, the mood was the exact opposite of its “sister” in the east. I felt invisible as I made my way through different areas of women’s wear. Several of the saleswomen were young and Asian. None approached to assist me, instead greeting and speaking with Caucasian shoppers. I took notice because I’m half-Chinese. Perhaps I didn’t appear to have the money to spend. No matter I thought, I’m just browsing. If something “grabbed” my attention, I would’ve made myself known.

In lingerie, I looked at a selection of bras displayed on a table. While fingering one in particular, a lovely, black, young saleslady approached saying “Isn”t that nice!” I replied that it was, but couldn’t find the price. She checked one like it nearby. It too had no price, so she left to make inquiries, indicating she’d be right back. Upon returning with the price, she pointed to another bra that was on sale. Following her to the “sale” rack, I explained that I had been searching for one that I had seen more than a year ago at Free People. The saleslady quickly informed me that the store had a branch in the mall. I was pleasantly surprised that she referred me to a competitor. Her recommendation reminded me of the Santa Claus in “It’s A Wonderful Life.” If an item was not in stock, he sent customers from Gimbel’s, where he worked, to Macy’s where he thought they’d find exactly what they were looking for.

Leaving Bloomingdale’s I pondered what had just happened to me. I was ignored by my own ethnic “sisters”, and treated kindly by a black woman, who reached out in true sisterhood. On my way out of the store, I saw BCBG, a retailer of expensive, designer wear. Stepping inside, I strolled about, stopping to more closely inspect items that were of interest. The 3 young, Asian, sales help never acknowledged my presence. Interesting, I thought. As I made my way from the back towards the exit at the front, I stopped to allow one of the sales women to pass. I noticed a half-smile on her lips as she walked by. Continuing towards the door, I saw a Caucasian customer enter and heard one of the sales ladies call out “Hi! How are you?”

In my 20’s I perceived such affronts as there being something wrong with me. Almost 40 years later, I find such experiences curious. On its face it might seem that the Asian women thought I was “beneath” them and their Caucasian clientele. I was dressed well, but not anything like their regular customers. By contrast, the young, Black woman treated me as an equal or better, since I was a potential consumer. But setting aside what might seem like the obvious, it may be that the Asians were behaving according to stereotype, quiet and shy. And the black woman was, perhaps, more outgoing by nature. Murmuring to myself, I continued on my way.

My next encounter, more pleasant than those previously, added another dimension to the racial question. Sylvia, in DKNY, greeted me with a pleasant smile and “Hi! How are you?” As I wandered from table to rack, looking at Donna Karin designer digs, Sylvia’s eyes followed me. Stepping closer, she commented that I should let her know if I needed any help. I thanked her. When I finally spied a long, grey, sleeveless dress that might fit my daughter nicely, I asked for Sylvia’s assistance. We talked a little about the details of the dress, its fit, its color, its multiple use. I shared a picture of my daughter. Sylvia complimented my daughter’s beauty and her pursuit of dancing as a career. I learned that Sylvia was of Korean-Polish ancestry. I expressed my feeling that marriages between easterners and westerners, can produce attractive offspring. My husband and daughter who are Hawaiian-Chinese-Portuguese are proof-positive. I left in a very good mood, promising to return later that day, my daughter in tow.

Before heading off to get a bite to eat, I stopped in at Free People. Immediately inside the doorway, Ashley greeted me with a huge smile and friendly manner that wrapped around me like a warm blanket. We chatted continually while I moved hangers aside to better inspect each piece of clothing. I couldn’t stop staring at her, wondering who she looked like. After a few moments playing charades, we arrived at the conclusion that she bore a close resemblance to the youngest of the 3 protagonists fighting the “good fight” against the witches in “Hocus Pocus,” a Halloween favorite on the small screen. Throughout the boutique, Ashley met up with me to comment on an item that I’d hold up for a better look. A native Californian, she was the friendliest I’d ever met, and I told her so. She laughed, and thanked me for the compliment. To better explain myself I told her of my experience in Bloomingdale’s. “Oh!” she exclaimed, eyes rolling, “They need an attitude adjustment!” Well, I just loved her absolute candidness. She was too precious, I thought.

It was so refreshing to make small talk with a young person, so totally unimpressed with outward trappings. She was Caucasian, but it didn’t matter. She was a resounding reminder that it’s what a person is like on the “inside” that matters, not skin color, or social status, or age. Because of her innate skills for serving customers, Free People made a tidy sum when I returned with my daughter to make a number of purchases. I felt like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman. I wanted to return to Bloomingdale’s and BCBG to say “I was the one you wouldn’t help. Big mistake! Huge mistake! Huge!”

best not judge a book by its cover…hugmamma

deadly dilemma

One of my favorite reads is The Wall Street Journal. “Whaaattt?” you ask. A middle-aged woman who’s been out of the work force for 24 years actually comprehends the white-collar worker’s “bible?” “No way!” you say.

I was a regular commuter to NYC for 11 years, first on the LIRR from Long Island, and then on Metro North from Connecticut. I trekked in and out with thousands of others, head down, nose to the grind. In the Big Apple I learned street smarts and corporate chicanery. I left the workforce as a paralegal for a major international airline for a better offer, motherhood. Best career move of my life. I happily set aside the Journal in favor of parenting books. More useful in my new job.

I don’t subscribe to magazines, newspapers and the like anymore. When I did, finding time to read them became another chore. Piles would accumulate, and so would my guilt. Hiding them away in cupboards and closets when company came only delayed the inevitable. Into the recycling bin they’d get tossed looking as fresh as when they were “hot off the press.”

Recently the Journal snuck into our house through the “back door”, my husband’s job. At first I thought he was bringing the office copy home to read. Eventually I noticed the paper appearing on the kitchen island when I awoke to make breakfast for myself. By then my husband had left for work. The Journal’s regular appearance made me suspicious so I confronted my husband. Not surprisingly, he assumed that I knew he had subscribed. What could I say when he explained that it was on his company’s “dime,” not ours.

Guess what? My guilt’s returned. A pile of newspapers is neatly stacked upon my desk awaiting my attention. Like I need to add to my household list of “Who Needs My Attention Now.” Does my spouse share my guilt? No. He’s perfectly content skimming the news summary on the first page. Well, it’s his loss. When I do get around to perusing the paper( in other words when I have the time), I always find little gems hidden away between the pages.

“Is There Life After Jim Thorpe For Jim Thorpe, Pa.?” is an intriguing story of 2 neighboring Pennsylvania towns bordering the Poconos, Mauch Chunk and East Mauch Chunk. In 1953 the citizens promised Thorpe’s widow that they would merge, becoming a new town named “Jim Thorpe.” In exchange she had to allow his bones to be buried there.  A suitable monument would be built to honor him. 

The Chunkers (as the townsfolk are known) felt that Thorpe, the 1912 Olympic winner of both the decathlon and pentathlon for track and field, would boost their tourism. Besides, they honored him. It didn’t matter that he  had no connection to the area whatsoever, and probably never paid a visit either.

Last month, one of Thorpe’s sons filed suit to have the town “surrender his father’s body so that it can be buried with other family members near Shawnee, Okla.” The locals agree. They claim that visitors go white-water rafting, see the fall foliage, tour mansions once owned by railroad barons, among other things. But Jim Thorpe’s memorial site is not prominent among them. The situation remains unresolved.

The article started me thinking about my own burial plans, and not for the first time. Where would I want to be interred? Or would I prefer cremation? Should my remains stay put, right here where I’ve lived for the past 12 years; or should they be returned to my birthplace? Who would visit my gravesite there? Should I consider ease of visitation for my daughter or my husband, if he outlives me? Does all this really matter once I’m gone? I won’t know where I am or who’s visiting? It would be nice if someone would leave flowers for me once in a while, fragrant ones. I like them best.

I may not be famous like Jim Thorpe, but we have one thing in common. It’s uncertain where his final resting place will be, just as I’m uncertain about mine. However the difference, a biggie, is that I can choose; he can’t.

what do you think…hugmamma.