nurturing thursdays: celebrating the goodness of people…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And so I count my blessings…

…as often as i can.

………hugmamma.

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

 

 

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friday fictioneers: …finding home…

AdamIckes-boardwalk

I’m taking a different path, and not settling.

It’s risky. I’ve bills to pay, a place to rent.

A friend once said “If you love where you are, you’ll find a job that you like. If you take a job and don’t like where it is, you’ll always struggle to make it work.”

Dancing is my passion. Happiness is my home.

Both are possible.

It’s mine if I remain true to what I want. 

There. Ahead. My oasis.

Home. 

I dance. I thrive.

...one of my favorite shots of my precious daughter...by martin o'connor photography

…one of my favorite shots of my precious daughter…by martin o’connor photography

…the person…not the label…

IMG_5221While my daughter’s away auditioning for a job with a contemporary dance company, I’m keeping busy putting Christmas away. Yes. Shame on me. It’s March and the ornaments, trees, tinsel, and holiday vintage collections are only now finding their way back into our garage. It usually takes a week or so to get them all up in the first place, so I’m in no hurry to reverse the whole process. And thankfully, my family is fine with the holidays lasting until spring. Then again…they’ve got no choice.

So as I’m organizing my house for the new season, I’ve a lot of time to think about my daughter’s work status which, for the moment, is in a holding pattern. Although not really since she’s a busy, little bee looking to join a new hive, so to speak.

What continually springs to mind is my daughter’s beautiful face, and with that, her great personality. They shine through despite the fact that she’s not yet landed her dream job with a contemporary dance company.

My daughter would’ve loved dancing with Staatstheatre Nurenberg Ballet in Germany. She found the movement quality and the director equally amazing. It seems Goyo Montero would himself demonstrate the choreography if he felt it would help the dancers. At an age when most directors would have stopped dancing, evidently he could still master the moves. That’ll get my daughter’s automatic respect every time.

Although she didn’t get the job, out of 94 from around the world who were invited to audition, my daughter survived the first cut as one of 12 who went on to the final round. Of those only 2 were kept. Since the director was looking for soloists, he was obviously scrutinizing every little detail with regard to their appearance, technique, and performance. That my daughter got as far as she did is a testament to her talent. The competition for jobs in Europe is even stiffer than here in America. 

Last summer my daughter auditioned in NYC for a premier Chicago contemporary dance company. Of the 300 dancers, she was one of 2 remaining. Because auditions had taken place elsewhere in the country, there were a few others being considered for the job as well. A couple of weeks later the director called to say my daughter had not gotten the spot, but that she should try again in the future. And so she’s currently in Chicago taking classes at the company’s studio, gearing up for the audition on Saturday with a call-back on Sunday.

Meanwhile, a job with a Canadian company is also on the back-burner. Its director promised to notify those in whom she expressed an interest at the Toronto audition last week. My daughter’s “holding her breath” for that one, even as she’s moving on to the next possibility. 

Of course as her parent, I would give anything for my daughter to achieve her heart’s desire. That’s every parent’s wish. And yet what I’ve learned from this whole process is that I will love her no matter the outcome. 

It’s difficult, I think, to separate the person from whatever labels we’ve assigned them throughout the course of their lives. My daughter was a ballerina, but chose to leave that position for another more personally satisfying dance job. Yet whatever it is she does, she will remain exactly who she is. And I really like who she is.

Ours is a society which labels people. We’re either upper, middle, or lower class. We’re either rich or poor. We’re either educated or illiterate. We’re either Republican or Democrat, conservative or liberal. We’re either Black, white, Hispanic, Asian, or middle-eastern. We’re either northerners or southerners. We believe in God or we’re atheists. We’re either “in” or we’re “out.” We’re either employed or unemployed. Even housewives like me insist upon the fact that we’re earning our keep.

Parents can get caught up in society’s labeling game so that if our children don’t “make the grade,” somehow that’s a bad reflection upon us. Against our better judgment we tend to turn against our own, siding with society’s expectations. Until we come to our senses, our offspring are emotionally set adrift to figure life out for themselves. Sometimes they do; sometimes they don’t.

Some children who can’t make it on their own for whatever reason, decide to avenge themselves against the society that labeled them as outcasts. I’m certain I needn’t remind you about all the recent shootings.

Accepting our children for who they are and not what they achieve or don’t achieve in life is often difficult. But it surely makes no sense to turn against them because others do. Who are these other people that come between you and your own? Complete strangers when you come right down to it. And if they’re so-called friends, then it’s best to get new friends. With friends like that, who needs enemies? And even if they’re family…

…i’d do what i feel is best for my own child…

………hugmamma.

“it’s the daughta!”

That’s what my husband and I exclaim when our daughter calls on the telephone.

“It’s the daughta!” To which she replies “It’s the madda!” or “It’s the fadda!” Inside joke. And one which has us grinning like cheshire cats and laughing like madhatters.

What’s she been up to these days, for those of you wondering since our daughter left ballet for contemporary dance?

Well, her recent performance in Houston Grand Opera‘s AIDA went splendidly.

upper right corner..."the daughta!"

upper right corner…”the daughta!”

Our daughter was the dance lead which placed her front and center in Dominic Walsh‘s choreography. She was also honored to be only one of two dancers featured in the show’s glossy program, alongside the several, notable opera singers from around the world. The other dancer was the male lead.

Not one to be put off by funky costumes, our daughter relished her role as the Ethiopian witch doctor who battles the Egyptian warrior intent upon enslaving her people for his pharoah. I applauded her wild, frenetic moves in battling with her armed opponent.

I imagined our daughter following in the footsteps of her great aunt, my mom’s eldest sister, a kahuna…a native Hawaiian witch doctor. I never saw my aunt “in action,” although I’m sure she was just as formidable.

When not the wild and wooly witch doctor, our daughter joined the other female dancers as high priestesses and slave girls. Years of training and performing ballet continue to shine through our daughter’s seemingly effortless moves. Her solid foundation in technique will serve her well no matter where she lands in the dance world.

On the final day of the show the dancers were invited to audition for the opera’s spring engagement of CARMEN. The entire NYC production will take up residency for a month-and-a-half. Houston’s opera was asked to provide one male and one female dancer to “cover” or understudy the dancers being imported from the Big Apple

As she sat on a plane leaving Houston bound for Pittsburgh and her next gig, our daughter was notified by email that she was chosen for CARMEN. Talk about an ego booster!

While performing great roles is of course a dream come true, for our daughter the process is equally as important. 

Working with artists from whom she can learn and grow, and sharing in the camaraderie of fellow dancers with varied backgrounds and experiences is something our daughter relishes. She does not like to stagnate…as a dancer or as a person.

As she charts this the next course in her dance career, networking is absolutely vital. Hence working with the movers and shakers from the New York production staff of CARMEN will put our daughter in touch with folks she might not otherwise have gotten to meet. Already she was excited to work with the woman who put the dancers through their paces as she auditioned them for the opera. Our daughter looks forward to working with her again, as well as the director and his assistant who did not make it to Houston for the audition.

Hawaiian ballerina in Spanish mode

Hawaiian ballerina in Spanish mode

And here’s the thing. Dancers in operas CAN make more money than ballet dancers. For CARMEN our daughter’s salary will be nearly double what she made with the ballet company. After being with them for 6 years, mind you! I’m certain even some of the principals don’t make as much as she’ll be making. 

But then, of course, there’s the flip side to every coin. And that’s the fact that our daughter must pay her own way…from housing to health insurance…and everything in between. So life isn’t always…a bed of roses.

Nonetheless, our daughter is thrilled to be the one picking and choosing which roses she’d like to smell as she wanders down life’s path. And as far as we’re concerned, hubby and me…

our daughter is the most beautiful and fragrant of roses…

………hugmamma

it’s fine…

Those words…it’s fine. What do they connote?

“Having a blast!…I’m on top of the world!…Life couldn’t get any better!”

Or…

“Life is so-so. …I’m getting by. …It’s just a job.”

Most folks understand that dancers put their bodies through the ringer. Afficionados of the art form consider dancers to be athletes.

Houston Ballet dancers in front of Houston Cit...

Houston Ballet dancers in front of Houston City Hall (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The fact that they make pennies compared to NFL football players or major league baseball players doesn’t lessen the passion dancers have for what they do. I would go so far as to say that money is a minor consideration when these artists look for work.

Dancers subsist on nights in…recovering from the day’s work, and preparing for the rigors of the next. Rarely, if ever, are they hung over from a night of partying hard. Dining out often means sharing tapas or appetizers with wine. Most dancers cook their own meals. The luxuries they might enjoy include a massage, a yoga or pilates class, new dance wear, a pedicure…an occasional concert or hockey game.

Of course there are those few designated principals who, every now and then, might be able to purchase a pair of designer jeans at $400 a pop. Every sport has its stars, after all.

on the cover of a dance magazine

on the cover of a dance magazine

While my daughter was comfortable in her previous job, she felt as though she’d hit a plateau. And as a member of a ballet company, there’s little a dancer can do to change the dynamics.

With the repertoire in place a couple of years in advance, casting is more or less set in stone. Unless there are injuries or a phenomenon joins the ranks, the die is cast as to who dances which roles. It’s not uncommon for a dancer to perform the same role forever. Not much challenge in that.  Ask any dancer who’s done the same thing in The Nutcracker for say…10 years.

While the position of soloist is somewhat fluid, especially in smaller-sized companies, principals are dug in for the long haul. It’s not to say they haven’t earned their prima dona ranking…they have. It’s that they will dance all the leads for as long as they remain. And they will make it known, subtly or not so subtly, that they are not to be messed with.  Try and get past them for a role…and your stress level just went through the roof.

Molds are meant to be broken. Individuality should be encouraged, even celebrated, not discouraged.

website image for contemporary dance

website image for contemporary dance

However the bigger issue is…the patrons. Whether seated in Yankee Stadium or The Metropolitan Opera, the paying public holds “all the cards.” It determines what succeeds and what doesn’t, and who makes it…and who doesn’t.

That’s life.

So when life doesn’t line up the way we would like, it makes sense to chart a new course.

My daughter’s chosen path as a freelancer has breathed new life into her career as a dancer. She is thrilled to be working with a choreographer who pushes her to do her very best every day. She is equally humbled to know a man who respects her as a professional, like himself.  

That Dominic Walsh was a principal with Houston Ballet for many years and, now in his 40s, still dances with the same bravura, gives my daughter someone to emulate. She considers herself fortunate to have befriended a renowned artist in the dance world. I know she wishes…

…there were more like dominic walsh…her mentor and friend…

………hugmamma.

a daughter…is a daughter

Laughter. Tears. Gossip. Advice. Stories.

Laughter...

More laughter. Always…more laughter. And stories. Stories galore.

These are the benefits I’ve enjoyed since my daughter returned to our empty nest. 

Because she spent her teen years totally devoted to training for a career in dance, I missed what most moms experience with their daughters. The conservatory she attended had no proms, no homecoming games. The handful of boys could not have met the social needs of the predominantly female private school.

As far as my husband was concerned, it was as though our daughter was safely tucked away in some convent. No guys…no problems.

I was fortunate enough to be with my daughter the first 2 1/2 years she spent training with Atlanta Ballet in Georgia. Having seen her in their summer program, she was encouraged to return to them during what would have been her senior year. It was a time of tumult…professionally and personally. Normalcy was at a premium. Everything revolved around dance.

Ballet Lift

Parenting a wannabe ballerina must closely resemble grooming an Olympic ice skater. You do what you can to help your child succeed. Even in the face of adversity and rejection, you remain positive, offering whatever support you can to help sustain the dream.

A career in the performing arts matures kids…fast. Not only must they deal with who they are becoming physically, but they must also be open to adapting their appearance to their job description. Even if they have to “read between the lines.” Because you know it’s not going to say…”You need to be a waif, or else.”

Beyond the physical, dance hopefuls must conduct themselves like adults. Be respectful. Be on time. Be prepared. Be responsive to correction. Be adept at learning choreography, and remembering roles learned in back-to-back rehearsals for a couple of different productions.  Be competitive…while being a team member. Be responsible for themselves…in all ways.

I know middle-aged adults who don’t have half the life skills my daughter has acquired during the 11 years she has been in the professional dance environment. At 27, she could conduct a class in…how to get the most out of life…with a whole lot of passion…and not a lot of money.

So you see, I’m learning how to strive while being contented, from my own personal YODA…my daughter…my hero…

…my bff…best friends forever…

Hawaiian ballerina in Spanish mode

Hawaiian ballerina in Spanish mode

 

………hugmamma.

 

 

 

life lessons…from a ballerina

I’m always amazed by the wisdom of my ballerina daughter. Not that I should be, but she is after all, still a young ‘un at 25. I’ve no doubt that her personality and her chosen career have proven a winning combination.

For a long time I’ve maintained that my daughter is well-suited to her profession as a dancer. She’s selfless, always has been. Envy isn’t something that sits well with her. She battles the green-eyed monster every chance she gets. Granted, it’s not always easy. But my daughter chooses to like, rather than dislike, people. And that goes a long way in keeping her out of the clutches of “Mr. Green.”

Moms always want the best for their children. I’m no different. I’m worlds away from being a stage mom, but that doesn’t make me invulnerable to wanting everything for my daughter. She’s taught me that not every great dance role should belong to her. That’s not to say she wouldn’t love to grace the stage as the lead now and then…Juliet to her Romeo…Cinderella to her Prince Charming…Maria to her Nutcracker…or even the Sugar Plum Fairy.

Miyako Yoshida and Steven McRae as the Sugar P...

Image via Wikipedia

What my daughter has learned is that each dancer has her strengths and weaknesses. My daughter also understands that the artistic director is looking at the broader picture when he casts roles. She gets that he’s the boss and that what he says…goes. She knows she’s free to leave if she desires.

The greatest lesson my daughter seems to have learned is…balance. Keeping the scales of life evenly weighted. No obsessions…about roles…weight…what others think…or say…or do. What keeps her so grounded? Her unbreakable love of people. Her desire to be a good friend…colleague…and member of society.

Religion is still a mainstay of my daughter’s life. She attends church as best she can. Kneeling in God’s presence provides her solace…a reprieve from life’s rat race…time to be thankful…the opportunity to shed any negativity that has attempted to undermine. I’m sure my daughter gets to church more often than my husband and me. That’s quite an accomplishment for someone educated in public schools, while her parents were born, raised, and educated as Catholics.

My beloved daughter is living proof that depression is manageable, that it need not sideline her from living life to its fullest. Perhaps the disease in itself is a lesson. Perfection is an illusion…not to be touted…and not something for which she should strive. Being the best she can be, given the gifts with which she was born and those she’s acquired, is my daughter’s life-long goal.

Having been allowed to travel with my daughter as she’s journeyed toward a career in dance, I too have wised up to life’s lessons. Along the way…

…the teacher became the student…and i’m still learning…from my lead ballerina…

Eadweard Muybridge's phenakistoscope

Image via Wikipedia

………hugmamma.

365 photo challenge: easiest

Parenting isn’t the easiest job for sure…but it’s by far the most rewarding…and long term. Of the careers I’ve had, and there’ve been a few, being a stay-at-home mom has taught me the most about life…and about myself.

Caring for the well-being of another, a daughter who looked to me for comfort, guidance, and love, I had to venture outside my own comfort zone and do whatever needed doing. I wore many “hats” to suit the need. I grew in self-assurance and self-esteem. I found my voice and spoke up, and I learned to growl if my cub was threatened.

When I became a mom, I met the real me. Before then I was buried beneath others’ expectations, and my own insecurities. My daughter freed me…to be myself. To parent I needed to bring my talents and strengths to the task. To do so I had to gradually extricate myself from all the stuff with which I’d been saddled, whether of my own doing, or others.

And yet, parenting is still not the easiest of careers. But it’s the only one to which I’d dedicate my life…

…all over again………hugmamma.

moms…more than…just

From Sylvia…..to me…..to you………………………………………………….

Happy Mother’s Day

  JUST A MOM?
 
 
 
 
 
A woman, renewing her driver’s license at the County Clerk ‘s office,
was asked by the woman recorder to state her occupation. She hesitated, uncertain how to classify herself.  

‘What I mean is, ‘ explained the recorder,  
‘do you have a job or are you just a …?’

‘Of course I have a job,’ snapped the woman.

‘I’m a Mom.’

‘We don’t list ‘Mom’ as an occupation, ‘housewife’ covers it,’
Said the recorder emphatically.

I forgot all about her story until one day I found myself in the same situation,

 
this time at our own Town Hall.  
The Clerk was obviously a career woman, poised,
efficient, and possessed of a high sounding title like,
‘Official Interrogator’ or ‘Town Registrar.’ ‘What is your occupation?’ she probed.

What made me say it?  I do not know.  
The words simply popped out.  
‘I’m a Research Associate in the field of
Child Development and Human Relations.’

The clerk paused, ball-point pen frozen in midair and
looked up as though she had not heard right.  

I repeated the title slowly emphasizing the most significant words.
Then I stared with wonder as my pronouncement was written,
in bold, black ink on the official questionnaire.

‘Might I ask,’ said the clerk with new interest,
‘just what you do in your field?’

Coolly, without any trace of fluster in my voice,
I heard myself reply,
‘I have a continuing program of research,
(what mother doesn’t)
In the laboratory and in the field,
(normally I would have said indoors and out).  
I’m working for my Masters, (first the Lord and then the whole family)
and already have four credits (all daughters). 
Of course, the job is one of the most demanding in the humanities,
(any mother care to disagree?)
and I often work 14 hours a day, (24 is more like it).  
But the job is more challenging than most run-of-the-mill careers and the rewards are more of a satisfaction rather than just money.’

There was an increasing note of respect in the clerk’s voice as she
completed the form, stood up, and personally ushered me to the door.

As I drove into our driveway, buoyed up by my glamorous new career,
I was greeted by my lab assistants — ages 13, 7, and 3. 
Upstairs I could hear our new experimental model,
(a 6 month old baby) in the child development program,
testing out a new vocal pattern.  
I felt I had scored a beat on bureaucracy! 
And I had gone on the official records as someone more distinguished and indispensable to mankind than ‘just another Mom.’  

 
Motherhood!   What a glorious career!  
Especially when there’s a title on the door.

 

Does this make grandmothers
‘Senior Research Associates in the field of Child Development and Human Relations’

 
And great grandmothers
‘Executive Senior Research Associates?’  
I think so!!!
 
  I also think it makes Aunts   ‘AssociateResearchAssistants.’
 

 

Please send this to another Mom,
Grandmother,
Aunt, And other friends you know. 

 
 
 
May your troubles be less,
 
Your blessing be more,
 
And nothing but happiness come through your door!   
  

 

‘Do what you can to show you care about other people, and you will make our world a better place.’ — Rosalynn Carter

“this time’s for me,” blogging

A couple of days ago, views of HUGMAMMA’S MIND, BODY AND SOUL passed 6,000! In five months time, I’ve written and published more than 200 posts. I guess that might be the equivalent of a very small book. The benefit of writing a blog, as I’ve acknowledged before, is being read “in the moment.” Middleman, wordpress.com, has been highly instrumental in taking my words from “draft” to “published.” I’m very grateful for the ease with which they make it happen, and appreciative of you, who continue to read my blog.

Writing for me is like a job. I awake, ideas percolating in my brain, before I’ve even washed my face and brushed my teeth. But I get myself ready, hair coiffed and makeup on, oatmeal, green tea and fruit downed, before I plop myself in front of the computer. This is one job for which I need no motivation other than my own. I don’t get paid. I don’t have to answer to a boss, other than myself. But even this boss doesn’t need to kick me in the butt to get going. I’m off and running at the speed of lightning, each and every day. Topics??? They’re in my brain all the time; they’re at my fingertips, in stacks of unread Wall Street Journal papers, in stacks of recipes in a huge drawer. Topics also present themselves on TV, in exercise class, in church, at functions. And of course, mothering is a lifetime of blog posts in itself.

A friend recommended I look into blogging for compensation, in a variety of forms. Looking into it, I was caught up in the whirlwind of gains that could be made from connecting with companies that use bloggers to market their products. Flying hither and yon to attend conferences, visit corporate headquarters, be recognized beyond my own little hovel is exciting stuff. But then I remembered, “Been there, done that.”

I’ve worked for corporations, traveling to headquarters in other states, schmoozing with management, basked in the limelight for programs I’d overseen to fruition. And I got paid to do all this, not enough to be sure, never enough. But while my body went through all the motions, doing all the necessary things to stay in the “rat race,” my brain was lying somewhere in a hammock, bathing in the warmth of tropical sunshine of my own imagination’s creation. Sunday afternoons and Mondays were always the worst for me, knowing I had to get up out of my “hammock,” and get back in the “rat race.”

So for now, I prefer to be the Hobbit, snug and warm in my “hole in the ground,” writing whatever I want, whenever I want, for readers who like reading what I write. It’s like hitting “pay dirt,” every time someone views my blog. So in a way, you’re my boss, but ultimately I’m still my own boss. I can always “pull the plug” on this job. But for now I’ll keep my day job and, of course, the ones I’ve enjoyed for 40 years, housewife, and 24 years, mom.

this time’s for me…hugmamma.

fathers cast “long shadows”

Never knowing my father, has surely influenced the course of my life, for better or worse. Not that I grew up dwelling on my loss, because I knew no better. Life with my mom was, what it was. However years of observing father-child relationships, including my husband’s and daughter’s, and being privy to others telling or writing, of their own experiences,  made me realize that being fatherless probably impacted my life in a major way. I’m certain I sought a replacement in every relationship thereafter, looking for the security and safe haven every father is thought to inherently possess. I’m positive I looked for him in every male I encountered. But I would have been just as happy, perhaps, if a woman filled the bill since my mom was preoccupied on so many fronts. My older siblings knew my father as children. So I can’t identify with their loss when he died, although I’m sure it was devastating. What we had in common, was being emotionally bereft of both parents.

As society’s traditional head of the household, a father seems to define a child’s psyche. If he’s present and a positive influence, the child flourishes. If he’s present and a negative influence, the child diminishes. If he’s “missing in action,” the child flounders, and “crashes,” or picks himself up by the proverbial “bootstraps,” and becomes a better man for having suffered. If a child is fatherless, he searches far and wide for his identity. These scenarios don’t preclude a child’s own life experiences with its accompanying peaks and valleys. However, how he celebrates or copes is affected by the presence or absence, positivism or negativism, of his father.

Does a father know the power he has over his children? Too concerned with providing material sustenance, I don’t think he ponders the question. If he did, he might run for the nearest “exit.” What man in his right mind would want the responsibility of playing God? Having to walk the fine line between “His Benevolence” and sergeant-major, while allowing his children the luxury of exercising their own free will in all matters. In my estimation, a man walks into fatherhood “blindfolded.” What he does when the blinders come off, determines whether he’s a good father, or one who sucks, on a scale from 1 to 10. I don’t think I know any 10’s. Even my fabulous husband, probably comes in at a 9 1/2, but my daughter might override me with a resounding “10!”She’d win; after all, he’s her father.       

So much has been said about Michael Jackson’s father who abused his sons, mentally and physically,  in attempting to garner a better life for his family. One oft told anecdote involved Tito playing his father’s guitar, something forbidden by Joseph.

…one day Tito broke a string on the guitar. ‘I knew I was in trouble,’ Tito recalled. ‘We were all in trouble. Our father was strict and we were scared of him. So I put the guitar back in the closet and hoped he wouldn’t figure out what had happened. But he did, and he whooped me. Even though my mother lied and said she had given me permission to play the guitar, he tore me up.’ When Tito tells the story, his words tumble out and he gets tongue-tied. So many years later, one can still sense his anxiety about it. ‘She just didn’t want to see me get whipped,’ he said, sadly. ‘Not again.

J. Randy Taraborelli also writes the following in his biography Michael Jackson – The Magic, the Madness, The Whole Story.

Joseph believed in the value and impact of brute force as a disciplinary tool. ‘Either you’re a winner in this life, or a loser,’ he liked to say. ‘And none of my kids are gonna be losers.’ To be sure of that, he would smack his kids without giving it a second thought in order to keep them on the right track to being ‘winners’. Shoving them into walls was not unusual behaviour for him, especially the boys. Michael, however, was the one boy in the family who would attempt to fight back when provoked by his father. Once, when he was just three, Joseph spanked him for something he had done. Crying, Michael then took off one of his shoes and hurled it at his father. Joseph ducked; the shoe missed him.

‘Are you crazy?’ Joseph screamed at him. ‘Boy you just signed your own death warrant. Get over here.’

Infuriated, Joseph grabbed Michael and, according to Marlon, held him upside down by one leg, and pummelled him over and over again with his hand, hitting him on his back and buttocks. Soon, Michael was crying and screaming so loudly it seemed as if he was trying to summon the entire neighborhood to his aid.

‘Put him down, Joseph,’ Katherine hollered. ‘You’re gonna kill him! You’re gonna kill him!

When Joseph released the boy, he ran to his room, sobbing, ‘I hate you.’ Those were fighting words for Joseph. He followed Michael into the bedroom, slammed the door and then let him have it.

‘Joseph once locked Michael in a closet for hours,’ said a friend of the Jackson family’s. ‘That was traumatizing, horrible for him.’

 Suzanne Finstad’s Child Bride – The Untold Story of Priscilla Beaulieu Presley, reveals that she  inadvertently discovered her mother’s closely guarded secret of Priscilla’s real father’s identity.   

Priscilla nearly collapsed under the strain of her sacred pact of silence with her mother. Ann Beaulieu had placed an enormous burden on a thirteen-year-old child by asking her daughter to keep her paternity a secret, even from her siblings and from the man she now knew was not her real father. 

…She  told no one about the discovery of her true identity, not even Pam. As time passed, she became conflicted about wearing the locket containing the picture of her real father. ‘I felt guilty, because I felt now that I was betraying my stepfather, who was so good to me. Because now it’s like I was hiding something from him.’

The trauma of her mother’s betrayal and her own suppression of the truth affected Priscilla’s behavior. Her grades dropped, eliminating her from eigth-grade cheerleading tryouts, ‘and it was a big blow to her,’ …’She went through a real change of personality,’…

Knowing nothing about him, Priscilla fantasized that her long-lost father died a great war hero. ‘In times of emotional pain and loneliness,’ she said, ‘he would become my guardian angel.’

Finstad’s book also sheds light upon the father-daughter relationship between Elvis and his daughter with Priscilla, Lisa Marie Presley.

Lisa’s self-image as the princess of rock, spoiled utterly by a superstar father, with a staff at Graceland at her command at the age of six, continued even after Elvis died. She was imperious even with Dana, the one close friend she had. ‘It was always very clear that whatever Lisa wanted to do,…she had to have her way.’ In later years, Dana attributed this trait to Lisa’s unexpressed anger over losing her father.

Lisa’s marriage to Michael Jackson, continues the author, may have been deeply rooted in the unconditional love she and Elvis shared.  His sudden death left her feeling helpless, since at age 6, Lisa was incapable of saving him from a self-destructive lifestyle.

Lisa had wed, by an obvious Freudian motive, the nineties equivalent of her staggeringly successful superstar father. Elvis was the King of Rock; Michael was the King of Pop. Both singers, oddly, had pet chimpanzees at one time; both shared an interest in UFOs. Elvis lived in semiseclusion at an estate called Graceland. Michael lived a reclusive life at Neverland. Elvis often rented amusement parks, one of his favorite forms of entertainment; Michael had re-created Disneyland on the grounds of his estate and took Lisa, incognito, to the California theme park on their honeymoon. Both men had married to avoid scandal in their careers: Elvis to erase the stigma of his live-in relationship with a seventeen-year-old girl, or to avoid the Beaulieus’ revelation of their illicit arrangement for Priscilla; Michael to rehabilitate his shattered image following the molestation charges. Michael and Elvis entertained small groups of fourteen-year-olds in their bedrooms for slumber parties. The two music legends were notorious eccentrics trapped in an arrested adolescence, existing on unorthodox diets.

Lisa, some of her friends surmised, had married Michael–on a subconscious level at least–to ‘save’ the father she had loved and lost. By restoring Michael to his former position of glory, by elevating him from the ruin of his molestation scandal, she might, in her mind, redeem and perhaps resurrect her father.

I’m currently reading In My Father’s Shadow – A Daughter Remembers Orson Welles by Chris Welles Feder. A third of the way into it, I’ve felt a pervasive sadness throughout. Despite her unquenchable longing to always be with her father, Christopher, the name chosen by her dad, joyously celebrated what precious little time she shared with him. And in her own words, she explained that while her new stepfather successfully brainwashed her mother in behavior becoming the proper wife of a British Major, Orson Welles’ daughter would never succumb.

During our first year in South Africa, my mother changed from the open-minded American woman who had treated African-Americans as her equals, the woman who had loudly cheered and danced around the living room with Charlie Lederer (her second husband) when we heard on the radio that Franklin D. Roosevelt had been elected to a fourth term. She became a female clone of Jack Pringle, and the two of them teamed up against me, because I refused to change my essential self and blend in seamlessly with my surroundings. I was not a chameleon like my mother. And, strangely, the absence of my father made me realize how much he had already shaped me and that his power did not depend on his presence. I was Orson’s kid–not Virginia’s and certainly not Jackie’s–now and forever.

Thinking that Orson had forgotten her twelfth birthday, Chrissie, aka Christopher, complained to her mother, who responded ‘Instead of sitting there feeling so sorry for yourself, why don’t you think about all the birthdays he did remember?’ After a brief pout, Chrissie contemplated what her mother had said “Then, as though she had flung open the doors of an old toy cupboard, I suddenly saw the doll my father had given me on my fifth birthday–the most beautiful doll…pretty blue eyes that opened and closed when I rocked her in my arms. …the stack of Land of Oz books; the recordings of Peter and the Wolf and The Nutcracker Suite,…the fluffy, pink bedroom slippers… One by one, they came back in a joyful parade, all the birthday gifts from my father. Gifts that were always exactly what I wanted.” But the gift that left its greatest impression upon Orson’s daughter was the one he bestowed on her seventh birthday. During his half-hour radio evening program, This Is My Best series, he announced ” ‘Good evening, this is Orson Welles. …My eldest daughter, Christopher, is seven years old today, and like most ladies and gentlemen of her age, Christopher likes her father to tell her a story. Well, I don’t know of a better one than ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.’ …” Orson’s 7-year-old was overjoyed that Orson remembered her favorite story. Reflecting back, Chrissie speaks of that special occasion.

For a long time after the program ended, I had sat by the radio, lost in a magic world of poisoned apples and happy endings. Five years had elapsed since then, but no one–not even Jack Pringle–could take that memory away from me.

So now I knew what I had to do. Whenever being without my father began to hurt too much,  I would come and sit quietly in my room, close my eyes and remember.

My daughter remembers that in the very early years of her childhood, she wished she could have seen more of my husband. He commuted to work in NYC from Connecticut, a 4 hour round trip which he gladly made, so that we could raise our only child in the idyllic town of Redding. The only concession he asked was that her curfew be 9:30 p.m. He wanted time to play with our daughter each evening, and read her a bedtime story. This was a small request for the sacrifice of time and energy my husband made, so she could be nurtured in the small town environment which we favored.

The better part of our daughter’s memory is filled with wonderful remembrances of a father who was actively present in her life. Unlike childhood friends whose fathers only exacted discipline, or were absent from mealtimes, or dancer friends whose fathers are never seen at performances. My husband has allowed his toddler daughter to dress him in hat, earrings, necklaces, bracelets, rings and fur boa when they played her favorite game, “Pretty, Pretty Princess.” Against his natural instincts that she attend college, he allowed his 16-year-old aspiring ballerina to move to another state in pursuit of a dance career. And after a summer caring for her cat while our daughter was away dancing, her father escorted Misha back to his “mom” en route to a business trip in a nearby state. It was a supreme act of love, since my husband has been on meds for years, as an asthmatic with allergies. Going through airport security, he wore gloves when removing the cat from his crate which went through the scanner, while Misha and “grampy” walked through the screening gate.

All fathers are human, bringing personal “baggage” to the job. Most intend to do well by their offspring, whether they have a plan or “fly by the seat of their pants.” Gazing upon the innocent faces in the pediatric ward, new dads quickly pledge the “moon” to these tiny infants. They never question their ability to “deliver.” That comes later, as reality and responsibility seep into their overtaxed brains. Some walk away; some commit long-term; others remain undecided, going through the motions, until something triggers a decision one way or the other.

A parent is expected to multi-task. Raising children is added to the “to do” list of chores, walk the dog, empty the trash, gas and wash the car, mow the lawn, clean the gutters, power-wash the driveway and roof, refill the bird feeders. Of course children should be top priority, but sometimes life can overwhelm, especially when an unexpected glitch occurs disrupting the fine balance. A parent loses a job, is diagnosed with cancer, is divorced, must care for a parent with Alzheimer’s, suffers the irreparable loss of a child. Where does a parent seek relief? It’s not inconceivable that duty to one’s child slips, eventually occupying the lowermost rung on life’s ladder. In that eventuality, I don’t know a parent who wouldn’t feel like shit. Sorry, but I know that’s exactly how I’d feel. 

Parents don’t get a reprieve. We don’t get to pick and choose which jobs we want to relinquish to someonelse, while we tend to our children. We’re expected to do it all simultaneously. We should show ourselves compassion for trying to do it all, remembering, however, that children are not a commodity, but rather smaller versions of ourselves. They deserve the same respect we desire for ourselves.

Fathers cast “long shadows” over the lives of their children. Their influence is long-lasting, if not permanent. Dads are imbued with the power of “life and death,” physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. They are the kings of their castles. Succession to their “thrones” is dependent upon how thoughtfully they rule over the lives of their children.

for all fathers, huge hugs…hugmamma.