a small victory…

In a previous post, doubting thomas, I wrote that Mark Zmuda had been fired as the vice principal of Eastside Catholic School because he had married his gay partner during the summer. It seems that an overwhelming protest by students, parents, alumni and community supporters has brought about the resignation of the woman who fired Zmuda, Sister Mary Tracy, former president and CEO of EC.

Only time will tell how Eastside Catholic  moves forward from this landmark event. Catholics nationwide, perhaps even worldwide, will probably stay tuned to the fall out. 

At a time when the Church is still recovering from a black eye rendered by priests accused of molesting boys, the fact that faithful in the community are voicing their support for gays who are trying to live their lives openly with loved ones while contributing to society is a step in the right direction. 

In my opinion rules that suppress those who try to use their God-given gifts and talents to help others, are archaic and should be changed.

I must admit to being a johnny-come-lately to the cause of gay and lesbian equality. I grew up with the same taboos as many in my generation. When it came to homosexuality, I left the thinking to the adults. 

Since I’ve become that adult, I no longer subscribe to the hokum that I was spoon fed as a child and teenager. 

As with any prejudice, overcoming it occurs when we get up close and personal.

I’ve not only exchanged greetings with any number of gays and lesbians, I’ve hugged them, laughed with them, rejoiced with them, and yes, even loved them for who they are…without reservations. There’s no BUT in my regard for these men and women. I will proudly stand with them before God on the day of reckoning, just as I will with non-Catholics and atheists.

All I ask of friends and family is that we join together in valuing others lives as we value our own.

God gave Moses the following Ten Commandments…

  1. I am the Lord, your God.
  2. Thou shall bring no false idols before me.
  3. Do not take the name of the Lord in vain.
  4. Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy.
  5. Honor thy father and thy mother.
  6. Thou shall not kill/murder.
  7. Thou shall not commit adultery.
  8. Thou shall not steal††.
  9. Thou shall not bear false witness against your neighbor
  10. Thou shall not covet your neighbor’s wife (or anything that belongs to your neighbor).

There is no reference to the so-called sin of homosexuals.

Yes, the Bible as men have written it makes mention of the atrocities associated with sexual deviants. But I would include heterosexuals who commit such depraved acts upon unwilling persons. Why these should be welcomed into God’s kingdom, while good men and women who only ask that they be allowed to spend their lives with whomever they love, is incomprehensible to any thinking person. Irrational, really.

I never doubt God…but I’m always wary of the wolf in sheep’s clothing who seeks to lead me astray from the goodness I feel in my heart for those who are three-dimensional like me.

Unlike Hester Payne the adulteress in A Scarlet Letter who was forced to wear the letter “A” as a badge for the crime she committed, good folks of a different sexual orientation should not be made to live apart and in shame as though they were less than the rest of us. 

I know I’m not better than. I only know I am equal to.

I’ve not walked in their shoes. So who am I to sit in judgement?

…i am not God. 

………hugmamma.IMG_3121

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nurturing thursdays: give up the martyr

Some folks continue to believe that suffering is a necessary aspect of living.Imported Photos 00428

It builds character.

Or so they say. They being Catholic school nuns. I’m sure of it.

Religion has a way of rationalizing everything. Nothing wrong with that. We all need spiritual stroking now and then.

However when spirituality hinders us from improving our plight, then it’s time to relinquish the ties that bind.

I believe in the God of my faith, who like a mother wants us to figure out the best use of the gifts we’ve been bestowed.

It may take some longer than others to find their way, but find it they must. 

I no longer buy into suffering for the sake of suffering, especially as a means of living happily-ever-after.

Why wait for heaven in the hereafter, when we can gain entry into something closely approximating paradise on earth.

With God at my side, I’m encouraged to make choices for a pleasanter, more positive life. And when I cross through valleys, She’s there to give me a hand across the precipice.

I wholeheartedly turn toward happiness, and turn away from suffering.  The two are not interchangeable in my book.

My God is one of hope and encouragement…

…for happiness on earth…and in the hereafter.

………hugmamma.IMG_0437

building empires…

English: Photograph of a mural entitled Indian...

Image via Wikipedia

Like pioneers circling their wagons preparing against an Indian attack, my thoughts gathered round until, once in formation, the idea for this post was born. I only tell you this so that you understand…there is no let-up whatsoever for my weary brain. It’s working, nearly 24/7.

I’m not a builder of empires. Perhaps being the youngest of 9, there was no one whom I could lead. Remember, practice makes perfect. Obviously I wasn’t able to practice…at home.

Here and there, I did get to be a leader among friends and classmates. Being the youngest sibling, I had an uphill struggle. I wasn’t use to being at the front of the pack. When I was, I found it nice…yet somehow uncomfortable. Head alpha was not the skin into which I’d been born. Getting it to fit involved a lot of talking…to myself.

I’ve not changed, even as an adult. I’ve a lot of great ideas…with an overworked brain like mine…I’ve no choice. But when I have the opportunity to get up on the box to expound about this, that and the other, I like to have others standing up there with me. Call it comfort, call it insane, call it whatever you like. I’ve never, ever enjoyed having the spotlight…all to myself.

Catholic Cross JesusThose who know me well can confirm that I will tout the virtues of my husband and daughter until the earth implodes…before I ever talk about my own. I couldn’t even tell you what my own virtues might be. I’ve never taken the time to think along those lines. I say that because I’ve never felt confident enough. Still don’t. Remember I’m Catholic-educated, having been taught to renounce false pride. And I had a mom who had her hands full to overflowing…without having to include boosting my ego to her “to do” list.

Baby-boomers understand. We knew to just get out there, suck it up, and do what we needed to do…to survive. Street smarts meant picking up whatever we needed, however we could, from whatever resources we found. Along with that, however, comes a lot of bad information…which, unfortunately, sticks…as friend and fellow blogger, jeanne,  http://nolagirlatheart.wordpress.com mentioned in a comment recently.

My own bad info led to my discomfort at being in charge of more than 1 or 2 people. I know I would’ve been a compassionate leader. I’ve had many an opportunity to manage in my career path but always failed to go the distance, because I felt insecure with power…and found it difficult to dictate to others. 

Instead I have delighted in managing my family of 3…with me at the helm in many ways…enabling my husband and daughter to be the natural-born leaders they were meant to be. And they do amazing jobs. Their bosses, peers and subordinates will testify to that.

Moses with the tablets of the Ten Commandments...

Image via Wikipedia

While I may not relish physically sitting in a position of authority, I’m equally resistant to being led down a path I do not choose for myself. Very resistant. My mom was the last person to whom I ever relinquished the control panel…and I fought tooth and nail before I gave in. She was my mom, after all. And remember, I’m a Catholic. The fourth Commandment says “Honor thy father and thy mother.” I had a hard time getting around that one.

When my mom passed, I slowly began to find my own voice. I refused to succumb to any one’s demands anymore. It didn’t come easily. I spent many, many, many years arguing with myself. Still do on occasion. But my husband and daughter are my sounding boards, giving me the courage to believe in my own thoughts and perceptions and decisions.

Aristotle tutoring Alexander

Image via Wikipedia

There are those who are proficient as little emperors.” Napoleon was one; Hitler another. I’m sure there were others not as bombastic as these, who may even have done a world of good. I think Alexander the Great might have been one. I’d have to ask my husband; he watches the History Channel 24/7…except if there’s a football game he’s interested in seeing.

Amongst us peons, I’ve observed that there are those who engage in empire building. I don’t think they’re aware they’re doing it, it’s just that they’re born to lead and don’t mind doing so. They’ve strong personalities; they may not have a bottomless reservoir of patience; and they probably prefer getting things done, rather than waiting around for others. What makes them successful, is their unwavering self confidence. They know, without a doubt, that they’re right for the job. They don’t need to be convinced and they’re more than willing to lead others. More power to them. If they are compassionate leaders…I’ve no complaints.

I can’t build empires; I’ve not the stomach nor the stamina for it. In my own little queendom (new word?)…I rule with a lot of hugs and kisses…and tears. My daughter swears my tear ducts are directly tied to my heartstrings. Guess I’m a…

 

The Great Dictator

Image via Wikipedia

…mushy dictator………hugmamma.  😉

 

 

 

how can i miss you…if you won’t go away…

One of the humorous sayings gracing a bottle cap in my new header. Funny…yes. But right now…bittersweet. For as I type…my daughter is making her way back east. Yes, I shed a few tears. Not alligator ones…never those. Only heartfelt…wrung from the depths of a mother’s soul.

We were like friends, the two of us. Laughing, teasing, following one another around…the house, the shops…always sharing thoughts, insight, reflections, advice. Yes, advice. My 25 year-old gave me great advice…on more than one occasion. And I gratefully accepted it…more than once.

How did she grow to be so wise? A young woman nearly 40 years my junior, counseling me on cutting myself some slack. That my perception of situations is as valid as anyone’s. Giving me the okay to put myself first, contrary to all the Catholic nuns from Boston instilled in me for 13 years, from kindergarten through high school. I guess my daughter’s public school education trumped mine. Or maybe not.

My Christian values, and my husband’s…especially his, considering he’d been studying to be a priest before we met…have contributed immeasureably to our daughter’s upbringing. No I didn’t lure him away; he quit of his own accord. Thank God…for letting me have him instead…my husband, my best friend.

Family values and personal experiences have substantively impacted my daughter’s maturation. She gives of herself unconditionally, but is learning to fight for her own soul’s preservation. No longer is she succumbing to the demands of others…or of situations over which she has no control. With guidance from many caring mentors, role models, peers and friends, my daughter has evolved…her spirit intact.

I’ll miss her physical presence, for my daughter always did for me before I had to ask…pour my cup of tea…walk and feed Mocha…prop a pillow behind my lumbar for support…offer a hug, several in fact…making decisions which could befuddle…covering my head with the hood of my jacket…holding my elbow, my hand as we crossed the street…

So many gifts…too many to count.
From daughter to mother.
Offered in love…
Without reserve…without conditions…without hesitation.
My cup is never half-empty…
Only always half-full.
When God calls me home…
My life will have wanted for nothing…
Except maybe a few more precious moments…
With what He gifted me…
The loves of my life…
…my beloved husband…and most cherished daughter.

…i truly couldn’t want for more…

………hugmamma. 

freshly pressed…wordpress lottery

From time to time, I take a gander at WordPress “Freshly Pressed” pages. Like tonight when I happened to see that another blogger had listed FP on her blogroll. The pages seemed endless. I don’t think I got past 9 or 10 of them. Each one contained 10 or more blogs, recognized as being the best on any given day. I think I perused the guidelines for winning a coveted spot once, but decided I couldn’t recommend my own blog. The Catholic nuns who’d taught me humility would surely roll over in their graves. God bless their souls, and mine for even thinking of self-aggrandizement.

But more importantly it seems a blogger must jump through certain hoops to be chosen. Can’t remember what they all were, but at my age, and with my limited knowledge of technical wizardry, I’m certain I wouldn’t make it through all the hoops. My arthritic back would give out. It’s like when I watch all those reality TV talent shows. I give the thousands who show up to audition a mountain of credit. I could do equally poorly as most of them, but they have one thing I don’t have…guts! Sometimes I must admit to many looking like idiots. But hey! To each his own; whatever makes their world go ’round.

So back to FP. For the life of me, and it’s getting shorter by the hour, though I’m in no hurry, I’ll never, ever in a million years figure out how to get on that moving locomotive. And I’ll soon be looking down the gun barrel of my 62nd birthday, so there’s no hope in h—k that I’ll be able to throw myself onto the train as it speeds by my hobbit hole.

So I wish all those with membership into the exclusive Freshly Pressed club a no-holds barred, hearty congratulations! I’m glad someone hits the lottery every day. “You’ve gotta be in it to win it,” as the saying goes. And those bloggers are obviously doing something right. I applaud their efforts, because blogging is hard work. But those of us with a passion…

reap its rewards…even when it’s not an FP award of recognition   …hugmamma.

freedom of speech…my voice

I began my blog because just like everyone I’m entitled to my own opinions. They’re not carved in stone, but they support my core values. We all seek to align our voices with those similar to ours, that’s only natural. When we absorb others’ opinions, we embrace those from whom they originate, whether in toto or in part. Our own experiences help to determine, consciously or unconsciously, the paths we take in life. Those of us fortunate to live in America have the constitutional right of freedom of speech. So we can give voice to our opinions and beliefs.

It’s obvious that I have found several voices which I felt offered valuable information in the endless discussion that swirls around the demise of Osama bin Laden. Hence my posts “in the aftermath…#1 through #4 (soon to be published). A couple of comments have been left which I always welcome, whether they align with my thoughts or not. I learned early on that good blogging etiquette required I respond to each and every comment left, and so I do, willingly. I wanted to reprint two such comments as a post which I recently left in answer to a couple left on the “aftermath” posts. I wanted to reiterate who it is I am as the author of “hugmamma’s mind, body and soul.”

My first comment:

I’m certain no person with a modicum of intelligence imagines that Osama bin Laden’s death means paradise on earth from here on out. But as with Hitler and other satanic evils before and after, bin Laden himself has exited the scene. But just as with Hitler, bin Laden’s ramifications in the franchisees which have been spun off will linger, probably forever. And again as with Hitler, we can still celebrate the moment of bin Laden’s passing from this world into the fiery one he so richly deserves. Hitler needed to be “taken out,” and it was done in a full-blown World War. Lucky for the world, we did not need another to demolish bin Laden.

With bin Laden gone, I’m hopeful, as are millions of Arabs, not only in the Middle East, but certainly globally, that they can finally determine the course of their own lives rather than be the pawns of self-serving men who set themselves up as autocrats. People the world over go about their business the best they know how, I think, given the circumstances, physically and economically, in which they find themselves. Not everyone was fortunate to land in the United States of America where freedom of speech, and a right to happiness is guaranteed by the Constitution. And yet, even with those guarantees, there are no guarantees. Even Americans must eke out their lives the best they can.

I’m of the mind that we’re all of this earth, so we’re all in this together, Arabs and non-Arabs, whether we like it or not. With industrialization and technology, we cannot climb back into the wombs from whence we came hoping that will spare us dealing with people and places in which we have no personal interest or concern. We are earthlings before we are Americans, and as such are already connected to non-Americans.

I’m always hoping for the best for ALL of us who inhabit earth…a little naive, perhaps…but I feel good waking up with that thought, and laying my head back down upon my pillow at night with that thought. That’s probably why I’m still a practicing Catholic. The nuns’ teachings still resonate in that I can be a vessel for good, from which others might drink. That’s what Jesus was about while on earth. We all choose what we are about.

mine is to be a positive-sayer…rather than a naysayer…hugmamma. :)

My second comment:

Whatever took place in the heat of the discussion, a very important, history-making decision had to be made. In the end, Obama had to make it because the consequences would fall upon his head. If the mission failed, he would have been lambasted the world over, not to mention how monstrously he would be pilloried in America. The remainder of his days as president would be worse than the almost 3 years he has experienced thus far. So, it seems, the man can’t do right even when he does right. But that’s the way of mankind…to find fault. Heck, even the media is on board with that.

we’re all free to exercise our freedom of speech…i do it by blogging…and others, like yourself, are more than welcome to express yours on my blog, Ed…hugmamma. ;)

an easter gift to ourselves, feeding the hungry

Spent a couple of hours Saturday evening volunteering once again at the community hall serving dinner to those who wandered in from the street. My husband and I decided to fill in wherever needed, rather than commit to a regular schedule. As with most who offer their time, it’ll probably work out to be once-a-month that I prepare a dish that we bring along for the meal.

While 2 or 3 of the women are there more often because they coordinate the effort, others like us are there now and then. As for the needy, most seem to be regulars who are familiar with the routine. They’re very respectful as they enter the hall. Early by about 15-20 minutes, the men and women mill about, settling into chairs while they wait. If dessert is set out some might help themselves to a little, probably too hungry to wait, while others wander about aimlessly, perhaps too antsy, and hungry, to sit still.

Meatloaf

Image by su-lin via Flickr

The woman-in-charge was delayed, so we waited until she arrived to serve up dinner. We didn’t know where the second pan of meat loaf and a side dish of cauliflower were, or if they’d even been delivered. The coordinator arrived, the food was found warming in the oven, and the meal was ready. Meanwhile, the diners had lined up along one side of the hall, patiently waiting to be invited to step up and be served.

Salad with vinaigrette dressing

Image via Wikipedia

I served the meatloaf, another woman served the risotto dish she’d made, a middle-school boy helped with the tomato/mozzarella salad with balsamic vinaigrette I’d assembled, while his mom served up an ambrosia fruit salad. The diners helped themselves to garlic bread and the dessert of homemade strawberry shortcake.

There were a couple of newcomers that made me reflect. One was a young boy about 15 years old, I think. He looked as though he’d not bathed in a while, his hair disheveled, his face streaked with dirt, his ti-shirt and pants wrinkled and perhaps a little smelly. He arrived late, quietly approached the table, and mumbled that he was starving. My mother’s heart quickly sprang into action, offering him a couple of helpings of meatloaf, huge servings of mashed potatoes and risotto, and several slices of the tomato/mozzarella salad. He also got a spoonful of the cauliflower dish from another volunteer.The boy accepted everything gratefully, as they all do. Of course they may not like everything, but they’re not forced to eat it all. Later I did see the young man very discreetly throw out what remained on his plate, including the tomatoes and cheese. I felt for him as he stood at the  trash bin, seeming unsure as to whether or not he should discard the food given him. I think he did, finally. I’m glad. Just because he’s destitute, doesn’t mean he’s not free to still choose. My husband said he’d encountered the boy as he neared the hall. Standing outside until he could be useful, my husband informed the boy who asked what time it was, that, in fact, a meal was being served for any who desired to partake. My husband was also touched to see such a young person obviously in need of something to eat.

strawberry shortcake

Image by QuintanaRoo via Flickr

Late into the meal, a mother pushing a stroller arrived, accompanied by a younger relative carrying the baby. We had to scrape together what remained of the food, except for the salad of which there was lots left since I’d brought 3 platters. The latecomers seemed happy to be getting whatever they could. They, and the others, are a reminder that there are those who will eat anything, rather than have nothing whatsoever to eat.

As he did the last time we volunteered, my husband got to work scrubbing what serving dishes were emptied of food. Most had been cooked in disposable aluminum foil pans which were tossed, so there was less to clean up than before. As a result we left earlier than others who remained behind chatting. In taking our leave, we agreed that it was another evening well spent at the community hall. It felt especially good since we were celebrating Easter the following day. Feeding the hungry meant we were doing what Christ had done.

What Good Are These For So Many?

Image by andycoan via Flickr

giving to others…what we take for granted…hugmamma.  

adoption, our responsibility

I know not everyone can commiserate with how worrisome a pet’s health can be to an owner. While I consider our cats and dog family, I don’t think of them as human beings. However I do relish their place in our home as silent nurturers of our spirits. They give unconditionally, expecting little in return, a dish of food, a bowl of water, a pat now and then, and playtime when it can be worked into our schedules. But pets are living creatures, whose lives are as precious to them as ours are to us. I’m sure like us they assume they’ll  wake up alive and well at the beginning of each new day. In some ways, that assumption is dependent upon the society in which they find themselves.

Caring for a pet is comparable to caring for a human being. Once that creature is on my radar, I can’t escape the niggling feeling that I am responsible for its well-being, whether in part or in full. Perhaps it’s my Catholic school education. I am “my brother’s keeper.” So the fact that Juneau is grossly overweight makes me feel guilty that it occurred on my watch. But as I explained to the vet, Dr. Hill, that’s “water under the bridge.” My concern now is to get Juneau on track to being healthier, so that he can realize his full life expectancy which is probably another 8 years or so. I’d like them to be great years! I’m sure he would as well.

In order to kick-start his weight loss, my husband and I decided to spend the money up front and board Juneau at the vet’s for the week. There he will be weaned from his current food to the weight-reducing one. Once that’s done a schedule and a new eating pattern can be established. Since Juneau is extremely shy and skittish, we’re enlisting professional help in making the necessary changes. Being novices, my husband and I were proceeding in a “hit or miss” fashion. At 16 pounds, I didn’t think Juneau had a lot of time for trial and error. As Dr. Hill said, our cat might have gotten diabetes tomorrow, next week or in 3 years. And as I said in my previous post, I don’t want Juneau to suffer needlessly, nor do I welcome the stress of dealing with the disease and its corresponding treatment, or the exorbitant cost that is part of the package.

Just as I’ve been trying to keep my husband and I free from diabetes, so too I think it only fair to keep Juneau free from it as well. We adopted him, and when we did we made a promise to take care of him to the best of our ability.

we plan to honor that promise…hugmamma.   

weekly post challenge: when did you realize you were an adult?

My reply left as a comment on the WordPress Daily Post site was

 hugmamma

Probably when I received the first bill that I had to pay for with my own hard-earned cash.

i’ve been becoming more adult-like ever since…more and more bills…hugmamma. ;)

Burgersandfries

Image via Wikipedia

I could add to that:
 
  • When I realized no one had my back.
  • When I could stop minding my p’s and q’s…sort of.
  • When I could wear mini skirts and not have the nuns around frowning at me.
  • When I could buy a hamburger, root beer float, and french fries, without waiting to be asked.
  • When I could stop taking afternoon naps at my mom’s insistence.
  • When I could stay out past midnight without my mom threatening to lock me out of the house.
  • When I could yell back at someone who was yelling at me.
  • When I could kiss…and not tell.
  • When I drank alcohol, and didn’t brag about it.
  • When the gynecologist could do what he does, and nobody blinked an eye…not even me.
  • When I could swear, albeit silently, and know I wasn’t condemned to hell.
  • When I could miss Mass, and know I wasn’t condemned to hell.
  • When I could dislike certain people, and know I wasn’t condemned to hell.
  • When I knew God loved me no matter what.
  • When my daughter was born, and I knew I couldn’t send her back from where she came.
  • When I started getting older, and no amount of whining could change that fact.

 

 

Chocolate Cherry Cheerwine Ice Cream Soda

Image by Doug DuCap Food and Travel via Flickr

what about you…or are you not there yet?…hugmamma.

“life’s flavor,” ethnicity

Father Edmunds, I’m almost certain that’s the name of the priest who regularly assists our pastor at saying a few Sunday Masses. Charismatic in a more soft-spoken manner, Father gave an interesting homily last weekend.

The Gospel’s message was that we, God‘s disciples, are the “salt of the earth,” and the “light of the world.” Father began his sermon telling of a book fest he’d attended where an acquaintance, a Muslim, was speaking to a predominantly Muslim audience. The man had authored many books based upon his life experiences.

Born in Egypt, the speaker was raised in Switzerland. Now living in the U.S., he’s very familiar with living in a society unlike his own. Initially he tried to fit in, setting aside his cultural idiosyncrasies. In time, with the advice of friends, he realized he should celebrate his Muslim heritage, sharing, rather than hiding it.

Father likened one’s ethnicity, to the salt used by Middle Easterners to heat their earth ovens. There, children set to work mixing together salt and the dung of camels and donkeys. The result is spread over the stones covering the bottom of the earth ovens. The salt acts as a catalyst in igniting the fire. As the flames burn, the catalytic quality in the salt is expended. The salt, its flavor intact, is then scattered on the ground outside the oven.

Just as salt flavors the food we eat, so too our individual differences bring a vibrancy to the world in which we live, explained Father Edmunds. He went on to say that God gifts us with our distinctive traits, as part of His greater plan to bring “light” to the world.

Moving to New York from Honolulu, where I’d graduated from the University of Hawaii, and gotten married, was like moving to a foreign country. Most New Yorkers I encountered didn’t look like me, nor did they share my mannerisms. Being of Chinese-Hawaiian descent qualifies me as a Pacific Islander with the census bureau, but my habits and attitudes are generally like those of the Asian population, and very unlike those of Caucasians. Living in the Big Apple compounded my dilemma, for its residents are unlike those in any of the other 50 states, or so I’m told.

It took me a while to develop a stiff upper lip, not to mention a spine. Orientals in Hawaii in the 50s and 60s, were “invisible.” We had no problem adhering to the golden rule, “children should be seen and not heard.” So finding myself among New Yorkers who were aggressive, ambitious, and often ill-mannered, left me feeling like a doormat. I tried to fit in, by setting aside my ill-equipped Asian mentality. I was like a scared chicken let out of its coop, left to flounder among long-time, cage-free residents.

Slowly, inevitably, I began owning my culture once again. I wore it like a badge of honor, telling everyone within earshot, “I’m from Hawaii, born and raised on the island of Maui.” As whites and blacks warmed up to me, I wore my pride and humility equally. I came to love The Big Apple. Visiting relatives commented that I was becoming a New Yorker, exhibiting more confidence and “hutzpah.” Working in New York City for 10 years, my personality underwent changes in order to survive. I even joked that the stork must have made an error, delivering me to Pacific Islanders. It seemed I should’ve been “dropped” on the island of Manhattan, alongside the Hudson River.

Of course I’d never relinquish my unique heritage. It embellished my experiences in the Big Apple, and being Hawaiian continues to flavor life’s journey wherever I go.

savor one’s heritage…life’s salt, life’s “flavor”…hugmamma.

a special relationship, daughter and father

Readers of my blog from the start, know that I was fatherless as a child, my dad having died when I was one. Age 30 at the time, my mom never remarried. I don’t know how she felt about remaining a widow, but I remember wishing she had a husband. I would have happily helped her pick one.

When my mom worked as laundress, part-time cook, and sometime-chaperone at a Catholic orphanage in Paia, Maui, Mr. Chalmers worked there as groundskeeper. He was tall, with sandy-blonde hair that fell gently across his brow. I remember thinking his blue eyes were kind-looking. Even as a youngster in elementary school, I sensed there was chemistry between my mom and this “hauole,” Hawaiian for “foreigner.” But it went nowhere.

As I reflect back, and I have many times, I wonder if my mom felt uncertain in the company of a “hauole” man, being that she was native Hawaiian. The cultures are so different, especially back then, in the 50s. Perhaps she felt him too different, even while she might have found him attractive. All I know is I liked him, I wanted a dad, and I wished my mom would have brought Mr. Chalmers home to our family!

When I was littler, I wished my mom had married “uncle” Lot who lived next door with his sister, “aunty” Miriam. They weren’t family but they made us feel as though we were.”Uncle” would cradle me in his lap, where I’d curl up, my sleepy head nestled against his shoulder. Maybe uncle wasn’t my mom’s “cup of tea,” but he was most definitely mine.

Then there was our next door neighbor, and landlord, Ah Sing. We’d moved to one of his family’s rentals when I was beginning kindergarten. Unfortunately he was already wed, to my best friend Leola’s mom. Her dad seemed a better match for my mom who was friendly and warm like Ah Sing, both having Hawaiian blood coursing through their veins. His wife, on the other hand, was Chinese. She reminded me of the ice queen in the “Narnia” movies. So there went another great candidate for my dad!

But the “piece de resistance” was Dr. James Fleming. He too would’ve made a great pairing with my mom, in my limited child’s experience. He was a little plump, like my mom. And though he wore wire-rimmed glasses and sported a crew cut, though slightly longer, he was still attractive. He had a broad smile, a twinkle in his eye, and always gave me a big, orange gumdrop at the end of each visit. When he vaccinated me with an injection in the arm, I’m sure I cried. The needle looked like it would’ve been used on a horse, not on my scrawny arm. But Dr. Fleming made me feel brave, and would reward me with 2 pieces of candy. Now what kid wouldn’t want him for a dad! But alas, he already had 3 sons, and a wife. No matter, I continued to fantasize.

Dr. Fleming was of the Lahaina, Maui Flemings. Throughout my childhood, up until I was 16 and left for college, we often frequented a beach near their home, named after the family. I’m not sure if it’s still known as Flemings Beach. It might have been renamed something more befitting the island’s commercial growth, especially if the Fleming’s no longer own property in the vicinity. But even before I learned he was wealthy, Dr. Fleming was the knight in shining armor sitting astride a white horse, who would come galloping along to whisk my mom, and me, off into the sunset. Yes, even then I was a romantic.

When I was older, probably of middle school age, my mom revealed a secret, one I wished I’d known earlier. She told me when I was born, Dr. Fleming offered to adopt me. He’d have welcomed a daughter into a family of all boys. Obviously, my mom declined, but I’m sure she lingered over her decision. She had 8 other mouths to feed, although some of the older ones might have since left home, to make a life for themselves.

What would I have done if I’d known of the adoption earlier? Probably just what my mom did, think about it, but then reject the idea vehemently. After all, my mom and older siblings were my world. One of my brothers was adopted by a childless couple. I’m not sure how he felt about being given away at the time. Did he cry, refuse, sulk? I never asked. I’m not sure if he’d tell me now, at 71.

Writing this blog has proven cathartic, therapeutic. What’s become increasingly apparent these last 6 months, is not growing up with a father has impacted me more than I’d realized. There’s a void no one can completely fill. It’s as though my life has listed since birth, like a sailboat that never righted itself. Thank goodness family and friends have helped anchor me, ensuring that I’m not set adrift. I’ve learned to accept my imperfect life, my listing, continuing to “sail” far and wide. The world that passes before my “bow,” is the same one seen from the bow of a sailboat that maneuvers perfectly.

My daughter has been nurtured by two parents, who love her dearly. And I have been lovingly nurtured by she and my husband. Going forward in life, she and I agree that we’re blessed to be “drinking” from glasses that are always half-full. But I’m so thankful that my daughter has my husband for a father. He would have been my choice as a dad too, if he’d been an adult to my child. But watching him with our daughter, more than compensates for the father I never had.

a father-daughter tradition, hugs for…hugmamma.

family, “warts and all”

At last Sunday’s Mass, Father Bryan began his homily sharing some family drama between his younger brother and mom, nothing catastrophic, more like what we all experience with certain family members through the course of our lives. Probably the key ingredient to the prickly relationship is that Father’s family members are very much alike in personality. That, for sure, is something many of us have in common. It’s probably like having 2 pieces to a jigsaw puzzle that fit together in every way, save one. That difference will forever keep them at odds. But unlike a board game, familial relations can be sorted through, and the rough edges made smoother, if not perfect.

As Father pointed out, not even the Holy Family was perfect. An angel appeared to St. Joseph three times, dictating what he and his family should do. First, he was going to marry the Virgin Mary who would conceive a child of God. Second, he and Mary must leave their homes, families, and all that was familiar, to move to Egypt. And then finally, they were to return home to Nazareth where they would settle into daily living. Surely as human beings, father, mother, and son must have had their moments of frustration, which spilled over onto one another. How they weathered stormy times together, while maintaining love and respect for one another, is what’s important, and a valuable lesson for all of us.

After Mass, my daughter and I approached Father Bryan to express appreciation for his homily. In reply, he looked at me exclaiming that our family probably didn’t experience any of the normal angst he mentioned about most families, including his. Before I could respond, someone offered him words of thanksgiving. If we’d not been interrupted, I would’ve told Father that no family is exempt from “baggage.” But like the Holy Family, we forgive, and move forward with compassion for one another, as well as ourselves.

The holidays seem to bring added pressures to families, insisting everyone “get along,” whether that means squelching decades old animosities, jealousies and rivalries, or feigning affection for those we barely know. Because I tend to wear my heart on my sleeve, and my feelings lie near the surface, I don’t squelch or feign very well. I can overlook and be fine. My mother use to want me to be other than who I was. Growing up I had no choice, but as an adult I can only be honest.

I don’t think we have to lie to get along, I believe we can be who we are and hope that others accept us for that, and not what they would like us to be. I don’t like to layer my expectations upon someonelse, nor do I want anyones’ expectations to rest upon me. Among the many things I took away from Dr. Amen’s book, “Change Your Brain, Change Your Life,” is that I want to live my best life. In order to do so I must dwell on the positive, not the negative. Of course it’s an ongoing effort not to get caught up in the daily grind of living, as witnessed on the news reports: wars, foreclosures, unemployment, natural disasters, a bad economy. While it may be impossible to control the macrocosm, I can manage the microcosm. And so I try to make my environment as positive and hopeful as I can.

Family are who they are. While liking them may be difficult at times, accepting them is not open for deliberation, in my opinion. Being with them, however, is another matter, again my opinion. No matter family or friends, people should respect one another in their dealings. “Do unto others, as you would have them do unto you,” is still a great way to live. One’s perspective may differ from another person’s, but respect for all viewpoints should be a given. Unfortunately that’s not always the case. Rather than “beating ourselves up,” tying to force relationships to fit like pieces in a jigsaw puzzle, it might behoove some, like me, to do what I can do, and be contented with that much. Progress can be made bit by bit, it need not occur in one fell swoop. It can, but it needn’t.

I’ll take small moments of happiness as often as they occur, rather than pine and stress at never attaining the perfect family portrait. All those in our families are striving to live their best lives, given their particular circumstances. I love them all, and will always wish them life’s best, whether I’m physically in their lives or not. And I’m certain they wish the same for me and mine.

for all families who are nearly perfect…or far from perfect, huge hugs…hugmamma.

standing ovation, unexpected

The last Sunday before Christmas, Liturgically there are no surprises. Advent, the season in which we Catholics prepare ourselves for Christ’s coming, has been celebrated in the same way ever since I was a child. Actually, there might have been a change after the Ecumenical Council.If there was, I couldn’t tell you specifically what. I do remember that as a result of the Council, Mass was no longer spoken in Latin, but rather in English, and the priest faced the congregation, instead of having his back toward them. Both changes were memorable when they first occurred, and for some time afterwards.

But today’s Mass unfolded as usual, until Father Bryan introduced us to a group known as REX, or Religious Experience. It had been organized by a handful of female parishioners to benefit disabled Catholics. They numbered between 10 and 12 individuals, with their ages ranging from the mid-teens to the mid-fifties. There were more men than women. Several had Down Syndrome, with other disabilities not being as readily identifiable. But it was obvious they were all handicapped.

Father Bryan explained that for the past couple of years, the REX had entertained him with their version of the Nativity in the basement of the church. This year they agreed to Father’s request to perform for the congregation, which they did during our Mass.

One of the founding ladies narrated the story, while members of the group enacted the roles, the angel who acts as guide, Mary, Joseph, the innkeeper, the shepherds and the 3 wise men. The infant Jesus was a very realistic-looking, baby doll. The story was simple, and while the actors were not overly expressive, they were still engaging. What garnered them a standing ovation was their genuine commitment to do a good job, which they did, in spades! The looks on their faces were priceless. They seemed not to expect such affirmation of their work. In that moment, they were the least accomplished of God’s children, uplifted to the highest.

The REX bestowed a great gift upon us who have so much more, and oft-times forget that we do. Their joy is simple. Their pleasure is in the small things they achieve, and receive, like our standing ovation which lasted for several minutes. I went to church expecting nothing life altering, and came away changed, if only in a small way. But big enough to instill in me a new appreciation of Christmas, and the liturgy.

father bryan is always full of surprises, ones that make us better christians…hugmamma.

like family, church

Our parish has a very special “shepherd” in Father Brian. He brings us together like family. If you’ve followed me through my other church-related posts, you know I’m more about what’s going on around me, than I am about the rituals of the Mass. I know those more or less by heart since I was born a Catholic, more than half-a-century ago. What constantly changes, on the other hand, are the dynamics of the congregations in the churches I’ve attended.

It is my fervent belief, one which I’ve extrapolated on before, that the “sheep” in any organization behave according to the management style of the guy with the staff in his hand. Remember Moses? Granted, some follow better than others. I’m one of the peripheral “sheep,” not buying everything I’m being fed. I follow, but in my own way, in my own time. Give me a charismatic “shepherd” like Fr. Brian, and I’m on board 98%. The remaining 2% I retain on behalf of my own counsel. I think my husband and daughter are of a like mind. We don’t “bite,” when someone says “chew.” Sometimes we’re in the mood for meat, other times grain.

My perception of how well a boss is doing, is garnered from how well those he manages appear to be doing. From what I could see at Mass this morning, and truthfully at all I’ve attended, Father rallies everyone around him like a real father who cares about his children. And that’s saying a lot, since he’s only in his late 30’s!

Parishioners who left because of the “fire and brimstone” style of the previous pastor, have returned. Everyone is relaxed. Children are children, but quietly. They talk amongst themselves, or with their parents. We smile at one another, nodding our heads in acknowledgement, even toward complete strangers. Father Brian tells jokes to further a message. The responding laughter is easy, comfortable. This morning he explained that despite his wearing a purple vestment with gold trim, he was not advertising his support of the Huskies football team. From Bellingham, he neither roots for them, or WAZOO.

Then like a patriarch, Fr. Brian reminded us of those less fortunate. He spoke of the Catholic Services Society and all they do for the needy in our area, welcoming its director to address us personally. Unaware of the specific contributions made by CSS until now, our family was moved to make a donation on the spot. One recipient of the organization’s aid, Joan, wrote a letter of thanks. Explaining that she’d been poor all of her life, then finding herself pregnant at age 40, she was unsure where to turn. Thankfully CSS reached out to provide housing and food for Joan and her newborn. They provided her hope, and isn’t that what we all need to survive another day?

Looking across the aisle from where we sat, my daughter and I watched the obvious love between a mother and her daughter. Arms entwined around one another; whispers back and forth between the two; both “canoodling” as if no onelse existed. The charm of this Rockwellian scene? The mother was white; the daughter as black as night. But it didn’t seem as though either noticed the difference in their skin color. All my daughter and I could see was the extraordinary love in their eyes.

Behind this mother and daughter pair, was a family whose mom was Asian and whose dad was White. The young boy and girl were a mixture of both. I commented to my daughter that they looked to be Mongolian. Since I’m Hawaiian-Chinese, I’m very conscious of the differences in Asian features. I mention this family for their mixed heritage, but also because they too were smiling upon the mixed-heritage pair in front of them. A couple of pews behind the family were young parents with a newborn. Both were cooing to their baby, oblivious to those sitting nearby.

As we strode past the font, dipping our fingertips in the holy water to bless ourselves before leaving, my daughter recalled an incident which we both perceived as significant. In line to receive communion, she noticed 2 women, one in front of the other, gently holding hands. If they were lesbians, they were evidently comfortable admitting so before the entire congregation. Their simple gesture is momentous in that it speaks to Father Brian’s tolerance for all who come to worship. These women felt he would not condemn them. No fuss was made, so I didn’t take notice. We were all one, receiving Christ into our lives.   

Such scenes as I’ve mentioned, warm my heart, and make me very grateful for Father Brian. He enables us to be better people, better parents, better spouses, better neighbors, better bosses, better workers. There’s something to be said for the generosity of enablers. I don’t only toot my own horn, for I enable my husband to be the best boss he can be, and my daughter to be the best ballerina she can be. But the world is full of enablers, those who happily work from the sidelines, cheering others on to greater glory. The world needs both, those who do, and those who enable. And God blesses both.

Father Brian was the emcee at the recent inaugural ceremonies for our new archbishop, which took place at St. James Cathedral in Seattle. Unfortunately for us, his “sheep,” Father is not long for our parish. Having worked in the corporate world for many years, I can spot an “up-and-coming,” personality. And Father Brian is a star on the rise. He would make an excellent archbishop, cardinal, even Pope. Of course, these predictions are just that, predictions. No one has so much as voiced these opinions in public. Except perhaps the former archbishop whom we met at a farewell party in his honor. I seem to recall that he made a comment acknowledging that Father Brian’s talent hasn”t gone unnoticed.

While the Church needs men such as our pastor who has the passion, ambition, youthful energy, intelligence, people-skills, generosity and grace to lead the institution, I personally think more men like Father Brian are needed as pastors. The Church, after all, rests its weight upon the shoulders of its “sheep.” Without charismatic shepherds, sheep have a tendency to stray, even becoming tantalizing meals for wolves, and the like.

Of course the decision belongs to Father Brian and ultimately, the Pope. Father’s a young man, with a long journey ahead of him. He must answer his calling. Whatever it is, he has touched our lives along the way, and we’ve been made better for his gift of service.

prayers for Father Brian, and hugs…hugmamma.

“juxtaposition,” the holiday and the preparation

As we prepare for the holiday season, we were reminded in Mass yesterday that we are embarking upon the journey towards Christ’s birth, Christmas. As is Father Bryan’s custom, he related a personal anecdote that brought the message home.

As a seminarian, Father and others, were given the task of removing the stump of a huge, old tree that had been cut down because it was diseased. An all day job, they labored mightily to extricate every bit of remnant that remained. That included the use of crowbars, and burning the core of the stump, attempting to soften it. As he said, their voices reached skyward in prayer, as they undertook the painstaking chore. Was that his subtle way of saying that if they could swear, they might have? I’m positive most men, and women, would’ve mumbled a few choice words, and not necessarily “under their breath.” Ahhh..but Father Bryan’s on the path to sainthood, so he must mind his p’s and q’s.

The following morning, Father wandered through a garden on the property, sipping his tea, and enjoying the beautifully maintained haven. When his gaze fell upon the hole where the stump once was, and the surrounding unkempt area, he reflected upon the juxtaposition of what was lovely, and what was ugly.

During the weeks before and during Advent, we must rout out all that remains of “the ugly stump,” so that we can fully enjoy the beautiful “garden,” Christ’s birth. Father’s metaphor is probably one of the most vivid I’ve ever encountered, so that it’s imagery will probably remain with me as I prepare myself for the holidays.

Another part of the homily which was an “aha” moment, was Father Bryan’s affirmation of something to which I already subscribe. The minutiae of our daily lives is who we are, and upon them we should focus our efforts and energies. We may not always enjoy what we’re doing, but we should do them nonetheless.  I’m sure he was referring to having to remove the tree stump. 

What we do, day in and day out, as a matter of course, is the source of our happiness. Singular events come and go. They may give us a temporary boost, helping us to soar momentarily. But we always return to the mundane, the every day, the minutiae. It’s best if those things are uplifting, and positive, so that they help us move forward, living our best lives. Disapproval and negativity encourages fretful, less fulfilling lives.

preparing for the holiday season, hugs…hugmamma.