do you still…???

Clean your house? Or is that chore relegated to some unlucky soul? Well, in my house…I’m IT!

Fortunately for me my husband isn’t picky about dust collecting, even though he suffers from the occasional asthma attack. Don’t worry, though. Modern science has lessened that concern over time. He’s on meds. And actually the daily intake of local honey has also diminished both our symptoms to seasonal allergens.

As long as my home is straightened and vacuumed, we’re both okay with my procrastination. Luckily there does come a time, however, when the grit and grime makes me want to scream. It might also very well be that when I’m awaken at night with noises that go bump in the night…I’m finally moved to clean every inch of my house. You see we’re occasionally unwilling hosts to a field mouse or two.

So today I got out the Windex and bottle of furniture polish and went at it. Still am…at it…and I’ve only tackled the kitchen so far. I’m no hare when it comes to this race; I’m definitely the turtle…wax in hand…scrubbing, polishing, scrubbing, polishing. Then I’ll get down on hands and knees and polish the floor…by hand. This ensures my getting into every nook and cranny. My husband chuckles at my inefficient methods. However he knows better than to intercede. He’s learned to let me wear myself out, rather than try to convince me to do it his way, the more expedient way.

I may not do this often, but no one can accuse me of being a total slob when it comes to housekeeping. I’ve just learned to set my priorities and tackle one project at a time. And planning my daughter’s wedding was worth letting my house go to pot.

My goal in life now is not to stress…

...but to stop and smell the roses…

…and often!

………hugmamma. (…even in paris, where i took this photo last august.)787

 

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365 photo challenge: weary

When I weary of caring for my garden, all I need do is take a look around. I invite you to do the same. Enjoy!    

In memory of my mom, and for my mother-in-law, both gardeners extraordinaire. So grateful for the “green thumbs” inherited by hubby and me………………….hugmamma.  🙂   

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365 photo challenge: discontinue

i may discontinue gardening…..and be like the boy in this photo…..

footloose and fancy free!!!…(notice the weeds?)………………………hugmamma.

cleaning the “bowl”

Decorative toilet seat

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How many of you like cleaning the bathroom? More specifically, how many of you relish scrubbing the toilet bowl? While I abhor the task, I’m delighted with the end product, the sparkling, sanitized, glistening human waste receptacle. I know. I know. TMI. “Too much information,” for those without a young adult in your lives, who often reminds that too much honesty is unnecessary, and totally unwanted!

I can’t help but remember that wonderful 50’s commercial where a little man in a suit seated in a small boat, floated around on the water in a toilet bowl, talking about the best product for cleaning the inside of the bowl.  How clever! Although I’m sure as a kid I was more enthralled with the small man fitting in the toilet, than how my mom or older sister was going to get it clean. Eventually Mr. Clean took over from “Mr. Tidy Bowl” in the 70’s and 80’s. By that time I did care what to use, because I was the one having to clean the d–n toilet, and have been doing so ever since. Actually, I lie. Besides hubby helping out once-in-while,  there was a time when my husband employed a housecleaner while I lived with my daughter in another state, where she was training to be a professional ballerina.

When I returned home, my initial plan was to resume doing all the housework myself. But then I quickly came to my senses, and retained Lucy’s services. After all, she did a far better job than I ever did. With her caring for the inside of the house every couple of weeks, I devoted my time to gardening and my antiques business. But my stint in Nirvana was short-lived when Lucy returned to Brazil, her home, for back surgery. To this day I’m still singing her praises.

Ancient roman latrines / latrinae, Ostia Antica

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More than any other product  Comet was the cleaner I used the longest. Doing what my mom did, I’d sprinkle the gritty powder into the toilet bowl, and with a sponge I’d put some elbow grease into my hand as it swished around in all the nooks and crannies, getting out all the grime and yuck. Once again, TMI. But those were the olden days when wives and moms meant business, doing fierce battle with dirt, in hand-to-hand combat, literally.

Various toilet brushes

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Now that I’m older, and wiser, I use a biodegradable, lavender-scented cleanser which I sprinkle into the bowl, and with a stylish, long-handled brush, I get the job done in a more civilized manner. With a few scrubs here and there, and a press of the little toilet handle, yesterday’s grime is history. I’m no longer down on my knees in subservience to the bowl. It is now subservient to me…and my toilet brush. And of course it has a cute little receptacle of its own where it comfortably rests, until the next time. From a lofty height…

Toilet in german theater munich

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i now look down upon my toilet bowl…and that’s as it should be…hugmamma.  

sleep, “ever catch up?”

12-hour digital clock radio

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I envy those who regularly fall into bed at 10 p.m. or earlier. I’ve not done that in many, many years. I’ve always been the proverbial “night owl.” Bedtime for me is midnight, 1 or even 2 a.m. And every night before I close my eyes, I murmur to myself “Gotta get to bed earlier, 10:00, tomorrow night, 10:00.” It’s become more like a prayer, than a resolution.

Downtown Honolulu, HI, view from Punch Bowl.

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I can recall when we were first married, and were renting a nice 2 bedroom apartment in Honolulu. We could afford a larger unit because my husband worked odd jobs around the complex, in exchange for the discounted rent of $125 a month. Can you believe that? An unheard of amount in a major metropolitan city these days, but especially in Honolulu.

University of Hawaii

Image by wertheim via Flickr

My husband had just graduated from a private Catholic college; I was finishing up my last year at the University of HawaiiBetween trying to be the good, little wife, and the good, little student, I was “burning the midnight oil.” I was also interning as a 4th grade teacher as a requirement for the 5th-year teaching certificate towards which I was studying. Oftentimes, I’d take a break from all-night cramming, and do a little household cleaning. I’d even run the vacuum. I was 20 when I married, so what did I know about the right time to do chores? I did them when I could. Funny, the neighbors never complained. But my husband did. He had to get up early for work.

Winfrey on the first national broadcast of The...

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While my penchant for cleaning late at night has dissipated, my desire to hang onto the last moments of a waning day have not. No matter where I’ve lived or what course my life has taken, there never seem to be enough hours in the day to do all that I want. That’s not to say I make the most of every minute. No. I dawdle…a lot. I stop to read parts of the newspaper. I crouch down beside Mocha to tell her I love her and nuzzle my face into hers. I catch parts of Ellenor Oprah.” I munch…munch…munch. I pick up Sitka. Oh, and of course, I blog. Those of you who subscribe, or are regular readers, know that I blog. Can’t help myself. Love to write.

Chatting with my husband when he arrives home from work and interminttently throughout the evening,  prepping dinner, dinner itself, cleaning up afterwards, more blogging, a little reading before switching off the light, and before long the clock reads midnight, or later.  Where does the time go? And it doesn’t help that Dr. Oz, and a myriad of others, continually advises that 7 0r 8 hours of sleep a night is mandtory for good health. I resolve to do better…in my next life. Promise. Meanwhile…

A Westclox Big Ben Clock

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Are you an early bird, or a night owl like me, or both? God bless you if you’re both. I’d be napping all day.

know where i can borrow some hours?…hugmamma.

a tribute to my mom…ironing

Ironing board

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Do you iron what you wear? With drycleaners popping up on every corner, and the grunge look being in fashion, and ripped jeans looking cool, why bother to get the wrinkles out of everyday wear? I’ve got a small stack of shirts and jeans, both mine and my husbands, sitting atop the dryer waiting to be ironed. Sometimes I pull an item or 2 from the pile and give it a quick press when I’m in a hurry to wear it then and there. But most of the items have been patiently waiting their turn, collecting dust. Literally. It’s kind of an “out of sight, out of mind” thing.

When “the mood” hits me, I’ll gather the load of folded, by now very wrinkled items in my arms, bring them upstairs in front of the TV, and plop them down on a chair. Then I’ll ask my hubby to drag the ironing board up as well. He’ll usually go the whole “nine yards,” situating it in its usual spot, plug an extension cord into the nearby wall socket, plug the iron into that, and voila! I’m good to go. I’ll find a good show to watch on TV, and start ironing away. Once I get started, I can hardly wait to see the pile of clothes get smaller. It’s like a competition with myself, but also against the clothes. Will I get through all of them, or will I get pooped first?

Toritama produces 15% of the Brazilian jeans

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Because my husband’s clothes are larger per square inch than mine, ironing them seems to take twice as long. But I muddle through, knowing I’m being a good, no great, wife! Truthfully, I think he’d probably wear his clothes wrinkled. In fact, he’s tried that. Upon closer inspection I’ll give him the thumbs up, or thumbs down. The older I get, sometimes I’ll just squint and give a quick thumbs up.

How my mom ever managed to work for years as a laundress for a Catholic orphanage, I’ll never know. She spent 8 hours standing on her feet, ironing, ironing, ironing. In between that she’d put loads of wash on, and then hang them out to dry. She dealt with pieces of clothing that ran the gamut from kids’ play clothes to nuns’ habits, including their head gear. Starching items was a biggie in those days. For those not familiar with that term, select types of clothing were doused in thick liquid, that really seemed like glue. I don’t remember if it was then lightly rinsed, or just wrung out and hung to dry. What puzzles me to this day is how my mom managed to get the nuns’ heavy, black, woolen uniforms, and head pieces, looking like they’d been drycleaned? She should have gotten an award or something. I imagine her pay was even paltry, given the orphanage was run on a dime and lots of prayers.

Needless to say my mom taught my siblings and me to iron correctly. On a shirt or blouse, we learned to iron the collar first, then the upper neck area along the back, then each sleeve, then the front of one side, moving around the back of the shirt or blouse, to the remaining front. On a pair of slacks, we would iron the front, then the back, then fold the legs together so that we could iron one side at a time, being certain to iron the inside of each leg as well. It was expected that when we opened the pants up again, there would be creases down the fronts of each leg.

Image by me. Larger version available on Flickr.

Image via Wikipedia

Talk about learning to iron as if we were artists, or scientists. My mom took great pride in not only mastering the technique, but having each item of clothing looking a thousand times better than when she got it. And that skirt or overall may have passed through her hands a gazillion times! No matter, my mom washed it, dried it, and ironed it as if for the very first time…and never complained. Even when she developed varicose veins as a result of working barefoot on concrete floors. The sight of her calves marred by streaks of blue bumps, were a constant reminder to me of how my mom sacrificed her own comfort to keep us kids fed, and clothed, with a roof over our heads.

Being widowed at such a young age, 30, my mom was immensely grateful to be working. And the Maryknoll nuns were like guardian angels always hovering to make certain we had enough food and clothing, even if both were surplus from the orphanage’s own stockpile.

So yes I still iron, however minimally, in memory of my mom who made the task monumentally important. Such a small, everyday occurrence, that for her meant all the world.

i try not to underestimate the small…for they are usually larger than they seem…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.

“life is messy”

I’ve decided that along with aging comes a treasure trove of “20-20” hindsight. Life would’ve been so much easier if I knew then, what I know now. Only recently, very recently, have I arrived at the conclusion that life is messy.

Because of my strict upbringing where chores were done before playtime, I was always cleaning and organizing. It’s not to say this routine isn’t a great building block for a happy life, but it contributed to a personal uneasiness as an adult, if my home wasn’t in tip-top shape.

During the first years of married life I was always stressed and upset that I had to spend the entire weekend cleaning, when I would’ve preferred to relax after working all week. My husband didn’t demand it of me; I expected it of myself as a result of the residual effects left over from life with my mom. In retrospect, I should’ve engaged my husband in doing the minimum housework necessary, and enjoyed our time doing fun things together instead. I know I would’ve liked myself better, since I wouldn’t have wasted my time and energy trying to convince my husband that he should be as anal as me about a clean house. It’s insane to think I spent those years being a martyr to a stupid house; I should’ve reveled in being the pretty, young thing my husband married, with the vision that life would be a fun-house, not a mad-house. Yikes!

I think it’s fortunate that my legacy to our daughter has been a more practical attitude toward housecleaning. Within the last decade or so, my mantra has been to  keep a “straightened and vacuumed” house, so that company is welcome any time. As long as they don’t venture to do the “white glove” test for dust, then they’ll enjoy their visit. Raising a child and accumulating a gaggle of pets quickly convinced me that I had to take things down a notch, or I’d be in an insane asylum, or my husband would have bid me adieu, or both.

But what has finally convinced me that life is messy, and it’s perfectly okay, is the current state of my home. My daughter is on a sabbatical from her job, and is home with us. We have had to reorganize closets and dresser drawers, making room for her things. Her cat Misha is also visiting. Our main bathroom has become his stomping ground, as well as the hallway where his food is located. Gates are up, keeping our dog Mocha and Misha apart when we’re asleep or not at home. My 3 cats remain downstairs in their domain, being allowed upstairs only after Misha has had his roam of the space. There have been face to face encounters, with hissing on my cats’ parts.

Misha is curious about these seemingly mysterious critters, since he’s an only “child.” He wants to get up close and personal, fearlessly getting in their faces. Luckily our cat sitter recommended hormonal wall plug-ins which have calmed our menagerie considerably, as well as lavender-scented collars which have the same effect. So far, we’ve been spared any bloodshed. Maybe one day soon, all 4 cats and 1 dog will be able to pass each other by, without so much as a backward glance. I pray for that day.

Straightening and vacuuming occur less frequently than usual. Small piles of stuff tend to accumulate here and there. My daughter and I play “bananagrams” pretty religiously. We’re definitely relaxing more than we’re cleaning, enjoying each other’s company. The pets are getting more attention, since we’re making a concerted effort to maintain peace.

Life is messy, but having our daughter and Misha share our humble home is a blessing for which I’m grateful. Cleanliness is NOT next to Godliness, my family’s happiness and togetherness is Christ present in our lives. I’m richer for the mess with which I’ve learned to live.

Life is not linear, for “detours” constantly overtake us. Life is, in fact, what we make of those “detours.” We travel a path, divert to another, retrace our steps, take another path, continue as far as we’re able, until we face another “detour.” That’s life in a nutshell! Rather than resist, we should be grateful for the gift of adventure with which God has blessed us. It’s exciting to live in the moment. Having a positive outlook can only make that moment, momentous.  

I believe we begin to die the minute we are born. But we never think of life that way; instead, we look forward to living with every ounce of our being. Nothing should diminish that excitement, so we should draw upon all the positive energy we can muster to enhance our lives, making them the best possible they can be.

Life is an hour-glass, and time is running out. Focus upon making every grain of sand, a beach on Maui where the foam-tipped waves rush up to meet you, as you run to become one with the warm, Pacific waters, contentment welling within you. God bless our lives, as “messy” as they are.

works in mysterious ways, God…hugmamma.  

european getaway, holland america line

As a not-so-frequent world traveler,  I wanted to share some Holland America Line information, in particular cruises which I can vouch for, since I’ve “been there, done that.” Cruising is like taking your hotel everywhere you travel. There’s no need to pack , unpack and repack. You needn’t fret about transporting yourself from city to city. All meals are included, selections ranging from Asian to Italian to American to Continental to everything-in-between. And contrary to popular belief, you needn’t stuff yourself to overflowing. But if you do, exercise opportunities abound. There are spin classes, elliptical machines, decks to walk, and pools to swim. I can attest to the fabulous shopping, especially in the jewelry shops. Some of my favorite pieces, real and costume, were shipboard “gems.”  Nightly entertainment rivals Las Vegas and Broadway. Then there’s the casino for gamblers, the lounges for dancers, and the amusement arcade for the younger set. A theatre features current films, special cooking classes satisfy the gourmands among us, non-denominational services gathers the religious together. Finally, the ports-of-call are yours for exploring, if you so desire. Our family chose walking tours, so we killed the proverbial “two birds with one stone.” We could eat very well onboard ship, and rid ourselves of excess calories on the shore excursions.

Cruising is my idea of a REAL vacation, no making up the beds, no straightening and vacuuming, no cleaning the bathroom, no cooking and serving, no clearing away the table and stacking the dishwasher. I can rise early or late, eat whenever, nap if I like, finish a book I’ve only read for 5 minutes before falling asleep at night. Time to myself with no chores to do before I’m allowed to play, is my favorite part of being on a ship away from land, hearth and home, at least for a week-and-a-half or two. That’s enough to get me back into the swing of living the life I love.

A brochure recently sent in the mail was like a siren’s call to passing ships “Welcome to Europe, the place we call home, where priceless works of art meet compelling natural landscapes. Let us offer you a firsthand perspective of our heritage. Only here will you bike through Barcelona’s historic squares or live the life of a Viking as you cruise through Norwegian fjords. Readers of Travel Weekly named Holland America Line ‘Best Cruise Line, Europe.’ Cruise with us and you’ll understand why.”  A friend from exercise class, swears this is true, having cruised with HAL for the first time to Australia with her husband during Christmas, and most recently to Alaska, treating family members. Like me, she also did a 10 day Mediterranean cruise, thoroughly enjoying the included ports-of-call.

In Livorno, we saw the famed Leaning Tower of Pisa, snapping photos to our hearts content. Stopping in Monte Carlo, we took a side trip to Nice and Eze where we walked charming streets, shopping in small boutiques. A self-guided tour of Barcelona’s old district was my husband’s idea of a great time, while my daughter and I gawked at the modernistic architecture and spent euros on the latest European fashions. Driving into the hilly countryside of Palma de Mallorca, we understood why celebrities Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta Jones chose to make their home on that breathtaking island. The white stone homes with painted blue doors of La Goulette were as mesmerizing, as the camels we rode near the docked ship were cause for nonstop giggles. Palermo offered us a chance to dine seaside in a local cafe among natives, our eyes soaking in the blue-green Mediterranean waters. In Naples we toured the beautiful Amalfi Coast, where we lunched, and shopped. But the “piece de resistance” was walking the streets of Pompeii, or what was left after its demolition by nearby Mt. Vesuvius. The cobbled roads, structural foundations, and preserved archaeological finds put us in awe of the Italians who built this city. Surrounded by the stillness and quiet, hot sun beating down on us, it was easy to imagine its citizens walking among us, going about their daily affairs.   

  • 20-Day Mediterranean Adventure Collectors’ Voyage – Roundtrip Civitavecchia (Rome)

Leaving Rome, the ms Noordam sails to Messina, Dubrovnik, Corfu, Katakolon (Olympia), Santorini, Kusadasi (Ehesus), Piraeus (Athens), Rome, Livorno (Florence/Pisa), Monte Carlo, Barcelona (overnight on board), Palma de Mallorca, La Goulette (Tunis and Carthage), Palermo, Naples, returning to Rome.

Dates include:  5/21, 31; June 10, 20, 30; Jul 10; Aug 6, 16, 26; Sep 5, 15, 25; Oct 5, 2011

Also available are 10 day cruises which feature some of the aforementioned ports. For this and other information, call your travel agent or 1-877-SAIL HAL (1-877-724-5425), or visit www.hollandamerica.com. Inquire about special promotions; it never hurts to ask.

tell them i sent you, with hugs…hugmamma.

the past, only a reference point

I don’t think it’s possible to escape one’s past. From what I’ve observed first-hand and with others, childhood experiences, good and bad, establish the paths our lives take. Where improvements are possible, we should make them for our own sake, and for the sake of our children. As parents we are empowered to discontinue the cycle of negativity.

Remembering back to when our daughter was to begin kindergarten, one specific memory stays with me. An evaluation was required to familiarize the staff with, among other things, her likes, her needs, her trepidations, as well as our own. On the appointed day, I met with the school psychologist. As I approached her I was nervous, as though I was the kindergartener. In reviewing the form with her, I lingered over a particular answer. The question had asked what qualities we would like in a teacher. It was amazing to think we had a choice. I replied that our daughter was with me most of the day and I was the disciplinarian. Therefore I would prefer that her teacher be more fun-loving like my husband, who enjoyed play time with our daughter. As I spoke, tears welled in my eyes and my voice choked. When I confessed to my guilt at not being more playful, the psychologist assured me that my husband and I were each performing very crucial tasks in our daughter’s upbringing. My equilibrium restored, I left feeling we were on the right path to being good parents.

As a child I wasn’t allowed to play until all my chores were done. Though not unique, it probably influenced the direction my life took. Because my mom was a single parent, working much of the time, it fell to us children to keep our home in order. Once a week I had to clean my room, dust, sweep and mop the living room, weed the small patch of garden at the front of our house, and help my siblings wash the car. Daily chores included setting the table for meals, as well as clearing it off afterwards, and watering the greenhouse plants. When I was older I also had to hand-wash clothes in the water-filled tub; hang them to dry on the clothesline; and hand starch and iron dressy-wear. Then there was homework to be done which, of course, took precedence over everything else. For a number of years, nap time was always part of the mix. So when I was allowed out to play, for I had to ask permission, I enjoyed every precious second, staying out until the sun set if possible. Summers spent with older sisters in Honolulu meant fun, fun, fun. Even though I still had chores to do, there were less of them, and no school meant no homework!

For the most part, doing chores before playing remains my life’s routine. Being 61 and married 40 years has given me license to cut myself some slack. So now I blog before I clean the bathroom. But keeping a clean and orderly home will never be wiped from my DNA, it is too deeply ingrained from a lifetime of repetition, beginning as a child. Just as allowing myself to “play” will never be without a sense of guilt for which I will always apologize, looking for a “pass” from my husband. Raised as 1 of 5 sons, with 7 sisters, he was not as burdened with chores as a youngster. So a clean house is not a must for him, but it is for me. The obsession can also extend to the orderly functioning of my mind as well. If my surroundings are in disarray, my brain seems overwhelmed by what it sees, becoming immobilized. That alone motivates me to straighten and vacuum. Since the presence of dust is only in the eye of the beholder, my mother-in-law living too far away to perform the “glove test,” dusting is one chore which is left for tomorrow, or the day after, or…

I did not insist that my daughter do a list of chores growing up. The cycle was broken with her. I enjoyed keeping house, having youthful energy on my side then. Being a mom was preferential to commuting into NYC to sit at a desk, watching the clock. But perhaps while I was doing what I knew best, keeping house, I allowed our child to have a different life. She was able to find her own passion, not one imposed by circumstances. I like to think that’s why she’s a career ballerina. And, she has proven to be a good housekeeper too. Having lived in an orderly home probably became part of her DNA. Fortunately she tends to play without first having to do all her chores. Thank God!

we are who we are, making the best of it…hugmamma.