postaday 2011 challenge: has japan’s crisis effected a change in your life?

 

Misawa Air Base Personnel and Family Members h...

Image by DVIDSHUB via Flickr

The challenge by WordPress was for bloggers to think of topic ideas, since the staff feels it’s been a one-way street, with them coming up with the 99 ideas thus far. So I suggested the topic that’s in the title of my post. Here’s the comment I left on WordPress Daily Post Challenge blog.

Have the natural disasters in Japan made a specific difference in your life? If so, what and why? If not, why not?

Living in Washington State, one of the places in the “Ring of Fire,” I’m preparing myself physically, including learning CPR, and mentally, by figuring out what to do…in case. I’m also trying to appreciate everything about the present, loved ones, memories. I’m also reaching out to connect with others in my community…while I can. In the final analysis, people are more important than stuff.

that’s my suggestion for a topic…in fact i’ll be writing about it…hugmamma.

 

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs

Image via Wikipedia

Last night Father Brian hosted our “neighborhood” dinner. In attendance were probably 75-80 people who contributed appetizers, salads, entrees, and desserts to the potluck meal. We took a favorite Hawaiian meatball dish, as well as a sliced tomato, mozzarella balsamic vinaigrette seasoned salad. Both were gone by night’s end… except for a couple of meatballs which I devoured at home. They were so good!

From the get go, another woman and I immediately connected. I overheard her telling an acquaintance something about ballet. My ears perked up. Stepping forward I asked if someone was involved with ballet, to which the woman replied that her 9-year-old grand-daughter was taking lessons at Pacific Northwest Ballet. Explaining that my daughter dances professionally, our conversation continued in earnest.

My husband and I shared a table with my new friend, her husband, acquaintances of theirs, a young couple, and another gentleman with whom we were already familiar. It’s not often we dine with new people, but my communication skills never fail me. I’m sure readers of my blog have discovered that for themselves. I can talk, and some.

Downtown Seattle, Washington and the Bainbridg...

Image via Wikipedia

Having moved west 3 years ago from Scranton, Pennsylvania, Marilyn and Rich were happily settled near one of their daughters and her family, including 2 grand-children. Another daughter resides in Portland, Oregon with a couple of other grand-children. A very lovely couple, we spoke of life on the east coast, where we’d lived before moving here 13 years ago. We also learned that they had actively participated in their church community, and felt inclined to be a little more laid back now that they were retired.

Looking around at the other tables, I observed that everyone was engaged in lively conversation. Father walked about, chatting, laughing, very comfortable in his role as host. While expected, the transition to business was done without the usual moaning and groaning. In fact, people actively participated in discussions about making the church and its community more relevant in the lives of the church-goers. Some in the group volunteered to form a committee to move this neighborhood gathering to the next level of involvement.

Post church fellowship

Image by Tojosan via Flickr

Funny thing is, my husband and I were at the wrong neighborhood dinner. Our zipcode gathering occurred last week. But, of course, we weren’t turned away. We enjoyed ourselves, and those we met. Now we’ll just have to find our neighborhood community, and work our way into their midst.

leave it to me…hugmamma.     

Advertisements

“mary did you know”

Written by Buddy Greene, Mark Lowlry. Copyrighted 1991, 1993 Word Music LLC. “Mary Did You Know” is one of my very favorite Christmas songs. We sang it in church today, during the “Preparation of the Table.” Telling of the miracles her son Jesus will perform, and that when she kisses him, she’ll “kiss the face of God,” evokes the tender love all mothers feel for their own, special children. For I truly believe that when we look upon the face of an innocent child, God looks back at us, as if to say “This is my child in whom I am well pleased. Love him. Love her. And you will love Me.”

MARY DID YOU KNOW

Mary did you know, that your baby boy, Would one day walk on water.

Mary did you know, that your baby boy, Would save our sons and daughters.

Did you know, that your baby boy, Will come to make you new.

This Child that you are carrying, Will soon deliver you.

Mary did you know, that your baby boy, Would give sight to the blind man.

Mary did you know, that your baby boy, Would calm a storm with His hand.

Did you know, that your baby boy, has walked where angels trod.

And when you kiss your little baby, You’ll kiss the face of God?

Oh Mary did you know.

Oh the blind will see, the deaf will hear, the dead will live again. The lame will leap, the dumb will speak, The praises of the Lamb!

Oh Mary did you know, that your baby boy, is Lord of all creation.

Mary did you know, That your baby boy, Will one day rule the nations.

Did you know, that your baby boy, Is heaven’s perfect lamb. The sleeping Child you’ll hold,

IS THE GREAT I AM.

 

hug your child, hug God…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.

“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.

“charism,” a call to serve

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

      

 

portuguese bean soup, recipe

Here in the Pacific Northwest autumn doesn’t sneak up on us, it merely takes a coffee break letting summer step in for a quick 15 minutes. So while elsewhere around the country citizens were barbecuing for months, we never once took the cover off our grill. And regardless what month of the year, I’m always perusing cookbooks and magazines for cold weather recipes, especially soups and stews. Because some of my relatives are faithful readers I decided to share the following recipe, which is a staple of some Hawaiian families. Having said that, I can’t explain why our family ate such hearty fare in the hot tropics. Never thought of it until now. But there’s really no rhyme or reason to why island locals eat what they eat. If it’s “ono,” (tasty) it’s a no-brainer, we’ll eat it.

The first time I can recall eating Portuguese bean soup was at the monthly “Hui Akoni Hemolele” meeting. As the name implies, it was a club to which native Hawaiians belonged, although there were members of other ethnicities, like Japanese and Portuguese. A few men belonged, but the majority were women. My mom had served as an officer a couple of times. Once a month they would all attend a particular Mass to worship. Immediately afterwards they would gather at the church hall, where everyone would be updated on the club’s current affairs. My brother and I would accompany my mom, waiting impatiently until the breakfast of Portuguese bean soup and Portuguese sweet, or white, bread, with butter, would be served. I can still picture the huge steaming pots, from which the serving women would ladle spoonfuls of the thick, homemade soup, heavily laden with chunks of meat, potatoes, carrots and cabbage. It was heaven on earth to eat food that even God would want served at His table. I exaggerate, but that’s how wonderful it tasted, especially for my brother and I who weren’t use to eating an abundance of red meat in those days. I think we thought ourselves extremely lucky if we ate hamburgers.

When the talking finally ceased, members seconding the motion to adjourn, and the short capes of yellow and red bird feathers removed from around their shoulders, we knew that signaled “Let’s eat!” My brother and I didn’t need to be asked twice. We made a beeline for the food. I think my mom would bring up the rear, because she’d always get sidetracked talking with this person, and that person. But the soup never seemed to run out before everyone got their helping. Sometimes there was enough leftover, so we took a potful home. Lucky, lucky us!

I have several recipes for this soup, this being one of the simplest. I’ve not made Portuguese bean soup since Christmas, so I’m starting slow. At some point I may cook the version that has many more ingredients, including papaya which is a natural meat tenderizer. So as the cold season unfolds, I’ll post one or more recipes for this delicious concoction. If you’re wondering why Hawaiians cooked a food traditional to the Portuguese, the short answer is decades ago they were brought to the islands to serve as “lunas” (bosses) on the pineapple plantations. They oversaw the laborers, first the Chinese, followed by the Japanese and finally, the Filipinos. With the influx of these nationalities, came a melting pot of foods, which became Hawaiian food as we know it today, a smorgasbord of this and that. Still my favorite, I’d easily double my body weight if I were a resident. I’d have a plate lunch of beef teriyaki, spam, portuguese sausage, macaroni salad, and rice, instead of a Big Mac and fries any day of the week. Bring it on…

Meanwhile hope you try this recipe, enjoying its hearty flavors near a blazing fire on a cold, wintry Fall evening, or on your lanai, in the shadow of the setting Hawaiian sun, the gentle ocean breezes lightly caressing your cheeks.

PORTUGUESE BEAN SOUP

  • 2 lb Portuguese sausage, cut into 1/4-inch pieces (if unavailable, try another sausage, like Kielbasa)
  • 1 lb ham hock
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 2 quarts water
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 3 potatoes, diced
  • 1 small cabbage, chopped
  • 1 can (8 oz) tomato sauce
  • 2 cans (15 oz size) red kidney beans, including liquid

Put sausage, ham hock, and onion into a large pot; add water. Cover and cook on low heat for 1 hour. Remove meat from ham hock. Put meat back into soup and add carrots, potatoes, cabbage, and tomato sauce; cover and continue cooking for 1-1/2 hours, stirring occasionally. Stir in beans, including liquid, and cook a few more minutes, adding more water if necessary. Makes 12 servings.

hmmm, onolicious…hugmamma.

meditation, “down time”, hope

My earliest memories of sitting through Sunday Mass as a child was leaning my butt against the bench, forehead  resting on folded arms on the pew back in front. Before long, my mom pinched my backside prompting an immediate reaction. I’d jerk into an upright position, sleepy eyes wide open if only for a few moments before I relaxed against the bench once again. At the time, the ceremonial ritualism was probably the only thing holding my attention: vestments embellished in gold and silver threads, exotic incense scenting the still air, angelic voices singing words beyond my comprehension. When the magic of showmanship wore off, however, boredom for adult activities quickly took over. Not understanding the Latin spoken by the priest, not seeing what he was doing with his back toward the congregation, and awaking early (never my strongpoint) made church attendance another chore. Didn’t I already have enough of those?

Attending a Catholic girl’s school meant Mass was a regular event, whether weekly or daily, I can’t remember which it was. The only time I was overwhelmingly grateful for the habit was when President Kennedy was assassinated. Upon learning that our Catholic president was dead, the entire student body and school administration filed mournfully into church, seeking comfort within its hallowed, marble walls. It was incomprehensible that the man seen by Americans to have ever-lasting youth and charming, good looks was forever gone. I’m certain school girls and women around the globe identified with Jackie as she bid farewell to her partner in “Camelot.”

Of course marrying the man of my dreams in a Catholic church was a coup of my own. I’d captured his heart and left “wannabe me’s” out in the cold, “eating their hearts out.” Being suppressed by the teaching of nuns didn’t mean my natural instincts were dead, sublimated maybe, but not extinct. Knowing how to catch a mate is in the genes, having been passed down through the ages, beginning with Eve. Our wedding Mass was beautiful, like millions of others before and since. What made ours special was the ensemble of friends from my husband’s seminary days who accompanied the ceremony with song and music. Con-celebrating the Mass were 3 priests, the church’s pastor, a priest who’d known my husband since childhood and a priest who’d been an instructor at the seminary. Having grown up in awe of the religious, I felt privileged to have so many witness my humble marriage. And humble it was for a friend of my mother-in-law’s made my simple gown, another fashioned my bridal bouquet, I made my own headdress as well as my bridesmaid and flower girl’s dresses, our few wedding pictures were taken by my sister and a friend of my husband’s, and we paid $75 for the Chinese food prepared by my sister-in-law’s mother-in-law, a caterer. The reception was held on the rectory lanai, since my mother-in-law worked part-time for the priests. Less than 100 guests visited, and ate with us. There was no music, no band, no dancing. But still a very happy occasion, especially for my husband and I who were grateful to be starting a new life together.

Baptizing our only child in a 100-year-old country church was another dream come true. A miracle baby after a fruitless 16 years of marriage, she was a welcome addition to our relationship. Raising her as a member of the church family meant our daughter had many who cared about her welfare. They followed her growth, were swayed by her charms, bestowed her with tokens of their love, and baby-sat when asked. She learned at an early age that the church was a place of solace from the oft-times unfriendly, “rat race” in which we all find ourselves entrenched.

Church has been, and always will be, a welcoming environment where our family de-stresses and decompresses. Sitting quietly, emptying our minds of worldly cares, providing a blank slate for spiritual thoughts, opens us up to compassion for our fellow-men and women, and restores our positive energy through hope. Humbled before our Creator, we feel His benevolence and forgiveness. All He asks in return is that we continue in our attempts to live our best lives according to His tenets. We are asked to be Christ-like towards all species of His magnificent creation.

Every Sunday, I recommit to being the best I can be, and doing the best I can do. But what older age and experience have taught me is to “cut myself some slack.” Throughout the years I’ve done what everyone is prone to do, “beat myself up” over what I perceive as failings. Habitually seeking approval engenders self-deprecation, which engenders low self-esteem, which engenders dissatisfaction with one’s life, which can harm loving relationships. I came to realize that the latter were what mattered most in life. So preserving them became my life’s purpose. Shedding negativity in my surroundings, including persons who cared little for my well-being, was a necessity. Therapists may call it self-survival; I call it loving myself.

It seems from an early age we learn not to love ourselves. Why is that, I wonder? Against what image of perfection are we measured?  Is it something our parents or others instill in us, consciously or unconsciously? Or is it our own perceptions of what others want us to become, or not become? Whatever the answers, we seem to steamroll through life accumulating so much negativity, toward ourselves and others. There are positive moments for sure, but they can be overwhelmed by the “luggage” we drag around with us, so that peeling through the layers of bad stuff can wear us down, physically, mentally and spiritually. At some point we MUST erect a barrier against more negativity, begin discarding the “baggage”, and replace it with mountains and mountains of positive experiences. These eventually become the thoughts and memories with which we occupy our lives. When negativity seeps back in, we must fight back, never again letting it gain a foothold.

All easier said than done, but so necessary for our own happiness and well-being, as well as the happiness and well-being of those we love. Of great consequence to them is that we fight to love ourselves. Value yourself, and you value them. Isn’t that all God asks of us?

compassion and hugs, for ourselves…and others…hugmamma.

a friendly place

Getting up for 8:15 Mass is a struggle. I’m not a morning person, as I’ve said in previous posts. So making it to exercise and church services is a labor of love, or else insanity, maybe both. The “drawing card” for me are the teachers, Kristina at the gym, and Father Brian at St. Joseph’s. Their common denominator is their compassionate, warm, “open” personalities. Neither basks in the limelight, rather they are humbly passionate about spreading their messages, Kristina “speaks” to exercise as essential for our well-being; Father Brian shares the gospel that God loves and cares for all of us.

Probably the youngest priest I’ve ever encountered as pastor of a parish, Father Brian, is a natural-born “shepherd.” He gathers his parishioners, his “sheep,” about him, with concern for our safe deliverance into the hands of God, our Maker. He doesn’t prod us with pokers, rather he relates stories, personal or biblical, which encourages us to think and to decide by what values we should live. The church fills with laughter when Father Brian tells a joke or humorous anecdote. He’s not even above pointing a finger at himself, whether in fun or to confirm that he too is human. His manner is easy, his smiles always forthcoming. He is accepting of ways that are different from his. If there are rules, and there must be, by which the parish operates, they do not seem “set in stone.” Perhaps his youthfulness and relative newness to pastoral duties has him proceeding with caution, allowing himself to blend into the congregation’s routine, to become one with, not one above, us.

Today my ears were extra perked when listening to Father’ sermon. He spoke of our need to focus upon the “small things” in our lives. These, he said, are the building blocks of the kingdom of Heaven. God does not reward us for “flash”, but rather for what we do “behind the scenes.” As stewards of God’s gifts, our services toward and on behalf of one another will be rewarded. Our faithfulness will be recognized. Romans 12:6-8 from The New Testament testifies to this:

“We each have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.” 

As an introduction to his homily, Father Brian spoke of witnessing small, but meaningful, human gestures that “built up the Kingdom of God.” Friends from out-of-town were visiting with him. A couple and their 2 daughters visited the popular tourist attractions. In their comings and goings, Father witnessed the loving care bestowed upon the littlest child by her sister and her parents.

On a recent visit with his elderly grandparents at their assisted living facility, Father celebrated the Mass in their apartment, the 3 huddling together. At the “kiss of peace”, his grandparents turned and pecked each other on the cheek, mouthing the words “I love you” to one another. This demonstration of their affection spoke volumes of their 67 year-long marriage.

After weekday Mass one morning, Father Brian noticed a lone woman moving through the pews, collecting congregation booklets, which she would then return to their housing. On another occasion, a parishioner asked Father if she could bring flowers from her garden to place around the altar. Walking over to it, he fingered one of the daisies, lovingly displayed in a vase. Matching arrangements were staged prominently in other areas.

It is obvious that Father Brian is like family to his parishioners. He freely speaks to us of his mother, other relatives, his friends, his love of basketball, his personal impressions of a recent visit to the Vatican, and his own faith journey. And he eagerly awaits us outside after Mass, shaking hands and smiling broadly. He always remembers our daughter, though she’s not a regular. Because he attracts everyone with his charismatic style, I said to Father Brian one day “You could be a rock star!” To which he replied, after letting out a belly laugh, “Jesus is the rock star!”

no “Hell, fire and brimstone” here, only warmth…hugmamma

who i am

Girls become women; boys become men. In the beginning it seems to just happen. Females emulate their mothers; males, their fathers. Their traits become ours, seemingly by osmosis. As children we don’t stop to differentiate between good and bad characteristics. What we see becomes what we are and what we do. As we grow older and experience life outside our family, we begin to compare ourselves with others, our lives with theirs. We see what we like and don’t like about us, about them.

I think only in older age, especially if we have children, do we understand those who walked in “our shoes”, before we did, our parents. My father died when I was one, so I never knew him. My mom was my world, in good times and bad. Throughout my 50’s I gradually became aware of the legacy she left behind.

Widowed at 30, nine children to raise, my mom managed with the help of Maryknoll nuns who ran the orphanage where she worked. She was laundress, part-time cook, and part-time chaperone. She never missed a day on the job, driving an hour from our home in the city, to the orphanage in the country. As a toddler, I accompanied her, my days spent rolling around in huge crates filled with freshly laundered clothing and linens. The youngest orphans were my playmates; the older ones my babysitters. They were my family, since most of my siblings had long since left home.

My mom’s car was our “bread and butter,” as she would repeatedly remind us. It was essential to our subsistence, getting her to and from work.  There was no AAA in those days, or if there was, we were too poor to subscribe. My mom changed her own flat tires, tinkered under the hood, and faithfully had the car serviced. With a sergeant’s precision she showed us how to wash and wax the car.

We would drag out the bucket, the hose, the detergent and lots of “elbow grease.” Along with two siblings, a brother and sister who were still in school, we cleaned every inch of our two-toned blue, Dodge sedan, until it glistened under the bright, tropical sun. We often looked like wet fish, having pelted each other with water from the hose or soapy water scooped from the bucket. When we were seized by fits of laughter, my mom’s eyes would twinkle and a huge grin would emerge to temporarily smooth away the frown lines deeply imbedded above her brows.

Active in our church community, my mom served as president of 2 women’s groups. She allowed me to invite foreign students to live with us for several days or weeks, giving them an opportunity to experience life in our country. It wasn’t unusual for my mom to invite total strangers into our home, like a young, handsome, Chinese man who was selling Life magazine subscriptions. We couldn’t afford it, but my mom felt sorry and subscribed anyway. To thank her, the nice man returned with an ice cream cake, which we happily devoured. One particular Jehovah Witness was a regular visitor on Sundays. A devout Catholic, my mom still listened when others spoke of their faiths. I’m ashamed to say we children hid, hoping they would go away. My mom suffered painful arthritis as far back as I can remember. At 3 a.m. when I’d head to the kitchen for a drink of water, my mom would be pacing the floor, attempting to walk off the unrelenting ache in her knees. She’d moan heavily, sometimes crying. I was too young to be of much comfort. My mom sat in the bleachers, watching with pride as I led the crowds in cheers for our team. She sewed one-of-a-kind clothing, some “hit the mark”, others not so much. Strumming the ukulele, she’d harmonize old Hawaiian songs with me, a favorite being “Ke Kali Ne Au.”

Without realizing it, my mom was bestowing me with her strengths. A single parent, she forged a life for herself and her children as best she could. She wasn’t above accepting help, nor did she shy away from helping herself and others. While raising us, I can’t recall my mom investing in much time bemoaning her plight. She was a handsome woman who prided herself on how she styled her hair, and how she wore her makeshift dresses.

I may not mimic my mom in every way, but like her I’m a strong woman with a soft underbelly. She has instilled me with her graciousness toward others, her “funny bone,” her songbird’s voice, her sense of style, and her gourmet sensibilities. And like my mom, I have faults. While she didn’t apologize for them, I’m certain she asked God to forgive her trespasses. Like her, I pray to be pardoned for my transgressions. 

Foremost among the lessons I have gleaned from my mom’s life  is compassion, for myself and others. Because her journey was fraught with more “lows” than “highs,” it’s a wonder she lived well into her 80’s. She was plagued by health issues, family discord, and personal demons. Besides which, my mom never remarried, remaining a widow until the end. For 50+ years, she shouldered her burdens without the love and companionship of a soul mate. So if she floundered, who could stand in judgement? “For unless you have walked in someonelse’s shoes…”

who I am is owing in part, to her…hugmamma.