nurturing thursdays: the dancer…

…my daughter.

It’s been awhile since I’ve seen my daughter perform…probably 4 to 5 years. Memory-wrapped images are all that remain, and they get fuzzier as time passes. So I’m very grateful for Youtube.  It’s captured the following contemporary piece in which my daughter was the featured soloist. She danced with Nashville Ballet at the time. I only wish it had shown the actual performance, in which she wore a white, romantic tutu which made her look like an angel. Although I’m not complaining; I’ll take what I can get.

This piece was choreographed by Sarah Slipper, founder and artistic director of Northwest Dance Project in Oregon. My daughter had danced with the company for a couple of summers. It’s performances are cutting-edge, thanks to the amazing talent of Sarah and other choreographers she hand picks to join her in producing a show.

Artists…dancers among them…reflect the beauty of the human spirit. If only we would allow…

…more of that inner beauty…to shine through.

………hugmamma.

(Find more wonderful inspiration at…
https://beccagivens.wordpress.com/2016/03/03/nurt-thurs-our-example/

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organizer par excellence…

That’s me!

Give me a dwelling, any dwelling, and I can turn it into a cozy home. Ask my husband and daughter. They’ll swear I’m a miracle worker when it comes to making the most of any amount of square footage.

Over the course of my marriage I have decorated, even redecorated, three apartments, one townhouse, one condo, and three houses. While I’m not a professional, hands-on experience has made me proficient at assembling my family’s living spaces in the long, blink of an eyelash.

Practice makes perfect. It really does.

My daughter’s current apartment is a great, open concept space. There’s even a small foyer leading into the living area. Happily, the wall between it and the kitchen was taken down before she moved in. If not for that, the cramped kitchen would have been claustrophobic, not to mention hot when the stove was in use.

As with most older buildings, the one-bedroom, one-bath apartment is lacking in kitchen storage space.

Above the stove, sink, and refrigerator are squat, boxy cupboards. The type usually reserved for the odd appliance…the rice cooker, the blender, the crockpot. Other than those, there are only 3 other cupboards to store food and dishes. Only one of these is of normal size. Another is narrow. The third while wider is awkwardly situated in a corner. Not much room towards the back for anything.

Having a dishwasher is amazing, although there’s a price to pay for that luxury. There’s only one drawer for cutlery…and nothing else.

While we awaited the arrival of the mover with my daughter’s furnishings, I spent a couple of sleepless nights imagining and re-imagining the use of the space in her apartment. It didn’t take long for me to concoct a brilliant floor plan. Forgive the braggadocio but there are few things for which I’ll take a bow. Decorating, of which I am passionate, is one of them.

Using my daughter’s large, black, glass front cupboard as a dividing wall off the foyer, and a 3 panel, bamboo, room divider facing the living room, we configured a pantry to store not only foodstuffs and miscellaneous kitchenware, but also items we couldn’t find room for elsewhere. With two collapsible shelving units purchased from The Container Store, we were in business.

Resolving the storage problem helped make the apartment more functional. When funds are limited and location is important, there’s always a way to make lemonade out of lemons.

Except for the house we currently own, none of our dwellings have been spacious. In every other home I have had to configure how best to accommodate all our family’s needs. Fortunately I’ve always been up to the challenge.

Watching young couples in the home-buying process on HGTV often drives me crazy. That they require everything from granite countertops to walk-in closets to hardwood floors is beyond my comprehension. Americans are most definitely guilty of getting everything they want…now! Whatever happened to good, old-fashioned ingenuity?

There are limited advantages to growing up poor, such as learning to make do. While no one opts for that, it’s a reality for lots of folks…

…including dancers.

………hugmamma.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

cirque du soleil…not so “ole!”

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Image by pennstatelive via Flickr

Readers of my blog know that I’m a huge fan of Michael Jackson’s song and dance. A year ago, my husband bought tickets to Cirque du Soleil‘s tribute to MJ as a Christmas present to me. Last night, the long awaited event finally arrived.

When we bought the tickets online we thought we got pretty good seats. We’d sat in the same section for a Michael Buble concert a couple of years earlier. Well we were wrong.

A side view of the Cirque show made it difficult, and at times impossible, to see the video presentations on the drop-down screen. Also a detraction were the visible wires hooked up to the performers’ costumes as they sailed through the air. Nose bleed seats with a frontal view might’ve been better picks had we known. But that’s just it. Choosing seats via Ticket Master is like a crap shoot. The luck of the draw is in the roll of the dice. Still we weren’t complaining. I’m sure people seated further to our right were literally in the dark as to what appeared on the screen. But judging from the murmurs swirling around us, our seats were not the big problem.

Cirque du SoleilCirque du Soleil usually conjures up images of immaculate execution on the part of the artists. Save for one group of Asian acrobatic men and a high-wire couple, the remaining performers were sub-standard. I would not have expected such lackluster quality from the Cirque brand. It’s a shame because much of the staging looked expensive…not exquisite…but expensive.

Most memorable were the gigantic video screens which were a backdrop to the show and upon which we’d glimpse MJ singing and dancing from time to time. When not displaying his or other video images, the screens reflected the performers, including the musicians and singers. Among them Michael Jackson‘s drummer of many years. He was the only person visibly connected to the late, pop icon. Not like being in his presence…but good enough for me.

Jackson and background dancers in

Image via Wikipedia

When Jackson died I bought every one of his dvds and cds. I’d never seen him perform live, nor had I kept up with his career since he was in his late teens. For months after his death, I became reacquainted with my one-time idol. I was mesmerized by the precision of his moves, and the amazing range of his vocals. Although he was accompanied by a talented ensemble, none could match the perfection of MJ’s performances. I thought for sure Cirque du Soleil would be up to the task. I was gravely disappointed. Jackson was probably turning over in his grave as well. And not because of insomnia!

Jackson and background dancers performing

Image via Wikipedia

Better that my ticket money had gone toward a show featuring MJ singing and dancing on those gargantuan screens, excerpts from all his videos . And rather than using so-so dancers, Cirque should have hired the hand-selected few that Jackson himself had chosen forThis is It!” Now those young guys could hold their own alongside the man himself. They were on fire! By comparison, Cirque’s crew was not as crisp, clean, or in sync. A little sloppy, in fact. My husband felt the show looked like a dress rehearsal instead of the real thing.

In fact there were two unscheduled intermissions because of technical difficulties. The audience sat twiddling our thumbs for 20 minutes both times. I wondered if Cirque had attempted to do too much technical wizardry while touring. Because of the seeming half-hazard conglomeration of acts, I thought that perhaps Cirque wasn’t up to the task of creating a show worthy of the pop icon’s overwhelming talent. Having 40 minutes of empty time on my hands, I could conjecture all kinds of what ifs.

Cirque du Soleil performing Dralion in Vienna,...

Image via Wikipedia

The best thing about the show? The appearance of Michael Jackson…doing what he does best. Cirque du Soleil should’ve done what they do best…acrobatics…and unimagineable, magical creations. Maybe the show will measure up to Cirque’s normal high standards when it goes home…to Vegas.

Cirque’s show did not live up to its youtube advertising. So next time it tours in our area, I’ll think twice. Meanwhile…

…think I’ll stick to watching MJ on dvd…cheaper…and way, way better…

Michael Jackson performing The Way You Make Me...

Image via Wikipedia

………hugmamma. 

this generation…”the voice”

If, like me, you feel totally disconnected from ” whassup?” with this generation, I highly recommend you start watching the latest, reality talent phenom, The Voice. It airs Tuesday nights on NBC. The first in the series ended last night with one of four challengers being hailed as “the voice,” in addition to walking away with $100,000 and a recording contract.

Trust me when I say, I knew very few, if any, of the songs that were sung throughout the course of the competition. Every once-in-awhile I recognized a piece of something from having heard it on my car radio, as I ran errands. Fortunately I love music with a beat, or tunes that have heart. I can be-bop to almost anything. I love singing; I love dancing.

Christina Aguilera performing during the Sanre...

Image via Wikipedia

Of the 4 judges, who also coached the challengers, I’d only heard of Christina Aguilera. And it was only recently when I saw her starring with Cher in a film, that I became a huge fan of the blonde songstress. She is one amazing vocalist! But as I tuned in faithfully to watch The Voice each week, I became a huge fan of Blake Shelton, country crooner, and Adam Levine, pop rocker, who served on the panel with Aguilera. I’m still not familiar with Shelton’s songs, can only recognize a couple by Levine, and am well acquainted with only one by Aguilera, Beautiful.” Knowing who they are now, still doesn’t give me entree… into this generation. But at least I can step up to the peep hole and be a “peeping tom” into what makes the young folk tick.

Adam Levine from Maroon 5

Image via Wikipedia

Adding to my credibility as an honorary member of this generation, is the fact that I’m the one who got my 25-year-old, professional dancer daughter hooked on The Voice. Like me she really wasn’t committed to watching any of the other talent shows. But The Voice definitely persuaded us to delay our phone conversations until we’d both watched it in our own time zones. Now that’s saying something!

I heartily encourage seniors and anyone wanting to “get with it” to watch the next season of The Voice. By the way, the talent crosses all generations. One of the TV audience favorites was a 42-year-old, bald, Lesbian, with tatoos, who got the studio audience on their feet, moving to her powerhouse vocals. Beverly McLellan could belt it out with the best of them. She was one of my favorites.

Blake Shelton - 1

Image by tncountryfan via Flickr

While I liked many of the singers, my favorite was Dia Frampton. Coached by Blake Shelton, she succeeded in coming into her own as a performer, right before our eyes. Though still shy and exceedingly humble, Dia showed her creative genius for songwriting, versatility at playing the piano and guitar, and exquisitely different tonal quality which ranged from barely audible and raspy, to scintillatingly explosive. It didn’t hurt that she was Miss U.S.A. caliber either. While she wasn’t voted the winner by America, Dia wasn’t far behind. Only 2% separated her from Javier Colon, the guy who already had “the voice,” even before he joined the show.

I don’t think there was a doubt in anyone’s mind that Javier should’ve walked away with
the grand prize. Evidently he’d had a couple of non-starters at a musical career. With the unfailing love and support of his wife and 2 young daughters, as well as other family members, Javier continued to search for his breakthrough moment. Luckily for him, and for music afficionados, he found his way to The Voice, and a win he very much deserved.

Dia Frampton

Following YouTube videos are of Dia Frampton singing “Heartless,” Dia and Blake Shelton singing I Won’t Back Down,” and Javier Colon singing “Stitch by Stitch.” Hopefully these videos will convince you to tune into season two of “The Voice.”

…celebrating the voices…of this generation…hugmamma.

 

no a/c, a stroke, and bedbugs…???

Red bedbug

So we finally come to the end of this tragi-comedy about bedbugs in my daughter’s apartment, the old one that is. Content with having secured a new place in the nick of time, my daughter felt extremely fortunate to have somewhere to go, leaving her unwelcome buddies behind. (Fingers xxxxx.) But just when things seemed to be going her way, the a/c in her new apartment went on the fritz…almost immediately.

Traveling west to be with my husband and me, my daughter missed the initial couple of weeks without a/c in her new digs. A couple of friends took turns trying to have repair people stop by to put more freeon in the old a/c unit. The excuse given by the company  who was referred by the apartment’s owner and landlord, was that the technician didn’t have a ladder long enough to get to the roof where the unit stood. When my daughter and I returned to her home, that was the same excuse given by a couple of other a/c servicers. In fact one technician who did come, left without even telling us he couldn’t do the job. Not until an hour-and-a-half slipped by without a knock at the front door, did my daughter learn after calling his company that he left because they don’t service that particular brand. Upon relaying this info to the landlord, he exclaimed that the company got the brand name wrong. He indicated he would try to track down another company through the insurance he had for repair services. My daughter also gave him the name of the company whose truck we had seen in the parking lot of the neighboring apartment house, the same day our disappearing a/c guy showed up. Those workers looked like they were diligently working to get some problem resolved, even in the sweltering 90+ temperatures. As it turned out, a couple of men from that company visited my daughter’s apartment later that afternoon.

Upon checking the interior part of the a/c unit in my daughter’s apartment, it was determined that there was a leak. After reporting this to the landlord, the company’s co-owner visited us the next day under orders to do whatever it took to fix the a/c. Because it was so old, the replacement part could only be gotten from a manufacturer in Texas. It wasn’t expected to arrive until the following Tuesday, so that the a/c couldn’t be fixed until Wednesday or Thursday. That meant several days of sweltering heat inside the apartment.

Happy that the a/c was going to be fixed, I didn’t calculate the hours we would have to suffer through the 90+ degrees even as we tried to sleep. I imagined with 5 fans blowing day and night we would manage. Was I ever wrong! One night is all it took to decide that my aging body was not up to the task. I awoke to find my hands and fingers, feet and toes swollen. The blood had rushed to the surface of my skin as if to escape the confinement. I’d never had to worry about high blood pressure before. But I was certain if I slept there another night, my pressure would be through the roof!

And that’s why we made the unlikely decision to bed down with the bedbugs, my daughter on the couch, me on the bed in the second bedroom. Because both had been treated, we hoped we wouldn’t make a hearty 9-course meal for any starving bedbugs. I think we willed ourselves not to scratch. 

My daughter’s new landlord must’ve “paid an arm and a leg” to repair the a/c. Besides it being an emergency repair with a new servicer, the necessary part had to be Fed Exed from out of state, and a crane was hired to haul the a/c from atop the apartment building so that it could be fixed on the ground and then put back in place. Added to that, the servicer had to repair the indoor unit which had been leaking the freeon. Why the a/c was installed atop the three-story building in the first place is unknown to us. I guess things were done differently in the 70s. But it was while my daughter and I were waiting for the a/c to be fixed that we got food poisoning. After that, everything else  became “background music.”

A Bed Bath and Beyond store in a shopping cent...

Image via Wikipedia

How did we manage to contract salmonella, you ask? Well on one of our outings to Bed, Bath and Beyond to secure new pillows and their corresponding bedbug resistant covers, we stopped to buy a few groceries on the way home. Remember, the temperatures were in the mid-90s. Deciding to eat a light, healthy lunch, we opted for a veggie platter. Not realizing that the included dip was probably turning rancid as we drove another 20 minutes home, we proceeded to chow down once there. With floor fans set to their highest levels, we munched away feeling the cool blasts on our faces and bodies. Mind you, the indoor temperature over the next several hours was also in the mid-90s. It’s my belief that we were ignorant to the fact that salmonella was probably making its way into our digestive tracts. My daughter’s case may have been slightly more severe since she also feasted on a dessert of chocolate pudding pie. Something we’d picked up from a nearby restaurant the day before, which served up real southern cooking, a haven for high cholesterol foods.

As I mentioned before, my daughter’s recovery from food poisoning went relatively smoothely. There were no residual effects, unlike my bout. While my vomiting and diarrhea ended, the nausea, queasiness, and mild dizziness persisted. I just didn’t feel 100%. A couple of times I was overcome by tears, so frustrated that I couldn’t attack the chores with the same gusto I’d had prior to being ill. The second time was when I heard my husband’s voice on the phone asking how we were. Bawling, I told him how much I missed him and couldn’t wait for him to arrive to assume control. My brains were “fried,” I told him.

I’d wanted to accomplish so much before my husband joined us. Because of the extreme heat and humidity I feared his asthma would flare up if he tried to do too much. I didn’t want him landing in the ER during his short, four day visit. I even contracted a private mover to transport my daughter’s large pieces of furniture from one apartment to another. The price was fair for the heavy lifting involved, and the 2 flights of stairs the men had to climb at her new place. My husband was immensely grateful for my last minute decision to hire someonelse. He’d forgotten how weighty the huge, glass bookcase was. Not one to drink bottles and bottles of water, my husband felt moving such massive furniture in the heat would have been very difficult for him. I also took pity on any male dancer friend of my daughter’s who had offered their services. I didn’t want their aches and pains or worse, broken bones, on my conscience.

Grateful for my husband’s contribution to our ongoing efforts to move stuff from storage to the old apartment, and then to the new apartment, I continued to deal with the lingering effects of food poisoning. It was distressing to have to stop what I was doing and rest until I felt better. I attempted to ignore what I was feeling, but wasn’t able to in the end. I had to give in, and go with what was happening. Such an occasion occurred while we were shopping for hardware at a local Lowe’s Hardware.

 

A typical Lowe's storefront in Santa Clara, Ca...

Image via Wikipedia

 

Walking up and down the aisles looking at storage paraphernalia, I felt lightheaded, as if I were about to faint. After a few more aisles, I nearly passed out. We decided to leave, my husband quickly making his purchases. He headed out to get the car so that he could pick me up at the exit. My family and I decided I should go to a nearby walk-in clinic.

Upon arrival at the clinic, I felt spacey. My husband and daughter each held an elbow as they escorted me inside where I immediately took a seat. My husband checked me in and filled out the necessary paperwork. When my name was called, my daughter accompanied me in to see the doctor. After waiting a short while, he appeared. After asking me questions, and listening to my replies, he asked me to follow his moving finger with my eyes. I did okay although I felt myself struggling a bit. The doctor then asked me to stand and walk towards him, which I did with some hesitation. After I sat down, he advised us that I might be having a stroke. I must admit, strokes never come to mind when I feel something might be awry. Heart attack, maybe. Stroke, never. And yet two of my brothers have had strokes, serious ones, from which they’ve thankfully recovered.

ER (TV series)

Image via Wikipedia

At the doctor’s insistence I went to the nearest ER. I think my husband and daughter were somewhat alarmed as we drove to the hospital near my daughter’s new apartment. I was going to the same ER I’d taken my daughter to in February, when she suffered from an unremitting migraine headache. I think I felt relieved that I might finally discover why I wasn’t “up to snuff.” I was really sick of feeling sick!

Unlike the lengthy wait my daughter had during her prior visit, I bypassed much of the bureaucratic mumbo-jumbo because I was a possible stroke victim. It didn’t help when I burst into tears because I couldn’t remember what day it was when the receptionist asked me. I turned to my husband for help, crying as I asked him what day he’d arrived. Even as I lay on the hospital bed answering the doctor’s questions, I felt I had to will myself to relax, taking my time to mouthe the answers.

Treatment began with forcing fluids into me intravenously, along with a medicine for nausea. After that there was an EKG, cat scans of my brain, and abdomen (I’d felt a sharp pain when the doctor’s hand compressed my side), and a chest xray. I’d also given them a urine sample. Happily, all tests came back negative for a stroke, heart problem, appendicitis, or anythingelse. And by the time the fluids had made their way throughout my body, I was feeling much better. So in the end I was probably suffering extreme dehydration brought on by my bout of food poisoning, and possibly some heat exhaustion as well.

With my new lease on life, we finally settled our daughter into her new apartment, cleaned out the old one, assembled a treasure trove of stuff for her to cart off to Goodwill, and transported a nominal amount into her storage unit for safekeeping. The last 2 nights my husband and I were with her, my daughter and I were up Saturday until 4 a.m. putting things away. On Sunday my husband fell asleep on the air mattress (not the old one, but a new one) at 2 a.m. I remained up again with my daughter, laying down for just one hour before getting up to prepare myself for the trip home to Seattle. Grateful for all my husband and I had done, our daughter tumbled contentedly back into bed after our car drove away.  

I’m sure you’ll understand now why my daughter and I agree that “you should let the bedbugs bite.” It makes life a helluva lot easier that way…

 

Halloween Parade 2007: Bedbugs!

Image by LarimdaME via Flickr

 

you think?…hugmamma. 😉

tv genie…real life mom

Have just finished reading Barbara Eden‘s autobiography. Remember her as the genie in the bottle in “I Dream of Jeannie?” A favorite sitcom of mine at the time it aired in the mid-60s, I’m sure she was the fantasy of every young girl who wanted to be like Jeannie, and every man, young and old, who wanted to be her master, aka Captain Tony Nelson. Because I looked nothing like Barbara Eden, blonde, blue-eyed, I don’t think I was as fixated on her as I was on her cute leading man, Larry Hagman. I probably tuned in as often as I could to drool over his good looks. I thought the show was funny, although I liked it a lot better when Tony finally stopped running away from Jeannie’s advances. They made a cute, TV couple; I thought they’d make a great pair in real life too. But I guess I was wrong.

It’s obvious that Eden admired Hagman’s acting, and shared a lasting friendship with him, but according to her, he was like the Tasmanian devil…hell on wheels!

On one unforgettable occasion, when Larry didn’t like a particular script, his answer was to throw up all over the set. Nerves? Method acting? I didn’t stick around long enough to find out, but took refuge in the sanctuary of my dressing room instead.

In many ways, Larry was like a very talented, troubled child whose tantrums sometimes got the better of his self-control. The crew, however, quickly lost patience with him and vented their frustration by cutting him dead as often as possible and tormenting him however and whenever they could. Once when Larry demanded a cup of tea (as opposed to his habitual champagne), the crew, exasperated by his high-handedness and demands that a scene be reshot because he didn’t like that particular segment of the script, put salt in his tea instead of sugar.

When the unsuspecting Larry took a sip and spat the tea out in disgust, the entire set rocked with suppressed laughter from the delighted crew, who probably would have applauded if they could have, they so enjoyed humiliating poor Larry.

In real life, Eden was happily married to fellow actor Michael Ansara. Of Lebanese descent, he was two when his parents moved the family to America. She raved of him…

As far as I–and thousands of fans and love-struck female fans throughout the world–was concerned, Michael Ansara was a magnificent specimen of alpha-male masculinity. Six foot four and darkly handsome, with blazing brown eyes, a deep, resonant voice, and a powerful aura of strength and dependability, Michael was a Hollywood heart-throb with sex appeal to burn.

I think we get the picture. If Ansara had portrayed a genie competing with Tony Nelson for Jeannie’s hand on the TV sitcom, I wonder if Eden could’ve refrained from revealing to the audience which of her two suitors really had her in the palm of his hands?

I’m sure you’ve surmised that Eden and Ansara tied the knot. Seven-and-a-half years after marrying they were delighted to welcome son Matthew, a month before the premiere of “I Dream of Jeannie.”  ... with husband Michael Ansara and son Matthew - i-dream-of-jeannie photoBecause her career climbed while her husband’s nose-dived, Eden became the family breadwinner. For the most part the arrangement seemed to work just fine, for as she explained at the conclusion of her book…

The wonderful thing about my business and about my life is that I never know what’s around the corner. I’m very lucky to like what I do and to be able to work at it so happily and for so long. I’ve always considered my career to be a great joy and a great gift. I love it, and long may it continue.

But her career took its toll on her marriage, her son, and another baby boy as yet unborn. It was this chain of events that convinced me to share Eden’s story with you, which I’d intended to do yesterday, Mother’s Day. What she endured is a tragic example of a wife and mother who tries to do everything, to be everything to all people.

… Ten years into our marriage, I gave an achingly honest interview to a newspaper journalist about the problems Michael and I encountered in our marriage.

“My husband, Michael,” I said, “is becoming more and more annoyed watching me go to work every day while he sits home. He hates the thought of it. I don’t blame him. There isn’t a man around who enjoys the feeling that his wife is the breadwinner and brings home the bacon. I know it’s uncomfortable for Michael. What are we going to do about it? I wish I knew…All I’m sure of is that Michael would give anything to see our positions reversed.” …

Difficult or not, Michael and I had no plans to end our marriage, and we still loved each other as much as we ever had. Then in 1971, to our delight, I became pregnant with our second child.

Even their son Matthew was excited at the prospect of a baby brother. Good fortune seemed to bless her with more good news when she was offered the opportunity to tour America for 10 weeks in not one, but two musicals, “The Unsinkable Molly Brown,” and “The Sound of Music.” She signed on against her better judgment, for she was in her late thirties and was already feeling the effects of already having acted, sung, and danced “nonstop all over the country for so many years.” For once in her life she was “overcome by a burning desire to refuse not just one job but two.”

But Michael was not working, and if I didn’t take this opportunity, our family would go hungry. Although I knew in my heart that this wasn’t the case, against my better judgment, I agreed to star in both musicals and tour the country right up until I was eight months pregnant.

She took precautions, checking in with doctors wherever she toured, who were recommended by her L.A. physician. But upon finally returning home and being examined by her own doctor, she learned what no mother wants to hear.

My baby was dead. His umbilical cord had been crushed, and there was nothing anyone could do to save him. I say him, because the doctor told me that my unborn baby was a boy. The doctor also told me that in all his many years of practice, he had never encountered a case like mine.

Worse yet, Eden says…

I only knew that I had to carry my dead baby inside of me for six more weeks, because were the doctors to deliver his lifeless body before then, my own life could be endangered. In hindsight, this is a barbaric, outmoded medical practice, and thankfully it is no longer done.

Upon reading this, I recollected overhearing adults whisper of such instances when I was growing up. I didn’t know what it all meant, except that a woman had to carry the dead fetus the entire nine months. There’d be no shortcuts. Needless to say the ordeal took its toll on Eden, who unknowingly succumbed to postpartum depression. After 15 years of marriage she divorced Ansara who was bewildered by her decision. And in retrospect, she regrets not having sought counseling to save her marriage. For the consequences took its toll on their son. “But I still regret our divorce, because the repercussions it would one day have on Matthew would turn out to be cataclysmic. Had I been able to look into a crystal ball at that time, I would have stayed in the marriage until Matthew was an adult. but I didn’t.”

In 1974, Michael, Matthew, and I were living in our ranch-style home in the San Fernando Valley, a prosperous community of well-heeled, well-educated people. Little did we know that someone who lived close by, a wealthy hippie, a man with children of his own, was growing pot in his garden and smoking it with the neighborhood kids. I guess that particular person thought that what he was doing was fun, cool, harmless. If I ever came face-to-face with him, I’d happily kill him.

Fate is so strange, and I often ask myself this question: if Michael and I had lived in another neighborhood, not one where our neighbor was growing pot and handing it out to kids like some kind of candy, would Matthew have avoided becoming a drug addict?

But the reality may well be different. Marijuana can be an extremely addictive drug, and the addiction is intensified if a child not only starts smoking when he is extremely young but also has a marked genetic predisposition to addiction. Sadly, Matthew fell into both categories. Michael and I both had alcoholism in our respective families. Michael’s grandfather was an alcoholic, as were both my mother’s older sister and her brother. Matthew’s early addiction to marijuana easily led to an addiction to harder drugs later on.

Another factor, one for which I will blame myself to my dying day, is that Matthew was only nine when I asked Michael for a divorce, and he never really recovered from having his hitherto happy home broken up. …

…on the morning of June 26, (2001) all my worst fears came true. Matthew was dead. …He was just thirty-five years old.

Barbara Eden’s life continued in the same way that all our lives do…with its ups and downs. Although Michael Ansara remains the “love of her life,” she has found happiness with her third husband, Jon Eicholtz, a builder/developer.

a mom who tried to do it all…and in my estimation…remained a classy lady despite her tragic losses…hugmamma.

 

please visit…#2

My ongoing challenge to you, dear readers, will be to “please visit” other blogs in the WordPress community. There are literally millions of others whose voices want to be heard. I can’t guarantee you’ll love all that you “hear.” But they will definitely broaden your outlooks, as they’ve already begun to enlarge and in many cases, enhance, mine.

One of the better advantages of the internet, I find, is the capacity to meet people I would otherwise never know. Not only that, but be allowed inside their private world, be privvy to their innermost thoughts, probably be told things that not even those they hold dearest and nearest know. It’s mind-blowing, if you think of it.

Mark Zuckerberg at South by Southwest in 2008.

Image via Wikipedia

Which came first, blogging or facebooking? I don’t know, but they both serve a great purpose, social networking. Although I’m not an avid Facebooker, since blogging occupies the majority of my computer time, there’s no denying that Facebook has risen to the top of the ranks in social influence. Its millions of users are able to change the course of history with a click of their computer keys. Who knew that it would be a global power player? Maybe Mark Zuckerberg had the tiniest inkling when he founded the media Goliath.

A man wearing a tin foil hat

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But my ramblings about social networking are to largely encourage you to visit 3 sites I’ve recently discovered. Beyond a small introduction, I’ll let you discern more about the bloggers for yourselves. “Ramblings of an Emmett” is a single mom’s adventure. She writes from the heart, and shares moments of joy, as well as frustrations. A recent post about her dad resonated with me. “Haleywhitehall” writes beautifully of sweet remiscences. There’s a light and airy feel to her blog. I don’t recollect that she rants about causes, as I’m oft inclined to do. And finally, “Beneath the Tin Foil Hat,” which I’ve just now discovered is poised to take on any ultra-conservatives among you. He makes no bones about being a liberal, probably as left-wing as he can get. I can sense a big heart beneath his brawn. He and I agreed that the current NFL-management money brouhaha is much ado about greed. As I’ve said before, athletes like professional dancers, get paid “peanuts” by comparison, but show up for work every day because of their passion for their job. I wonder if these over-paid, over-coddled, self-aborbed football players would perform for “peanuts,” for the love of the game? What do you think?

go become a “site-seer”…notice my new gizmo in the right side bar of my blog…it’s still getting “up to speed”…hugmamma.

“point, and shoot!”

Had a great “date day” with my hubby. After a 20-25 minute drive to a massage appointment that turned out not to be until next weekend, we headed into Seattle.

Recent events of the last several weeks had me rescheduling appointments. Unfortunately I didn’t make the changes where they counted, on my calendar. Seniors know we have to write everything down. I forgot to do that, so we were surprised when a note on my massage therapist’s door said “Closed. Returning at 1 p.m.” Like a scrabble game, my brain started rearranging my thoughts and came up with “OMG! What date is this?” After being told, by my husband, that it was March 5th, we burst into laughter at my senior moment. “Oh well,” I said, “the ride through the countryside was beautiful. Now we’ll be able to enjoy the urban jungle of the city.” And off we went.

The primary purpose of our trip was to see about getting tickets for the musical, “Billy Elliott.” Online tickets were pricey, and the available seats didn’t look good. As always the “doubting Thomas,” I wanted to stand at the box-office window, ask the person sitting there for the prices, and look at the seating chart. I also wanted to query her as to her thoughts about the location of the seats. Which seats are better, these or those? I prefer the human touch, over the computer “clicks.” Call me old-fashioned, or old-school, or just old. It’s a generational thing, whatever you call it.

Pike Place Market in Seattle

Image via Wikipedia

After finding out that the box-office was only open Mondays through Fridays, we cheerily wandered down the street toward Pike Place Market. My hubby will return and check out the ticket situation. If we see “Billy Elliott,” fine. If not, the movie version of several years ago suffices.

As we wandered down sidewalks overflowing with Saturday shoppers, I decided to capture images with my camera. I was fascinated with shops along the way. At Barney’s New York, I stopped to take photos of words boldly written across their over-sized windows. They spoke of backstage happenings. Of course I was captivated.

My daughter’s often spoken of things that occur behind the scenes at ballet performances. One particular incident involved a fellow, male dancer carrying her from the stage “wings” where she was crouching in pain, backstage to the physical therapist’s station, where the “charley-horse” in her calve muscle could be checked out. This prevented my daughter from dancing in the finale. With the help of female dancers gathered around, her costume was quickly removed, and her understudy was just as quickly shoved into it. And as the saying goes, it was “on with the show.”

The sun’s warmth felt glorious! My husband kept up with me as I wend my way in and out of the crowd, stopping to snap pictures of Macy’s windows with mannequins in funky

outfits, a boutique window with artsy graphics, a “Chocolate” shop I’d never noticed on previous visits.

Everything looks delicious when I don’t have to dodge raindrops. I lingered everywhere, on curbsides, in the cozy courtyard of a small hotel near Pike Place Market, and then, of course, the market itself.

People were everywhere, soaking up the unique sights, smells and sounds of food booths, craft booths, flower booths, produce stalls, fish stalls. My absolute favorite is the vendor who sells fresh-roasted nuts. I never leave without a pound of her cashew nuts. Today, I also purchased a pound of toffee-covered nuts for my husband’s “sweet-sour tooth,” a mixture of peanuts and hazelnuts. These nuts are never a disappointment! And I’m a nut aficionado. I love cashew chicken, goobers, “turtles,” chocolate-covered macadamia nuts, almond rocha, almond joy, and on and on.

Making our way back from where we came, the downtown area, I turned my camera on passersby. People fascinate me, all kinds. I wanted to capture Seattlites, although I’m sure they weren’t all city-dwellers. Nonetheless, when I asked if I could photograph them, I said it was to let readers of my blog see the people of Seattle. All but one responded with smiles and nods of agreement.

I’m sure I startled those on the other side of window fronts, a chef preparing ingredients, a couple of guys eating lunch,  and a Sephora makeup artist doing her thing. Caught up in playing amateur photographer, I approached a mother and daughter, a woman waiting outside a shop with her luggage, sales people in the coolest, new clothing store, “All Saints…,” and a street musician.

I was delighted to buy the street newspaper, “Real Change,” from an amiable homeless man. But another homeless person, an elderly woman, stopped me dead in my tracks. I’d never seen a woman who looked like a school teacher, or a librarian, or an office worker, leaning up against a lamp-post, plastic bags gathered around, dressed in an oversized, yellow, rubber raincoat with a long, green scarf snuggly wrapped about her head, cup in hand, begging. Wanting to “tell” her story, I asked if I could take a picture of her. Eyeglasses cast a shadow, while a small smile softened the blow of her emphatic “no,” in response. As we stood, a guy who looked to be in his late 20s, early 30s, pressed a plastic bag containing a boxed lunch into the woman’s grateful hands. He was on his way, before she fully mouthed her words of thanks. Oblivious to my presence, she hungrily removed the bag’s contents, murmuring how she really needed the food. As I pressed a $5 bill into her free hand, her eyes widened in disbelief. I can only imagine that she felt today was a good day. But as I walked away, I wondered about her tomorrows.

My husband said it best when he declared of me…”You dance to the beat of a different drummer.”

he’s right…i come up with my own “choreography”…hugmamma.

“true you,” more than enough

Almost done reading True You: A Journey To Finding And Loving Yourself by Janet Jackson. Yes, she’s “the” Janet Jackson, sister of Michael Jackson. But I wouldn’t have read it for that reason alone. Interviews of her by Meredith Vieira, and then by Piers Morgan, piqued my interest. Prior to that, I really wasn’t motivated to know more about Janet. Other than her videos, songs and a couple of films, she wasn’t in the media, unless it was to do with her more famous sibling. The youngest Jackson, and second most celebrated, Janet favored living her personal life in the shadows. The reason, as revealed in her book, is that she has suffered low self-esteem her entire life.

True You is probably one of the best biographies I’ve read to date, although Janet doesn’t refer to it as such. She prefers to think of it as a spiritual and physical journey towards accepting and loving, one’s true self. The unique element about her story is its compassion throughout. There’s nothing narcissitic about the book, although the focus is obviously upon her. Janet bares her soul, but does so in relation to her commonality with all of us. We can all relate to her experiences. She’s one of us. And that’s where she seems most comfortable. She appreciates and is grateful for her position and wealth, but not at all like the other so-called “rich and famous.” While Michael remains my favorite performer, Janet is definitely my choice for BFF, that is if I had a choice.

One of the things I enjoy most is how Janet weaves anecdotes shared with her by others, whether personal acquaintances, or strangers who have written letters. Their stories are as poignant as hers, and she generously acknowledges this by featuring them throughout the pages of her book. I like that about Janet, her generosity and her humility too. Wish Michael could have been as balanced in his personal life. But his sister admits that it has taken all of her 40+ years to get where she’s at, and she’s still not done yet.

a lesson for all of us…True You …hugmamma.

oprah’s half-sister, patricia

Now that Oprah’s leaving her talk show after 25 years, I’ve become more of a regular viewer than in all the years past. Never a fan of shows that sensationalize the problems of others, I pretty much stayed away from all day time talk shows. Oprah has definitely evolved from her early days as TV talk host, making her show more varied, with professional as well as amateur, singers and dancers gracing the stage from time to time. Again, however, I was still selective. Too, I wasn’t one to sit in front of the flat screen panel for hours on end.

Now that Oprah is nearing the end of her run on NBC, I’ve managed to catch some of her shows, especially since I’ve finally registered that it’s always on at 4 p.m. Pacific Standard Time. One of my favorite segments to date, after Oprah’s interviews with Lisa Marie Presley and Katherine Jackson, was yesterday’s when it was revealed that the talk show hostess has a half-sister.

What moved me, yes to tears, was the obvious connection between siblings who have only recently found one another. Patricia, the younger of the 2, was given up for adoption in the hospital, immediately after birth. Her life thereafter was spent in and out of many foster homes, some good, some bad. Many years later she decided to search for her birth mother. When she contacted the Milwaukee Social Services Department she learned she had siblings. She saw their names and birth dates on records sent to her by the department, but her mother’s name was withheld.

While watching Oprah’s show one day, Patricia saw Oprah’s mom who revealed details about her other children. Patricia called her own daughter to join in watching the program. It became clear to both, that Oprah’s siblings were, in fact, Patricia’s as well, according to her birth documents.

Since that time in 2007, Patricia tried to make contact with Oprah, without success. Even Patricia’s pastor communicated with Oprah’s pastor to no avail. When Oprah learned that something was afoot, she confronted the executive producer of her show who confirmed that she might indeed have a sibling of whom Oprah wasn’t aware.

Yesterday’s show included a home video of this past Thanksgiving Day when Oprah met Patricia for the first time in her humble home, over dinner. Both looked joyful beyond words to have found one another. And in closing her show, Oprah expressed her gratitude to her half-sister for not having sold her story to the media long before now. That, Oprah felt, was a sign of Patricia’s true character. And what did she get from all this, Oprah asked Patricia? “Family! I got family, nieces and nephews…and you, Oprah.” In that moment, I felt, and Oprah probably did as well, that Patricia had given her sister the greatest gift anyone could ever give billionaire Oprah Winfrey: pure, unadulterated love. As a bonus, Patricia gave her 2 grown children, family, which they hadn’t had before.

Oprah has everything money can buy, and some. It warms my heart to see her in the company of simple people, like us. Celebrities are fine, but they’re not like us. So when Oprah is in their company, she seems unavailable to “normal” folk. While she certainly enjoys the friendship of the elite, she seems to relish time with those from whom she came. Oprah’s roots run deep. Every so often, her roots are “uncovered.” That’s the Oprah Winfrey I enjoy seeing.

hugs for patricia, who never gave up on herself, and Oprah…hugmamma.

not a job for everyone, ballet

Hollywood is coming out with yet another ballet film, The Black Swan, starring Natalie Portmann. My daughter and I saw the trailer for it before the feature film Burlesque, starring Christina Aguilera  and Cher. We couldn’t say enough great things about Burlesque. On the other hand, The Black Swan will not get my money. Out of curiosity, my daughter may see it with her dancer friends. I’m not a fan of Stephen King books or films, and this latest dance movie seems to fit that bill.

Last night on one of the entertainment news shows, Natalie Portmann and Milla Kunes spoke briefly of their experience during filming of The Black Swan. They both implied that there was a mean-spiritedness among ballet dancers. There was no indication whether or not they worked with a real ballet company, or if they were speaking from hearsay. Generalizing that ballet dancers are one thing or another in a news clip, doesn’t make it true.

 The media has done a good job to help stereotype people from all walks of life. Don’t we all know more than we care to know, about Lindsay Lohan and Brittney Spears? According to the news that drones on about these two, they are out-of-control, spoiled-rotten, alcoholics. I’d just as soon leave them alone to sort out their own lives. Give me a break, and them.

I personally think ballet is not the right fit for everyone. Moms wanting their toddlers to dance prettily in ballet slippers, pink leotards and tights, should be very careful not to overstep their children’s enthusiasm for the art form. When it stops being fun, or when the children have mastered all that they can, and can do no more toward advancing to higher levels, moms should accept that their children may want to, or need to, involve themselves elsewhere, where they may be happier, and more successful.

As with anything in life, parents need to walk a “fine line,” between what they want and what their children want. I think the best approach is to involve our children in the direction their lives take, on an ongoing basis. As we help them strategize we should pay heed to the signals they give off, whether vocalized or not. Of course they don’t always know what they want, but often times they know what they don’t  want. I think both are equally important. Steering them through a maze of choices is not easy for us or them.

After seeing a close friend perform in a recital, our 8-year-old daughter decided she wanted to dance. So she enrolled in jazz, tap and ballet classes at the same studio as her friend. During the three years she danced there, our daughter advanced into classes with students older than she. After year-end recitals, audience members approached my husband and I to congratulate us on our daughter’s dancing. Those were the first times I heard words I have continued to hear at her performances, “I couldn’t take my eyes off of her” or “She has tremendous stage presence.”

When we moved west, our daughter enrolled in a private studio originated by former Pacific Northwest Ballet principal, Deborah Hadley. When she first saw our daughter in a ballet class, her arched feet had Hadley inquiring “Who’s that girl?” That December, our daughter was cast in the role of ballerina doll in The Nutcracker’s  party scene. Her joy at receiving such an honor dissolved when upon opening night, the Russian teacher responsible for staging the ballet, told our daughter she had not “performed” the role, but only executed the technical steps.

When our daughter told us what had happened on the ride home, we were, of course, upset. But not wanting to cause her additional grief, I advised her instead to perform for herself, not for her teacher. I also told her something I’ve continued to tell her “Dance every role, no matter what it is, as though you’re a star. You’ll have done your very best, and that’s all you can do.”  The only thing I tell her now, before a performance is “Have fun!”

Throughout her entire journey towards a career in ballet, our daughter has received encouragement from all who have seen her dance. Teachers, artistic directors, choreographers,  and fellow dancers,  have consistently told us that she had great potential. Audience members have congratulated her performances. I was most moved when a brother-in-law, who saw her dance for the first and only time, said his eyes welled with tears when he watched her perform a solo with Northwest Professional Dance Program in Portland a few summers ago.

With what our daughter seemed to have going for her in talent and work ethic, becoming a professional ballet dancer was still no guarantee. There was competition, disappointments, stresses, politics, tears. Having been a corporate career person before becoming a mom, I suffered the same traumas in my workplace. The difference is I was paid better, but my daughter has more passion for her job than I had for any of several I worked.

When I moved to Atlanta to enable our 16-year-old daughter to train with Atlanta Ballet in the hopes she’d become a member, moms of students there would ask the secret to her success thus far.  I would tell them it took 50% talent, and 50% a combination of other things.

From what I could see, the right candidate for a professional dance job needed to be able to withstand the extraordinary pressures of competing for company openings, and then roles, socializing with older, more senior dancers, speaking on one’s own behalf with staff, maintaining a healthy body, physically, mentally and emotionally, and living within one’s means, on salaries that are below minimum wage in some cases. Who could, or would, want to subject themselves to such a career? Not me, but then I’m not cut out for such a life. Not many are, but my daughter is.

Just as not all people are created equal, not all ballet companies are cut from the same cloth. Probably unknown to the lay person is the fact that there are many, many, many dance companies throughout this country, and abroad.  Some are big, with 50 or more full-time dancers, and then there are companies like my daughter’s where there are only 15 members, 8 men and 7 women. Besides the difference in numbers, there’s a huge difference in budgets. Bigger companies, like Pacific Northwest Ballet, enjoy $15 million to $20 million budgets; my daughter’s gets by on a shoestring budget of $4 million.

Just as a corporation’s modus operandi  reflect the style of the  “head honcho,” the CEO/President, so too does a ballet, or modern, dance company reflect its artistic director’s style. And we all know that the top man can run the gamut, from monster to saint. Having witnessed both styles in my former career, and my husband’s and daughter’s careers, it seems what kind of boss and work environment we get is in the “luck of the draw.” I’ve always subscribed to the belief that within any organization, be it a household, a company, or a church, whatever occurs, filters from the top down. Bad management begets a bad environment begets mostly cranky, negative whiners.

So while there are ballet, and modern, dance companies who fit the descriptions of Portmann and her fellow actor, there are those like my daughter’s, whose artistic director has shown courage and concern by allowing her a 3 month leave to address health issues, with a guarantee that she can return to her job in January. He and his staff have shown her great love and support. So I know, first-hand, that one size does not fit all in the ballet world.

neither is ballet a career for everyone…hugmamma.

attractive, or irresponsible?

Ynez Sines, the Mexican sports reporter in the midst of an NFL investigation into sexual harassment charges leveled against members of the NY Jets football team, claims she is only a “witness” to the events which occurred in the locker room. Essentially, her tight jeans and white, button-down blouse provoked comments by some players. Having been within earshot, Sines twittered that she was very embarrassed and uncomfortable. Yet she explained on ” Good Morning America” and the “Today Show,” that she didn’t want the situation to become the brouhaha that it has. But now that it has, she is content to leave the matter in the hands of the NFL. Will she rethink how she dresses on the job? No, she wants to remain true to herself, dressing as she pleases.

Sines is entitled to live her life as she wishes. She’s chosen to be a sportscaster, with access to the men’s locker rooms. She’s obviously aware what presses mens’ “buttons,” athletes being no exception. That their testosterone levels are “through the roof” after exiting a game like Roman gladiators of old, should be no surprise. Being the sole woman in an atmosphere heavily laden with male hormones running wild, requires Sines have the impenetrable skin of an armadillo or a rhinoceros. Judging from her appearance, she bears no resemblance to either. She looks more like a fawn, vulnerable.

Many years ago when my daughter was still a student at a performing arts conservatory, my husband and I accompanied a group of young dancers to a dance festival in Utah. Looking forward to the trip with excitement, the teenage girls made plans including what to wear. Twelve years ago, the dress code on airplanes was not as relaxed as it is today. (But definitely more relaxed than a decade earlier.) So my daughter’s announcement that a couple of the 13 and 14 year olds planned to wear short shorts upon take-off, garnered our disapproval.

I explained that the girls would receive unwanted attention from men, whose leering glances would undoubtedly follow the youngsters sashaying their way down the aisle of the aircraft. I’m sure they would have approved if the looks came from attractive boys, but men in business suits? Picturing it, my daughter felt the image was a yucky thought. The dancer who initiated the trip’s provocative dress code eventually left the conservatory, and enrolled in a public school where she was in and out of relationships, seemingly in search of love and security. We were happy to recently learn that she is settled, enjoying marriage and motherhood.

I agree that women should do what they want to do. But I think it wise to consider the realities of life when making choices. If Sines were my daughter, I would be concerned for her safety. Dressing to look beautiful, her explanation, will draw attention, good and bad. Men shouldn’t “cross the line,” but who’s going to stop them? Rapes are reported in the news with regularity. Something snaps in a rapist’s mind, he victimizes a woman, killing her to eradicate his crime, knowing that if he’s caught he’ll most likely serve a life sentence. While that can end life as he knows it, he’s still alive and cared for, until he dies. Unfortunately his victim is gone forever. I wouldn’t want that for Sines. I wouldn’t want that for anyone’s daughter.

A woman can, and should, fight for her rights. I just think she should choose her battles, and life, so she can continue to be an activist for women’s rights.

the right choice, hugs for…hugmamma.

in the moment, “live-life-large”

In one of our many chats, my daughter spoke of the guest who has been assisting with company rehearsals for the ballet, Swan Lake. When the woman was younger, she danced with another company and had performed the lead roles of Odette, the white swan and Odile, the black swan. Throughout her coaching, she has earned the respect and admiration of all the dancers, including my daughter, who has often remarked that the woman could still perform the leads in Swan Lake despite her age. “She’s still technically strong and artistically beautiful.” One day during morning ballet class, she advised the dancers that they should work “in the moment,” focusing upon the step they were doing, not the one before, nor the one after. She also explained that they should immerse themselves completely in a role, so that when they’re done they can put the performance behind them, knowing they did their best. My daughter felt this was very sound advice, as did I.

The life of a ballet dancer seems the perfect metaphor for living life. Find one’s passion, be disciplined in working toward achieving a goal, be flexible in allowing for “detours” that will undoubtedly occur, formulate new resolutions accordingly, relish the journey for its as important as the “pot-of-gold” at the end of the rainbow. If the “pot” is not reached, the trip will still have been worthwhile because of the “nuggets” gathered along the way.

I try to “live-life-large” in the moment, savoring it with all 5 senses. Some days I’m more successful than others. I try not to think of what I might have done better in the past, or what I might accomplish in the future. If I’m blogging then I focus upon the subject at hand, bringing all my thoughts to bear. When I’m cooking, I’m Julia Child celebrating food with abandon. As housekeeper I’m my mother’s daughter, cleaning every nook and cranny with determination. When out walking Mocha, she sets the pace, sniffing every blade of grass, running freely through ground cover up to her chest or low-lying bushes, where she often does her business. When Sitka or Juneau decide to use my lap, I’ve learned to sit-a-spell reveling in their contented purrs. When I crawl into bed, usually in the wee hours of the morning, I’m grateful to have had another day of  good health, for it enabled me to “live-life-large” in the moment.

Outstanding adults who influence my daughter for the better are  a gift. She will have them in her life to reinforce the values with which she has been raised. At 24, my husband and I are no longer the center of her world, nor should we be. She is already striving to “live-life-large” in the moment, gathering “pearls of wisdom” as she  matures.

hugs for living “big”, in the moment…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.

caring friends

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

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

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

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

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

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

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