easter prayers…

Along with best wishes for a warm, sunny, spring-time Easter celebration, I would ask that you pray for our daughter who is recovering from surgery. Something occurred which requires another surgery.

Needless to say…we’re holding our breath…

…and praying…

………hugmamma.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

…i truly couldn’t want for more…

………hugmamma. 

365 photo challenge: pupil

my daughter as a pupil of ballet……………………………………………………………….

and as a professional………………. she continues to train……………….as a pupil

and i’m still learning all the intricacies of ballet………………………………………..

as a pupil of art appreciation…………………………………………………hugmamma.

“spammed” out of wordpress.com community

 

WordPress.com

Image via Wikipedia

It seems Akismet has probably decided I’m no longer welcome out there in the wordpress.com community. Can’t complain really because they’ve kept thousands of spammers from getting through to me. So I’ll keep blogging, in semi-isolation, possibly leaving comments on other blogs, hoping they’ll be “unspammed.” WordPress support staff seem as clueless as me, so there’s no real answer to my disappearing comments. Tried to post one this morning on “Success Network Recipes.” My comment “looked” like it might be accepted, but it wasn’t.

Now I know how spammers feel, except I’m not trying to coast on someone’s publications. But it is interesting to see firsthand, the downside of blogging, and technical control. When I tried to email Akismet again as suggested by a member of the wordpress.com support staff, the screen that came up asked if I wanted to buy into spam protection. Confused I emailed back to the support staff at WordPress asking if I now had to purchase spam protection. I’m awaiting their reply. The blogger of Success Network Recipes said in her post Perfect Solution for Blogging,”

This is a very good question, Lucy. Recently I noticed WordPress have been adding charges to their .com version on certain elements which were free before, such as getting your API key to activate Akismet

This is all a little frustrating, to be sure. My foray into the wider world of wordpress is probably being seen as intrusive by the controls that are locked in at Akismet. Unfortunately, the nuts and bolts of computers can’t “think outside the box.” So perhaps the human in control of making decisions is away from his station, or perhaps there’s no human at the helm. Hmmm… Makes you wonder.

The other possibility is that my user name “hugmamma” is too suggestive. When I first began blogging, I did get a few spammers who obviously thought I was a “madame.” One foreign gentleman asked what I meant when I wrote “a babe in the woods” when I spoke of being a total novice to blogging. I had to laugh at what must’ve been going through his mind. Me at 61? Duh, I don’t think so. For sure he didn’t read my “About” page.

All kidding aside, I’m in a marginal “pickle.” I can write, but I can’t participate. So I’ll go back into my hovel like a hobbit, keep writing, and ponder my options. Meanwhile I hope you’ll keep stopping by to visit and read, and hopefully leave me comments, which I promise will not be spammed. As a wise soon-to-be 25 year old soul, my beloved daughter, once said to me…

DSC_3525

Image by ph54441 via Flickr

 

the only consistent thing in life is change…so we’ll see…we’ll see…hugmamma.

inhale…exhale…2011

Not sure what the holidays have been like for you, but they seemed like a whirlwind to me. I finally feel I can breathe again, deep breaths that is, not short, gasping-for-air breaths. While I got a tremendous head start on decorating for the season, completed a couple of days prior to Thanksgiving, my life seemed to move in slow motion after that. Not that everything around me did likewise. No. It was as though I was in the audience, watching my life unfold on a theatre screen. Much of it was a blur, like going through the motions, mindlessly. Many decisions, big and small, were probably made half, not wholeheartedly. But I made it through the “speed boat ride,” enjoying the scenery that sailed by me as best I could.

Since my daughter returned home in October to recover from health issues, I’ve set my life aside. Moms do that. Nothing seems more important at the time than seeing one’s child happy and healthy again, nothing. Tears come easily when my daughter’s life has gone awry, for whatever reason. While it’s natural to advise her that things will get better, that life experiences build character, that everyone faces challenges, it seems like a never-ending repertoire of blah, blah, blah that moms access so readily. So after two-and-a-half months of it, I’m worn to the bone.

The great news is that my daughter’s feeling great, so great, that she’s returning to work on Monday, a month earlier than expected. So her support system here at home worked fabulously, from doctors and their staff, to family and friends. Even her bosses and coworkers rallied around. It was like circling the wagons in the days of the Wild West, to better fight off the attacking Indians. Well it took a “village” to successfully battle my daughter’s “Indians.”

So our family is counting its blessings as the New Year begins. My husband and I have already begun our healthful regimen, eliminating unnecessary calories and saturated fats, and exercising at least half-an-hour daily. This is not new to 2011.  It’s actually a “renewal,” since we always lose sight of our resolve throughout the old year. Life has its ups and downs, as do our eating habits. But we remain positive, and hopeful.

Recent news from a fellow dancer left our daughter elated. Upon returning to work, she will be learning the soloist’s role in a contemporary piece being staged upon her ballet company by an internationally renowned choreographer. For a dancer, that’s like taking home Olympic Gold. For our daughter, recovering from a health setback, being given the role is tremendous recognition for a decade of passion, hard work, sacrifice, and always smiling while “picking herself up and dusting herself off.”

My daughter’s journey is proof positive that a commitment to hope can have great results. But my advice to her has always been that she should enjoy the process, for even if the end result is not what she hoped for, she will have fully lived each moment along the way. And true happiness is knowing who she is every day of her life, and having no regrets about any of it, including the not-so-good moments.

And so I have no regrets about the last few months, for I did what I do best…mother. Now I must “pick myself up, dust myself off,” and return to nurturing my mind, body and soul, and that of my husband’s. As the old adage goes,“There’s no greater love than that we lay down our lives, one for another.” Doing so for my child is a no-brainer.

take a deep, luxurious breath…and dive into 2011…huge hugs…hugmamma.      

when to “cease and desist,”parenting

Sometimes parenting a daughter who is legally an adult at 24, is like “walking on eggshells,” like “walking a tightrope,” like jumping from a plane hoping my parachute will open. Until a few years ago, her life was still within the realm of our control; it still is to some degree, because we continue to offer financial support. But having lived on her own since she was 19, it’s not easy to reel her in at this stage. Not that reeling her in is necessary. But I’m sure all parents agree that there are times we are impatient to substitute our substantial years of experience, for their paltry few. My husband has no problem restraining himself. I, on the other hand, am usually chomping at the bit. This is not surprising, if you’ve been a regular reader of my blog.

Deciding to give an opinion, in the form of advice, is a slippery slope. Fortunately, I have a huge inventory of words at my disposal to wend my way in and out of a tricky conversation. It’s like fencing, or a game of chess. I move; she moves. I act; she reacts; I react, and so on, and so forth. What usually begins as opposing viewpoints, evolves into an understanding of sorts. She sees my perspective as a concerned mom, and I realize her life is hers to live. And that’s the best I can hope for, an understanding that there are 2 sides to every story. But ultimately this is my daughter’s story, not mine. Wouldn’t we all like to write a happily-ever-after for our children?

Living in an apartment together while my daughter trained as a ballerina, gave us 2 1/2  years to bond, and then separate. I knew it was time to leave her, when the time came. Weaning her from total dependence upon my husband and I, was our daughter’s rite-of-passage. And she was ready to take the reins, even though her future, personally and professionally, was far from certain. In the ensuing years, she has weathered her share of challenges, managing the repair work when her bathroom ceiling fell in, minor car accidents, the end of a long relationship, auditioning for a dance job, career politics, and health issues. We were always available, on the other end of the telephone.

Children grow up, despite our hovering. What my daughter and I have always shared, and continue to share, is a two-way conversation. We’ve never turned our backs on communication, because we know we love each other unconditionally. There are tears and raised voices, for sure, but there are calming words and soothing hugs as well.

So I continue to hover, and will probably do so until I draw my last breath. My daughter will always know where I stand. What she does with that knowledge is her decision as an adult. I can’t live her life, I can only cherish it. So while I won’t cease and desist, I will step back, knowing that my daughter is well equipped to determine the course of her life. I’ll be here when her life takes a “detour.” She will probably seek advice, and I’ll be happy to oblige. As Elizabeth Edwards told Wolf Blitzer of CNN in an interview, “There’s no mother who doesn’t want to put her two cents in.”

for staying involved, hugs…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.

“hugmamma,” where from

Thought I’d explain the choice of “hugmamma,” as my username. Have had viewers to this blog who may have visited, not understanding its content. Among other things, my primary goal is to share information that might be useful in parenting, in finding solace, in looking for spirituality, as well as for practical purposes like recipes, medical tips, books to read. 

“Hugmamma” was derived from an 80’s or 90’s children’s TV series featuring a dinosaur family. One day my daughter and I had been reminiscing about the show, during the preliminary stages of my decision to blog. We were laughing about the antics of the baby dinosaur who always reminded her mama and papa to “Hugga the baby.” The proverbial “light bulb” moment occurred. And so the name was born, ” hugga the mamma,” which was my username on another blog site, which quickly evolved into “hugmamma” on a second site, which I retained in this, my final attempt at blogging. 

As I’ve been writing, I noticed that many of my blogs dealt with “parenting,” probably because it’s an issue near and dear to me. As a result “hugmamma” took on a second, more spiritual significance, it became an homage to my mother whom I always called “mamma.” She was perhaps the stereotypical Hawaiian in her warmth and friendliness towards all. Her ready smile and hardy laughter greeted friends, as well as strangers. She always lent a sympathetic ear, and offered heartfelt advice, genuine tears flowing on occasion. She really did exemplify the “Aloha Spirit.” 

“Hugmamma” may have originated as the result of a child’s show, but its use has taken on a sweeter, more personal representation. For good or bad, I believe daughters become their mothers, for they are our first role models. While she was not perfect, for she had human failings, my mom exemplified someone who cared about others, a true Christian at heart. She left me that legacy, and I hope I can pass it along to my daughter, a generational gift to be shared.

hugs for…my mama…hugmamma.

lesson learned, valuable

Over dinner last night my daughter and I had a conversation that brought tears to my eyes. Yes, even soulful words can start the waterworks flowing. As a mom, I’ve always been hopeful that my 24-year-old can learn valuable lessons at a young age, without having to go through the process of trial and error as I have. I think that’s something all parents would like for their children. We would all like to spare our offspring the heartache of heartbreak, whatever the issues, be they a first love, a first job, a first boss, a first fight with a best friend. But as much as we might want, we can’t shoulder their burdens for the rest of their lives or ours. Their growth will be “stunted,” not to mention our own. Life is ongoing, never static, change happens whether we like it or not.

A confluence of things brought my daughter to the realization that she should “live life large in the moment,” my mantra. Taking a cue from last Sunday’s homily wherein the message was that as disciples we should “hate” all others and commit to God, she realized that her relationship with Him was more important than any other, even ours. I agreed. God has given her life, and gifts with which to do her best each day,  including compassion towards herself and others, and hope, always hope.  He makes no demands, except that she make use of her gifts as best she can. Succumbing to the demands of others, placing them above God’s and her own, can lead to confusion and repression. I know, for I have been guilty of playing the victim to others bullying. Once I regained control of my own life taking stock of my “gifts,” I moved forward, contented with who I am and the contributions I could make to others. Of course the struggle never ends, for there’s a fine balance in knowing when to keep to my own counsel and when to seek wisdom from others. But I now know to only look to those who love me and genuinely care for my well-being, not those who want to live my life for me because they deem to know what’s best. So I give my daughter credit for arriving at this knowledge early on, with her life still unfolding before her.

Two books, both made into movies, also influenced my daughter’s youthful wisdom, “A Walk to Remember” by Nicholas Sparks, and “Eat, Pray, Love” by Elizabeth Gilbert. Each in its own way left an impression that one can consciously choose to live one’s life with hope, joy and fulfillment. Sparks’ novel is of a man who has become a better person because of his teenage love, a girl dying of cancer who until her death, unselfishly helps others in need. Gilbert’s is a personal journey of self-realization and resultant happiness with who she is without the artificial trappings of her former life.

My daughter and I find ourselves on the “same page” in life, she at 24, me at 61, loving ourselves for who we are and grateful for the gifts given us by God, humbled to be  sharing them with others.

each one is special, in His eyes…hugmamma.

parenting, a forever “job”

When my daughter called asking if I’d visit with her, I didn’t hesitate. My husband quickly arranged for Southwest nonstop tickets to the east coast. I’ve been here a couple of weeks, enjoying a very relaxing time doing what I do best, mothering. Gone all day to rehearsals, my daughter arrives home to a hot meal, lovingly prepared. Cooking for her, someone who not only appreciates a delicious meal, but also the labor involved, motivates me to be the gourmet chef I know I can be. It’s not always in evidence, for I am prone to bouts of laziness, preferring to order take-out. But seeing my daughter walk through the front door, sniffing the air, “oohing and aahing” over the smells emanating from the kitchen, I relish being “Mother of the Year” to my 24-year-old, independent, career ballerina.

Scarfing down a delicious meal, clearing away the dishes and food, we settle down to playing  bananagrams. A nightly ritual, we go several rounds. Where I may have won most games when I first arrived; we are now evenly matched. My daughter wins some; and I win some. We both like the odds so much better than when my husband joins us.

Having been a voracious reader for decades, my husband almost always wins at word games, including crosswords and Scrabble. I’d given up playing these and other games, like cards, with him because he was merciless in his desire to win. He still is. My only recourse then (and now) was to threaten to throw over the game, board, pieces, cards, whatever. Threats and pleas fell on deaf ears. The man was (and remains) a gladiator in his own home, battling until he’s defeated his opponent, left whimpering and pouting, swearing never to enter into another match again…ever! Game playing is the rare occasion when being the youngest sibling in my family and his being the eldest in his, has the hairs on my neck standing straight up in defiance. Unlike the old days of my childhood, I refuse to give in and give up. In other words, I’m no longer inclined to “lay down and die.” Perhaps not engaging in game playing for decades has contributed to our happy marriage of 40 years. Hey, whatever it takes!

Time to get dinner started. Showtime is in an hour or so. Don’t want to disappoint my audience of one. She always appreciates my mothering, whether long distance or in person. It’s wonderful that my 24-year-old still needs me at 61. Parenting has always been my favorite job!

and am glad it’s, forever…hugmamma.

return to venice

During a recent visit to Venice I felt a longing to return someday and spend more time, perhaps a month. Living as a local, I wanted to wander the narrow alleyways as if time were a luxury. Traveling the globe as a tourist is not my idea of experiencing the real face of a country. Doing so seems more like being on this side of the glass in an aquarium, observing underwater creatures swimming blithely through their sea world. With eyes wide, face pressed close, my imagination wanders, piercing the “barrier” separating me from them, be they natives of the sea or of the land. Momentarily, I’m one of them. Excitement lures me in, but fear of the unknown pulls me back into the comfort of my own skin. I envy those who can abandon themselves to what’s new, undeterred by the consequences. Like the “I Love Lucy” episode where she, wanting to “soak up local color” to prepare for a small part in an Italian movie, is drenched in grape juice when she wrestles with a villager in a vat of grapes. I’m up to scheming like Lucy, but lack her bravado in following through. What is it that holds me back? Is it my island mentality, older age, my husband’s antipathy for “dancing on the edge,” or my dysfunctional past? Whatever it is, I am fine living within this “moment.” But life has a way of changing things up, so I never say never.

A Thousand Days in Venice is the author’s story of her life-altering, middle-aged marriage to a Venetian. “He saw her across the Piazza San Marco and fell in love from afar. When he sees her again in a Venice cafe’ a year later, he knows it is fate. He knows little English; she, a divorced American chef, speaks only food-based Italian. Marlena thinks she is incapable of intimacy, that her heart has lost its capacity for romantic love. But within months of their first meeting, she has packed up her house in St. Louis to marry Fernando–“the stranger,” as she calls him–and live in that achingly lovely city in which they met.”

There are revealing moments in their relationship. When Fernando makes his first trip to America to see Marlena in St. Louis, she asks why the hasty visit, since she’d just arrived home a couple of days before. In response he explains that he was “…tired of waiting. I understand now about using up my time. Life is this conto, account,” said the banker in him. ‘It’s an unknown quantity of days from which one is permitted to withdraw only one precious one of them at a time. No deposits accepted. …I’ve used so many of mine to sleep. One by one, I’ve mostly waited for them to pass. It’s common enough for one to simply find a safe place to wait it all out. Every time I would begin to examine things, to think about what I felt, what I wanted, nothing touched, nothing mattered more than anything else. I’ve been lazy. Life rolled itself out and I shambled along sempre due passi indietro, always two steps behind. Fatalita, fate. Easy. No risks. Everything is someone else’s fault or merit. And so now, no more waiting,’ …”

Laughing until she cries at something he said, Fernando asks ‘And about those tears. How many times a day do you cry?’ Later Marlena’s thoughts return to his question, “Much of my crying is for joy and wonder rather than for pain. A trumpet’s waiting, a wind’s warm breath, the chink of a bell on an errant lamb, the smoke from a candle just spent, first light, twilight, firelight. Everyday beauty. I cry for how life intoxicates. And maybe just a little for how swiftly it runs.”

My daughter has said more than once that my tear ducts are intertwined with my heart-strings. My tears flow easily when she is ecstatic or unhappy, during old films, when listening to sad, or happy, news. I don’t think I cry as much as I laugh, but it probably runs a close second. During Mass yesterday, I braced myself for a hymn that always brings a lump to my throat and tears to my eyes. “Be Not Afraid” had been a favorite of the pastor who presided over our 100-year-old church in Redding. He’d baptized our 5 month-old, walking her proudly down the aisle, showing her off to fellow parishioners.

Father Conlisk was a close family friend who dined with us regularly. During a visit I asked our toddler to go and find her father, in answer to which she readily climbed up onto the priest’s lap. One particular Christmas morning as we sat in the front pew at church, he asked her if she’d been visited by someone special. Without hesitation she showed him Dumbo the elephant, her new stuffed animal. He held it up for all to see; the congregation broke into peels of laughter.

When Father died as a result of lung cancer, I took our daughter to the funeral Mass at our small church and later, to one held in a larger church at a nearby parish. Both times I allowed her to stand just outside the pew, so she would have a better view of the proceedings. In preparation, I explained that Father Conlisk had gone to Heaven where he would be free from pain, and find happiness with God. We  followed others to the gravesite, where I showed our 5-year-old Father’s final resting place. I think she found closure because from then on, she seemed to accept his absence from our lives. Perhaps it also helped that we became good friends with the priest who replaced Father Conlisk.

So like Marlena, I tend to shed tears for “Everyday beauty…for how life intoxicates. And maybe just a little for how swiftly it runs.” What we may all have in common with the author is “this potentially destructive habit of mental record-keeping that builds, distorts, then breaks up and spreads into even the farthest flung territories of reason and consciousness. What we do is accumulate the pain, collect it like cranberry glass. We display it, stack it up into a pile. Then we stack it up into a mountain so we can climb up onto it, waiting for, demanding sympathy, salvation. ‘Hey, do you see this? Do you see how big my pain is?’ We look across at other people’s piles and measure them, shouting, ‘My pain is bigger than your pain.’ It’s all somehow like the medieval penchant for tower building. Each family demonstrated its power with the height of its own personal tower. One more layer of stone, one more layer of pain, each one a measure of power. I’d always fought to keep dismantling my pile, to sort and reject as much of the clutter as I could. Now, even more, I made myself look back straight into that which was over and done with, and that which would never be. I was determined to go to Fernando, and if there was to be some chance for us to take our story beyond this beginning, I knew I would have to go lightly. I was fairly certain the stranger’s piles would provide enough work for both of us.”

We all seem to emerge from childhood with “baggage.” Perhaps a lucky few escape, body, mind and spirit intact. But spending our adulthood living in the past, wastes what’s left of a good life. As we peel away the layers of yesterday’s disappointments, we make way for tomorrow’s possibilities. Better that we declutter, rather than hoard negative experiences simply to have someone, or something, to blame for our inability to cope or our downward spiral. The process may vary for there are probably as many paths toward resolution, as there are individuals in the world. One size doesn’t necessarily fit all. However the common denominator should be compassion and a positive attitude, toward oneself and others. We all deserve to live our best lives, going forward. Maybe when we disavow our mountains of past pain, we’ll be able to abandon our fears of the unknown, and…return to Venice. 

live our todays and tomorrows, never our yesterdays…hugmamma.

redding ct, like the maui of old

When someone learns that I’m from Maui, she always exclaims “Oh, don’t you miss it? Why’d you ever leave?” I take a breath, preparing to answer what I truly feel in my heart.

Maui as it is today, even as it was 15 years ago, is no longer the island of my childhood. As with the neighboring  islands, in fact as with other popular destinations, tourism has transformed what was a less populous, less commercial, off-the-beaten-track locale into a mecca for the rich and famous, and even the not so rich and famous. Mind you, I came to terms with the drastic change some time ago. On one of my last trips to Maui, years ago, it was apparent that visitors to the island provided a livelihood for the majority of the locals. So I wasn’t about to admonish them as co-conspirators in the “ruination” of Maui, while I left to make my living and home elsewhere.

Before my daughter was born, actually before she was even a possibility, I was returning home to Long Island, New York from a business trip to Kansas City. Seated next to me on the flight was an attractive man dressed in cords and a sweater, appearing very much like a New Englander. Striking up a conversation, we spoke of many things.  One of the topics was where we resided. I explained that while my husband and I lived in Westbury, I wanted to move somewhere reminiscent of my birthplace, Maui. I desired the same small town atmosphere, where neighbors knew each other, where children played together, where there were town parades, fairs, picnics. Without hesitation, my traveling companion blurted “Redding, Connecticut! You should move to Redding, Connecticut!” 

I’d never heard of the town, so my new friend proceeded to describe it as a small, rural community isolated from the hubbub of surrounding towns by vast acres of pristine land, much of which belonged to the town ensuring that they would never be commercially developed. He went on to explain that to enter Redding, one either drove alongside reservoirs which supplied water to the town, or along country roads shaded by trees. The idyllic picture seemed lifted from a postcard. Giving me the name of the realtor who helped find this New York City writer a getaway home, I was convinced that my husband and I needed to make the 75 mile trip north of NYC, in search of Redding.

We got more than we bargained for, as a result of our hunt for a new home. Nearly bereft of hope that we’d be parents someday, Redding was the answer to our prayer. After 16 years of marriage, our daughter was born. The first 11 years of her life were spent in an oasis within the midst of suburban Connecticut. Watching her in those early years was like stepping back in time, into my own childhood Paradise. 

Topographically different, Redding had rolling hills, and a man-made lake in which to swim; Maui boasted a dormant volcano, and ocean waves upon which to surf. Redding’s landscape was dotted with sugar maple trees, whose leaves were seasonally transformed into the colors of the setting sun. So unlike Maui’s tropical palms swaying gently in the evening breezes, as the glassy Pacific waters below mirrored the shining  moon overhead.

In spite of their disparities, the people of both Redding and Maui were alike in their hospitality toward newcomers, and the friendliness within their communities. Schools were small, so while students didn’t know everyone personally, they were aware of everyone through friends or others. Children looked forward to trick-or-treating, door-to-door.  School plays were exciting affairs, as were school dances, and basketball games. Sleepovers were commonplace, as were play-dates and church picnics. Dads coached sports teams and led the Boy Scouts; moms were Girl Scout leaders and drove carpools. Children caught buses to school, or walked. Neighbors helped one another; they prepared meals for a family with a cancer-stricken mom; they cared for children when parents were tending to emergencies; they consoled those who laid loved ones to rest.

My daughter’s memories of an idyllic childhood in Redding  are just that, treasured remembrances. And so it is with the Maui of my youth. So when I’m asked “Wouldn’t you want to live there now?” I always reply,  “The Maui where I grew up is in my heart; it’s with me, wherever I am.” I know my daughter feels similarly about Redding, Connecticut, the town she still calls her home, though she’s not lived there for 13 years.

“home is where your heart is,” truly…hugmamma.

“freddie the leaf, the fall of”

The only author I can wholeheartedly call my favorite is Leo Buscaglia. Otherwise, I select books according to their subject matter. But I’ve enjoyed reading every one of  Buscaglia’s books. A postscript to one of my favorites, reads:

“Leo Buscaglia approached life with joy and enthusiasm. He pursued a path of perpetual learning that took him to places of wonder, excitement, and enlightenment. His sense of urgency to live life now and explore all that is possible was contagious to all who knew him. His life was dedicated to the single concept of ‘Love’ and all the beautiful and positive elements that it encompasses. …He died of heart failure on June 29th, 1998, at his home in Lake Tahoe, Nevada at the age of 74. A note was found on his typewriter the next day. It read, ‘Every moment spent in unhappiness is a moment of happiness lost.’

In 2004 I was in Chautauqua, New York, visiting my daughter while she danced in a summer program. Browsing through the bookstore housed in a charming building, I happened upon “The Fall of Freddie the Leaf” by Leo Buscaglia. Tucking myself away in a corner, I read it. A lump formed in my throat for the story was written to assuage a child’s loss of someone special, to death. The book, in its 20th edition, is a “beloved classic that has helped thousands of people come to grips with life and death.” I’d like to share it with you now, in the hopes that it might someday do the same for you.

Spring had passed. So had summer. Freddie, the leaf, had grown large. His mid-section was wide and strong, and his five extensions were firm and pointed. He had first appeared in Spring as a small sprout on a rather large branch near the top of a tall tree.

Freddie was surrounded by hundreds of other leaves just like himself, or so it seemed. Soon he discovered that no two leaves were alike, even though they were on the same tree. Alfred was the leaf next to him. Ben was the leaf on his right side, and Clare was the lovely leaf overhead. They had all grown up together. They had learned to dance in the Spring breezes, bask lazily in the Summer sun and wash off in the cooling rains.

But it was Daniel who was Freddie’s best friend. He was the largest leaf on the limb and seemed to have been there before anyone else. It appeared to Freddie that Daniel was also the wisest among them. It was Daniel who told them that they were part of a tree. It was Daniel who explained that they were growing in a public park. It was Daniel who told them that the tree had strong roots which were hidden in the ground below. He explained about the birds who came to sit on their branch and sing morning songs. He explained about the sun, the moon, the stars and the seasons.

Freddie loved being a leaf. He loved his branch, his light leafy friends, his place high in the sky, the wind that jostled him about, the sun rays that warmed him, the moon that covered him with soft, white shadows.

Summer had been especially nice. The long hot days felt good and the warm nights were peaceful and dreamy. There were many people in the park that Summer. They often came and sat under Freddie’s tree. Daniel told him that giving shade was part of his purpose.

“What’s a purpose?” Freddie had asked. “A reason for being,” Daniel had answered. “To make things more pleasant for others is a reason for being. To make shade for old people who come to escape the heat of their homes is a reason for being. To provide a cool place for children to come and play. To fan with our leaves the picnickers who come to eat on checkered tablecloths. These are all reasons for being.”

Freddie especially liked the old people. They sat so quietly on the cool grass and hardly ever moved. They talked in whispers of times past. The children were fun, too, even though they sometimes tore holes in the bark of the tree or carved their names into it. Still, it was fun to watch them move so fast and to laugh so much.

But Freddie’s Summer soon passed. It vanished on an October night. He had never felt it so cold. All the leaves shivered with the cold. They were coated with a thin layer of white which quickly melted and left them dew drenched and sparkling in the morning sun. Again, it was Daniel who explained that they had experienced their first frost, the sign that it was Fall and that Winter would come soon.

Almost at once, the whole tree, in fact, the whole park was transformed into a blaze of color. There was hardly a green leaf left. Alfred had turned a deep yellow. Ben had become a blazing red, Daniel a deep purple and Freddie was red and gold and blue. How beautiful they all looked. Freddie and his friends had made their tree a rainbow.

“Why did we turn different colors,” Freddie asked, “when we are on the same tree?” “Each of us is different. We have had different experiences. We have faced the sun differently. We have cast shade differently. Why should we not have different colors?” Daniel said matter-of-factly. Daniel told Freddie that this wonderful season was called Fall.

One day a very strange thing happened. The same breezes that, in the past, had made them dance began to push and pull at their stems, almost as if they were angry. This caused some of the leaves to be torn from their branches and swept up in the wind, tossed about and dropped softly to the ground. All the leaves became frightened. “What’s happening?” they asked each other in whispers. “It’s what happens in Fall,” Daniel told them. “It’s the time for leaves to change their home. Some people call it to die.” 

“Will we all die?” Freddie asked. “Yes,” Daniel answered. “Everything dies. No matter how big or small, how weak or strong. We first do our job. We experience the sun and the moon, the wind and the rain. We learn to dance and to laugh. Then we die.” “I won’t die!” said Freddie with determination. “Will you, Daniel?” “Yes,” answered Daniel, “when it’s my time.” “When is that?” asked Freddie. “No one knows for sure,” Daniel responded.

Freddie noticed that the other leaves continued to fall. He thought, “It must be their time.” He saw that some of the leaves lashed back at the wind before they fell, others simply let go and dropped quietly. Soon the tree was almost bare. “I’m afraid to die,” Freddie told Daniel. “I don’t know what’s down there.” “We all fear what we don’t know, Freddie. It’s natural,” Daniel reassured him. “Yet, you were not afraid when Spring became Summer. You were not afraid when Summer became Fall. They were natural changes. Why should you be afraid of the season of death?”

“Does the tree die, too?” Freddie asked. “Someday. But there is something stronger than the tree. It is Life. That lasts forever and we are all a part of Life.” “Where will we go when we die?” “No one knows for sure. That’s the great mystery!” “Will we return in the Spring?” “We may not, but Life will.” “Then what has been the reason for all of this?” Freddie continued to question. “Why were we here at all if we only have to fall and die?”

Daniel answered in his matter-of-fact way, “It’s been about the sun and the moon. It’s been about happy times together. It’s been about the shade and the old people and the children. It’s been about colors in Fall. It’s been about seasons. Isn’t that enough?” That afternoon, in the golden light of dusk, Daniel let go. He fell effortlessly. He seemed to smile peacefully as he fell. “Goodbye for now, Freddie,” he said. Then, Freddie was alone, the only leaf left on his branch.

The first snow fell the following morning. It was soft, white, and gentle; but it was bitter cold. There was hardly any sun that day, and the day was very short. Freddie found himself losing his color, becoming brittle. It was constantly cold and the snow weighed heavily upon him. At dawn the wind came that took Freddie from his branch. It didn’t hurt at all. He felt himself float quietly, gently and softly downward. As he fell, he saw the whole tree for the first time. How strong and firm it was! He was sure that it would live for a long time and he knew that he had been a part of its life and it made him proud.

Freddie landed on a clump of snow. It somehow felt soft and even warm. In this new position he was more comfortable than he had ever been. He closed his eyes and fell asleep. He did not know that Spring would follow Winter and that the snow would melt into water. He did not know that what appeared to be his useless dried self would join with the water and serve to make the tree stronger. Most of all, he did not know that there, asleep in the tree and the ground, were already plans for new leaves in the Spring.

The Beginning.

Having purchased the book as a keepsake for my daughter, I turned to the first blank page and penned the following inscription.

Summer 2004

Dearest daughter,

I discovered Leo Buscaglia in Chautauqua this summer. Reading his  words was like looking at my soul through a mirror. He wrote, and lectured about, and lived a life of love, always having a positive attitude. “The Fall of Freddie the Leaf ” continues Buscaglia’s outlook thru to the final stage in life. 

 Live each day to the fullest, love hugely and passionately, strive always to have a positive attitude toward yourself, others and life. These are what I leave to you, when I fall from the “Tree of Life.” And I know you will do the same for your children, when your turn comes.

I will always be with you in spirit until we are together again, where all leaves spend eternal springtime together. Think of me as your “Daniel.”

All my love, forever…Mom

my sentiments for you, as well…hugmamma.

marriage, the “give and take”

How do couples rack up years of marriage, celebrating anniversaries of 10 years, 25 years, 50 years? I think it takes a great ATTENTION TO DETAIL, to those moments which demonstrate love and concern for the other person.

Small, seemingly insignificant things can make or break a marriage. Does he snore? Does she nag? Does he leave the toilet lid raised? Does she use his razor to shave her legs? Is he a workaholic? Is she a spendthrift? Then, of course, there are the idiosyncrasies unique to each married couple.

My husband is the oldest of 12, I, the youngest of 9. Being from either end of the lineup of children, seems to simplify the dynamics of a relationship. For the most part I’m not leading, and he’s not following. But then when it involves running the household, I’m always leading, he’s always following. I say “Can you empty the garbage?” He says “Yes, dear.” Half-an-hour later I say “Did you empty the garbage?” To which he replies “Not yet.” Hours later with the garbage still not emptied, I decide to drop the matter. I’m not up to going downstairs and out into the garage now either.

Climbing into bed with my husband already snoring, I screw in my ear plugs, settle a pillow down the middle of the bed between us, turn off the light, and wait for sleep to come. I snuggle down into the covers and pull the pillow between us closer to my face, partially covering it. I breathe deeply, aiming for relaxation. Still focused upon the snores emanating from my husband, I reach over the pillow, gently massaging his back between the shoulder blades. It’s enough to rouse him, so that he moves his head further up onto his own pillow. This closes his lips and the snoring stops, temporarily. I may have to repeat the massages a few more times. Most times I eventually fall asleep. On the rare occasion that I can’t sleep, and I have an appointment to keep the next day, I’ll wake my husband and ask him to move to our daughter’s old bedroom. Drowsily, he consents. Grateful, I accompany him next door, settling him into bed and switching off the lights. Smiling to myself in the darkness of our bedroom, I remove the ear plugs and take deep breaths, relaxing while I drift off to sleep. As I do, I can hear faint sounds of snoring resonating through the wall. Sighing to myself, I’m just grateful he’s not “sawing wood” in my ears.

My husband awakes at dawn, fiddles at his computer keyboard, feeds the cats, walks the dog, gets ready for work, and downs a cup of green tea along with a bite to eat. Before leaving for work, he generously turns on my computer, setting up AOL.

At night after eating the dinner I’ve prepared, my husband relaxes stretched out on the couch in front of the TV, half-watching it while reading his e-book. I gather the dishes and wine glasses, putting them into the dish washer, tidy the counters, clean the grit off the stove’s glass top, wash pots and pans, and toss accumulated scraps of food from the sink into the recycled garbage. Before heading off to blog, I offer to get my husband dessert, if we have any.

It’s taken 40 years of honing our skills as to the give and take of being married to one another. We’re no longer compelled to “hang tough” in battling over every inch of common ground we share. When we were young and unsure of ourselves, and each other, we would revert to being 2 strangers trying to cohabit. But allowing ourselves the time to mature and grow old together, has made the “give and take” of married life not so hard to give, and take, after all.

Hugs are good too, lots of hugs…hugmamma.