living her best life…#34

Been a while since we’ve traveled life’s path…with Pat. We’ve both been busy with other happenings. She spent a lovely week catching up with her eldest son, Aiden, home on spring break. I’m sure it was a little sad for both of them when he returned to college on the mainland. 

My husband and I are in the throes of another remodel. Our last, thankfully. Almost as big a one as when we had our kitchen/dining/living area done nearly a decade ago. So that our late 70’s split level continues to work for us empty-nesters, we decided to turn the downstairs into our master bedroom retreat. Thoughts of cozy nights in front of a gas fireplace and an extra bedroom turned into a walk-in closet conjured up the good life…finally realized. However, as with all great things…there’s a price to pay.

As anyone who’s been through a remodel will tell you “It ain’t easy.” Spending months tripping over stuff stored everywhere but in our bed is no fun. Managing the project is also mind-boggling at times. Not to mention trying to keep us on a diet which means cooking tasty AND healthy…all the time. Of course that’s been haphazard now that we’re totally caught up in moving the renovations along as smoothly and quickly as is coherently possible. There have been glitches here and there, especially in the selection of light fixtures. It’s been my first and only experience with online shopping. If choosing from a myriad of fixtures is this difficult…I can’t imagine how single folks ever decide on dating partners from online images. By far a more important selection than if a flush mount fixture gives off enough light.

Decided to set these mundane things aside…truly unimportant by comparison…for a little while anyway, to remind us of what’s really important. Enjoying life with those we love for as long as we are able. Following is Pat’s unvarnished reflections on just that.

More Birthdays…and then some.

I already told you how my friends and I celebrated our 50th birthdays last year. I have another group of friends with whom I celebrate birthdays.

Our friendships came about because our boys were in kindergarten/elementary school together. Our boys have played sports together, our families have gone skiing together and we’ve been celebrating our birthdays for over 10 years. The boys have gone their own ways, but the moms have remained friends to this day.

These birthday celebrations aren’t fancy and don’t take months of planning. More like “It’s your turn next. What do you want to do?” Today was Maria’s turn. We celebrated at her house with take-out Chinese, wine instead of tea, and a fruit tart with ice cream instead of fortune cookies. (This is Hawaii where anything goes when it comes to food. hugmamma here: Ain’t that the truth!!!)

These are the women I met later in life, who have become lifelong friends. Besides our boys, the ties that bind us are the trials and tribulations both good and bad, that come with age…stress from our kids (a given), infidelity (a bad thing), divorce (mostly a good thing), and serious illness (a new topic).

Sharon was the first of this group that I told about my diagnosis. I knew it was going to be the hardest phone call to make and I waited until the very last moment…the night before my very first chemo treatment. It was hard and I know she was holding back tears. I asked her if she could let everyone else know what was going on. I didn’t think I could make six more phone calls. So she did.

Right away Priscilla offered to help Sharon with the phone calls. Priscilla also promised to keep me laughing and always send funny things she finds on the Internet. Erin, ever the librarian and teacher did some research online and had suggestions on what books to read. Sharon brought me those books, along with a blanket to use during treatment. She also brought food over. The others emailed me words of encouragement, prayers and offers to help in any way.

All except one.

I didn’t know if she was still in Hawaii. We’d heard she might be moving. I know she’s going through a tough time herself, but I don’t really know…none of us do…what’s going on. The last time we were all together, she didn’t want to talk about it and she’s been kinda AWOL ever since. Although she couldn’t make it to Maria’s birthday get-together at least she responded to the emails going around. I thought “great!” maybe things are okay, but still she didn’t email me directly. I wondered why. I wasn’t upset, just a little surprised, but didn’t worry too much about it. I’ve been in the position of not knowing what to do or say to someone and ended up doing nothing at all.

And then today it hit me! WHY AREN’T I REACHING OUT TO HER? OMG! NEWS FLASH! A cancer diagnosis DOES NOT mean the world now revolves around me. Someone…anyone…slap me! Sheesh! I feel like such an idiot. (hugmamma here: Been there…done that! Pretty sure we all have…)

Turns out she’s going through a really rough time. I don’t know what it is, but I don’t need to know either. I do know she doesn’t want to talk about it, but that doesn’t mean we can’t talk about other stuff. I’m not doing nothing this time around.

I finished reading a really good book a couple of weeks ago, and this friend was the first person I thought about. Although she is a published author and knows way more about the world of authors and publishing, I’d always let her know when I came across an awesome read. I don’t know why I hesitated this time…because she didn’t email me first?…or because she’s hiding out? Either way it doesn’t matter. I will email her. I hope she responds, but if she doesn’t that’s okay. At least she’ll know I’m here if she wants to talk books…or anything else.

And FYI, if you like memoirs the book is Maude by Donna Mabry.

…good to remember…that we’re all trying to live our best lives.

…thanks, pat.

………hugmamma.

Advertisements

three dimensional…

Just like my writing, I think of myself as a three-dimensional person. 

I’m compassionate and I’m edgy. Those who have followed along with my blog since its inception in 2010 have probably gathered as much.

Humor, of which mine is the tongue-in-cheek variety, lightens the stresses of everyday life.

To always dwell in the softness of clouds is not my life, and therefore not my writing.

I leave sweetness to those who handle it more deftly.

Others perceive what they will from what I write.

I myself tread lightly when looking into their souls.

For I know not from where they have evolved.

As they know not from whence I came.

Veils lift…shadows give way.

Accept what’s there,

…as it is offered.

………hugmamma.

write on edge: it takes two to make an accident

Contrary to what F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote “It takes two to make an accident,” my daughter and her car were fully equipped to make the unfortunate happen without anyone else lifting a hand, or in this case, driving a car.

After a long, arduous day of dance rehearsals, my daughter got together with some friends to unwind from their very physical jobs. Eight hours as a dancer running through choreography time and time again can be wearing on the brain as well as the body. So a glass or two of wine can go a long way in numbing the mind and the muscles.

Unfortunately, alcohol and sleep do not mix well unless you can fall right into your bed.

On the way home from getting together with her friends, my daughter must have nodded off for a few seconds when she was nearing her apartment. Her car slammed into a car parked alongside the right-hand curb. The impact frightened the heck out of her, and brought occupants of the nearby house running to see what caused all the racket.

At 11 p.m. on a quiet, charming, tree-lined street everyone was probably getting ready for bed. Accidents were a rare occurrence. While not overly-wide the roads were a decent size, allowing for parking on either side with ample room for passing cars. It’s more than likely then that my daughter’s running into a parked car was THE event of the month. The neighborhood was probably abuzz with what transpired for some time to come.

From what my daughter told my husband and me hours later, the aftermath of the accident seemed to unfold in slow motion.

The owner of the car hit by my daughter’s car was not even in town. His girlfriend was minding it while he was away. Imagine her hysteria over her boyfriend’s smashed-in automobile? Evidently, her mom had to calm her fears as well as my daughter’s. A huge task for any mother. And one for which I’m still very grateful. I wished I could have been there to offer some comfort as well.

My daughter called 911 to report the accident. More than an hour-and-a-half later, the police arrived. In the interim she had called her boyfriend to keep her company. With feet bare and wearing only a ti shirt, he showed up minutes later and stood with her on the sidewalk in the cold, night air. Had they known how long the police would take to arrive, perhaps the kindly mom would have corralled everyone inside her warm house. Who knows? I can only speculate what I MIGHT have done under similar circumstances.

Because she had just gotten her driver’s license months before, my daughter was obviously devastated. Besides feeling badly for those directly involved, she felt tremendous guilt about having abused our trust in her living on her own 3,000 miles away. Only nineteen at the time, my daughter was striving to live like a grownup. In her estimation, she had failed.

After taking care of the details with the police, our daughter returned to her apartment with her boyfriend. With him by her side, she called us at 2 a.m. Of course, we awoke to the phone ringing with heightened trepidation. All parents fear the worst when their teenagers are not at home, whether they’re in the same city or thousands of miles away. More quiet than normal and with great sadness in her voice, my daughter revealed what had happened.

My daughter has a tendency to judge herself and deliver the verdict before we even know she’s on trial. She’s struggled with this dilemma since she was a child. Perhaps it’s something she has in common with many children who feel their parents are perfect, never committing any crimes themselves. We’ve since set her straight. Nobody’s perfect.

After listening to her, I quietly explained to my daughter that our concern was primarily with her safety and that of others. Our stress level diminished considerably upon learning that she was fine, and that no one else was involved. The insurance would pay for damages to both cars. Shedding a few tears of relief, my daughter handed the phone off to her boyfriend who thanked my husband and me for understanding the situation. He explained that were he the one calling his parents about causing the accident, they might have bawled him out. It made me feel good knowing that I got something right as a parent.

The next day and for several days afterwards, my daughter had to handle all the issues concerning the accident. She had to communicate with the insurance company to have her car towed, to contract for a rental car, to have repairs to the other car paid, and so on. All the while she was trying to heal her psyche of her self-inflicted wounds. It took some time for our reassuring words to settle in permanently. Quite some time.

Experiencing her first accident propelled my daughter forward into becoming an adult. There was no turning back after that. For obvious reasons her boyfriend was able to pick up where they left off before the accident. He demanded her undivided attention once he felt she’d had sufficient time to brood about what had happened. Unable to give herself entirely over to his needs, my daughter began to realize that she could no longer give herself over to partying like a teen any longer. The accident was her rite of passage.

Now 27, my daughter has weathered other life-altering experiences, some good, some not-so-good. With each she’s grown in her personal and professional life. All the while I’ve looked on with more than a little interest as her doting mom. And as such, I’ve learned a thing or two about myself, and about parenting a child.

It doesn’t always “take two to make an accident,” but it does take two to forge a great relationship. Parenting my daughter has taught me the fine art of stepping back so that she can… 

…own her own life…

………hugmamma.IMG_4744

(I had written this as an entry for write on edge, but unfortunately missed the deadline by one day. I thought you might still enjoy reading it.)

a personal experience…voting…

The news is flooded with coverage of both presidential candidates, Obama and Romney. And there’ll be no letup until after the election in the fall.

How we vote depends upon our comfort level with each candidate, as well as our own life experiences.

Stanley Armour Dunham, Ann Dunham, Maya Soetor...

Stanley Armour Dunham, Ann Dunham, Maya Soetoro and Barack Obama, mid 1970s (l to r) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Obama…the product of a divorced, multi-racial couple…a black child raised by a single, white mother in Hawaii… a child whose stepfather was Indonesian…raised by white grandparents upon the death of their daughter…college grad…public services worker…college professor…senator…U.S. President.

Romney…the product of a wealthy family comfortably ensconced in white society…college grad…businessman…governor…businessman.

Each man’s background and experiences define his candidacy. It’s unlikely he will shift away from the path he’s traveled.

Obama is mired in the morass of humankind as he struggles to lead. Romney won’t tolerate struggle. He’ll lead, even if it means a takeover. 

…your experiences…your choice…

Romney

Romney (Photo credit: Talk Radio News Service)

………hugmamma.

friends…collecting vs. investing

Much is made of immersing oneself in friendships, and I agree wholeheartedly. How one goes about doing so is impacted by one’s childhood and life experiences. Trust is often a contributing factor, as is genuine caring for one another’s well-being.

Just Between Friends

Image via Wikipedia

Making friends and keeping them is easy for some. For others, making friends is easy; keeping them, not so much. And yet for others, making friends is difficult and keeping them is easy. Finally, I am truly sorry for those who find both making and keeping them impossible.

Because of insecurities that have plagued me all my life, a direct result of my mom’s own ongoing struggles, I vaccillate between making friends easily and keeping them, and making friends easily and seeing them drift away.

In discovering my own peace within society’s expectations, I find I don’t need to collect friends…just to ensure that I won’t be alone as the years pass. Rather, I find truly investing in a few, inclusive of my husband and daughter, is enough for me.

I love people, as they are. I don’t expect them to change for me. And I desire the same in return. Trying to meld personalities is not always easy…and I don’t battle for compatibility…not being a fan of confrontation. Too much depletes my spirit…and saddens me.

Investing regularly of self, time, and energy is the only sure-fire way of maintaining relationships. Letting months go by can impact their solidity, especially in times of strife. Opening up to one another, regularly, is the glue.

English: friends like you

Image via Wikipedia

My blogger friends invest as much as they can, given their own lives and responsibilities. So that’s a common understanding amongst us from the get-go. I love when they’re in my life, but understand when they’re not. But when we pick up again…it’s as though we never stopped talking. The admiration and support is still there.

Don’t just collect friends for security…invest in them fully…with your thoughts, your passions, your insecurities, your dreams…and let them do the same with you.

Demanding friends be loyal runs counter to being a friend. Accept friendship as it is offered…when it lapses…be grateful for what it had been…

…cherish the memories…and move forward…knowing that you’ve a wonderful life…and are blest for having had a few moments of someone’s time…i am…

………hugmamma. 😉

Two friends

Image via Wikipedia

only my voice

Wanted to thank those of you who read my blog, especially regular ones who have been along from its inception. 

This blog is my personal journal, with you having an insight into my thoughts and feelings. As such, there will be those that do not correspond with yours. I most definitely welcome comments, but just want you to know that I can’t, and don’t, write anyonelse’s opinions but my own, not even my own family’s. My husband and I do disagree, yes, even in certain aspects of politics. But we’re still married, continually learning about one another, even as we head into retirement.

So for those of you who continue in this venture with me, it’s a marriage of sorts. I probably won’t say everything you want to hear. What spouse does? But I’m guessing that if you’re still with me, I’m saying some things that are akin to your own thoughts and feelings. That’s all I can hope for, while remaining true to who I am.

While I generally try to live by my mother-in-law’s mantra that “words once spoken can never be taken back,” as a writer I would be hauled off in a straight-jacket, if I had to “measure” every word for its effect. It’s a “slippery slope,” and remaining on solid ground is not always guaranteed 100%.

Your comments, great, and not so much, let me know that I’m making an impact, heady stuff for a writer. But I’m not on a “power” trip, I’m just trying to do what I love doing, and that’s writing. Maintaining an active blog is almost full-time, especially with the theses I tend to write. I have no problem coming up with topics, since life’s details  never escape my attention. I do edit, and re-edit. But I don’t edit myself out. If I did that, I’d have no reason to write, since my life and my experiences are what I’m most expert about.

Our perspectives as writers, or readers, will be based upon our own lives, our own experiences. What we think, what we do, is necessarily “colored” by our framework of references. I have spoken of my own life in some depth throughout my posts. Some of you may just be catching up because my Facebook connection was not working the way I thought it was. I’m in the process of now rectifying the situation, by manually sending each one to that site, starting with the most recent and working backwards. It’s taking some time, since I’ve written so many. So bear with me.  

I’m a housewife, a mother, and a writer. I started this blog because I felt women in my position had a right to voice our opinions in the daily discussion that swirls around us, day in, day out. We’ve no way of tapping into that except for the social outlets we create.  

And so “Hugmamma’s Attention to Detail” is my outlet, my voice. I can’t speak for others. But I highly recommend blogging to anyone who would enjoy writing about their own thoughts and feelings as I do. Sometimes all we humans need, is to have a “say.” That’s where the Tea Party movement and I most definitely agree. In most other ways, I think we can agree to disagree.

for staying with me, hugs…hugmamma.

“charism,” a call to serve

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

      

 

fathers cast “long shadows”

Never knowing my father, has surely influenced the course of my life, for better or worse. Not that I grew up dwelling on my loss, because I knew no better. Life with my mom was, what it was. However years of observing father-child relationships, including my husband’s and daughter’s, and being privy to others telling or writing, of their own experiences,  made me realize that being fatherless probably impacted my life in a major way. I’m certain I sought a replacement in every relationship thereafter, looking for the security and safe haven every father is thought to inherently possess. I’m positive I looked for him in every male I encountered. But I would have been just as happy, perhaps, if a woman filled the bill since my mom was preoccupied on so many fronts. My older siblings knew my father as children. So I can’t identify with their loss when he died, although I’m sure it was devastating. What we had in common, was being emotionally bereft of both parents.

As society’s traditional head of the household, a father seems to define a child’s psyche. If he’s present and a positive influence, the child flourishes. If he’s present and a negative influence, the child diminishes. If he’s “missing in action,” the child flounders, and “crashes,” or picks himself up by the proverbial “bootstraps,” and becomes a better man for having suffered. If a child is fatherless, he searches far and wide for his identity. These scenarios don’t preclude a child’s own life experiences with its accompanying peaks and valleys. However, how he celebrates or copes is affected by the presence or absence, positivism or negativism, of his father.

Does a father know the power he has over his children? Too concerned with providing material sustenance, I don’t think he ponders the question. If he did, he might run for the nearest “exit.” What man in his right mind would want the responsibility of playing God? Having to walk the fine line between “His Benevolence” and sergeant-major, while allowing his children the luxury of exercising their own free will in all matters. In my estimation, a man walks into fatherhood “blindfolded.” What he does when the blinders come off, determines whether he’s a good father, or one who sucks, on a scale from 1 to 10. I don’t think I know any 10’s. Even my fabulous husband, probably comes in at a 9 1/2, but my daughter might override me with a resounding “10!”She’d win; after all, he’s her father.       

So much has been said about Michael Jackson’s father who abused his sons, mentally and physically,  in attempting to garner a better life for his family. One oft told anecdote involved Tito playing his father’s guitar, something forbidden by Joseph.

…one day Tito broke a string on the guitar. ‘I knew I was in trouble,’ Tito recalled. ‘We were all in trouble. Our father was strict and we were scared of him. So I put the guitar back in the closet and hoped he wouldn’t figure out what had happened. But he did, and he whooped me. Even though my mother lied and said she had given me permission to play the guitar, he tore me up.’ When Tito tells the story, his words tumble out and he gets tongue-tied. So many years later, one can still sense his anxiety about it. ‘She just didn’t want to see me get whipped,’ he said, sadly. ‘Not again.

J. Randy Taraborelli also writes the following in his biography Michael Jackson – The Magic, the Madness, The Whole Story.

Joseph believed in the value and impact of brute force as a disciplinary tool. ‘Either you’re a winner in this life, or a loser,’ he liked to say. ‘And none of my kids are gonna be losers.’ To be sure of that, he would smack his kids without giving it a second thought in order to keep them on the right track to being ‘winners’. Shoving them into walls was not unusual behaviour for him, especially the boys. Michael, however, was the one boy in the family who would attempt to fight back when provoked by his father. Once, when he was just three, Joseph spanked him for something he had done. Crying, Michael then took off one of his shoes and hurled it at his father. Joseph ducked; the shoe missed him.

‘Are you crazy?’ Joseph screamed at him. ‘Boy you just signed your own death warrant. Get over here.’

Infuriated, Joseph grabbed Michael and, according to Marlon, held him upside down by one leg, and pummelled him over and over again with his hand, hitting him on his back and buttocks. Soon, Michael was crying and screaming so loudly it seemed as if he was trying to summon the entire neighborhood to his aid.

‘Put him down, Joseph,’ Katherine hollered. ‘You’re gonna kill him! You’re gonna kill him!

When Joseph released the boy, he ran to his room, sobbing, ‘I hate you.’ Those were fighting words for Joseph. He followed Michael into the bedroom, slammed the door and then let him have it.

‘Joseph once locked Michael in a closet for hours,’ said a friend of the Jackson family’s. ‘That was traumatizing, horrible for him.’

 Suzanne Finstad’s Child Bride – The Untold Story of Priscilla Beaulieu Presley, reveals that she  inadvertently discovered her mother’s closely guarded secret of Priscilla’s real father’s identity.   

Priscilla nearly collapsed under the strain of her sacred pact of silence with her mother. Ann Beaulieu had placed an enormous burden on a thirteen-year-old child by asking her daughter to keep her paternity a secret, even from her siblings and from the man she now knew was not her real father. 

…She  told no one about the discovery of her true identity, not even Pam. As time passed, she became conflicted about wearing the locket containing the picture of her real father. ‘I felt guilty, because I felt now that I was betraying my stepfather, who was so good to me. Because now it’s like I was hiding something from him.’

The trauma of her mother’s betrayal and her own suppression of the truth affected Priscilla’s behavior. Her grades dropped, eliminating her from eigth-grade cheerleading tryouts, ‘and it was a big blow to her,’ …’She went through a real change of personality,’…

Knowing nothing about him, Priscilla fantasized that her long-lost father died a great war hero. ‘In times of emotional pain and loneliness,’ she said, ‘he would become my guardian angel.’

Finstad’s book also sheds light upon the father-daughter relationship between Elvis and his daughter with Priscilla, Lisa Marie Presley.

Lisa’s self-image as the princess of rock, spoiled utterly by a superstar father, with a staff at Graceland at her command at the age of six, continued even after Elvis died. She was imperious even with Dana, the one close friend she had. ‘It was always very clear that whatever Lisa wanted to do,…she had to have her way.’ In later years, Dana attributed this trait to Lisa’s unexpressed anger over losing her father.

Lisa’s marriage to Michael Jackson, continues the author, may have been deeply rooted in the unconditional love she and Elvis shared.  His sudden death left her feeling helpless, since at age 6, Lisa was incapable of saving him from a self-destructive lifestyle.

Lisa had wed, by an obvious Freudian motive, the nineties equivalent of her staggeringly successful superstar father. Elvis was the King of Rock; Michael was the King of Pop. Both singers, oddly, had pet chimpanzees at one time; both shared an interest in UFOs. Elvis lived in semiseclusion at an estate called Graceland. Michael lived a reclusive life at Neverland. Elvis often rented amusement parks, one of his favorite forms of entertainment; Michael had re-created Disneyland on the grounds of his estate and took Lisa, incognito, to the California theme park on their honeymoon. Both men had married to avoid scandal in their careers: Elvis to erase the stigma of his live-in relationship with a seventeen-year-old girl, or to avoid the Beaulieus’ revelation of their illicit arrangement for Priscilla; Michael to rehabilitate his shattered image following the molestation charges. Michael and Elvis entertained small groups of fourteen-year-olds in their bedrooms for slumber parties. The two music legends were notorious eccentrics trapped in an arrested adolescence, existing on unorthodox diets.

Lisa, some of her friends surmised, had married Michael–on a subconscious level at least–to ‘save’ the father she had loved and lost. By restoring Michael to his former position of glory, by elevating him from the ruin of his molestation scandal, she might, in her mind, redeem and perhaps resurrect her father.

I’m currently reading In My Father’s Shadow – A Daughter Remembers Orson Welles by Chris Welles Feder. A third of the way into it, I’ve felt a pervasive sadness throughout. Despite her unquenchable longing to always be with her father, Christopher, the name chosen by her dad, joyously celebrated what precious little time she shared with him. And in her own words, she explained that while her new stepfather successfully brainwashed her mother in behavior becoming the proper wife of a British Major, Orson Welles’ daughter would never succumb.

During our first year in South Africa, my mother changed from the open-minded American woman who had treated African-Americans as her equals, the woman who had loudly cheered and danced around the living room with Charlie Lederer (her second husband) when we heard on the radio that Franklin D. Roosevelt had been elected to a fourth term. She became a female clone of Jack Pringle, and the two of them teamed up against me, because I refused to change my essential self and blend in seamlessly with my surroundings. I was not a chameleon like my mother. And, strangely, the absence of my father made me realize how much he had already shaped me and that his power did not depend on his presence. I was Orson’s kid–not Virginia’s and certainly not Jackie’s–now and forever.

Thinking that Orson had forgotten her twelfth birthday, Chrissie, aka Christopher, complained to her mother, who responded ‘Instead of sitting there feeling so sorry for yourself, why don’t you think about all the birthdays he did remember?’ After a brief pout, Chrissie contemplated what her mother had said “Then, as though she had flung open the doors of an old toy cupboard, I suddenly saw the doll my father had given me on my fifth birthday–the most beautiful doll…pretty blue eyes that opened and closed when I rocked her in my arms. …the stack of Land of Oz books; the recordings of Peter and the Wolf and The Nutcracker Suite,…the fluffy, pink bedroom slippers… One by one, they came back in a joyful parade, all the birthday gifts from my father. Gifts that were always exactly what I wanted.” But the gift that left its greatest impression upon Orson’s daughter was the one he bestowed on her seventh birthday. During his half-hour radio evening program, This Is My Best series, he announced ” ‘Good evening, this is Orson Welles. …My eldest daughter, Christopher, is seven years old today, and like most ladies and gentlemen of her age, Christopher likes her father to tell her a story. Well, I don’t know of a better one than ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.’ …” Orson’s 7-year-old was overjoyed that Orson remembered her favorite story. Reflecting back, Chrissie speaks of that special occasion.

For a long time after the program ended, I had sat by the radio, lost in a magic world of poisoned apples and happy endings. Five years had elapsed since then, but no one–not even Jack Pringle–could take that memory away from me.

So now I knew what I had to do. Whenever being without my father began to hurt too much,  I would come and sit quietly in my room, close my eyes and remember.

My daughter remembers that in the very early years of her childhood, she wished she could have seen more of my husband. He commuted to work in NYC from Connecticut, a 4 hour round trip which he gladly made, so that we could raise our only child in the idyllic town of Redding. The only concession he asked was that her curfew be 9:30 p.m. He wanted time to play with our daughter each evening, and read her a bedtime story. This was a small request for the sacrifice of time and energy my husband made, so she could be nurtured in the small town environment which we favored.

The better part of our daughter’s memory is filled with wonderful remembrances of a father who was actively present in her life. Unlike childhood friends whose fathers only exacted discipline, or were absent from mealtimes, or dancer friends whose fathers are never seen at performances. My husband has allowed his toddler daughter to dress him in hat, earrings, necklaces, bracelets, rings and fur boa when they played her favorite game, “Pretty, Pretty Princess.” Against his natural instincts that she attend college, he allowed his 16-year-old aspiring ballerina to move to another state in pursuit of a dance career. And after a summer caring for her cat while our daughter was away dancing, her father escorted Misha back to his “mom” en route to a business trip in a nearby state. It was a supreme act of love, since my husband has been on meds for years, as an asthmatic with allergies. Going through airport security, he wore gloves when removing the cat from his crate which went through the scanner, while Misha and “grampy” walked through the screening gate.

All fathers are human, bringing personal “baggage” to the job. Most intend to do well by their offspring, whether they have a plan or “fly by the seat of their pants.” Gazing upon the innocent faces in the pediatric ward, new dads quickly pledge the “moon” to these tiny infants. They never question their ability to “deliver.” That comes later, as reality and responsibility seep into their overtaxed brains. Some walk away; some commit long-term; others remain undecided, going through the motions, until something triggers a decision one way or the other.

A parent is expected to multi-task. Raising children is added to the “to do” list of chores, walk the dog, empty the trash, gas and wash the car, mow the lawn, clean the gutters, power-wash the driveway and roof, refill the bird feeders. Of course children should be top priority, but sometimes life can overwhelm, especially when an unexpected glitch occurs disrupting the fine balance. A parent loses a job, is diagnosed with cancer, is divorced, must care for a parent with Alzheimer’s, suffers the irreparable loss of a child. Where does a parent seek relief? It’s not inconceivable that duty to one’s child slips, eventually occupying the lowermost rung on life’s ladder. In that eventuality, I don’t know a parent who wouldn’t feel like shit. Sorry, but I know that’s exactly how I’d feel. 

Parents don’t get a reprieve. We don’t get to pick and choose which jobs we want to relinquish to someonelse, while we tend to our children. We’re expected to do it all simultaneously. We should show ourselves compassion for trying to do it all, remembering, however, that children are not a commodity, but rather smaller versions of ourselves. They deserve the same respect we desire for ourselves.

Fathers cast “long shadows” over the lives of their children. Their influence is long-lasting, if not permanent. Dads are imbued with the power of “life and death,” physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. They are the kings of their castles. Succession to their “thrones” is dependent upon how thoughtfully they rule over the lives of their children.

for all fathers, huge hugs…hugmamma.

wordpress.com, working for me

Having blogged on 2 sites prior to WordPress.com, I find that this site is the most user-friendly. Being technologically challenged, I thought I might have given up before now, frustrated that I wasn’t reaching an audience with whom to share my journey. Two months later, I’m still blogging, and you’re still reading, with many more having joined us. There were moments of doubt, but my passion for writing kept me going, as did several handfuls of viewers who said my words meant something to them. Their sentiments went a long way in “stroking my ego,” something we all need to maintain our motivation, and grow our self-confidence. Thanks to them and now, many more like them, I continue to share life experiences which might help those in need of compassion, validation, consolation, laughs and perhaps, hope. None of us are going it alone; we’re all striving, to live our best lives. I’m not Oprah, but I am one voice trying to make a difference, one person at a time. 

WordPress.com has been an ally in my efforts to share my writing. While I’m not one of the famous bloggers on this site, I still feel my voice is welcome. I’m certain I have far less traffic than the Wall Street Journal’s blog, but I’m grateful for the readership I have. It’s more than I would have imagined. Once I established its  look, purpose, technical details, and alerted friends and family to my blog, I began composing my posts.

Along the way I made new discoveries about WordPress.com, some intentional, others accidental. Since I’m anal about details, I always figured my way in, and around, obstacles. When I succeeded, I cheered my own efforts. When I ran into a “wall,” I turned to my husband for help. His assistance was limited however, because I was more familiar with the inner workings of WordPress.com than he. I never thought I’d see the day when I’d know something more about the computer than my husband. Feels kind of good, except when I’m really stuck. The great thing is that I’ve always been able to resolve a problem by consulting WordPress for Dummies by Lisa Sabin-Wilson, or search through the site’s extended inventory of helpful information, or email the support staff.

When I’m blogging the last thing I want to encounter are technical “hiccups.” On Oprah.com I would lose what I’d written from time to time. Because of this I’d first type my draft on Microsoft Word, then copied and pasted it onto my blog site. WordPress.com automatically saves my writing as I’m typing. I’ve published 124 posts, not having lost one in the process. While comments are encouraged, WordPress.com moderators will hold off publishing ones which might be “spams,” letting me decide whether or not they are. This gives me a sense of security, which was a definite plus on Oprah.com. But while both sites had that in common, over time I felt Oprah.com’s moderators were sometimes too involved in whether or not something was or wasn’t allowed. That aside, I might have remained on the site if it hadn’t morphed away from personal blogs, in its transition to Oprah’s new venture, OWN TV.

Crafting the look of my blog was fun, especially personalizing the header with my own photograph. As I became more comfortable with my new “home,” I found inserting photos and YouTube videos relatively easy, thanks to WordPress.com instructions, and my own dogged determination. Growing readership is always a challenge, but this site also assists by “threading” posts throughout their system, as well as offering various other aids, one of which is “stumbleupon” which has garnered additional readers for which I’m very grateful. Early on I took advantage of a link to “Facebook,” which also quickly bore fruit. While typing away contentedly, WordPress.com continually informs me of further services that can enhance my blog experience.

The one disadvantage to WordPress.com is the inability to sell items. Since I dabble in antiques, collectibles, folk art, and crafts, I might look elsewhere to satisfy my retailing inclination. While this feature is available on Blogger.com, the first site on which I blogged, its “no holds barred” attitude about privacy is somewhat discouraging. I understand it’s going through changes to make it more competitive with other sites, so I’ll keep my eyes and ears open. Meanwhile, I’m happy where I am.

wordpress.com, working for me…hugmamma.

memories, thanks for

Being the youngest of 9, I grew up not knowing most of my older brothers and sisters for they’d left home at an early age, to make their own way in the world. They all succeeded according to their own individual talents and circumstances. I can remember moments when we interacted. But for the most part, we’ve remained separated by land, sea and a lifetime of experiences. We’re in touch from time to time, and we all wish only the best for one another. And I’m happy for that. I don’t regret what was or wasn’t, what might or might not be, what is, is good. I have unique memories of each sibling, for which I’m thankful. 

  • The eldest, Richard, died of a heart attack in his 50’s. I first met him a couple of years earlier, when I was a college freshman. I was told he looked most like my father, whom I don’t remember since he died when I was one. Upon meeting me, Richard exclaimed that I looked like a Miss Hawaii. So of course, he scored major points with me. At least I had that moment to cherish, when he was gone.
  • Stanley, a brother of few words, is the one I know least. Attractive, gentle and quiet describes him best.
  • Ruby, my oldest sister was like Stanley in demeanor, and being only a year apart, they were inseparable growing up. When I was older, I remember summers with her family in Honolulu, and when I was in college she lent a much-welcomed, helping hand.
  • May, a career secretary for the Air Force, was a great source of financial help to my mom throughout my childhood years. I summered with her family in Honolulu as well. She began a tradition of sending me birthday and holiday cards bearing coins which were inserted into slots. These were always a great source of delight for me, and a very special treat.
  • Bud has always been a charmer, a great flirt with the women. His happy-go-lucky manner is how I know him best.
  • Ben had been adopted by a childless couple when he was a toddler. I think I knew of him before we met, when I was in high school. In the ensuing years, he and I have become very well acquainted, trading barbs, laughs and hugs, via emails, blogs, and sometimes, in person.
  • Lucy is a devoted wife, mother and grandmother. Holding her pom-poms when she was a high school cheer leader was every kid sister’s thrill. It was mine.
  • Edward and I were the last 2 to leave home, being the youngest. Our shared experiences are probably the foundation for our lingering closeness. I understand him the best of all my siblings, and congratulate him for what he has accomplished in spite of the many obstacles he had to overcome, and for being the consummate family man, proud of his son and daughter.

cherished memories are worth their weight in gold, unlike the metal, they never lose their preciousness…hugmamma.

why blog?

So many have taken to blogging like me. I’m sure we all share many reasons in common for journaling on the internet. And yet I’m sure we each have additional ones that are unique, prompted by our own experiences, past, present, and future. There are fleeting moments when I’m reminded of why I blog. I thought I’d sort out my reasons here and now, rather than have them floating around in my head, popping up willy-nilly.

  • Topping the list is the fact that I’m a walking encyclopedia of life’s minutiae. Having an outlet is heaven sent for me and my family.
  • My passion for writing is satisfied.
  • The opportunity to practice writing daily is invaluable. One day I might write to be published. Never say never.
  • Bypassing the “middleman”, i.e. agent, publisher, to have my writing read is instantly gratifying.
  • Choosing subject matter without pressure from outsiders is a luxury I enjoy.
  • Being back in touch with relatives and friends after a long absence is a gift I didn’t expect. They’re becoming reacquainted with who I am at 61.
  • For those who know me, regular journaling is like a Christmas letter they can read all-year-round. It might simplify card writing during the busy holiday season, so I’ll have a head-start.
  •  It’s my hope that I can be one voice for compassion and positive energy in what is becoming a hostile, negative environment.
  • I share my experiences as a child and a parent, knowing we all struggle to do our best, given our personal “baggage” of hurts and disappointments.
  • I offer humor about my marriage, because laughter is an essential element toward its success. I know my husband agrees.
  • I pass along tips, recipes, information in the hopes they might be of help to someone.
  • It’s likely that I’ll be affected by Alzheimer’s because my mom died suffering its effects, along with other major illnesses. Until then I’d like to use the time I have left of my cognitive ability, to do what good I can. If I lighten one person’s load each day, I will have led my best life.
  • And finally, my blog will remind my daughter of who I am, when I no longer am.

live life large, in the moment…hugmamma. (Have inserted this as a post, since a viewer was unable to open it as a “page” featured at the top of the blog, beneath the header HUGMAMMA’S ATTENTION TO DETAIL. Perhaps others had the same difficulty.)

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.