Medical Complications: A Doctor Finds Herself On The Other Side

A dear girlfriend recently experienced what Dr. Rubin writes in her post. What would I do were the unthinkable to happen to my husband, or my daughter as a result of a mishap at the hands of a medical provider? Remaining calm under life-threatening situations is incomprehensible. Nonetheless, what Dr. Rubin suggests makes a lot of sense. I can only hope I’ll remember her advice should I ever need it.

………hugmamma.

Carrie Rubin

Nothing in medicine is without risk. As a physician, I’ve always known this. As a layperson, I’ve just experienced it.

surgical instruments Image credit: Microsoft Clip Art

Last week my mother suffered a severe complication during routine surgery. As a result, what she went in for was not at all what she came out with. A long road to recovery lies ahead, one with the unfortunate road block of another surgery along the way.

As a medical doctor, I understand complications happen. Nothing is one-hundred percent, and believe me, no healthcare provider wants a patient to have a bad outcome. But as a daughter, I also understand the anger and frustration that result from a medical mishap.

Out of respect for my mother and her medical team, I won’t share specifics about the incident, but I thought a general post on the topic might help others in a similar situation. Who knows…

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daily post challenge #345: am i good to people i don’t know?

One of the Golden Rules which, for me, has always remained sacrosanct is “Treat others as you would want them to treat you.” Harking back to my mom, as I am always wont to do it seems, calls forth images of others helping her.

As a young child I witnessed my mom begging others for…more time to pay her car note, even while they continued to perform services and repairs…mercy for errant brothers who had committed petty theft…medical services for which she had no money to pay.

Orphans by Thomas Kennington

Image via Wikipedia

I was sensitive to the gratitude and humility with which my mom accepted…second-hand clothing refused by the orphans at the orphanage where she worked…leftover food from the nuns who employed her…random offerings from friends and neighbors.

At my mother’s knee, I learned that I am no better than anyone else. And so in my daily dealings with…waiters, drycleaning assistants, store clerks, bank tellers, receptionists, grocery cashiers, box office attendants, vet assistants…I offer smiles, compliments, empathy, and gratitude, always gratitude.

If I can lift someone’s spirits, calm their nerves, even make their day with a heartfelt compliment…such as “You’re so beautiful!”…then why hesitate to do so? I am beyond embarrassment, it seems, when it means I can make someone feel better…whether she or he needs the boost or not. And hugs…no one escapes a huge hug.

Enveloping someone within my warm embrace is another of my own mom’s legacies to me. There is no more profound offering of one’s self than to press another to one’s own heart, letting them know that we are kindred spirits beneath the outer trappings of…age, gender, ethnicity, social class, sexual preference, and religious and political affiliation. It is true that…goodness and kindness…beget…goodness and kindness. But I never set out to beget…anything.

Hugging, and all it entails, is as natural to me…as breathing in…and breathing out. And I owe my lessons in the art of…to all those who gave of themselves to my mom…and what she gave…in return.

hugging you………hugmamma.  🙂 

christmas day…”it was greeeaaat!!!”

…was my daughter’s enthusiastic remark to time spent serving food to the needy at the community center on Christmas. My husband and I couldn’t have agreed more. Spending a portion of our Christmas Day bringing joy to others in a tangible way felt good…really good. I don’t think it’s possible to measure the blessings our family felt in giving to those who have so little, when we have so much by comparison. Having individuals approach us with thanks for what we’d done, was truly the best gift of the day. I highly recommend such gifting. To give what we can of ourselves…be it materially or spiritually.

While it was my idea to answer the call to volunteer, my husband and daughter joined in wholeheartedly. They agreed we could delay our own Christmas celebration until after we’d brought a little merriment to others, among them…the homeless…seniors on a fixed income…unemployed unable to afford regular meals…young families finding it difficult to support families…individuals living alone who crave companionship. No one is turned away from partaking of our community meal.

An early riser my husband got things rolling with a recipe for sticky buns. After washing the sleep from my eyes I helped slice the rolled dough with its tasty cinnamon mixture tucked inside. My husband carefully placed the slices in a couple of pans prepared with a syrupy glaze and chopped walnuts. I then whipped up a couple of pans of an ambrosia salad using mandarin oranges, pineapple chunks, flaked coconut, mini-marshmallows and sour cream. Quite yummy, if I must say so myself. We finished off by working together on a couple of pans of a spinach souffle. In addition, we contributed two pans heaped full of juicy, flavorful spiral ham.

My daughter awoke last since she’d been up wrapping presents for my husband and me into the wee hours of the morning. We wanted her to be her smiling best when helping to dish up the homemade goodies brought by all the volunteers. It’s amazing how, when given the opportunity, we can reach past barriers, real and imagined, to offer companionship…if only for a few hours. We all benefitted, I’m sure, by socially interacting with those we might not otherwise ever approach.

I’ve great admiration for the more dedicated volunteers. They share an easy camaraderie with the regular diners. Newcomers surveying the group wouldn’t easily discern the volunteers from the needy. All sit down together to share the meal. Conversation flows. Laughter and smiles abound. Today my family and I took our turn at sitting and visiting a spell. Usually we remain posted behind the table of food, happily dispensing spoonfuls to the hungry.

One gentleman diner shared a bit of prideful news with me as we sat across from one another.

“Do you like to read nonfiction?” he asked.

“Yes.” I replied.

Removing a book from the huge pocket that fronted his hoodie, he handed it to me with instructions that I turn to page 50. There, he explained, I would find an interview between himself and the author. Reading the passage I soon learned that my fellow diner identified himself with the being who personified inner, radiant light…as described by the writer. I smiled, handing the book back to its owner.

No, I didn’t think I was sitting down to sup with a loony case. If I’d wanted, I’m sure the gentleman would’ve been an engaging conversationalist. It is I who lacks the expansive imagination to visit other worlds. I would love to write fantasy…but alas, I don’t. But I would love to…maybe one day…for a story’s been brewing in my non-fiction brain…for some time.

Musicians from my church came by to entertain with Christmas carols. All joined in the singing…eyes twinkling as the spirit of the holiday sprinkled its magic upon our heads…and in our hearts. God‘s presence was palpable.

We who volunteered a little of our time and energy…received so much in return…from the downtrodden in our community. Through their intercession, we were filled with the Almighty’s mercy…and the grace of the Blessed Virgin.

No, I’m not a religious zealot…

…but I am a believer…in compassion…and hope…for each other…as well as ourselves…

………hugmamma. 

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365 photo challenge: viewer

Like his mom, my grandkitty Misha is what you might call…a viewer. Meaning that they like to observe the world around them, before leaping into action….

Misha’s…straight ahead look… 

…his…trying not to look…look…

…his…now you’ve got my attention…look…

…his…and now I’m going to pounce…look!!!

viewers don’t remain on the sidelines…forever……..    ………………………………….hugmamma. 😉

“shaka, bra…”

Sunset from Ka'annapali, Maui, Hawaiian Islands

Image by Mastery of Maps via Flickr

That’s Hawaiian speak for “it’s easy,” “no worries,” “right on.” At least that’s what I’ve thought it to mean when I lived and played in the islands, decades ago. I’m sure over time it’s come to mean more things to more people. In fact, I was pleasantly surprised to find the following email from kamaainas (non-locals who become locals by virtue of moving to Hawaii or owning property there). I don’t know them personally, but feel I do through their intermittent communication. Hope you enjoy this mini “pigeon-english” lesson. Never know, it might come in handy on a future visit to my native island paradise.

Aloha!
The “shaka” sign has meant many things over the years and is a definite part of Hawaiian culture and the aloha spirit that is always present in Hawai’i. Today, it can mean many things, including “Howzit?” (How’s it going?), “No worries!”, “Thanks!” and much more. It is by far the most well-known and used gesture by Hawai’i locals and islanders, men, women, and keiki (children) alike. It’s used as a gesture of friendship, to greet, and to say goodbye. It’s how local people wave at others. Interpreted to mean “hang loose” or “right on,” the “shaka” sign is a constant reminder that in Hawaii, it is not the norm to worry or rush. “Shaka” represents the embodiment of “island style.” It signals that everything is all right.

Road to Hana, Maui, Hawaiian Islands

Image by Mastery of Maps via Flickr

The “shaka” sign is more than just nonverbal communication. When you use it, you acknowledge the true concept of aloha and participate in the synergistic heartbeat of Hawai’i. A guest expressed it this way: “We remember when we got our first “shaka” in Hawai’i. We were enjoying the drive on the road to Hana. We looked in the rearview mirror and noticed a pickup truck following behind us. We assumed the folks in the truck were local residents and weren’t on a sightseeing mission as we were, so at our first opportunity, we pulled over to let the truck pass by us. As the truck passed, the passenger gave us a ‘shaka’.” (By the way, local residents will always appreciate your pulling over to allow them to pass if you are driving slowly.)

Edited photo of

Image via Wikipedia

To make a “shaka,” extend your thumb and pinkie while curling in the index and middle fingers. You can rotate your wrist too.

The “shaka” is a simple, yet powerful, way to remind locals and visitors of the way people look out for each other on the Islands, and strive to spread aloha day in, and day out, in keeping with the Hawaiian principle of “malama i kekahi i kekahi,”…”take care of one, take care of all.”

If you’re new to the islands, don’t be shy about throwing up “shakas.” Just make sure you’ve got the hand gesture down first!

road to hana

A hui hou…
Anne & Wes

 
 

 

 

“taylor’s gift” of life

Ellen The Complete Fourth Season DVD Cover Art

Image via Wikipedia

Ellen‘s show ended today with the TV host shining the spotlight on a member of her audience. Tarah Storch, surprised and overcome with emotion, embraced the talk show celebrity. Both seeming to exchange a few words in a hug that lasted a few minutes. With her trademark smile, Ellen began telling the story of Taylor, Tarah’s daughter.

Taylor died almost a year ago at age 13 in a skiing accident at Beaver Creek. The bereaved family instituted “Taylor’s Gift” in honor of a youngster who had a giving spirit. Donating their daughter’s organs to others in dire need, the family has since met 3 of the 5 recipients. Mom Tarah expressed the joy knowing that her child continues to live on in others. A special moment was hearing Taylor’s heart beat in the person who now lives on as a result of her family’s generosity.

Fair Ellen

Image via Wikipedia

A poem Taylor wrote right before the fatal accident as a language arts homework assignment, speaks of her feelings about life, and her compassion for others. How appropriate that she lives on in others lives, refreshing them anew and allowing them to strive once more.

hugs for taylor, tarah, ellen…and organ transplant donors…hugmamma.

“still tinkering,” comcast

Problem with Comcast not yet resolved; sometime between 1 and 5 p.m. today, or so I’m told. Am waiting for “the” technician’s call to advise that “yes, I’m “chomping at the bit,” waiting for his expertise help. Getting tired of holding my breath while typing, hoping what I’ve written won’t vanish into thin air, having to be rewritten once again…from scratch. Thank goodness I’m able to say the same thing, so many different ways. I don’t panic at having my first “masterpiece” annihilated. I’ve got others “up my sleeve,” or, as the case may be, in my head. So many of them competing to be selected to “star” in my blog.

Luckily I have an onsite repair guy, kind of. My husband’s the “go to” person for technical stuff. I “go to” him, and he “goes to” work, fixing problems. He knows he’s loved, for his name resounds through our 2-story house, more often than he cares to hear it. But like my daughter, my husband seems to wave his “magic wand”, and more times than not, he unfreezes the computer, or connects me to the internet, or figures out any other riddle that may occur. I’ve decided he and my daughter’s “magic wands” are their patience, especially for tinkering with gadgets, or in this case, the computer. God bless my Merlins.

Before crawling into bed last night, I decided to listen to my voice mail. There was only one message, a very, very interesting one, but an also very, very puzzling one at the same time. In fact, I had to replay it about 4 or 5 times. I couldn’t get past listening to a couple of words at a time.

Comcast left an automated message to confirm the repairman’s appointment for today, or so I thought. The very formal, female voice said that the visit was scheduled for January 1, 1970!” My first attempt to listen got no farther than January; my second attempt, no farther than January 1st; the final attempt, I only heard 1970. The reason for my lack of success to hear it the first time, was that I tried to tell my husband about the message, as I heard it. I was so totally discombobulated! I doubted I was hearing what I thought I heard. A couple of times I tried to share the phone with my husband, propping it between our heads as they lay side by side on our pillows. Finally, I replayed the message and put the phone to his ear to listen. His reaction? He chuckled, no incredulity, no “that’s crazy.” Then with his technical savvy, my husband proceeded to give me “the lowdown.”

An incorrect date in an automated message can occur because of a mistake in data input. If the program doesn’t recognize the symbols used, it will spew out the wrong information. So I guess it was human error, that caused a computer error. We’re not indispensable after all! Good to know, as technology continues to displace human beings in everything from checking out at grocery stores, to confirming appointments, to assisting in surgeries.

I was just “kicked off” the internet again. The connection icon says “signal strength: excellent.” I decided to copy this to “wordprocess.” Trying to recreate so many posts can be burdensome, and irritating. I’ve just been “told” to “restart” my computer, something I’ve done numerous times over the course of days, and nights. While very frustrated, I’m not inclined to get crazed. I’ve a bigger life than just this, so I wander off to do other things, returning to see if things have changed from time to time. I’m not going to ruin my health, getting stressed over a machine, and Comcast. I prefer to focus my energies upon having a great time with my family, laughing and enjoying the minutiae of our daily lives.

There’ve been comments about Comcast’s failing service and escalating costs, and other blogs contain scathing posts about the “giant” cable provider. Just as with my blogging, I’m holding my breath for the “other shoe to drop.” Will my good experience with Comcast turn from gold to tarnished silver? When I called to confirm today’s appointment, making sure it’s for today and not January 1, 1970, Daleesa kindly apologized for the error, explaining that she would report it, as she had done with the numerous other calls she had reported, to do with the same problem.

It’s 2:42 p.m. I’m still awaiting the technician’s call; he should arrive no later than 5 p.m. I look forward to meeting yet another helpful employee. I’m trying to remain optimistic; negativity wears me down too much.

the saga continues,…should we return to the good old days?…hugmamma

blogging, still mind-boggling

With our recent spate of inclement weather, blogging has not been smooth. My Comcast connection has been operating in “fits and starts.” Is that the right cliché? I can never nail those. One minute I’m typing away, churning out the words, then “poof,” I get kicked off the internet.

Lately I’ve been running between my laptop upstairs, and the household computer down here in the “bowels of the earth.” You’d think the exercise up and down stairs would’ve lost me a few pounds. But no luck, with the holidays comfortably ensconced upon me, there’s no let up in shoveling tasty morsels into my eager mouth throughout the day. Frustration only increases the number of times, and the portion sizes.

I’m writing to forewarn you about the regularity with which my posts may appear. I’m still here, but most of the time I seem to be blogging in isolation, that is until Comcast gets me back out into cyberspace. I do plan to call them today, and ask if there might be a problem. I wonder how many buttons I’ll have to press to get through their programmed customer service menu, to actually ask my question? I just wish the darned computer would work without any hitches. At times like this is when I feel like flinging it through the nearest window.

The other item I wanted to mention is the modification in my blog’s title. For regular readers who know that my site was known as “Hugmamma’s Attention to Detail,” you might have wondered “Whaaas up?” My lovely daughter and I put our pretty, little heads together is “whaaa happened.”

Maintaining a blog is an ongoing challenge, especially if I want to continue attracting readers. All bloggers face this dilemma. While remaining true to its core message, I must tweak my site every now and then, until it finally evolves into a product with which I’m fully satisfied.  I’m not there yet. Much of it is to do with my limited computer skills, like uploading photos and videos. Yes, I can learn; but no, I haven’t the patience. I simply want to write. So as soon as I established the basic platform from which to launch my passion, I stopped wanting to learn. And so it’s my fault that all the “neat stuff” still eludes me.

While I do congratulate myself for coming this far in 4 short months, I’m itching to go farther. Long story short, I felt that the previous title of my blog was not helping to get my “voice” further out into the internet community. The title needed words which were more likely to be “clicked on.” But I didn’t think too hard upon the subject, only mentioning it to my daughter in passing.

As if waving a magic wand, my daughter immediately proclaimed that the title of my blog should be “Hugmamma’s Mind, Body and Soul.” She explained, very eloquently, that my posts already fell under these 3 categories. Pet topics like Alzheimer’s and bananagrams involve the mind; food, and all its subcategories, as well as alternative health practices involve the body; and my travel commentaries and philosophical ramblings are “food” for the soul.

Like me, “Hugmamma’s Mind, Body and Soul,” continues to evolve. I hope you’ll stay with me as I continue sharing my thoughts and feelings about the minutiae of every day life, mine…and hopefully, yours. 

huge hugs as we head toward 2011, when we’ll all bloom…hugmamma.  

 

“easy overnight turkey,” the hard way

Decided to try a different turkey recipe than the one I’ve used for the past several years. The following recipe enticed me away from my tried and true. Choosing recipes entails using my vivid imagination and attention for details. As I peruse the ingredients, I can imagine the look and taste of the finished product. Hope I never lose this ability. It’s always served me well, for I’m inclined to try new recipes on guests. Talk about being fearless!

Looking through the brief instructions for the recipe I used, I could taste its magnificence, glazed to perfection, and succulent. I couldn’t resist replacing my usual way of cooking turkey, for this seemingly, old-fashioned, grandma-tested version. I’ve reprinted it below. See what you think.

EASY OVERNIGHT TURKEY  (Easy for who? Zombies? I sure felt like one on Thanksgiving Day.)

1  20-pound hen turkey (Costco only had “toms,” so I went with that. Wasn’t about to drive around on icy roads, trying to chase down a “hen.”)

1/2 stick butter

1  large clove garlic, slivered

1  large peeled onion, quartered

l large unpeeled apple, quartered

Rinse turkey and wipe dry. Rub inside and out with half the butter. Place remaining butter inside cavity. Place garlic, onion and apple in cavity. Do not salt or pepper the bird. Place breast-side down on rack in roaster. Bake for 1 hour at 325 degrees. Turn bird on back and reduce heat to 200 degrees. Bake, uncovered, without opening oven, for 10 to 12 hours. Serves 12.

(Stopped to give my fat cat, Juneau, a bear hug, so he’d stop nudging my hand as my fingers flew over the keys.)

I guess chefs follow recipes to the letter, at least the first time they try a new recipe. I’ m not a professional, just a basic cook. After 40 years of preparing meals, 3 times a day, 365 days a year, I tend to “wing it.” Unlike the early years of wedded bliss, when I cooked an entire meal before guests arrived, and reheated everything in the oven before serving them up. Talk about dried out food. Yikes!

Since I was prepping all the side dishes for overnight refrigeration, to be cooked after the turkey exited the oven the following day, I left “Tom” turkey to my husband. He attacked that bird with gusto! He even lay on the living room couch  through the night, babysitting it as it baked. Funny thing, unlike me, my husband didn’t look like a zombie Thanksgiving Day.

The recipe indicated that the turkey should cook from 10-12 hours. Not having baked a 20-pounder before, we opted for the maximum amount of time. Not having a traditional roasting pan, the large oval ones specifically manufactured for the occasion, my husband made do with the pan that is usually part of a stove purchase. You know, it’s a combo square catch pan with a top that has slits in it. Food’s broiled on top, and the drippings seep through to the pan beneath. Anyway, the turkey fit in the catch pan, so we were good to go.

As we peered through the glass oven door, we beheld a glorious sight, a beautifully, browning turkey. We oohed and ahhed many times over the course of 12 hours. At some point, I wondered if we might recommit to a different cook time, maybe 10 1/2 or 11 or 11 1/2 hours. As the bird continued to deepen in color, I thought it might also be drying out. But, of course, not knowing what the pros know, we stayed our course.

About half-an-hour before dinner, my husband brought out the amazing cooked specimen, setting it atop the counter to “rest.” Then, while I finished baking the remaining dishes, he carved the turkey. It was more like a massacre. Poor, golden, sacrificial bird, it was chopped into smithereens. There were square chunks, rectangular slabs, strips of flesh, everything but nice, thin slices of meat. I was moved enough to vow that I’d carve next Thanksgiving. I hope my brain retains the slaughtered image until then.

So how did it taste? As dry as all those reheated meals I use to serve up in my 20’s. I cautioned our dinner guests to drown the meat in Costco’s delicious gravy. For those who didn’t, I’m not sure how they managed to swallow.

Next time we tackle this recipe, and believe me there’ll be a next time, I’ll try to find a hen turkey, bake it less than 12 hours, and carve it up myself. Oh, and we’ll buy a proper roasting pan, so we don’t wind up cleaning the oven again, because of overflowing juices. I’ll still let my husband help, prep the bird and babysit the thing overnight. We’ll do it just like the pros next time.

I’m open to suggestions, especially if you try this recipe and the results are scrumptious.

Bon appetite!!!…hugmamma.

“stuffed” full of food, memories, and feeling old

Had a fantastic Thanksgiving celebration! Hope you did as well. Am sure we had a lot in common, turkey and all the fixings, family and friends gathered around the table, laughter, small talk, and oh-so- full bellies. What we may, or may not, have shared in experience was feeling, for the very first time, like senior citizens.

Original plans were that my husband and I would have been the middle-aged folk since friends, a couple in their early and mid-70’s, were set to join us for our holiday meal. Of course our daughter was always to be the young chickadee, at 24 years. A call from our nephew who lives and works in Seattle, altered the dynamics. Because of the snowstorm that blew our way, his plan to spend Thanksgiving with his mom’s relatives were canceled due to icy roads. We expected that Kanoa and his girlfriend Erica would dine with us, but were pleasantly surprised to learn that his brother, Sam, would be in town as well. We’d not seen this nephew since he was 11 or so. Now he’s an aerospace engineer, with a degree in aeronautics. Another welcome addition to our cozy home was Kanoa’s roommate, Darnelle. As it turned out, our first guests, Sylvia and Jim, cancelled because of icy weather conditions between their town and ours. So my husband and I quickly moved up, or down, depending on your viewpoint, the age ladder.

My gourmet feast was a hit! Conversation was lively! After some expected “hiccups,” that is. I mean, 30+ years difference in age does require some fancy footwork. I love dancing, and talking, but even my brain was working overtime trying to “connect the dots” in our conversation. I did miss a couple, “dots” that is, like the time Sam told a joke about an antelope in rut who ran into a stopped SUV. The animal was chasing potential mates, who’d smartly sidestepped the vehicle. I got that part because it’s a known fact that females are smarter. Ahem. What I didn’t get, is that the story was a joke. I thought the anecdote was a true story about a friend whose car was hit by a stupid animal. So what began as laughter at the joke, evolved into hysteria when I asked in disbelief, “Was that a joke?” Thank God they thought I was a cute, little, old aunty. Hey, I don’t deny it. I embrace it, especially when I ponder the alternative.

Decades old memories with a Long Island friend and her family, is one that remains with me. Even many years after having lost touch, I can still picture sitting around the dinner table with as many as 10 guests. The food was the best Italian fare I’ve ever tasted, all homemade and exquisitely delicious. The manicotti with delicately, thin pasta shells and the large, flavorful meatballs topping handmade spaghetti drenched in Carmella’s mom’s marinara sauce, were two of my favorite dishes. Even more memorable was to be enveloped into the loving warmth of an Italian family. So like Hawaiians who embrace one and all. I loved them dearly, Carmella, Vito and mom and pop Adamo. Still do, though the parents have long since gone to Heaven, and we’ve lost touch with sister and brother who moved to other states. Even Christmas cards have stopped arriving. But no matter, I will always remember them with fondness and love.

As I sat listening to our young dinner guests last night, I was reminded of pop Adamo. When we first met, he was virile, engaging, witty, and “in command.” Though small in stature, pop was the “man of the house,” though his daughter and son hovered above him like giants, and even his wife stood a half-a-head taller. It’s true, Italian men rule the roost. They might be small, like pop, but his “presence” was large. Vito was taller than 6 feet, but “shrank” when pop barked. When they wanted to convince pop of something, son, daughter and wife would have to cajole him, sometimes for days or weeks. It usually endured for some amount of time, so I can’t remember if they succeeded more times, than not. I do know that I always tried to remain on pop’s good side. He did have a small, soft spot in his heart for this island girl.

I’m not certain when I first noticed that pop was no longer “himself.” Was it before, or after Carmela told us he had Alzheimer’s? Or was it when his voice no longer reverberated through the house, or when he sat in silence after we said our first hellos. But the image foremost in my mind is of pop sitting in his usual chair at the head of the dining table, looking “lost.” It saddened me that he was unable to participate in conversations, where before his witticisms were part of the social gatherings. While his body sat, his spirit seemed elsewhere, perhaps floating overhead, disengaged. In time, pop became permanently wedded to the dreaded disease.

Alzheimer’s assumed a stranglehold on the Adamos, and their home was never the same again. Somehow the family evolved, as we all do, moving forward to become newer, updated versions of their former selves. Carmela married a wonderful man, Steve, and they were blest with an only child, daughter Christine. Last we heard Vito had moved to Las Vegas where he enjoyed the many pleasures of “sin city.” I’m sure pop rolled over in his grave. Mom grew more frail as the years passed, finally succumbing to eternal peace. I’ll always remember her charitableness, especially for those who sat at her bountiful table. We celebrated Thanksgiving every time we sat down to dinner with this loving family.

Last night I caught a glimpse of my own “evolution.” Aging is inevitable, as is change. Resisting either, or both, is probably unwise, and unhealthy. Granted, I am who I am because of 61 years of accumulated experiences, memories, and “self-diagnosis.” There’ve certainly been “detours” along the way, which meant tweaking my life, here and there. But true happiness, I think, is the “thread” that courses through our lives as we evolve, from birth to death. Standing still, inflexible and unchanging, would probably cut, or at least thin, the flow of happiness. Though I may be goofy at times, acting “abynormal,” as my daughter and I label my zany behavior, I am normal in wanting, like others, to know happiness in my daily life.

So I owe much to the young folk who sat around our dinner table on Thanksgiving Day. They “stretched” my brain cells with their chatter about X-Box games, reasons for disliking Windows 7, multi-tasking on 3 computers simultaneously, all while checking their cellphones intermittently. I did hold my own, however, when relating stories about life experiences. They seemed to enjoy my fear of bear anecdotes, and my general “c’est la vie” attitude.

Thanks Kanoa, Sam, Erica and Darlene! You added to the cozy evening, with your youthful gaiety, “geeky” conversation, and contribution of  “ono” food, the lomi salmon, poki tako, kalua pig and pumpkin cheesecake. More than anything, you added to our family’s Thanksgiving memories, about which we’ll be reminiscing for a long time.

are you as “stuffed?’…hugmamma..

“thanks giving,” or “giving thanks”

Time with our daughter while she’s home on sabbatical for a few months, is precious beyond words. She started her journey towards a professional career when she was 11. When she wasn’t doing schoolwork, she was dancing. Serious hopefuls know they must train all the time, like any other athlete, from gymnasts to basketball players. 

At the performing arts conservatory where our daughter was enrolled as a high school student, academics began at 7:30 a.m. and ended at 12:30 p.m. each day. Throughout the rest of the afternoon, she was in dance classes, ballet, jazz, modern, character and Spanish. If a performance loomed large, rehearsals extended a long day, into an even longer one. Where our daughter may have normally finished at 6:30 p.m., rehearsing easily saw her at the studio until 9 or 9:30 p.m. And then, of course, there was homework to be done, which regularly kept the midnight oil burning.

Summers saw our daughter dancing in programs around the country, even Canada. Her first year away from home, ever, I traveled with her by plane, then bus to Banff, Canada. I settled her in safely for the 5 week dance workshop, where she was the only American chosen to participate. At the time she was 15.  She did so well, they awarded her a scholarship to return the following summer. She opted, instead, to dance in NYC with American Ballet Theatre. She’s since thought better of her decision, wishing she’d returned to Banff, where the training was more individualized. “Water under the bridge,” as the saying goes. And while the dancing wasn’t as great as she thought, our daughter wasn’t disappointed with The Big Apple. She would return there to dance, again and again, in the future.

As she grew older, our daughter’s summer forays increased in number. The summer before moving to train with Atlanta Ballet, she danced in Mississippi, Atlanta and NYC. The programs differed, affording  her varied experiences. The first was a competition that occurs every 4 years in Jackson; the second was with Atlanta Ballet; and the third was with Paul Taylor’s Company, for contemporary dance.

At 16 years of age, and a senior in high school, our daughter moved to Atlanta. I accompanied her, remaining until she turned 19.  While training with the city’s ballet company, she finished her academic studies online, with a teacher from the conservatory. She graduated in June, having returned home to participate in the ceremonies. Because the state recognized the school’s dance credits, our daughter received a 4.25 grade point average on her final report card.

Our daughter has felt it important for her to continue training in the Company’s off-season, which usually coincides with the summer months. Our daughter has done so, traveling to NYC,  Chautauqua/New York, Martha’s Vineyard/Massachusetts, Portland/Oregon, and more recently, Irvine/California. While continuing to hone her craft, and keeping physically fit, she has also benefitted by growing her network of instructors, choreographers, artistic directors, and fellow dancers. As with other careers, “who you know” does help. 

My husband and I have supported our daughter in her quest to become a professional dancer. She has the talent, the discipline, the work ethic, and the drive to forge ahead in her career. Fortunately for her, and the Company with whom she now dances, theirs is a mutual “love affair.” They look forward to her return in the New Year, as does she.

Meanwhile, my husband and I feel very fortunate to have our grown daughter home with us for the holidays. Not since before dance became the focal point of her life, have we had the luxury of time, to just enjoy one another. She’s my “BFF,” best friend forever, girlfriend, that is. My husband’s my male “BFF.” Having our daughter share the minutiae of our daily lives is the best gift we could receive this season. So when we celebrate Thanksgiving later this month, it will be with hearts full of loving gratitude for our daughter, and for parenthood.

counting our blessings…hugmamma.

“blessed are the children”

Fr. Bryan was his usual, charismatic self. At 38 years old, he’s got the talent and ability to run a business, so the Catholic church is lucky to have him, especially at the salary they must pay him. I’m betting it’s less than $20,000 a year. Today’s homily was proof of his capability to manage the “firm.”

Our parish must submit a 20 year plan for its projected growth. Father indicated that we are a suburban congregation on an urban plot of land. Physical expansion is nearly maxed out. To assist in his plan, Father conducted paper surveys during masses, over the course of 2 weekends. The first dealt with the demographics of the churchgoers; today’s asked which of 4 options we favored. Should we maintain the status quo? Should we stay put, expanding to the max, including constructing a parking garage? Should we consolidate the elementary, middle and high schools on one campus? Should we consolidate all of the church buildings, and the schools onto one compound? Of course, the price tag escalates with each option, from half-a-million dollars to $18 million. 

Father explained that when parishioners asked how soon various and sundry items would be fixed or initiated, he would tell them “We need to come up with a plan.” Interestingly enough he made more sense than my husband who tells me to show him a business plan, when I’ve expressed the desire to open an antique/gift shop. Another question often asked of Father is how long he’ll continue to be our pastor. He told us today that his 3 year contract is up in the spring. We’ll know then whether or not he’ll be renewed for another 6 years. 

Maybe parishioners are wondering  whether or not they want to commit millions of dollars, if Father Bryan is not around to enjoy the “fruits” of his labor. That’s what happened with the parish’s last major church remodel, about 10 years ago. Father Clark accomplished the task with a league of faithful volunteers. He was soon reassigned, and when another priest took his place, many left because the new pastor was not blest with people skills. Even my patient, long-suffering husband experienced moments of frustration. And that’s saying something.

While Father Bryan was speaking about our parish’s “mission,” since today was Mission Sunday, I was admiring the loving relationship of adoptive Caucasian parents for their Hispanic, 7 or 8-year-old son. Sitting in the pew in front of us, I first noticed the husband rubbing the small of his wife’s back in a very loving way. Initially I thought they might have had a little spat, and he was trying to get back into her good graces. But then I noticed the youngster between them, arms wrapped around his father’s waist. For a few minutes, I was distracted by something Father said. When my eyes returned to watching the family, the boy had his arms around his father’s leg. The man looked to be a little over 6 feet tall. Later, mother and son had their arms around one another, she stroking the arm he held across her tummy.

If ever I felt a child belonged to his parents, he was standing right in front of me. The aura emanating from that family was so organic, their love so natural. The difference in their ethnicities meant nothing to them, and yet it spoke volumes about them. I couldn’t help but lean forward, touching the mother on her shoulder, and telling her “I love how you love your son.” She smiled her thanks, sidling over to her son, both of them moving closer to her husband, his father. Tears welled in my eyes, which I had to quell before they trickled down my cheeks. My daughter put her arm around my waist, love in her eyes. She too smiled upon the family, and understood what a blessing they were, especially for those who beheld them.

While I listened to the wisdom of one mother’s son, I beheld another who was so loved by his parents. God touches us, when we least expect it.

all God’s children, hugs for…hugmamma.

manipulation, the fine art of

Words are a powerful tool. They persuade. They excite. They confirm. But words can also destroy. As a writer, I have the luxury of editing and re-editing my words. So when the final product is published, every word is intentional. There’s no taking back what I’ve written, once a reader “owns” it. What was once strictly in my thoughts, is now in print, roaming around the internet universe. Good, bad or indifferent, my blog is my legacy. I take responsibility, with the understanding that readers have the choice to subscribe, or to turn a deaf ear to what I have to say. It’s not quite the same when speaking one’s mind.

In an earlier post, I referred to my 84 year-old mother-in-law’s life-long belief that once spoken, harsh words can never be taken back. So she has lived her life refraining from speaking hurtful words. And as a testament to her, all of my husband’s family relate to one another with loving consideration. It was within this enivironment that I learned to love and value myself.

I’ve also spoken of my mom in previous posts, preferring to speak mostly of her strengths. But among the many good ones, there was one which dominated, and not in a positive way. My mom was a master manipulator. Her words could warm me one moment, and cut right through me the next. With no father to turn for support or comfort, and older siblings too concerned for their own survival, I could only wait until my mom favored me with her love once again. Until her death some years ago, I was never free of being emotionally manipulated by the one person whose approval I always sought. I’m certain I remain in her grasp to this day. My only solace is that I have blocked the past from my mind and my life. Dr. Daniel Amen’s book Change Your Brain, Change Your Life has helped me move forward by killing the “ants”  (automatic negative thoughts) which kept creeping into my brain to attack what positive gains I had made. Of course it’s an ongoing struggle, but at 61, I’m living my best life with my loved ones by my side.

Because of my own personal experience, I have tremendous compassion for those who struggle physically, and emotionally. I write to encourage, to bring hope, and to do battle with negtivity wherever it dwells. My greatest concern is that it can even reside in well-wishers, whether innocently or intentional.

Those who seek to counsel, whether invited or not, have their own agenda. It can be based upon genuine love and concern, but it could just as easily have self-serving ramifications. Oft times one who is in distress has difficulty seeing that she is being manipulated into dependence upon the one offering comfort and solace, until it is too late. In all relationships, there is either equality or inequality. Participants may be equals in that one is better at somethings, while the other is better at others. Inequality exists when one person dominates, regardless if he is better or worse at anything. He “owns” his environment by virtue of his narcissistic mentality. He manipulates everything to his benefit. The sadistic truth is when he convinces his partner that he has her best interests at heart.

Manipulation occurs in all relationships, but some are inherently more devastating. The unhappy reality is that it can be years in the making, and just as many years in recovering from its effects, one issue being trust. How does one ever trust again? How does one ever believe in oneself again? And how does one unravel oneself, from one’s manipulator?

Just as scary a thought is hoping you never unknowingly become the manipulator, of your children, for example, as my mother was of me. That is a fine line which we parents walk every day of our lives.

the greatest gift, to let our children be…hugmamma.

tv land, 2010

Once upon a time sitcoms ruled the airwaves. There were the good, the bad, and the really greaaattt! My favorites will always remain “I Love Lucy,” “All In the Family,” “Everybody Loves Raymond,” and the early black and white episodes of “The Andy Griffith Show.” These are like comfort food for the soul, conjuring up memories of a simpler time when family life was very important. I enjoyed watching others with some regularity as well, like “Ozzie and Harriet,” “The Danny Thomas Show,” “Father Knows Best,” “The Donna Reed Show,” “Dennis the Menace,” “Barney Miller” and “Sanford and Son.” Growing up my daughter had her favorites as well, among them, “The Bill Cosby Show.” 

What was appealing for my daughter and me was the laughter the sitcoms evoked. For half an hour we lost ourselves in others’ foibles, while enjoying the family dynamics acted out on the small screen. Time flew by, leaving us eagerly awaiting the next installment. As we drifted off to do other things, echoes of laughter could still be heard as we remembered some mishap, or hilarious “punch line.” Sitcoms left us feeling warm and fuzzy inside.

Fast forward to the present, and TV land’s domination by reality shows. I balked when Nick Lachey and Jessica Simpson wanted to play husband and wife in my living room. Nuh, uh. I don’t think so. Other shows piqued my curiosity but never held my attention, like “Wife Swap,” and “Super Nanny.” I was never a fan of “Kate and John Plus Eight,” and I’m still not interested in watching her carry on without him. Though I’m glad she is; he’s  such a loser. What finally “sucked” me into watching Reality TV was “The Bachelor.”

I don’t think I watched with the thought that I’d be hooked, but one, gorgeous hunk surrounded by a bevy of beauties was intriguing. It was inconceivable that 25 women would lay bare their souls, and bodies, for millions of viewers to see, and pass judgement. I never thought of them as desperate, although some let it be known that they were. A few said they were on the show to marry the bachelor because their biological clocks were ticking away, and time was running out. Wow! Talk about honesty in front of millions of strangers. Whenever I asked my daughter if she’d audition for the show, her eyes would bulge in disbelief, “I’d never go in front of a TV audience to compete for some guy. Those women are crazy! I can’t believe they’d do such a thing.”

I’m not as faithful a fan of “The Bachelor” as I once was. The network lost me when they began substituting it with “The Bachelorette.” I didn’t find the  shenanigans of the men in the house, as much fun as that of the women. How they can behave like divas and catty “b—s” on national TV is beyond my comprehension. But with so much competition, “Bachelor” is just one of many shows that I view sporadically.

Among the many reality shows that I’ve glimpsed, some more than others,  are “Laguna Beach,” and “The Hills,” depicting the life of spoiled, rich kids. The exception was “The City’s” Whitney, who became a successful fashion designer in NYC. Celebrities whose lives I’ve watched with curious disbelief are Atlanta’s Kimora, the self- crowned “Queen of Fabulosity,” and Beverly Hills’ Kim Kardashian with her menagerie of family members, including former Olympic champion, step-father, Bruce Jenner. My daughter actually reminded me that the first reality show I probably watched was Tyra Bank’s “America’s Next Top Model.” I’ve not seen it in ages, so I guess I’d forgotten about it. What I do remember, however, is disliking that the candidates’ vulnerabilities were exploited by the show for its own benefit, and Tyra’s fashionista presence. I found both unappealing by the time I stopped tuning in to watch.

Then there were “The Housewives of…” Orange County, NYC, New Jersey, Atlanta, D.C., and soon to be aired, Beverly Hills. I watched the first in the series, the O.C. housewives, because I wanted to see how the “other half-lives.” It was difficult to believe that there were such shallow women whose lives revolved around money, and all it could buy. Underlying all the other Housewive series is the same dollar worship. Of course, some of the women are more tolerable than others. Bethenny Frankl-Hopy of NYC being one of my favorites. She is self-deprecating, realizing that the show should be viewed with more than a “grain of salt.” I must admit to still watching the “Housewives” from time to time, and I can’t wait to see how much sillier the Beverly Hills group will be.

Currently I’m a fan of “Say Yes to the Dress,” the New York version. The show is taped in Kleigsfeld, “the” bridal shop patronized by many brides-to-be. The warm, friendly staff remind me of the years I worked in the “Big Apple.” Those who have not worked, and perhaps lived, in Manhattan haven’t experienced the unique charm of New Yorkers. They can be brusque, but they also have “big hearts,” especially for those whom they befriend. So watching the bridal staff do their utmost to marry a bride with the perfect wedding gown is gratifying, even to me, an observer.

HGTV is my reset channel. I’m always up for one of its home sale or designer shows, “Get It Sold,” “Property Virgins,” “Divine Design,” “My First House,” “Color Splash,” and, of course, “House Hunters,” and “House Hunters International.” It’s so much fun to see the “befores” and the “afters.” It’s equally entertaining to guess which of 3 properties house buyers will purchase. And several of the show hosts are like old friends, Sabrina Soto, Sandra Rinomato, Janice Olsen, and David Bromstad. I know their voices, and can picture their faces with my eyes closed.

I’m not such a fan of the reality competitions like “American Idol,” and  “Dancing With The Stars.” While I may drop in to watch “America’s Got Talent,” it’s not often enough to say I’m a devotee. When “So You Think You can Dance” first aired, I watched because my daughter was tapped to be one of its first contestants. The British judge, Nigel, and a couple of others associated with the show, sat in on a company ballet class where my daughter use to dance. She was singled out, along with others, to try out for the show. But my daughter declined because she was already under contract, and didn’t relish the thought of a television competition. In some of the early shows, she did recognize contestants with whom she had danced in various summer programs, like Danny Tidwell, and Neal (blonde guy, forgot his last name).

These days reality shows dominate TV viewing. I enjoy some, and loathe some. But not even those I favor gives me the same pleasurable feelings, as did the sitcoms of bygone days. If only “I Love Lucy” could have gone on forever.         

for the good old days, huge hugs…hugmamma.

putting a “face” on the “unknown” (an update)

I received information that requires I update my previous post, the “unknown,” put a “face” on it.

My nephew and his partner were married in San Fransisco in 2009. The happy news is that he was the one who had nursed my nephew back from a near fatal illness, that must have been a nightmare for all who love him, especially his parents, my sister and her husband, who then cared for my mom years later, during her decade long bout with Alzheimer’s. I’m not sure they’d agree that God only gives us what He thinks we can handle. But I’m certain their reward is their children and grandchildren. 

My nephew’s 2 daughters had been in the L.A. Social System before their adoption, and they now attend the school where their dad teaches 5th grade. Writing these words brings a lot of warmth to my heart. Two young girls, one 12 and one 6, were rescued from a system, an orphanage of sorts, and restored into the welcoming arms of a loving family. I would hate to imagine where those youngsters might be today, if not for their dads. From my perspective, the product of a dysfunctional, straight family, 2 fabulous dads who love 2 “broken” children, deserve a lot of thanks and support, in their efforts to create a normal home in a society too quick to judge. My great-nieces, young innocents, are another couple of faces of the Human Rights Campaign.

the “unknown”, less so…hugmamma.