valentine sentiments, a lifelong romance

After nearly 41 years of marriage, what can my husband do that still “makes my heart sing?” The quick answer is “give me a musical greeting card that plays ‘WILD THING, you make my heart sing, you make everything…groovy!’ “ Normally conservative, he’s a man of few words. As college valedictorian my husband’s speech consisted of 3 words, “Silence is golden.” As you can see, my husband has a “funny bone.” His humor can be sweet as well. Oh he can tease me endlessly, after all he’s the eldest of 12 and I’m the youngest of 9. But in unexpected moments, he surprises me with the smallest gesture that melts my heart and makes me giggle, like the young woman I was when we first met 44 years ago.

A lifetime of shared memories, of valleys and peaks, of maturing from 17-year-olds with “butterflies in our stomachs,” to seniors purchasing discount tickets and munching popcorn from a shared bag at Regal Cinema. How did we continue holding tight to one another’s hands, so certain we were a good match? I don’t think we knew for sure. Who does? 

It’s always amazed me how complete strangers, foreign to each other in every way, including the blood coursing through their veins, can cleave to one another as is expected when they are pronounced man and wife. That has got to be the one overriding “APT,” or “automatic positive thought” they must fight to keep for the rest of their lives. I can only imagine the civil wars that are waged within marriages between that one “APT” and the overwhelming army of  “ANTS” or “automatic negative thoughts” that bombard married persons every day.

I can only answer for myself that 41 years together has made my husband and me believers in the same faith, if you will. Yes, we are both Catholics, but our faith in each other is more profound than religion. I’ve heard it said, where I don’t remember, those whom we love most and who favor us with the same, affirm who we are. They are the passports for our earthly existence, and we for theirs. In an episode of  “I Love Lucy,” the Ricardos and the Mertzes satisfied the Passport Bureau requirement when they all acknowledged knowing one another, thus enabling them to travel abroad. If not for those who testify to our existence in their lives, we might only be murky shadows, in others’ collective memories. Vague memories which might include “Oh yeah, I remember her. Wasn’t she in our graduating class?” or “He was such a loner. Did he ever date? Did he marry?”

Looking into my husband’s eyes all these years, I’ve seen a “diamond in the rough” looking back at me. His love and unwavering commitment has helped me slowly evolve into the brilliant gem I am today. Light may not bounce off gray hairs, as it once did when it shimmered against dark locks, long ago. But the heart that beats within, remains the same. It still skips a beat when my husband walks through the door, after a long day’s work. Just as it did when I saw the boyfriend who resembled a young Elvis, stride through the front doors of my college residence, coming to collect me for a date.

Maybe my husband heard my beating heart when we were young. These days I might have to amplify the sound slightly. We’re both growing older, together. A funny card and a box of old-fashion candy hearts inscribed with sayings, reminds me that our romance is ageless. While the inscriptions are not as endearing as they once were, I selected a few which held special meaning…”call me, hold hands, soul mate,” representative of our good “young” days. “Shake it, boogie, oxox” are my hope for our lives going forward. One very special candy heart is inscribed “angel.” Our daughter was a gift after 16 childless years. I’m sure God sent us one of his own… to complete our marriage.

treasuring reminders… of priceless sentiments…hugmamma.         

mother-in-law, life lessons

My mother-in-law, in her 80’s, has taught me much through the 40 years I’ve been married to her son. We all get wiser with age and life experience, she’s no exception. I’m still trying to abide by her favorite piece of advice,  that it’s better not to speak one’s mind in anger, because those words can never be taken back. And she’s followed her own advice, without fail. 

The first encounter with my mother-in-law was when I phoned her son to invite him to a college prom. Shutting myself into a dorm phone booth, I repeated the speech I had prepared. “Hi! You might not remember me, but…” My heart raced in anticipation of hearing his voice at the other end of the phone. When I heard “her” voice instead, my heart stopped and I gulped. Expecting her to refuse my request, I asked for her son anyway. To my extreme delight, she asked me to wait while she called him. Hallelujah! My heart was racing again…

Since that day, my mother-in-law has shown nothing but support and love for my relationship, and marriage, to her son. Her generosity isn’t reserved for just us, it extends to her 11 other children as well, and her many, many grandchildren and great-grandchildren. She never speaks unkindly towards any of us, or about any of us. She is a living lesson in self-restraint and compassion for others. 

Early on while dating my husband, I learned another valuable lesson from my unwitting mother-in-law. In those days, she was younger and feistier, and given to using a high-pitched, piercing voice when nagging her children about some undone chore or mischievous act. Who could blame her? With 12 kids to care for, I’d have taken a long vacation into the next millennium. I remember once witnessing her storm through the house, screaming the name of the villainous child, who quickly escaped out the back door. Those of us present glanced at one another with knowing smiles. 

That scene often came to mind while raising my daughter. When upset my voice dropped several octaves and my words were measured, as I reprimanded her for inappropriate behavior. The only time I screamed at her, my daughter stood in absolute shock near the kitchen table looking as though she had escaped her body, hovering overhead until the tirade was over. So learning what not to do from my mother-in-law, disciplining my daughter was less exhausting. But then again, the odds were in my favor having only 1 child to her 12. And God bless her, she went on to babysit many of her “moapunas” (grandchildren). I have yet to experience that pleasure. Will I even have the energy?

still learning, from her…hugmamma.

redding ct, like the maui of old

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

cemetery scavenger hunt

On a recent trip to California’s Orange County, to see our daughter perform as part of the National Choreographer’s Initiative, my husband granted my only wish for my 61st birthday, which occurred while we were there. We visited Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale. I wanted to see Michael Jackson’s burial site, but also glimpse where stars of Hollywood’s “Golden Age” were buried. I’d picked up a thick paperback from Barnes and Noble, which was like an encyclopedic “map” of historical celebrity sites, hangouts, studios, homes. Hollywood: The Movie lover’s Guide – The Ultimate Insider Tour of Movie L.A. by Richard Alleman, even detailed the specific locations where the famous were entombed. Book in hand we went on our very own scavenger hunt, seeking out dead people.

Pulling through the enormous wrought iron gates of Forest Lawn Memorial Park, we were taken aback by the serenity that greeted us. Yes it’s a resting place for the deceased, but it looked like a park with acres of lush, green grass. It seemed like an oasis in the midst of Los Angeles, for right outside the gates were strip malls as far as the eye could see in all directions. Just inside the entrance was a Tudor style building which lodged a combination floral/gift shop, as well as an information desk and restrooms. From what little I saw during MJ’s private burial ceremony on TV, I expected more security and less warmth from staff members. To my amazement there were no security guards patrolling the compound, and the few workers with whom I spoke, were pleasant and forthcoming with answers to my questions.

Driving on in our rental car, we meandered along tree-lined roads that wound their way through the verdant landscape. I could not stop “oohing” and “aahing.” Along the way we saw a few cars and other tourists, but luckily nothing compared to the likes of Universal Studios and Disneyland, which we vowed not to go near. In his book, Alleman describes Forest Lawn where “there are no rows of ordinary tombstones. Instead, there are acres of gardens and courts, with names such as Slumberland, Lullabyland, Everlasting Love, Inspiration Slope, and Babyland, where flat stone markers scarcely alter the smooth contours of the green lawn. There is a swan lake. There are two mausoleums—one of which resembles a great sprawling Medieval abbey. There are churches that are full-sized reproductions of churches in England and Scotland. Not only used for funerals, these are sometimes the scenes of weddings. In 1940, for example, Ronald Reagan married Jane Wyman in Forest Lawn’s Wee Kirk of the Heather.”

After visiting a couple of the churches and a museum showing works by artist Paul Gauguin, we finally went on the hunt for movie stars, albeit dead ones. At the Court of Freedom, we viewed a 20-by-30 foot mosaic replicating John Trumbull’s famous painting, “The Signing of the Declaration of Independence.” In the nearby Freedom Mausoleum I spied my first celebrity crypts, those of Alan Ladd, Nat King Cole, Jeanette MacDonald and Clara Bow. On the lower level, Gummo and Chico Marx were laid to rest, as was Larry Fine, one of the Three Stooges. Back outside I went in search of Walt Disney’s resting place without success. According to Alleman, “Whether Disney is here or not (and it appears highly likely that he is at Forest Lawn), it seems fitting that he should be remembered in a place that has the same fantasy/reality quality of the great park that his own dreams created: Disneyland.”

The “piece de resistance,” Jackson’s burial site was off-limits to the viewing public. Set apart from the main section of the Great Mausoleum, his body rests in an annex with a guard posted outside the wrought-iron gate. Keeping watch with him the day of my visit, were 3 women in their late 30’s, early 40’s. They seemed contemporary counterparts of the women who watched and prayed on the ground outside Jesus’ tomb. Their eyes hid behind dark glasses. One had brought sunflowers, placing them against a column at the corner of the building where they would go undetected by the guard. I inadvertently drew attention to them when I asked if I could snap a picture, knowing they were MJ’s favorite flowers. Flummoxed, the guard nodded his assent, but added he would need to remove them to another area where well-wishers left keepsakes in memory of the entertainer. I think the woman who brought the flowers was upset that I had pointed them out. Turning on my heel, I heard her plead to have them remain put.

Inside the Mausoleum we were directed to a viewing of the gigantic stained-glass version of The Last Supper, “which is unveiled several times a day at regular intervals complete with special lighting effects, music, and ‘dramatic narration.’” In the same room are reproductions of Michelangelo’s Pieta, Madonna in Bruges, Medici Madonna and Child among others. With a handful or more in the audience, I listened to the beginning of the narration. Antsy to hunt down the stars, I quietly stepped away into the nearby Court of Honor. Unfortunately a metal link chain kept me from moving through the hall for a better view of the names inscribed on the bronze plaques, vertically lining the walls on either side.

Scared that someone would come along, particularly the woman standing at the entrance of the building, I paced the length of the chain struggling to make out names as far as I could, squinting my eyes. I made a preliminary attempt to go around the chain but thought better of it, and returned to where I’d stood. Extremely frustrated to be so close, and yet so far, I tiptoed back to peek at the audience still seated on the other side of the wall from where I was. Hurrying back I sucked in my breath, passed around the chain and raced with determination through the narrow hall, glancing furiously at all the bronze plaques. At the other end was a smaller, separate room where “Gone with the Wind’s” famous director David O’Selznick was buried. Slowly retracing my steps I almost leapt out of my skin with joy, for in front of me were the names of Clark Gable and his wife Carole Lombard. I was in Heaven, absolute Heaven! I raced back out to where I’d left my husband, heart pounding, grinning from ear to ear. He, of course, was not surprised at my antics, but playfully scolded me nonetheless.

As we all moved to leave the building I stopped at the nearby Sanctuary of Benediction where I could see, leaning over the chain this time, the crypts of Red Skelton and Sid Grauman (of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre). I was unable to see around a wall to the crypts of Jean Harlow and others, who were mentioned in Alleman’s book. During the few hours I was at Forest Lawn, I felt I’d made a special trip to Heaven to meet some of my favorite Hollywood movie stars.

Except for the traffic, I had a “maavalous” birthday,“daahhling”…hugmamma.

“good for you” foods

Ever wonder why doctors, nutritionists, exercise gurus, and others, tell us to eat certain foods, that they’re good for us? Well someone who works with my husband passed along the following list, which takes the mystery out of their recommendation. And so I post it here for you to incorporate into your life, and share it with those you care about, just as… I care about you…hugmamma.

  • Apples – protects your heart, prevents constipation, blocks diarrhea, improves lung capacity, cushions joints
  • Apricots – combats cancer, controls blood pressure, saves your eyesight, shields against Alzheimer’s, slows aging process
  • Artichokes – aids digestion, lowers cholesterol, protects your heart, stabilizes blood sugar, guards against liver disease
  • Avocados – battles diabetes, lowers cholesterol, helps stops strokes, controls blood pressure, smooths skin
  • Bananas – protects your heart, quiets a cough, strengthens bones, controls blood pressure, blocks diarrhea
  • Beans – prevents constipation, helps hemorrhoids, lowers cholesterol, combats cancer, stabilizes blood sugar
  • Beets – controls blood pressure, combats cancer, strengthens bones, protects your heart
  • Blueberries – combats cancer, protects your heart, stabilizes blood sugar, boosts memory, prevents constipation
  • Broccoli – strengthens bones, saves eyesight, combats cancer, protects your heart, controls blood pressure
  •  Cabbage – combats cancer, prevents constipation, promotes weight loss, protects your heart, helps hemorrhoids
  • Cantaloupe – saves eyesight, controls blood pressure, lowers cholesterol, combats cancer, supports immune system
  • Carrots – saves eyesight, protects your heart, prevents constipation, combats cancer, promotes weight loss
  • Cauliflower – protects against prostate cancer, combats breast cancer, strengthens bones, banishes bruises, guards against heart disease
  • Cherries – protects your heart, combats cancer, ends insomnia, slows aging process, shields against Alzheimer’s
  • Chestnuts – promotes weight loss, protects your heart, lowers cholesterol, combats cancer, controls blood pressure
  • Chili Peppers – aids digestion, soothes sore throat, clears sinuses, combats cancer, boosts immune system
  • Figs – promotes weight loss, helps stop strokes, lowers cholesterol, combats cancer, controls blood pressure
  • Fish – protects your heart, boosts memory, combats cancer, supports immune system
  • Flax – aids digestion, battles diabetes, protects your heart, improves mental health, boosts immune system
  • Garlic – lowers cholesterol, controls blood pressure, combats cancer, kills bacteria, fights fungus
  • Grapefruit – protects against heart attacks, promotes weight loss, helps stop strokes, combats prostate cancer, lowers cholesterol
  • Grapes – saves eyesight, conquers kidney stones, combats cancer, enhances blood flow, protects your heart
  • Green tea – combats cancer, protects your heart, helps stop strokes, promotes weight loss, kills bacteria
  • Honey – heals wounds, aids digestion, guards against ulcers, increases energy, fights allergies
  • Lemons – combats cancer, protects your heart, controls blood pressure, smooths skin, stops scurvy
  • Limes – combats cancer, protects your heart, controls blood pressure, smooths skin, stops scurvy
  • Mangoes – combats cancer, boosts memory, regulates thyroid, aids digestion, shields against Alzheimer’s
  • Mushrooms – controls blood pressure, lowers cholesterol, kills bacteria, combats cancer, strengthens bones
  • Oats – lowers cholesterol, combats cancer, battles diabetes, prevents constipation, smooths skin
  • Olive Oil – protects your heart, promotes weight loss, combats cancer, battles diabetes, smooths skin
  • Onions – reduce risk of heart attack, combats cancer, kills bacteria, lowers cholesterol, fights fungus
  • Oranges – supports immune systems, combats cancer, protects your heart
  • Peaches – prevents constipation, combats cancer, helps stop strokes,aids digestion, helps hemorrhoids
  • Peanuts – protects against heart disease, promotes weight loss, combats prostate cancer, lowers cholesterol, aggravates diverticulitis
  • Pineapple – strengthens bones, relieves colds, aids digestion, dissolves warts, blocks diarrhea
  • Prunes – slows aging process, prevents constipation, boosts memory, lowers cholesterol, protects against heart disease
  • Rice – protects your heart, battles diabetes, conquers kidney stones, combats cancer, helps stops strokes
  • Strawberries – combats cancer, protects your heart, boosts memory, calms stress
  • Sweet Potatoes – saves your eyesight, lifts mood, combats cancer, strengthens bones
  • Tomatoes – protects prostrate, combats cancer, lowers cholesterol, protects your heart
  • Walnuts – lowers cholesterol, combats cancer, boosts memory, lifts mood, protects against heart disease
  • Water – promotes weight loss, combats cancer, conquers kidney stones, smooths skin
  • Watermelon – protects prostate, promotes weight loss, lowers cholesterol, helps stop strokes, controls blood pressure
  • Wheat germ – combats colon cancer, prevents constipation, lowers cholesterol, helps stop strokes, improves digestion
  • Wheat Bran – combats colon cancer, prevents constipation, lowers cholesterol, helps stop strokes, improves digestion
  • Yogurt – guards against ulcers, strengthens bones, lowers cholesterol, supports immune system, aids digestion (Lemon yogurt is the only one that is a natural anti-biotic with NO side effects.)

As with anything, proceed with caution. The information provided appears to be valid, but we must each consider our own diets, allergies, restrictions. One size does not necessarily fit all. I think I’ve heard that grapefruits should not be consumed by someone on Lipitor, a statin to lower cholesterol. Honey increases energy because it contains sugar. Tomatoes belong to the “night family” of veggies, along with green peppers and its relatives. Some people are allergic to them. And not all fish are created equal. The best options seem to be salmon, tuna, sardine, and halibut. Peanuts consumed in great quantities can be fattening because of its calories. (Something I must be particularly wary about.) A friend feasted on seedless grapes and aggravated her diverticulitis. Evidently the seed piths were still present, so they lodged in the lining of her intestines causing excruciating pain. So beware!

I’ve concocted my own diet of sorts based, in part, upon information gleaned from “The Perricone Prescription” by New York dermatologist, Dr. Nicholas Perricone. I read the book cover to cover on a flight home from spending 3 weeks with my daughter at a dance program in Martha’s Vineyard. By the time my plane landed, I was a believer in Dr. Perricone’s theory that “Inflammation is a probable culprit, a contributor to most major diseases and degenerative conditions, from cancer to Alzheimer’s, arthritis to stroke. Proinflammatory diets, exposure to sunlight, environmental pollutants, and a host of other agents assault our cells and cause them to generate inflammatory chemicals. This subclinical inflammation goes on day after day, year in and year out, leading to numerous disease states as well as the disease of aging. Yes, aging is a disease–a chronic, uniformly progressive, inflammatory disease that is always fatal. …I explain how inflammation occurs on a cellular level and detail my search for powerful anti-inflammatories–antioxidants that stop inflammation and repair the damage. If you can prevent and stop inflammation, you can prevent and stop the signs of aging.” Dr. Perricone goes on to say that “Sugar causes inflammation…”

I tried Perricone’s diet for 3 weeks, but couldn’t remain on it because it was so restrictive for me. Nonetheless the information he imparted made a lot of sense, and so I’m still a believer. Sugar causes inflammation; extra-virgin olive oil is a powerful anti-inflammatory food; trans fats are dangerous to my health; the risk of colon, breast, and prostate cancers can be lowered by eating fish, and their omega-3 fatty acids reduces the pain and inflammation associated with arthritis. And green tea does ramp up my metabolism, as does alpha-lipoic acid supplements.

Along with Perricone’s book, I’ve adapted much of what is contained in “The Anti-Alzheimer’s Diet” by California neuroscientist, Dr. Vincent Fortanasce. Because of him, I eat blueberries most days, fresh or frozen. “If free radical damage causes aging, then ingesting antioxidants in high enough quantities should be able to slow aging. Ironically, you don’t have to eat tons of foods high in antioxidants to slow down brain aging! For instance, studies have shown that eating just 3/4 cup blueberries per day can turn back the clock dramatically.” Fortanasce adds “Berries, including blueberries…are filled with anthocyanins,…that…sweep out, harmful free-radical molecules that trigger inflammation…studies show that antioxidant filled berries help fight against aging problems, such as short-term memory loss. Dark blue and purple berries also are linked to a significant reversal in motor dysfunction that correlates with aging and dopamine deficiency.”

hoping this may help…hugmamma.

bear bells

Our neighborhood backs up against a mountain where wildlife abounds. We’ve heard of black bears raiding bird feeders in back yards and garbage cans left at curbside. I’ve spoken with a few neighbors who have had sightings or encounters. Fortunately, I’ve not had the pleasure; nor do I want to. I admit the hair at the back of my neck does bristle when I’m walking my dog. With an abundance of mature landscaping, bears, and cougars, can be lurking anywhere.  I don’t mind if they look; I just don’t want them to touch…me.  Knowing my dog, she’d run straight for the animal, barking all the way, dragging me behind her. Stopping right in front of it, she’d drop down on her belly, not hesitating to offer me up as sacrificial lamb. My defense? Bear bells!

Your eyes aren’t deceiving you. Bear bells hang on the leash my dog wears when we’re walking outdoors. They’re suppose to warn bears, and cougars, that I’m coming so they’ll clear out. I guess they work; I’ve not crossed paths with a wild animal…yet. And I’m not planning to test the theory either. I don’t hike in the woods, and I’m not about to start. So where did I learn about bear bells?

When she was 15, my daughter traveled to Banff, Canada for her first summer dance program. I accompanied her, booking us a room at the exquisite Banff Springs Hotel, where we would stay for a couple of days prior to the start of the program. We had a great time sightseeing, but the day arrived for me to escort her to the dormitory where she’d be living for 5 weeks. We went by taxi because of her luggage, but on my return trip to the hotel I decided to walk.

Uncertain about directions, I asked someone who pointed me toward a path behind one of the dormitories. I proceeded as directed, trodding on a wooden walkway hidden on one side by tall shrubs. As I was about to descend a short flight of steps, I heard loud shouts from above and to the rear of me. Turning to look through the thick forest of tall pine trees, I barely made out the figures of people waving their arms and screaming. Unable to make out their words, I turned back thinking they were calling to someonelse. Pausing on the landing at the bottom of the stairs I looked up. On the path ahead of me, some 30 feet or so, a humongous black bear had turned toward the shouting. Sitting on its haunches, I could see his snout. I didn’t know if he saw me, but I wasn’t going to wait to find out. I slowly turned on my heel and climbed back up the stairway. I imagined the bear would be on my back in seconds. My heart seemed to be in my feet. Drained of adrenalin or numbed by it, I’m not sure, I was able to get behind the tall shrubs at the top of the steps. I unexpectedly met a man walking toward me. I explained the situation, wondering what we should do. Off in another direction we saw another path leading away from us. I fantasized we’d take it together and if the bear caught up with us, I’d jump on the stranger’s back letting him fend off its attack for both of us. Of course, I didn’t tell him what I had in mind. He’d have thought I was crazy, and I was. I was crazed with fear of being mauled and eaten alive, while my daughter sat unsuspecting in her dorm room. What would she think if I didn’t come to watch her in class the next day as promised?

Well I was amazed that the stranger barely paused to consider the circumstances before continuing in the direction from which I had just come. I wasn’t sticking around to hear what happened. I booked it back up toward the dorms and located a couple of campus security guards who pointed me down a road that exited the grounds.  They were aware of the bear’s presence, so went off in search of it. As I walked on the paved road, I saw a police car which stopped alongside me. The policeman asked if I’d seen a bear and I gladly explained my encounter. He too left in search of the animal. As I continued on my way, my heart finally returned to normal, pounding fiercely in my chest. I wanted to talk with someone about my experience. Since I knew no one in Banff, I got on my cell phone and called…my husband, who’s always there, when I need him, in his office in the U.S.

Unable to do much else, my husband asked if I was okay, and so on, and so forth. It was comforting to hear his voice, but I still wanted to talk to someone in person who would share my fear, and my excitement. I walked about the small town, amongst hundreds of tourists. I wanted to shout at the top of my lungs “There’s a bear! Run for your life! Hurry, get away!” But of course I remained cool, calm and collected…on the outside; on the inside I was “jumping out of my skin!”

I wasn’t sure how I would defend myself against a repeat encounter, since I planned to walk back to the campus the next morning. Wandering in and out of shops, I wasn’t sure what I was looking for. On my last stop, a bookstore, I found the answer…bear bells. Accompanying literature explained that they would forewarn bears of my coming, so that they would escape in another direction. No weapon, no mace, no pepper spray, just li’l ole bells.  Paying for them, I related my story to the salesgirl who “burst my bubble” when she proclaimed that bears in town were not an unusual sight. In fact, walking to work one morning, she’d seen a bear huddled in a tree right in the midst of town. “So not a  big deal,” I thought to myself and left, making my way back to my hotel.

The next day as I wend my way through the campus where my daughter was ensconced, I jingled my bear bells. The only animals I passed were a couple of huge elk, one standing and one reclining on all fours. I eyed them across the street, and they eyed me. I wasn’t sure if the bells would repel, or attract the elk. They didn’t run, and their gaze never left me. It was disconcerting to say the least. Being trampled by elk would have the same outcome as being attacked by a black bear. I would be no more.

After watching her ballet class,  I told my daughter, and anyonelse within earshot, about my adventures. In turn she told me about the elk and deer that would wander near the dormitory, a couple settling down to rest outside her window. Needless to say she had a unique summer in Banff, the only American dancing with, and learning from, exceptional Canadians. Add to that wild animals; what could be more perfect?

not sure if I’ve seen my last bear…hugmamma.

more exercise, less sugar

Dragged myself from bed at 6:46 a.m. to prepare for exercise class. Would’ve preferred sleeping in, especially with my propensity for late night blogging. Will find a balance one of these days. But having had a spotty attendance record so far this summer, I feel compelled to get myself  to the gym, Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Our instructor gave me a further reason to push myself.

Kristina is in the midst of some remodeling. She told us that she was grateful for her exercise regimen. Needing to replace a steel rod to rehang her garage door, Kristina successfully undertook the task herself. She felt we would be as capable given our attention to exercise. And she’s right. Many a time I’ve thought how easily I lug grocery bags in from the car, usually making it in one trip. Unless allergens are swirling overhead, I can walk my dog up and down hills with minimal huffing and puffing. My chronic lower back pain is on “simmer.” Even though I’ll never eliminate my arthritis, I can manage the pain without drugs.

Incorporated into our exercise regimen, we use 3 lb. and 5 lb. hand weights, ankle weights, flex bands, and poles. Lying on the floor, we do sit ups, push ups, leg lifts, pelvic tilts, and hold our bodies parallel to the floor for up to 32 counts. All of this comes on the heels of aerobic work to get our heart rate up. On Mondays we do lunges across the floor several times, sometimes even doing the length of the gym. On Wednesdays we add a step to the mix. On Fridays we lay on our backs, legs bent on the seat of the chair. From this position, we do all our floor exercises. All of this wasn’t easy at first, but 4 years later, I feel stronger and more in control physically and mentally. 

Exercise and cutting way back on sugar, which causes inflammation, are my “magic bullets.” When I don’t get enough of the first, and get too much of the latter, I ache, badly. As soon as I return to my “weapons” in defense of good health, the pain melts away. It’s taken years of trying different diets, including Weight Watchers 3 times, and The Perricone Prescription, to arrive at my solution. It’s not a quick fix or a perfect one for I stray often, especially on vacations. But I get back to my routine as soon as I can, and my body thanks me for it.

It’s still a struggle to age, but I’ve no choice in the matter so I opt to do it healthily and therefore, gracefully.

wish the same for you…hugmamma.